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The Wilson Crisis Center may have started before Executive Director Nancy Sallenger moved to Wilson, but she has become synonymous with the agency’s service to the community and is being honored as the Wilson Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year.
“It’s not typical that we honor leaders of nonprofit organizations at our annual meeting, as the very nature of their work is intended to be one of service,” said chamber President Ryan Simons. “However, when you have the opportunity to honor someone of Nancy’s caliber — an exemplar of the type of selflessness which has become too rare these days — the chamber is eager to make such recognition happen.”
Sallenger, a native of Windsor, spent the first 25 years of her career in the Triangle working in banking and sales before moving to Wilson to be closer to her family. She was an active volunteer and board member at the Wilson Crisis Center for 12 years and has led the agency since 2007. She said she was stunned when Simons told her she would receive the chamber’s highest honor.
“It is the best feeling in the world when I witness a person start on their path to reach their goals and know he or she can attain them. When we assist someone, I only ask for them to reach out when they are able and pay it forward,” Sallenger said of her work alongside 50 volunteers each week to provide 24/7 assistance to callers needing information, referrals or just someone to listen. “Knowing we have assisted someone with food needs, shelter, medical needs, clothing, hygiene items, cleaning products, etc. and enhanced their life gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. What a wonderful world this is.”
In addition to taking calls at all hours, the crisis center has several annual programs plus a new one called “buddy buckets” full of supplies to help recipients keep themselves and their homes clean.
“If we can assist in keeping our people clean, their self-esteem is built up, and they can apply for jobs or attend school,” she said.
In addition to her work with the crisis center, Sallenger is an active volunteer at a variety of area organizations where she serves with “infectious enthusiasm” for the community and everyone she meets, Simons said.
“Working together with others achieves so many goals and spreads the joy. A hug is my gift to each person I encounter, and it is from my heart,” she said. “My message is as follows: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.’ I hope to be remembered as this type of person who gives hugs from the heart.”
In addition to honoring Sallenger at the annual meeting on Jan. 24, the chamber will give the Wilson Lifetime Chamber Membership this year to Greg Godard, who recently retired as executive director of the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Government. Godard spent 24 years overseeing regional planning and development organization in Wilson, Nash, Edgecombe, Halifax and Northampton counties.
“The chamber continuously makes efforts to work with regional partners to extend prosperity to a greater number of people,” said Simons. “As executive director of the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, Greg Godard made regionalism his professional mission. Now in retirement, he’s deserving of a tribute as others in Wilson strive to continue his work.” General admission to the annual meeting is $50, but host spots are available with program recognition for $150. The meeting will kick off with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Kennedy Family Theatre on the campus of Barton College and will conclude with a dessert reception. Space is limited, so registration is required by calling 252-237-0165.