JACKSON – Local small business leaders and supporters gathered at the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson on June 28 for Northampton County’s Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and banquet. Attendees were treated to dinner, entertained by local singers, and heard a presentation by a guest speaker.
But the annual event opened first with words of welcome from Chamber of Commerce Board President Sidney Joyner and Chamber Director Judy Collier. After the usual business of electing new officers, Northampton Board of Education member Lucy Edwards was nominated to join the chamber board to fill in a vacant spot.
Before the annual awards presentation, Collier recognized 13 new businesses which had joined the Chamber of Commerce in the past year. Those in attendance that evening included Shykeyma Branch of Key’s Creations and Joyce Joyner of Train Station Farmer’s Market.
Sidney Joyner received an award for his service as Chamber Board President for the past four years.
The Small Business of the Year award went to Troy and Kathy Smith of TD Sports in Rich Square. They celebrated their 25th year in business in April.
“That’s really something to be proud of for a small business,” Collier noted.
Music was provided by The Harris Singers, a local trio made up of teenage siblings. They performed three gospel songs together.
The guest speaker for the evening was LaDonna May-Barnes who serves as Senior Community Development Manager (Southeast Region) for the American Cancer Society (ACS). Her primary responsibility is managing Relay for Life events in Northeastern North Carolina—including the Northampton and Hertford-Gates events each year—but she also participates in different types of cancer research as well.
“We are a nationwide community-based voluntary public health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major public health problem,” May-Barnes explained of the organization which was founded in 1913.
When ACS originally began, only 10 percent of people survived a cancer diagnosis.
“There was a lot of stigma, a lot of fear, a lot of denial. Cancer was rarely mentioned in public,” she explained. “But if you don’t acknowledge a problem, you can’t solve a problem.”
Thanks in part to ACS efforts, she noted that two out of three people survive a cancer diagnosis today.
In her presentation, she explained in depth the four pillars ACS focuses on to complete their mission of eradicating cancer. These pillars are research, prevention, patient services, and advocacy.
May-Barnes explained how research has helped to develop different cancer screening methods, improve treatment options, and discover what causes the different forms of the disease.
“Smoking is the number one preventable cause of cancer,” she said as just one example, noting that ACS helps people find resources to quit the habit.
For those diagnosed with cancer, ACS provides a wide range of patient services to help, including providing information about the diagnosis and connecting people with available programs in the area.
She urged everyone to visit cancer.org or to call 1-800-227-2345 to learn more.
Hope Lodge, located in Greenville, is one of only 34 lodges in the country where cancer patients (plus one caregiver) can stay overnight free of charge while receiving cancer treatment. May-Barnes explained how fundraisers like Relay for Life help keep the lodge open to provide that service.
Anyone who wants to learn more about the facility in Greenville can attend the Open House event on July 13, she added.
May-Barnes also explained that ACS is currently looking for local volunteers for their Road to Recovery program, a service which provides transportation for patients. She said they were unable to provide the program locally without volunteers willing to drive.
The fourth pillar ACS focuses on is advocacy.
“We need good public health policy in place for all of us to access the stuff we’re finding through research. It does none of us any good if we find these great treatments and then we can’t afford to pay for them,” she explained.
The second half of May-Barnes’ presentation explained the role of fundraisers and how people can support ACS.
For example, she explained, Northampton County residents have stayed over 2100 nights at Hope Lodge in Greenville free of charge since 2012, saving over $220,000. That’s all thanks to Relay for Life events.
For small business owners, she suggested a number of ways they could contribute to the cause. The easiest way she said was simply becoming a sponsor with a minimum donation of $250. But people could also form their own Relay team or hold their own fundraiser event, such as a sporting tournament or 5K run.
May-Barnes concluded her presentation with a look into one particular type of cancer prevention she’s passionate about: the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.
HPV is linked to causing six different types of cancer, including cervical cancer. ACS’s goal is to increase vaccination rates by 80 percent before 2026, the twentieth anniversary since the vaccine was approved.
The recommended age for both girls and boys to receive the vaccine is from 11 to 12 years old, but older teenagers and young adults could receive the vaccine too if they missed it. The cutoff age for the vaccine’s effectiveness, however, is 26 years old.
“We can have a generation of children where these types of cancers are almost nonexistent,” she said.
After the presentation, the annual event concluded with door prizes donated by chamber members and a word of thanks from outgoing president Sidney Joyner.
Credit: The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald