10 People and Organizations in the Triangle We’d Like to Thank

Acts of kindness big and small inspired WALTER readers to nominate these Givers in their lives.
by Addie Ladner

A school girl receives clothes from Assistance League of the Triangle member Chris Ciaverella

During this time of uncertainty and insecurity, we are especially feeling gratitude toward the people who make the City of Oaks such a great community. Inspired by the wonderful organizations we cover regularly, we asked our readers to nominate the people in their lives that they’re thankful for, so that we can share those stories. From teachers to tradesmen to the volunteers who make beloved establishments tick, here are ten thank-yous for their kindness.

Is there someone in your life that you’d like to thank? Tell us about them here.


courtesy Maggie Kane

The Devoted Helper

A lead volunteer at pay-what-you-can restaurant A Place at the Table, Marion Dunn treats his role as if it were his job. “He comes in almost every day without even being asked. He just walks in and starts taking the trash out, doing dishes, whatever the staff needs. He shows up in 20 minutes every time we call, no matter what. He supports our staff however they need it. This guy is the real deal.”

—Maggie Kane, founder of A Place at the Table




photograph by Carol Fisher

The Stylist with Compassion

“A few years ago, my cousin was diagnosed with cancer. She went in to see Joanna at her salon, Hair Psychology.
My cousin wanted to cut her hair short before the chemo started making it fall out. Joanna spent a lot of time and care on my cousin—and then refused payment. This is how she became my hairstylist. I haven’t seen anyone else since.”

—Catherine Nguyen, client


photograph by Jerome Davis

The Skill-Sharer

Behind the big screen of many local theaters in town, you’ll find Barry Jaked. He’s a master electrician and sound engineer whose unique expertise is highly sought after in the theater community. “Barry shows up at all hours of the day and night to help us and numerous other theatres in the area get their shows up and running with a set of skills that almost no other artist in the theatre has. All of us can sweep, take tickets, write thank you letters and help with mailings—but precious few can fix a short in a wire.”

—Jerome Davis, Burning Coal Theatre Artistic Director


courtesy Lanier McRee

The Above-and-Beyond Neighbor

While McRee might be publicly recognized for her position at the Governor’s office, to her neighbors, she is just that: a neighbor. “She gives extravagantly in small, personal ways that no one is likely ever to know about. If it means driving a warm coat across town to a stranger on a cold night—fine. Fostering a litter of puppies in a pandemic? Yep. With Lanier, ‘giving’ is done with both pragmatism and love, grit and grace. It’s a reflection of her character, and a challenge to the rest of us to pay attention to the needs around us.”

—Susanna Klingenberg, neighbor and friend



The Citizens of Science

Behind the globe of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, around 450 dedicated volunteers help make it what it is today, providing directions to exhibits, giving tours of the living conservatory and more. Last year, they collectively gave more than 65,000 hours of their time to the museum, an equivalent of more than $1.6 million in services. Some have been volunteering for an upwards of 40 years. “These dedicated residents, members and supporters are our best ambassadors and our greatest recruiters of volunteers when they aren’t in the museum. Their passion for our organization is woven into their actions both internally with visitors and externally within their networks. They help us accomplish a huge variety of duties and we could not operate without them!”

—Cindy Bogan, NCMNS Volunteer Coordinator


courtesy Assistance League

The Thrifters

You’d be surprised to learn just how much is behind the little charity shop on North Market Drive in Raleigh. A to Z Thrift Store is supported by a group of 100 women who put the shop’s proceeds directly back into the community through a variety of programs they started themselves. Last year, that meant 1,350 teddy bears delivered to kids in local emergency rooms, 33 students receiving scholarship money for college totaling over $141,000 and tons of food delivered to families in need. “Between the devotion with which my fellow members serve—from the thrift shop to scholarship evaluations to the Operation School Bell clothing program—and the quality of the work they produce, any CEO would be delighted to have a workforce as productive as this.”

—Cindy McCarty, Assistance League of the Triangle member 


courtesy Reverend Kim Wyatt

The Couple Who Cares

Co-pastors of Shiloh Restoration Church, Felix Lyoko and Nicole Bishisha came to the United States in 2013 as refugees, so they know from experience how hard it is to build a life in a new land. Now, the couple dedicates their lives to helping local Congolese as both social workers and pastors. “They work tirelessly engaging with and on behalf of their community as tenant advocates, finding jobs, housing weekly worship, Bible studies and more. They do all this while parenting six children, ages five to 20. Right now, they are diligently making sure members of their community are safe, have food and housing during the COVID pandemic.”

—Reverend Kim Wyatt, friend


courtesy Joe De Muro

The Role Model

Emmaus House is a nonprofit that provides safe and affordable housing for men recovering from substance dependency. Executive director, Joe De Muro, uses his own story and strength to help the men that come through the house’s doors. “His dedication is personal and heartfelt. He’s available to address concerns 24 hours a day, giving the men a valuable resource in the hazardous transition time from long-term rehabilitation facilities to independent living. Joe models behaviors that are essential to a healthy and productive lifestyle: responsibility, selflessness, compassion, goal setting, acceptance and honesty. Joe willingly shares his personal trials, allowing others to see that substance dependency is not a death sentence, that we can and do get better. The way Joe interacts and reacts to the world is from a position of caring and understanding. For me, I can think of no greater role model.”

—Danny Beasley, colleague and Emmaus House staff member


courtesy Maria Yeager

The Dedicated Teacher

Maria Yeager has taught pre-K at Cathedral School for 29 years—meaning more than 500 students have started their schooling with her unique blend of kindness, structure, fun and infinite patience. Most recently, parents were impressed with how she wouldn’t let the COVID crisis stand between her and her students. “My youngest is missing her right now. However, Mrs. Yeager is far exceeding my expectations on how to continue to engage 4- and 5-year-olds. She’s created weekly packets, set up Zoom meetings, storytimes and daily lesson plans. She is working long hours every day as we all adjust to distance learning. These kids haven’t missed a beat.”

—Candace Hughes, parent

courtesy Michael Jackson

The Kind Stranger

“This March, we went to the Sheetz on Corporate Center Drive in search of ice cream for my mother-in-law, who was soon to pass away. My daughter and I put the container of soft-serve on the counter, along with a few other items. The young cashier, Michael, began cheerful banter, ‘So, no toppings for you?’ Wearily, without making eye contact, I answered, ‘No, not today.’ He rang up our purchases and announced our total, which didn’t include the ice cream. ‘It’s on me,’ he said quietly. When I questioned him, he said, “’I saw your hospice nametags.’”

—Martha Thorn, customer