Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Written by Keyuri Parab
The month of June is observed as LGBTQ+ Pride Month and holds significance for members, supporters and
Several local organizations continue to strive for tolerance and inclusion. Leading the local effort is Fayetteville Pride, which focuses on instilling pride, celebrating unity and embracing diversity and inclusion while providing education and support within the LGBTQ+ community.
When the organization started in 2017, Fayetteville Pride Board President Sam DuBois said he expected pushback, but most efforts have been met with a positive response.
Fayetteville’s chapters of Free Mom Hugs and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) offer various resources to the community.
“We’re a group of moms and allies that get together either at events or we host things and we just celebrate the members of our LGBTQ community,” said Audra Ferguson, Free Mom Hugs Fayetteville/Sandhills chapter leader.
Free Mom Hugs organization was established 2014 by Sara Cunningham, a southern Christian mother fighting for LGBTQ+ rights for her gay son. The organization became a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2018. For more information visit, https://freemomhugs.org
Ferguson said she joined when she met the local chapter at a Pride event with her two sons who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. She joined after she fell in love with their mission.
“We go and give a hug to people who may just need a hug, we can be a stand-in parent if someone’s getting married and their family doesn’t accept that, we go and be their stand-in parent,” she said. “We just go out and support, be that for someone who doesn’t have it.”
The organization also blocks protesters at Pride events, drag shows and more by standing guard without engaging.
“In my group I always post different articles and resources to help people learn things they might not know,” Ferguson said.
PFLAG Fayetteville works with parents and families and friends of LGBTQ+ individuals in providing support, education and advocacy.
“Sometimes people come in with questions, sometimes they just want to observe what other parents are going through,” PFLAG Fayetteville Board President Devra Thomas said. “We are seeing less of let's not talk about it but more how do I talk about it, I need more information rather than this is not something I want to deal with.”
The organization hosts monthly support meetings on the first Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m. The meetings are currently over Zoom but are in the process of resuming into in-person meetings. For more details follow @pflagfayetteville on Facebook.
“Back in spring I had a mom contact me through email whose teenager was starting to have questions about their gender identity,” Thomas said. “She just wanted to talk to somebody and asked what the right thing was that she was supposed to say, so we jumped on a phone call, had a great conversation.”
“I identity as bi-sexual and have several family members who identity various ways,” Thomas said. “Pride month is a great month to see who else is in this space and fight for those rights. Any time we can get together and have a party and celebrate is great.”
Thomas mentioned there is a slow and steady upward trajectory for continued interest in pride in Fayetteville. With more information shared and more public recognition, some have seen increased support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Nadine Alonzo, a Major assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and recalls how things have changed over the years for members of the community even in the service.
“I couldn’t let people get close to me, people who I loved and served with, because I didn’t want them to have evidence, not because I thought they would tell on me, but because if they ever put me in a military court martial or asked to testify, I didn't want to put them in that position,” Alonzo said. “This was between 2002-2011, so that was what it was like beforehand, and people now may not know that and that’s why history is important.”
Alonzo said she has been lucky to be in the 82nd Airborne Division at Bragg and for their acceptance.
“I look diverse, not like most ladies that serve, seeing me knowing you can probably guess what my sexual orientation is,” Alonzo said. “They are willing to look past that and look at me as an officer and give me a lot of opportunity which I am grateful for because that’s not always been the case.”
Before gay marriage was legalized and it was legal by law to be gay in the military, she didn’t always feel accepted or comfortable during the days when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the official policy for being gay in the military.
“It was tough, it gets dark and lonely because you can’t let people get to know you because, back in the day if someone had evidence, I could get kicked out, so I had to be very careful,” Alonzo said.
Originally from Long Island, New York, Alonzo joined the service after 9/11 to support her country and to give back to the country that helped her immigrant parents establish themselves.
“To be an out person that other young people can see, and it probably helps them seeing me walk around in a leadership position, I am trusted by others and it legitimizes who I am and what I represent other than my rank and uniform,” Alonzo said.
Representation is one way to help end the stigma still associated with the LGBTQ+ community.
Alonzo said people often act tense when same sex couples show affection and she encourages people to relax, and to treat them the same as everyone else.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community living their truth is perhaps one of the best examples for those who have questions or concerns, some advocates say.
“The more we educate, the more people come around," Ferguson said. "It used to be so many years ago that it’s a choice, and well it’s not.”
“There isn’t equality still and a lot of discrimination against the LGBTQ community — it's our hope to help that dissipate and make it better in the future for our children or our children’s children,” Ferguson said.
For more information visit, http://www.FayettevillePRIDE.org/
Pictured above: Audra Furguson is chapter leader of Fayetteville's Free Mom Hugs.
Pictured Left: Devra Thomas serves as Board President of PFLAG.
Pictured below: Nadine Alonzo and her partner, just want to be treated like everyone else.
Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Written by Staff Report
Here we go again, another Atlantic hurricane season to weather through — a long spell over the summer that traditionally runs from June through November.
At least one named tropical storm has formed in the Atlantic prior to June 1 — which is the official start of the season — every year for the past half-dozen years.
Fayetteville PWC reminds everyone that now is the time to start thinking about how you can prepare for the 2021 hurricane season.
On their website, PWC has posted various sites for checklists, planning tips, FAQs and other resources for its service territory to help customers prepare for hurricanes and other emergencies.
This season is expected to be another active Atlantic hurricane season with as many as 10 hurricanes forming, according to the federal government.
“We’re prepared really at a moment’s notice for any emergency,” said Elaina Ball, the recently named CEO and general manager of Fayetteville PWC.
The free PWC 2021 Storm Guide is now available. Besides being distributed directly to PWC customers, the guide will be available online. Not only does it contain information that pertains to electric and water, but there's an important added section on flooding.
“It’s not just about the utility service,” Ball said. “It’s really about our community. Making sure they are prepared for everything.”
As for PWC, Ball said the company is prepared year-round for any kind of storm emergency. “Our crews are a 24/7 operation,” she added. “We need to make sure that, not only on the power side but on the waste-water side, that our systems are prepared for extreme weather. We work year-round to conduct maintenance and make sure we have tools, equipment and materials to be able to respond during a significant storm event like a hurricane."
“We’re really always on,” Ball said. “Our team works and lives in the community which is an added benefit during storm season. It helps reduce our outages when storms do come upon us so we’re not dispatching crews from other communities. We live and work here so that’s an added advantage of PWC and our workforce.”
PWC already has an emergency plan of operations in place and is ready to implement it at a moment’s notice.
“Should there be a hurricane,” she said, “we have an incident command structure able to respond to a hurricane to ensure that, first and foremost, puts the safety of the public and our employees at the forefront. But also that we can direct operations during those emergency events in a sufficient manner, making sure we get response to the highest areas of need to get the majority of customers back quickly and that we can provision our crews to get them what they need to get the power back on.”
The municipal utility, Ball said, is continuously looking at ways to improve response time. “And I think one of the tools we have that really is going to help us during major storm events is our outage management system. We did just recently upgrade and this system allows the utility and customers to be able see real-time information relative to the status of our power.”
Customers can sign up with the outage management system through the PWC online customer portal to get outage notifications even during normal times, not just during hurricane events.
“If there’s a power disruption in your neighborhood and you’re out of power,” Ball said, “you will receive a message, and that will also notify you as soon as the power’s turned back on. At a higher level, the utility can see through the outage management system how many customers are out in an area based on how many outages are showing up in the system. It gives us a better idea of where to pinpoint trouble maybe, and that gets our crews to the areas where they can troubleshoot and make repairs more quickly.”
Customers are encouraged to have a plan in advance of a looming hurricane.
Jon Rynne, the chief officer for the PWC electric system, recommends that citizens have a plan for not dealing with power or possibly having a loss of water wastewater facilities during a hurricane or in the days that follow.
Some of the general precautions often heard from Emergency Management, he said, “are definitely about buttoning up the house if you can. All the things that can become projectiles that can damage your property even further. From the other perspective of having all your things organized so that if you need to evacuate in the case of a flood or something of that nature, have them together so you can go before it’s too late.”
Have non-perishable foods such as canned goods on hand to eat, Rynne said,so that when the refrigerator is out and customers lose power they still have something they can use to feed themselves and the family. Obviously, having a supply of water and be sure to follow guidelines for how much water you need for how many people you have in your home.
In addition, consider putting together a “go box” with any important documents and medications that you can simply toss in your vehicle and leave if there’s a need to evacuate.
In terms of more things specific to the electric system, Rynne said, people need to know what they can and can’t do with a generator: “Not back-feeding with your generator. If folks don’t know or don’t have the provisions in place that can safely inter-tie a generator with their home, they should not inter-tie them."
“They should use extension cords and just plug in the really critical loads in your house so that you can get through the really critical loads that you need in your house to get through the period that you don’t have power,” he advised. “Because it becomes a very dangerous situation if you back-feed the high-voltage system, and we’re trying to do restoration efforts. It obviously presents quite a hazard and when the guys do restore power, if you are in that condition, you’re going to have a lot of damage to the service on your house and that generator when we restore.”
Generators should be installed per code and properly, according to Rynne. When people take shortcuts, he noted, that’s when it gets a lot more dangerous.
“That is an issue we always run into,” he said, “particularly if there’s a long outage and people get to the point where they just can’t stand it without having the generator running.”
Another suggestion is that people do their routine tree trimming and removal that they should do in their yards. That’s because when a hurricane rolls through, anything of that nature comes down.
“So, unfortunately, the utility can only clear trees within the right of ways and easements that they have,” said Rynne. “And if people have dangerous trees in their yards, the hurricane’s going to bring it down and it can cause damage to the system and cause outages. So there’s a lot of pieces and parts to it.”
Carolyn Justice-Hinson, spokeswoman for Fayetteville PWC, also said much can be prevented with the right planning.
The utility’s customers with medical equipment eligible for the medical priority program can be made a priority in emergency weather situations, she said. This requires a doctor’s certification. Call to find out more about the program.
For more information on how to prepare for hurricane season visit www.faypwc.com/ call 910-483-1382.
Pictured Above : A utility crew works to repair service after severe weather. (Photo courtesy PWC)