The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 27th

UNC journalism professor helps community with children's book

For some, a full-time job at a top New York advertising firm would limit community involvement, but Dana McMahan puts others first.

McMahan, an advertising professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, recently authored a children’s book, “Grandma Elf’s Letter Sweaters,” which will benefit the State Employees’ Credit Union’s Family House at UNC Hospitals.

The Family House provides housing to families with an adult patient being treated at UNC Hospitals and its affiliated clinics.

McMahan said the book speaks to the service and fellowship Family House provides the community.

“The Family House experience is very much a fellowship and is about being very aware of the circumstances of those that are staying with you,” McMahan said. “The book speaks to that sense of family and sort of the lengths we go to take care of those we love.”

A member of the Family House’s board of directors, McMahan has served as its president and was the lead interior designer for the organization’s homes.

Greg Kirkpatrick, executive director for Family House, said he hopes the book will help raise awareness for SECU projects statewide.

“Dana’s doing the book is typical not just of her engagement with the Family House, but also her civic engagement and desire to make a difference in the world,” he said.

“She thinks big, she is incredibly creative and she has more energy than a room full of 20 people.”

McMahan collaborated on the book with long time friend and local artist Elaine O’Neil, who provided illustrations for the story.

“I have expectations that the book is going to be fabulous, and that we will get the money Family House needs to expand,” O’Neil said.

The pair has already completed preliminary work on a series of books that would aid non-profits.

This is just the latest project McMahan has undertaken in a long line of community service endeavors. “Regardless of how crazy the schedule got, my husband and I were always volunteering,” she said.

McMahan has been involved in a number of non-profits, including her own company, The Laughing Turtle, Inc. The company, which specializes in clothing for women and children, has retail stores in North Carolina and Virginia.

“Laughing Turtle was very much a double bottom line business where we made sure everything we did here in a commercial environment we gave back to the community,” McMahan said.

McMahan spent more than a decade as an art director at various advertising agencies, including New York City’s McCann Erickson. She has worked on campaigns for companies such as L’Oreal and Tiffany & Co.

“I absolutely believe in taking what you do in a for-profit environment and really having it be a way to be cooperative with those who are doing social advocacy,” she said. “It’s just been a part of my life from the beginning.”

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