By Stephanie Elliott

What I am thankful for? It’s easy to look around me and see a wonderful life. I have a safe and secure home, with a husband and son that love me. I am rich with friends who support, love and encourage me. I have a great job with a firm that appreciates my contributions to my team and supports me personally and professionally. I am an active member of a thriving church that allows me to practice my faith through music and service to my community. I am offered many volunteer opportunities and serve on boards with people that help me see the bigger picture of life. These are all easy things that I should be grateful to have every day. What else in my life is there to be grateful for?

I am grateful for the days when I struggle. These days teach me that I have to get up every day with the mindset to work hard and believe in myself. I changed firms this year, and for the first few months I was overwhelmed with learning the new cases and how to work within them. Almost a year later, I am happy and fulfilled. Those moments of insecurity propelled me to put my head down and work. I have learned to lean into the uncomfortable moments, because on the other side of them is a blessed feeling of accomplishment.

I am grateful for being over-extended with volunteer responsibilities. This allows me to see that the world around me needs my contributions. Every day for the last six months, I have worked in the band program as a board member for my son’s high school marching band. I have counted money, prepared food, planned and executed fundraisers (anyone want a raffle ticket?), hugged crying children after a hard practice, encouraged freshman parents, calmed the band director, and loved my fellow parents who are living these final senior moments with me. On the back end of the competition season for these children, I stand amazed at how much I love them and how hard we’ve worked together. I feel the same way about my time on the Paralegal Division Council.  The work is at times hard, and often I complain about saying “yes” too much. The rewards, though, are the rich blessings of putting my hands to work for my profession and community, and a sense of belonging that I don’t get anywhere else. I leave our board meetings ready to work for the good of both our profession and our state. There is so much opportunity here and it’s inspiring to watch my fellow council members answer the call of service.

I am grateful for people who ask for my help. Attorneys, fellow paralegals, students all ask for my guidance and opinions. I am grateful to be needed. These moments teach me to give every day, and to practice kindness and generosity. The legal community we practice in is diverse and filled with kind people. I am grateful for the lessons I learn from helping, which are usually a much greater comfort to me than what I could provide in return.

I am grateful for other paralegals. I am reminded every day of my journey as a paralegal. I often talk to aspiring paralegals about the educational opportunities that are plentiful in our state, and it always leaves me feeling grateful that someone encouraged me in the same way twenty-five years ago. We are a powerful community, and I am humbled at how much this has enriched my life. I consider these relationships to be the friendships of my lifetime, and they all started with saying yes to volunteer opportunities.  I believe the best way to honor the road I’ve walked, is to help others find their way, too.

Reflecting on Thanksgiving

Paralegal Division Council members, front row, from left: Kaye Hare, Sarah White, Tina Dadio, Selina Dougherty, Lakisha Chichester. Second row: Karen Rabenau, Leslie Pegram, Rachel Royal, Stephanie Durham-Rivera, Peggy Pardue, Yazmeen Gadalla. Back row: Rebecca Holbert, Shawana Almendarez, Melissa Stockley Jones, Kernodle-Hodges. Not pictured: Stephanie Elliott, Alice Johnson, Kimberly Johnson, Tina Thacker, Alison Yezek, Alicia Mitchell-Mercer, Stephanie Crobsy, Debbie Harris and Carolyn Timmons.

By Paralegal Division Council Members
As we enter into this season of thankfulness together, let’s be grateful for the gift of community. Read as the Paralegal Division council reflects on what they are thankful for this year:

I am thankful for my family, friends, and faith and for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back, and the food on my plate. There are soo many less fortunate than I, and I always try to remember that whenever I feel like I am struggling. Over the years my family’s Thanksgiving Day traditions have changed quite a bit from setting up for a large craft show in Greensboro, to a big feast at lunch and dinner with both sides of my family. As loved ones have passed away and family has become spread out across the eastern seaboard, we have transitioned to a more intimate brunch on Thanksgiving morning with my immediate family and spending time together watching the Macy’s parade. For me, Thanksgiving is a day to relax, count our blessings, restore our souls, and reflect on those who have come before us. My wish for you is that you always find something to be thankful for and that you have a day full of love, laughter, and fond memories.  Happy Thanksgiving! – Sarah White, ACP, NCCP

Hi everyone! My name is Yazmeen Gadalla, and I am the Paralegal Division’s liaison for the Young Lawyers’ Division. This year has been one of highs and lows, with many things to be thankful for as Thanksgiving comes around. Each year, my family gathers to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with friends, family, and lots of fun. We spend the day cooking both classic Thanksgiving dishes (like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and more) and our favorite ethnic dishes. I hope that you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday! – Yazmeen Gadalla

I am thankful for my amazing family, my wonderful friends, a healthy life, and a great job. I am always thankful for the opportunities that I can give my daughter as she continues to grow up. We don’t have many Thanksgiving traditions in our family. We go out to eat on Thanksgiving and enjoy each other’s company. When we finish eating, we like to walk it all off by spending some time Black Friday shopping. – Rebecca Holbert

I am thankful for health, happiness and the ability to move. I am thankful for healthy, happy and productive children who are pursuing their dreams and for a grandson that I love and adore. I am thankful for my husband who supports me and my crazy run schedule. I am thankful for friends and family. Most of all, I am thankful for a God who continues to watch over me and guide me and love me even when I don’t deserve it. – Alice Johnson

I have much to be thankful for this holiday season and this year in general. I am thankful for a career and workplace where I am not only allowed, but encouraged, to use my creativity in making a difference. My holiday seasons, particularly over the last few years, may not be as traditional as some in the sense that it does not involve extended family. However, this year, my husband and our two sons are creating our own traditions. For the first time, we will be staying at a cabin in the mountains during the week of Christmas, and we are all looking forward to that vacation. So, I am thankful for my immediate family, the opportunity to turn what is usually a lonely time into something fun, and for close friends who feel like family. – Rachel Royal, NCCP

It’s the Lady of Many Capacities, Shawana W. Almendarez. I work for the City of Charlotte in the Office of the City Attorney. This is my 19th year working as a paralegal in the Charlotte area. My favorite part of the holidays is being able to sit at home and give my sons my undivided attention. We are constantly on the run with work, school, and extracurricular activities which results in not enough downtime to just be. I am thankful for ALL in my life – the good and not-so-good because it has all served its purpose in my life. – Shawana W. Almendarez

This year I am very thankful to be back in my house after Hurricane Florence.  I also am thankful to my friends and to my employer, Ward and Smith, P.A., for all they did to help us after the Hurricane.  Many went above and beyond to help us muck out our house, throw many of our personal belongings away, provide us with a place to live for 13 months, and pour wine for me.  Until you are in a situation like that you don’t know how special your friends and “work family” are. – Stephanie Crosby

I have so much in my life to be thankful for and am grateful everyday for the good in my life. I have a wonderful husband and an amazing daughter. She is our world and I am so lucky that I get to be her mom. I’m grateful for two wonderful loving parents. I am thankful for my friends and my village of parents. I’m thankful for a job that allows me to step away from the office at the end of the day and not worry about work when I am at home. I’m thankful for the ability to volunteer with my child’s school and my community. I am grateful for finding my passion to coach over the last two years and to have rediscovered a fire inside me for my love of basketball and volleyball. I’m thankful for the opportunities provided to me by the Paralegal Division and will always be thankful for my network of paralegals who I have gotten to work with over the years and call my friends.  I’m a lucky girl.  – Leslie Pegram

I am thankful for: the health of my family, friends and loved ones; the love of/for my family, friends and loved ones; the prospect of each new day and all of the many blessings we receive every day; and, for my 4-legged fur-babies. Thanksgiving rarely occurs on Thanksgiving Day for our family, as it is more important to me and Alan that our children are able to spend time with their extended families and not be stressed to feel that our holiday time MUST occur on that day. Our day of thanks is the day/time during the holiday weekend that we are all able to gather and enjoy each other’s company. We celebrate our holiday every year with roasted turkey and deep-fried turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, broccoli casserole, TONS of desserts, great conversation and football (of course).  We are all truly blessed. – Debbie Harris

I have so much to be thankful for that it could take up pages! I am so grateful for the health and well-being of my family. I am thankful for a loving and supportive husband and son. I am thankful for friends that sticks closer than a brother. I am thankful for my church family that encourages and lifts up its membership and others in prayer. I am thankful for coworkers and supervisors that treat each other like family providing empathy and affirmation when necessary. I am thankful for living in a country that is blessed beyond all measure. I am thankful for the rights and freedoms that I have because of our veterans and those who serve the people at all levels of government. I am even thankful for lawyers (haha) that fight for justice and make sure people have an even playing field when tribulations come their way. I am thankful for the PD Division that works so hard to advance the work and recognition of fellow paralegals. I am thankful for the opportunities I have to volunteer to help those less fortunate. I could go on forever! – Alicia Mitchell-Mercer

We come together from different walks of life and with different experiences, but find ourselves here as one paralegal community.  What can we accomplish together?  Who can we help?  How can we inspire?