Two Mount Airy High School graduates who have not clapped eyes on one another since their graduation almost 40 years ago, are — through the miracle of modern technology — working together to rebuild the lives of homeless families in Surry County.
Local resident Mary Boyles and Paige Pettyjohn Edley, a professor of communication studies at Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit university in Los Angeles, have reconnected and formulated a plan to combine their disparate skills and resources to further the mission of the Shepherd’s House, where Boyles is executive director.
Boyles returned to the Granite City eight years ago and took the helm of the Shepherd’s House five years later.
Edley, who grew up a block from the site of the Shepherd’s House, lives in the City of Angels, after earning a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in Organizational Communication. Though the women have not seen each other in person since high school, they have been aware of each other’s lives through family ties and their parents’ long friendship.
Boyles is the daughter of Lib Boyles and the late Ronald Boyles of Mount Airy (a Granite City Award recipient of the Mount Airy Sports Hall of Fame). Edley is the daughter of the late Jeanne Gwyn Pettyjohn.
Edley proposed that students in her Nonprofit Communication Campaigns class work with the Shepherd’s House to participate in a Community-Based Learning (CBL) project to provide social media outreach, content and networking for The Shepherd’s House.
The relationship is mutually beneficial, as students gain hands-on experience creating social media content, brochures, fundraising letters and PowerPoint presentations for The Shepherd’s House to utilize in reaching out to community members, and the local organization receives the benefit of the knowledge of these soon-to-be professionals in the field.
Several Mount Airy-to-Los Angeles video conferences have already been held, and the hardest thing is scheduling them, according to Boyles. A small window of opportunity exists in mid-afternoon on the East Coast, which is late morning on the West Coast.
“I didn’t know anything about Facebook when I came here,” said Boyles, “but I know it’s powerful. I’ve seen that. But now we’re learning how to leverage our Facebook following by scheduling posts and expanding to other social media platforms.”
“It’s really, really good,” added Boyles. “Even though the students are learning, they have so much more knowledge than we do.”
Boyles said that Edley is reaching out to other professors nearer to Mount Airy to enlist their assistance, and plans are in the works for a professional-quality video about the mission of the Shepherd’s House.
“We can continually use that,” said Boyles, as the organization goes forward with fundraising.
Boyles said, “Through the CBL Project, it will help staff understand and grasp more through some of the statistical facts we plan on scheduling to post on our Facebook page. Our hopes are not just to spread awareness about our local homelessness, but also educate our followers of how large this problem really is nationally.”
Boyles went on to say “This project will also assist future employees on spreading awareness via social media through a guide these students are going to prepare for us on ‘how to’ guide for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We are thankful for this opportunity and understand it might have its challenges not being in the same town, but I have also learned through new technology how to bridge that gap through video conferencing.”
After reciting the various benefits and advantages of the cross-country, technology-driven partnership, Boyles said it was ironic that she and Edley had reconnected following the community upheaval resulting from a battle over proposed zoning changes for an expansion of the Shepherd’s House.
“Positive things can come from what is negative against you,” she said.
The Shepherd’s House is a 501(c)3 nonprofit crisis-prevention program for homeless families that provides emergency shelter, counseling, advocacy, and referrals to community resources for families. Contact: Mary Boyles: phone- 336-786-1420, fax- 336-786-6540, email- firstname.lastname@example.org. The Shepherd’s House, 227 Rockford St., Mount Airy, NC 27030 www.shepherdshousema.org
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.