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Published on July 26, 2022

Gala supports continuing education for local healthcare professionals

Foundation 2022 Gala UNC Health Southeastern officials greeted attendees to UNC Health Southeastern Foundation’s 2022 Gala of Grateful Giving, which benefited employee advancement through continuing education, enhanced training, and certifications. Pictured, from left, were Willian and Katie Davis, UNC Health Southeastern Board of Trustees Vice Chair, Gala Chairs Josh and Farrin Freeman, UNC Health Southeastern President/CEO Chris Ellington, Lee Ellington, Gala Chairs Emily and Channing Jones, and UNC Health Southeastern Foundation Board Chair Ron Roach.

More than $200,000 was raised to provide direct resources for UNC Health Southeastern employee advancement through continuing education, enhanced training, and certifications at the UNC Health Southeastern Foundation’s annual gala, held in early May at the Southeastern Agricultural Center.

The event, themed An Enchanted Evening Gala of Grateful Giving, was presented by Robins & Morton and benefitted the Foundation’s Equip. Empower. Enrich. Campaign.

Through collaboration and philanthropic funding, UNC Health Southeastern and the UNC Health Southeastern Foundation are working to ensure healthcare professionals in any position throughout the system attain their future goals by providing access to a variety of education and resources that will help cultivate an even stronger healthcare community.

“As UNC Health Southeastern continues to improve the competency and capability of our heath system, it is imperative that we develop our workforce to meet the changing needs of our community,” said UNC Health Southeastern Vice President and Chief Engagement Officer Patrick Ebri. “I am excited about the significant investment that our health system is making in our employees and look forward to leading this effort.”

Two employees who will benefit from this type of program are Bess Thomas and Weixiu Zhang.

Thomas, a secretary in the emergency department, wants to give back to her community and believes that becoming a nurse will strengthen the roots of her community.

“I am so appreciative of the health system’s investment in its employees and could not think of a better place to work,” said Thomas, who will be pursuing additional education at Robeson Community College this fall.

Zhang is an inpatient clinical assistant in UNC Health Southeastern’s neonatal intensive care unit. She will pursue an associate degree in nursing from Bladen Community College this fall.

Her first encounter with UNC Health Southeastern was a few years ago when she arrived from China and delivered a baby in the maternity unit. Everyone treated her so kindly that she wanted to become part of the great care team. One year later, she became employed as a CNA at UNC Health Southeastern.

“I want to serve my patients at the highest level possible,” said Zhang. “I want my children to be proud of me and to tell people who ask, ’My mother is a nurse at Southeastern.’”

The UNC Health Southeastern Foundation Board of Trustees was eager to support the enhancement of training and education for local professionals through this new initiative.

“The best way to overcome the unique challenges in health care today is to listen actively to concerns, provide support as much as possible, and continually look for new ways to meet urgent needs,” added Foundation Chair Ron Roach. “The UNC Health Southeastern Foundation aims to help provide the focused support that care providers need to become long-term team members with UNC Health Southeastern. Our hope is the Equip. Empower. Enrich. fundraising efforts are shedding light on the tremendous human resources we have in our community’s health care system.” 

The gala event provided attendees an opportunity to enjoy live music by the The Java Band which was sponsored by the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, who also sponsored the Lounge Tent. Guests enjoyed cocktail fare provided by Two Brothers Catering, UNC Health Southeastern Food and Nutritional Services, Healy Wholesale Company, Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, Top That Dessert Bar, and SR Originals. Special event photography was provided by Stephanie Johnson of Vintage Soul Photography and gala decorations were enhanced by Flowers By Billy, Nursery South, and Shindigs & Shenanigans.

“Thanks to the 2022 Gala Committee, which was chaired by Farrin and Josh Freeman, DNP, and Emily and Channing Jones, for their part in making the gala venue as beautiful as ever,” said Foundation Executive Director Sissy Grantham. “We can’t thank our sponsors, gala co-chairs and committee, donors, volunteers or our community enough for not only supporting the gala but for their continued support of UNC Health Southeastern--community generosity and philanthropy have played a major role in its growth and development!”

Since 1993, the UNC Health Southeastern Foundation Gala has contributed approximately $2,500,000 to advance and promote UNC Health Southeastern and the services the organization provides. The UNC Health Southeastern Foundation Board of Trustees credits the gala’s long success to a supportive community, a talented gala committee, and devoted past gala chairs.  To learn more about the UNC Health Southeastern Foundation, visit

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