Retiring CEO Cheryl Ballance, center, receives the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award from Jamie Tunnel Carter, billing manager, while Dr. Erin Baker, physician at the Ocracoke Health Center, looks on. Photo: C. Leinbach

Cheryl Ballance, former CEO of the Ocracoke Health Center, is the newest Ocracoke member of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, an honor reserved for those who have shown extraordinary service to the state and to their communities for over 30 years.

The highest service award in the state, the Long Leaf Pine award is bestowed by the governor to those making a significant impact in North Carolina.

Ballance officially retired June 30 as the health center CEO and has put Ocracoke and Engelhard on the map through her work to make the two medical centers in this rural area a success.

Jamie Carter, health center billing manager, made the presentation at a retirement celebration Nov. 20 with staff and members of the board of directors on Ocracoke.

She paid tribute to Ballance’s long years of service and dedication by sharing some of the letters of support written by Ballance’s former peers and associates for the nomination of the award.

In addition to the day-to-day operations to keep the medical centers open to provide the much-needed service in this area, Ballance met the demands of living and working in an area with regular storms, isolation, and challenges. She went above and beyond the 8-5 day to travel, write grants, conference call, and fulfill site requirements for funding.

“I really appreciate this more than you know,” Ballance said upon receiving the award. “I couldn’t have done it without all of you all these years.”

Board Chair Susan Pentz and Dr. Erin Baker, D.O., the Ocracoke Health Center provider, also presented awards and words of thanks during the celebration.

“Cheryl has kept us on track for many, many years,” Pentz said. “We will miss her leadership and the vision that she has given to this organization.”

Taking over for Ballance is Joe Rockenstein, formerly of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Ballance will continue to work as needed on grant writing.

Ballance started at the Ocracoke Health Center as an R.N. in 1987, and then worked as a public health nurse for Hyde County Health Department providing home health nursing service and coordinating care for the residents of Hyde County.

For many years, she was the R.N.  and administrative director of the Ocracoke Health Center and then added the Engelhard Medical Center in 2010.

In 2013, with her vision and dedication, the two medical centers joined and became a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) to continue to offer expanded medical care and services.

She has served on the Hyde County Board of Health and the North Carolina Community Health Center Association Board of Directors.

She received the NC Office of Rural Health and Community Care Administrator Award in 2013 and the N.C. Governor’s Award for Outstanding Service in 1998.