Thinking back, it was more than a dozen years ago now. Neither she nor her husband played golf. They were not an equestrian family. They were nowhere near retirement age. And they planned to have children.
“Most people would have thought we were crazy even to consider moving to a ‘retirement community’ in the Sandhills of North Carolina at the time,” Helena Wallin-Miller says.
A Hawaii native, Wallin-Miller says it was a “feeling” that convinced them to move from Fairfax, VA and settle in Moore County.
“My husband and I came to Pinehurst in 2004 for a wedding of a childhood friend of mine,” she relates. “We stayed at The Carolina Hotel for four days over Labor Day weekend and from the moment we turned onto that picturesque Carolina Vista Drive we felt this immense sense of peace and were hooked. We had always talked about moving to my husband's home state of North Carolina - but our timeline was much further into the future and we had honestly imagined a metropolitan area. It was a surprise to both of us that we both felt this intense pull to make a significant change to our lifestyle. On the drive home back to Fairfax, we decided this feeling wasn't going to go away and we wanted to take a serious look at a move.”
So they did. And as they say, the rest is history. Wallin-Miller, now a project management professional working remotely, is raising a young family along with her husband Chris, and she is the Chair of the local school board.
“Looking back, we both attribute this inner desire to move to a place like Pinehurst as a way to look for a lifestyle that would be a complete change from the hectic, work-overloaded, disconnected, traffic-hassle life we had in the suburbs of Washington DC. We were yearning for a future where we could raise our family in a peaceful, connected community - and we found it in the Sandhills.”
Helena’s husband found a job at the hospital, which blended his public health and business expertise perfectly. Helena’s office in Fairfax offered her the opportunity to telecommute - and the couple moved to Moore in the summer of 2005. Their kids were born at Moore Regional Hospital in 2006 and 2008, and now they both attend West Pine Elementary and are thriving.
Originally attracted by the area’s peacefulness, Wallin-Miller says that they remain “because while the Sandhills area brings people from all over the world, there is a strong sense of connectedness here. To meet people, I was invited to join the Junior League of Moore County and met an incredible group of women devoted to supporting the community and specifically at-risk girls. It opened my eyes to needs in our area and to the quality of the residents living here who wanted to and did make a difference.”
Eventually, the couple joined a church; Helena joined the Board of its local pre-school; and her husband joined the Boards of the United Way of Moore County, the Boys and Girls Club, Partners for Children and Families, and the Athletic Club of the Sandhills.
“When the kids started school, I started to pay more attention to education policy and budgets for the state and county. Partnering with another parent, I leveraged my public policy and analysis expertise to advocate for increased support to the public schools,” Wallin-Miller says.
That led to an appointment on the School Board in June 2015 and then she was elected in 2016.
“My husband and I both are strong believers in giving back and using our knowledge, skills and abilities where we are needed. Needless to say, our life is a little hectic now,” she adds. “But we honestly wouldn't have it any other way. The kids are active on local sports teams and community theater and we have found the ‘rhythm’ of work, school, after-school activities and community engagement. I think what's different here is how "connected" we feel to the local community and how much there is to offer for raising a family.”
Today, as one of the community’s most dynamic leaders, Wallin-Miller says, “We have a caring, active community willing to do what's right. This is evident through the number of coaches who volunteer their time, parents who participate in PTAs, and community members who show up to support funding and programs in the public schools. This community cares and even though we are a blend of long time Moore County residents, newer transplants, and incoming military, I feel a sense of togetherness and genuine care about the present and future of Moore County. Truly - a great place to live and raise a family.”
The family’s “Favorites” List:
Places to eat: The Villager Deli, Betsy's Crepes, the Ice Cream Shoppe, Pinehurst Pizza, Red Bowl, Pik n’ Pig
Places to play: Morganton Road Soccer fields, Reservoir Park, Rassie Wicker Park, Sandhills Bowling Center