ENC Features

Stories broadcast on PRE which are of interest to Eastern North Carolina

We love our furry companions, for better or worse.  But when it comes to changing your dog’s behavior, training tends to focus on making them respond to human commands in order to make them act more human.  But a local non-profit has made it their mission to move people to a new way of thinking about pet training and behavior. 


More and more communities in eastern North Carolina are striving to be more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.  Building sidewalks or bike paths connects people with commercial areas, promotes healthy lifestyles and increases aesthetic appeal. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is paving the way to help municipalities develop plans that encourage safe walking and biking.  Mac McKee speaks with Planning program manager with NCDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Division John Vine-Hodge about the grant initiative.  

The Black Sheep Online

There was a spike in counseling service appointments last academic year and a major cause of concern is a lack of coping skills regarding the uncertainty of life like failure and adjusting to new environments. It mirrors a nationwide trend among college-aged students, and as Chris Thomas reports it’s only the tip of the iceberg facing millennials.

North Carolina Coastal Federation

Living shorelines are effective at slowing erosion, providing habitat and improving water quality.  Now, the North Carolina Coastal Federation wants to install more than 2,000 liner feet of living shoreline in eastern North Carolina's sounds, bays, rivers, and waterways. 

John F. Blair Publisher

INTRO – A Durham couple has a unique problem in their publishing efforts… and if they choose to commiserate about their problem with a malted beverage in hand, that’s o-k. It’s just more research for their next published effort which, given exponential growth in their chosen topical field, could be sooner rather than later. George Olsen has more.

Erik Lars Myers and Sarah H. Ficke have what would typically be a devastating problem for authors… they no sooner publish a book and its out-of-date.

The summer is a perfect time for outdoor recreation.  Whether you enjoy fishing, hiking, camping or gardening in your backyard, be on the lookout for snakes.  Public Radio East's Mac McKee speaks with Dr. Sean Bush, a venom expert at ECU's Brody School of Medicine.  Dr. Bush as appeared on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and PBS, and was featured on the show "Venom ER."

City of Jacksonville Media Services - Kevin Reopelle

Living shorelines, wetland restoration, oyster reefs.  Green infrastructure is an effective and proven method of increasing coastal resilience, stabilizing the shoreline and cleaning the waters in estuaries and the sounds of eastern North Carolina.  But can the approach be used farther upstream in brackish water, in more urban settings to restore polluted waterways?  The City of Jacksonville and local scientists are trying to answer that question.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Update (8-11-16): A major, state media outlet is reporting a federal court has struck down North Carolina's state House and Senate maps. According to WRAL-TV of Raleigh, the court ruled the maps were unconstitutional on the basis of race, but the 2016 election will go ahead as planned with the maps as they are.

UPDATE: Rocky Mount has changed their mind about removing Pokemon Go locations at parks and city properties.  After a review of parks and facilities, the city decided not to remove Pokemon Go sites, unless there’s a specific hazard at the park. 

If you recognize that theme, you may be among the 75 million people playing Pokemon Go.  The wildly popular app has young and old alike wandering around, phone in hand, searching for Pikachu, Charmander, and Squirtle.  In an effort to cover this new craze, I set off to find poke players and had no trouble at all.

Rip currents have been making headlines lately with deaths along North Carolina's coast attributed to these swift, powerful channels of water.  To help keep you and your family safe this summer, Public Radio East’s Mac McKee speaks with Atlantic Beach Fire Chief Adam Snyder about how to break the grip of the rip.

Fisher House Welcomes Families in Transition

Jul 29, 2016

Since it opened its doors in April, Ft. Bragg’s newest house has welcomed more than 67 families. It’s a special residence, part of the Fisher House Foundation’s program, and the second such residence the Fayetteville Army base has hosted in 23 years.  It’s one of two program homes in North Carolina – the other is aboard Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville.   Chris Thomas has this.

How do you deal with a life permanently altered – by a disease, a traumatic injury, or the sudden, premature, and violent death of a loved one?

Often, it’s going about your daily routine.

“My mom had, you know, her own little space…so she could get up in the morning and get her own little cup of coffee and sit outside and do her devotional and all that.”

Lori Sutherland of Fayetteville, mother of Michael Rodriguez – killed in action in 2007. Ms. Sutherland said he’d long dreamt of a soldier’s life. When it came to an end over the battlefields in Iraq, her family – primarily from Galveston, TX – was referred to the Fisher House at Ft. Bragg.

Nearly a decade later, Ms. Sutherland is now manager of the base’s new Fisher House, the latest of 70. The former house – the house where her family stayed in the days following Specialist Rodriguez’s death – is set to be demolished.

“When they come to tear the house down, I’m (going to) get a window to keep – just a little piece of the house. I’m (going to) have the guys that are tearing down the house to save me a window.”

The Fisher House Foundation is a philanthropic organization started in 1990 by a Brooklyn born builder Zachary Fisher.

Fisher Houses are residences built on military installations – usually near a hospital – and donated to the U.S. Government. They are temporary living spaces for visiting families of service people wounded, sick, or killed in action.

Its founding, according to Josie Callahan of the Camp Lejeune Fisher House, can be traced back to a conversation he had with Pauline Trost, wife of, then, Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral Carlisle Trost.

“During the course of that friendship, Mrs. Trost brought to Zach’s attention that there were these family members who were coming for their service member who was receiving treatment at the hospital and had no place to stay. They were staying their cars. And he very simply said that he could build something for them because that was his line of work and that’s what he could do.  

Ms. Callahan has been manager of the Camp Lejeune Fisher House since it opened in 2010. She says she still remembers the first family that stayed there – a Marine Corps Master Sergeant, his wife, and their two children.

“And it was so neat to see – and really, to be honest, it’s so neat today to see – the families come in and, you know, and their face lights up, they’re looking around, they can’t believe that this gorgeous home is going to be their coming to stay.”

Since its founding 6 years ago, the Camp Lejeune Fisher House has hosted 1,800 individuals for 5,600 nights. The house has 11 suites.

“We have a family room, a dining room, kitchen, laundry room, business center, quiet room, and unisex bathroom that our families share together – those are our common spaces. And then each family is given their own room and their own bathroom.  

Among the family members welcomed by the new house in Fayetteville Trica Leake, mother of Spc. Drew Ruiz, who was diagnosed with cancer this past winter.

“When we first got there, it was like coming home. I’d never felt so welcome in any place in my entire life. You’re immediately brought in, treated like family.”

She stayed from January to June and made the transition from the old house to the new. The old house, according to Ms. Sutherland, was roughly half the size of the current one.  

“There was a couple of times I had to get help as far as being able to provide food for myself and that was immediately provided because there’s so many volunteers that would come through there and donations of food and pretty much everything that you would need to run a home.”

Along with helping out around the house, Ms. Leake said she spent her free time exploring Fayetteville and contributing to the local economy.

That’s an under-examined aspect of a Fisher House’s presence in a community, Ms. Callahan said.

“So they’re really no different than the folks that stay in a hotels, except they’re not paying the occupancy tax affiliated with the hotels. But, they’re still needing to grocery shop, purchase clothing.”

Though families usually arrive at the Fisher House under unpleasant circumstances, Ms. Callahan says some families will turn up while on vacation for a friendly visit.

“One of our families had come – the last time they’d come to us, their son had been hurt in Afghanistan – and so, fast forward 2-and-a-half years later, they were sitting the rocking chair on the porch when I came into work one morning and…I said ‘hey guys, what are you doing here?’ and they said ‘he deployed today. He went back over and we just wanted to see our friends that helped make that happen.”

Some have been hesitant to donate to veteran-focused charities after multiple, high profile cases of alleged fraud were uncovered this year.

But the Fisher House Foundation’s record is, more or less, squeaky clean. They received the highest marks available from two, major, charity watch dogs – Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy’s “Charity Watch” database.

“You know, we can’t speak for any other organization, we don’t work for them, so they’re responsible to their donors, to their boards, to their folks for what they do and we’re responsible to ours, but we’ve kept that transparency so when people say to us ‘what about these other things happening?’ we can’t speak to that, but let us show you what we’ve done, what we’ve raised, what we’ve done with it, how we’re doing it and what our future plans our and let you make that decision, and by having all of that information available, and by time and time again doing exactly what we said we were going to do, we’ve been able to keep that public trust which is so important to us.”

Like most charities, Fisher House Foundation takes donations – including hotel points, frequent flyer miles, and unwanted vehicles. But Lori Sutherland said the things individual houses need most aren’t that different from what you may get at the store.

 “We need things like cleaning products. We need food, you know, groceries. Gift cards are always welcomed. That way we can run to the story and get what we need.”

Items like new toys for the houses’ younger visitors are also welcomed.

For more information, go to publicradioeast.org.

I’m Chris Thomas.   

Wind Energy's Future in NC up in the Air

Jul 26, 2016
Avangrid Renewables

Last weekend, the skyline in Pasquotank County changed dramatically when builders hoisted a nearly 500 foot wind turbine in a corn field.  More than 100 just like it, part of the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East project, will make up the first wind energy farm in the state.

ENC Residents fought, died for Union in Civil War

Jul 18, 2016
North Carolina Union Volunteers

Thousands of men from North Carolina enlisted to fight in the Civil War, many them for the Confederacy, but some – including 1,300, white, eastern North Carolinians – went against their state’s government and fought for the Union Army. They were later joined by nearly 1,100 black men from region.  

Those decisions pit brother against brother and for some, it resulted in paying the ultimate price – on the battle field and the gallows.

Local towns along the coast are stepping up efforts to make beaches safer and more accessible.  Atlantic Beach is rolling out plastic walkways each morning to provide a stable surface for wheelchairs.  Emerald Isle is focusing on reducing the number of drownings with the installation of over 100 flotation devices along the surf.

Melissa McGaw, NCWRC

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is calling on hunters to help out with a statewide deer hunting survey to help improve deer management.  The current study expounds on another conducted in 2006 with 10,000 hunters.  Officials hope to reach over 220,000 this time.

ECU Celebrates 20th Guitar Festival

Jul 11, 2016
Joe Pellegrino / The Daily Reflector

ECU's Summer Guitar Festival was held July 6th through the 9th in Greenville with four days of concerts and workshops.  The event attracts students and experts from across the nation.   Chris Thomas has more on the festival's growth over the past 20 years and the vision for the future.

This is how things started Wednesday morning – the first day of this year’s ECU Guitar Festival. Back in 1996 just 12 people checked in for the first one. This year, 53 people registered for classes and gradually wandered into the lobby of the A.J. Fletcher School of Music.

Zika Taskforce Surveys State Mosquito Population

Jul 5, 2016
University of Florida

In response to the Zika outbreak, and any threat it may pose to North Carolinians, a statewide co-op of researchers, pest control specialists, and doctors are studying local mosquito populations – specifically, carriers of the headline grabbing virus.

The study is in its early stages, but as Chris Thomas reports, participants – and the state as a whole – may have gone into it with a hand tied behind their back.  

Duke Marine Lab UAS

A team of researchers are conducting their annual sea turtle survey at the coast this summer.  But this year, they have a new tool to give them a bird's eye view.  Drones equipped with cameras fly over the water and capture images of sea turtles from above.

Beyond Binary: Living a Secular Life in the Bible Belt

Jun 27, 2016
Getty/Dimitri Otis

Now we continue our series “Beyond Binary” which explores the changing demographics of our area.

Eastern North Carolina is among the key notches on the “Bible Belt.” Houses of worship can be found on the most remote country roads and it isn’t uncommon to see their lots filled to the brim at least twice-a-week.

But as Chris Thomas reports, secularism’s reemergence in America hasn’t exempted eastern North Carolina.

National Park Service, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

The mystery of what exactly happened to the Lost Colony is still unknown, but archeologist are uncovering clues as to what life was like for colonist who were a part of the first English settlement attempt in the New World.  Earlier this month, archeologists discovered several pottery shards on Roanoke Island, near Fort Raleigh, dating back to the 16th century.  

The Sampson Independant

Every third Saturday of June, the National Hollerin' Contest takes place in Spivey's Corner.  But this past Saturday's competition is probably the last time hoots and hollers are heard in this crossroads community.  Organizers say the event has been suspended because of increasing cost and decreasing participation.  But Jared Brumbaugh was there when the Hollerin' Contest was well attended and in this feature, we look back at the nearly 50 year old tradition.

ECU Archaeologist Weighs in on Finding Prehistoric Points

Jun 20, 2016
Lori Gross via the Charlotte Observer

Around the time the Pyramids at Giza were finished, Stonehenge was consecrated, and bronze was the next big thing in Europe and Asia, nomads living on the western hemisphere, about 300 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean, made stone points and buried them in the ground – probably for later use.

5,000 to 6,000 years, in what’s now known as New London, North Carolina near the Stanly and Montgomery County line – those points were rediscovered in Leonard and Karen Shelor’s backyard.

NC Maritime Museum Southport

A new exhibit opened last week at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Southport.  “Along the Colonial Cape Fear” documents the history of southeastern North Carolina from its vast supply of naval stores, shipping operations from the port in Wilmington and rice cultivation in the 1700s.

Zazzle (Trans Flag Gifts)

House Bill 2 has brought seldom discussed matters – especially rural parts of the nation like Eastern North Carolina – to the forefront. Namely, sexuality and gender identity.

For our “Beyond Binaries” series, Chris Thomas speaks to locals residents who find themselves outside of traditional, socio-economic demographics.

Sexuality and gender identity is getting confusing. New labels, definitions, and even pronouns seem to emerge daily.

Candidates, party leaders discuss June 7 Primary

Jun 9, 2016
North Carolina General Assembly

Most primaries for the 2016 election, took place nearly three months ago, but true to the election’s unorthodox form, primaries for U.S. House – among others – were delayed due to a change in congressional district maps.

It gave campaign staffers, and their candidates, extra time to get the word out and make their case for their respective offices.

Chris Thomas spoke to candidates and party leaders in the new, 3rd District – which includes Lenoir, Onslow, and Craven counties – about the June 7 primary.

When you think of things that define eastern North Carolina, you may say our Civil War history or uncrowded beaches.  But nothing is more distinctive than our own flavor of barbecue.  Really, it’s all about the sauce.  The western part of the state often touts their tomato based concoction.  But here in eastern North Carolina, it’s the tangy, spicy vinegar based sauce is instantly recognized as our spin on barbecue. 


Commuting on Highway 70 could be a bit quicker now that the Goldsboro Bypass is open.

Beyond Binary: Unaffiliated Voters Growing in Numbers

May 31, 2016

One of the fastest growing demographics in eastern North Carolina is also one of its least defined. Since the turn of the 21st Century, the state has witnessed a dramatic uptick in unaffiliated voters.

They’re threatening to break the 2 million mark by the November election, but just how independent are “independent voters?”

Chris Thomas has more.

Aerial Mosquito Spraying Linked To Autism

May 23, 2016
University of California - Riverside

Mosquitos and similar pests are a major source of concern around the world, especially marshy areas like eastern North Carolina. These organisms can leave painful bite marks and harmful diseases, including yellow fever and the Zika virus.

But a recent study discovered a possible link between certain pesticides, the way they’re administered, and developmental delays in children.

Chris Thomas has this report.

Wayne Hoggard, NOAA NMFS SEFSC / Image ID: fish2730, NOAA's Fisheries Collection

Last summer, a string of eight shark attacks along the North Carolina coast made headlines across the nation.  A Camp Lejeune Marine bitten in the arm and right hand, and another man in his 60’s airlifted to Greenville for multiple bites to his rib cage, hips, lower leg and both hands.  Back-to-back unprovoked attacks on Oak Island severely injured a 12 year old girl, and then 90 minutes later, a 16 year-old boy on the same stretch of beach.