Portrait of Maxine Wilkerson by Mike Belleme for Carolina Public Press.

From Marion to Murphy, Columbus to Newland, Western North Carolina is expansive. Carolina Public Press’ We are WNC feature profiles Western North Carolinians, in photographs and their own words, who share what it means to live in Western North Carolina, offer insight into our collective and solitary lives, highlight personal and community successes and struggles, and showcase our region’s uniqueness and commonality. We are WNC explores the themes, ideas and experiences that connect us to and with our mountain region.

By Mike Belleme, contributing photographer, and Kristen Molina-Nauert, contributing audiographer


Maxine Wilkerson, 64, has lived in Saluda, N.C., for more than a quarter of a century. Although it is a small town of 561 people, with two functioning general stores, Saluda is the town where she’s found peace, Maxine says. Through the years, Maxine has taken in 11 children, many of whom are now actively serving in the military. A pastor for 20 years, Maxine has led three churches. In addition to her duties as a mother and pastor, Maxine is a licensed nurse practitioner and devotes time to hospice care. To celebrate her upcoming 65th birthday, Maxine plans to go back to school to earn a degree in theology.

Mike Belleme is a contributing photographer for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at mike@mikebelleme.com.

Kristen Molina-Nauert is a contributing reporter and audiographer for Carolina Public Press. Contact her at kmolinanauert@gmail.com.

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