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By Allison Marshall (LFNC Fellow, Shallotte)

November 18, 2019

I have tried to sit down and write this blog post several times over the past few months. I am not sure if it is just writer’s block, but I cannot seem to find the exact words to express how much my new community means to me already. Although I grew up visiting Shallotte, I never knew it as my own. I considered it a second home, but I never actually knew the people and their stories, I just knew the roads and their restaurants and shops. In our training this past summer, we learned about how there are two North Carolinas, and I have come to realize that there are two Shallottes as well. One version of Shallotte consists of commercialization and tourists upon no end. It consists of mile long traffic and packed summer months. This is the Shallotte I always knew. However, since the start of my fellowship, I have realized that there is a second version of Shallotte, one much more intimate and slow-paced, a Shallotte where neighbors help neighbors, and everyone knows everyone.

This new community of mine has a gracious collective heart which expels passion and commitment to one another. They enjoy the simple things in life, such as Thursday night concerts at Mulberry Park where they can shag dance the night away. They enjoy their barbecue, Brunswick stew, and fresh eggs and produce. They show up to all of the events in town, from the Saturday markets in the park to the Christmas parade, and everything else in between. A lot of them still come into town hall to pay their water bill in person, and I can genuinely say that I have loved these visits as I get to hear their captivating life stories. I am always looking forward to the next billing cycle so more people can come into the office. I have begun to recognize them, by face and name, and some of them have begun to recognize me, as well. These people have made me feel so warm and welcomed, as if I was born and raised here. They have wished me well and have expressed interest in my story and this program.

This past Wednesday, I volunteered with Brunswick Family Assistance for a couple of hours. They do a quarterly commodities distribution to approximately 800 families in need. The dedication that these volunteers had for helping BFA get ready for the distribution was inspiring. Much like how my co-Fellows and I have our “Whys” for being LFNC Fellows, these volunteers had their “Whys” for volunteering. Some of them were newer to the community and wanted to be more involved and meet people, some of them have been volunteering with BFA for years, and some of them were once recipients of these food distributions themselves, and are supporting an organization that gave them so much. These volunteers were some of the most resilient and determined that I have ever seen, working endlessly through 35 degree weather to get ready for Thursday morning’s distribution. They were smiling, exchanging stories, and working together flawlessly.

To say that I am enjoying my fellowship is a severe understatement. I feel truly grateful that half of my job responsibilities are centered around working with and for our citizens, providing them with memorable experiences they can cherish for years. Since the beginning of August when I began my fellowship, my job has allowed me to take part in four concerts, one market, one Halloween SPOOKtacular event, and one Veteran’s Day event. In the coming weeks, we will have two more markets, a Christmas tree lighting, a movie night, and our Christmas parade. If you’re counting, that’s a total of twelve events in the span of four months. These events are incredibly important for our town and our community. They bring people together for wholesome fun, enjoying each other’s company outside of the busy lives we all lead. Anyone can participate in any of the events, and since they are all free admission, the doors are open to members of the community of all different socioeconomic statuses. I cannot count the number of times I have just gazed at the crowd during these events and smiled to myself, wondering how I got so lucky to be where I am today.