Volunteer Spotlight: Zumba Instructor, Sandra Herrera

Sandra leading a group of volunteers and patients in a Zumba routine outsider during our 2019 Garden Launch!

Sandra leading a group of volunteers and patients in a Zumba routine outsider during our 2019 Garden Launch!

Monday nights at Alliance look a lot livelier thanks to our volunteer Zumba instructor, Sandra Herrera. Beginning in October 2018, Sandra began teaching our weekly Zumba class that is free for patients. This 60-minute dance exercise class is a perfect way for our patients to get moving, build community, and relax from daily stressors. Sandra’s contagious joy and incredible energy make her a perfect fit for the Alliance volunteer team. She also connects easily with our Spanish-speaking patients as a bilingual instructor.

“When you come to Alliance, you instantly feel a connection. The environment is relaxing and the people inspire me to keep volunteering. I feel blessed to volunteer here.”


Zumba is one of the many ways Alliance approaches health in a compassionate, comprehensive way through our Healthy Steps Wellness Program. Healthy Steps offers hands-on, inspiring, and educational opportunities to help patients achieve their personal health goals. We are so thankful for our Zumba class and to have Sandra on the Alliance team!

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we are thankful to hear from Alliance’s Director of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Toby Bonar, Psy.D, M.Div., CFBPPC on the importance of mental health when caring for the whole person.

“The richest and fullest lives attempt to achieve an inner balance between three realms: work, love, and play.” -Erik Erikson

Pastoral Care and Counseling Volunteer Berty Allen MSW, LCSW (L) and Toby Bonar, Psy.D, M.Div., CFBPPC, Director of Pastoral Care and Counseling (R)

Pastoral Care and Counseling Volunteer Berty Allen MSW, LCSW (L) and Toby Bonar, Psy.D, M.Div., CFBPPC, Director of Pastoral Care and Counseling (R)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it reminds me of how most discussions regarding mental health often focus on mental illness. In this article, I hope to center the discussion on the triune elements of mental health—work, love, and play—to highlight how, when balanced, they spur us toward a life of growth, development, and fullness. When one or more of the three is disproportionately represented, we can become preoccupied or distracted from what we need, resulting in unhealthiness.

Most of us are likely familiar with the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” We also understand the idea in its less familiar counterpart, “All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.” The couplet demonstrates the need for a balance between work and play. Freud similarly highlighted how essential it is to have a balance of work and love to live a healthy life. So, what do work, love, and play mean in the context of our mental health?



Work in the sense of well being is not simply about having a job but rather the ability to be generative and find meaning in what one is doing. A job is a means toward making money, but neither having a job nor making money are sufficient for the kind of work that contributes to mental health. Also, work is more than being productive and competent in one’s tasks. To be generative is to have the capacity to be productive and creative while doing work that extends beyond one’s own self-interest. Parents, for example, can work generatively toward the benefit of their children. Work needs balance with love and play to prevent the dullness Jack experienced, i.e., obsessiveness, compulsiveness, and/or workaholism.


Freud also warned against working to the point of losing one’s capacity to love. Our understanding of the capacity to love has centered on the ability to devote one’s self to another while remaining a self. We know folks who have lost themselves in relationships, foregoing their agency and autonomy for the sake of the relationship. We also know folks who have avoided relationships or entered relationships that do not require much of them as a way to protect against any loss of self-sufficiency. Healthy love instead balances dependence and independence. When we are able to be full persons in and of ourselves while also devoting ourselves to others, we can achieve the kind of interdependence from which life-giving relationships flourish. Too much self-sufficiency or depending too much on our partners for our identities prevents us from relating healthily.


For adults, play is different than it is for children. Adults experience play as the opposite of work as in Jack’s proverbial quip. Play achieves re-creation and rejuvenation from work. Play is about enjoyment, a break from the seriousness, and entering into playful games and imaginative activities. The King or Queen has a jester to provide entertainment just as our inner rulers and jesters counterbalance one another. Too much play leads to self-indulgence and irresponsibility, while healthy amounts of play invite us not to take ourselves too seriously and to let go of our rigid desire to be in control. Adults can learn from children how to play in life-giving ways that highlight the joy of life in the moment.

For children, play is also the means through which they develop and work out their inner-conflicts and identities. Children are unable to articulate their emotions and conflicts so they creatively play them out and imaginatively learn how to develop themselves through their ability to play. Therapy with children often involves toys to invite them to play out their unconscious processes through their imaginations. Adults develop the capacity to articulate our inner conflicts and replace our childhood need to rely upon play as the means through which we grow and progress through our struggles. In other words, the conversation becomes for adults what play does for children. We know what a rare gift it can be to have someone with whom we can discuss our conflicts and play them out in conversation. We also recognize that often we can feel particularly overwhelmed or ashamed and may instead unconsciously guard against them.


Work, love, and play all involve a relationship to thrive, and unsurprisingly therapy for our mental health involves a collaborative relationship with a psychotherapist or counselor. Psychotherapy is an invitation to work, love, and play in relationship with a caring listener in a safe setting wherein we are invited the freedom to tell our stories that we might hear them ourselves and discover our capacities for balance. Therapy invites us into a process wherein a patient and therapist can trust the relationship will enter into parts of a patient’s life that strengthen development, honesty, and self-esteem and balance self-sufficiency, devotion, re-creation, productivity, generativity, and meaning-making.

Alliance Medical Ministry recognizes how mental health significantly impacts our well being, along with our physical, spiritual, and social wellness. At Alliance, we understand how rare it can be to have someone with whom one can explore the inner balances of life in a safe space with a compassionate listener. Being an Alliance patient is an opportunity to receive onsite mental healthcare from a psychotherapist, counselor, or psychiatrist who are trained to help empower the inner-balance between work, play, and love. In the first quarter of 2019, we have hosted 459 mental healthcare visits. We are so thankful to have a Pastoral Care and Counseling program that engages our mission of providing comprehensive care to the working, uninsured adults living in Wake County.

To learn more about our Pastoral Care and Counseling program, visit here.

The 2019 Million Step Challenge has begun!


Last night we kicked off AMM’s third annual Million Step Challenge! Thirty four participants are challenged to reach 1 million steps over the course of 100 days.

We'll do the math for you:  that's about 10,000 steps every day!

In April, May, and June, walkers will "get their steps in" by issuing challenges to each other, planning group walks, and coming to Alliance for our Walk with a Doc program.

Garden & Wellness Coordinator Jesse Crouch is hosting a 1.3 mile group walk twice each month at Alliance. The Million Step Challenge also engages it’s walkers by encouraging participation in our healthy topics discussions. Identified health educators, including nutritionists and healthcare providers, will give various 30-45 minute health education sessions throughout the program.

Thanks to Million Step Challenge Sponsor Fleet Feet, all patients receive Garmins to track their steps!


Alliance had a full house for the Kick-Off Dinner for the Million Step Challenge. The participants had the evening to get to know each other, team build, and strategize for the next few months. The group also listened to some encouraging words from both Dr. Joyner and Jesse while enjoying some fresh veggies, hummus, sandwiches and salads.

We'll look forward to following the walkers as they take steps toward their goal!


Volunteer Highlight: Beverly Schnick

Beverly (L) and Kim Stephenson (R), Director of Nursing

Beverly (L) and Kim Stephenson (R), Director of Nursing

This month, we are celebrating two incredible volunteer anniversaries!

Beverly Schnick, RN, was first drawn to Alliance’s mission and vision to see all residents of Wake County have access to healthcare 4 years ago when she heard about the clinic at an Apex United Methodist Church event. She has been volunteering on a weekly basis ever since. Coming from an extensive background in nursing, including time serving as an Air Force base nurse, Beverly says Alliance fulfills her desire to stay professionally involved in healthcare. “The AMM staff treats me as one of their own when I come in each week. It is unique to find the professional comradery Alliance offers to volunteers, especially in retirement.” Since beginning her time as a volunteer, Beverly has seen our clinic in many seasons. Working primarily in the telephone triage, Beverly notes how changes such as telephone translation have overcome barriers with our patients, allowing us to serve patients more efficiently. She remarks that it is rewarding to see patients continually educated on healthcare and connected to the resources they need.

When asked what word Beverly would use to describe Alliance she said caring. “Alliance serves a population that often gets overlooked. The staff and volunteers work hard to make sure that no one gets overlooked when they walk through the doors of our clinic.”


Betsy Allen MSW, LCSW is also celebrating an anniversary with us, joining the Alliance family in March of 2013. She has been a regular volunteer on our Pastoral Care and Counseling team since that time, seeing patients each week for counseling. Read more of Betsy’s story here.

Beverly and Betsy have touched the lives of countless patients and the entire Alliance family. We are so thankful for their dedication to serving our clinic!

Volunteer Spotlight: Eagle Scouts

The AMM Community Garden has received a few capital improvements this winter, thanks to Eagle Scout candidates Thomas Clark and Hunter Tuttle.

Thomas Clark built two tables for AMM’s greenhouse, which has and will enable to us to grow plants from seeds into transplants during winter months. Currently, AMM has 50 kale plants and 250 lettuce plants growing in the greenhouse, all available to give to patients to grow at home.


Check out Alliance’s new tiny library! 📚 Thanks to Eagle Scout candidate Hunter Tuttle for building and installing the library in AMM’s Community Garden. The library will be a place for the community to share books, resources, and pick up information about our garden. Hunter also installed a small natural area around the library with flowering perennial bushes. What a great addition to our garden!


Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Carr Allen & Natalie Holdstock

Mary Carr Allen (L) and Natalie Holdstock (R)

Mary Carr Allen (L) and Natalie Holdstock (R)

This month, we are ecstatic to have two familiar faces returning to AMM, Mary Carr Allen and Natalie Holdstock.

Mary Carr Allen was first introduced to AMM in 2009, when she was a Junior at Broughton High School. She volunteered weekly, and began thinking about pursuing a career in medicine. Mary Carr attended UNC-Chapel Hill, where she began a path to become a Physician’s Assistant, coming back to AMM in 2013-14 to shadow doctors and receive clinic hours. She in now in her third and final year at Campbell University’s Dual Public Health and Physician Assistant Program, a candidate for July 2019 graduation.

Mary Carr is completing a PA/MPR rotation at AMM, reviewing and revising our social determinants of health screening tool, and updating our resource guides to help address the many factors that affect our patients’ health on a daily basis. Mary Carr says she will take Alliance’s holistic health model with her wherever she practices medicine in the future as it has encourage and inspired her to be on the path she is today.

Through shadowing doctors, nurses and even helping with filing, I realized the importance of seeing the whole patient. Our physical health is often a manifestation of something deeper going on. The people at Alliance have always helped patients see the root of their problems.
— Mary Carr Allen

Natalie Holdstock was an intern at AMM during summer and fall of 2017. During her time as an intern, she helped with wellness programs, communication and marketing projects, and Share the Pie. Natalie is now in the process of applying to graduate school to pursue a Master’s in Public Health, and is supporting AMM with the Healthy Start breakfast and Million Step Challenge.

When I decided to apply for a MPH program, I knew I wanted to work for a place that would fuel my passion for public health. Alliance is the perfect place to do that.
— Natalie Holdstock

Volunteer Spotlight: MLK Day of Service

We are so thankful to the 25 amazing volunteers from First Presbyterian Church of RaleighEdenton Street United Methodist Church Missional Community, Boy Scouts of America Troop 369 and Activate Good who spent their MLK day serving with us.


Volunteers spent the day organizing our offices and cleaning the clinic. Groups picked up trash and branches around the Alliance Medical campus (in 30 degree weather!), deep cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms, and scrubbed the upholstered chairs. The groups also cleaned the conference room, yoga mats, kids play area, and teal pod refrigerator. The patient library, development office and hall printer closest were neatly organized. Ot is safe to say that our offices and clinic are looking cleaner and more organized than ever!

We were so grateful to have volunteers of all ages from 11-50+ years old on MLK day with one volunteer commenting, “I’m so glad you all have volunteer opportunities for all ages!” We are thankful for a day to reflect on the life and lasting legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. who once said,

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'


Stay up to date with us on social media to find out about future volunteer opportunities! To find opportunities today, contact Ruthie Wofford at rwofford@alliancemedicalministry.org