Moments With Hard-Working Early Risers in our Towns

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early with Kalina Aceve

Photography by Beth Mann

HEALTH CARE HERO

The moment she wakes up at 5 a.m. might be the only time Kalina Acevedo experiences any quiet in her day. A mother of four and a grandmother of two, Kalina is a labor and delivery nurse at UNC Health. She works three 12-hour shifts each week at UNC Hospitals from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., rotating periodically to the 7:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. Kalina became a registered nurse in 2013, came to UNC Health in November 2017 and is passionate about women’s health and advocating for women’s rights. “It’s an amazing thing to watch a woman labor and deliver a baby,” Kalina says. “The power that women have is amazing.” – by Elizabeth Efird

early with Brian Dunagin and Eleni Terzis

FIRED UP 

Brian Dunagin and Eleni Terzis became best friends while working together at the Chapel Hill Fire Department. The two married in 2013 and are now both drivers at Station 2nearEast 54, where they work 24-hour shifts on different days. They only have 10 days together each month, but it ensures that their son, Ivan, 4, is taken care of and encourages them to make the most out of their time together. Eleni, an East Chapel Hill High School alumna, says her favorite part of the job, besides serving the area she grew up in, is being part of the fire department’s close-knit community. “It’s like our extended family,” she says. – by Elizabeth Efird

early with 501 Pharmacy Owner Han Su

TAKE CARE 

501 Pharmacy Owner Han Su begins every day with customers at the center of his attention. “I want to make an impact on community health and lead the movement for more preventative care to help our patients live longer and healthier,” he says. Even during the pandemic, the pharmacy Han and business partner Greg Vassie started in 2016 still offers a drive-thru, a delivery service and ice cream. – by Megan Pociask 

early with Suzanne Collier

NEITHER SNOW, NOR RAIN, NOR HEAT …

Suzanne Collier wakes up at 6 a.m. to get to the Chapel Hill Post Office by 7:30 a.m., where she works alongside her husband, Jonathan Collier. As a rural carrier, she delivers to roughly 600 houses south of Chapel Hill every weekday, which takes her about six hours. She is also a supervisor and oversees the safety team, ensuring that employees are following increased sanitation measures. “We are all very proud to work for the USPS,” she says. “We take our job very seriously because our customers need their mail, packages, checks and medicine every day.” – by Laney Dalton

early with Corey Best and Tonya Best

LONG-AWAITED ARRIVAL

Corey Best and Tonya Best don’t need an alarm clock – they rely on their newborn daughter, Hunter. Following the birth of their first son, Cornel, 8, the couple struggled to conceive again. Tonya experienced two tubal pregnancies, one of which almost killed her, and three rounds of in vitro fertilization, which eventually succeeded but ended with the loss of their son at 26 weeks. Devastated, they moved from Durham toThe Preserve at Jordan Lake with Tonya’s mother, Yvonne Joyner. Five years later, Corey and Tonya found an alternative: a surrogate. On the morning of May 12, Hunter was born. “When I share the news, we refer to her as a ray of light in this time of COVID,” Corey says. “It’s been such a blessing.” – by Marie Muir 

early with Lisa Kang

WALK ON BY 

Lisa Kang is up at 6 a.m. to walk her first dog of the day – her own English springer spaniel, Abigail – around the Franklin-Rosemary Historic District. The owner and founder of dog-walking company Walk & Wag, Lisa employs a network of pet lovers to care for our community’s animals. Even Lisa’s daughter, Emma, an East Chapel Hill High School sophomore, helps in her free time. “One promising aspect of COVID-19 is the increase in pet adoptions,” Lisa says. “As people head back to work, we will be ready to help these new pets transition to their life without their parents at home.” – by Caroline Kloster

early with Jillian Mickens and Ross Mickens

LET IT GROW 

Jillian Mickens and Ross Mickens are used to early mornings after running Open Door Farm for eight years. Ross wakes up at 5 a.m. to do repairs before heading to his full-time job at Lenovo, and Jillian starts by 7 a.m. to manage the crew, water plants in the greenhouse and tend to their flock of more than 100 laying ducks. The couple’s earliest day is Saturday, when they wake up at 3:45 a.m. to go to the Carrboro Farmers Market. “When you work so closely with nature, it puts life and what really matters into perspective,” Jillian says. – by Claire Delano 

early with Danielle Baker

DAILY BREAD

Danielle Baker wakes up at 4 a.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and 3 a.m. on Fridays. Coffee-filled travel mug in hand, she heads to Breakaway Cafe to begin her baking shift at 4 or 5 a.m. Danielle has a background in fine arts and began making birthday cakes for her children, Jay, 17, and Ava, 13, a decade ago. It’s become her creative outlet. She joined Breakaway two-and-a-half years ago, baking muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls and more. “I love making treats that people enjoy eating – that’s the best part of baking!” Danielle says. – by Laney Dalton

UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz

CLASS ACT 

With the abbreviated semester and move to remote learning, “there was no buildup to the quiet, and now the campus feels like it is holding its breath in anticipation for when we can return,” says UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. Until then, he’s still up at 6 a.m. for a run and to let puppy Charlie out. Then it’s breakfast with wife Amy and their seventh grade daughter, Tessa, before hopping on Zoom calls. When Kevin heads to his South Building office, he greets anyone he sees – from 6 feet away – such as Masonry Shop SupervisorBarry Kelly. “I’ve appreciated so much the people who are still here and getting to see them and say hello,” Kevin says. “They are working hard to ensure that our campus keeps running, and I’m so grateful.” – by Jessica Stringer 

Tony Chapman at Chapel Hill Country Club

ABOVE PAR

On a typical day, Tony Chapman is up just before 5 a.m. for work at Chapel Hill Country Club, where he’s the assistant director of agronomy. “The first thing I consider [when I get to work] is the weather,” he says. “It’s always a fluid situation.” Tony then holds a staff meeting, doling out tasks to employees such as Equipment Operator Rene Cano (pictured right) before the first tee time at 7:30 a.m. The golf business is booming, he says, as folks try to find socially distanced ways to get out of the house. – by Jack LaMarche

Aubrey Vinson of YMCA

ID STUFF

Aubrey Vinson tiptoes out of his Downing Creek home by 6:15 a.m. so as not to disturb his sleeping wife and three kids. As the associate executive director at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA, Aubrey normally focuses on day-to-day operations with all of the departments. But when the Y suspended normal operations and opened YMCA Camp Hope – child care for essential personnel – on March 30, Aubrey’s role shifted and now includes escorting campers such as Julian Martinez-Alcocer, 9, inside the building. “Essential workers have proven to be the heroes of this country over the last couple of months,” Aubrey says. “Providing their children with a safe environment is hopefully one less thing that they’ve had to stress about.” As stay-at-home restrictions have loosened, the camp opened its 27 spots to anyone that needs the service. – by Madeline Kraft 

Lt. Osborne, Watch Commander

MORNING BRIEFING

At 6 a.m., Chapel Hill Police Department lieutenants, sergeants and platoons meet for a briefing from Lt. Osborne, Watch Commander before their 12-hour shifts. Before the pandemic, discussions took place indoors, but now are held either in the department’s parking lot or virtually and include crime updates, changes and violations of the governor’s executive order and area assignments. 

Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, Police Chief Chris Blue released a statement that said, in part, “Having seen far too many cases of police officers dishonoring the badge … we must start saying, loudly, that we won’t continue to tolerate the behaviors of officers or agencies that damage what we’ve built. … In speaking with fellow law enforcement leaders across the state over the last few days, we all agree we must call out our injustices when we see them, and we agree that we must continue to acknowledge the structural racism that exists in our country and continue to examine and address it in policing as an institution.” – by Anna Louise Pickens

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