Our Park & Rec Stories

National Park and Recreation Month

It’s time to share Our Park and Recreation Story! We’re celebrating Park and Recreation Month this July by highlighting the stories of how our community is stronger, more vibrant and more resilient because of parks and recreation. If you would like to share your story with us you can do so by emailing recreation@townofleland.com.


Our Community Stories

Painting of Driveway Leading into the Woods by Michele Mendes
Dr. Michele Mendes, PhD, RN, CPN

Originally from Boston, Michele moved to Leland in 2018 by way of Greenville, NC, to be a professor at UNCW. Though Boston had so much to offer, it was so difficult to get around she didn't take advantage of those opportunities. Before she even arrived in her new hometown, she did her research and scouted out ways to be engaged in her new community. By the time she'd landed in Leland, she'd already discovered the Leland Cultural Arts Center and began signing up for classes. Now she finds there's even more to do than she has time for.

Classes have given her new skills, strengths, and a social outlet outside of work. They're also rewarding in other ways. Michele was able to paint a watercolor landscape of a friend's beach house which she gifted them for their housewarming!

Michele says her biggest challenge was the Find Your Fit Running program. As a new runner, sometimes everything hurt but she told herself, "I'm gonna do it." (Coach chiming in here: Michele was a champ! She ran in the cold, the rain, the heat, and even came back for another season!)

During our conversation, Michele spoke often of how meaningful it is to her to spend time with others during class, while dancing, running, or painting. Being together, sharing a common interest, and making a connection with people outside of her everyday is so meaningful to Michele.

So what's been her favorite class so far? Michele didn't need any time to think about it before telling us that Tracie's Adult Ballet has been her favorite. After taking Ballet as a child, it's something she was excited to come back to. A small class and an encouraging teacher made all the difference.

Through her classes and experiences at Leland Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources, Michele said she's learned to keep an open mind: "I can do this. What I can do, what I AM capable of. Not 'I could never...'"

What's next for Michele? She says drawing is on her to-do list, along with Barre, more painting, and more ballet. Oh, and in her spare time, she's a flautist in a community band in Wilmington!