Wilmington’s Successful Women

Vicky Janowski

In her introduction of our speaker today, President Carrie Hewitt noted that March 8th was International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

We learned from Carrie’s introduction that Vicky Janowski is the editor of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, editor of WILMA magazine  and co-director of WILMA’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative, a multifaceted program to help develop more women leaders in Southeastern North Carolina. She has over 20 years of experience in journalism, covering both local and national news for newspapers throughout Georgia and North Carolina.

Carrie noted that Vicky is a member of the Asian American Journalists Association and has served on its national advisory board. She is a past volunteer with Communities In Schools and is currently a Girl Scout troop co-leader based out of Wilmington, also serving on Girl Scouts-N.C. Coastal Pines’ board development committee.

Vicky started her presentation with a description of the WILMA Leadership Institute which is part of WILMA’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative. Members of this group go through intensive leadership training, serve as each other’s personal board of directors and have exposure to experienced leaders in the area. Individuals can apply themselves, and companies are encouraged to nominate high-potential leaders in their organizations. Up to 32 women will be selected to be part of the class. The application period for the 2021 Leadership Institute has closed as monthly classes begin in April (virtual initially) and run through December.

Vicky described another focus area: the Mentor Initiative – “where up-and-coming women in the community will be matched with women and men mentors to assist with their leadership development as part of a mentoring program. WILMA holds quarterly group mentoring events open to all readers and not just those in the formal program.”

Vicky briefly mentioned other aspects of ‘WILMA Women to Watch’ that include: Large events to bring women together, Niche groups to connect women with similar business and tech interests, Board preparation to foster and promote women for corporate and civic board of directors, and the WILMA network that connects women in the Wilmington area.

To view the WILMA magazine that Vicky edits follow this weblink https://www.wilmamag.com/issue/wilma/march-2021/

To learn more in general about WILMA follow this weblink https://www.wilmamag.com/women-to-watch/

Surf City Rec

Alexa Matlock

Alexa Matlock, Surf City, Recreation Program Supervisor, was our speaker Tuesday morning. Alexa gave us an overview of the Recreation and Parks program and the adjustments that had to be made with COVID restrictions. The main focus has been to keep the program going for kids,

During school year on Wednesdays when schools closed for students, we offered a program for kids that worked well with time for school work, athletic activities, and science programs. COVID guidelines were in place with distancing and masks. Parents that had in-person jobs appreciated our program.

This spring we have both soccer and tennis programs going. Wellness programs are coming up as we get back to normal. By the way Alexa offered that new athletic fields will be build. One facility with the new fields will be a new 18-hole DISK golf course, although a time line for its construction is not available yet.

Planning for Summer Programs Underway

Plan to host 75 kids per week at Surf City and an additional 35 kids at the new Community Center location in Holly Ridge. The partnership with Surf City will offer the same program at both locations allowing us more space. The Community Center in Holly Ridge off of Hwy 17 is convenient for parents living off-island and/or coming to the area for work each day.

Summer Camp registration already has 675 spots filled out of 800. Field trips are set. Counselors will be interviewed started this week, as we will need 16 counselors for program. We have very good retention of our counselors throughout the summer last year

Summer camp costs $160 per week for first child then $145 for second and subsequent siblings. Kids bring their lunch each day except on Friday when the program provides pizza.

To register for the Summer Camp Program visit https://surfcity.recdesk.com/Community/Program

To learn about all the adult and kids programs, facilities, special events, etc visit https://www.surfcitync.gov/2176/Parks-Recreation

Kiwanis Aktion Club

Diane Cavanagh

A longtime advocate for children and adults with disabilities, Diane Cavanagh, Ph.D., retired to Hampstead, NC in 2017 with her husband Kevin. Her passion for special education began in 1976 in her first job as a public school teacher for children with Down syndrome. Her 40 year career in special education continued as she earned her doctorate and became a professor at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania (ESU), training future teachers and working with families of children and adults with disabilities.

Dr. Cavanagh gave us some background history of special education and the challenges that were faced back in the 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s and even today to help kids with a disability. The first major milestone was making the public education system in this country responsible via federal legislation to educate kids with special needs along with the traditional school population. As a public school educator in the 1970’s, Dr. Cavanagh soon realized that she could make a greater impact on the education of children with special needs by earning a doctorate and becoming a teacher of future teachers. Thus, her University career mirrored the understanding of and the ways of improving communication with children with special needs.

Once Dr. Cavanagh became a member of the Kiwanis Club of Topsail Island Area, her first ‘volunteer’ activity was getting an Aktion Club chartered for our Club. She reminded us, that a Kiwanis Aktion Club serves the purpose of extending the outreach for education and social activities to young adults who have graduated from the public school system and now need a support system as they adjust to life after school.

It is her goal to work with fellow Kiwanians, community members and prospective Aktion Club members in Pender and Onslow Counties to develop a club which will make a positive impact on the community, provide social and leadership opportunities and create a respectful and inclusive environment.

The COVID pandemic has slowed her efforts to make contacts with volunteers and with potential club members. If you would like to become a volunteer for our Aktion Club and/or if you know a young adult who would be served by becoming a member of Aktion Club, please visit our Aktion Club webpage and contact Diane Cavanagh



Our speaker today is a longtime resident of North Carolina who goes by the road name “Bulldog.” For 6 years he has been the Cape Fear President of the biker organization, B.A.C.A. which stands for Bikers Against Child Abuse. BACA is a charitable worldwide motorcycle organization with the intended purpose of empowering abused children.

Bulldog described the terrible statistics of child abuse in the U.S. where 2.9 million children are abused annually and in the worst cases, five kids die daily. Ninety percent (90%) of those kids under 5 years old when they were abused are now child abusers themselves.

Bulldog noted that BACA members are not role models, not mentors, but serve to empower kids. In many cases, after an hour visit these kids are on-board with the support they receive from BACA members.

We leverage biker mystic through our logo which shows our support and deters perpetrators.

Once a child is referred by social services to the local BACA chapter, a primary and secondary support member is assigned by the chapter to meet with the child to talk about how BACA will be there for them going forward. After the initial meeting with the child, all our brothers and sisters ride to that child’s house to empower them. They get a blanket or a teddy bear. Bulldog estimates that he rides 20,000 miles/yr in support of BACA activities.

Each week for a month all the brothers and sisters meet with the child after which meetings are monthly for as long as needed. Of course the primary and secondary are always available to support the child.

One activity Bulldog mentioned was the child’s first ride. The child gets the sense of support because two riders proceed the child riding on the middle motorcycle followed by two riders at the rear–thus the child is ‘surrounded’ by supporters.

The BACA organization has strict rules and procedures to ensure the safety of children who they empower. For a potential new member of BACA, there is a protocol of stages for membership that applicants must complete over a period of a year before ever being accepted into the chapter or to later serve as a primary or secondary for an abused child. Two members are always present when BACA meets with a child.

Bulldog said that BACA meets with the child’s counselor to determine what is needed for the child and use donated funds to cover as much as necessary to help the child. BACA is a 501 3c charity to raise money for children only, members cover bike expenses, but pay no club dues. Visit the Cape Fear Chapter website to learn move about this truly unique organization.

There is a particular moving video on the BACA International website that gives an overview of BACA, what is does, and how it made a difference in one child’s future going from an abused child to an empowered, out-going participant in her high school. Watch now.

Shaka Taco

Cody Leutgens

Shaka Taco, founded in 2017 as a fresh food oriented taco establishment, is the ‘heart’ of Surf City for welcoming people to the beach and Surf City. Cody and his partners empower their employees to facilitate this ‘heart feeling’ at Shaka Taco as a hangout space for surfers and others who want to enjoy the beach scene.  For the last 3-4 years now people come to just to hang out on the porch at the restaurant. 

The Hurricane Florence damage level at the restaurant was significant but they were able to re-open 2 days after the island re-opened as a community-support place for people to listen to music and share hurricane stories– part of the process of a community getting back to normal.

Cody also co-founded Surf City Ocean Fest in 2019 as a fundraising event for the community to support the Red Cross, Boy Scouts and other local community service programs. In the year before COVID, Ocean Fest attracted over 6,500 participants. As Cody likes to say ‘You don’t have to get IN the ocean to celebrate its awesomeness. Some of the highlights of Ocean Fest take place in the heart of Surf City on our music stage and in our Vendor Zone and Beer Garden. We have five live bands, food and beverage vendors, local artists, plus educational booths dedicated to the protection and preservation of our ocean.’ Ocean Fest has raised tens of thousands of dollars over the years for community support.

Cody Leutgens is a Topsail Island thoroughbred. Growing up on the sands of Surf City, Leutgens attended Topsail schools K-12, obtained a bachelors from UNC-Wilmington, and a masters at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. His degrees are in creative writing, pedagogy and education, with other concentrations.

At UNC-W he organized a surf team which went on to win the National Collegiate Surfing title their first year competing. This was a pretty bold entrance to the national college surfing scene as UNC-W win was the first for an East Coast team. Who says the left coast has all the big waves!

Cody loves to write creativity and taught ‘Words with out Walls’ in Pittsburgh jails while a master’s student at Chatham University, then later as a volunteer at the Cape Fear jail as well as at Cape Fear Community College where he served as an English instructor after moving back to the island. About this same time he opened the Surf City Surf School in 2013, but now has changed his career focus to Shaka Taco and the Surf City Ocean Fest charity event.

Boy Scouts of America

Anthony Nigro

Anthony Nigro, District Executive for the NE Cape Fear District, Cape Fear Council of the Boy Scouts of American was our speaker today. To say that Anthony is excited about Boy Scouts is an understatement as his enthusiasm for scouting was evident throughout his presentation. Anthony’s district includes Pender County and North East New Hanover County.

Anthony started off by mentioning some facts about the Cape Fear Council highlighting that there are 83 Eagle Scouts within the Council who contributed over 17,000 service hours to the community that covers eight counties in Southeastern North Carolina. In 2020, Scouts in the Council contributed over 30,000 service hours through volunteering at local food banks, school cleanups, and other projects to help the community. This past year, the Council hosted ‘virtual colleges’ with learning sessions on a variety of topics that drew over 4,000 international kids.

With strict COVID social distancing measures in place, some of the troops are starting to hold in-person meetings again to help relieve the stress that home isolation can cause for Scouts. Troops are also hosting in-person activities for special events during the calendar year.

Anthony mentioned that some of the activities continuing this year include Summer Camp via Zoom classes, camp on weekends with assorted outdoor activities, Scout day in April to help various community organizations by supplying scout volunteers, Scout Sundays to participate in virtual church services, Youth Day this summer to host a big fun day with activities for elementary and middle school age kids, and scouting for food using door hangers to collect and help to store the contributed food at food pantries this fall before Thanksgiving.

Anthony attended college at NC State University graduating with a degree in Sport Management in 2018. After a short stint with the Town of Morrisville, he took the position with the Cape Fear Council Boy Scouts of America in September of 2018 right after Hurricane Florence. My current title is District Executive and he oversees the operations of the scouting program in Pender and New Hanover counties. He is an Eagle Scout, Rotarian, and Kiwanian. Outside of work he spends most of his time with his wife, Taylor, and their dog, Leia, just working on their new house.

To learn more about the Boy Scouts of American and the opportunities for youth that they offer click this link.

Watermans Warehouse

Josh Schieffer

In 2020, Josh and his two sons, Blake and Jacob formed Watermans Warehouse, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in which he currently serves as the Executive Director. Watermans Warehouse provides free and reduced priced swim lessons to local residents who are under financial stress.

Josh made an alarming point that quite a number of people do not know how to swim and it is kind of ironic that as a beach community our focus is on the ocean, sound and activities associated with those water environments. In fact, Josh stated that for kids up to 4 years of age, drowning is the number 1 cause of death, while for kids 5-15 years of age, drowning is the number 2 cause of death.

This is where Watermans Warehouse comes in. The non-profit’s vision and mission is “We will facilitate and introduce Americans to various water related activities, sports and careers while reducing the drowning deaths in America.” Watermans Warehouse purpose states that “We believe every American should have the opportunity to learn how to swim for an affordable price and enjoy water-related activities, sports and careers safely.”

As Josh explained during his presentation, the idea for Watermans Warehouse came from his oldest son Blake who wanted a career in the retail clothing industry after his enlistment in the US Navy was over. With a family interest in all things water associated, Josh, Blake and Jacob (a Topsail High student) came up with the idea of providing a means for kids and adults who never learned to swim to get the swimming lessons they needed by supporting the cost of those lessons though the sales of beach clothing with the Watermans Warehouse logo.

Josh also related that almost 80% of the kids in households with under $50K in annual income do not know how to swim. This where the non-profit kicks in by providing for those qualified kids the opportunity to learn how to swim.
One of the biggest obstacles Watermans Warehouse has had to face is making the connection between their opportunity for providing swim lessons and finding kids who should be the recipients of those swim lessons.
Josh encouraged our Kiwanis Club (KIDS NEED KIWANIS) to help in this effort though our contacts with the local schools in Pender and Onslow counties. Josh is also reaching out to other groups like ours who serve kids in the community to form strategic alliances and to broadcast this opportunity for kids throughout our community.

… about Josh

With a lifelong love of the ocean and a permission slip from his Mom, at 17, Josh Schieffer joined the US Submarine Force. While stationed in Pearl Harbor, Josh attended Chaminade University with a focus on International and Business Communications. After a four year tour (mostly underwater) Josh started a successful career in manufacturing with an emphasis on Environmental Health and Safety Excellence. While traveling to factories throughout the world Josh received a BA in Business Management and an MBA in Project Management. Josh leveraged his Naval experience and brought similar submarine safety systems and cultures to the organizations he served and is currently working for Duke Energy. On the side, Josh runs a small publishing company and has produced several bestselling books in the food and beverage segment. In his free time he surfs, fishes, dives, and spear fishes.

Please visit the Watermans Warehouse website to learn more about this non-profit and how you can help by contributing or volunteering.

Ecological Marine Adventures

Taylor Maready

Taylor Maready owns and operates Ecological Marine Adventures here on Topsail Island. EMA teaches kids of all ages about the ocean through hands on experiences like field exploration, experiments and touch tanks just to name a few. Their motto is “Learn Love Protect. “

Taylor’s enthusiasm and exuberance bubbled over this morning even at 7:30 in the morning! After giving us a few quick facts about the ocean like 50-80% of the world’s oxygen is produced by phytoplanton, algae and drifting plants in ocean surface waters, he zeroed in on his love of everything ‘ocean.’

Taylor, his wife, Amber, and one full-time employee bring the wonders of the ocean and its natural environment to life first hand for kids and their parents. From ocean boat trips, to the sandy beach, to the marsh, Ecological Marine Adventures puts hands-on learning first and foremost for kids.

For example, Taylor described a fishing outing for kids where they netted fish, identified them, measured their key dimensions and logged the collected data much as an actual scientist would before releasing the catch.

Before COVID, Taylor brought his EMA story to elementary and middle schools in Pender, Onslow and other counties in coastal NC. Of course these school visits revolved around hands-on experiences along with stories about conservation and protecting the environment. Taylor believes we can make a difference in our attitudes toward conservation and environmental protection by reaching out to school age kids and their parents.

During the COVID pandemic, EMA has offered in-home programs that have attracted over 100 kids as well as in-person classes for kids when they are virtual learning each week. The in-person classes run for 6 weeks and cover a variety of topics such as ‘Ocean’s Most Toxic Creatures’ looking at jellyfish, venomous fish, and other toxic creatures in the sea.

During the summer months, EMA has an aquarium and touch tank adventure for both kids and parents at their Surf City Education Center located at 106 N. Topsail Dr. Taylor said that they also offer an extensive education camp program during the summer for kids covering all aspects of the ocean and its creatures, as well as the marshes and its creatures on Topsail Island. One quote from the EMA website says it all about Taylor and his passion for learning ‘We offer fun classes, really fun classes, super fun classes, and extremely adventurous classes.

You can visit Ecological Marine Adventures on the web or call them at (910) 515-9751 to find out more about their offerings and programs.

Thank you, Taylor, our Club really enjoyed your presentation.

TI Longboard Association

Cory Sydes

Topsail Island Longboard Association is a nonprofit surf club on Topsail Island. Cory said “Our goal is to promote our sport, and lifestyle while we give back, and have a positive impact in our community.” The Topsail Island Longboard Association (TILA) was founded in 2017 by Cory Sydes to offer youth and young adults with an interest in surfing an alternative to drugs and other addictions that can eventually lead to despair and serious health issues.

The association also aims to mentor the next generation of surfers. The association boasts about 60 members. For many members the association is a family affair with both youth and parents participating. The association is inclusive for anyone in the community including those with disabilities who yet want to surf. Other community outreach groups are also partners with TILA to help kids across the community.

  Cory noted that the success of the association has attracted corporate sponsors such as the Home Depot and other local businesses.

Topsail Island Longboard Assoc. winter surfers

One recurring project that has grown in numbers and frequency is the weekly beach clean up held at the Surf City Welcome Center on Rowland Ave. on Mondays during the summer to remove debris from the beach. The beach sweep has become so well known in the community that the Surf City Public Works asked to join in sponsoring a beach sweep on Fridays each week too.

One big project the association completed recently was the renovation of the veterans VFW Lodge in Holly Ridge. It was a total make over both inside and out. Funds for the renovation came in the form of a $17,000 grant from Home Depot along with other funds collected throughout the community.

Other projects supported by the association include collecting toys and funds for families in need in our area. The association has an international outreach also. They sent surfing gear and supplies to underprivileged kids in Venezuela. Locally, they sponsor the Annual Fall Foamie Classic surfing contest as well as Surf City Ocean Fest.

Surf City Ocean Fest is a celebration of the ocean and surfing that benefits ocean-related charities and environmental causes in and around our community.

The Topsail Island Longboard Association holds once a month meetings. For more information and to get involved in their activities, please follow them on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/TILongboarder/

The Night Sky

by Les King

The speaker this 5th day of January was our own Dr. Les King, Ph.D. who spoke about the night sky and what people have imagined in the past and what we can see today.

Les was planetarium director for 10 yr in PA in his teaching role. Giving planetarium shows, Les’ audience would be ensconced in comfortable high back chairs with their eyes aimed toward the heavens (i.e. star map projected on the domed ceiling). He would then use a pointer to show his audience what a particular planet or star cluster (constellation) was on the projection and the ancients’ history behind the constellation.

In society today, Les pointed out our hectic pace and the lack of time taken to go outside and look up at the nighttime sky. However, the recent interest in the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the evening sky and people staying home during the pandemic has opened up the ‘fun’ of star gazing for many new people. As Les noted, the conjunction on December 21st was thought by ancients to be the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Wise Men to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Les used a print out he made of the ‘belt’ (three straight across stars in image) of ‘Orion the Hunter.’ Then he described the ancients belief that Orion fell in love with one of the maidens in the seven Maidens constellation and wanted her with him on Earth. Instead, the gods granted his wish by putting him in the heavens to be near her for eternity. Note: The Orion constellation appears to follow the Maidens constellation from east to west across the winter sky from dusk to dawn.

The stars making up the Orion the Hunter constellation in outline. Note: the three straight across stars are Orion’s Belt with his shoulders and feet the two bright stars above and below his belt. His bow is an arch of stars to the upper right of his belt.

For star gazing, Les recommended first the unaided eye then binoculars for more detail. One tip he gave was to use the binocs slightly out of focus to see the ‘true’ colors of the stars from the red to the bright white ones. The best place to star gaze is the beach on Topsail Island looking out over the ocean where background light is at a minimum. Orion is visible in the eastern sky after dusk and ‘moves’ across the sky all night long in the winter. The Milky Way galaxy just jumps out at you in the winter, too!

There are many books and internet sites that describe the 88 constellations. However, for actual star gazing Les recommends the free app ‘Stellarium’ for your smartphone. This app identifies constellations that you point your phone toward in the night sky.

Dr. Les King, a native of Pennsylvania and Veteran of the U.S. Navy, holds a BS, a MS and a PhD. During his career, he taught Physics (tough course), was director of a planetarium, and also a school administrator. He retired to Topsail Island in 1999 where he soon became involved in Kiwanis. He was President of the Club in 2007-2008, Kiwanian of the Year for 2009-2010, Carolinas District 18 Lt. Governor for 2 years, Carolinas District Regional Trustee for 3 years and then Governor of Carolinas District in 2016-2017.

Thanks, Les…for your stimulating presentation to the Club today and for your service to Kiwanis International through the Carolinas District!