I love it when a plan comes together!

by Leslie Ann Jackson

If you have ever tried to schedule a meeting or a group trip, plan an event or host a party, you probably understand the challenge of scheduling.

With any luck, you have also experienced that magical moment when a plan comes together so easily that you begin to question for what good behavior the scheduling universe is rewarding you.

At the end of June, I set out to schedule some time to travel westward toward hopefully cooler temps in this stifling heat. A former coworker and I have been talking about getting together to catch up, so I searched my calendar and found two consecutive days in July that appeared miraculously available.

What are the chances that John would be available on one of them? John Francis used to be our regional director in the northwestern region, until he accepted a position as the executive director of a nonprofit organization in Lenoir about four years ago.

That organization, Helping Hands Clinic, is a grantee of ours and holds an agency fund with us, so we’ve stayed in touch for all sorts of reasons.

It took one email with John to pick July 17!

When I am heading out on a venture that is three hours in one direction, I try to identify other opportunities along the way.

I pulled up the calendar of my colleague, Katie Crumpler, who is our regional director in the western region.


She has been using a new model for grantseeker workshops that is more of a nonprofit roundtable, giving interested organizations an opportunity to speak directly to our affiliate board members about the needs in the community and how their work serves to meet those needs.

I’ve wanted to attend one, and unbelievably, she had one planned for July 17, hosted by our Madison County Community Foundation.

It was set for 4 p.m. in Marshall at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College campus in Madison County.

I could feasibly meet John for a tour of the Helping Hands Clinic and lunch and make it to Marshall by four.

In two text messages with Katie, July 17 was set. (Of course, the plan changed a little – for the better - when Katie kindly offered to pick me up in Black Mountain, so we could ride together to the nonprofit roundtable and to dinner afterwards in Swannanoa – which was delicious!)

How far could I push this envelope of scheduling bliss?

It looked like I would be spending the night in Black Mountain, so my return trip to Raleigh would carry me right through Catawba County.

Next up – Colby Martin, our regional director in the northwestern region.

Any possibility that he would be available on July 18 to meet me in Hickory? Could I set up a meeting with a friend there and double-down with a site visit?

Well, not only was the answer “yes”, but I could bring a check with me from Raleigh to hand-deliver to Catawba County Partnership for Children, whose Executive Director, Kim Holden, would meet us at an elementary school where we are partnering to refurbish classroom space in order to expand Pre-K options in Maiden, NC.

Perfect! But why stop now?!

One of my favorite things about being a Leadership NC alumnus is the people you meet through the program from all over the state.

An LNC classmate of mine, Michael McNally, lives in Hickory and I’ve wanted to catch up with him and connect him to Colby.

Michael loves living in Hickory and is embedded in the local community there.  As soon as I met him, I knew that he could easily engage in our work.

  • Me: Hey Michael! What are you up to on July 18? I’ll be swinging through Hickory on my way back home to Raleigh.
  • Michael: Calendar is wide open.
  • Me: Great! Can you save some time for me in the morning? I’d really like to catch up and introduce you to my colleague Colby who works with the Catawba Valley Community Foundation.
  • Michael: Sounds good to me!

Could it get any better? Yes, it could!

As July 18 approached and we were settling final details of time and place, Michael, Colby and I decided to meet at a coffee shop in Hickory.

I let Michael know that Colby and I would be heading to a site visit from there.

Well, Michael already knew that.

In the time in between, the executive director of Catawba County Partnership for Children told him about our site visit, because Michael is their brand new board chair.


It was a wonderful trip!

Western NC is always beautiful, and the people are humble and kind.

The mountain views equal in beauty to the residents’ steadfast commitment to being good neighbors.

I am ever-grateful to work somewhere that allows me to make exploring our state and knowing its people my job.

I may never have such scheduling perfection again, but I look forward to my next opportunity to try!