Rotary Minute: Blake Strayhorn

We’re feeling called to be bold these days at Durham Habitat.  With so many thousands of Durham neighbors living in need, we have to be.

I live in Old North Durham and my wife, Dell, and I have two boys, Will and Thomas, who are 26 and 24. Both boys went to Carolina and both live in the Triangle.  Younger son, Thomas, just moved back to Durham after serving a year with AmeriCorps, working for Denver Habitat.

I grew up in Nashville Tennessee and seems I’ve almost always had quirky cool jobs.  I started that trend when I worked for a vet in high school. Since it was Nashville, that meant rubbing shoulders with country music stars, both human and canine.  Y’all remember the TV show, Hee Haw?  One of my job responsibilities at the vet was to bathe Beauregard, the big bloodhound on Hee Haw, before he went on the set.

I left Nashville and a promising career as a canine hairdresser for Chapel Hill.  After graduating, I had a stint as a banker, went back to Kenan-Flagler Business School, and then spent 12 years working for a Durham family, the Moylans, as the operations guy at Eurosport, a soccer and lacrosse catalog company.  Eurosport was founded when Mike Moylan was a senior at Durham Academy, and we were the world’s largest soccer retailer with more than 700 employees when I left.  I also spent some time at another cool company, Cherokee Investment Partners in Raleigh.

So I came to Habitat after a bunch of years in the for-profit world working with entrepreneurial companies.  I’ve been in my Habitat role for 5 years now, and I love it; it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I love being entrepreneurial at Habitat in a really cool city.  And I love being a Rotarian.

I love both Habitat and Rotary for the same two reasons:

The first is Service above self, and selfishly, what service does for me.  I remember a recent meeting when an icebreaker question was asked:

“When did you first realize the secret to happiness is to spend a life helping others?”

The question was “When did you realize” – not if, but when – That service to others is the secret to happiness… Rotarians get this and I think it’s a big reason both Rotary and Habitat work so well.

The second reason is both Rotary and Habitat work by building strong partnerships.

Habitat and Rotary have built 6 homes together, the most recent one in our club’s Centennial year.  Rotarians have banged nails, donated, served on our boards and even sponsored whole habitat homes.

I especially love helping craft unlikely partnerships with Habitat in the divided world we live in.  These partnerships give me hope.  Habitat has regular interfaith build days, when Muslims, Christians and Jews work alongside each other banging nails.

President Price*, you’ll be glad to know that we had four college students at recent Interfaith Build, two from Duke and two from UNC.  And they rode in the same car to get there!

So here’s to the value of partnerships and here’s to service above self!  And here’s to being bold together!

 

*Blake shared his minute prior to a program delivered by new Duke President, Vincent Price. 

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