Sunday, February 25, 2018

Rhonda Whitley A Flower of Heart

Okra in my garden after the Hurricane Irene in 2011


Flowers of the Heart Twenty-Two February 25, 2018

For Rhonda Whitley

What a mixture Rhonda is. She did make me angry
in the early period. She found me bossy and was
very sarcastic about this. But when I fell on the
road, she was here to make sure I was all right. She
ended up liking and forgiving me. She has 
worked tirelessly for our coal ash group. As
treasurer, she co-chaired the fund-rising committee
with Sheila. We’ve had plate sales–fried fish, 
hot dogs–and gospel sings. Some failed, but she 
took those in stride. The most recent two had 
to be canceled. First, they couldn’t find enough 
help, and the Lions Club fish sale was the same day 
as our planned chili supper. Now she usually calls
to celebrate some success we have in getting in
donations. Not long ago, one of our members 
gave $1000. Sometimes, to share frustrtions, 
but I’m no longer the one she’s angry at. She moved
here from Wisconsin, and only after settling in
with her horse and her dogs, did she learn of our
coal ash problem. Her response was to go to
work. She volunteered to be treasurer, which
turned out to be a lot more complex than she 
realized. Lots of rules for non-profits handling money.
We have to get our financial information to our
parent organization, which gives us, as a chapter,
our non-profit status. When she was so angry, I
backed off, let her go her own way instead of
offering advice. Probably other people have
resented my bossiness, but she let me know. 
She says now that I “pushed her buttons.” Back 
then I said,”Would you like to be the chair?”
“Oh, no!” So now she keeps an eye on my
health; wants reports. When I told her I thought
some of my episodes were from stress, she said,
“Oh, no, not possible.” She was an ear, nose,
and throat doctor. A traffic accident forced her
to retire young, but she likes to help people when 
they’re sick or must go to the emergency room.
When I succeed in pulling in more donations,
she praises me and even boasts of me to others.
I say, “I laid it on pretty thick” It was true. I told
my friends the coal ash dumping was demoralizing 
us. She herself has been suffering back problems
and seeing a doctor–-as infrequently as possible.
She continues to do all she can, even in pain.  She 
was having a fight with her electric company,
which is also the one sending us coal ash. She 
told them they were a terrible company, preying
on innocent people. They were threatening to
turn off her power. I suggested she not call them
names right now. She was waiting outside her 
house, with her back hurting, in the rain, to 
confront them and take photos, which she planned
to publicize. I urged her not to do that alone, but
call her neighbors and our coal ash lawyer, who
might have ideas. I said she could come here, if
they cut the power and sleep on my couch. She 
said no. Anyway she was ready to cope with a
power outage, and she wanted to catch them in 
the act. She did call the lawyer, who wasn’t in, 
and the neighbors, who came over. The truck 
never did come. The next morning the lawyer 
returned her call and gave her a number for 
the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
The woman who took the call successfully 
intervened and extcnded the deadline so she 
could resolve the issue wieth her electric 
company. I have to smile. She has a hard head, 

but such a passionate heart.

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