Gateway Newsletter Fall/Winter 2020
Gordon Rayle: Keeping the Spirit of Ray Alive
If you’ve been at Fellowship Hall anytime in the last 30 or so years, chances are you’ve met Gordon Rayle. He’s that guy who is always upbeat, always wearing a smile, always lending a hand to help a newcomer or old-timer alike stick to the program. With 40 years of sobriety, Gordon has spent 38 of them working with individuals suffering from addiction to alcohol and drugs.
Gordon first encountered Fellowship Hall in Wilmington, NC. After he had managed to begin his own recovery with the help of a halfway house, Stepping Stone Manor, he became aware of men and women in the recovering community who had been to Fellowship Hall. They spoke of Fellowship Hall with gratitude for introducing them to 12 step recovery. Like many, Gordon wanted to become a counselor and help others. He often attended training events and workshops and that is where he met Carolyn Marlowe, then the Assistant Therapy Director at The Hall, Venetia Smith, past Director of the Family Program.
In late 1984, Gordon received a call from Carolyn asking if he would like to interview for a position as a Primary Counselor. He did, and in 1985 joined our staff……for the first time. But he thought he should return to Wilmington, so a couple of years later he headed back to the coast. As fate would have it, Carolyn called Gordon’s wife, Jo, who was running a women’s half-way house, to consider a position as a Family Counselor at Fellowship Hall. She took the job, and Gordon found himself back in Greensboro. He and Jo lived on campus in the small white house beside Zander’s House. Gordon worked for The N.C. Dept. of Correction’s Alcohol and Drug Program and volunteered at The Hall. His DOC job was down-sized in 2002, and Jim Fenley, then Therapy Director at The Hall, asked Gordon if the was interested in some part-time work. Gordon returned to us and has been here ever since. Currently he leads a Big Book class and two discharge classes each week.
“There’s no question that Fellowship Hall is a very special place. We practice 12 step recovery – it’s our mission to treat Guests and provide a Family Program, too, as it is equally important to address this family illness. The teamwork of Staff impresses me the most. The spirit of recovery here is powerful,” said Gordon.
This year, Gordon became the eighth recipient of The Spirit of Ray Award, given out each year to an individual who embodies the kind and giving spirit of E. Raymond Alexander, Jr., a Greensboro attorney and Judge who didn’t want to come to treatment but after practicing 12-step recovery lived with a mission to always be available to help someone. He was the kind of man who was never too busy to listen. As Gordon put it, “Raymond didn’t think there was ever a bad time to help someone. He would drop everything and go.”
Ogi Overman wrote in a past issue of The Gateway about Raymond’s love for golf, and how he used the golf course as a place to bring people who needed recovery together with people who were living in recovery. “I was part of Raymond’s ‘golf bunch,’ “ Gordon shared.
When asked about receiving The Spirit of Ray Award this year, Gordon said, “I was taken back, I didn’t have a clue! I look at the plaque every morning and am humbled to be among those who have received this award that bears Ray Alexander’s name.”
“To be part of anyone’s recovery is tremendous, to be there when it begins to happen! For the newcomer, I encourage them to go to a lot of meetings and spend a lot of time with recovering people. There is no substitute for that kind of influence and power. Newcomers are the life blood of our fellowship. Old-timers know that the only way to keep ‘a green memory’ is to be around newcomers so we can remember ‘where we came from.’ We are told that the only way to keep it is to try to give it away. People starting this journey remind us to be grateful for our gift of sobriety. This attitude of gratitude keeps us going,” quipped Gordon.
Congratulations Gordon Rayle as this year’s recipient of The Spirit of Ray Award!
Make a gift now to Hands of Hope and receive a special FH Holiday Ornament!
Message from Mike Yow
Greetings from the front office!
So here we are in the 37th month of 2020!! Whew, what a year so far. We are into the 8th month of COVID19 and its impact on us here at Fellowship Hall – and all of our lives. It has been an interesting time to say the least! What I will share with you, is that despite the uncertainty and stress COVID19 has brought to us, our staff has responded with a dedication and professionalism that I believe is unparalleled. We have made very intentional decisions to focus on our mission and to operate as safely as we possibly can, knowing that substance use disorders do not take time off and people need treatment.
We have been very focused on meeting the needs of our mission and balancing COVID19 risks at the same time. I would be lying if I told you this has been easy. It has not. Like other treatment providers around the country, we have seen fluctuations in our admissions. We continue to offer many of our services virtually, which has been well-received. We have been able to hold some Early Recovery small groups on campus as well as some family groups. But it will be sometime early next year (we hope) before we can return to a “normal” treatment format. In the meantime, we are committed to being open, admitting new guests, and providing guests and families the best treatment we can.
I can share a few things we are doing that may be of interest. We are heavily engaged in collecting outcome data from our guests who have completed treatment. We are doing this as an organization as well as a part of a bigger group of five other providers on the east coast. This data will help us improve our treatment processes and provide evidence-based data showing the efficacy of our treatment methodology. We continue to offer continuing education courses, successfully moving them online. We’ve been hosting “live” events on Facebook, recently reaching over 1000 people! Be on the lookout for more of these to come! The staff is working hard to be both creative and innovative as we look for ways to serve our mission – and that makes me proud.
As we move into the holiday season and a new year, I want to say thank you for your support! Volunteers have been working hard to carry the message of recovery here to our guests five nights a week in lieu of going off campus to 12 step meetings. I cannot tell you how vital that has been! We are so grateful for your financial support. In these uncertain times, your gifts – now more than ever – are vital for us as we continue to serve our mission. We wish you a safe holiday season!
In loving service, Mike Yow, President & CEO
When “Physician, Heal Thyself” Didn’t Work, Dr. Jerry Davis Turned To AA
By Ogi Overman
If ever the veracity of the well-worn recovery phrase, “Keep coming back,” were personified, Dr. Jerry Davis was the proof in the pudding. He was also proof that alcoholism is a non-discriminatory disease; it doesn’t care for social status, wealth, education, intelligence or station in life. And while the doctor’s road to redemption was a circuitous one, in the end, it bore all the fruit promised by the founders.
Jerry was a healer who needed healing, a helper who needed help, a teacher who needed to be taught. Fortunately, he took to heart another AA truism, “Stick with the winners,” and it was those winners — among them Ray Alexander, Jimmy Brown, Bill Crawford and Jerry Shelton, four icons of the Greensboro AA community — who ultimately enabled him to become a winner himself.
Growing up in Reidsville, NC, the youngest of 10 siblings, Jerry was a talented musician and golfer, but his true passion was medicine. He attended Wake Forest University and Bowman Gray School of Medicine before getting his M.D. from the University of Louisville in 1975. He began his career in Salisbury, NC, as the first ER physician in the county. Soon afterward he and his wife at the time, who was a physician’s assistant, opened an urgent care facility in Advance, NC, again, the first in the area.
With his career on the rise, Dr. Davis seemed to have the world on a string. But there was always a demon lurking — booze. He made several trips to treatment centers, to no avail, and wound up losing his marriage, his urgent care practice and then his medical license. But, somehow, he kept coming back.
After 18 months drying out in Florida with one of his sisters, the medical board reinstated him on condition that he move back to North Carolina (probably so they could keep an eye on him). He moved to Raleigh, where he met his fifth (and final) wife, Cathy. They married seven years later and remained so for 21 years, until his passing October 6, 2020.
During his years of on-again-off-again sobriety, Jerry had met an attorney, Ray Alexander, who quickly became not only his lawyer but his golfing partner and unofficial sponsor. Ray had a habit of taking newcomers, relapsers and strugglers onto the links to show them the joys of sobriety, and Jerry was a prime target. So, when he moved to Greensboro, the Laws of Synchronicity kicked in, and the two showed up at the same AA meeting, at West Market St. Methodist Church. Jerry asked him to be his temporary sponsor, which became permanent, lasting until Ray’s untimely death New Year’s Eve, 2000.
In fact, the two were together that tragic night. Ray always organized a New Year’s beach trip/golfing outing and this year had invited three couples to join him and his wife Carol, with Jerry and Cathy among them. They were at a club at Wrightsville Beach, when Ray suffered a massive heart attack.
Upon learning of Jerry’s passing, Carol recalled, “I’ll never forget Jerry’s valiant effort that night trying to save Ray’s life. He’ll always have a special place in my heart for the way he worked on him for what seemed like forever until the ambulance came. Those two really thought the world of each other.”
By then, Jerry was well on his way to rebuilding his life, having been asked to serve on the Fellowship Hall Board of Directors in 1998. He opened Battleground Urgent Care in Greensboro and began volunteering with the Physicians Health Program, soon joining its board of directors and becoming chairman for two years. At both places he made it his mission to give physicians in recovery a second chance.
“I made up my mind that if I ever got back on my feet, I wanted to make it so that no physician who was sincere about recovery would ever have to go through that same humiliation I had to endure to get a job,” he told an interviewer for The Gateway in 2016.
In 2011 Jerry switched hats at Fellowship Hall, stepping down from the board to become a staff physician. What was to have been an interim position lasted until 2015. Earlier that year he was honored by Fellowship Hall with the Spirit of Ray Award, named after the same E. Raymond Alexander who had been so instrumental in his life.
The last years of his life, Jerry had embarked on yet another career, that of selling real estate. Not coincidentally, he was working at Coldwell Banker alongside who else but E. Raymond Alexander III, Ray’s son.
When news broke of the passing of Dr. Jerome Irvin “Jerry” Davis at age 73, the tributes began pouring in. Reflected Fellowship Hall President Mike Yow, “Jerry left behind a legacy of being grateful, of helping others, and of laughing. He was always mission focused. He was not only focused on the success of Fellowship Hall, but he was whip-smart and always willing to lend an ear. His enduring upbeat, positive outlook was unforgettable. Plus, he was funny as all hell.”
Echoed Clinical Director Kelly Scaggs, “Dr. Davis was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. No matter how busy he was, he was always willing to stop for a conversation, to answer a question, or to tell a story. He was a kind, caring man who made everyone feel valued. Fellowship Hall, the recovery community and the world have all lost a great man.”
Perhaps head nurse Sandra Barclay knew him best. “I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Davis in a variety of settings throughout my 27-year nursing career,” she remarked. “His compassion and care for the addicted was very important to him, and he was extremely good at it. Our guests adored him and benefited tremendously from the care and compassion he gave them. He is a true icon in our community. I am a better person for knowing Jerry Davis, the wisdom and humor he shared with me is invaluable. This sharp-dressed man will live in my heart forever.”
In his 2016 interview with The Gateway, Jerry summed up his trials and tribulations along the path to sobriety with another of AA’s axioms: “Just stick around ’til the miracle happens.”
And luckily for the thousands of travelers he helped along the way, he did.
Dr. Jerry Davis passed on 10/6/20. He was an active Board member from 1998 to 2011.
Setting the Example: Living a life of service with a commitment to recovery
We’ve been fortunate to have many extraordinary board members at Fellowship Hall over the years. Our organization depends on these individuals to guide our organization and keep us on mission to help those suffering from addiction.
This year, we suffered the lost of several past board members. We extend our sympathies to the family and friends of those we have lost this year:
James (Jim) Key passed on 4/14/20. Jim was an active member of the Board from 1989 to 2015 and served as an Emeritus board member until his death.
Jim Medford passed on 8/4/20. Jim was an active Board member from 2011 to 2017 and served as an Emeritus board member until his death.
Don Comer passed on 9/4/20. Don was an active Board member from 2017 to 2019.
‘Tis the Season to Live Well!
From the outside looking in, it might seem like recovery is merely abstaining from drugs and alcohol and working a 12 Step Program. While those are critical components to recovery, wellness in many areas of life are also important. Wellness is what makes recovery sustainable – especially during stressful times (COVID, holidays!) – and can build a lasting foundation for life in sobriety.
Wellness doesn’t just mean counting calories or doing cardio once a week. Wellness is the state of being in good health overall. There are seven total areas of wellness:
Feeding these seven parts of life can strengthen decision-making abilities, boost confidence and self-image, and most importantly, help with staying clean and sober.
What habits, worked into a daily routine, support overall wellness?
Eating well and Staying Active
This can be incredibly challenging during stressful times like the holidays, but paying attention to eating and activity levels reaps many benefits. Eating well and staying active improves sleep, can help improve self-confidence, provide structure to the day, and reduces stress. You can read that full post here.
What we put into your bodies as “fuel” does matter, and certain foods can contribute to heightened levels of anxiety and depression. Avoiding or limiting sugary foods such as candy, soda, and juices can help regulate blood sugar and energy levels. Switching to whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help us feel our best as they provide the nutrients necessary to get through the day.
Maintaining a Strong Spiritual Life
A rich spiritual life focuses on concepts that are foundational to long-term recovery such as (but not limited to) surrender, reflection, acceptance, honesty, and hope for the future. Habits such as prayer, meditation, and journaling are all healthy ways to stay spiritually fit. These things allow us to center, take a step back from tough situations and stressors, and make the best decisions.
Balancing Social, Environmental, and Occupational Life
Finally, interpersonal relationships are equally as important as the relationship you have with yourself. Be mindful of the environment you live and work in. Identify triggers of stress or anxiety (maybe it’s difficult to work well or relax if things are messy) and work to avoid creating stressful environments. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from a sponsor or trusted, supportive friend.
As we all work through the holidays and the winter months ahead, focusing on overall wellness can go a long way in the battle against stress and anxiety. Be well!
Fellowship Hall’s 2020 Impact Report
Despite the uncertainty and stress the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to us and the world, we have persevered and stayed on our mission: to save lives from alcohol and drug addictions. Our staff has responded to the crisis with dedication and professionalism. But like most treatment providers across the U.S., we have seen swift fluctuations in our admissions over the last year. These sudden decreases in our admissions resulted in monthly losses for March, April, May and August, for a total of $738,465. We were able to weather the storm of these losses and the added expenses related to operating under our Infection Control and Pandemic Plan protocols with the assistance of the Corona-virus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s Paycheck Protection loan program, NC Pandemic Recovery Office, AND generous support in response to COVID from the SECU Foundation and the Anne L. and George H. Clapp Charitable and Educational Trust. We are fortunate to have ended our fiscal year on 9/30/20 with funds on hand to help us through the next six months as we continue to battle the pandemic.
Another GREAT Tournament
SAVE THE DATE! 20th Annual Tourney … AUGUST 6 @ BRYAN PARK
Like everything in 2020, our 19th Annual E. Raymond Alexander Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament was a little different with tee times and boxed lunches … but what COVID couldn’t do was prevent this year’s playing field from having an awesome day out at The Cardinal in Greensboro. Despite the pandemic, we had another sold-out slate of players complete with individual carts (for social distancing!), trophies for our winning teams, and presentation of The Spirit of Ray Award.
Each year, players and corporate sponsors come together to raise funds to cover the cost of one family member of each guest in treatment to attend the Family Program.
Thanks to our many sponsors and players, the Golf Committee raised just at $50,000 – no small accomplishment at a time when businesses were struggling to stay afloat amid state-wide closures related to COVID. We couldn’t have done it without our committed Golf Committee (Carol Alexander, Bill Benson, Stewart Black, Beverly Davies, Earl Huffman, Tad Proctor, Skip Sevier, and our Chair, Nathan Sparrow) and our loyal sponsors (at left).
This year’s winners were The Andrews Team with Josh Andrews, Boyd Watkins, Matt Gibson and Don Wingate. Second place went to Team Floyd with Paul Floyd, John Flynt, David Champion, and Garrett Garland. Third place went to Team Search with Matt Burkett, Jeff Burkett, Michael Nulty, and Korky Kemp. Lou Pollock won the Putting contest, Paul Wingate Closest to the Pin, and Doug Brock with the Longest Drive.
We rounded out the day with the presentation of The Spirit of Ray Award to Gordon Rayle, a fitting winner to celebrate the compassion and caring that Ray Alexander so freely expressed to others. Like Ray, Gordon has shared his special brand of insight and enthusiasm with guests of the Hall and our recovery community – offering encouragement, words of wisdom, and the truth about how to live a purposeful life built on the rock of recovery.
Congratulations to this year’s winners and supporters. We had another GREAT year out on the golf course.
As we turn our attention to 2021, mark your calendars NOW and save the date for our 20th Annual Tournament!! We’ll be returning to Bryan Park and will be playing BOTH courses to celebrate 20 years of coming together in memory of Ray. If you’ve wanted to play in the past, but the tournament was sold out – this is your year!! Registration will open in June… get those clubs ready!
PS: Want to volunteer? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
FELLOWSHIP HALL’S FIRST VIRTUAL Annual Conference
2020 marked the 70th Conference hosted by Fellowship Hall, and for the first time ever, we went virtual and came together for fellowship and inspiration via our computer screens. A year ago, who would have thought we could have done it?
This year’s Council worked hard to bring top-notch speakers to the screen for our alumni and family and managed to mix in a little Fellowship Hall trivia while keeping with tradition to host a Gratitude Meeting. Thanks to all of you for joining us online – and a big, big thank you to our Council volunteers who work for months to bring the Conference to life each year. A special thanks goes out to our 2020 Council members: Emily Fanin, Mark Graham, Don Wingate, Katie Coleman, Robert Higgins, Mark Denton, Ed Leake, Roger March, Michael McCollum, Enrico Jones, David Jones, Stacy Bottoms, Joe Campagna, Brian Coss, Jerry Eades, Jonathan Elliott, Ben Gaines, Stephanie Graham, Perry Hunt, Cameron Lane, Thomas Link, Jeff Palmer, Skip Sevier, Tony Sizemore, and Tommy Spradley.
Planning for the 2021 Conference is already underway. Save the date to join us – whether in person or online – August 6-8, 2021. We are hopeful that we will once again host our annual homecoming at the Marriott in Downtown Greensboro.