Community affirms hospital’s importance

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — Members of the community, dressed in their best, showed up in droves Saturday night to support a good cause. The first-ever Red Affair Gala was held at Lu Mil Vineyard to benefit the Bladen County Hospital Foundation.

The black-tie event, attended by around 300 people, was sold out by the beginning of the week, affirming for the Gala’s planners that the community values the hospital.

“I was very anxious about how people would respond, but within a week or so of putting it out there, sponsors were wonderful. I think the community has wanted to be engaged with the hospital, but didn’t know how or what we neded,” said Ashley Dowless, director of Bladen County Hospital Foundation and Public Relations. “I just put it out there and started praying, and it turned out really well.”

Sponsors did indeed step up to support the cause. Amber Avant of Captured Moments LLC donated her time and photography to the event, making full-length photos available on the foundation’s website, and Whimsical Florist contributed decorations. Bob’s Jewel Shop in Lumberton provided a $2800 necklace to be raffled off.

“I’ve just been overwhelmed by the generosity of the sponsors. I can’t thank them enough,” Dowless said.

In addition to donations, several local businesses were contracted for the event.

“My biggest thing is that I wanted this gala to benefit the community. The only thing that wasn’t local was (the entertainment and lighting),” said Dowless.

The importance of the hospital was a sentiment reiterated throughout the night. Elizabethtown Mayor Sylvia Campbell spoke to attendees about the legacy left by the founders of the hospital.

“Sixty-plus years ago they saw a need for good health care in Bladen County, and they left that legacy,” she said. “We’re extremely fortunate to have a hospital in a small town.”

Breeden Blackwell, director of government relations for Cape Fear Valley Health System, encouraged the community to support hospital and reiterated that the hospital is here to support the community.

Rev. Chris Denny, pastor at Elizabethtown Prebyterian Church, revealed to those gathered that his son had been to the hospital twice, and that he had later been out in the community and seen hospital staff, who inquired about his son’s well-being.

“You just don’t see that very often — people following up like that and that kind of loving care,” said Denny.

With the corporate sponsors, raffle tickets, ticket prices, and donations, Dowless reported that upwards of $20,000 was brought in for the foundation. Proceeds will be used to update equipment in the hospital and provide scholarships for nurses who want to further their education. The foundation also does a lot of behind-the-scenes work, according to Dowless.

She hopes to make the gala an annual event.

“I’m looking forward to doing bigger things and more things for the foundation,” she said. “I want us to be an active part of the community.”

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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