Monthly Archives: July 2014

Continuous Improvement is Good for Business, Good for Community

Psychologist Abraham Maslow told us years ago, “All of us want to be part of something that is greater than ourselves. We want to make a difference.” Primarily that participation is in our local communities. These communities consist of a myriad of systems- businesses, families, schools, and government which function interdependently to create a greater system in which we live, work and play. Countless volunteer groups and organizations are organized in communities around the globe to address perceived problems and improve quality of life.

A statement often quoted in a community is that when improvements are made to one area of the community system, “all boats rise”. For example, if we improve the graduation rate by addressing where the education process is failing resulting in work ready graduates the workforce is more attractive to companies seeking a location with a skilled workforce increasing the likelihood that citizens will find gainful employment. Conversely, solutions not carefully considered can result in unintended issues for other parts of the community system.

What can be frustrating for community volunteers is finding that all of these efforts do not produce the desired result, therefore five years later a new team is sitting around the table discussing the same issue. Successfully addressing issues in a community is not only about solving current problems. It also involves continuous examination of current needs and resources relative to meeting future needs and resources.

Borrowed from Deming’s model used in improving the quality of produced goods, continuous process improvement provides a structured method for community volunteers to work together to make positive changes in a community by focusing efforts, ensuring that solutions are actually working, and securing support by measurable results. This method provides the tools for community teams to address problems by first defining the problem, assessing the process that is associated with the problem, applying a strategic solution, reviewing the results from the solution implementation, and continuing to refine the solution to achieve the desired results. The process is a continuous cycle with the ultimate goal of achieving not just good results, but great results.

Achieving great results is a continual process of monitoring the results of the employed strategy. As Jim Collins notes in his book Good to Great and the Social Sectors, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”

Malinda B. Lowery, Ed. D.
Multiple Choice, Inc.


The Amazing Story of Debbie Windley

The year is 1998, and your husband has just died from anaphylactic shock, a result of a bee sting. You have three children, ages 16, 14 and 11. What do you do? Scale back? Done that. Adjust your outlook and dig in?


Debbie Windley and her three children hung on to their faith, cherished the loving support of family and friends, and learned to value each day as a gift.

Each child took on additional responsibilities at home while also excelling in academics and extracurricular activities at school. In addition, Walt and Will are both Eagle Scouts, and Amanda received the Sylvia Hatchell Student-Athlete Award for Gaston County her senior year. Between the three of them, they received almost a million dollars worth of academic scholarships to college. Walt is a graduate of Furman University and Mercer Seminary and is a chaplain with Hospice and Palliative Care of The Charlotte Region. Amanda also graduated from Furman and has a doctorate in Physical Therapy from Elon. She is a physical therapist at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. Will graduated from Appalachian State University and the Leadership Development Program of BB&T. He is a vice president and enterprise banker for Merrill Lynch.
While the kids were blazing their own scholastic trails, their mom was up ahead, showing them her footprints.

In 1981, as the education reporter for The Gaston Gazette, she was asked to cover a story about a new Christian school that had recently opened: Gaston Christian School. While doing the interview, she was offered the job of teaching English for grades 7-10.
Each succeeding year saw her teaching and helping to move GCS ahead in the academic world. First, she was a high school Honors and AP English teacher and High School Principal. During that time, she added additional Honors and AP courses, along with new sport and extracurricular programs. She was also a Mock Trial and High Q Coach, as well as the Interact Club advisor.

In 1999, she was asked to start a new office at Gaston Christian School: development and marketing. Debbie helped to lead two capital campaigns resulting in the purchase of more than 56 acres, along with the development of the campus that now houses 900 students in Lowell.
At the end of that second campaign, Debbie began to sense that she was being called to a new professional journey. Soon after that feeling started to surface, Dr. Ann Tippitt, executive director of The Schiele Museum, asked her to stop by and talk with her about a need she had for an Advancement Director.

For the next 6 ½ years, Debbie enjoyed working with Ann, the Board and staff of The Schiele to move forward with a number of initiatives for the museum; including a campaign to construct The Matthews Belk Cannon Environmental Studies Center, a 7,700 sq. ft. building that features a demonstration kitchen, “green” roof, 3,000 sq. ft. of flexible classroom/meeting space, and a variety of corporate partnerships.

While at The Schiele, Debbie also strengthened the sponsorship and Gift-in-Kind programs, the application process for grants, and supervised all aspects of marketing, publications, membership, and fundraising.

In December of 2013, Debbie began yet another chapter in her professional life. She became Director of Development for CaroMont Health and Director of its Foundation.
“Doug Luckett, the CaroMont Health CEO, has developed both a vision and a passion for keeping CaroMont local and strong. I am excited to be a member of his team.” In addition to her work at CaroMont Health, Debbie also teaches Adult Transitions, Communications, and Business Communication courses in the Adult Degree Program at Belmont Abbey College.

When asked about the importance of faith in her life: She said: “Nothing is more important in my life than my Faith. It is the lens through which I view life’s circumstances and my primary motivation to make each day count.”

Debbie has been a member of Parkwood Baptist Church since 1981, taught Sunday School classes for ladies for more than 20 years, and was a core leader, senior leader, and Assistant Teaching Director for Community Bible Study. She also has led a number of women’s retreats, assisted high school students with college planning, and serves as a mentor.

Debbie has also volunteered on numerous boards and committees, including The Gaston Regional Chamber Board and Executive Committee and The Rotary Club of Gastonia Board. For Rotary, she has also served as Chair of the Interact Committee, Chair of the District Interact Committee, Chair of the Program Committee, and Chair of the Awards Committee, and Club Secretary. She also serves on the Gaston County Travel and Tourism Board, and served for three years as both Chair of the Leadership Gaston Advisory Board and Leadership Development Council and two years as Chair of the Junior Leadership Gaston Advisory Board.
In 2012, Debbie was presented with a Paul Harris Fellow Award by her Rotary Club. In 2013, she received the Leadership Gaston Alumnus of the Year Award.

Bill Williams

Update on Rachel’s Challenge – Anti-bullying program in Gaston County Schools

Schools partnered with the Gastonia Grizzlies in May 2013 to sponsor “Rachel’s Challenge Night” at Sims Legion Park. The event brought attention to the Rachel’s Challenge program and featured a fun night of baseball, activities, and fellowship for students, teachers, parents, and the community.

Gaston County Schools reintroduced Rachel’s Challenge for the 2013-2014 school year with assemblies at each middle and high school between September 10 and October 7. Former University of Maryland and Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Adrian Branch spoke to each student body with the message, “You’re not a winner or a loser. You’re a chooser.” His autobiographical message explained to students that they have the power to choose their actions, reactions, and their attitude about what happens to them. Mr. Branch’s interactive talk involved many students at each school. He shared stories about his mistakes and what he learned from them. He emphasized the story of Rachel Scott and the choices she made on a daily basis to reach out to other students and to stand up for her beliefs. Mr. Branch was well received by each school, and the students enthusiastically participated in his talks.

Gaston County Schools plans to continue the Rachel’s Challenge initiative in upcoming years because of the influence it has on our students and staff. We believe helping students to understand Rachel’s five challenges makes our schools better places to learn.

Grant Sparks, Director of Counseling and Media Services
Gaston County Schools

Bullying Prevention in Gaston County Schools

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston is a youth development organization for ages 6 to 18, which includes three units: Bessemer City Club, Bradley Teen Center, and the West Gastonia Club. In every community, youth are left to find their own recreation and companionship in the streets. An increasing number of children are at home with no adult care or supervision. They need to know that someone cares about them. Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston offers that and more.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston programs and services promote and enhance the development of youth by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging, and influence. We serve over 1,300 youth each year through valuable afterschool, summer and outreach programs.

Our five core program areas are:
• Character & Leadership Development
• Education & Career Development
• Health & Life Skills
• Sports, Fitness & Recreation
• The Arts

Facts and Figures
Only 78% of students in Gaston County will graduate on time. Out of the hundreds of B&G Club members that have participated in “Power Hour”, we have had only 1 who did not graduate on time.
For every 1,000 girls ages 15-19 in Gaston County, 48 will become pregnant. Over 400 B&G Club girls have participated in “SMART Girls” and “SMART Moves” and 0 pregnancies have occurred.

There are 1,100 gang members in Gaston County and 140 different gang sets. Over 500 B&G Club youth have participated in “Street Smart” and 99% have not been involved with gangs or juvenile crime.

58% of students in Gaston County receive free lunch and 54% receive reduced lunch. B&G Club feeds all members every night, which totals about 56,500 meals throughout the school year.

It costs B&G Club $2,700/yr. for each child to cover the cost of materials, programming, and food. Parents only pay $265 for their child’s membership at B&G Club, where they learn character and leadership skills, education and career development, health and life skills, sports and fitness, and the arts.

Grant Sparks, Director of Counseling and Media Services
Gaston County Schools

Teen Pregnancy Down/Benefits Up!

May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and a great time to reflect on the progress made in preventing too-early pregnancies. Three and a half years ago, Gaston County rallied together – with the added resources and focus of the Gaston Youth Connected (GYC) initiative – to amplify prevention efforts and to impact one of the community’s lagging health indicators. Since its inception, GYC has pulled together hundreds of adults and thousands of youth to implement effective prevention strategies. And it’s worked!
Teen pregnancy is at a historic low in Gaston County – a full 28% lower than when the project started. While there is a nationwide trend of declining teen pregnancy rates, Gaston County’s progress stands out. Notably, the historical gap that has existed in pregnancy rates between African American and White teens was eliminated in the 2012 rates. This progress reflects hard, thoughtful work of many partners across the county.

Gaston Youth Connected does a lot of counting. Over 140 community partners have engaged with the project, either to host awareness activities or directly serve youth and families. GYC-funded education programs have reached over 2,000 young people. These programs are effective at helping young people understand healthy relationships, the benefits and skills to delay sexual activity, and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies. Program participants significantly increase their knowledge about abstinence, birth control and where to get prevention services when needed. 1 in 5 sexually active teens who seek contraception receive one of the most effective methods – a much higher percentage than the statewide average. 45 youth leaders have been trained as advocates and peer educators and have reached more than 600 additional young people with accurate information. What’s more, 9 in 10 parents support the prevention strategies of GYC.
Failing to prevent too early pregnancies can result in tough consequences for families and young people and also generate public costs. The GYC investment in prevention is already paying off – for families and at savings of $4 for every $1 invested. So, it is worth caring about and taking a stand to make a difference.
This May, let’s take a moment to recognize the progress and serve up credit across the county – to parents who have on-going important conversations with their adolescents, to the amazing people who work directly with youth, to civic-minded individuals and groups who find a way to raise awareness and share prevention efforts, and, most importantly, to young people themselves who are quite simply making better and better choices about relationships, health, and prevention.
Bravo, Gaston.

Sally Swanson, Executive Director
Gaston Youth Connected