New Member: Laura Ferguson

Please introduce yourself and welcome new Member Laura Ferguson.

Laura’s high energy introduction of herself woke up anyone snoozing after out lunch since she didn’t provide us with a written biography we scraped her introduction as the new YMCA Executive Director for the Durham YMCA locations. She replaces Forrest Perry who has moved on to greater things in the Triangle YMCA.

We’re excited to introduce you to the new Executive Director for the Durham YMCAs, Laura Ferguson. As former director Forrest Perry transitions into a new role at the YMCA of the Triangle corporate office, Laura is coming back to the Bull City, in a sense. She was born here in Durham and raised in Raleigh. She attended NC State, where she was a member of the Women’s Soccer Team.


Laura was a part of the Charlotte YMCA team for 18 years, beginning as an intern at the Lake Norman Y. Her roles have included Program Director, Operations Director, and for a majority of her time in Charlotte, she was responsible for overseeing all programs and risk management for the 21 YMCA sites there. She also served as the Executive Director of the Johnston Y.


Laura is an avid outdoor adventure seeker and loves live music. She’s learning to play the mandolin, so we’re already planning on a free concert at the Y soon. She enjoys cooking – according to her, almost as she loves to eat, so we’re counting on baked goods too!


We asked Laura what most excites her about joining the Durham YMCA. “I really believe that Durham is the most unique and interesting city in North Carolina, and I’m thrilled to be back here,” she said. “The team of staff and board members here are incredibly dedicated to supporting the community and making a positive impact, and I cannot wait to get to work with them. I look forward to creating lasting relationships with our members and finding out how we can make their lives even better through the work the Y is doing.”

Join us in welcoming Laura to the Bull City team!

Kaddish for Murders in Pittsburgh

The awful tragedy of the murders of eleven members of the Jewish community of Pittsburgh in their synagogue brought Carolyn Aaronson back to a meeting of the Club to join Rotarian Bob Gutman in the recitation of a Kaddish and explain its meaning in the 11 month cycle of mourning for the death of Jewish relative.

The Kaddish went as follows:

May his great Name grow exalted and sanctified (Amen)
In the world that He created as He willed.
May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days,
and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel,
swiftly and soon. (Amen)
May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.
Blessed, praised,glorified, exalted, extolled.
mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One,
Blessed is He
Blessed is He beyond any blessing and song,
praise and consolation that are uttered in the world. (Amen)
May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life
upon us and upon all Israel.(Amen)
He Who makes peace in His heights, May He make peace,
upon us and upon all Israel. (Amen)



Program Report: Doug Hodges – SwingPal

Doug Hodges is a Brit who came to this country with little money in his pocket but found his way into the business of oil commodity trading. To fill a personal need for more community involvement he found Big Brother Big Sisters to be something that was very fulfilling.

Doug wore a PGA shirt but didn’t say much about his golfing background. In fact, he pointed out that the bad news was that anyone expecting the program to be about golf was going to be disappointed. The good news was that he was sure that what the program was about, could improve a golf game.

A little online research did make the golfing connection. As one of over 29 thousand PGA professionals Doug was the Founder of ThinkWorkPlay a golf coaching business. For more than 20 years he researched and studied the mental aspects of golf and ways to achieve optimal performance.

Improving performance in such a mentally challenging game as golf and mentoring youth in Big Brother Big Sister programs gave birth to SwingPals, where golf is used to teach life skills.

Currently the SwingPals formula is being applied to four of Durham’s middle schools, Neal, Lowe’s Grove, Brogden, and Shepard. Plans are in the works to add Githens.  About 1000 students are served including all sixth graders in the four schools.  The 6th graders all get 5 to 10 sessions, 5 as part of Physical Ed classes and the rest at Hillandale Golf Course. Students can then apply for additional instruction in subsequent grades eventually aging out in the 12th grade.

[Read more…]

Program Report: Renee Hodges: Saving Bobby

When Renee Hodges impulsively invited her 28-year-old nephew Bobby to stay in her family’s Durham home, they knew he was struggling with an opiod addiction that began years earlier when a physician prescribed medications for his chronic back pain. What she discovered, as the anticipated two-week’s stay stretched into 16 months, was the extent of Bobby’s addiction and the toll it was taking on his mental health. She hadn’t realized, given her family history of alcoholism, the predisposition to addiction that she and Bobby shared. Renee also discovered, much to her horror, the true extent of opiod addiction in our country and the dearth of resources available for rehabilitation and recovery that are available.

In her best-selling book “Saving Bobby: Heroes and Heroin in One Small Community,” Renee describes her experiences with “a disease that’s not a parenting problem, it’s not a character flaw, nor something to be ashamed of” but is still stigmatized as such. “When Bobby came to live with us, there was virtually no awareness, nothing in the media, about the abuse of commonly prescribed pain medications such as OxyContin,” she explains. “Heroin and opiods work on the human brain in the same way, but “Oxy” is somehow acceptable in the American mainstream.” Sadly, many addicts turn to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get than prescription medications, and laws have tightened on physicians over-prescribing opiates for their patients – some suffering no more discomfort than having had wisdom teeth removed.

[Read more…]

Rotary Minute: Marcy Lowe

Let me tell you the story of Play Pump. Picture a merry-go-round—the round platform that children push and then jump on while it spins. This merry-go-round is hooked up to a water pump. This was a project in Sub-Saharan Africa, where clean water is scarce, and children are plentiful. So every time the children spin the merry-go-round, the pump is activated, water fills an elevated tower nearby, and now the village has clean water.

Brilliant, right? Donors flocked to it. Money poured in. They started building PlayPumps all over. Two years later, the merry go-rounds are rusty, broken, they won’t turn. PlayPumps are abandoned. No one had asked the villagers, Do you want this? Will you use it? Will you maintain it?

And that’s how a really cool project failed.

[Read more…]



The service project undertaken by two of the new member teams, the screening of the movie Resilience, The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, was impressive on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start.

Let’s try by picturing a young kid huddled on the floor in a corner while his mom and her current boyfriend fight in the next room. They start pushing each other and he finally leaves the house slamming the door behind him.

The kind of anxiety this generates in a child has effects that can last a lifetime. There are other stressors, of course, including direct violence, sexual abuse and the absence of a nurturing adult in a child’s life.

The movie tells the story of how researchers in several fields started connecting the dots which led to a huge study and a testing instrument called the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Questionnaire that identifies childhood experiences of abuse and neglect with ten direct questions. Each “yes” is an “ACE” in their shorthand.

There is a good explanation of this on a website called Good Therapy.  The study posits that childhood trauma and stress early in life, apart from potentially impairing social, emotional, and cognitive development, indicates a higher risk of developing health problems in adulthood.

[Read more…]