Five accomplished women were honored at the 10th annual Cary Magazine Women of Western Wake Luncheon, held Oct. 27 at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary. The women spoke of individual risk and life choices, and the importance of collective impact on solving problems.
“All of this knitting together an incredible tapestry here in our community, that’s what’s going to break the cycle of violence in our community,” said Leigh Duque, executive director of InterAct of Wake County, which provides support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“It’s going to be a collective impact,” said Duque, “all of us working together that will achieve that end result.”
Duque and the other honorees — Nicole Dozier, director of Health Advocacy Project-North Carolina Justice Center and Mayor Pro-Tempore of Apex Town Council; Dr. Gayle Greene, executive vice president of Wake Technical Community College; Fara Palumbo, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina; and Missy Vatinet, co-founder and owner of La Farm Bakery — participated in a panel discussion which allowed each woman to reaffirm her commitment to community and reiterate her level of engagement.
Elizabeth Gardner, WRAL-TV meteorologist, moderated the discussion.
Building on the idea of collective impact, Palumbo challenged the employers in the room to provide jobs. The next step, she said, is to give individuals who have worked to bring order to their lives a chance to improve their circumstances.
“We as employers really need to reach in and say we are willing and able to make a difference for these people; otherwise the cycle will not break,” she said.
Good health care is also vital to helping lift people out of poverty, said Dozier. Treating the mind and the body increases the individual’s ability to contribute to society as a whole person.
“We don’t tell people to stop having heart attacks,” she said. “We do tell people to stop being depressed.”
Greene told guests that she and her team at Wake Tech have a responsibility to expand the middle class. This is done by “closing the skills gap,” she said. Partnerships with North Carolina schools, universities and businesses help the community college know what skills will be needed in the future so it can provide the right instruction.
And classes aren’t just for recent high school graduates. Education for individuals is a lifetime endeavor, she says, and the process is long-term.
“We are incredibly fortunate in this region because we are becoming more affluent all the time,” said Greene. “It is my great hope that as we become more affluent, we’ll bring all of our citizens along with us and not leave anybody behind.”
“For once in my life, I’m speechless,” said the astonished Ogle.
The honorees left their audience with the idea of perseverance. Making an impact in the community often starts with taking a risk, said Duque. Sometimes it’s better to dive into a problem, even if you don’t have all the answers.
“We have to be willing to step into that gray zone,” she said. “Things are rarely right or wrong; they’re evolving, and things are rarely black or white. The truth is somewhere in that shade of gray.”
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