‘I think you teach kindness and empathy’

By on June 11, 2024

Donna Roark is a volunteer extraordinaire. (Photo credit: Mary Ellen Riddle)

Donna Roark is a tireless volunteer on the Outer Banks

By Mary Ellen Riddle | Outer Banks Voice

Donna Roark is a farm-raised gal. She grew up in Central Virginia surrounded by rolling hills and hunting dogs. She left behind the farm landscape for the sea when she came to Dare County 33 years ago and became a volunteer extraordinaire, giving back to the community through multiple non-profit and county organizations.

In her three decades here, the Kill Devil Hills resident has run a theater program for kids, worked with the Artrageous children’s festival, helped thousands of children to read through her 16-year-stint at the Kill Devil Hills library, volunteered for the Outer Banks Presbyterian Church, worked with the Red Cross and fostered almost a dozen dogs through the SPCA.

“There has been only two years of my 60-year-old life that I hadn’t had or helped dogs,” she noted.

It was through the SPCA that she heard of Reese. The Pomeranian/ Chihuahua mix was heavily traumatized and was nipping people. The SPCA thought Reese would have to be put down because no one could do anything with him. But after working with Reese, rather than have the troubled dog readopted, Roark decided to keep him because of his challenging behavior and the subsequent special attention he needed.

Roark’s father, who trained dogs on the family farm, set an example by being patient with animals. “I learned to have a quiet presence and energy around dogs, how to teach basic safety commands, and remain their support, but to be the alpha with a quiet presence,” she said.

Wild animals were also in the mix. Her father would bring home motherless baby animals. Among other things, Roark cared for a baby alligator, a baby deer and baby racoons.

Roark’s childhood background also helped her work with Outer Banks children.  “My mother was a very giving, caring person,” says Roark. The family farmhouse was always full of “hordes of other people’s children.”

Roark worked as a speech therapist and while operating under a modest stipend, put in countless volunteer hours for 15 years at Dare County Parks and Recreation, where she taught theater. “I had children who had every disability you can name in my programs because my initial degree was a double major in theater and speech and language disorders,” says Roark.

Calling the group the Shadow Players, she worked with eight- and nine-year-olds. “I wanted the parents and kids to see that this could benefit the kids outside of theater,” says Roark. The Shadow Players ended their introduction to theater program performing for the First Flight Elementary School.

“I invited all the special needs classes to our production,” she recalled. The invitation also included Dare County adults with special needs. “One of my Shadow Players is the vice president of the Theatre of Dare now,” says Roark.

Manteo resident David Miller designed lighting for Roark’s children’s productions and he and Roark went to Longwood College in Virginia together. “Donna is always there when you need her, always giving good advice, fun to go see a play together, but above all, she really cares about the well-being of people, “says Miller. “When she asks you how things are going, how are you doing, she really means it more than anyone I know.”

Roark’s community spirit and theater background was also used while volunteering at the annual Artrageous children’s festival by Dare Arts. She has been an active volunteer with the Outer Banks Presbyterian Church helping manage the Ministerial Association’s meetings. She also worked with the Red Cross through the church setting up donations. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Roark and her daughter Jordyn teamed up. Mom had the idea to approach Dollar Tree about putting out boxes to collect toiletries to send to Louisiana. She worked with her daughter to create 374 bags filled with things like toothpaste and toothbrushes, wipes and deodorant that were taken to the storm ravaged area.

Today, Jordyn works for a nonprofit helping homeless kids in the District of Columbia go to college. Roark is a proud Momma. “That came from me,” she says. “Like at Christmas, I’d give her a bag and I’d say let’s go in your room and pick out things that are in good shape and that you don’t want to play with anymore, that you don’t think you will play with, and we’ll give them to somebody else. It was her favorite part of Christmas.”

“I think you teach respect,” says Roark. “I think you teach generosity. I think you teach kindness and empathy. And it’s a great opportunity I have in this community working with children to do that, you know, and so it’s just my small part.”



Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


See what people are saying:

  • JJ

    Ms. Donna is a gem! A great director and a wonderful person.

    Wednesday, Jun 12 @ 3:38 pm