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"The past year has tested every person in our state and I have been so inspired by the resilience, innovation and support for one another that North Carolinians have shown during this pandemic. In tough times, the people of North Carolina step up. I'm so grateful for the efforts of people across our state and honored to recognize some amazing North Carolinians for their contributions tonight," said Gov. Cooper.
While COVID-19 precautions won't allow for these guests to be present for the address, Gov. Cooper spoke with them via Zoom and thanked them for their contributions throughout the pandemic. These conversations can be seen HERE.
Learn more about the North Carolinians the Governor will be recognizing in tonight's address:
Felecia Young, Salisbury; Sixth Grade Math Teacher at Knox Middle School
Mrs. Young is a sixth-grade math teacher at Knox Middle School. She is recognized for her commitment to the wellbeing of her students. Mrs. Young introduced innovative lessons through platforms such as Tik Tok to keep her math students engaged despite the many challenges that remote learning presented. She was nominated as a "Teacher Hero of COVID-19" for her dedication and creativity. Mrs. Young has been in schools for 20 years, returning to the classroom after being an administrator noting that "the classroom is my first love." She built such close relationships with her students and their families that many now call her "Mama Young."
Watch Mrs. Young's conversation with Governor Cooper HERE.
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Dr. Karen Smith, Raeford; Provider at Independent Family Practice
Dr. Karen Smith first used telemedicine to care for patients with opioid addictions and then began using it during the pandemic to reach patients who were hesitant to come in for medical care. Many of her patients also did not have access to high-speed internet, so Dr. Smith extended her office's wifi to the parking lot and offered tablets for patient use. This allowed people with limited internet access to get the medical care they needed.
Watch Dr. Smith's conversation with Governor Cooper HERE.
Cecil Conrad, Lexington; Owner of The Bar-B-Q Center
The Bar-B-Q Center, a staple in Lexington, NC, was opened by the Conrad family in the late 1950s. The famous restaurant continued to serve their community throughout the pandemic, operating with a drive-up curbside business and offering take-out meals. The Bar-B-Q Center was a recipient of the Mortgage, Utility, and Rent Relief (MURR) funding. These funds were critical to helping the restaurant stay open, keep and pay their staff and importantly, keep employees and customers safe by allowing them to purchase all the necessary cleaning supplies and sanitizers they needed.
Watch Cecil Conrad's conversation with Governor Cooper HERE.
Cassandra Brooks, Clayton; Owner of The Little Believers Academy
Throughout the entire pandemic, Cassandra Brooks kept her child care centers in Clayton and Garner open safely, primarily serving families of essential workers like grocery store clerks and nurse practitioners. Brooks is also a member on the North Carolina Health Care Coverage Council. As a childcare provider who sees many people without health insurance, she's a strong advocate for Medicaid expansion.
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Natesha Fields, New Bern; Nurse at CarolinaEast Medical Center
Natesha Fields is an Associate Manager in the Emergency Department at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern. Throughout the pandemic, she has been responsible for caring for patients and for staff. She has been on the frontlines of this pandemic, from dealing with PPE shortages to caring for patients dying from COVID-19 to supporting staff.
Chris Morris, High Point; President, Custom Contract Furnishings
Chris Morris is the president of Custom Contract Furnishing in High Point. Early in the pandemic, Custom Contract Furnishings partnered with a local fabrics manufacturer to make hospital gowns for medical centers in North Carolina and other states. They have made more than a million gowns and hired 50 more staff members to make this happen.
Lexine Merrill, Monroe; Critical Care Nurse
Lexine Merrill is a practicing critical care nurse with Atrium Health who earned her associate's degree in Nursing in December 2020 from UNC Charlotte. In her third semester of nursing school she faced an unexpected medical bill and car repair that might have required her to drop out. She received a Finish Line Grant that allowed her to stay in school and complete her nursing degree, which she has used to help keep people safe throughout the pandemic.
Lieutenant Colonel David Walliser, Raleigh; Lieutenant Colonel, North Carolina National Guard
Lieutenant Colonel David Walliser served as the Senior Liaison Officer to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for integration of North Carolina National Guard personnel and capabilities into the state's plan to provide vaccinations to North Carolinians. He coordinated the assignments of 552 NC National Guard personnel to support 36 individual sites across North Carolina and made sure they were properly trained and ready to vaccinate the population. Most notably, LTC Walliser was instrumental in the set-up of the Federal Community Vaccination Center in Greensboro that has distributed more than 100,000 vaccines. He coordinated efforts to establish the site and prepare it for people to easily get their shot.
Anderson "Andy" Warlick, Gastonia; CEO, Parkdale Mills
Andy Warlick is the CEO and Vice Chair of Parkdale Mills, the leading maker of spun yarns and largest swab manufacturer in the world. When the pandemic hit North Carolina, Parkdale Mills worked to put a coalition of manufacturers together to begin making millions of masks for people across the country. Parkdale Mills also made testing swabs and delivered almost 400 million as well as supplying the government with reusable gowns. Most recently, the company received an order from the Biden administration to produce 25 million reusable masks for service delivery organizations including soup kitchens, homeless shelters and additional places that needed it.
Watch Governor Cooper discuss the pandemic with these highlighted North Carolinians HERE.
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