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Faces of Me Fine: Mary Angel Bastin

In our series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Meet Mary Angel, our Second Hope Shop manager, which is a position that her mother held before she took the helm in 2012.

January 7, 2012. Not everyone can remember their exact first day of work, but that date rolls off Mary Angel’s tongue without hesitation. That is the day she officially became manager of the Me Fine Foundation’s Second Hope Shop.

But, it certainly wasn’t her first day with Me Fine. Like her sister Caty, Mary Angel grew up supporting the organization’s mission because of her family’s closeness with Lori and Folden.

Mary Angel Bastin standing behind the Second Hope Shop counter with Me Fine Foundation's logo

Mary Angel Bastin, manger of Second Hope Shop

When asked what has surprised her the most since becoming store manager, she replied people’s “willingness to give and what they are willing to give away.” One of the clearest examples of the community’s generosity comes annually with the Angel Tree program. Me Fine has Mary Angel to credit for starting this effort back in 2008.

The Angel Tree program allows individuals, companies, schools, churches, and any interested group to put up a tree display with tags identifying requested items on behalf of families hospitalized at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. After Me Fine collects the gifts, it hosts its annual “Hope for the Holidays” days so families can pick-up their gifts, wrapping paper, tape, and stocking stuffers.

“Everyone can do one thing,” Mary Angel shared. “Angel trees give people that chance.”

Growing up in a family of eight (seven girls and one boy), Mary Angel saw her mother do exactly that: everything she could to provide for her children. She carries the same conviction with her into her role with Me Fine.

 

Ironically, Mary Angel had never set foot inside of a thrift store before the Second Hope Shop opened. Under her direction, the store has blossomed: increased revenues, higher quality items, and dedicated customers.

“People lined up on the sidewalk this past Black Friday. In fact, the line stretched down Highway 70. In nine hours, we were able to make nearly $700 on $2.19 shirts. That’s incredible.”

For Mary Angel and her staff, what makes the work even more meaningful is the knowledge that all sales help support families with critically ill children. She estimates that she tells the Me Fine story about 20 to 30 times each day.

Mary Angel with her mother, seven sisters, and brother

Mary Angel has been married to her high school sweetheart for 12 years. Family is a fixture for Mary Angel. In fact, she claims to spend every waking moment with her family. She is “Mimi” to her niece, a name she bears proudly.

When it comes to the Second Hope Shop, Mary Angel gives all the credit to her staff and to members of the community who support Me Fine’s mission either by donating to and/or shopping at the store.

“Everything has its purpose,” she reflected. It’s clear that, for right now, Mary Angel has found hers.

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445.

Faces of Me Fine: Meet Caty Diaz

In our series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Meet Caty, a long-time member of the Me Fine family who thrives of sharing with Second Hope Shop customers how their support is making a difference in more ways than they know.

Despite the note on her resume that Caty started working at Second Hope Shop in November 2017, she has been involved with the store for years. Sister to Mary Angel Bastin, Second Hope Shop’s manager, Caty grew up knowing the mission of Me Fine and how important the thrift store was in providing the nonprofit with the financial resources to help critically ill children and their families.

Caty, Cassie, and Mary at Second Hope Store

Caty (seated on far left) with fellow Second Hope Store team members Cassie and Mary

“I’ve helped in all sorts of ways, shapes, and forms,” Caty reflected. Currently, Caty serves as the donations supervisor, sorting through the countless bags and boxes brought in by members of the community. She separates out items that cannot be sold within the store due to stains, rips, or tears. Then, she brings the items to Ms. Barbara to be priced and put on the shelves for purchase.

What’s the best part of working at the store for Caty? “Anytime I have a chance to explain why this store exists and what the Me Fine Foundation does,” she said.

Spending time with family at the shop doesn’t stop Caty from spending even more time with her siblings and their children outside of the shop.

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445.

 

Oh what a night: Music for Me Fine 2018

Written by Joey Powell, Executive Director of the Me Fine Foundation

Third time’s the charm, right?

Skylar Gudasz performing at Music for Me FineIt sure felt that way on Friday, April 20th when nearly 250 members of our community turned out at All Saints Chapel for the 2018 edition of Music For Me Fine. This year’s show featured the stellar musical lineup of talented North Carolinians: Eric Scholz, Skylar Gudasz, and Django Haskins.

In 2016, this event turned from idea into reality in 38 days. Me Fine Foundation board member Ben Steel led the charge from day one, with the hope of connecting his passion for music to a cause he cared deeply about: providing hope for families whose critically ill children were being treated in the Triangle’s own backyard.

Me Fine raised a little over $21,000 at the first Music for Me Fine benefit concert. The following year, the event generated more than $25,000. After crunching the numbers from 2018, we are ecstatic to share that this year’s show raised more than $60,000!

What does that $60,000 mean for Me Fine’s mission? Here are a few ways how your support will make a difference for sick children and their families:

  • $1,000 provides enough for about 40 tanks of gas
  • $1,500 purchases 1000 hours of parking at UNC Hospital
  • $5,000 covers the average costs of 40 utility bills
  • $10,000 hires teachers through Arts For Life to provide music lessons

Music for Me Fine is all about our community, so we try to emphasize as much local enterprise and innovation as we can, including in the night’s food and beverage options. Empire Eats Catering served lasagna from Gravy and shrimp & grits from The Raleigh Times.

Craig and Lindsay Rudewicz, owners of Crude Bitters & Sodas, whipped up two special signature cocktails: an old fashioned and a cucumber spritzer, both of which garnered rave reviews. Delectable desserts — brownies, cookies, macaroons, and more — were generously contributed by Daniel Benjamin of lucettegrace. Patrons filled their cups with Shotgun Betty and Sweet Josie thanks to Lonerider Brewing. Local distributor Freedom Beverage donated cases of red and white wines, which paired perfectly with the spring-like Friday evening.

For the first time, all attendees had the chance to take home a prize (or two) in our raffle! Local shops like Larry’s Coffee and The Fresh Market crafted incredible gift baskets of goodies. Raleigh Little Theatre donated two tickets to their upcoming show “Don’t Dress For Dinner.” And Empire Eats stepped up again to package up some of its infamous rubs, spices, coffee, and more from its family of restaurants!

Finally, our silent auction made the nights of several attendees, as they took home a NC Football Club Youth package that included four Owner’s Suite tickets to a July match, personalized Crude Bitters cocktail class, one of the remaining bottles of the Famous Grouse Whisky, trips down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and to New Orleans, and a signed guitar by the evening’s co-headliners, Django and Skylar.

Seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones is what makes this event such a highlight for me personally. Thank you for being a part of the night, and more importantly, a part of the Me Fine Family!

Oh, and did you catch the selfie station? Ben and I opted to take ours upstairs during soundcheck with a special guest:

Ben Steel and Joey Powell in front of Skylar Gudasz at All Saints Chapel

Faces of Me Fine: Meet Sarah Bordeaux

In our series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Meet Sarah, one of the newest team members at our Second Hope Shop in Princeton who also happened to receive support from Me Fine during her daughter’s journey at Duke.

Sarah BordeauxWhile she may be newest team member at our Second Hope Shop, Sarah has been a long-time supporter of the store. But, her connection with the Me Fine Foundation goes beyond the walls of the Princeton establishment. Sarah’s daughter, Jaylee, has a chromosome 7 duplication, which resulted in her being born with several birth defects. While receiving treatment at Duke Children’s Hospital, Sarah received financial assistance from Me Fine, which proved to be a tremendous help. Jaylee requires frequent consultations with her medical team, so the family makes the trip from Johnston to Durham County at least once a month.

“You never know what life is going to bring,” Sarah reflected. Originally from New Jersey, Sarah moved to Goldsboro about 10 years ago. “At first, I was angry. You read all of the baby books, create the perfect nursery. This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Despite the challenges, Jaylee has blossomed into a beautiful seven-year-old who enjoys her classmates at Rosewood Elementary School as well as her two younger sisters. Sarah praised Jaylee’s teacher and the exceptional children’s program supporting her daughter’s development.

“I never liked it when people would say that God gives special needs children to special people. You are just a regular person who becomes special. These kids are what make you special.”

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445.

Faces of Me Fine: Meet Mary Mendez

Caty, Cassie, and Mary at Second Hope Store

Mary (pictured on far right) with her colleagues Caty (left) and Cassie (center) at Second Hope Shop in Princeton

In our new series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we will highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. In this post, meet Mary, a member of the team at Second Hope Shop in Princeton, North Carolina.

A serendipitous connection via the job recruitment website Indeed.com brought Mary into the Second Hope Shop. The recruiter noted that the store was in need of a bilingual employee. Able to meet those needs, Mary joined the team in 2017 as a cashier and a proud Princeton resident.

She is a mother of two children: Aiden (5) and Anna (2). Me Fine’s mission resonates with her, and as she has found, with her customers too. “Customers share their personal connections to Me Fine all of the time,” noted Mary.

One of her personal highlights at Second Hope Shop is making someone’s day by helping them find that perfect item. “You know, the one that they’ve been looking for and looking for, and have gone to other stores to find,” she explained. “I tell them ‘well, you should have come here first!'”

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445.

For Immediate Release: Local artists Django Haskins, Skylar Gudasz to help sick children at Music for Me Fine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2018
Contact: Joey Powell; info@mefinefoundation.org

Local artists Django Haskins, Skylar Gudasz to help sick children at Music for Me Fine
Me Fine Foundation’s annual benefit concert raises funds for families at Triangle-area hospitals

RALEIGH: No family ever expects their child to be diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening medical condition. Sadly, it happens every day – and families in these situations often find that there are significant financial costs associated with treating their child that are not covered by any insurance or safety net program available. The Music for Me Fine benefit concert, now in its third year, will allow the Me Fine Foundation to provide hope for impacted families.

Two well-known North Carolina musicians, Django Haskins, lead singer of The Old Ceremony, and Skylar Gudasz, will headline the April 20th show hosted at All Saints Chapel in downtown Raleigh. Additionally, local musician Eric Scholz will open the evening with a solo acoustic set. The emphasis on showcasing local support and talent is key for Me Fine. Empire Eats, a longtime partner of this event, will provide the catering while Raleigh’s own Lonerider Brewing Company and Crude Bitters will offer beer and a signature cocktail for the special evening.

Doors at All Saints Chapel open at 7:00pm with music slated to begin at 8:00pm. Tickets start at $55 for individuals and $100 for couples with prices increasing on April 1. For more information about Music for Me Fine, including to purchase tickets, visit musicformefine.org.

“We created Music for Me Fine as an opportunity for people to support an important cause that has a real and direct impact on fellow members of our communities,” noted Ben Steel, board member and chair of Music for Me Fine. “The outpouring of support in our first two years has been remarkable. We anticipate this year’s event to be the biggest one yet, which means that our organization will be able to assist more families in need at our partner hospitals.”

Last year, Me Fine distributed nearly $100,000 in direct financial assistance to 211 families at Duke and UNC Children’s Hospitals. After expanding into WakeMed Children’s Hospital in late 2017, the organization projects supporting an additional 50 – 75 families with help covering costs ranging from rent and mortgage payments to gas cards and groceries. Me Fine also provides emotional support resources for these families.

2018 Music For Me Fine Mainstage Sponsors include Southern First Bank, Sunbelt Rentals, and Empire Properties. This year’s Headliner Sponsors are Environmental Holdings Group (EHG) and FastMed. Sponsorship opportunities still available at musicformefine.org.

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Me Fine Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to ensuring families whose children face a devastating medical crisis are able to receive financial assistance, emotional support and other necessary resources to sustain the loss of income due to the dramatic change in lifestyle while undergoing treatment at Duke, UNC, or WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. For more information, please call (919) 202-0086 or visit mefinefoundation.org.

Faces of Me Fine: Meet Aiyana Watson

In our new series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we will highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Today, meet Aiyana, a member of the team at Second Hope Shop in Princeton, North Carolina.

Aiyana wearing a gray long sleeved t-shirt and jeans standing in front of clothing racks at Second Hope Store

Although a current sophomore at Princeton High School, Aiyana does not hesitate when asked what she envisions for her career ahead.

“Law enforcement,” Aiyana replied confidently. “I’ve known since middle school. My favorite TV show was Criminal Minds, and that got me started. Working for the FBI is my dream job.”

Aiyana started at Second Hope in August 2017, but it wasn’t her first time to the store. She had been a regular customer and was looking for part-time work. Mary Angel provides a flexible work schedule, so Aiyana is able to work three to four days after school and on the weekends.

When she’s not at school or working at the thrift store, Aiyana enjoys spending time with her dad, especially playing softball. She had played for the school team previously, but was unsure if she would go out this spring. Aiyana looks up to her dad, who is the person who helped connect her to working at Second Hope; he works with kids in need of stable homes. His commitment to being a partner for kids in his community is similar to how Me Fine partners with families going through the unimaginable with their critically ill children.

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445.

Faces of Me Fine: Meet Maryssa Proctor

In our new series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we will highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. First up, meet Maryssa, a member of the team at Second Hope Shop in Princeton, North Carolina.

Maryssa Proctor sitting behind desk wearing gray shirt and jeansThis seventeen-year-old, current Princeton High School senior, started working part-time after initially volunteering at the shop for a school project. “I really liked the atmosphere and the people,” Maryssa shared. She works with Ms. Barbara to price the donations after they have gone through the initial processing.

Thanks to the support of Johnston County, Maryssa takes classes through Johnston County Community College, including psychology and American Sign Language. She is a member of the BETA Club and played on the girls’ volleyball team for four years. While school may feel like home for a lot of high school students, Maryssa’s connection might be the closest imaginable: both of her parents work at Princeton High School! Her mom, Angie, is an English teacher while her dad, Bruce, serves as the school’s Athletic Director. Madelyn, Maryssa’s younger sister, is currently a sophomore.

What’s next for Maryssa after high school? “I’m not sure yet,” she reflected. “I’ll be close to completing my Associate’s Degree through JCCC just from high school, so I’ll finish that coursework for sure.”

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445

Anything Worth Having is Worth Waiting For

By Meredith Izlar, Program Director, Me Fine Foundation

Anything worth having is worth waiting for. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

These are a couple of the mantras I held tightly onto for my first two years as Me Fine Foundation’s part-time Family Assistance Coordinator.

During these two years, I talked with parents who spent weeks in and out of hospital rooms with their children; I listened to their fears about the present as well as the future. I interviewed hospital staff and took down their wish lists in pages of notes: teen support groups, programs for siblings, outreach for overwhelmed parents. And for two years, I saw the wider community as well — supporters energized about our mission and eager to serve, ready to give generously of their time and talent (and toys!).

But I didn’t have a way to channel the outpouring of support to the families who needed it.

Over this time, I spent hours alongside Jaclyn Starritt, Me Fine board member and child psychologist, brainstorming a myriad of ways that people could get involved with Me Fine’s emotional support programs in the hospitals. “Who wouldn’t want to throw a Christmas In July carnival for in-patient children?”, we asked ourselves. “Who wouldn’t get excited about new programs to help siblings cope with their brother or sister’s illness?” Still, we didn’t have a framework for how all of the pieces would fit together. How could we coordinate the efforts of multiple volunteers on multiple projects at multiple hospitals, all in ways that were meaningful and fed back to Me Fine’s mission?

In the end, growth happened the way it always does — in a series of stutters, false starts, and revised efforts that eventually becomes a big step forward.

Now as a full-time staff member, I have the time to invest in a coordinated effort of volunteers to meet our families’ psychosocial emotional needs. I’m pleased to share that we held our first meeting of the new-and-improved Emotional Support Programs Committee on February 16! The committee will field requests from hospital staff, coordinate special events, and develop innovative approaches to the challenges families face while a child is treated for critical or chronic illness. Our team includes several board members, two child psychologists, a parent of a child with critical illness, a retired pediatrician, and nearly a dozen other community members passionate about supporting kids and families.

As we discussed our plan for the year, I felt a new mantra take shape: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Although the process of creating this group felt Herculean at times, it’s the first step towards our greater goal: increasing our impact on the children and families struggling with critical or chronic illness every day. The enthusiasm and combined talents of this incredible group of people, working together, truly have the capacity to transform lives. I’m grateful to each of them for their willingness to get involved more deeply with our work.

Searching for the goodness: Sofie’s gift of life miracle

“When you’re in the hospital for that length of time, you search for the goodness. [Me Fine’s support] was one of the miracles for the whole six weeks.”

In August 2012, Melissa and her husband temporarily moved into Duke Children’s Hospital. All because of Sofie.

Baby Sofie, lying on her left side facing the camera with a tube going into her right nostril

Sofie was born with Biliary Atresia, a rare disease that prevents bile (which transports waste) from being removed from the liver. As the bile began to build up in Sofie, her liver started to fail. For this five-month-old, a liver transplant was the family’s only option.

Neither parent wanted to leave their daughter’s side as the wait for a new liver began. Sofie was so tiny that it was difficult for match her with an appropriate-sized donor. Her medical team turned down several potential matches. Three weeks passed. Then, the Blackmon’s received the news: a match. But, after an initially successful transplant, the new liver clotted. The waiting ordeal started again.

Sofie’s health was growing ever precarious day after day. Throughout the six weeks at Duke, Melissa and her husband traded off staying at the hospital so that at least one parent was with Sofie at all times. Their other two children, ages 7 and 5 at the time, remained at home with Melissa’s parents, who had traveled down from Maryland.

“My son actually turned five during this time,” Melissa reflected. “Since he was just starting kindergarten, we would take the hour drive home from Duke early in in the morning, to just see him off to school on his first few days.”

Still, the family waited for the precious gift of life for their daughter. One week after her first transplant, Sofie underwent her second, which proved to be an absolute success.

Sofie, age 5, wearing a t-shirt that says: "Donate Life Recipient"

Thanks to her selfless donor and the donor’s family, Sofie is a happy, healthy kid!

Even in the midst of such welcomed news, the time spent in the hospital added up for Melissa and her family in multiple ways. The expenses from several weeks of a hotel stay, gasoline traveling back and forth to see their kids, and eating out for that length of time added up. Her youngest son even celebrated his fifth birthday in the hospital courtyard, with an extra gift provided by MeFine.

For the Blackmon family, Me Fine Foundation provided behind-the-scenes support to offset some of their financial worries in the form of gas cards, gift cards for groceries, baby toys for Sofie, and presents for Melissa to gift her kids. Being away from her other two children during those six weeks was difficult and painful; for Melissa, having the chance to reward them for their patience and flexibility was graciously welcomed.

“When you’re in hospital for that length of time, you search for the goodness. That was one of the miracles for the whole six weeks,” Melissa reflected.

Melissa continues to pay her own family’s miracle forward as a full-time staff member with Donate Life North Carolina, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting awareness of organ, eye, and tissue donation. North Carolinians can register to become donors through the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and online here.

 

Sofie wearing a Marvel superhero outfit being held on her mom, Melissas hip

Sofie and her mom, Melissa, started the “Be a Hero” 5k run/walk

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