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Interview with Terry and Sally Mann, October 29, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Terry and Sally Mann, October 29, 2006
October 29, 2006
In this interview, Whiteville residents and business owners Terry and Sally Mann discuss their prolific volunteer work, which includes involvement in Relay for Life, the Southeast Community College Foundation board, the Columbus County hospice organization board, and the Whiteville Athletic Association.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Mann, Terry and Mann, Sally Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview: 10/29/2006 Series: SENC Volunteers Length 38 minutes

Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall library. Today is the 29th of October in the year 2006, and our interview is taking place in Whiteville, North Carolina. This interview will be part of the Special Collections unit at the University with an emphasis upon volunteerism. Our interviewees today are Sally and Gary Mann, who live in and own a business in Whiteville. Good morning, and how are you?

Sally Mann: Good morning. I'm doing good.

Terry Mann: Doing fine.

Zarbock: Let's get a plug in for the business. What kind of business are you in?

Terry Mann: The name of the store is JS Mann's, my grand-- [ph?]. It's a men's and boys' clothing store and at one time was a full scale dry goods store. But through time, it's evolved into a men's and boys' clothing store. He started it in 1922 and then my father came into the business after he got out of school, and then I came into the business after I got out of school.

Zarbock: Sally, where do you come from, originally?

Sally Mann: I'm from Whiteville, also. And went to a business school in Raleigh for two years, and came back to work in JS Mann's. And we had a ladies' shop there. So for years I managed the ladies' shop, and as our boys started getting a little bit older, we closed the ladies' shop.

Zarbock: How did the two of you meet?

Sally Mann: I actually had dated his brother, Marty Mann. And I had come home for the summer and wanted a part-time job for the summer. So Marty encouraged me to go and talk to his dad, and Terry didn't want him to hire me. And immediately, when I found out that Terry didn't like me, I liked him even more. So the summer job turned into a full-time position because they needed someone to manage the ladies side of the store at the time, and I had majored in Fashion Merchandising. So the business developed, and we moved the ladies merchandise into a separate building right down the street, and I've been here ever since. And Terry did decide he liked me.

Zarbock: You're the parents of two children?

Sally Mann: We're the parents of two beautiful boys, Joseph, who is a freshman at NC State, and Jacob, who is sixteen years old and is at Whiteville High School as a junior.

Zarbock: Were either one of your families involved as volunteers?

Terry Mann: Yeah, I would have to say that that's probably how I got into it, because my grandfather came to the United States as a young boy. He was from Lithuania, which is part of Russia. And when he came to the United States, I guess it was in the late 1890s, came to New York and then eventually settled in Whiteville, and served in the Army and really got a feel for patriotism after he served in the Army. And once he got out of the Army, he was a strong member of the American Legion here, and was the volunteer, I think they call it, Veterans' Officer. At the time, they didn't have a Veterans' Administration. So within the store there, he would help veterans with their problems there during the twenties, thirties, and forties. And he was real active in the Boy Scouts and the religious organizations, and he kind of passed it on to my father. And my father was really community-minded and was a real staunch volunteer. And I guess it was in the blood, and I just kind of took it from there.

Zarbock: What volunteering are you doing right now? Could you give me a kind of catalog of, "I'm involved in..."

Terry Mann: I guess being involved in the Boy Scouts. I was a Cub Scout, but my dad was really not much of an outdoorsman. So when it got time to move into the Boy Scouts, he wanted me to stay in the Boy Scouts, but because he was not a big outdoorsman and he worked a lot-- he was a workaholic-- so he didn't take a lot of time off. So he didn't spend a lot of time with me in relation to scouting, so I kind of lost interest. And he was not a Scout, but he was always committed to the Boy Scout program, and I guess that's probably one of my biggest loves. So I'm on the Cape Fear Council's Executive Board, and then I'm also treasurer of the Troop 512 here in Whiteville, the Boy Scout troop. We're both active in Relay for Life, I had been what's called a team coordinator to coordinate the teams that are participating--

Zarbock: Tell me what Relay for Life is.

Terry Mann: Relay for Life is a signature fund raising event that the American Cancer Society has. I think it started in Seattle, Washington probably in around 1993, '94, and it's grown into a nationwide event. And like Easter Seals has their telethons and different things, Relay for Life has become the signature event for the American Cancer Society. And it's a 24-hour event where you have teams and they congregate around the track and team members raise money for the Cancer Society.

Zarbock: What is your role in that?

Terry Mann: I'm what's called a team coordinator. I solicit organizations to try to establish teams, and then, leading up to the event, there is a series of team meetings where we give information to the teams about events going on, entertainment going on, and tips on fundraising. And I kind of make sure that the teams are aware of what's going on and the communication lines are kept open between the committee and the teams. I've done that for seven or eight years. I'm involved with the Southeast Community College as a foundation, I'm on their foundation board. In fact, I'm going to be chairman of their fundraiser this year.

Sally Mann: Oh, I didn't know that.

Zarbock: You heard it first.

Terry Mann: I just relinquished about six, eight months ago being president of the Chamber. I served my second three year term on the Board of Directors of the Chamber.

Sally Mann: But he's still very active.

Terry Mann: I'm an ex-officio on the board this year, because I am past president. I'm still involved with the Chamber. Whiteville has a downtown development Commission that I'm involved on that. That doesn't take a lot of time, but from time to time there are things that need to be done in relation to that. We have a small synagogue here in Whiteville. We're Jewish, and we have a small synagogue here, and over the years, there's been times where I've been president of the synagogue. Which doesn't take a lot of time, but there are times when there are things that has to be done in relation to that. I just gave up being president of the Whiteville Athletic Association, which is a fund raising association that subsidizes the athletics of the high school, and actually, the whole school system. Because we do raise money and give money to the middle school and the primary schools, related to athletics.

Zarbock: Sally, does he ever get home at night?

Sally Mann: Well, yes. We don't have as many family meals together as we would like to, but between the two of us, we're at a meeting here or there. Especially when Relay for Life gets wound up. I'm the accounting chairperson for Relay for Life for Columbus County, and we do have monthly meetings. And as we get closer to the event, which is usually in April, we may have meetings every other week. And there are constant phone calls, and it takes a lot of time, but over the years, we've grown from-- I think the first year, we raised what, $25,000? And this past year we raised $137,000. And for our community, that's a major effort. We're really proud of that.

Zarbock: For historical purposes, what is the population of Whiteville?

Terry Mann: Actual city limits of Whiteville is about 5,500. And then if you come the residential sections within a two-mile circumference of Whiteville, it would probably be around 7,500. And Columbus County is probably 57,000, of which Whiteville is the county seat. So it's kind of the hub of the county.

Zarbock: And again for historical purposes, how prosperous is the economy here in Whiteville right now, in the year 2006?

Terry Mann: I would say it's not real prosperous. It was traditionally a farm and agriculture-based economy with some industries subsidizing it, and over the years it was strongly related to agriculture with an emphasis on tobacco. And the tobacco program is just about nonexistent. Well, it's not nonexistent, but it's changed so much that the small farmer that can make a living on a little bit of land has kind of been squeezed out, and the people that are doing tobacco now are big farmers. And there's nothing else. A farmer for years could raise a family on ten acres of land, because tobacco could produce so much income on 10 or 12 acres, and there's nothing else that that farmer can do with those 10 or 12 acres to generate income to live on. So most farmers, if they're still doing farming, it's a subsidized income, and they're doing full-time jobs somewhere else. But because of the downturn in agriculture, and then what industry we've had here was kind of textile based and furniture based, and because of the exports overseas now, that's kind of gone to the wayside. So the unemployment in this county is on the high side of the average in the state of North Carolina.

Zarbock: Despite that, you really have put together a significant purse.

Terry Mann: Well there's a commitment. In relation to what you're talking about, the Relay for Life is a county-wide event. But the basic participation comes from Whiteville, and a lot of that money comes from businesses and citizens of Whiteville. It's a good county, and there are good people that live here, and they're very supportive. And I'll just say that the commitment to the community for most of the people here is pretty good.

Zarbock: But it's remarkable to me as an outsider to hear you tell me this population of this town that's not quite 6,000, and yet there's such an esprit de corps, seemingly, among the professional community, the business community, and the educational community that they seem to pull together.

Sally Mann: That's what makes Whiteville such a wonderful place. People come and they really see what we have to offer and what we are capable of doing whenever we decide we're going to pull together and do something. There are quite a few citizens here that are willing to pull together, and the old saying goes, if you want somebody to do something, ask somebody that's busy. Because they're the ones that are doing it.

Zarbock: Sally, I apologize. I truncated your remarks. In addition to the cancer activity, are you involved in other volunteer--

Sally Mann: Oh, yes. I'm also a member of the Whiteville Athletic Association. I'm not quite as involved as Terry is, because I'm also involved in the Whiteville Band Boosters primer. We have a huge band at our high school. We have, including flag [ph?] girls, like 160 members this year. And over the past ten years, the city school system has not had to pay for a single instrument or a bus for us to go anywhere, because we have raised money through concession stand sales. We have a wonderful man who no longer has children in the program, and I kind of help him out so he doesn't leave us. And we do concessions for football games, soccer games, basketball games. And I don't know how much we average every year, but over the past eight years, I think we've raised like $170,000.

Zarbock: And you cover the expenses--

Terry Mann: (inaudible)

Sally Mann: Oh, excuse me. It's more than that.

Terry Mann: It's more than $100,000.

Sally Mann: Okay, maybe it was 5 to $600.

Zarbock: And you covered the expenses of this enrichment activity of the band.

Sally Mann: Right. We even, a couple of times, have helped out other programs at the school, because we've had the funds to do it. But we work hard. It's a big commitment to do that. Again, I do work for Relay for Life, but one of my favorite things is hospice. My mother and my father both died of cancer, and we finally got a hospice organization here in Columbus County. So I've been with them for about ten years, and was a patient volunteer for several years. I've beneficiary on their board and now I'm on the Capital Campaign Committee, we're getting our own in-patient facility in Whiteville, which we're really, really proud of. So we're working hard on that. We're going to have our own Festival of Trees this year, which I am the chairman for the tea room. So we're getting ready to get out and get donations for cakes and all that good stuff. I volunteer at the high school, work in the office. And I think probably one of our proudest accomplishments is a young man that my oldest son went to school with and he had to move away because his mother was a crack addict. And he went to live with relatives, but he ended up coming back to Whiteville High school. And he came up to me one day-- I didn't even recognize him-- and he asked me if I was Joseph Mann's mom. And I said yes. And he said, "Well, I'm Kevin." And from that day forward, Terry and I have kind of made sure that he stayed on the straight and narrow. He's on the football team. I take him to lunch every Friday so he'll have lots of good energy for the games. Right now I'm helping him get his college applications ready. He's an A-B student. He's not taking any AP courses, but he would be a good student at a two-year, a junior college, and then move on. So we do things like that, so we stay busy. And I do Boy Scout work too. For three years I was a Roundtable Commissioner.

Zarbock: Am I correct in assuming the words "spare time" get a little filled up in your life?

Terry Mann: Well, it does. But I'm a reader, and if I watch TV, it's mostly sporting events. And I'm a runner, so I get up early in the morning and run. So if I'm not doing anything at night, I'm usually in bed by 8:30, because I get up about 5:00, 5:30. So I'd just as soon be out doing something helping somebody.

Zarbock: Why do you do this? This is a drain on energy, on brainpower, on time and talent. Why are you so involved?

Terry Mann: You want me to answer that first?

Sally Mann: Yeah, you go ahead.

Terry Mann: I do it because of the way it makes me feel when I get through doing what I've done. I mean, I can remember getting involved the first year I went into Relay for Life when we had the event, and working up the three or four months prior to the event, working on it, not even having ever been to one before. And then walking out there at the event itself, when they had the opening ceremonies. They have a lap at the beginning of the ceremony where all cancer victims, or cancer patients--

Sally Mann: Survivors.

Terry Mann: --survivors are invited to come, and they walk the lap of the track first. And to walk out there and see those survivors walking that lap, knowing that some money that I might have helped raise has helped them and is going to help future people. I mean, the feeling that it gave me, I mean, it just made it all worthwhile.

Sally Mann: We decided that night that we wanted to really get involved and stay involved, and we've been at it for...

Terry Mann: But for me, it's just a feeling that I get when something is accomplished and know that I've been a part of it.

Zarbock: We were speaking off camera [ph?], and I'd like to get into this a little bit. There seems to be kind of a sea change that is taking place in the United States, where younger people do volunteer. But they seem to be not interested in becoming a volunteer over a long period of time. What they're looking for is a task. Maybe it becomes a chore, but a task. Something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And our experience in interviewing other people seems to support that. Is this your observation too?

Sally Mann: Well, that happens quite often with people in our community, and we, quite frankly, have a hard time understanding it. But because we are volunteers at heart-- I don't know if it's the way volunteerism is taught or not taught in the schools or taught by parents. That maybe you've done, or do this for a National Honor Society project and once you're done, you're through. And it shouldn't be taught that way. Once you do something, and if you're capable and willing and have the time to do it, if you see that need, you need to continue. And I've often said, people say, "Well, how do you have the time? What do your kids do?" Well, a lot of times they would go with us. They always did. And I said, "Well, I hope that we're setting an example for them. That they do for others when they have the opportunity, and not just do it because it's a project that has to be done." So that's kind of how we've always looked at it.

Terry Mann: And going back to your question, I've been involved in several organizations where we'll have a project to do or something that needs to be done, and you go to an individual and say will you head this up, and they'll agree to do it. And they do it, and do a good job. And then six months later, something else'll come up, and you'll go back to this same person and say, "You did a good job on this, and we've got somebody to help you. But could you work on this too?" And for some strange reason, most of the time you get a no or an alibi of why they can't do it. And sometimes it's legitimate, but most times it's just, they feel like they've done their part.

Sally Mann: Well, they didn't get out of it what they needed to get out of it, and they may have done it for the wrong reason. They did it because their boss told them to do it, the school told them to do it. Someone coerced them into doing it, and they didn't get out of it. It was a job to them.

Zarbock: So the motivation was really external.

Sally Mann: Exactly.

Zarbock: "This is what I want you to do." That's a great point.

Terry Mann: In going through some of the things I do, I didn't mention that I'm involved in the Rotary Club. And I know here in Whiteville, we have the Rotary Club, we have a Civitan Club, we have the Lions Club, and the Kiwanis Club. And all memberships are on the downside on all clubs in Whiteville. I don't know, I feel like a lot of people that are not long time residents of Whiteville, they move into the community and their basic philosophy is-- and I don't know this to be true, but the way it appears to me-- is that I do a little bit at the church, and I'm working on my job from 9 to 5. And I'm doing a little bit of activities at the church and I'm helping with the Boy Scouts, or Cub Scouts, or whatever. I'm doing my part, that's all I need to do. And it's just hard to get people motivated to get involved anymore. I don't know what the answer is, I really don't understand it.

Zarbock: This came as an amazing revelation to me, that some people are very much against volunteerism on the basis that you ought to be paid. The volunteer does for free what should be for fee, that you are free labor in a market that ought to be hiring people. Have you ever had that criticism made?

Terry Mann: Not to me.

Sally Mann: No. I mean, I've had people comment to me, "You ought to be paid to do that," but, you know, talking about something that maybe we're involved in doing. But there would be no need for the word, "volunteer," if you did that.

Terry Mann: On the other hand, if you went to somebody for a task and said, "There's some compensation for this," I think the answer would be probably, "Yes," a lot quicker than it is...

Zarbock: I was so surprised that the man who made this remark to me was very angry. He said, "The volunteers are simply doing work for free that should be paid for." Now, I think that's a very shallow argument. Most of the volunteers known to me are doing things that, under our current political model, probably wouldn't be paid for. Couldn't be paid for.

Terry Mann: Right.

Sally Mann: Right. As a hospice volunteer, what I would do, would go and I would basically cook a meal the day of the week that I was going. And I would take it to the home, because I was lucky enough that every patient that I had had a healthy caregiver. And so basically what I was doing was helping the caregiver out more than the actual patient. I mean, you don't get paid to do something like that. And I just don't understand why people would want to be compensated for something like that. They should want to do it out of the goodness of their heart.

Zarbock: Could each of you give me an illustration, a little story-- or a big story-- of an experience that you've had as a volunteer with a recipient of your skills? Whimsical, heartbreaking, funny, changed your life, did something?

Sally Mann: Well, every experience changes your life. I mean, every time you volunteer, every time you go out... Just for example, the first year we did Relay for Life, I think we sold 25 luminaries. They're paper bags, and they have a small candle in them. And people would pay $10 per luminary, and they could put "In memory of," or "In honor of" a cancer victim or survivor. That was the first year. This past April, we had 1,100. We lined the track, double-lined the track in some areas. That will choke you up. That many people were touched enough to do that. And they walk along the track when they're lit, and they get to look at those names on those bags, it's very touching. It's very emotional.

Zarbock: They turn off the lights and--

Sally Mann: Oh, yeah. Turn off the lights and someone reads the names individually. And it's very emotional.

Zarbock: So the only illumination would be the candles in the paper bags?

Terry Mann: Yeah, basically. There are a few street lights in the distance, but most illumination is just the...

Zarbock: Is there a specific date for this, by the way?

Sally Mann: You can pick a date, usually it's the month of April. And Wilmington has a huge one.

Terry Mann: Yeah, every county has it. But we just try to pick a date sometime in April that there are no high school proms and there are no festivals going on, that kind of works with everybody. Naturally, you're going to always have conflicts, but we just try to work with a date that-- we have it out at Salvation Community College, so naturally we have to work with them when it's a good (inaudible). It's a Friday night and a Saturday, so we have to work with them on their schedule. But it's usually in mid to late April. And as far as an event or something that has touched me throughout this, I would probably say going back to the Relay for Life, like I mentioned earlier. Both her parents died from cancer, my mother passed away from cancer. My father had cancer, but ultimately that's not what he died from. My grandparents had it. Cancer's affected everybody. And to me, the thing that touched me the most is being out there and seeing these people that I potentially could help, or potentially being helped by money that's being raised for the Cancer Society. I just get a great feeling. I can't recall any particular instance, but especially helping people out that are, what I would say, less fortunate. I'm not from a real affluent family. We've always lived comfortably, but I was always taught that there are a whole lot less people that are less fortunate than you are, and you should do what you can to help those people. Just little things, just helping people out just in small ways can give you a tremendous feel and reward for doing good.

Sally Mann: And both of our boys are very generous, but our youngest son in particular, we always said is more like his granddaddy Sol [ph?], who's Terry's dad. He would give you the shirt off of his back and just feed you. I mean, if he's got friends around, he's going to make sure that they're fed. I mean, he's just got that kind of heart, so we're hoping he's going to be our...

Zarbock: How long have your parents been gone?

Sally Mann: My father died when I was 21, in 1978. My mother died in '98. And his parents, who I was extremely close to once my parents were gone-- and even before they were gone, I just had a really good relationship, but they just took me and treated me as if I was...

Terry Mann: They both passed away in 2000, about ten weeks apart. My mother died in October, my father died in December 2000.

Zarbock: I was interested in a remark that you made about maybe there should be some sort of formal education, at least in a formal situation, be it high school, be it college, be it grade school-- a school situation.

Sally Mann: It needs to start in grade school. I'm afraid that the coming generations are so interested in themselves. Even our children, our boys, it's instant gratification. And I think that's just how things have been evolving. And if something's not done there are going to be no volunteers, because all they're interested in is what they can get and what makes them feel good. And it's not what they can do for others. I think it does need to start in grade school, and it doesn't need to be one little project that they do and then they get points for. Anybody can do that, that's like being paid for it, especially to a high school student. That's just how I feel personally about it. I don't know how you go about saying, "Let's put a class in." I think our generations are going to be in trouble if they don't learn to give back to the community.

Zarbock: It seems to me that in the very limited experience that I've had interviewing volunteers that it's almost like a calling. Not a religious, but a spiritual thing.

Terry Mann: I think it is. There's got to be a love for it or you can't do it. It takes time, it takes effort, and you've got to be committed to what you're doing. And if you're not committed, you're not going to do a good job. So you're just treading water.

Zarbock: But the whole thing seems to me to be focused on one aspect. You've got to take action. You can't talk about the meaning of poverty, or the meaning of illness, or the meaning of being lonesome. You've got to do something about it, and you've got to stand up, walk over, and actually do something. Big, small, whatever.

Sally Mann: And what we do is minimal compared to what other people do, but we do what we can, what we have the capacity to do. And I'm extremely proud of what Terry and I do, and it's nice that we both have that feeling, because I can imagine what it would be like if one of us wanted to volunteer and the other didn't, didn't have that understanding of it. So we do make a pretty good team.

Zarbock: You've convinced me of that. Is there anything you'd like to say? This is open forum time now. Something you'd like to say to people in the future, something you'd like to say to people who are going to read this interview?

Terry Mann: Just if people would really think about what's going on in the world, what's going on in your community, and maybe make an effort to help your fellow man out.

Zarbock: How do you start?

Sally Mann: I think a lot of people are afraid to volunteer because they don't think that they have anything to offer, or they might not do a good enough job at it. I think a lot of people are afraid. They feel insecure or they don't want to walk into a room and say, "I would love to help, but I don't know what to do. Could you please help me?" And organizations would love to teach someone that has volunteerism in their heart what to do. And I think a lot of it has to do with getting comfortable with that idea.

Zarbock: Again, it's the self confidence thing, that okay, I can't do everything, I'm not a brain surgeon. Or I'm not a theoretical mathematician. But I can bake a cake.

Sally Mann: You can prepare a meal, you can raise money, you can bake a cake. You can teach a child to read or read with a child at school, like I did for millions of years because they don't have a parent at home that will sit down and read with them. I mean, how easy can that be?

Zarbock: And one of the greatest gifts you can make is to shut up and listen to someone. And say things like, "Um-hmm, hmm." Again, it's been my experience there's an awful lot of lonely people in the world. And I think their loneliness has forced them into a kind of a life mode. Turn on the television set in the morning and stare at it until you fall in bed at night. It's sort of self-protection. At least somebody's talking in my space. Any other remarks you'd like to make? You've done great, by the way.

Sally Mann: I'd just like to say something about what we had talked about earlier, about sedaka. Sedaka is the Hebrew word for charity. And the highest form of sedaka, according to Judaic law, is to provide a service or do something before there is a critical need, as a volunteer. The second highest form of charity is to volunteer or to give without the person that you're helping knowing it, so you don't make them feel uneasy. And that's why we were a little bit reluctant to do this, because we don't do it to get any attention whatsoever. We do it because we want to. But if everybody would have a little sedaka in their heart, this world would be a lot better place.

Zarbock: What about all the plaques and the certificates that you've received? Are they important?

Terry Mann: I'm embarrassed to say they're in a box. I don't really even put them on the wall. In fact, this past year, they were going to give me a plaque for being president of the Athletic Association and I said, "Put the $25 back into the Athletic Association, or buy a football helmet or something. I don't need that."

Sally Mann: We appreciate what they're trying to do in thanking us, Terry or I, or whichever, but we don't do it to get a plaque or a silver bowl or anything like that. So those things, they're not trophies. They don't mean as much to us as just a simple "Thank you."

Zarbock: It must have taken an awful lot of courage for the two of you to come here to be interviewed.

Sally Mann: Well, I didn't want to come.

Zarbock: Why did you?

Sally Mann: Well, Terry and I talked about it, and we said, okay, we'll come. But I needed you to know that we don't talk about it a whole lot. People know that we do things, but we don't advertise it because that's not what we do the work for.

Zarbock: That's equally interesting, because that thread, that theme goes through the other interviews I've had with other volunteers. I'm not a showboat in this. I don't need the spotlight, don't want the spotlight. I'm doing this because it's the thing to do.

Sally Mann: It's a normal part of life for us, and we just wish it was for more people.

Zarbock: I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sally Mann: We thank you too.

Terry Mann: We enjoyed it.

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