Money is certainly critical to a non-profit’s mission. Allow me to highlight an equally important if not greater component: Champions. This agency has had gigantic support from individuals across all spectrums. Beginning with our founders, most noteworthy the ubiquitous Jim Melvin and the great D. Hayes Clement, we have suffered no shortage of magnificent supporters. And after twenty-eight years, one notices a shocking reality: illness, death and disability visits them as it does the general population. No one prepares a non-profit leader for the demise of one’s champions.
Since April, we have lost three: Emilio Joseph Bontempo, aka “Leo” (April 13), Dr. Sandra Alexander (June 10), and most recently, Dr. Nora Carr (June 30). Each played a critical role in our growth and development.
As former president of Novartis and member of the United Way board of directors and allocation committee, Leo became a staunch advocate for our work. He and his wife, Anne, sponsored the first home-based fundraiser for CIS. Dr. Sandra Alexander advocated tirelessly for CIS’ expansion to as many schools as possible, speaking glowingly about the care that CIS provided, particularly to vulnerable students and families.
Nora guided and advised us brilliantly over the course of her thirteen years in Guilford County Schools. She often sent a flattering note about a victory or after a particularly successful Student Awards Luncheon, our hallmark event highlighting the successes of our students. She never closed her door to us, no matter how challenging and contentious the matter.
As I sat through her service on July 5 with Mindy Oakley, Beverly Williams, Mona Edwards, Jeri Rowe, et al, and a community of family, fans and followers, it hit me that we must give our heroes and heroines their due while they walk amongst us, and that we must never take them for granted.