Zhen Bin “Jimmy” Li – Golden China

IMG_4979

Jimmy Li

Many of us have nicknames.  For some, it is simply a shortened version of a formal, given name.  Rich for Richard and Bill for William come to mind.  Others are tagged with a term of endearment given to them by a friend or family member.  For Zhen Bin Li, going with “Jimmy” is a matter of practicality in his adopted home.

Jimmy grew up in Fujian province in its capital city of Fuzhou, China.  Fuzhou is located almost due west of Taipei, Taiwan and about 400 miles northeast of Hong Kong along the coastline the East China Sea.  It is a sprawling city of 7.1 million residents with a rich cultural heritage.  Jimmy describes the area simply as “beautiful.”

Jimmy’s father emigrated from Fuzhou to New York in 1990.  He found employment in a restaurant and established legal residency.  It took him five years to settle in before sending for the rest of his family.

Fuzhou

When 19 year-old Jimmy arrived in New York, he spoke no English.  Like his father, he took a job in a restaurant. He took a class in English, but primarily picked up the language by practicing his skills in conversational settings

In the 1990s a family friend opened the Golden China Restaurant in Sparta Plaza.  He asked Jimmy to come to Sparta in 1998 to run the store.  Jimmy and his family have managed the business for the past 19 years.

When asked about the challenges in having a small business in Sparta, Jimmy voices many of the same concerns experienced by most local businesses: maintaining a steady, consistent stream of customers; adjusting to the seasonal fluctuations of customer traffic; and dealing with the occasional disruptions caused by weather.  In addition to these work related challenges, he is faced with trying to maintain a work/family life balance.  The store is open from 10:30 am until 9:30 pm six days each week with Tuesday as their only day off.

Jimmy’s family works alongside him in the restaurant.  His wife, Biao Yun Cai (pronounced Be-Yow Unoon), and his sister pitch in by taking customer’s orders and helping cook.  His parents also help out during peak times.  Jimmy and Biao Yun’s daughter is a 4th grader at Sparta Elementary and can often be found in the dining area of the restaurant.  Many in Sparta have seen Biao Yun zipping around Sparta on her pink scooter.

When pressed about why he has planted his family here in Sparta, Jimmy quickly runs through a list of attributes: the quiet mountain setting, good neighbors, low crime rate and a place where he fits in.  Jimmy takes the mindset of fitting in and extends it to his customers.  He has a strong base of Hispanic patrons, many of whom speak limited English.  So, Jimmy has learned basic Spanish to help his Spanish speaking customers feel welcomed.  It makes for an interesting lunch experience to hear Jimmy toggle back and forth from Chinese to English to Spanish while he juggles taking an order by phone, ringing up a customer and cooking the next dish.

When we think of international melting pots, our thoughts generally steer toward cities like New York or Los Angeles with their sprawling ethnic communities. Sparta doesn’t seem to remotely fit that category. But, a quick survey of businesses along Hwy 21 through town offers an alternative definition and viewpoint.  Manuel Rivas Alvarez of La Mexicana Restaurant is from Spain and his wife, Janet, is from Bolivia.  The Torres family of Mis Arados is from Mexico.  Ofelia Killeen hails from Peru. Gill Thadani of Gill’s Jeans and Things is from India and spent time in Hong Kong.  And Jimmy Li and family is from China.

On the surface, this international flavor challenges of stereotype of what it means to be Absolutely Alleghany.  But a closer examination reveal these business owners plug in perfectly to our community.  They bring their unique perspectives and skills, and integrate them with local residents.  Jimmy Li words may best describe this group of residents: good neighbors with a longing to fit in.

absolutelyalleghanylogosm

Call in orders to Golden China can be placed at 336-372-6938.

Josh Greene – Alleghany County Maintenance Department

IMG_4965While Alleghany County government is small in comparison to most counties, the infrastructure is surprisingly expansive.  Some properties such as the courthouse, administrative building, transfer station and fairgrounds are seen by many on a daily basis while the community college, public library, social services and health department and others are a bit more off the daily traveled path.  One commonality among these scattered service providers is that the facilities have to be maintained.  That job falls to Josh Greene and his staff with the Alleghany County maintenance department.

Josh Greene grew up in Alleghany County in the Ennice community.  He graduated from Alleghany High School in 2003 where he played basketball, golf, baseball and wrestled.  An avid outdoorsman, he enjoys hunting, fishing and in his words, “everything outdoors.”

When Josh was 14, he took a part-time job with Robert Patrick of Patrick’s Heating and Cooling.  There he learned the basics of heating and air conditioning repair. Josh came to enjoy being given a problem, working to diagnose the cause of the issue, and then developing a solution.

After high school graduation, Josh gave the air conditioning, heating and refrigeration program at Surry Community College (SCC) a try.  One semester was enough.  He left SCC and went to work with Shaw Brothers Construction where he received a hands-on education in general construction, and heating and air conditioning repair.  He worked with Shaw Brothers for eight years before coming to the Alleghany County maintenance department on 2011.  In 2013, he became the department supervisor.

The maintenance of county properties is an overwhelming task.  Interior and exterior light bulbs have to be changed, leaky plumbing repaired, and rooms painted.  There are scores of trash cans to be emptied, floors to be mopped or vacuumed, and furniture to be wiped down.  The maintenance staff maintains the county’s fleet of vehicles and the heavy equipment at the transfer station.  Throughout an average day, the crew moves from building to building.  Often, they are pulled from one job to another that has a higher sense of urgency.  And when they “catch up,” they handle construction projects such as the recent shelter at Veterans Park or the new maintenance building.  Josh handles these responsibilities with three maintenance staff and two custodians.

IMG_4952

Josh Greene repaints the lines for parking spaces at the Alleghany County Library

One of Josh’s biggest challenges is the operation of the county’s transfer station. The station operates 12 hours a day, six days a week and is managed by two teams of two employees.  Last year, they handled 9200 tons of household trash, building materials, scrap lumber, oil, and other materials.  That is over 18 million pounds of refuse.  The county contracts to have this trash hauled to a landfill in Caldwell County for $65 per ton for an annual cost of $598,000 per year.  While the transfer station staff encourages users to recycle, Josh estimates that between 10% and 20% of the trash hauled to the landfill could be recycled.  This would save county residents upwards of $100,000 per year.

The transfer station is also one of the biggest sources of complaints for Josh and his staff.  With an average of 60,000 pounds of trash deposited each day, it is inevitable that the wind will carry some out of the receptacles.  They rely on community service workers to help with this clean up.

Another surprising area of responsibility for the maintenance staff is animal control.  They average 2-3 animal pickups per week.  They also average one dog bite investigation per week.  These are time consuming tasks that often include follow-up consultations with the local health department and law enforcement.

It sounds exhausting.

It also points to someone who is committed to their community.

IMG-1193

Josh, his wife Karena, and their three children are deeply rooted into the Ennice community on the family farm.  Karena works for the county tax department.  The three children are students at Sparta Elementary.  Josh coaches baseball and the family attends Living by Faith Baptist Church in nearby Independence, Virginia.

Josh, his wife, and the county maintenance staff are reflective of so many Alleghany County residents.  They go about their lives a quiet manner that can easily go unnoticed, often working two – sometimes three jobs– in order to live in Alleghany.  They provide us with services and coach our kids’ athletic teams.  They work all week, worship on Sunday and start it all again on Monday. People like Josh Greene are the bindings that hold our community together.

absolutelyalleghanylogosm

 

 

 

 

Lindsay Carrier – Paramedic

20170428_202738

Steve and Lindsay Carrier

Lindsay Carrier of Piney Creek laughs when she describes her childhood as the daughter of Sparta Elementary teacher, Kathy Vaught.  “It was hard to get by with much,” Lindsay said recently.  “If I had a bad test score or didn’t eat my lunch, my mom knew it before I got home.”  But while some might consider those high expectations a curse, for those who fall under Lindsay’s care these days, it is definitely a blessing.

Ever the high achiever, Lindsay graduated from Alleghany High School a semester early in 1998.  After high school, she enrolled in the criminal justice program at Surry Community College (SCC).  Her criminal justice degree led to a job as a telecommunicator with the Elkin Police Department.

Telecommunicators are the lifeline between the public and emergency responders, and between those responders and those coming to their assistance.  The telecommunicators develop the ability to fill in the gaps between what a caller in distress needs and how to meet those needs.  They learn to juggle a caller on the phone, entering data into a computer, and talking on the radio with responders.  Oftentimes they handle multiple calls at once.  It is a high stress occupation that is often underappreciated.

After a stint in Elkin, Lindsay took a similar job in Iredell County and then came back home to the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office.  She had one daughter and was pregnant with her second child.  She went into labor at 28 weeks and found herself at Hugh Chatham Hospital in Elkin.

Lindsay recalls those hours as extremely difficult.  Her daughter, Tori, was born and immediately whisked away to Brenners Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care unit.  Lindsay didn’t get to hold Tori after the birth and instead was simply given a telephone number to call to check on Tori’s status.  Lindsay called that number later that day.  The call was answered by a cheery nurse who identified herself as Lori.  After giving an update on Tori’s condition, Lori offered to bring some things from Breeners.  That evening Lori drove from Winston Salem to Elkin with photos of Tori and a blanket that she had been using.  Lindsay said that at that moment she and Lori clicked.  They have been best friends ever since that first visit.

After Tori’s birth, Lindsay went back to work in Iredell County as a detention officer in the county jail.  She quickly grew tired of dealing with so much negatively and found herself growing increasingly cynical.  Hoping to tap back into a greater sense of public service, she left the sheriff’s office and enrolled in the emergency medical technician (EMT) program at SCC.

high angle

High angle rescue training

Prior to Tori’s birth, Lindsay had completed her basic emergency medical technician course and was working on the advanced level.  She dropped out of the program to focus her energy on Tori.  Now, years later, she found herself making the commute from Piney Creek to Mt. Airy each day.  Her previous EMT certification had lapsed so she had to go back through the six month basic program.  She then entered the paramedic program.

The paramedic program is 13 months of intense, stress filled training.  There is little room for error and perfection is expected of the students.  The course combines 1200 hours of classroom instruction with 700 hours of clinical work in the hospital or “ride time” in an ambulance.  This structure allows the students to take classroom theory and put it into practice in real-life situations.  Those clinical hours are closely monitored by a preceptor who constantly evaluates the students.  Those years of her mom’s close oversight and the stress inoculation from her time as a telecommuniactor made Lindsay a natural for this work.

paramedic group

Surry Community College Paramedic graduates

After completing the program, Lindsay chose a job with the Yadkin County Emergency Medical Services.  She viewed the high call volume in Yadkin County as a way to quickly develop her skills.  It also gave her access to a part-time job with the Miller Ambulance Service which handles ambulatory transports.

The two jobs stretch into one long 36 hour shift which Lindsay completes twice a week.  She is quick to point out the she couldn’t have completed her education or taken this job without the assistance of her husband, Alleghany deputy Steve Carrier, or her mom.  Both daughters are involved in sports and church activities.  It takes the whole extended family to make it all work.

An obvious question in response to this hectic schedule is, “Why live here?”  It would seem to be easier to live “off the mountain” or to relocate in the county to lessen the commute.  Lindsay has a quick response to that question.  “We make those sacrifices to live in Alleghany County.  This is our home.  We wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

absolutelyalleghanylogosm

 

 

5 Reasons You Should Attend the Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention

Looking for an enjoyable way to spend a summer afternoon and evening?  At the top of that list of possibilities should be attending the Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention. This family oriented event is scheduled for July 21st and 22nd in Sparta, North Carolina at the Alleghany County Fairgrounds.  Here are five reasons you should plan to attend:

#1 Be a part of a longstanding mountain tradition.  String music and fiddlers’ conventions are an integral part of Appalachian culture.  These gatherings give neighbors opportunities to get together to share tunes and reestablish old friendships.  Toss in some friendly competition and you have a fiddlers convention.  As you wander through the campground, you will be treated to a variety of very fine old-time and bluegrass music.  Do you play or are you a budding musician? Most jams are welcoming to newcomers.  Keep in mind there is usually informal etiquette that may vary from group to group.  General jam etiquette can be found here.

#2  This is a fundraising event.  The proceeds raised benefit our community.  This event is one of the primary fundraisers for the Sparta-Alleghany Volunteer Fire Department. Entrance fees go to help this group of dedicated volunteers keep our community safe.  Once inside the gates, the Sparta Lions Club offers delicious hamburgers and hotdogs.  And there are a host of other vendors who pour their resources back into the community.

#3  Enjoy a cool mountain evening.  While much of the south is simmering in oven-like temperatures in mid-July, Alleghany County evenings can be quite cool, averaging in the low 60s.  You may consider bring a sweatshirt or light jacket just in case!

#4  You will feel welcomed.  From the volunteer firefighter who helps you with parking to the lady serving a made to order funnel cake, you will experience a sense of belonging to our community.  In fact, this welcoming atmosphere is often given as the number one reason people return year after year.

#5  It’s fun!  The stage show gives musicians of all skill levels a chance to perform.  There is a dance area where everyone is welcome to practice their favorite steps.  If you don’t know how to dance, there are folks who are always looking for a partner and will be more than happy to lend you a hand.

The Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention is more than a music event.  Music and dance help balance culture and erase class boundaries.  This event is a place where new friendships are formed and old ones strengthened.  It has a “come as you are” air that is a unique part of mountain life.  Who would want to miss that?

absolutelyalleghanylogosm

For complete information about the Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention, visit their website here.  Photos were retrieved from this site.

For information on lodging, restaurants, and other retail needs, visit the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce’s website here or call them at 336-372-5473.

The videos were retrieved from the YouTube channel, Lovin’ Bluegrass by Carol McDuffie.  Visit her channel for more great videos.

 

Zdenko Peros – From Croatia to Alleghany County

IMG_4667

Zdenko and Doreen Peros

On October 12, 1973, Zdenko Peros walked away from the only life he knew.  The 17 year-old Croatian was working on a cruise ship when it docked in New York.  The crew was given a six day visa that allowed them to leave the ship and explore the city.  With only the clothes he wore, a six day visa, his passport and $40 in his pocket, Zdenko made the decision to start a new life in America.

“There was no future for me in Croatia,” he recently said from a table in his restaurant in Roaring Gap.  “Croatia was still part of communist Yugoslavia, and when I returned I was facing mandatory military enlistment.  I couldn’t bring myself to serve the communist government.”

Adriatic seaZdenko’s family has lived in the coastal village of Zaton in eastern Croatia along the Adriatic Sea for 500 years.  His great-grandfather was governor in the 1930s and was a large landowner.  After World War II, the communists took control of the region and much of his family’s property was seized then converted to state use.  This history instilled a deep distrust of communism and led to Zdenko’s decision to walk away from that ship.

Given our current state of security and policies on immigration, Zdenko’s next days are difficult to imagine.

“The next day after leaving the ship, I went to an office where a nice lady asked how she could help me.  I told her I needed papers to work.  She said, ‘You’ll need a social security card’ and issued me one.  Then I went to a restaurant and told them I needed a job.  They put me to work washing dishes.”

Washing dishes led to his promotion to salad man which led to him becoming a line cook. The chef took an interest in Zdenko and helped develop his culinary skills.  Along this time, Zdenko and Doreen were married.  While they were away on their honeymoon, he received a call from the restaurant telling him that his mentor, the lead chef, had died unexpectedly.  They asked if Zdenko and Doreen could cut their honeymoon short and return to the restaurant.  At 21, the newly married Zdenko became the head chef of a New Jersey restaurant.  He laughs as he thinks of those days.  “I had to grow up very fast.”

In 1980, after working in restaurants in New York and New Jersey with noted Italian and French chefs, Zdenko and Doreen moved south to Morehead City.  They renovated an old house and opened an Italian restaurant.  They named it Nikola’s after Zdenko’s grandfather and their oldest son.  They built up and managed the restaurant for 23 years until they grew weary of hurricanes and the always present humidity.  Doreen found a vacant restaurant for sale in Alleghany County and they drove up to take a look at the building and area.

Zdenko’s father was a game warden back in Croatia.  Zdenko grew up going out on patrol with his father. His father instilled a deep love of the outdoors, and specifically for hunting and fishing.  As they drove through Alleghany County on that first trip, they saw deer and turkeys to hunt, and streams to fish.  Zdenko told Doreen, “This is the place.”

They bought the restaurant and inn at High Meadows.  Both required much work to get the facilities ready to meet their high standards.  In 2014, to help with the hotel, the Travel Channel’s makeover show, Hotel Impossible came in to film a segment.

 

Woven throughout a conversation with Zdenko and Doreen is the topic of family.  They began their family when they were young and their sons grew up in the restaurant business.  Oldest son, Nikola, is a teacher in Iceland, and owns a restaurant and bed and breakfast.  Sons Tony and Petar are both chefs at Roaring Gap Country Club.  They all set aside Sundays and holidays to gather at the restaurant for a private family meal.  And for two months each year, Zdenko and Doreen return to Croatia where they reconnect with their extended family.

IMG_4669

Zdenko and Doreen’s home in Croatia

The importance of family carries over to their approach to business.  “We want to have a family atmosphere to our restaurant,” explain Doreen.  “We have nice table clothes and cloth napkins because we want our ‘family’ to feel respected and appreciated.  That can give our place a formal feel, but we welcome families with children and there is no dress code.”  She goes on to describe how regular customers sometimes go missing from their tables and are found in the kitchen with the gregarious Zdenko who is entertaining them with hunting and fishing tales, or with stories of Croatia.  She adds, “We invite everyone in our community to come have a meal and get to know us.”

When Zdenko recalls the story of him “jumping ship” in 1973, he points out that it was Columbus Day.  We celebrate that day as one of exploration and discovery.  For Zdenko Peros, that path of discovery lead from Croatia to New York City; to family and business owner; to citizenship in 1986; and ultimately to Alleghany County.  Zdenko describes settling here as finding, “a little piece of Heaven on earth.”

***

More information about the High Meadows Inn and Nikola’s can be found here or by calling 336-363-2221 (Inn) or 336-363-6060 (Restaurant).

Their menu can be found on line here.

They can also be found on Facebook at High Meadows Inn and Nikolas Restaurant.

absolutelyalleghanylogosm

Larry Adams – Piney Creek VFD

IMG_4605For Piney Creek resident Larry Adams, long days are just a fact of life.  As the owner of Adams Building Supply just north of Independence, Virginia, Larry’s work days begin at 7:00 am and wrap up sometime after 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.  He finishes off the week with a half day on Saturday.  As if 54 hours a week wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he also serves as the chief of the Piney Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

Larry grew up in Piney Creek and attended Piney Creek Elementary School.  He graduated from Alleghany High School in 1987 and went away to Lees-McCrae College.  While in college, he worked weekends at Lowes Hardware in Sparta.  The building supply business appealed to him and after spending a full summer at Lowes, he decided to forgo college and work there fulltime.  When the Sparta store closed, Larry transferred to the Lowes in Galax.

Larry’s roots stretch from Piney Creek across the New River into Mount of Wilson and Volney, Virginia.  His parents grew up in that community so when Larry had an opportunity to buy Volney Building Supply, it was as much a homecoming as business decision.  He laughs as he recalls countless telephone conversation trying to get vendors to understand the correct pronunciation of Volney.  After one too many of those exasperating conversations, he changed the business name to Adams Building Supply.  He ran that store for six years before moving to his current location in 2009.

In 1991, a friend convinced Larry to volunteer at the Piney Creek fire department.  Larry says that it only took a few calls for him to be bitten by the “fire bug.”  Lowes allowed him to leave work when the department received a call and Larry would make the 15 mile trip from Sparta back to Piney Creek to join the rest of the responders.  His dedication was noted by the members and in 1994 he was elected chief, a position he held for the next 20 years.

PCVFD 3

In 2008 the county asked Solutions for Local Government to conduct a capital assessment for public safety needs in the county.  That report stated that, “Piney Creek VFD must begin preparing to service what from all accounts is expected to become one of, if not the largest residential communities in the county.”  The report continued, “The current fire ‘station’ essentially consists of an assortment of buildings, none of which was ever intended for its current use. The department needs a fire station that will adequately house its vehicles and service the needs of volunteers and the community.”

In part because of that report, a local developer approached the fire department and offered to buy a new tanker for the department.  The annual payments would be spread out over a ten year period. This offer addressed one element of the problems outlined in the public safety assessment.  Piney Creek VFD would receive a new truck which would allow them to focus their fundraising efforts toward building a new firehouse.

As the national economy faltered in 2009, the developer who had purchased the firetruck declared bankruptcy.  The department was stuck with an $18,000 per year payment for the next nine years.

Larry is once again chief and a question he continually ponders is how generate the funds needed to serve his community.  With a roughly $82,000 operational budget, adequate funding is always an issue. They receive approximately $45,000 in appropriations from the county and around $12,000 in grants from the state.  But, those funds fall far short of their needs.

So, in addition to working fulltime and answering calls, volunteer firefighters are also fundraisers.  Piney Creek VFD is no exception.   In good years, Piney Creek raises approximately $25,000 through a variety of events.  While this seems like a substantial amount, for the past nine years $18,000 a year of those funds went to cover the default loan on the truck.  Very little could be saved in their building fund.  On top of their building needs, their fleet of trucks is aging.  Their “1st truck out” is almost 30 years old.  A replacement will cost between $350,000 and $500,000.

drawdown

The Piney Creek VFD Drawdown.

In addition to their emergency response capabilities, Piney Creek VFD furnishes financial benefits to the community.  Piney Creek is a Class 9 SE department.  Because of this classification, any homeowner within six drivable miles of the firehouse receives a 30% discount on their home insurance.  The Piney Creek fire district has the second highest number of homes of any district in Alleghany County.  This insurance discount saves homeowners thousands of dollars.

PCVFD 2

Piney Creek Volunteer Fire Department

Across Alleghany County there are well over 100 volunteer firefighters and rescue squad personal who train many hours each month for emergencies they hope will not take place.  But when those events arise, they leave their jobs or homes at all hours, in all types of weather, to serve their communities.  Most of those volunteers, if pressed, may have a difficult time explaining why they take those calls.  The rest of us shouldn’t question why.  We should just be glad that they do.

absolutelyalleghanylogosm

 

Monica Santos Torres

IMG_4599

Monica Santos Torres

What determines individual success?  Perhaps an even more difficult variation of that question is, “How do we define success?”  Those questions haunt sociologists, school administrators, politicians and anyone who desires to see positive development for individuals and communities.  With so many variables that can influence growth, we have to wonder if there is a “magic bullet” that can truly impact the success of the people in our communities?  While the question may befuddle the experts, a key component of the answer may be found right here in Alleghany County.

As a young girl, Monica Santos was a fixture on the regional fiddlers’ convention circuit.  The Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program at Piney Creek Elementary School uncovered her guitar skills.  Her mother, Tina Jordan, understood the quality of Monica’s musical gift and bolstered her JAM lessons with private instruction with Bob Desanto of Galaz, Virginia.  The results were 15-20 competition wins.

A change in family dynamics took Monica and her mom from Piney Creek when Monica was in the 5th grade.  They spent a period time with Monica’s grandmother in the Whitehead community before they moved to Sparta.  While in 8th grade, Monica became sweethearts with her future husband, Leo Torres.

Monica played volleyball her freshman year of high school and enjoyed the game.  But, in her sophomore year volleyball gave way to work and she began waiting tables at Mis Arados, a restaurant in Sparta owned and managed by Leo’s family.   Monica worked  with the Torres family all through high school and until she completed college.

2014 was a pivotal year for Monica.  She graduated from Alleghany High School that summer, and she and Leo were married in July.  That fall, she began the nursing program at Wilkes Community College (WCC).

monica 1 (1)The WCC schedule and course load were challenging.  Monica began her days with a one hour commute to the WCC campus in Wilkesboro.  She simultaneously took prerequisite and nursing classes before wrapping up the school day with another one hour trip home.  Once she was back in Sparta, it was off to Mis Arados for a shift of waiting tables.  After her shift she headed home for 1-2 hours of homework.  These days she shrugs off a full-time class load coupled with a 30-40 hours of waiting tables. But while in the throes of that grinding schedule, the thought of quitting college crossed her mind many times.  She credits Leo with encouraging her through those rough spots and giving her the motivation to stick with her dream.

While Monica was balancing all those elements of life, Leo was also taking classes through the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at WCC.  When he graduated and became a deputy with the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office, Monica was able to scale back her restaurant work to what she describes as a more manageable 10-20 hour week.

Monica completed the nursing program in May of 2016 and passed her state exam a couple of weeks later.  That June, she went to work as a floor nurse at the Alleghany Memorial Hospital (AMH).  Once again, she felt overwhelmed.  As she talks about those first weeks as a hospital nurse, the description is stacked with the sense of responsibility and accountability she felt towards her patients.  She often found herself questioning her abilities and whether she could handle the emergencies that were sure to arise.  And she wondered if she could deliver the kind of care she knew her patients deserved.  Once again, Leo stepped in to encourage her that she was on the right path and that he believed it her.

monica 1 (2)

These days a conversation with Monica offers no hint of self-doubt.  She says quite confidently that AMH is a perfect fit for her.  The size of the facility has given her a broad base of experience that would have taken months, even years, to attain in a larger hospital.  Monica explains that this small size also allows her to give patients more personalized care than they would get in a more urban hospital. And working at AMH is something of a homecoming for Monica.  Her patients are often surprised when she tells then she that was born in Alleghany Memorial Hospital.

Monica’s life journey to this point may offer us clues to that question of what determines success.  She was fortunate to find herself in a youth music program where hard work and practice were expected and rewarded.  Her mother recognized Monica’s musical giftedness and made sacrifices for private lessons to enhance that gift.  When her family faced personal challenges, Monica’s extended family provided a safety net as they regained their footing.  Her mother instilled and modeled a strong work ethic.  A small elementary school gave her personalized attention and an enhanced sense of community.  Wilkes Community College furnished the flexibility to balance work and education, while preparing her for a career of professional service.  She married into a hardworking family of entrepreneurs that produced her husband who understands how to provide her encouragement when she needs it most.  And now she works in an environment where she is supported by all levels of staff as she seeks to give back to her community.

A strong work ethic, a sense of delayed gratification, a safety net for life’s challenges, and a network of encouragers are crucial to individual success. As to the question of how we define success.  We don’t have to look further than Monica Santos Torres.

absolutelyalleghanylogosm