Celebrating WomenWe are storytellers, highlighting local female leaders who have been tirelessly committed to the cause of advancing women, the next generation of emerging female leaders who are inspired to make a difference, and those women who have weathered their own life transitions while moving forward on their leadership path.
While you might think county government is an occasionally dry topic for social media, Michelle Mills sees it exactly the opposite. As Alamance County’s Public Information Officer, a role she took on at the end of 2016, Michelle is charged with making government interesting and accessible.
“Are you kidding- there is always something exciting going on in our community” Michelle said. “Alamance County always has a lot going on, and making sure people are knowledgeable and have access to services is job one.”
A finalist for the Rising Star Award at last year’s Leading the Way, Michelle left Alamance Public Libraries after more than five years in a variety of roles including Branch Manager at Graham Library and Associate Director of Community Relations. During that time, she led the County’s effort to obtain a book mobile and advance the StoryWalk Project, an initiative of the United Way of Alamance County.
She decided to take on the Public Information Officer position as a strategic move. She has also started grad school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seeking her Master’s Degree in Public Administration. When she successfully completes the master’s program at UNC Chapel Hill in 2018, it will be her third graduate degree, joining a Master’s degree in Education from Pensacola Christian College and a Master’s degree in Library Science from Rutgers University.
“I am a passionate learner,” Michelle said. “But I am not just an academic – I am also someone who needs to be getting my hands dirty making a difference in my community.”
Committed to being a public servant, she sees making a lifetime commitment to Alamance County – an incredible commitment for someone born in Korea and raised in Connecticut so still a relative newcomer to our community. But it is par for the course based on the feedback from her peers, who see her as an emerging leader who will make a big difference for the people of Alamance County. And for now, she sees doing that one Facebook post at a time.
“The next generation of local leaders are online, and we need to meet them where they are,” Michelle said.
We agree, hence the launch of this blog! WRC celebrate Michelle Mills for her commitment to our community and for fighting the good fight for the eyes of constituents on social media.
As noted by someone who knows her well, Linda Barron “wakes up every day with the gusto of a John Philips Souza march.” There is perhaps no more fitting tribute to a woman who has been a one-woman-band in every sense of the phrase since she arrived in Burlington nearly 17 years ago.
Linda got her sales and marketing training during her 20-year career at International Paper. As founder of L. Barron & Associates, a manufacturer’s rep company, Linda moved in 2001 from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Burlington, NC to be closer to her largest customers which included Cato, Shoe Show, Nordstrom, Belk and Saks. Her honey, John, a native of Burlington, owned a home here. Linda told him that Burlington is where she wanted to grow old together.
From the moment she arrived, Linda was a presence in the civic life of Alamance County. She joined the Chamber of Commerce, even though none of her customers were in the immediate area.
“I did it to meet people,” Linda said. “I’m not someone to wait around to be discovered – I’m a take charge kind of gal.”
And take charge she did, joining the board of Women’s Resource Center and serving as its Board Chair, a position she would serve in again in 2014-2015, ultimately serving as its acting director for six months while the organization sought a new Executive Director. Then as a true mentor, Linda took the new WRC ED by the hand and led her all over Alamance County to introduce her to the community. Susan Watson keeps her close by on speed dial as a sounding board for advice, source of inspiration, hugs and laughter. She has been active in Alamance County Democratic Women and served in leadership roles with Alamance Reads. Linda has been recognized on a state level with the NC Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service and was a 2016 nominee for the Founders’ Award of Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County.
In 2015, Linda was called upon to once again lend her business savvy to an organization in need – her own church, Holy Comforter Episcopal where she became board chairman of their dual language, multicultural playschool.
“At 66 years old, and having never gotten around to having any kids or grandkids of my own, I was suddenly the overseer for 25 three- and four-year olds,” Linda said. “What an eye opener!”
Last year, Linda retired from L. Barron & Associates, which had pivoted in 2004 to focus on the “geography, geology, chemistry, production and distribution of packaging as it related to wine.” She maintains a passion for wine, and works with her honey to run a 3rd Wednesday Wine class for Alamance Arts.
Cheers to you, Linda! We celebrate your tremendous impact on our region and your tireless determination to make your community a better place to live. We are lucky to call you a friend!
“Once upon a time, a woman was walking beside a river and saw a drowning woman being washed downstream. She rushed to pull her to shore just before she went over the waterfall.
The next day there were two women in the river and she saved them both. The day after, there were three more, and the next day four. With the help of her neighbors, the woman saved them all. The village banded together, setting up a 24-hour rescue watch. Yet, every day there were women that needed saving. The village installed an elaborate alarm system and strung safety nets across the river but was overwhelmed trying to save all the women.
Finally the woman had a BGO (blinding glimpse of the obvious): “Let’s go upstream and see who’s throwing the women in the river. If we stop them from being thrown in, perhaps they won’t need to be rescued.”
You’ve probably heard this story before. This is the version Becky uses when she urges people to “connect the dots” about how public policy and laws affect women and families. Becky has kept this focus in her work over the years. As a fourth generation Alamance County native, Becky has worked for nonprofits, mentoring teens with the goal of reducing teen pregnancy, as an advocate for people with mental health needs, organizing past Alamance County Women’s Agenda Assemblies, and recruiting women to run for office to improve public policy. She’s run for office three times herself. Her 25 years of effort resulted in becoming one of the visionary founders of the Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County, the place where women connect women to gain sustainable futures. Most recently, she spent five years on the national Board of the XLH Network promoting awareness, education, and research about this rare genetic disease (x-linked hypophospatemia).
When asked why it’s important to be civically involved, Becky immediately replied, “We don’t live alone. Our neighbors matter… everyone deserves equal justice, respect, and a fair shake in life. I’m working for a just world where everyone has equal opportunity.”
Her mentors, the late Tennala Gross, Representative Bertha “B” Holt, and friends like Dr. Martha Smith “changed my life”. They helped her focus her feminist ideas into direct action. As a young woman, eight months pregnant, she found herself at a demonstration in Raleigh marching at the front of 10,000 citizens demanding the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by the NC General Assembly. It did not pass and people organized around that defeat to fight for equality in many areas. It has not been an easy or quick journey. Persistence has been required with failures as well as successes along the way. Lessons were learned. Becky encourages others to reach back, mentor someone else, share what you’ve learned and step up to be the leader you are seeking.
Becky Mock’s activist spirit comes to life when asked what she’s most passionate about and her answer: “politics, our country’s future, healthcare as a human right, DACA, and environmental issues.” Where can she be found every Tuesday at 10 am? She is at Congressman Mark Walker’s office with other advocates letting him know they are watching his votes and insisting he put country first for ALL AMERICANS!
Becky’s advice to her younger self: “Think for yourself. Don’t fall into generational roles. Don’t try to please all…you will fail. Filter out the fluff. Be Centered. Find Joy. Love your family. You CAN change the world; indeed, you are responsible to make the world better for the next generation.”
Becky finds her joy with her husband, John, her daughter, Meredith who lives in Australia and her 7-year-old grandson, Chad.
What has Becky Mock excited about the future? The hope that our country will get through this horrible divisiveness, secure healthcare, equal opportunity and justice for all. She has found inspiration in the work of other advocates and her “Persisters”. Retirement is quite full with mentoring new progressives and some long anticipated travel as a reward for years of hard work. Her advice: “Carry on!”
It’s safe to say that Anitra Walker is a bright ray of sunshine to her patients at Alamance Regional Medical Center. Called “caring,” “compassionate,” and “committed” by those who know her best, Anitra is a woman on the move.
Perhaps that is why she launched Project MOVE, an initiative at ARMC designed to increase the percentage of patients who are up and out of their beds after a certain time period after surgery. She not only designed the effort, but onboarded it with her colleagues and was its strongest champion. But then, that sort “taking initiative” is all in a day’s work for her.
Anitra is well respected by her peers at Alamance Regional Medical Center. In 2015, Anitra was selected among the Great 100 Nurses in North Carolina, recognized for her professional ability and for the contributions she makes to improve health care in her community. In 2016, Anitra was a finalist for the Rising Star Award at the WRC’s 2016 Leading the Way event.
“I guess it is fair to say I am almost always on my way going somewhere,” Anitra said. “I like to stay on my feet since I know our patients need us.”
Caring for others is Anitra’s passion. When she found out that a patient celebrates a birthday while they are on her department, she gave the person a birthday card signed by everyone working on the department that day. The smiles she receives fills her heart. Going above and beyond for the patients she cares for is a driving motivation in her life.
So, too is a commitment to giving back to the community. Anitra has served as campus coordinator for last year’s and this year’s United Way campaign, and she was an inspirational leader of the effort. This should not be surprising given her tireless work in the community. She has served meals at the Allied Homeless Shelter in Burlington. At Elon First Baptist, she was Vice President of the Youth Choir, president of the Women’s Ministry at Elon First Baptist Church. Currently she is a member of New Jerusalem Cathedral in Greensboro where she serves as the Secretary of the Nurse’s Ministry and a member of the Sanctuary Choir. She is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
“I was taught from an early age to be thankful for what I have been given, and to do all I can to pass that on to others,” Anitra said. “I don’t see this as necessarily something unique, but rather something we should all expect from each other.”
Powerful words. WRC celebrates Anitra Walker for her compassion and commitment to others.
Passion to improve the lives of others, especially women and children, is a character trait that epitomizes Kathy Hykes.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Hykes and her husband came to Alamance County in 1974. Two years later, a rape here shook the community when it became apparent that there was not adequate support for victims. Hykes stepped up along with others to form the Rape Crisis Alliance in 1976 which is now Crossroads Sexual Assault Response and Resource Center.
“I have this tendency to raise my hand,” Hykes said. She remembers that her mom encouraged her to “toot your own horn.” Looking at her resume today, she admits that starting organizations – “That’s my schtick!”
She attended an all-girls school where she excelled but learned about competing with men once she attended college as she vied for the editorship of a publication.
Hykes’ pioneering spirit and her love for improving the lives of all women led her to also create and lead the Alamance Coalition on Adolescent Pregnancy in 1986. Eventually other community agencies took over the work of the coalition. Then in 1990, she was the founder and executive director of Childcare Resource and Referral of Alamance.
Another example of her boundless community service can be seen in her tenure on the Burlington City Council. Her hope for the future is to ensure that Burlington and all of Alamance County will be a better place to live for all people.
What advice would she give to a young Kathy Hykes just starting out?
“Perspective!” she thoughtfully responds.
What is she most passionate about right now?
Hykes answers the Newlin Elementary School Partnership where she listens to a student read every Friday morning.
“I’m passionate about kids and education,” she said.
Who are her mentors? Hykes responds, “I have a support group. There are six women who are powerful in their own right who are lifting me up!”
Finally, what gives Hykes hope are the endless opportunities now available to women. She sees that her granddaughter has a bright future ahead. The time has come for women to lead, she said. And we have no doubt that Hykes will be raising her hand again!