• Don Jonas, Executive Director

"You saved my life.": My final blog at Care Ring

Care Ring’s executive director, Don Jonas, is stepping down from his position with Care Ring after more than eight years in his leadership role. His final blog post as ED is below. For more information on his departure and the leadership transition plan, please go HERE. Soon after starting as executive director at Care Ring in the summer of 2012, I attended one of our scheduled events honoring local doctors who volunteer with us to provide excellent and desperately needed health care at no cost to the uninsured.


A guest at the event that I did not know came up to me, and got right to his point:


“I’m a Care Ring patient, and I want you to know that you saved my life.”


I recall being literally speechless. As the new executive director at Care Ring, how could a total stranger suggest I had anything to do with his health and wellness?

It quickly dawned on me that what he really meant is that Care Ring saved his life.


How?


- The 1600 medical professionals from Novant Health, Atrium Health, OrthoCarolina and practices across the region who volunteer through Care Ring to provide primary and specialty care at no cost to more than 6000 people each year in the Charlotte region saved his life;

- A tireless, passionate and loving staff of caregivers, access coordinators, fundraisers, administrators, and social workers saved his life;

- Dedicated volunteers on our board of directors saved his life by devising and advancing and supporting our strategy to help individuals with limited resources establish and maintain good health; and

- Donors from across the region who believe so much in our mission saved his life. From major supporters like the United Way of Central Carolinas, the Duke Endowment and the Leon Levine Foundation, to equally important individual donors, like the daughter of a board member who once sent us proceeds from sales at her neighborhood lemonade stand. She saved this man’s life.

More than eight years after joining Care Ring, I recently made the very difficult decision to step down as executive director for a new career opportunity with Atrium Health.


Soon an experienced interim executive director will be in place at Care Ring’s helm, working with our extraordinary staff and engaging with our dedicated volunteer board members to continue improving lives through our proven health and wellness programs. A few weeks after the interim director is on board, Care Ring will begin the important task of identifying and finding the next permanent executive director.


So what’s next?


In the tradition of outgoing US presidents leaving a personal note tucked in the Resolute Desk for the next president, here are a few observations about the opportunity awaiting Care Ring’s next leader:


I learned in my earliest days with Care Ring, back in June of 2012, that this is a special place. You will quickly discover this, too.


Every day since our founding in the 1950s, Care Ring has pursued a mission to help ALL individuals establish good health, regardless of their station in life and despite the barriers to good health and economic opportunity that our society has erected over many years.


At Care Ring we believe everyone deserves access to affordable, excellent, accessible health care.


We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to live in a caring and supportive community.


We believe everyone should have access to a highly trained and loving nurse to guide mothers and their families before and after welcoming a newborn to the world.


We believe everyone should be able to establish and maintain good health throughout his or her life. (CAN I GET AN AMEN!)


To boil it down, we believe everyone who needs it deserves…a little more Care Ring in his or her life.


In just the last year, Care Ring teammates assisted more patients on their journey to good health than we ever have before, and our patients received more donated care from volunteer providers than in any other single year in Care Ring’s history.


We graduated more little ones out of our poverty-fighting Nurse-Family Partnership program than ever before, and connected more patients to essential needs like food and shelter, than we ever have.


We have taken our hope-building show on the road in the last few years, developing new relationships and forging new allies in Grier Heights and with leaders from UNC Charlotte’s UCITY Family Zone, striving to improve overall community health in entirely new ways.


Our board, leadership team, and all of our Care Ring team members share a common denominator – we will do everything in our power to help people with limited resources establish and maintain good health.


The idea of departing a place like Care Ring where I have invested energy and passion for more than eight years is hard for me to process.


I will soon transition to a leadership position with Atrium Health, where I will draw on so much of what I have learned at Care Ring about how to create a healthier community. I will help Atrium address the social determinants of health, devising new ways to improve life conditions for people living in communities across Atrium’s service footprint, advancing programs and partnerships to address food insecurity, create more stable and affordable housing options, and much more.


In my experience, once you become part of the Care Ring family as a board member, volunteer care provider, member of the staff, or even as a donor or community advocate for our work, you will soon more fully appreciate the wisdom in Gandhi’s advice that the “…best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.”


Everything good that has happened at Care Ring over my eight years at Care Ring happened because of the passion and commitment to service to others exhibited by an extraordinary team that I have been so fortunate to lead.


Welcome to Care Ring.