The Deacon Blog

A magazine staff blog with news of alumni and the WFU community

Class of 1988

More reasons to give thanks

Amy WhiteWe first brought you the story of Amy Bannister White (’90) at Thanksgiving two years ago. In the true spirit of Pro Humanitate, 10 years ago White founded a faith-based organization, Community of Hope Ministries, to help those in need in her hometown of Garner, North Carolina.

For the last five years, Community of Hope has partnered with Butterball LLC to provide turkeys to more than 200 families in need at Thanksgiving. When I checked in with White last week, she was overflowing with enthusiasm and thankfulness.

Butterball, which is based in Garner, donated 225 turkeys this year. Highland Baptist Church in Garner donated another 40, and a real estate office donated 10. Several other North Carolina companies stepped up to help this year, too. “We worked hard to bring some additional partners to help Community of Hope provide not only the turkeys, but also the side dishes to go with them,” White told me.

Alco Custom Cabinets in Garner provided cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies. The Village of Aversboro, a retirement community, hosted a food drive to collect green beans and stuffing mix. Nash Produce, one of North Carolina’s largest sweet potato producers, donated more than 1,000 pounds of potatoes.

“I can’t imagine not doing this Thanksgiving outreach,” White told me. “I love the story of cooperation in the children’s story “Stone Soup” where hungry travelers make soup in the town square. The townspeople “donate” the ingredients to make a soup that is shared by all. Our take on that story is that we ask several partners to work together to make Thanksgiving dinner a joyful reality for all of those who would not otherwise have one.”

White is a former teacher who started Community of Hope to tutor some elementary-school kids struggling in reading and math. That led to one thing and then another. Today, Community of Hope serves about 200 families a month through an after-school enrichment program and a summer camp for at-risk youth; a home-repair service for seniors and the disabled; a benevolence ministry that provides monetary help for things like rent and transportation; and a food pantry that has provided 137,000 meals this year. The nonprofit is supported by First Baptist Church of Garner, other churches and individuals and businesses.

White had more good news to share as she told me about two new programs: a 16-week job readiness program to teach unemployed and underemployed individuals the skills necessary to find and keep a stable job, and a community garden to provide fresh vegetables for Community of Hope’s food pantry.

If you don’t believe that one person can change the world, White is the perfect example of one who’s made her little corner of the world a little better. Her husband, Kyle Alan White (’88, MAEd ’94), even put together a video set to Carrie Underwood’s “Change the World” that’s worth watching to drive home that point.

White shared one final message that we want to pass along to the loyal readers of Wake Forest Magazine: “Blessings to you for a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.”

— Kerry M. King (’85)

WFU innovator building better batteries

The New York Times this week included a special section devoted to energy, and you could find a Demon Deacon in the spotlight, this time for his work to improve the batteries that power electric cars. He’s Jeffrey P. Chamberlain (’88), head of the Electrochemical Energy Storage group at the Argonne National Laboratory, a lab sponsored by the U.S. Energy Department near Chicago.

The article, “Building Better Batteries for Electric Cars,” on Thursday featured Chamberlain’s prediction that the batteries that use some form of lithium-ion chemistry will be around for at least a decade or two “with plenty of room for innovation.” Those batteries are found in the new Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt cars. “In the near-term, reducing the cost of the battery — and with it, the price of the vehicle — will come mostly from better manufacturing techniques and building more batteries,” according to the Times. “Improving durability and range will largely be the domain of researchers and scientists.”

Count a WFU grad among them. The Times said at Argonne researchers are working with new mixes of chemicals and different structures to increase the cathode’s energy capacity. Argonne has begun to license patents. “The result, Mr. Chamberlain said, would be batteries ‘that squeeze more energy into a smaller package, are less expensive to make and last longer.'”

Chamberlain may well be on his way to removing obstacles for drivers who want a more affordable electric car. The battery is the costliest component.