In May 2017, 400 members of the Watauga County community came together to learn about the impacts of trauma and resilience on health, wellness, and opportunities. At first centered around Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the group has expanded their scope to include various forms of trauma and the lifetime impacts, such as higher rates of mental disorders, limited opportunities, and health problems, including a possible shortened life expectancy of up to 20 years. The experience was so profound and impactful that a grassroots organization was formed called the Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative. Prior to COVID, about 80 people from more than 40 organizations and groups met monthly to work on awareness, data, events, policies, and prevention. Since COVID, members have met by Zoom to continue this very important work. You can learn more about them at wataugacci.org.
Since the kick-off event in 2017, yearly conferences have continued to happen, with the last conference held in 2019 hosting a record 600 people. The 2020 conference was canceled due to COVID.
With the cancellation of the 2020 conference, another event sprung up called the WCCI Wednesday Conversations. The lead of WCCI, Denise Presnell, started this event in August 2020 as a way to keep WCCI and the trauma and resilience work in people’s consciousness on a more regular basis. Happening weekly on Wednesdays at noon, the hour is spent talking with service providers or people with trauma backgrounds about the impacts of trauma and resilience, how people and events change the trajectory of people’s lives, and how we create and maintain wellness.
As Denise shared her own high rate of childhood trauma and the factors that led to her healing, she connected with others with trauma experiences on the Wednesday Conversations. Through discussions with these folks and others, the concept of the “Faces of ACEs, Thriving Lives” series was born. Folks who are open to it share how childhood trauma impacted their lives and how their resilience and support systems helped them overcome their trauma experiences. As planning for the WCCI 2021 Virtual Conference took shape, an idea developed for the people involved with the “Faces of ACEs, Thriving Lives” series to contribute to the conference in a different way.
About the Exhibit
Most of the people from the “Faces of ACEs, Thriving Lives” series use art and words as part of their resilience and healing. Working with the Watauga Arts Council, they decided to do an exhibit with art they had created, titled Art After ACEs: An Exhibit presented by the WCCI Faces of ACEs, Thriving Lives series and the Watauga Art Council. Participants include Kat Dolan, Jordan Edmisten, Mollie Furman, Mary McKinney, Brooke Penley, Seleste Penley, Denise Presnell, Grace Presnell, and Ashley Wurth. The exhibit will run the week before the conference, the week of the conference, and the week after the conference (April 12-May 3rd). It will be held at Cheap Joe’s Art Supply, Monday-Friday 10 am - 6 pm and Saturdays 10 am- 5 pm. Admission is free. Enter through the retail store.
WCCI embraces a vision for Watauga County to be a relationship-driven, compassionate, and resilient community that is knowledgeable, inspired, and empowered to prevent harm, promote well-being, and heal from adversity. To heal from the abuses of the past and the present, implementing change requires individuals, families, communities, and systems to address historical trauma and eradicate racism. WCCI supports the worldwide demand for racial justice and commits to doing the work to embrace and support anti-racist policies and practices within our organizations and community.
The mission of WCCI is to promote health and resiliency in our community and to effectively prevent, recognize, and treat trauma by creating safe, stable, nurturing environments and relationships through education, advocacy and policy change.
WCAC - High Country Radio Announcements