Small in size; big in heart

Published 10:33 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

WINDSOR – The smallest just got big.

Perdue Farms, in keeping with their commitment to improve the quality of life in the communities in which it operates, on Monday presented a $10,000 grant to the Bertie County YMCA Inc. from The Arthur W. Perdue Foundation.

Of the 87 YMCA’s in North Carolina, the Bertie County YMCA is the smallest in the state and one of the smallest in the country; but it has a giant impact on the community that it serves.

Founded in 1991, Bertie County YMCA is a nonprofit organization that takes a stand for youth development, healthy living and for social responsibility.

“We have to continue to guide and push our youth in the right direction and our basketball program gives us the perfect platform to do so,” said Windsor/Bertie YMCA Director Casey Owens.

“In rural eastern North Carolina there are very few recreational activities for children to participate in, this funding will allow us to continue the programs we have as well as launch some new programs,” Owens added. “We’re appreciative for the support of Perdue Farms and the Arthur W. Foundation.”

825YMCA2-wen“They share our values, and we are delighted to continue our support for their valuable programs,” said Kim Nechay, executive director of the Perdue Foundation.

On hand for the Windsor presentation were Jeff Stalls, Operations Director of Perdue in Lewiston; Owens; John Trent, Chairman of the Bertie County Commissioners; along with fellow-YMCA Board member, Frank Ratzlaff.

“We had a relationship with Perdue established, but we had never met,” Owens emphasized. “So we got out there and met face-to-face; we set up a booth at the plant and a lot of the parents who work at Perdue, their kids participate in our Summer Camp, and the Flag Football program, so this all worked out a lot.”

Owens, who played at Bertie High, later at Elizabeth City State, and finally for a few years in the Canadian Football League, before returning to mentoring, said it’s getting back to the roots.

“It’s one county-one YMCA,” he stresses. “When we tell kids to get out of the house, to get away from the gaming console, we’re gaining their trust. I don’t say no to anything, I’m very passionate about this.”

“This will continue to grow programs for the youth of our community,” said Stalls. “Our way of giving back is through these grants, and we’re real pleased to be a part of this. At the Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, we understand that organizations such as the Bertie County YMCA are essential to building stronger communities.”

“For 25 years, this YMCA has been an important part of our community, including for many of our associates and their families. We’re excited to be able to invest in the future of the YMCA’s youth development and recreational programs,” Stalls added. “Who knows who the next Kent Bazemore is going to be? He may just be coming out of one of these YMCA programs.”

Ratzlaff – a member of the Windsor Police force – has been a YMCA member about five years before joining the Board of Directors a couple of years ago.

“We’re the only gym around, and we have the biggest basketball program in the county,” he said.

The YMCA basketball program that started in 1994 is one of the largest in the area, serving more than 300 children from around the county.

“We’ve started flag football, we have volleyball, and we’re going to try to have year-round athletics for the youth of the county to participate,” Ratzlaff stated. “This will help us out tremendously.”

Local businessman John Trent, who is also chair of the Bertie County Commissioners, and – like Ratzlaff – a member of the YMCA Board, praised Owens for the tenacious attitude he has taken toward growing the ‘Y’.

“We want to take this to the outer reaches of the county,” Trent explained. “Look at how the flag football turned out; kids are getting practical skills and the talent here in Bertie County is immense. We owe a lot of that to the people who volunteer and support the YMCA, who work here at the YMCA, and to Casey; they’re the ones who’ve carried the ball.”