05LetterI originally planned on doing this paper on the admissions presentation at ECU that I attended with my daughter a week or so ago. Then last night I was drawn to the Town of Hope Mills Board of Commissioners meeting because of a rezoning request of a property that is located just outside my subdivision. I used to attend the meetings on a regular basis, but it had been a while since I was last there.  Once I got into the meeting, a gentleman was getting ready to speak. After hearing his presentation, I found myself addressing the board on his behalf.

 a) Mr. Jerry Jung (pronounced young) was the speaker, and he was representing Lone Survivor (Foundation) – a nonprofit focused on providing therapeutic and recreational retreats to veterans. I had no knowledge of the organization before Mr. Jung spoke.

b) The topic was a town-owned property called Hope Mills Lake #2, which the Lone Survivor organization was interested in purchasing.

 c) Mr. Jung had come to speak in defense of some bad press the project had received, along with a denial from the town to sell the property to his organization.

 d) As I addressed in my introduction, I had attended for a different purpose but was drawn to Mr. Jung’s topic once he began speaking.

 e) The audience consisted mostly of residents of the town of Hope Mills, along with veterans who had been the recipients of therapy provided by the Lone Survivor organization(,) and the town of Hope Mills Board of Commissioners.

 f) (The goal was) to explain the purpose of the Lone Survivor (Foundation), explain what they intended to use the property they were trying to buy from the town for, and answer any questions related to either of those issues.

 g) Mr. Jung began his presentation by explaining what the Lone Survivor program does and where they are currently located. Then he went on to explain why the property was so attractive to the organization, highlighting that 30 percent of the clients come from North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia (and) that the location would ease the strain of travel on the veterans suffering from PTSD who come from these nearby locations. He showed a mock-up of the design for the facility, and finally took questions.

 h) The overall thesis was that in a community like Hope Mills it seemed ridiculous that the board would deny the purchase of the land for its intended purpose, and he believed some information had been lost in communication and wanted the board to reconsider.

 i) I was moved by my Mr. Jung’s presentation.

 j) The only weakness that he may have shown was a lack of knowledge of local politics.

 k) The mock-up was not clear to the audience for, the most part, other than it appeared to be a large one-floor building.

 l) The audience overwhelmingly supported Mr. Jung’s proposal to the point that they stopped going by the printed agenda and juggled some things around to allow members of the audience to address the Board of Commissioners on the topic. I addressed the board and explained that I was disappointed that my elected leaders rushed to make a decision on this topic without having all the information necessary to make such a decision. (I told them) that I had voted for each of the current commissioners, and I was appalled that they would make such a move without taking a “litmus test” of the community’s reception to such a project.

The Board of Commissioners moved to revisit the proposal and discuss further the options of assisting the Lone Survivor organization. It was clear that the support of those in attendance was behind the Lone Survivor organization, with much of the clapping being done on behalf of the organization and comments from board members who had supported the proposal. Those who spoke on behalf of the Lone Survivor organization were emotional, but only one speaker was so emotional that it detracted from what she was trying to say. I was thanked by the board members who supported the proposal. What I found was that in this type of situation, in one where a feel like I am a stakeholder, because I pay taxes and am involved in my community, I have the confidence to be assertive with my thoughts in a public way.

– Elizabeth Cooper

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