Gene Crouse – Alleghany County Rescue Squad

IMG_5449Gene Crouse tells a story that had all the makings of an impending tragedy. A lady over 90 years-old had left home and was missing in the woods.  Darkness set in and the temperature dropped.  A crew from the Alleghany County Rescue Squad spent the night searching the woods but were unable to locate the woman. Fortunately they found her the next morning, safe and sound.  She told the rescuers that she had gotten cold overnight and covered herself completely in leaves to stay warm. She added, “But, I hardly slept a wink with y’all out there stomping around all night.”

Gene laughs as he tells that story. As he approaches his 50th anniversary in the squad, there are other humorous stories that he can recount along with many others with more tragic results. A quick conversation with Gene reveals a professional who accepts the challenges he has faced, but prefers to focus on those incidents with positive outcomes.

In August of 1970, shortly after his discharge from the military, Gene joined the new Alleghany County Rescue Squad. Gene recalls that the squad’s response vehicle was a Chevrolet Suburban. They used a military litter for a stretcher so once a patient was loaded, the truck was so full that it was difficult to provide care for the patient.  In 1977 the squad bought its first ambulance and at that time the town and county began allocating funds to the group.

Over the next ten years, Gene worked at Sparta Pipes.  He said they were a great company who recognized the value of emergency services volunteers. He described work days where he clocked in only to receive an emergency call that kept him away his entire shift. Even though he was gone for the day, the company paid him for his regular work shift. Gene explained, “They recognized that our community depended on volunteers to staff the rescue squad and fire departments.  Allowing us to go on these emergency calls, on company time and be paid, was one way Sparta Pipes gave back to the community.”

By the late 1970s, Alleghany County had formed a paid emergency medical services (EMS) department.  In 1979, Gene left the pipe factory and became a full-time EMS member. He also remained a member of the rescue squad.

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Long time members left to right: Richard Caudill, Charity Gambill-Gyyn and Gene Crouse

The roles of EMS and the rescue squad sometimes creates confusion for the public.  Gene explains it this way: “Think about an automobile accident that has the victim pinned inside the vehicle.  The rescue squad, EMS and fire departments will all be sent to the scene.  The rescue squad’s responsibility is to stabilize the victim while they are still inside the wreckage and then work to extricate them from the vehicle. The fire department will provide fire suppression and protection from fire, traffic control, and for those trained in extrication, assistance with freeing the victim. Once the victim is removed, EMS takes over medical treatment and transports the patient to an emergency facility.”

The complexity of these interlocking operations reflects the vast amounts of specialized equipment required to safely carry out each step of the response; the training required to operate this equipment and provide the necessary care; and the cost of both the equipment and training. Gene pointed out that that first Suburban cost around $3,000. The latest response vehicle purchased by the rescue squad cost well over $300,000. “Back in those early days,” Gene said, “We would go door to door in the community. Nowadays, we engage in a multiple fundraisers throughout the year. The cost is operating our squad is surprising to most people.”

Often overlooked by the public are the number of hours that squad members volunteer to the community. Gene explained, “When the [paid] EMS crews have to leave the county for medical transports, we call in rescue volunteers to be on standby provide medical response in the county. Coupling that with training and responding to calls for assistance, some of our more active members volunteer 40-50 hours each month.”

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Gene and wife, Jeannie

These days Gene spends much of his day on his farm in Cherry Lane where he raises beef cattle and donkeys.  But he still provides training for emergency responders and occasionally works a shift at EMS or runs a call with the rescue squad.  Even after 50 years, serving the community in times of need is still a key part of what defines Gene Crouse.

 

Christy Klein – To the Front Lines of the Covid 19 Response

There is a military adage that dates back to Napoleonic Wars – “March to the sound of the guns.” It is the notion that soldiers should move toward the place where they can put their skills to use.  To put it another way, it is a directive to move to where the action is occurring.  For someone with a history of medical mission work, the equivalent of that statement may be, “Go to where people are suffering.”  Christy Klein is putting those principles into action by going to New York City.

IMG-0282Christy grew up in the Whitehead community, the daughter of Leo and Dorene Caudill.  Christy is a 1995 graduate of Alleghany High School and went away to college at East Carolina University (ECU).  After a period of no clear direction, she left ECU and enrolled in the nursing program at Pitt Community College.

Upon graduation from Pitt, Christy took a nursing position at Wake Forest Baptist Health in the intermediate care department. It was something of a homecoming for the family.  Dorene, Christy’s mother, graduated from North Carolina Baptist Hospital School of Nursing (now Wake Forest Baptist Health) in the 1960s. Christy credits Dorene, an emergency department nurse at Alleghany Health since 1969, for “Leading me into nursing.”

Christy met her husband Steve while working at Baptist. Steve works with, Fedora Security where he specializes in video analytical security. Fedora also partners with Action Targets where among other things they design and build firearms training facilities around the world.

Christy left Baptist and took a nursing position at Carolinas Medical Center Atrium Health in Charlotte. Over the next 14 years she honed her skills in the trauma center and picked up extra hours in the emergency department. She later moved into operations as a mid-level clinical supervisor and then a nurse manager in the emergency department.

To help facilitate these moves, Christy went back to school.  She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2013 and then went straight into graduate school – not just one school but two.  Over the next four years she simultaneously worked on a Masters in Business Administration degree from Pfeiffer University and a second degree in Nursing Leadership from East Carolina University (ECU). She graduated from Pfeiffer in 2017 and ECU in 2018.

Christy’s goal has always been to come back home to Alleghany County.  In 2019 a clinical services position opened Alleghany Health.  Christy was selected for that job and she and her family moved to Alleghany.  Along with Christy and Steve, their family includes three children: Neicolah, who is in the US Army and is training to be a combat medic; Sadye (named after her grandmother) is 14; and Jon, the youngest son is 8 years old.

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Sayde, Neicolah and Jon

Throughout her career Christy has worked with medical missions.  She has traveled with Team Rubicon on missions to Greece, Ecuador and Puerto Rico. She has been to Vietnam with Vets on a Mission and is scheduled to return there with them this fall.

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So, it against that backdrop of family history, education and life experience that Christy has found herself, along with the rest of the world, in an international health crisis.  She has heard the calls and is moving to the sounds of suffering. From April 13 – May 25, Christy will be on the front lines of the Covid 19 response in New York City where she will serve at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.

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The challenges of such a trip are overwhelming.  The grim realities are terrifying.  Perhaps Dorene summed it up best in response to a Facebook post from Christy: “So now we’re off on another idea of yours to cause me some worry…lol. But just like all the other times, I believe in you and most importantly I believe in God to keep you safe, healthy and wise.  I am so blessed with such wonderful children!!!”

Along with Dorene, our community is blessed to have citizens like Christy Klein who respond to needs of others by moving toward the challenges from which most of us would rather flee or pretend doesn’t exist.

Drew Edwards Temple – Alleghany County Clerk

IMG_5178For Drew Edwards Temple, new administrative assistant to the Alleghany County manager and clerk to the county commission, her journey to that role followed a common path.  Starting here in Alleghany, she explored several options in our region before returning home.  Each step added a piece of life experience.

Drew grew up in the Twin Oaks community just outside Sparta.  Her parents, Bill and Debbie Edwards, are graduates of Appalachian State University.  Bill was an estimator with NAPCO and Debbie was a teacher.  The Edwards family tree has roots spread across Alleghany and adjoining counties. Her mother’s family came to the county in 1963. After a stint in the military and college at Elon, Drew’s grandfather, Jack Martin, took a job with Sparta Pipes where he later became president of the company.

After graduating Alleghany High School in 2005, Drew attended Surry Community College for one year before transferring to Appalachian State University (ASU). After a few semesters at ASU, she decided to set aside school for a while (she later returned and earned her associate’s degree from Wilkes Community College) and took a job with Ryder Truck Rentals in Hickory.

Ryder has one of North America’s largest fleet of trucks with over 234,000 vehicles in operation.  Drew worked as a customer service coordinator and helped ensure that customers were renting quality vehicles that were properly maintained and serviced.

Drew left Ryder and moved to Charlotte where she took a job with the Pennsylvania Steel Company.  There she worked in sales with a primary focus on recurring customers.  In 2013, she moved back to Alleghany County and continued to commute to the Charlotte area for her job.

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As Drew wound her way through college and jobs at Ryder and Pennsylvania Steel, her future husband, Mac Temple, was laying the foundation for his career.  Mac had attended Catawba Valley Community College and worked in automotive repair in the Hickory area.  Sensing a need for Asian and European import repairs in Alleghany County, Mac and Chris Lucas opened Modern Province Imports in Sparta.

Drew and Mac were married in 2014.

Drew’s transition back to Alleghany County has been challenging.  She took a job with Pioneer Eclipse in 2014 in inside sales where she marketed to governmental and school systems.  These contracts are often accompanied by a mountain of paperwork because of the guidelines of the numerous governmental entities.  She later shifted to field marketing to hardware stores that offer rental units to customers.  That job played out in September 2017.

Following Pioneer Eclipse, Drew worked for several months as a teller at Skyline Bank in Sparta before she took on her new role in the county manager’s office.

When asked about coming home, Drew offered several insights that may hold the key for creating an environment that is attractive to young couples.

Drew and Mac now have a 16 month-old son, Graham. As a family with two working parents, they are acutely aware of the value of having high quality day care in our community.  With the recent closure of the afterschool care program in our county schools, Drew is already thinking about how they will handle that issue of when Graham reaches school age.  Drew acknowledges that they are privileged to have parents who can help out with childcare needs.  She also realizes that many families don’t have that luxury.

Drew is quick to offer how fortunate she has been to obtain good jobs after moving back to Sparta.  She recognizes that that isn’t the case for everyone. She points out that having steady employment in good jobs is the key to attracting people like her to the county.  This includes supporting entrepreneurs like Mac as they seek to build businesses in the county.

Having grown up in Alleghany County, Drew and Mac knew what to expect when they returned.  They had experienced the big city and were looking forward to a slower pace of life in which to raise their son.  It is Drew’s opinion that we won’t attract young couple with more things.  Instead, the Alleghany lifestyle is appealing.  She mentioned spending time on the river and camping as attributes that appeal to her and Mac.

Perhaps most important in their decision to move back was the lure of being near family.  A theme of the importance of family is continually woven into conversation with Drew.

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Drew, Mac and Graham Temple enjoying the 4th of July parade

We often think of the arc of a person’s life as one of smooth lines and linear transitions.  But closer examination usually reveals a series of twists and turns coupled with peaks and valleys.  When taken in totality, these give us access to perspective, wisdom and insight.  These vantage points are what Drew Temple will bring to local government.  More importantly, it is what she brings to our community.

 

 

Bob Black – A Life of Service

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Bob and Carol Black

“I have been fortunate.”

Those words surface often as Bob Black recounts his life. Some would equate “fortunate” with “lucky” or “being in the right place at the right time.”  But, as the events of Bob’s life are examined, “fortunate” is a complex mixture of the right kinds of relationships, recognizing opportunities when they present themselves, and a strong personal work ethic.  Perhaps more important, it is the ability to take a long-term view of what can be accomplished when those three things intersect.

Bob Black 8Born in 1930, Bob spent his early years in the Piney Creek community of Alleghany County.  His parents, Emerson and Alma, were both teachers at Piney Creek School.  In 1933 or 34, Bob’s father became the county agricultural agent.

Bob recalls that in addition to serving as a liaison between local farmers and North Carolina State University, his father also filled the role of veterinarian, giving vaccines and tending to sick livestock.  In those days, in addition to cattle, Alleghany farmers raised and sold thousands of sheep. Emerson would coordinate the sale and shipment of lambs to markets up north, taking truckloads of lambs to railroad docks in Galax or Wilkesboro.  In 1938, his father was instrumental in securing a loan from the Rural Electrification Authority to setup an electric cooperative which brought electricity to Alleghany County.

During his early childhood, Bob’s family moved to Sparta.  Their first home was on Main Street between the homes of Dr. Thompson and Dr. Burgiss near the current location of BB&T Bank.  The family later built the rock house that still stands across from the current Alleghany County Fairgrounds.  To supplement their income, the Blacks took boarders into their new home.  Bob describes those boarders as primarily school teachers and recalls that the first park ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway was also a boarder.

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Bob’s childhood was filled with rich mixture of contradictions.  He inherited a love of hunting and fishing from his father.  Bob recalls that when he was 12 years old, he killed 67 squirrels that fall with a single shot .22 rifle.  He then describes that same 12 year-old as checking out an “arm load” of books each week from the library.  He followed his dad on farm visits, even learning to give vaccinations.  He could mingle comfortably with farmers and doctors and teachers.  Bob lettered in football, basketball and baseball in high school while balancing farm chores.

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He followed his father’s example and went to college at North Carolina State where he was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).  After living in the dorm his freshman year, he spent his sophomore year living in the basement of the college gym.  His final two years were spent on the college farm where he rose at 4:00 am to work on the farm before heading out to classes.  During his time at Sparta High School, Bob was active in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and participated in livestock judging.  He continued this at college and traveled the country judging livestock.

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Bob’s summer jobs gave him with valuable life experience.  A college friend told him of going to Kansas one summer to work in the wheat harvest.  The friend gave Bob the name and number of the farmer. That summer Bob hitchhiked to Kansas, called the farmer and asked for a job.  At the end of the summer, Bob planned to visit family in Nebraska.  The farmer drove Bob out to the highway.  It took two hours for the first vehicle to come by.  Bob hitchhiked on to Nebraska and then back home.

The next year, Bob worked as a seasonal ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  One night after his shift, he came into Sparta and spent the evening getting to know two men, Jim Lowe and Carl Buchan.  The two brother-in-laws owned Lowes Hardware and had opened a store in Sparta.

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After college, Bob entered the U.S. Army in 1953, fulfilling his two year military commitment made with the ROTC.  He was commissioned as a lieutenant and soon found himself the youngest company commander at Ft. Knox.  He arrived in Korea after the truce and took part in the prisoner of war exchanges.

After fulfilling his military commitment, Bob returned home and applied for a job as county agent in Cleveland County.  As he worked through that process, Carl Buchan sent word that he would like to meet with Bob.  Bob interviewed with Mr. Buchan and went to work for Lowes the next day.

Bob Black 1Bob started on the sales floor with Lowes.  He was successful in sales and was later moved to purchasing.  The work led him across the country to meet with manufacturers and supplies. He went on to become the vice president of purchasing.

Lowes was nationally known for its profit sharing plan.  Mr. Buchan felt that when employees owned shares of the company, they would be more engaged and productive.  As a result, many employees were financially able to retire after 20 years of service.  Bob followed this pattern, retiring in 1975 at the age of 45.  He viewed this as an opportunity to spend more time with his family and to spend more time outdoors.  It also begin a remarkable period of civic engagement.

Bob has been active in supporting NC State University.  He served on the Wolf Pack Club board for 16 years and was president of the alumni association.  He became close friends with coaches Norm Sloan and Jim Valvano.  Bob established two need-based endowments that supports six scholarships. He also supports four varsity sports scholarships, including the first for cheerleading.  In 2005, Bob was awarded the Watauga Medal for his “dedication and devotion to the advancement of North Carolina State University.”

In Alleghany County, there are few civic organizations or non-profits that haven’t experienced Bob’s touch.  He was a founding board member of the Chamber of Commerce and was instrumental in the recruitment of industry in Alleghany County.  Many of his private ventures such as joining investors in building the Alleghany Inn or purchasing the Alleghany News years ago, were driven more by a sense of civic duty that a desire for profit.  Bob views one of his greatest accomplishments as negotiating the donation of the current fairgrounds property from the Higgins family to the county. He is active in Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Piney Creek , a church his family helped found almost 200 years ago.

These days, Bob enjoys traveling with his wife, Carol – they have been married for 14 years.  They enjoy time with their families.  Bob reads four different newspapers and has maintained a subscription to Forbes magazine for over 50 years.

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Bob and Carol enjoying a tuk-tuk ride in Bangkok

While Bob describes himself as fortunate, many others who can tie their good fortune to Bob Black and his family.  Countless students at both the college and high school level have been fortunate recipients of Bob’s generosity. Anyone who enjoys an event at the Alleghany County Fairgrounds can trace their good fortune to a conversation Bob had with Buck Higgins.  Local businesses who are assisted by the Chamber of Commerce are fortunate for the visionary leadership of Bob and others who had the foresight to form that local organization.

We are all fortunate that Bob Black is a part of our community.

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Sarah Wagg Dalton

IMG_5096A short conversation with Sarah Dalton quickly reveals a quick wit and an engaging personality.  She has a ready smile and exudes confidence in her ability to take on any task set before her.  It is obvious that she is someone who makes good things happen.

Sarah grew up in the Piney Creek community, the daughter of Mark and Judy Wagg.   Her father is the pastor of Pine Fork Baptist Church in Laurel Springs and is also a cattle farmer.  Sarah says that she “spent a lot of time on the farm” as a girl.  She attended Piney Creek Elementary until the family moved to Ennice.  Her mom drove her back to Piney Creek for a while before Sarah settled in to Glade Creek School.  In the 8th grade, she left public school for a home school program.

SarahDalton3The home school schedule allowed Sarah to spend more time with her parents.  While some kids would view that as something less than positive, Sarah cherishes the time with her mom and dad.  Her dad coached Sarah’s home school basketball team which was based out of Galax.  The team played against Christian and private schools with Sarah filling the role of point guard. She counts playing in a large tournament at Liberty University as a highlight of her high school career.

Sarah’s athletic skills carried over to college.  She continued to play basketball at Piedmont International University in Winston Salem during her freshman and sophomore years.

Then Sarah’s life made an interesting turn.

A young man from Pulaski, Virginia struck up a running conversation with Sarah on social media.  He was a friend of a friend and was serving in the US Army at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, Colorado.  As their conversation continued and deepened over time, Sarah felt there may be some potential to the relationship.

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In November of 2014, Sarah flew to Colorado to visit Dustin.  As the week neared its end, Sarah found herself high atop Pikes Peak where Dustin asked for her hand in marriage.  He was anticipating a deployment to Germany in the near future.  Faced with the prospect of a long distance courtship, they married in January of 2015.

Instead of Germany, the newlyweds were assigned to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.  Sarah continued her education through Liberty University’s online program, graduating with a degree in elementary education in 2017.

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Sarah with her parents, Mark and Judy Wagg

As Dustin neared the end of his military enlistment in 2016, the young couple considered where they wanted to live.  As bad as Sarah wanted to return to Alleghany County, she knew she was facing an assortment of personal challenges in transitioning back home.  Since she was home schooled through high school, she didn’t have a network of classmates to help her find a job.  Complicating that further was that she was coming back with a new last name.  It true rural fashion she often introduces herself in relation to her family members.  Her older sister, Stacey Presnell works for the Alleghany County Department of Social Service.  Sarah said with a laugh that, “When I tell people who my sister is they warm up to me pretty quickly.  Everyone seems to know her!”

Sarah began a part-time job with the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce in November of 2016.  Three months later, she also assumed the role of director with the Sparta Revitalization Committee.  The two jobs put her in the middle of many business and community support activities.  She quickly found that there are a number of local organizations doing similar work.  Establishing communication across those organizational boundaries is a key part of Sarah’s responsibilities.

For those not familiar with basketball, the point guard is the team’s primary ball handler and the player who puts the plays in motion.  On successful teams, this player is fully synced with the coach and becomes extension of the coach on the court.  The truly successful point guards often describe having an intuitive sense of where all the players are at on the court.  Most importantly, they know where those players will be and how to set those players up to score.

Sarah Dalton’s life is characterized by this point guard mentality.  She adjusted to being home schooled and developed a group of life-long friends playing basketball. Her trip to Colorado to explore whether a budding relationship had legs may seem impulsive to some, but her family had been praying for a man to come into her life that would be a good mate.  When marriage took her out of the county, she continued her education online.

This leads to a question we must consider about Sarah and other young Alleghany County residents.  Are we willing to give them the ball and then trust them to make the plays that lead to us having a healthy, thriving community?absolutelyalleghanylogosm