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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Perspectives February 2014: Gratitude

Sara Merz - Headshot--reduced

Sara Merz, Executive Director

As I’m getting oriented, working on AHA’s next steps, budget, and just learning the lay of the land, I’m in awe of all of the organizations doing such fantastic work to promote health in Wake County. And I’m so grateful for, and struck by, the collaborative spirit, the openness, and the willingness to work together.

My recurring challenge in the last 4 weeks is time and capacity – the laws of nature are limiting me. I’ve said no to several opportunities, and sometimes felt guilty for it. A friend who was in the Public Health program at UNC-Chapel Hill quoted his past department head as saying, “Everything takes longer than it takes.” Our Executive Committee chair says, “What we say no to is sometimes more important than what we say yes to.”

So I’m doing what feel like first steps. In my first month, that has looked like this:

  • Connecting one-on-one with AHA’s Executive Committee members, who did so much to create a sustainable future for this organization.
  • Learning as much as I can from Michele McKinley, who carried this organization and has been key to being able to move forward.
  • Working on our funding streams – 6 in January, and most in collaboration with other organizations.
  • Attending AHA Work Group meetings, where I’m impressed at the work you all are doing and appreciative that you do this with and through AHA.
  • Thinking about ways to strategically broaden our partnerships by bringing some people and organizations to the table who implement in different ways, and having some early conversations.

Thank you for your support, and your work, and for choosing to partner with AHA. There are so many kinds of partnership – the loose affiliation, the information-sharing, the coordinating of activities, the volunteering of resources, all of which I’m seeing in our work groups and day to day, as well as formal agreements about roles and activities in certain grant functions.

One of the things I learned in my work with our initiative in the Twin Cities was that having planners, public works and DOT staff, and staff and elected officials from municipalities at the table when talking about health, gave us tools and a reach that we didn’t have before. That’s a piece of what I’d like to explore in AHA’s next phase. I’m also seeing so much work around local foods and access. Learning more about that is part of my next 30-day work plan! I’m looking forward to learning from all the expertise around the table.

In gratitude,


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