When Wes and Lucy Jones met on a blind date almost 50 years ago, no one could have expected the partnership that would grow and leave a significant community footprint in Cumberland County.
From their extensive service with local nonprofit organizations to international mission trips, Wes and Lucy have made their mark individually and as a couple.
Wes, the founder and senior partner of Cape Fear Center for Digestive Diseases, and Lucy will be recognized for decades of service and dedication as recipients of CityView’s annual Power of Giving Community Impact Awards presented by PWC. Theirs is one of three awards to be presented on Nov. 16.
Sandy Ammons, executive director of the Fayetteville Technical Community College Foundation, nominated the Joneses, saying she could not think of anyone more deserving.
“When I think about community impact, I think about Lucy and Wes, who do so much for this community quietly, humbly and never needing recognition or attention,” says Ammons. “They serve this community through their deep Christian faith.”
“We go to church together, we socialize together and we’ve served on boards together. They make everything they touch better. They are so grateful for what they have been given in this life and in this community, they give generously back,” Ammons says.
Wes and Lucy look back over their decades in Fayetteville and still laugh at the beginning of their love story.
“My sister-in-law set us up on a blind date,” says Wes.
Lucy says, with a laugh, “It was disastrous,” remembering how Wes put her on a budget on the way to the restaurant.
“I must have looked like I was dressed expensively,” says Lucy.
Wes tried to drink a large beer that night — even though he was not a big drinker.
“I was a teetotaler sitting there with a 32-ounce beer. I think I wobbled walking out,” Wes recalls.
Despite any perceived missteps, they went on another date, and then another. They were engaged to be married by their fifth date.
The wedding came four months later in May 1975.
The Joneses had earned their bachelor degrees only a few years previously. Lucy had a degree in journalism, with an emphasis in marketing and public relations, from UNC Chapel Hill. Wes graduated from Duke University with a degree in biology and kept going. He spent the next 11 years at Duke in medical school, as an intern and resident in internal medicine and finally as a fellow in gastroenterology.
“I had a very definite call from the Lord to become a physician,” says Wes.
Everything they have done they attribute to God — even ending up in Fayetteville in the mid-1980s.
“God’s a big God, and he told me what to do,” says Wes.
They had planned a move to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where Wes had a job contract. Unsettled about his decision, he went to lunch one day with a friend who was a cardiologist at Duke. As they talked, Wes’ friend told him to look at Fayetteville, and the Joneses decided to visit.
“Our parents tried to dissuade us, and when we got here, there was a sign on Skibo Road telling us to turn left to go to Fayetteville. Then the next sign we saw told us to go the opposite way. I told Lucy, ‘This town has no clue where it is at,’” says Wes.
“But I thought it was pretty. Going through Fort Bragg and seeing the area was nice,” says Lucy.
That was almost 40 years ago.
Since then, Wes has practiced medicine with Cape Fear Valley Health and in private practice. Lucy found her way volunteering, with Wes joining her.
The couple have been giving back in numerous ways in the Fayetteville community and beyond over the past four decades.
They have worked in local and international mission groups through their church, Haymount United Methodist Church.
Wes has made 31 international mission and leadership trips since 1970. He and Lucy traveled to Kenya in September to help orphans and vulnerable families get back on their feet.
Their pastor says they are leading the church in the missionary effort in Kenya.
“They both have a generous heart for missions and for the least, the last and the lost,” says Allen Bingham, pastor of Haymount United Methodist Church.
He adds that they have been instrumental in creating endowment funds at the church that will leave a legacy.
Enhancing stability for organizations and encouraging giving are two of the Joneses’ goals. They were instrumental in building the Cumberland Community Foundation into what it is today.
“At the time Wes joined the board in 1992, we were just getting started as a foundation,” says Executive Director Mary Holmes. “He served for 12 years on the board and was really one of the reasons that Cumberland Community Foundation became a real community foundation. He is a fearless fundraiser and a brilliant investor.”
“One of my memories was watching him tell a friend, ‘If you give half a million, I’ll give half a million.’ He was not only asking for someone to give, but he was also asking them to match his gift,” Holmes says.
Wes served the maximum term allowed by the foundation’s bylaws. But the agency went from a $2 million endowment to a $22 million one.
“The percentage growth was huge,” says Holmes.
Wes says his intent was to get the foundation to $5 million because he had looked at another city’s foundation and that seemed to be the magic number to ensure success. Initially, he and Lucy pledged anonymous gifts, but they quickly realized that putting their names on their gifts encouraged others to give.
“People are more willing to give when they know others who have given. It makes it more trustworthy and appealing,” Lucy says.
After Wes left the Cumberland Community Foundation board, Lucy served her maximum term a few years later.
“Wes grew the foundation in assets. Lucy grew in impact since we then had money to award. She was a strong advocate for change,” Holmes says. “They are total givers and a couple very worth celebrating.”
The Joneses were the largest donors to Fayetteville Academy to establish the Edwin and Lou Jones Center for Science, which was dedicated in May 1994 with the stated purpose of “encouraging scientific inquiry into God’s universe.” It is named after Wes’ parents.
They also helped fund the Bergland Retreat Center at Rockfish Camp and Retreat Center that helps keep the faith-based camp financially solvent.
Wes served on the Methodist College board of trustees when he and two others persuaded other trustees to rename the school Methodist University.
Wes and Lucy both have served on out-of-state and international boards. Lucy was a member of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust Health Care Advisory Board and the Prevent Child Abuse NC board. Wes was the largest individual donor to Curamericas Global and served on the Hope Through Health Foundation board.
Lucy has served on the boards of Fayetteville nonprofit organizations including the Women’s Giving Circle; Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation; Child Advocacy Center; Vision 2026; Better Health; United Way of Cumberland County; Cumberland County Medical Society Health Education Foundation and Alliance; Fayetteville Academy; Cape Fear Regional Theatre; Fayetteville Family Life Center; YMCA; and Methodist University Foundation.
She also helped raise money for the Care Clinic and Cape Fear Botanical Garden.
One of Lucy’s most recent endeavors was helping found Connections of Cumberland County, a day resource center for women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“It is a hand-up and not a hand-out organization,” Lucy says.
Crystal DePietro, executive director of Connections, says Lucy was one of the first to envision what the agency could become.
“Her support and selfless service on our board were and remain essential to the health of our agency and to our ability to intervene in the lives of so many women and children. Every woman and child that has come through our agency has been touched by her kindness and generosity,” DePietro says.
Other area nonprofit leaders also sang their praises, including Sabrina Brooks, vice president of Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation; Roberta Humphries, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center; and Amy Navejas, executive director and CEO of the local United Way.
“Our community is a stronger place because of the Jones family,” Navejas says.
Wes retired from private practice in June 2020. In the next stage of their lives, Lucy says their main hobbies are volunteering, exercising as much as possible, and spending time with their three children and six grandchildren.
Their oldest, Hollis, is in his early 40s and a dentist in Gastonia. Middle child Jordan is an urban planner and developer in Durham. Their youngest, in her mid-30s, is Rosanne Jones Tiller, a physician with UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill.
Wes and Lucy Jones’ legacy will continue long past their current contributions because they have set up endowments that can grow for generations to come.
From their one blind date came a vision for a brighter, healthier future.