BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Suesan C. Sullivan, April 24, 2009 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Suesan C. Sullivan, April 24, 2009
April 24, 2009
Suesan Sullivan came to Wilmington in the 1980's with a husband, 2 small children, and a talent for Public Relations using print, voice-overs on radio, TV, and theater. Her contributions have included start-up for Tapestry theater, WAVE radio Product Manager, Director Membership American Red Cross, Public Relations Director for Cape Fear Museum, and now ending a term as Executive Director Good Shepherd Center, providing care, comfort and counseling to the homeless of all ages, elderly veterans in transitional Living Center, substance abuse program, and much acclaimed Second Helping soup kitchen. This Center has become a model of great success, and unfortunately great need, as discussed in the interview. The growth of this Center is indicative of the huge jump in population as well as uncertain economic times expected to continue for a while, according to Sullivan.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Sullivan, Suesan C. Interviewer: Jones, Carroll / Boyle, Erin Date of Interview: 424/2009 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 44 min

Jones: Today is Friday April 24th, 2009 and I'm Carroll Jones with Erin Boyle, for Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Project. We're in the Helen Hagen Room, Special Collections UNCW. With us this morning is Suesan Sullivan who is at present now this isn't correct, Executive Director, is that right?

Sullivan: Of the YWCA.

Jones: Of the YWCA as of?

Sullivan: June 1st officially.

Jones: As of June 1st but also with Good Shepherd Center?

Sullivan: Yes currently, I still am the Director of Resource Development for Good Shepherd Center.

Jones: We're going to have to have you come back because of YMCA too--YWCA, yeah and anyway the Good Shepherd Center provides care and comfort to homeless of all ages, is that correct?

Sullivan: Yes, men, women and families with children.

Jones: Elder veterans transitional living center and substance abuse recovery, substance abuse 18 month program for single men and women that sounds interesting and the Second Helping which is a soup kitchen and, and, and, and ,and and, and. So good morning Suesan.

Sullivan: Good morning.

Jones: We first met when you were doing public relations type things for Cape Fear Museum back around 2000 and you were very dynamic then, all over the place. Why don't you just start out by telling us, coming to Wilmington and now I learned just a few minutes ago that Cape Fear Museum was not your first job, so talk about your transitions of what you've done because they've all been fascinating.

Sullivan: It's been a fascinating journey that is for sure but my husband at the time when I moved here was interested in the film industry and that's what brought us here. He still is in the film industry actually, he's working on One Tree Hill now in the Art Department yeah so he's continued with that dream and I was more into the theater so when I first came I had odd jobs, our daughter was just one-year old when we moved here.

Jones: From where?

Sullivan: From Erie, Pennsylvania, I grew up outside of Philly, my ex-husbands family is from Erie, Pennsylvania, so I say I did time in Erie, I'm just kidding but it's really cold, it's like Siberia.

Jones: It is; beautiful country up there though.

Sullivan: It is beautiful yes it is, it's just long, long winters but I started Tapestry Theater Company with four other people.

Jones: Here?

Sullivan: Here.

Jones: Did not know that.

Sullivan: And that was 1988 I believe. At the time it was just Opera House and Thalian Association. And they were doing dinner theater comedies and big musicals and we wanted to bring more provocative plays into the area and cast minorities, bring groups that maybe otherwise wouldn't be able to see shows, underprivileged and I mean pay everybody. We really did accomplish all that.

Jones: You paid people?

Sullivan: We paid everybody, it wasn't a living wage but so I was the President of the Board and Director of Development and we went strong for a good nine years and did some groundbreaking productions so yeah it was wonderful. I brought something and I thought it was really cool, this is the original and it sort of sets the pace I think for my life and my goals. My father.

Jones: We can't get this, I'm afraid.

Sullivan: Can I read an excerpt?

Jones: Please do.

Sullivan: My father was in Southern Taiwan, this letter's dated October 24th, 1958. This was at the time where his home town front row was going through desegregation and he wrote this letter and it went into the Warren Sentinel, the local paper there and I'm just gonna read a part of it. He says "Dear Sir, I've been picking up your paper which I receive a month behind time with ever increasing anxiety each week. We are 100 miles from--air sorties flying over our heads hourly and daily, men are being killed. One of my best friends is a Negro officer and I have come to know a Chinese family very well and I am sunburned so brown that I might be an apache. There are also a few Irish and possibly even a member of the Ku Klux Klan holding our collective breaths for the first bomb to be dropped. However the folks at home are apparently too busy finding a place other than a school to open school and branding each other communist to bother about Key Moi, Beirut or Cyprus. In this modern space age with this emphasis--sorry I don't want to take up too much time with this--in this modern space age with this emphasis on highly trained specialists with strong competition for the available jobs and with several million unemployed don't our Warren County students deserve a shot at holding their own aided by a good education or should all education cease while the older generation continues its age old squabble over trying to prove white isn't black and white is better." It's a well established fact that white isn't black, so what, didn't the majority of our high school students state that above all else they wanted an open school? Wake up and grow up mother and--that must have been his draft. It's almost done here. Wake up--I'm sorry folks. Okay I'm just gonna read this last paragraph. But in the meantime you go ahead and burn your signs, hang your effigies, call each other names and close your schools. We'll try and hold down the intercontinental ballistic missiles, the lack of scientists and engineers and the situation in Key Moi, Beirut and Cyprus while you straighten out your closet. Only don't take too long or it may be too late. He was a First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corp.

Jones: And that was 1958?

Sullivan: 1958 and he says that it cost him his inheritance of Uncle Bailey's farm but he was standing up for his--he was so upset about the turmoil.

Jones: Well good for him.

Sullivan: And it just seems in my life and now working with all the different organizations that's part of, I'm driven to eliminate prejudice which is part of the YWCA mission to eliminate prejudice and empower women.

Jones: Now empower women is their slogan isn't it?

Sullivan: Yes, eliminate racism and empower women but even with Tapestry Theater Company that was a major part of our focus too was to bring minorities into leadership positions and to roles on stage and I think we were very successful in that. I worked with Tapestry for about eight years and did everything that goes with starting up a 501(c)(3) from scratch and so it was an incredible, incredible experience.

Jones: That's difficult.

Sullivan: It was difficult, but such a joyful time because we all were so connected in what we believed in.

Jones: Well so from there that was 1988 you spent eight years.

Sullivan: And then I got divorced and things changed, I had to get a real job and so my first was at the Wilmington Athletic Club, I was Membership Director and when I left my marriage.

Jones: Seriously? That was when?

Sullivan: That was 1994, I guess was when I started there but I had two dogs and two cats at the time when my marriage broke up and nobody would rent to somebody with pets so I ended up getting a trailer in Leland and lived there for about two years, got a lot of material for my future comedy act. So I just happen to think this if funny, after two years, I guess my dogs were barking too much and I went back home one day with my boyfriend and there was an eviction notice on the door and I said "Chris oh my god I've gotten kicked out of the armpit of North Carolina" and he said "Honey, honey that's because you're the deodorant and so the good news was I did not fit in. So from Wilmington Athletic Club I went to Wave Radio and I was their Production Manager for a year.

Jones: Now who owned Wave at that time, Don Ansell?

Sullivan: Don Ansell and they were on Second Street.

Jones: When was that?

Sullivan: That would have been '95 or 96, somewhere around there.

Jones: And you were what there?

Sullivan: I was the Production Manager and that's back when there was all carts and there was nothing digital about it and, you know, reel the reels. So I got to be real creative there and write in voice commercials and things like that and really loved it and I continue to do it to this day and I'll tell you about that. But from Wave Radio I went to let me think, what was after Wave, oh to Well Care Nursing Services where I was a Public Relations Person there for a while and I kind of rolled out their lifeline product in the community which is the "Help me I've fallen, I can't get up" and let's see.

Jones: And that was--you don't stay anyplace too long?

Sullivan: Not in the beginning, I was still climbing, climbing, climbing, climbing and I did go back to school because I did not finish my Bachelor's Degree, I went to Syracuse University and I went to Penn State University which is where I met my husband and then I went back to Mount Olive to their degree completion program in Wilmington and I mean I was always dreaming about finishing school, which I think is what--

Jones: Well that was a good example for your kids.

Sullivan: Absolutely.

Jones: Sure.

Sullivan: And it certainly made my father happy but I couldn't have gotten the job at Cape Fear Museum without my degree so.

Jones: What was your degree in?

Sullivan: Management and Organizational Development and so yeah I was with Well Care, not a whole lot, maybe nine months or so, rolled that out and then my next job would have been Red Cross. I worked for the American Red Cross as the Director of Public Support for a few years and so I did all their public relations, I did fundraising and I coordinated volunteers and what I remember most about the Red Cross was I was there during Hurricane's Bertha and Fran.

Jones: Oh my gosh that was a busy time.

Sullivan: It was a busy time because there hadn't been hurricanes here for a while and so the media just poured in.

Jones: Both in the summer.

Sullivan: Yes in the same season.

Jones: We were here, we came down, we were looking for our house.

Sullivan: Really?

Jones: Yeah.

Sullivan: Oh my goodness.

Jones: Staying down at the beach that was fun.

Sullivan: I guess so and you still stayed after all that.

Jones: Well we grew up here, you know.

Sullivan: That's true.

Jones: But anyway.

Sullivan: So I remember I did one fundraiser after the hurricanes and actually did two, on after Fran and repeated it after Bertha and it was Drive Through for Disaster Relief and I got all of the radio stations together. The first time we did it on the Kmart parking lot, they all had the remote vans out there and so they broadcast all day long, all about the Red Cross.

Jones: That was wonderful.

Sullivan: Yeah and Mike Farrow with WGNI said, he was kind of blown away by it because it was unheard of because they're so competitive and that's part of me too is pulling people together for a cause, definitely is the theme. So we raised, oh gosh, $20,000 in a day just from people driving up making donations.

Jones: I think that was a time when everybody got affected, they could see it could happen to them next time.

Sullivan: Absolutely, exactly, it was very effecting and then after Fran we did it but we split the radio stations in different parts of town, but then too another day of all the radio stations broadcasting, you know, all Red Cross so that was pretty memorable. But my next big job would have been with the Cape Fear Museum which I started in 1999, I wanna say, pretty much after I graduated from Mount Olive and I loved my job at the Museum.

Jones: There were some interesting gals there at that time, one I can't remember her name.

Sullivan: Jenny?

Jones: Yes, Jenny. Do you keep in touch with her?

Sullivan: I haven't talked to her in a while but I always ask the curator when I see her Barbara Rowe how Jenny is because they keep in touch.

Jones: Jenny went onto bigger and better things didn't she?

Sullivan: I think she went to Divinity School actually which is perfect for her.

Jones: Well yeah it would have been.

Sullivan: But I'm not sure where she's working right now as a matter of fact, but she--what a great person.

Jones: So what were your big things there at the museum?

Sullivan: Oh my goodness, we did.

Jones: That was a changing time.

Sullivan: It was a changing time for sure.

Jones: It was a real changing time.

Sullivan: I mean I learned so much.

Jones: Trying to attract all the tourists that were really coming into the area at that time that was a time when the really big boom started I think, wasn't it?

Sullivan: For tourism?

Jones: For tourism and for growth--population growth.

Sullivan: Oh absolutely.

Jones: Just boom.

Sullivan: Phenomenal and one thing was just branding, Cape Fear Museum and so we added Cape Fear Museum of History and Science and it was a simple thing but it really, you know, established what we were about in the community. We did so many things, we did so many exhibits and I learned so much about the area, it was incredible and I got to do the public relations, I got to do all of the photography work and I made a film that is actually running in the 20th century gallery now.

Jones: Really?

Sullivan: Yes. That was fun because I had to scare up a lot of old video footage and a lot of archival footage.

Jones: About Wilmington?

Sullivan: Yes, it was about the 20th century, we're telling the story of the 20th century that's a big story.

Jones: I've seen that. Okay. I didn't know it was you.

Sullivan: Yeah.

Jones: Well that's terrific, that's terrific.

Sullivan: So I used my skills once again for writing and voice over and then I actually did film editing but currently in my home I have a little studio set up.

Jones: Do you?

Sullivan: Yes so now with the changes in technology I mean from Wave Radio I made friends with the production people at the TV stations and they would use my voice for commercials just because there wasn't a whole lot of women, you know, voice over's and so I'd have to go to the station physically and they'd record me and now they email me the script, I record it in my pajamas, I'm telling ya.

Jones: At any time of day or night too right.

Sullivan: It's a great moonlighting job and then I email them back an MP3 and I email them an invoice, so I do a lot of voice work out of my home.

Jones: How were you trained to do that or was that one of the things you learned in school?

Sullivan: Well my background's in theater, you know and I did go to school for theater so I think being a pronunciator is part of it. But to do the technical part?

Jones: Yeah.

Sullivan: Well I learned at Wave but of course that was, you know, all analogue. I just was determined and I got my computer and I got some editing software.

Jones: Taught yourself basically?

Sullivan: Taught myself and used some resources, you know, other folks who were doing it who could mentor me a little bit. I mean it took me a while to get it just right, you know, but so now I do a lot of voice work and some people who were here in Wilmington who moved on took my business cards, so I do voice over's in Richmond and the outer banks.

Jones: Mostly in the state?

Sullivan: Mostly in the state but I have done some more national things as well so.

Jones: Well I imagine this would come in handy, they oughta use you more for the Y for example or any of these places.

Sullivan: Yeah well usually if you call Good Shepherd I'm on the answering machine.

Jones: I hear you, I know you are, that's just like you.

Sullivan: That's a great thing I can age into, you know, because your voice doesn't age necessarily.

Jones: Now that's true.

Sullivan: You can keep that up.

Jones: Alright now where are we, you know, this is just amazing, so how long were you at the Cape Fear?

Sullivan: I was at Cape Fear Museum, it was seven and a half years.

Jones: That became home.

Sullivan: Yes and it was absolutely wonderful and then I learned about the job at Good Shepherd Center and I thought I had brought Cape Fear Museum up to a, you know, a good level where somebody else could come in and take it further and I wanted to make I guess more of a flesh and blood difference in the community.

Jones: So this was up to about 2006?

Sullivan: Yes, I started at Good Shepherd on January 29th, 2007, I'll always remember that because that's my birthday and I wanted to get back to my development roots, I like fundraising a lot.

Jones: So that's basically what you're there for?

Sullivan: I do, well yes to fundraising, volunteer coordination and because there is no marketing person I do that too because I know how to do it.

Jones: Well alright, now if you're doing all that, who is handling for example--let's see, come up here 2003-4-5, I guess you got there after the overnight shelter.

Sullivan: Yes.

Jones: So then you were there for the celebration of the 25th anniversary?

Sullivan: Yes.

Jones: And I imagine you planned that and did a bang up job, talk to us about the day to day activities there, who you're dealing with. I have some questions but just off the top of my head, the women and children, how they're handled, school kids for example. Now you've got a soup kitchen but you also have a residence right?

Sullivan: We have a day shelter and this is at the center on Martin Street, so folks who are homeless they come to us, they go through an intake process, then they can use our address to get their mail, use the phone, take a shower, get a clean pair of clothes that kind of a thing. They can utilize the day shelter if they don't have anywhere productive to be.

Jones: Okay that's what I'm getting at, if they are homeless what happens?

Sullivan: They can be in the day shelter, maybe off the streets, out of the weather it's sort of a safe haven, it caters to the more fragile members of the homeless population, those with physical disabilities, mental illness or maybe those who are new to homelessness and just trying to figure it out. But if they're in the day shelter they can't just be coming and going, you know, they have to be going to a medical appointment or a job interview or something like that but we have a medical clinic on site which works beautifully. A part time mental health counselor and we have a social worker who's also a housing specialist.

Jones: I was gonna ask about that, is she with DSS?

Sullivan: No, she's just independently employed by Good Shepherd and she.

Jones: Do you work with the courts at all or DSS?

Sullivan: Oh yeah.

Jones: You do.

Sullivan: Yes and there is a group it's tri county inter agency homeless, I said that wrong, the Interagency Homeless whatever, anyway it's once a month they meet and it's all the agencies in the tri county area who provide any kind of a homeless service. So we all know what the resources are and can partner together.

Jones: So you basically are looking for--are servicing those, comforting those really who are down and out and homeless rather than people who are abused, maybe those who abuse alcohol or drugs?

Sullivan: Yes the mission is to feed the hungry shelter the homeless and foster transition of those in crisis to independence in the community. So we shelter up to 118 men, women and families with children every night and the only thing that these folks have in common is that they are homeless because they all have their own unique story.

Jones: How do you handle the children who are in school?

Sullivan: It is actually a law that provisions have to be made to provide services to transport them to school, so the bus comes and picks them up first and drops them off last. So the other children don't have to see that they're getting picked up at a homeless shelter. But they go to school and we also partner with UNCW's Education Department and we have students come every day almost in the evening and tutor our kids. They're also now tutoring our adults because we have a lot of our adult guests going to school at primarily Cape Fear Community College.

Jones: Do you work at all, do you have at all any of the Hispanic Society citizens?

Sullivan: We don't see a lot of Latinos, I think they just stay close to the community, I really do so we haven't seen an increase in the Latino population at our doors but, you know, it might be a family that the father got laid off, they went through their savings and they don't have the family safety net, so we are the safety net for folks that, you know, run into hard times to help them get back on their feet.

Jones: How long can they stay with you?

Sullivan: We don't have a limit at this point in time, they do have to be demonstrating that they're doing what they need to do to get their business in order and to try and move up but there's a lack of affordable housing so it's a challenge for us to move people to housing when there is none and, you know, there's the chronic homelessness which there is a ten year plan to end chronic homelessness so we'll see how that is implemented but there's a lot of severe mental illness and it's getting worse because the mental health system is in shambles.

Jones: I was gonna ask you about that, why do you suppose we're seeing this all over the country, do you think it's a feeling of despair, do you think people have abused alcohol and drugs, do you think just a lack of education, a lack of jobs, what's causing this?

Sullivan: Well I think the lack of funding for the mental health system is one real cause. We used to have some counselors from Southeastern to come into the shelter and counsel our homeless who need it desperately and that funding was cut, the positions were eliminated and so we felt desperate as the staff of Good Shepherd and we raised money to hire a part time mental health counselor. We were forced to bring, you know, the outside resources in. So, you know, Cherry Hospital, places like that they are-- well there's so many of those facilities that are just closing their doors and a lot of times Cherry Hospital though will discharge somebody without a proper discharge plan and sending them to a homeless shelter is not a good discharge plan.

Jones: No that's not conducive, I mean they're there with too many other people that are alike. Do you have no volunteers who are medics or psychologists or counselors or whatever?

Sullivan: I bet there are among our ranks of volunteers but I never thought about using a volunteer.

Jones: Do you have more men or women?

Sullivan: Men. We have 60 beds for men.

Jones: Why do you suppose that is?

Sullivan: I don't know.

Jones: Someone raised a question here recently having to do with the fact that we have so many needs for shelters in this town and I heard one explanation that sounded reasonable but I don't know and that is that there's no particular industry here. People might come here to satisfy desire and the arts and that's inclusive or because of the water, because of whatever.

Sullivan: I think you're right.

Jones: And they find they can't get a job.

Sullivan: I've definitely seen that.

Jones: You think so?

Sullivan: It draws them here and then yeah they can't get a job.

Jones: Do you have a prospective of what kind of rate of recovery of those who can go out and be hired, do you have a group of employers for example whether fast foods or something like that?

Sullivan: We have a jobs program and we can connect our guests with the day labor opportunities which gives them some confidence, some skills and hopefully will lead to something more permanent and we also help them reach their educational goals.

Jones: I was gonna ask you, you spoke of the children, how about the adults?

Sullivan: Yes we have a van load of our adult guests that we take to Cape Fear Community College every morning and they're taking classes. So they'll come into check in because everybody has to get in line in the evening, it's first come, first serve except for the families and they'll come to check us. We have to wand them with a metal detector and we have to check all their bags and some of them will come in and they'll, you know, they have to take everything out of their pockets, they'll put a wallet and then a text book and that's all they have on their person which is pretty amazing. But, you know, we transition probably a hundred individuals from emergency shelter to housing every year.

Jones: Now this is public housing?

Sullivan: Sometimes it's public housing.

Jones: The reason I ask is there's a real sweet picture here of this lady with her three daughters and they all.

Sullivan: I know it that is sweet is might be a house that just will accept section eight which is--they've actually closed section eight. There was a big long waiting list and they ran out of money and I'm not sure if Obama's Stimulus Package is going to put more money so they reopen section eight.

Jones: That money is going all over the world it seems. So Martin Street is your administrative office, is that it?

Sullivan: Yes our administrator's office is there but it's also the center.

Jones: Now talk about the soup kitchen, is that just some place, Second Helpings, is that some place people can stop in once, twice, whatever if they're hungry?

Sullivan: We serve three meals a day in the soup kitchen, breakfast and lunch is for anybody in the community who's hungry, all they need is a current photo Id, so we serve a lot of low income families in the area, so you don't necessarily have to be homeless.

Jones: Well thank God for them, I mean.

Sullivan: Well it's true, I mean once they pay their rent and their utilities there's not a lot left over for food so a lot of--we make sure lunch particularly is very substantial and nutritious because that may be the only meal that they get in a day or, you know, mom might come and she can have a good meal and because she might skip dinner so there's enough for her kids, it happens. Dinner's just for the overnight shelter guests, for the homeless and Second Helpings is our food salvage program which is pretty amazing because.

Jones: Yeah, talk about that, when you say food salvage, let me ask you about this. I have heard from a couple of caterers, one particularly that I've used that if there's any leftover food from an event they can't take it anywhere that they're not allowed to.

Sullivan: They can.

Jones: They can?

Sullivan: Yes they can, even university Airmark if they over prepare a banquet they bring it to us and we'll serve it. It just has to be, you know, if the event happens at night and you can't get it to us in the morning, it just has to be properly refrigerated or whatnot. But we also--Second Helpings is in full swing Monday, through Saturday, we have volunteers that go out on routes to grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries.

Jones: The grocery stores put, I read or heard about the grocery stores putting.

Sullivan: Yes the pull, you know, if it's produce that might have a little bruise on it, you know, they have to pull it off the shelf but we just scrape that little bruise off and keep on going. Bread, as soon as it expires has to come off the shelf, it's still good. So we get a lot of those things and Food Lion I know in particular is very good about giving us meat and so 90 plus percent of what we serve in that soup kitchen is donated food and the thing about Second Helpings is we salvage 300 to 400 tons of food every year that would otherwise go in a dumpster.

Jones: Isn't that awful. Well I can recall hearing for example in church, please forward canned goods or staples to go to Good Shepherd.

Sullivan: Yes.

Jones: So I imagine that there's always--that's pretty much gonna last for a while.

Sullivan: It's an ongoing need.

Jones: That is, you know, it makes you feel so grateful doesn't it though?

Sullivan: You know, Good Shepherd, everybody's in crisis but it is a joyful place to be, it really is. I love it and I will miss it.

Jones: Really?

Sullivan: Oh I will, oh I'm gonna have to volunteer, continue to volunteer there but I have to--I'm moving to the YWCA in this new position of Executive Director because I believe in the mission.

Jones: Now this is over on College?

Sullivan: Yes, right across from the hot Krispy Kreme sign (inaudible) , I'm glad I don't like donuts.

Jones: The new Harris Teeter.

Sullivan: Oh there's gonna be a new Harris Teeter there?

Jones: There's buildings there that huge, gonna be a huge one.

Sullivan: Goodness.

Jones: Yes, go across the street and get your market fresh sandwiches or whatever.

Sullivan: That's right it's a good deal.

Jones: So when is this, June 1st?

Sullivan: June 1st I start officially, I'm going next week to the annual YWCA Conference in Washington DC, so I'm starting to get my feet wet.

Jones: And the title there is again?

Sullivan: The conference?

Jones: No the YWCA.

Sullivan: Executive Director.

Jones: That's always good sounding.

Sullivan: Sure but, you know, so I have to take this opportunity for my career to, you know, have an increased level of responsibility and supervision and I'm very excited.

Jones: Talk about that, do have any idea really what you're getting into; you have an idea, of course you do but I mean?

Sullivan: I have just a clue but they have a childcare program, they have a swimming pool.

Jones: I know they do, they have a lot of things.

Sullivan: So yeah I guess.

Jones: Is this is just for women?

Sullivan: Not necessarily.

Jones: That place is crowded every morning, they must have exercise classes or swimming classes.

Sullivan: They do have some exercise classes, I think in the pool, they do, they have all kinds of classes going on all the time but the childcare is. . .

Jones: They have like a summer day camp or something?

Sullivan: Yeah day camp, so I'm just, I'm first gonna be at the point of just trying to wrap my arms around all that is YWCA and embrace it.

Jones: Yeah well of course that is such a known name everywhere that shouldn't have any problem. Oh, I wanna ask you one other thing about Good Shepherd, how about clothing for these people in the winter time and such, do you have?

Sullivan: We accept clothing donations almost--I mean every day people bring clothes, blankets, towels, linens, toiletries, all of that.

Jones: So that's really kind of like running a transitional hotel in--oh talk about this, this is something that really bears expanding on and that is the 18 month program for single men and women, the Fourth Quarter; tell us a bit about that. I've never heard about that.

Sullivan: It's designed the same as the Ashley Center which is for homeless veterans recovering from substance abuse so Fourth Quarter is the counterpart for adult men and women, you don't have to be a veteran. It's a real commitment, it's the next step in the spectrum of homeless services because these individuals have to be receptive to a very structured program.

Jones: So they start out homeless or not recommended to you?

Sullivan: A lot of times they start out at the homeless shelter and because it's a wet shelter, which means we have people there in active addiction, they just have to behave themselves. The only people who are drug tested are those that are on our jobs program and that we might be saving a bed for. But other than that we don't drug test, so we are the last resort for folks. So the people learn about Ashley and Fourth Quarter and think, you know, I'm sick of my life out of control, I really wanna get it back on track and if they're eligible they have to live for two weeks at Good Shepherd and be drug tested every day so they get their clean time in and then they can go to the program and it's zero tolerance, once they're in, lots of counseling.

Jones: That's for 18 months?

Sullivan: That's for 18 months.

Jones: So it's a daily routine?

Sullivan: Yes, yes there's phases that they go through but it's the first thing is getting clean and sober, getting sobriety under their belt and they get jobs, they pay a portion of their income to rent, they learn to be more accountable for their obligations and then ideally at the end of 18 months they graduate back to sobriety and housing and independence in the community.

Jones: And do they?

Sullivan: I will tell you it has a high success rate, about a third of all Good Shepherd employees, full and part time are graduates and those folks will not hesitate to tell you that Good Shepherd saved their lives.

Jones: They're proud of it.

Sullivan: They are very proud of it and not everybody makes it but as I say it does have a high success rate.

Jones: Well that's something to be proud of, you're doing something right. Okay I think we've gone as far as we can go with that except it's an ongoing situation. One last thing, have you noticed a influx or did I ask you this earlier, an increase rather of people who are now becoming homeless and what are you doing to for the expectation that there's going to be more in the coming year at least?

Sullivan: I think what's really noticeable is that there are so many more new people in the system, people that would never in their wildest dreams have imagined that they would have to go to Social Services for assistance and they have no idea how to navigate the system. So I think we're seeing that more.

Jones: How about the churches involvement, St. James, St. Mary, whatever?

Sullivan: All the churches are so incredibly supportive in so many ways, financially and of course sending volunteers. We have a different group every night that helps to prepare and serve the dinner, there's a lot of church groups that help with that. So yeah we do have a very diverse funding base, congregations, individuals, businesses, some federal money, grants and two major fundraising events.

Jones: Well you're very fortunate to get that, yeah.

Sullivan: Absolutely.

Jones: Well that's good work, it's good work, it's unfortunate work but it's good work, interesting. So now the next step is the YWCA, you're full of vim and vigor and ready to learn.

Sullivan: Ready to hit the ground running.

Jones: How long do you think you'll stay there?

Sullivan: Well, you know, my son's graduating and I'm looking to settle into something, you know, and they do have good retirement.

Jones: Suesan, all things being equal and you had to position yourself in really, in a job that you would like that you would wanna try, what would it be?

Sullivan: Well right now I think I think it's.

Jones: You're a woman of many, many parts.

Sullivan: Yes I love cultivating relationships so I think and bringing people together for a cause so right now I think the YWCA is an ideal job for me, the mission is, you know, eliminating racism and empowering women, I'm all about it.

Jones: Talk about empowering women, I seem to think a lot of women these days have a good bit of power, so in what respect are you speaking of?

Sullivan: Well domestic violence is still a huge, huge problem and women to, you know, even things like anorexia and bulimia and the pressure to, you know, be beautiful and whatnot, I think teen pregnancy is still a problem that maybe the women in the lower incomes they can't envision themselves going to college and getting a job and so they think well I can be a good mother, you know, and so I think there's some work to do in many sectors.

Jones: So are you thinking along the lines of having women who have succeeded and come up the hard way perhaps come and talk to them?

Sullivan: Sure, they have lots of colloquiums for women, women empowerment sessions and so yeah I'm anxious to go to the conference and see what national Y has to say about all of this.

Jones: Because you're gonna get a perspective nationwide really and different types of living.

Sullivan: Exactly and the other thing I wanted to say is that just recently the county that did away with the Human Relations Department and dismantled the Human Relations Commission and so I want to explore the Y taking a lead in picking up the slack there because certainly our history has been in eliminating racism and racial justice and I think that I see a real opportunity there so.

Jones: Well there are certainly a number of I'm thinking of some black ladies living here who would be more, you know them, Rhonda for example.

Sullivan: I love Rhonda.

Jones: Isn't she something?

Sullivan: Yeah she's my buddy.

Jones: And there are others too, you know, there's Bertha Todd.

Sullivan: She's a mover and a shaker.

Jones: She is wonderful, she's just downright wonderful.

Sullivan: She is and I had an opportunity at Cape Fear Museum to work with a lot of these ladies too.

Jones: That's right, you were doing, what did they do a history of the.

Sullivan: 1898.

Jones: Well not just 1898, I've got that running out of my ears because I did a couple of the committees and, you know, some of the original letters and such.

Sullivan: Well they did all the hearings for that.

Jones: Right but I think I'm talking about Williston School and.

Sullivan: Well when we were creating the 20th century exhibit, I mean we had to bring in all sectors of the community because it's a collective history. So oh yeah we've had many sessions talking about Williston, wonderful Williston.

Jones: Photographs and such.

Sullivan: Best school.

Jones: They're wonderful the way they get together.

Sullivan: Oh with their reunions?

Jones: Yes.

Sullivan: Absolutely.

Jones: Yes that's big, that's terrific.

Sullivan: It's huge.

Jones: I know.

Sullivan: I love it.

Jones: What else do you wanna talk about?

Sullivan: Maybe I'll be getting married soon I hope, I have been with a man for 15 years.

Jones: That's getting to be boring, well I mean you gotta do something about or is it more exciting this way?

Sullivan: Maybe so, he's very old fashioned and so, you know, it's really hard to blend families and so we've, you know, kind of just been going along.

Jones: And he can put up with you and your vim and vigor and your changing jobs and you're dogooding?

Sullivan: We're both very stubborn, we've both come up through the ranks and now he's got a great management job with the CSX Railroad, he's been with them 10 years and he's African American and well, as Don Ansell once said, you know, I'm an Aquarius and he's an Aries so I fan his flames somehow.

Jones: You're too much and that sounds like Todd, he's wonderful.

Sullivan: He's wonderful.

Jones: I love him. You gonna ever get back into the theater, do a little--Jim Pridemore is always looking for people.

Sullivan: Well I was on the board of the Thalian's for a few years with Jim but yesterday I went and spoke with Janet Ellerby, the interim Director of the Women's Resource Center and we had a nice conversation that's part of my, you know, just meeting people for this new job and she reminded me that they do the vagina monologues every year and she said that possibly a lady that I know is gonna be directing next year, so I've already sent an email to Amy to tell me when the auditions are. But I did the Ghost Tour for five years that was my fix for my theater, you know, it's storytelling and I miss scaring people. I wore the black costume, I had the lantern with the real candles so, you know, my shoes were full of wax and I loved it but I mixed in a lot of history.

Jones: Yeah I just nominated you for a gallery of Wilmington characters, I really have. There are some, you know, people think of this area as being a haven for upper class, middle and upper echelon retirees who retire early that's true. Those who have come from Long Island en masse, okay and those who've returned to the scene of where they were in the womb because it's changed. But I really and truly think that with the--I don't know whether it's the film industry and the television industry have anything to do with it or as a number of painters have told me, why are you here? "It's the light, it's the light." But it's drawn a lot of characters, real characters.

Sullivan: Wilmington's absolutely incredible, you know, it's the ocean and the history and the beauty and I mean it does spawn a lot of characters but then the folk here, Miss USA is from Wilmington, I went through greater Wilmington sports hall of fame and yeah I help them with their banquet every year, so many athletes are from out of here.

Jones: That's amazing isn't it?

Sullivan: So yeah Wilmington, something's in the water, it's a pretty amazing little town.

Jones: It is, well we're glad to have you a part of it.

Sullivan: Thank you so much.

Jones: And you're to stay.

Sullivan: I'm gonna stay, it's got a quirky charm, I just can't resist.

Jones: Well that's wonderful, you've done wonders for it too, so thanks.

Sullivan: Thank you.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign