Sara Cook roasted, toasted as Humanitarian of Year
By Mark Wineka
Let’s do some housekeeping first.
Sara Dubose Cook, as her name would suggest, is a great cook.
There’s no one stepping up to challenge that she might be the Martha Stewart of Rowan County.
But she also tends to run late.
It’s not a stretch to call her a spendthrift.
She always has had trouble knowing her right from her left.
Sara Cook has a favorite word, which we won’t repeat here.
She loves to throw an over-the-top party, cook for that bash, do elaborate floral arrangements and put out the real plates.
But everything’s a big mess to clean up when the evening’s over.
“Most of the time, Dad gets that duty,” son Allen Cook said Friday night during one event in which Bob Cook didn’t have to play janitor at the end of the evening.
The Community Care Clinic named Sara Cook its 2009 Humanitarian of the Year in a part-roast, part-toast event honoring a woman who has seemed to give unconditional love and support to some of Salisbury and Rowan County’s biggest causes.
“To get you here on time,” emcee Kent Bernhardt kidded her, “Bob had to put you in the car Tuesday.”
As always, the Community Care Clinic went to elaborate schemes to make Friday night’s event a total surprise to the honoree. “A lot of lies had to be told along the way,” said Bob Cook, her husband of 47 years.
Sara Cook thought she was attending Friday night’s event on the Catawba College campus to honor her good friend Dr. Albert Aymer, head of Hood Theological Seminary.
The Community Care Clinic even taped an interview of her saying glowing things about Aymer.
Instead, when her car arrived outside the Crystal Lounge, all the familiar faces of friends and family were rushing toward her in an evening with the theme, “The Recipe for Life with Sara Dubose Cook.”
The recipe: equal parts love, hope, faith and friendship.
The next couple of hours became somewhat of a “This Is Your Life” presentation to say thanks to Cook for her tireless community efforts, which have touched organizations such as Salisbury Families for Action, Catawba College, Hood Seminary, the YMCA, First Presbyterian Church, Rowan Regional Medical Center and more.
“She doesn’t give sparingly of herself,” Aymer said.
Larry and Lawana Ford said her work for Salisbury Families in Action may have saved their son’s life.
“She gave a lot of people hope,” Larry Ford said.
At the end of the evening, Cook said she had never been so honored, humbled and grateful.
“I’m not the only one giving back to the community,” she said. “… The more you give, the more you get.”
The event is always the Community Care Clinic’s biggest fundraiser, and this year it raised more than $49,000 for the nonprofit organization which provides medical, dental and pharmacy services to the uninsured, low-income population of Rowan County.
The clinic has a volunteer board of directors guiding its mission. Physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other professionals give their time and services for free.
There is no charge to patients who meet eligibility guidelines for services provided by the clinic.
Executive Director Connie Antosek said the organization is always looking for more volunteers, donated supplies and contributions, which are tax-deductible.
Allen and John Cook took advantage of their chance to roast their mother Friday night.
Sara Cook was raised in Sumter, S.C., and Allen Cook said two words left out of her S.C. vocabulary were “left” and “right.” She has “directional dyslexia,” Allen said, and Sara Cook spent his childhood making wrong turns.
Today, her car comes equipped with a GPS device.
The Rev. John Cook gave a Top 10 list of the Sara Dubose Cook syndromes.
– No. 10, the Pollyanna Syndrome, because she always finds a silver lining.
– No. 9, the Shopping Syndrome, because Bob Cook’s credit card “is accepted everywhere Mom wants to be.”
– No. 8, the Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome, because even when things look lost “Mom says, ‘Tomorrow will be another day.’ ”
– No. 7, the Save the World Syndrome. “Some people say it. Mom means it.”
– No. 6, the Party Syndrome. There’s never a reason nor obstacle that can stand in the way of a Sara Cook gathering.
– No. 5, The S*** Syndrome. Here is that word that we can’t repeat, but her acronym to address everyday problems can be translated to “Son, he’s in trouble.”
And Nos. 4,3,2 and 1 syndromes are faith, family, friends and food.
In her life, John Cook said, they’re woven together like a tapestry.
Part of the night’s ribbing included WBTV David Whisenant’s report of trying without success to interview Sara Cook. She never arrived on time, of course, for the interview.
Among the many other friends and dignitaries taking part in Friday night’s roast-toast were Dr. Windsor Eagle, Dr. Craig Turner, Shully Storey, Norma Goldman and the Rev. Jim Dunkin.
When Dunkin was being recruited to First Presbyterian Church, someone here asked him whether he had ever eaten food prepared by Sara Cook.
“You’re gone from Kansas,” if he had, the person told him.
Like we said, no one challenges Sara Cook’s mastery in the kitchen ó or the love for her community.