Pittsboro, NC – The Wellness and Education Community Action Health Network (WECAHN), formerly the Chatham Social Health Council is making great strides. As we move forward and expand our mission and services again, we’d like to take a moment to look back at our 25 year history in order to acknowledge our evolution and recognize those who have volunteered and supported us over the years.
Without them, we would not be where we are today: the only agency dedicated to providing HIV/STD prevention education, testing and care services in Chatham County. Expanding these great services to Alamance, Randolph, Orange, Anson, Harnett, Hoke, Montgomery, Richmond, Moore, Lee and Anson counties in 2011 and now serving 28 different counties as of 2016.
In 1990, the Chatham Health Department determined that in order to keep the HIV and AIDS cases low, a countywide education program would be necessary.
The Health Department Health Educator at the time recruited local doctors, lawyers, social workers, teen representatives and other community members to join a taskforce to combat HIV and AIDS in Chatham. The Health Department donated office space and community members volunteered their time to create a nonprofit agency dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention education in Chatham. The HIV/AIDS Council of Chatham County was founded in 1991.
To assess community need and determine agency direction, members of the taskforce attended meetings of similar agencies on the state and local levels to research programs and initiatives. They met with doctors to understand medical response to the issue of HIV/AIDS, and all members took the Red Cross HIV/AIDS education course. They participated in all county and school health fairs to learn more about the community and to distribute HIV/AIDS prevention materials. School assemblies were organized for local high schools featuring speakers with AIDS, and out of the assemblies, a teen peer education group, “Let’s TALK” (Teens for AIDS Learning and Knowledge) was founded.
The Council members worked tirelessly and creatively to provide innovative programming on HIV/AIDS prevention in Chatham. One of the first projects of the Council, funded by CP&L, involved the distribution of informational AIDS videos in English and Spanish to all the Chatham County video stores, schools, and libraries. An informational file on HIV and AIDS was developed and maintained, a youth AIDS educator visited the middle schools for an interactive prevention program, and the “Let’s TALK” group performed dramatic stories about AIDS prevention. The Council also provided funding for 250 Chatham County 7th and 8th graders to attend the National “What About AIDS” exhibit at the Durham Museum of Life and Science.
With the backing of the Fearrington Women’s Club, a Lunch and Learn Program was created targeting 6th grade girls. In groups of 10, girls from local schools were invited to a pizza lunch to participate in a discussion with local successful women on how goals helped shape their lives. The purpose of the program was to encourage young women to think about goals at an early age in hopes of prohibiting risky behavior.
In 1995, funding from the Piedmont HIV Healthcare Consortium was secured to create a buddy program to provide volunteer support to Chatham residents living with HIV/AIDS. At this juncture, the Council revisited and expanded its mission statement from a prevention education base to include care for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
A volunteer Speakers’ Bureau was initiated and presentations were provided to the Girl Scouts, the Lions Clubs, Central Carolina Community College, and local businesses. Each year a scholarship was awarded to a child with HIV or AIDS or a child in a family affected by HIV/AIDS to attend the Jordan Lake Summer Camp. At Christmas, the Council organized an Angel Tree at McIntyre’s Bookstore where patrons donated books for Chatham County children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. This also provided books for over 100 children with AIDS at Duke Hospital.
Funding for these and other programs was secured entirely through volunteer efforts. Members researched and wrote grants on their own time, and many creative fundraisers were coordinated by Council members, including picnics, parties, and musical performances. The Fearrington House Tour, the Council’s most successful fundraising event, continues today.
The United Way of Chatham County helped the Council greatly by providing seed money and stability that eventually led to the hiring of an Executive Director, Holly Baddour in 1998 to oversee and expand Council programming and services. At that time, the Council moved into its own office space at 73 Camp Drive in Pittsboro.
In its tenth year, the Council continued to evolve. By changing the name of the agency to â€œChatham Social Health Councilâ€ and expanding its mission to include STDs above and beyond HIV/AIDS, the Council demonstrated its continuing response to the changing needs of the county. Securing County funding for the first time in history to target populations at high-risk for STD/HIV infection with a strong prevention and care message illustrated that the Council programs remained innovative and important.
Last April 2015, the Council changed their name to Wellness and Education Community Action Health Network (WECAHN) and expanded their mission to include other health disparities. We continue to be deeply thankful for the volunteers who created the organization, volunteered their time, and demonstrated inspiring dedication at every turn.
Following is a list of the people who built WECAHN from the ground up. They provided support and guidance with their hands and their hearts. We stand with pride and strength on the foundation they created and are forever indebted to their inspiring tenacity and generous spirit. We are proud to call you
Our Founders are Randall Adcock, Glenn Backes, Evy Barrow, Elizabeth Cassedy, Mildred Cooper, Martha Curie, Lou Degraffenreidt, Carlene Dixon, Kristin Dudley, Dr.Dykers, Ginna Earl, Nancy Eberle, Frances Fisher, Saundra Gardner, Danielle Gauthier-Atkinson, Susan George, Frances Gerngross, Sarah Glowacki, Anne Granath, Georgan Gregg, Carolyn Harley, Nancy Hillmer, Maria Hitt, Dr. Jim Holt, Janice Hunt, Elaine Johnson, Nancy Kinney, Claire Levitt, Rob Lewis, Dr. Sue McCutcheon, Steve Metelitz, Mitch Million, Sue Navin, Lenni Newman, Ida Norell, Kim Page, Margaret Pollard, Alessandra Ross, Joni Sanders, Betty Sher,Wayne Sherman, Sheree Smith, Rhonda Smith-Alston, Barbara Smith, Maria Soto, Rita Spina, Liz Thorn, Bettie Vanderlyn, Jill Wargin, Carolyn Watson, Jan Waugh, Sally Weil, John Webster, Eddie White, Lisa Yancy, Cynthia Zellars, and the many other past and present board members, contributors, and volunteers who have lent their hands to our cause throughout the last 25 years. Thank you!