A calling early in life that turned into a true passion eventually led Michigan couple Vicki and Mike LaBelle to coastal North Carolina. What is the passion that allowed them to call North Brunswick County home? The American Red Cross.

For the LaBelles, the American Red Cross has always played an important role in their life journeys.

“I started volunteering with the American Red Cross through my Girl Scout troop at the age of seven,” says Vicki, “and I have been involved ever since. My career with the American Red Cross has been my destiny, so to speak.” In fact, the organization also played a part in the two meeting each other.

“Mike worked as a manager of a Michigan radio station that worked directly with my American Red Cross chapter to promote our fund-raising events,” says Vicki. And so, their story began.

Vicki worked as the executive director of a three-county American Red Cross chapter near the Lake Michigan coast, and in 2004 she spent one month in disaster relief and public relations for the American Red Cross in Florida after the impacts from hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne that consecutively ripped through the state.

Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought complete devastation to Louisiana. Three days after the landfall, Vicki went to offer her services and spent one month in Louisiana working in the field.

The LaBelles soon yearned to move to a coastal area. With Vicki’s significant national disaster response experience in coastal communities, she wanted to lend that skill set to an area that could potentially be impacted by a hurricane and help the community prepare for what may lay ahead.

In 2006 she discovered a job posting for a position with the American Red Cross in the Cape Fear area. Vicki was promptly selected as the executive director of the Cape Fear Chapter of the American Red Cross that currently serves five counties, including New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Duplin and Columbus, with the main office in Wilmington and a branch office in Whiteville.

The LaBelles arrived in Wilmington on July 4, 2006. Two days later, Vicki dove right into her job, for it was already the middle of the hurricane season. Mike, a former media professional with more than 25 years of experience in radio broadcasting and station management, found a job managing a hotel in the region.

The LaBelles started off renting a home in historic downtown Wilmington to acclimate themselves to the vicinity. After spending some time downtown, they wanted to move to a suburban community, as Vicki was pregnant with their son, Dakota. They found another home to rent, this time in Leland.

It wasn’t until June 2009, during a casual conversation with friend Kathleen Baylies (whom the couple met through a Red Cross gala event that Kathleen was chairing) that they decided it was time to purchase a home of their own.

“Kathleen is an agent for Just for Buyers Realty, and she encouraged us to buy a home,” says Vicki. “She knew it was a great time to buy and we qualified for the $8,000 tax credit. Just for Buyers Realty was amazing because they had our interests and needs at heart and they held our hand through the entire process.”

The LaBelles were already in love with the Leland area and wanted to purchase a home nearby.

 Mike and Vicki both grew up in rural communities — Mike in South Dakota and Vicki in Michigan. As soon as they stepped into the community of Grayson Park in Leland, they knew it was the place for them. It gave them the country feeling with a laid-back lifestyle that they remembered from their childhoods, and they wanted their son to experience that type of setting, too.

The LaBelles love Grayson Park’s amenities, especially the walking trails, clubhouse and tennis courts. With their two-year-old being a “water bug,” the community pool (with a kiddie pool) is also a much valued perk.

“Stan Powell and Cynthia Rehberg, representatives from Grayson Park, were wonderful in helping us choose our home in the community,” says Vicki.

The LaBelles elected to buy a house that was near completion and they moved into their home the last week in July 2009.

“We did get in soon enough that we were able to make some custom selections to our carpeting, appliances, landscaping and the garage … so that was nice,” Vicki says.

Mike and Vicki chose the Lincoln model by Stevens Fine Homes. They love their three-bedroom home with a loft upstairs, which is a great play area for Dakota. “One of my favorite things about the house is that it has the laundry room on the second floor!” says Vicki.

Mike was very impressed with the quality and craftsmanship of Stevens Fine Homes and felt like they were receiving a great value for their money. They both felt that the level of customer service was second to none.

For the LaBelles, being able to buy a home in this area was exciting and fun. One of the first things they discussed as they saw the house was where they would place the Christmas tree.

Even the LaBelles pets, Kona, a yellow lab, and Copper, a tabby Siamese cat, like living in their community. Ambling about in their fenced-in, tree-lined back yard is a favorite pastime.

“Our dog loves her walks and we feel very safe and comfortable going out at any hour of the day or night,” Vicki says. “Everyone is so friendly and we feel secure.”

The LaBelles also like the fact that Grayson Park is proactive in getting the neighborhood to be a closeknit community.

“They have poolside get-togethers,” Vicki says, “a new neighborhood watch program, and a secured community webpage where everyone can converse.”

The LaBelles lead an active lifestyle and contribute much of their time and talent to the region. Mike donates his spare time as a Red Cross volunteer and a NOAA weather spotter, while Vicki continues to serve this area as the executive director of the American Red Cross.

The LaBelles believe in promoting knowledge about the American Red Cross and the vital programs and services it offers. The organization provides relief to victims of disaster, facilitates emergency communications between military members and their families, and helps the public to prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies through disaster preparedness education, first aid and CPR training, and by supporting area blood drives.

Even though the LaBelles keep busy with family and careers, they find time to enjoy all that the area has to offer. North Brunswick County feels like home to them. They are amazed at the growth of the area and they love to support new businesses as well as attend the various community concerts and festivities.

“We love being homeowners and investing in our home,” says Vicki. “This is a wonderful place to raise a family and we anticipate staying here long into the future.”

For more information on the american red cross – cape Fear chapter, log onto www.arccapefear.org, call (910) 762-2683 or visit 1102 S. 16th Street Wilmington, nc 28401.