By Lisa Edelman | December 7, 2017
Regional Account Manager, ETR
I’m a happy traveler. That makes me doubly-blessed when I travel for ETR. I get to spend time with very impressive people, learn about their work, and come home more inspired than ever about the work I do.
In September, I had an opportunity to meet a few of the fine people of North Carolina. I got to see folks from SHIFT NC, a group bringing innovative ideas to teen pregnancy prevention. I called on the North Carolina Division of Public Health Women’s Health Branch. I joined up with workers and volunteers at WNCAP (if you’re in the know, you say it “win-cap”). They’ve been leading the regional charge against HIV and AIDS since 1986. And I had a lovely visit at the health center at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.
I’d like to tell you a little about some of the remarkable people I met.
SHIFT stands for “Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens.” My contact there, Tania Connaughton-Espino, is their Director of Integrated Community Initiatives. This organization has used a lot of ETR’s curricula in their pregnancy prevention programs. I loved getting to visit them, hear about their latest projects and learn more about how they put ETR materials to work.
I saw Tania again a week later at the Healthy Teen Network conference in Baltimore. I was able to hear her present at the conference with her colleague Amanda Fritts—“Alternative Facts: Implementing Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs in Conservative Communities.” It was excellent!
I’m not just impressed with what this group does in their own community. I’m moved by the fact that they find the energy and determination to give back to the field as they do.
I also met with our friends at NC DHHS Women’s Health Branch. They have been total champions for ETR for a long time, so I looked forward to an upbeat visit. Julie Gooding Hasty works with the Family Planning and Reproductive Health Unit, which helps reduce unplanned pregnancies and promote reproductive health all across the state.
This was my first time meeting Julie in person. It was nice to finally be able to put a face to her name. A few days after we met, I was at the ETR booth at the North Carolina Public Health Association conference in Asheville. Julie came by to say hello—and she did so much more. She waved people over to our booth, she told them how great ETR materials were, and then she made sure to invite me to join her and her friends for lunch.
I’m still carrying a smile from her warm hospitality and welcome.
At the Western North Carolina AIDS Project in Asheville, I met with Michael Harney, Prevention Educator. He told me about their needle exchange program. They pride themselves on being a judgment-free space emphasizing harm reduction. They provided 512,150 needles in 2016.
I was excited to see ETR pamphlets on display in their offices. Meanwhile, Michael was apologizing for not cleaning up more before my visit. I let him know I live with two teenagers. The offices looked absolutely fine!
Michael invited me to observe their upcoming exchange. This was eye-opening for me since it was not something I’d known about in detail before. The devotion of their staff and volunteers was truly humbling to behold.
JWU Charlotte has built itself to be an integral part of their community. The city is growing, and this university is helping to produce the professionals needed to sustain and build on its vibrancy. Many of the programs focus on the culinary and hospitality industries.
I was charmed as I walked up to the campus—a modern collection of buildings near the city center. The student health center was my destination, but on my way I stopped for a moment at the huge windows offering a view of the culinary program. I watched frenzied students expertly constructing what looked like a complicated but delicious meal.
From that busy city street, I walked through a breezeway to the quad, which was an oasis of calm and quiet. It was a lovely spot. And when I met Karen Hiney, Director of Health Services, I was again happy to see our pamphlets on display. Their group puts great effort into being engaging and relevant for their diverse students.
I work in sales, so at a practical level one of my goals is selling our products. But one of the things I find so refreshing about our customer visits is that our focus is not on a hard sell. We meet customers because we want to know more about them.
What do they do with the materials they purchase? How are they used? What could make the products better? What products do they need that they don’t have?
A successful visit for me isn’t about whether or not I logged in a new sale. It’s about walking away with a better understanding of someone’s work and mission. It’s about building a more genuine connection with the real people who get the work of health education and promotion done.
This is a wonderful benefit of working for ETR. We are a mission-forward nonprofit. We know the work you do makes a difference in communities across this nation. We are honored and genuinely excited when we can offer products that support you in those efforts.
So thank you, North Carolina, and all of our customers, for your great work!
Lisa Edelman is a Regional Account Manager at ETR. When she’s not talking to customers or on the road for ETR, she does local volunteer work and enjoys cooking classes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Editor’s note: Did I detect a tinge of envy in that paragraph about the culinary classes?)