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Graphic provided by City of Belmont

Belmont Council approves Del Webb development

At a Special City Council meeting on Monday, May 24 the Belmont City Council unanimously approved the Del Webb age restricted development. With direction and input from the City Council, City staff have worked with the developers for over two years to develop this extensive plan that includes:
• 2.7 miles of greenway trail along the South Fork River.
• Age-restrictions that result in no school impacts.
• Age-restrictions that result in less traffic than a normal development.
• Transportation and intersection improvements in 7 locations.
• Construction of the South Fork Parkway at no cost to taxpayers.
• A 21-acre natural waterfront park on the South Fork River.
• Enhanced stormwater measures to protect the South Fork River.
• A neighborhood commercial center centrally located with convenient access to neighboring residents.
• A neighborhood commercial center centrally located that supports jobs and 
economic development while bringing goods and services to nearby residents.
To learn more about this project visit:
To view the May 24, 2021 Special City Council meeting go to:
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Dignitaries prepare to break ground for the new CaroMont Hospital near Belmont.

CaroMont Health kick-off construction for new hospital, medical campus in Belmont

By CaroMont Health

Last week, CaroMont Health marked the beginning of construction of a new hospital and medical campus in Belmont. Part of CaroMont Health’s commitment to invest more than $300 million in new and expanded facilities in and around Gaston County over the next three years, CaroMont Regional Medical Center-Belmont is scheduled to open in mid-2023.
“We are building more than a hospital, more than a medical campus, we are building the future,” said Chris Peek, President and CEO of CaroMont Health. “In three short years, this will be the site of so much hope and promise – where new life is welcomed, where patients heal and where the next generation of healthcare professionals find their purpose.”
Located off Interstate 85 in Gaston County, the 28-acre medical campus will include a 66-bed hospital (54-acute care beds and 12 observation beds), 16-room emergency department, labor and delivery unit, operating rooms and surgical capabilities, and robust diagnostic testing and imaging services. Also planned is a medical office building and parking deck. Early estimates suggest the hospital alone could create as many as 150 new jobs in the region and see as many as 16,000 patients in the first year.
“With the insight and guidance of medical and clinical leadership, CaroMont Regional Medical Center-Belmont has been designed with an intense focus on the patient, both their care and their experience,” said Richard Blackburn, Vice President of Facilities and Support Services. “This medical campus, and the hospital that will anchor it, will extend our clinical network to better serve communities in the eastern part of Gaston County and continue to provide exceptional medical care to the region.”
In September 2020, CaroMont Health and Belmont Abbey College entered into a long-term partnership to allow CaroMont Health to build the new hospital and medical campus on land owned by the college and monastic community since the late 1800s. The proximity of CaroMont Regional Medical Center-Belmont to the college campus will offer educational opportunities for students in Belmont Abbey College’s health science programs.
“Belmont Abbey College exemplifies the true spirit of our community – one of progress, integrity, excellence and virtue – and shares many of our core values,” said Peek. “Much like healthcare, education has the unique ability to enrich and support not only the recipient, but all who surround them. A highly regarded institution like Belmont Abbey, focused on the advancement of others, strengthens our community. We are proud to be part of such a historic moment.”
Dr. Bill Thierfelder, President of Belmont Abbey College, echoed praise for the partnership.
“Bringing together two remarkable and storied institutions, the partnership between CaroMont Health, a leading healthcare provider, and Belmont Abbey College, a leading institution of higher education, is a game changer for the region and beyond. We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with CaroMont Health to provide the highest levels of medical care and academic excellence,” said Dr. Thierfelder.
In May 2019, CaroMont Health announced plans to build the Belmont hospital, expand critical care services with construction of a four-floor tower at the main hospital in Gastonia, and complete several renovation and expansion projects in its medical group. The more than $300 million commitment was the largest in the history of Gaston County. All projects are aimed at expanding CaroMont Health’s clinical network to prepare for anticipated population growth across the region.

Caromount Health Kick-Off Construction

Scenes from CaroMont Health kick-off construction for new hospital, medical campus in Belmont
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Mt. Holly Parks and Rec. Sole Patrol members LaJean Wyatt (left) and Betty Grotts say they are glad the program is getting back to its pre-Covid activity level. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly Sole Patrol
is back up to speed

By Alan Hodge

The Mt. Holly Parks and Rec. Sole Patrol senior citizens activity program is back up to its pre-Covid schedule and inviting previous, current, and prospective members to return for more fun and fraternity.
The Sole Patrol is for folks 55 years and up. It meets at the Tuckaseegee Community Center in Tuckaseegee Park. Last week, the City of Mt. Holly lifted Covid restrictions for its facilities and that means Sole Patrol folks can show up Mondays-Fridays 10am to 12:30pm just like they did before the pandemic. Masks and temperature checks are not required.
Mt. Holly Parks and Rec. specialist Kent Womack talked about what the Sole Patrol has on tap physical activity-wise.
“Participants can walk in the gym, or play cornhole, shuffleboard, or use the fitness center equipment,” he said.
Parties and lunches were part of Sole Patrol action pre-pandemic and those will return, but not right now.
“We are working on bringing those back,” said Womack.
Some Sole Patrol members have come trickling back.
“We had eight the other day,” Womack said. “We want to get the number back to the forty or so that used to show up.”
Last Tuesday saw long-time Sole Patrollers LaJean Wyatt, 89, and Betty Grotts, 85, meeting up at the Tuckaseegee Center. They each talked about what being in the Sole Patrol meant to them.
“It’s amazing,” Wyatt said. “I love it. I have been waiting and praying for the reopening. I need the exercise and it’s a blessing to play cornhole, shuffleboard, and socialize. I drive myself here and try to come every day.”
Grotts is from Iowa and relatively new to Mt. Holly.
“We didn’t have anything like Sole Patrol there,” she said. “I like to get out and meet people. I’ve been cooped up during the pandemic and it was horrible. It’s nice to come here and take that mask off and see happy faces.”
Interested in joining the Sole Patrol? For Mt. Holly residents 55 and older it’s free. For non-resident’s it’s $10 a month. You can just show up at the Tuckaseegee Center and sign in. For more information call 704-951-3006.
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Catholic News Herald story/photo

Record number of men
graduate from St. Joseph College
Seminary in North Belmont

Andrew Templeton from Gastonia (second from left in photo) is among nine 2021 graduates of St. Joseph College Seminary – the largest graduating class since the Diocese of Charlotte founded the program to cultivate potential priests from western North Carolina to serve across the diocese.
Seven of the nine men earned undergraduate degrees from the Benedictine-run Belmont Abbey College May 15. They join the ranks of nine other men who previously graduated from the program – a total of 18 men in the five years since the seminary began.
The Catholic college seminary is the only program of its kind between Washington, D.C., and Miami.
St. Joseph College Seminary, located in North Belmont, enables young men to discern a possible vocation to the priesthood while earning undergraduate degrees at nearby Belmont Abbey College. Upon graduation, most go on to major seminaries elsewhere to pursue graduate degrees in theology and receive more specific training before being ordained to the Catholic priesthood.
With a Catholic population that has grown by double digits in the past decade, the Charlotte diocese launched the college seminary in 2016 with eight students. The program has proven a magnet for young men wanting to discern the Catholic priesthood, and enrollment has grown  faster than anticipated. The diocese fast-tracked construction on a permanent home for the college seminary in Mount Holly, about 15 miles west of Charlotte, and the new 30,000-square-foot building opened last fall.
The nine graduates spent only a year in the new building, but their formation over the past four years has been pivotal, they said.
“On a practical level, the establishment of St. Joseph College Seminary made going to seminary much more feasible,” said graduate Kolbe Murrey, whose home parish is St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Tryon. “Instead of traveling across country right after graduating high school, I have stayed in North Carolina and in the heart of the diocese. This has been a great blessing and given me a unified and focused first four years of seminary formation.”
At a special baccalaureate Mass for the graduates, the seminary’s rector encouraged the nine young men to keep growing in their relationship with Christ.
“I think the greatest compliment I can say to you in front of those who are here – in front of your brother seminarians and your families – is that (God) abides in you and you abide in Him, that you are a friend of God’s,” said the Rev. Matthew Kauth, during the May 9 Mass at St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte. “I don’t know of any title in the world that is more desirous to have, than to say someone is a friend of God’s.”
The graduates are moving on to major seminaries in Cincinnati and Rome to continue their formation as future priests for the Diocese of Charlotte.
Joseph Yellico, Nicholas Kramer and Kolbe Murrey will study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Christopher Angermeyer, Anthony del Cid Lucero, Luke Martin, Noe Sifuentes, Andrew Templeton and James Tweed are headed to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.
As its largest graduating class moves out, St. Joseph College Seminary is preparing to welcome another large incoming class next school year.
At least eight new men are expected to enroll this fall, joining 18 others who are continuing their studies at the college seminary.
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Truist Bank serves as sponsor for
Excellence in Education awards announcement
Gaston County Schools names
‘Of the Year’ winners for 2021-2022

Six employees received the most prestigious honors presented by Gaston County Schools during the 2021 Excellence in Education awards announcement.  Truist Bank sponsored the program, which was held on Tuesday, June 1 at the new CaroMont Health Park, home of the Gastonia Honey Hunters baseball team.
The ‘Of the Year’ winners, who were named during the 9:00 a.m. ceremony, include:
Teacher of the Year: Staci Nezezon of Pinewood Elementary School;
Principal of the Year: Tyler West of Pinewood Elementary School;
Assistant Principal of the Year: Bridgette Best of Pleasant Ridge Elementary School;
New Teacher of the Year: Maddison Szucs of Robinson Elementary School;
Teacher Assistant of the Year: Wanda Marlowe of Catawba Heights Elementary School; and
Central Office Administrator of the Year: Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education, Academic Services Department. Here are the award recipients:

Gaston County Teacher of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Teacher of the Year is Staci Nezezon from Pinewood Elementary School.
After working for six years as an English as a Second Language teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Nezezon joined Gaston County Schools in 2019 as a third grade teacher at Pinewood.  She has served as Pinewood’s literacy teacher and taught virtual classes this year for second grade.  Nezezon obtained a bachelor’s degree in childhood education and a master’s degree in education – literacy specialist from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  
The finalists for Teacher of the Year included Savanna Abernathy, Bessemer City Central Elementary School; Natalie Childers, Gardner Park Elementary School; Bethany Hartley, Hunter Huss High School; and Casey Miller, Stanley Middle School.
Gaston County Principal of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Principal of the Year is Tyler West from Pinewood Elementary School.
West joined Gaston County Schools in 2005 as a third grade teacher at Rankin Elementary School where she was nominated for Gaston County New Teacher of the Year in 2005-2006 and named the school’s Teacher of the Year for 2007-2008.  She was promoted to assistant principal at Bessemer City Middle School in 2012 and was appointed principal of Sherwood Elementary School in 2014 before transferring to Pinewood in 2018.  West holds a bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in education leadership from Appalachian State University.
The finalists for Principal of the Year included Kevin Doran, Cherryville High School; Jill Payne, Hawks Nest STEAM Academy; Loretta Reed, Woodhill Elementary School; and Torben Ross, Robinson Elementary School.

Assistant Principal
of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Schools Assistant Principal of the Year is Bridgette Best from Pleasant Ridge Elementary School.
Best joined Gaston County Schools in 2016 as an instructional facilitator.  She was promoted to assistant principal at Woodhill Elementary School in 2017 and transferred to Pleasant Ridge Elementary in 2019.  Best obtained a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in education from Virginia State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Wingate University.
The finalists for Assistant Principal of the Year included Cassie Bryson-Evans, Brookside Elementary School; Miranda Buchanon, Springfield Elementary School; Jennifer Cabe, Holbrook Middle School; Michael Dermott, Mount Holly Middle School; Adair McKay, Grier Middle School; Janet Ramsey, Forestview High School; Lynn Stamey, Robinson Elementary School; and Jada Warnock, Cherryville High School.

New Teacher of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Schools New Teacher of the Year is Maddison Szucs from Robinson Elementary School.  The award is named for the late Linda Israel Rader, who began the school district’s professional development program for teachers.
Szucs, currently a first grade teacher, joined Gaston County Schools in January 2018 as a fourth grade teacher at W.A. Bess Elementary School, and she completed her student teaching at Page Primary School in 2017.  Szucs earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Appalachian State University.
The finalists for New Teacher of the Year included Hayley Bigelow, Holbrook Middle School; Elizabeth Inzana, Hunter Huss High School; Vekiza Williams, Woodhill Elementary School; and Olivia Wylie, Stanley Middle School.

Teacher Assistant
of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Schools Teacher Assistant of the Year is Wanda Marlowe from Catawba Heights Elementary School.
After serving as a volunteer with Gaston County Schools for 16 years, Marlowe accepted a job in 2017 as a teacher assistant at Catawba Heights, working in the second grade.  She currently is a teacher assistant for kindergarten.  Marlowe attended Central Piedmont Community College.
The finalists for Teacher Assistant of the Year included Jenny Emerson, Cherryville Elementary School; Dana Hannifin, Springfield Elementary School; Giana McGuire, Pinewood Elementary School; and Peyton Walls, Stanley Middle School.

Central Office
Administrator of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Schools Central Office Administrator of the Year is Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education (CTE).
Buchanan joined Gaston County Schools in 2014.  He began his career in education in 1999 as a CTE teacher in Burke County.  Under his leadership as CTE director, Gaston County Schools currently ranks first in the state for the number of CTE credentials earned by students and first in the state for the percentage of students earning more than one CTE credential in a specific career field.  Buchanan obtained a bachelor’s degree in technology education from N.C. State University and a master’s degree in educational media from Appalachian State University.
The finalists for Central Office Administrator of the Year included Chad Duncan, director of athletics; Shannon Hullett, director of elementary instruction; Curtis Poplin, technology network systems manager; and Alan Sprout, technology operations manager.
The Gaston County Schools Human Resources Department organizes the annual awards program and facilitates the ‘Of the Year’ selection process.  The Excellence in Education ceremony pays tribute to the school district’s most outstanding educators for their exceptional leadership and many contributions to the public schools in Gaston County.
Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker said, “The Excellence in Education program gives us an opportunity to bring attention to the extraordinary efforts of our teachers, administrators, and others, who go above and beyond expectations to inspire success and a lifetime of learning in our students.  We congratulate the award recipients and salute all educators in Gaston County Schools for what they do to support children.”
Dr. Booker added, “We would like to thank Truist Bank for sponsoring this important employee recognition program.  For years, BB&T – now Truist – has been a significant business partner for Gaston County Schools, and we sincerely appreciate the bank’s support of this year’s Excellence in Education event so we could honor our outstanding educators with a special ceremony at the new CaroMont Health Park.”
As the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year, Nezezon and West will represent Gaston County in the regional competitions for 2021-2022.
While it is unusual to have the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year from the same school in the same year, it has happened before in back-to-back years.  In 1997-1998, South Point High School’s Sheri Little was named the Principal of the Year and Mamie Chisholm was selected the Teacher of the Year.  The next year (1998-1999), Ashbrook High School’s Trip McGill was named the Teacher of the Year and Gary Short was chosen the Principal of the Year.
In addition to Truist serving as the event sponsor, Courage Kia in Gastonia presented prizes to each ‘Of the Year’ winner, including a $100 gift card for dinner at The String Bean restaurant in Belmont and a free oil change at the Kia dealership on Wilkinson Boulevard.
The awards announcement was recorded, and it will air on Spectrum Cable Channel 21, the Education Station for Gaston County Schools, the week of June 14-20 at 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. each day.  The video will air at other times during the summer, and it will be available for viewing on the Gaston County Schools website and YouTube channel.
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National Trails Day!

Hike, bike, paddle and play on National Trails Day with Carolina Thread Trail. Join in on June 5, 10 am-2 pm at Catawba Riverfront Greenway and Tuckaseege Park for a free day of fun for the whole family. Pre-registration required to maintain safe event capacity. Visit for details.
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Edith Mack (left) and Margaret Johnson have been lifelong friends. They both celebrated big birthdays recently and are looking forward to their centennial celebrations.

Mt. Holly ladies Margaret Johnson and Edith Mack are best friends forever… and ever and ever

By Alan Hodge

True friendship between two people is a beautiful thing and when the bond has held firm for decade after decade it is super special.
That’s the case of Margaret Johnson, 95, and Edith Mack, 98, of Mt. Holly who have known and cherished each other most of their lives. Folks, that’s a combined total of 193 years.
First a bit about each one of the lovely ladies.
Johnson was born April 27, 1926 and grew up on the Morrison farm in Lowesville near Stanley. When she was 11 years old, the family moved to Mt. Holly and lived in the area near present day River Park.
“It was a big neighborhood then and integrated,” said Johnson.
Johnson attended Rollins School in Mt. Holly then went on to Reid High in Belmont. Later, she took sewing classes and got a diploma as a seamstress.
She and her husband Jacob were married in 1946 and had one child.  She put her sewing skills to good use.
“I made my husband a pair of pants,” she said.
Time marched along and Johnson sampled other employment.
“I did domestic work, worked in the cafeteria at Mt. Holly High, the worked for Perfection Spinning,” she said. “I retired from there in 1988.”
Johnson recalled early days in Mt. Holly.
“It wasn’t bad,” she said. “Daddy worked for the railroad and we lived in a three room house. We were happy and didn’t suffer for anything. In the summers we would visit our cousins in Washington, D.C. We enjoyed each other.”
Johnson recollected some more.
“We would go to corn shuckings and camp meetings at Tuckers Grove,” she said. “We would spend a whole week there. People would come from all over. We always had a big family reunion in August.”
Johnson shared her thoughts on long life.
“Live the best you can and do right,” she said. “God will reward you.”
Edith Mack was born on May 4, 1923. Like Johnson, her early years were spent in a rural environment before moving to Mt. Holly.
“We lived on a farm on Kelly’s Farm Rd. until I was four or five years old then we moved to Mt. Holly, she said. “Daddy worked for Duke Power and we lived in a company house.”
Like Johnson, Mack attended Rollins School and Reid High. Even before she graduated from Reid, she was holding down a job.
“When I was 13-years-old I went to work for Dr. Stroupe as a babysitter,” she said. “I worked for him in his home for fifty three years until I retired in 1977.”
Along the way, Mack married her husband William in 1947 and had five children.
Mack also enjoyed growing up in Mt. Holly.
“We walked to school,” she said. “We would go to carnivals and camp meetings. We had a Model T car and would pack and big lunch and drive to the camp meetings in Denver.”
Mack attributes her longevity to what she called “good genes.”
The friendship between Johnson and Mack is a long, a very, very long, one. Johnson believes it started at Burge Memorial UMC. From that root, a mighty oak of oneness grew.
“We’ve known each other all our lives,” said Johnson.
The pair have done many of the same things. The list includes Burge Memorial UMC Meals on Wheels, going to River Park on First Night Out, and senior dinners at the Mt. Holly Municipal Complex. They are also part of the Reid High Class of 1966 reunion group.
The fact that they live more or less next to each other keeps them close too. Either one can look out their window and see the other one’s house.
“We talk on the phone every night from eight to nine o’clock,” Mack says. “We give each other advice.”
So, what’s in the works for their 100th birthdays?
“We are going to have a big party,” said Mack.
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Stanley Parks and Rec. director Tug Deason in front of the recreation center named in his honor. Photo by Alan Hodge

Stanley Parks and Rec. gearing up for summer excitement

By Alan Hodge

Exciting things are going on at Stanley Parks and Rec. not the least of which is the much deserved honor bestowed upon the department’s director Tug Deason who recently received the Centralina Regional Council’s Region of Excellence Award.
Deason was honored during an online ceremony on May 12, 2021 and received the James D. Prosser Excellence in Leadership Award.
Deason was nominated by Town Manager Heath Jenkins for his steadfast leadership and being someone who positive, encouraging to others, and a go-to person where staff, citizens, and others outside of Stanley call upon as a trusted source of information.
“The Town of Stanley congratulates Tug on receiving this prestigious award Town Manager Heath Jenkinssaid.  “Tug loves the Stanley community and works every day to help others without being asked to do so. His work ethic and contagious humor are an inspiration to all who work with him. From day one when Tug came to work for the Town of Stanley, he had a vision where the Town would have a park of its own. He had a vision of a parks and recreation program where the focus is on the children and instilling values of sportsmanship and fairness. Tug has achieved his goals but continues to work toward new goals that help the community. It is an honor to work with Tug and an honor to see him receive this well-deserved award.”
Deason, in his usual self-effacing manner, had this to say about the recognition.
“I am very honored and humbled about receiving the award,” he said. “The whole town deserves it as well.”
During the pandemic, Deason guided the Parks and Rec. department through some challenging days. When festivals and other events that his staff would normally have been involved in producing were called off, he and his folks did other valuable work.
“We repaired and painted playground equipment and did other maintenance,” he said. “We helped out with the senior Christmas dinner and took 140 plates of food to seniors at their homes. On Valentine’s Day we gave out 200 candy bags to seniors. We also took children Christmas shopping with a $20,000 grant from S.C. Johnson Co. We stayed busy the whole time.”
But now, with most Covid restrictions lifted, Stanley Parks and Rec. is planning a number of activities in the coming weeks and months.
Baseball will be returning to Harper Park.
“We will be hosting the Dixie Youth District 4 tournament,” said Deason. “It will begin at 6pm on June 18th. Teams from Charlotte, Kannapolis, and Gaston County will be playing.”
July will bring more action.
“We will be having a big event on July 2nd with fireworks, a live band, corn hole, and more,” Deason said. “It will be an old time Fourth of July event at Harper Park.”
There’s more.
“On July 8th we will have our first concert series,” he said. “The other dates will be August 5th and August 26th. The time will be 6-9pm.”
Looking ahead, the annual Stanley Countryfest will return for the first Friday and Saturday in October.
“There will be plenty of rides and other fun,” said Deason. “We are looking forward to seeing everyone.”
Overall, the mood is upbeat at Stanley Parks and Rec. and Deason is eager to get everything back to a fun and “normal” round of activities.
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Maia McElvane (right) painted a lot of faces at a past Juneteenth including cute Avery Martin. See Junteenth 2021 celebration details inside on page 4. Photo Alan Hodge

Belmont Juneteenth Celebration – 10 Years of Culture

It began as a new Belmont festival with an unfamiliar name – “Juneteenth.” The festival and the name were new to Belmont, but they were not really new at all.  Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, specifically the  June 19, 1865 announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas.
The Belmont Juneteenth Celebration was born in 2012, when the City of Belmont recruited a group of volunteers to help plan and execute the first event. Since then, the volunteer group has become the nonprofit organization Elements of Empowerment, Inc., and the celebration has grown to become a festival of music, art, and culture. The traditional format features musical performances throughout the day,  a D.J., African drum circle, and steel drummer before ending with a finale jazz concert. A curated group of vendors offer artistic, culturally inspired merchandise and food. Free family-friendly activities abound, as well as free information and diagnostic services in the Atrium Health Village.
As partners, the City of Belmont and Elements of Empowerment, Inc. mark the 10th Anniversary of the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration, the first and oldest such event in Gaston County. Juneteenth is now more familiar and more widely observed in Gaston County. Bessemer City began collaborating with Elements of Empowerment, Inc. 2019. They continue to do so with their festival scheduled for June 18, 6 - 9 pm. The City of Cherryville and City of Gastonia are issuing Juneteenth proclamations. All will be represented in the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Parade.
As last year, the 2021 format is modified for the relaxed COVID restrictions. The 10th Anniversary Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Parade will include floats and a rolling African drum circle.
 Juneteenth Sunday - June 13, 2021: As designated by proclamation. Faith Leaders are invited to acknowledge Juneteenth during services.
Virtual 2K Family & Friends Freedom Walk - June 13 through June 30, 2021: Register your family or friend group for this noncompetitive walk to promote unity and wellness. Just one fee for your entire group!
Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Parade - June 19, 2021 at 2 pm: Join the parade or watch from the Montcross Area Chamber webcam. Families are welcome to register.
Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Concert - June 19, 2021 at 7 pm: Enjoy the steel drum stylings of Minsky Delmonte  and food by Tony T’zzz Grill on Wheels in Stowe Park.
Celebration Sponsors: Help support and sustain the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration. Parade space, Facebook promotion, and media recognition are included.
Virtual Vendors: Artisans, crafters, food truck owners, etc. get noticed in the parade, on Facebook, and  in the media.
Complete Event Details:
Book Online:
Phone: (704) 755-5210

Belmont Memorial Day event

Belmont American Legion Post 144 annual Memorial Day ceremony. May 30, 2021  -  2:00 pm  -  Greenwood Cemetery  -   Belmont, NC. Honor Guard provided by Gaston County Sheriff’s Department.
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South Point’s
Matthew Dalton setting his sights on outer space

By Alan Hodge

Graduating South Point High senior Matthew Dalton has stars in his eyes- and planets and constellations and solar systems. That’s because Dalton has his sights set on a career in the aerospace industry after he finishes his upcoming years at Georgia Tech University where he was awarded a prestigious Albert G. Myers Scholarship to attend.
Dalton is a Belmont native and the son of Sheila and Bryan Dalton. He grew in the local school system attending Belmont Central Elementary and Belmont Middle school before heading to South Point.
Dalton traces his intense interest in outer space back to third grade when he picked up a book about the planets. He followed up by buying a book about our solar system. Later, he watched YouTube videos about space. He was hooked.
“Space has many mysteries,” Dalton said. “For instance, we don’t know how big the universe is. There’s an inexhaustible range of subjects to study. There are many stars and many planets out there. We have only started to scratch the surface about what there is to know.”
Even though he is fascinated with apace, Dalton thinks he might hold off on actually traveling there and focus his attention on the aerospace engineering aspect.
“I am especially interested in satellites,” he said. “I would like to work for NASA or Space X building them or rocket ships.”
Dalton has already gained some experience in that regard. He has attended several summer programs at Duke University where he studied nuclear and electrical engineering as well as computer programming. He’s also big  into physics and math- all skills that will come in handy designing outer space craft.
But Dalton is a multi-faceted lad. He exercises his body as well as his mind. He’s a member of the South Point varsity track team.
“I started running when I came to South Point,” he said. “I really enjoy cross country. Coach Kubbs makes it enjoyable and fun.”
Coach Cody Kubbs had this to say about Dalton.
“Matthew Dalton is a tremendous student and an even better young man,” said Kubbs. “I had the privilege of teaching Matthew in my AP US History course his junior year and I also was able to coach him on the cross country team. Matthew is an incredibly bright and gifted student that excels as a combination of his natural abilities and his unwavering work ethic. Matthew is never satisfied with anything less than his absolute best; that was also true of Matthew as a cross country runner. Matthew is a conscientious student that values learning and has a natural curiosity that he allows to guide his personal educational journey. I’ve really enjoyed getting to teach and coach Matthew and will miss our random conversations in the hall between classes next year; but I am excited to see and share in all of his future achievements and successes!”
Dalton is also an avid soccer player. He started playing soccer at the tender age of three years. Teams he’s played for over the years include Gaston United, Carolina Rapids, and Charlotte Independence. He plays outside defender position.
Other activities Dalton has enjoyed at South Point includes being a member of the chess club, Quiz Bowl team, Science Olympiad, Beta Club, and National Honor Society.
Talking to Dalton, it’s obvious he’s enjoyed and cherished his South Point experience.
“The teachers are high quality,” he said. “Many that were students here returned when they became teachers because of their love of the school.”
Ever thoughtful, Dalton wanted to share these musings with students coming along behind him.
“Have a goal and focus on it,” he said. “Also, take classes for what you want to do for a career.”
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East Gaston’s
Deshaun Corry loves soccer and singing

By Alan Hodge

Starring on the soccer field or belting out a song in chorus are just two of the many things that graduating East Gaston senior Deshaun Corry excels at.
Corry, 18, was actually born in San Diego, California and moved with his family to Mt. Holly when he was three years old. His mother is Sylvia and his father is Orlando.
He attended Pinewood Elementary and Mt. Holly Middle schools before he began his time at East Gaston.
Soccer captivated Corry’s attention at at early age. He began organized play in a church league when he was just six years old. From there, Corry climbed the soccer ladder. He played in the Mt. Holly Parks. and Rec. league, the Lake Norman Soccer Club, the for the Strikers of the Gaston County Soccer Association and the N.C. Youth Soccer Association.
At East Gaston, he has been a leading member of the soccer team and has been named to the All Conference team three times.
Corry’s expertise on the soccer field has earned him a scholarship to Belmont Abbey College.
“I feel very excited and blessed to have been recruited by Belmont Abbey,” Corry said.
So, what about soccer attracts Corry?
“It’s a very easy sport to get involved with,” he said. “You just pick up a ball and play. Not only that, but you make a lot of friendships too.”
At the Abbey, Corry will study Business Administration.
“I want to start my own business some day,” he said. “My mom owns a daycare center and I guess I inherited some of her entrepreneurial spirit.”
Another of Corry’s passions is chorus. He’s been an active member of the chorus at East Gaston and explained how he first got started singing.
“In sixth grade I was taking music appreciation class at Mt. Holly Middle School and Mrs. Carpenter pulled me aside and urged me to join the chorus,” Corry said. “My favorite music is hip-hop and rap but I enjoy Christian music too.”
Another activity that Corry has enjoyed at East Gaston is the time he has spent as a media center (library) assistant.
“I enjoy helping other students do research for their projects,” said Corry. “I also take part in producing podcasts on subject such as school life during the Covid pandemic.”
The Student Council is an important aspect of East Gaston and Corry takes part in that activity as well.
“I am the historian and also take notes during meetings and help plan events,” said Corry. “Being on the Student Council has taught me a lot about leadership skills and responsibility.”
Corry’s outgoing nature and bright smile brought him a great honor this school year.. He was named Homecoming King. In that respect he carried on a  family tradition.
“My sister was Homecoming Queen in 2009,” he said.
Corry is much beloved by his fellow students and the staff at East Gaston. Here’s what his Social Studies teacher Edward Craig had to say.
  “I have known Deshaun Corry for about three years,  serving as his social studies teacher and mentor,” said Craig.  “If I could create a student in a laboratory, he would be that student. Deshaun possesses a mature intellect and a well-rounded personality. He has the respect of his classmates  and the faculty at East Gaston.   I will miss his presence in our halls and classrooms. However,  ‘one man’s loss is another man’s gain’.”
So,  now that his days at East Gaston are drawing to close, what advice does Corry offer those students coming along behind him?
“Enjoy your time at East Gaston,” he said. “Try not to take things for granted. Cherish every moment that you have.”
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Stuart Cramer High’s Alexis Granados is an inspiration to all

By Alan Hodge

If anyone, anywhere, deserves to be called inspirational, it’s Stuart Cramer High graduate Alexis “Lexi” Granados who has not only overcome odds that would have bowed a lesser person, but risen to great heights in the process.
Granados and her family moved to our area from Prescott, Arizona in 2018. Her father Gabriel took a job in Charlotte and her mother Sarah stays at home. At first, Granados was trepidatious about starting in a new school in a new town, but those fears faded fast.
“I was a little worried about fitting in but everyone at Stuart Cramer was so friendly and welcoming,” she said. “They met me with open arms.”
That moral support has come in handy given the healthcare challenges that Lexi has faced at home. Her mom has a rare condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
The Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of hereditary disorders of connective tissue that are varied in the ways they affect the body and in their genetic causes. The underlying concern is the abnormal structure or function of collagen and certain allied connective tissue proteins. 
They are generally characterized by joint hypermobility (joints that move further than normal range), joint instability (subluxation (partial separation of the articulating surfaces of a joint)) and dislocations (full separation of the surfaces of a joint), scoliosis, and other joint deformities, skin hyperextensibility (skin that can be stretched further than normal) and abnormal scarring, and other structural weakness such as hernias and
organ prolapse  through the pelvic floor. In the rarer types of EDS, there is also weakness of specific tissues that can lead, for example, to major gum and dental disease, eye disease, cardiac valve and aortic root disorders, and life-threatening abdominal organ, uterine, or blood vessel rupture.
In Sarah’s case it means she needs a transplant of her entire digestive system. All five organs must come from a single donor.
“We are waiting on a call from Miami Transplant Institute,” Granados says. “The call could come tomorrow or five years from now. We just don’t know when. So far, we have waited over 230 days for a call.”
In addition to helping take care of the family, including her younger brother and sister, Granados also holds down a job at Buffalo Wild Wings. In other words, she has all the responsibilities of an adult at eighteen years of age. But she has had a good role model.
“My mother is the strongest person I know, she says.
As her quick smile and lively personality attests, none of those challenges have dampened her spirit or kept her from achieving good things at school. In addition to focusing on her nursing classes (she will attend Appalachian State this fall with the goal of a degree in Biology), Granados is also active on the track team, and a member of the National Honor Society.
“It is a challenge to balance things,” she said in a classic understatement.
Granados is also a diehard fan of the Storm football and basketball teams.
“I love going to the games and pep rallies, “she said. “They are so much fun.”
Her strong and upbeat spirit gets Granados notice from fellow students and teacher alike.
“Lexi is one of those students I will never forget, said teacher Caroline Jessen.  “She has the most beautiful and infectious smile that can brighten anyone’s day. Many are unaware of the personal struggle Lexi deals with on a daily basis-  such as her mom being sick. Honestly, I was shocked when I learned about it because she is always so upbeat and positive.  I often thought to myself,  ‘how does she do it all?’ She plays sports, works part time, takes AP and honors level courses, and deals with family challenges.  My prayer is that this difficult road she has traveled will one day lead to a beautiful destination. She is an amazing young woman.”
It’s a fact that Granados has a level head on her shoulders and she offered this advice for her under classmates.
“Stay motivated and get to know your teachers,” she said “They will help you not only to set goals and prepare for college, but with personal things as well.”
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Gaston County Schools Administrative appointments and transfers, 2021-2022

During the Board of Education meeting on Monday, May 17, the following administrative appointments and transfers were approved for the 2021-2022 academic year:

Principal Appointments
Beverley Bowman was appointed to serve as principal of Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences.  She currently is the coordinator of professional learning and instructional technology for York School District One in York, SC.
Jenny Cabe was appointed to serve as principal of York Chester Middle School.  She currently is the assistant principal at Holbrook Middle School.
Laura Clark was appointed to serve as principal of W.A. Bess Elementary School.  She currently is the interim principal at W.A. Bess Elementary School.
Dr. Adair McKay was appointed to serve as principal of Gaston County Virtual Academy.  She currently is an assistant principal at Grier Middle School.
Page Willis was appointed to serve as principal of Lingerfeldt Elementary School.  She currently is an assistant principal at Hunter Huss High School.

Kevin Doran was transferred to serve as principal of Cramerton Middle School.  He currently is the principal at Cherryville High School.
Dr. Amy Holbrook was transferred to serve as principal of Grier Middle School.  She currently is the principal at York Chester Middle School.
Audrey Hovis was transferred to serve as principal of Cherryville Elementary School.  She currently is the principal at Holbrook Middle School.
Shawn Hubers was transferred to serve as principal of Cherryville High School.  He currently is the principal at Cherryville Elementary School.
Torben Ross was transferred to serve as principal of Holbrook Middle School.  He currently is the principal at Robinson Elementary School.
Jessica Steiner was transferred to serve as principal of Stuart W. Cramer High School.  She currently is the principal at Cramerton Middle School.

Central Office/District Leadership
Dr. Chris Bennett was appointed to serve as the executive director of middle school instruction.  He currently is the principal at Burns Middle School in Cleveland County Schools.
Dr. Bobbie Mills was appointed to serve as the director of middle school instruction.  She currently is the executive director of elementary education in Scotland County Schools.
Dr. Jill Payne was appointed to serve as the executive director of student support services.  She currently is the principal at Hawks Nest STEAM Academy.
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Teachers earn National Board Certification, rank among the best in the nation

(May 6, 2021 Issue) 

Twelve outstanding teachers in Gaston County Schools have earned National Board Certification, which is the highest standard for the teaching profession.  The certification is made available through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
To rank among the best in the nation, teachers earning National Board Certification must demonstrate their knowledge and skills through an extensive series of performance-based assessments.  The teachers spend time examining and reflecting on all aspects of their teaching methods and classroom management.  Going through the National Board Certification process is one of the most difficult things a teacher can do.
“Becoming a National Board Certified Teacher was a rigorous, but rewarding experience,” said Sara White of Southwest Middle School.  “The process allowed me to show my students firsthand the importance of one’s education and achieving long-term goals.  Throughout my journey, I became a stronger teacher, leader, and mentor for my students.”
White added, “Being a teacher is an important part of who I am.  The certification process helped me to refocus and ensure I give 100 percent to my students daily.”
Teachers pursuing National Board Certification have three years to complete four different components.  One component is a computer-based assessment on the content knowledge within the certification area.  The other three components are portfolio requirements.  Teachers submit written reflections, student work samples, two videos of teaching and student interaction, and evidence of accomplished teaching in the areas of differentiation in instruction, teaching practice and learning environment, and being an effective and reflective practitioner.
For Angela Molla of Catawba Heights Elementary, obtaining National Board Certification was the next step for her in the teaching profession.
“I pushed myself to achieve this goal through hard work and reflection so that I could be a better educator for the students I teach,” explained Molla. “The pandemic delayed my opportunity to submit my portfolio components in the spring, but  with the support of my principal and coworkers, I was able to submit my portfolio in the fall.  It is wonderful to achieve such a feeling of accomplishment in my career.”
Teachers in North Carolina who achieve certification receive a 12 percent salary supplement and are awarded eight continuing education credits.
Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker stated, “We are extremely proud of our National Board Certified Teachers, and we would like to congratulate each one of them for achieving this milestone in their professional career.”
Dr. Booker continued, “National Board Certification is an assurance to parents, students, and the community that the teachers being honored have met the profession’s highest standards for accomplished practice.  National Board Certified Teachers not only strengthen the teaching profession, but they also help our students to be more successful and achieve at higher academic levels.”
Currently, 178 teachers who are working in Gaston County Schools have met the rigorous standards to achieve National Board Certification.
The following teachers achieved National Board Certification during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years.  The list includes the teacher’s certification area.
Savanna Abernathy, Bessemer City Central Elementary, Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood
Brittany Beam, Bessemer City Central Elementary, Career and Technical Education/Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood
Jennifer Gerow, Forestview High School, English Language Arts/Adolescence and Young Adulthood
*Kody Kubbs, South Point High School, Social Studies-History/Adolescence and Young Adulthood
*Kerri Luksa, Cramerton Middle School, English Language Arts/Early Adolescence
*Natalie Mackey, McAdenville Elementary, Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood
*Angela Molla, Catawba Heights Elementary, Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood
Karen Palomino, Sadler Elementary, English as a New Language/Early and Middle Childhood
Matthew Renegar, Highland School of Technology, Mathematics/Adolescence and Young Adulthood
Victoria Sain, Gaston Early College High School, Mathematics/Adolescence and Young Adulthood
Lacey Walters, Bessemer City Central Elementary, Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood
Sara White, Southwest Middle School, Career and Technical Education/Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood
In addition, Gaston County Schools had 39 teachers to renew their National Board Certification.  Certification must be renewed every 10 years.
North Carolina continues to lead the nation in the number of teachers (more than 23,000) who achieve certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  The Tar Heel State accounts for nearly one-fifth of all teachers nationally who obtain the certification.  Florida, Washington, South Carolina, and California round out the top five states for National Board Certification.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gaston County Schools has not been able to recognize the teachers achieving National Board Certification during an in-person reception, which has been a tradition.  The plan is to hold an in-person ceremony in spring 2022 to honor the outstanding educators earning their certification since the 2019-2020 year.
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Mt. Holly PD issues annual report

(May 6, 2021 Issue) 

By Alan Hodge

The Mt. Holly Police Department has issued its 2020 Annual Report. The information is in the form of a colorful and informative 29-page booklet that lays out not only statistical information about the department’s activities last year, but also states its philosophy and approach to community law enforcement.
Chief Don Roper explained how the report came about.
“We formed a committee of members from the MHPD to produce the annual report,” he said.   “We vetted the document by having review sessions which had all the members of the department, other Mount Holly staff members, and select community members provide feedback. Mary Smith was also part of the committee that developed the annual report.”
The report will also be posted on the MHPD website and Facebook page.
The report goes right to the point with the PD’s mission statement and remarks from Chief Roper.
“We wanted to give the community a snapshot of where we are as a police department, what our priorities are, and where we hope to advance,” Roper said. “This annual report is a snapshot of where the Mount Holly Police Department is today, what our priorities are, and where we hope to advance. We hope it starts an exchange of ideas and feedback between members of the Mount Holly Police Department and our community. We are grateful for the support given to us by our community, and I hope this shows our commitment to continuing a high level of service to them. I would also like to thank the mayor, city Council, and city manager for providing us with the tools and training we need to make sure we are well equipped to provide the level of service to our community they deserve.”
The report kicks off with a chronological look at the MHPD, tracing its start back in 1907 and highlighting some of its milestones such as the first MHPD vehicle (1930), the establishment of 911 (1994), the first female Captain (Shannon Harris 2004), and the new department badge (2019).
The report also features a chain of command and organizational chart outlining the different divisions and their roles. These include everything from clerical staff to SWAT and K9 teams.
A statistical chart lists crime trends from 2015 to 2020. A pie chart shows how the department’s 2020 $3,750,037 budget is divvied up.
But the report is more than facts and figures. It also shows the “heart” of the MHPD. Pages in the report touch on how deeply the department is involved in community activities and programs such as Coffee with a Cop, Meals on Wheels, National Night Out, Christmas for Seniors, Toys for Tots, and more.
A special two page section in the report looks back at the life and legacy of Officer Tyler Herndon who was lost in action in December 2020. The headline “Officer Tyler Herndon, you will never be forgotten” sums up the profile of his service and memory to the department and everyone who knew him.
Positive public relations are an important part of MHPD ops and the report shows the variety of ways that end is achieved through program such as Resources En Espanola, Safe Meet Up Spot, the PD’s website, Chat with the Chief, School Resource Officers, and social media.
Training is high on the MHPD’s list of priorities. The report examines the variety of ways the department accomplishes this through deescalating training, cultural sensitivity classes, use of force training, and law enforcement driver training.
The report also looks at how the MHPD has availed itself of grant monies which were used to improve technology, buy equipment, and even obtain a boat for river patrol.
Overall, the MHPD 2020 Annual Report is a concise and comprehensive profile of a modern police department focusing on keeping its citizens safe and at the same time staying involved in a wide variety of community activities.
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This artwork by Emily Andress “When Masks Were Still Fun” is just one of the ones that folks will see at the gallery crawl event. Photos provided

Mt. Holly to showcase local arts scene

(May 6, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The already lively Mt. Holly cultural scene is going to get even livelier on Friday, May 21 when “The Art of Mt. Holly: A Collaboration!” event kicks off at 6pm.
The evening will feature a variety of fun and fantastic activities along Central Ave. and Main St. in the downtown district highlighted by an art gallery crawl. Galleries open for visitors to view incredible art works in a variety of genres will include Awaken Gallery that will be celebrating its third anniversary, the  grand opening of Dark Side Studios and Tattoo Boutique, open studio night at Studios@107 West, Arts on the Greenway opening reception, and an opening reception at the Bae Hive Gallery 424.
Among the artists that will have their work on display are-
Meghan Berney: The Studios @107 West
Mike McCarn: The Studios @107 West
Luis Ardila: Awaken Gallery (Sacred Flowers)
Christine Kosiba: Awaken Gallery (Lunar Hares)
Andy Smith: Awaken Gallery (Pottery Piece)
Mark Doepker: Dark Side Studios and Gallery
Bae Hart: Bae Hive Gallery 424
Nancy Kennedy: Arts on the Greenway
Other Art of Mt. Holly activities will see several downtown businesses pitching in. Action will include The Art of Fashion at Catalyst Mercantile, The Art of Furniture Renewal at The Vintage Nest, The Art of Theater at Talent, Inc., The Art of the Perfect Cigar at Smoke and Barrel, and The Art of Craft Beer at The Summit.
Galleries will be greeting guests and offering refreshments of various types.
Even more action is on tap. There will be a photo contest prior to the evening and selected pictures will be projected onto the side of the Arts on the Greenway building. The mural at the Mt. Holly Community Garden will be the backdrop for folks who want to have their picture made there.
Awaken Gallery owner Emily Andress has seen the Mt. Holly arts scene grow by leaps and bounds since she opened up in 2018.
“This is exactly what I hoped would happen,” she said. “Artists are bringing more artists and it’s fantastic.”
A note regarding Covid masks. Indoors, participants will be asked to wear them-but they need not be dull.
“People can decorate their masks and make them walking art,” Andress said.
Arts Mt. Holly, an incubator group funded by the Mt. Holly Community Development Foundation is the event organizer and was created to foster the arts and arts education in Mt. Holly. For more information call Andress at 704-560-4463 or email at
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Volunteers pose for a shot in front of the Baltimore School in Cramerton. The hard working group spent last Saturday sprucing up the historic building.

Volunteers pitch in to preserve Cramerton’s Baltimore School

(April 22, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Work to have the circa 1925 Baltimore School in Cramerton preserved for future generations is moving forward.
Last Saturday saw Cramerton Community Committee members and other volunteers doing repair and maintenance work on the school building. Folks of all ages were pitching in planting  flowers, spreading pine needles, clearing vines and underbrush, cutting grass, cleaning out the inside of the one room school, and generally working hard to help with preservation of the place.
“Oh man, it’s amazing,” said Baltimore School building owner Fred Glenn of the work day. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step like this.”
Glenn, is a Vietnam vet. He was born at 555 Patterson Street in Baltimore and currently lives in Charlotte. He comes back to Baltimore and tends a garden there.
Glenn’s deep love of Baltimore led him to buy the school building from Burlington in 2003 and is currently driving his desire to see it preserved.
“There are a lot of memories here,” Glenn said. “My mom Mary Lucinda Adams and aunt Helen Falls Holmes went to school here. When I was growing up in the 1950s, we used to come see movies on Tuesdays at the school and sit on the benches that are still inside. Fred Kirby (WBTV singing cowboy star) would come and put on shows for us. He would park his horse trailer at the end of the street and ride Calico to the neighborhood. We also had fish fries.”
Where and what is the Baltimore section of Cramerton and what purpose did the school serve?
Baltimore is a tiny corner of Cramerton wedged between the base of Cramer Mtn. and the South Fork River. It is where the town’s African-America citizens mostly lived. Baltimore St. is not much over 100 yards long and with a couple of even shorter side streets branch off and dead end. There are just a couple dozen small homes on the narrow pavement, most of which were built during the 1920s by Stuart Cramer. These days, a flock of free range chickens forms a cackling and crowing welcoming committee as you drive along.
The Baltimore School served African-American children first through eighth grades. From there, the kids went to Reid High in Belmont. The school continued to operate until integration came along. Once that happened, the African-American students from Baltimore were transferred to schools in Belmont and Cramerton.
The school was nothing fancy. A potbellied stove provided heat. Students sat at wooden desks. There were no steps. Kids had to jump off the porch and get pulled back up by classmates. Books were second-hand ones from white schools.
Today, the Baltimore School is an abandoned wooden building with basically one large room. There’s a porch on the front corner. Inside, there are several original benches, one desk, and a couple of old washing machines. The windows are blacked and there’s soot on the ceiling. On the bright side, the original clapboards and foundation are in good shape. The roof was replaced several years ago. In other words, a solid core is there for a restoration project.
Glenn has a dream for the future of the Baltimore School. Possible uses for the building could include a small museum or a community gathering place.
“If you think about it, the school was our community center,” he said.
Last year, the Town of Cramerton Commissioners passed a resolution giving the school a local historic designation.  The historical significance of school has also received approval from the North Carolina Dept. of Archives and History. The Baltimore School has also officially been designated as a Historic Site in Gaston County.  It’s the first Gaston County Historical Preservation Site in Cramerton. A plaque was recently placed on the side of the school proclaiming its historic status.
The next step for the preservation of the Baltimore School will be raising funds through donations and grants. To get things going, a Go Fund me site has been set up at

See more photos in the April 22, 2021 issue of Banner-News
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Martha Page with the Belmont Historical Society’s antique spinning wheel from the Armstrong ancestral farm.

Belmont Historical Museum
to reopen

(April 22, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

After over a year being closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Belmont Historical Society Museum at   40 E. Catawba in downtown Belmont will be reopening with a bang to the general public on Saturday, May 1 at 9am.
The grand reopening will be celebrated with a Living History Day event on the museum grounds  and inside the museum building (the 1899 R.L. Stowe, SR. House).
“We are very excited to be open again,” said BHS member Elizabeth Atterberry. “We are looking forward to a big Living History Day event.”
There will be a plethora of displays and demonstrations at the Living History Day. Outside, visitors can view a display of Native American artifacts collected locally by Jack Page (a BHS founding member). World War II reenactor Al Kirby will have his display of uniforms, arms and equipment where folks can see what our fighting men wore and used back then. Piedmont Fiber Guild members will show how folks made cloth and other textiles way back when. Smitty Hanks will have beekeeping display set up. Leigh Ford will have information of the historic Smith Cemetery.
Wait, there’s more. Basket making by Nancy Duffie, miniature steam engines by Bob Atterberry, lead casting figures by Greg Edel will also be on site. The Elements of Empowerment and Southern Piedmont Chapter of NC Native Plants groups will be represented. In addition, Gary Griffin and Jean Stowe Humphrey will talk about what their ancestors did during the Great Flood of 1916. Also look for plant sales pickups by Keep Belmont Beautiful.
Indoors, the BHS Museum has several new and exciting items on display. One is an antique spinning wheel from the Armstrong ancestral farm on South Point Rd. Another item is the antique medicine cabinet that was once used in Belmont Drugstore. The piece was donated by Dr. Charles McAdams III. In addition, there will be a display of NC pottery.
Mask wearing and social distancing will be at the discretion of attendees.
About the BHS
The Belmont Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the history of the city of Belmont, NC and its immediate surrounding area. The BHS records the places, the people, and the times from the past that have made Belmont the community that it is.  The BHS traces Belmont from the early days, (even before its original name of Garibaldi), through the years as a textile manufacturing giant, to the current days of a growing community of interesting people and places.  Belmont, NC has a well documented history via the written word from books, photographs and stories passed on by word of mouth…some not yet captured for the citizens of the future. Come in and see the huge collections of photos, videos, books and artifacts obtained from the citizens of the Belmont community.
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City of Belmont’s Main Street Program wins three State Awards

(April 22, 2021 Issue)

The City of Belmont and its Main Street Program were awarded three out of a total of twelve state awards during the North Carolina State Main Street Conference on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Former City Councilman Ron Foulk was also honored during the ceremony as a 2020 Main Street Champion for his volunteer contributions to Belmont. The Belmont City Council recognized the Main Street Board, staff members, and volunteers for their outstanding contributions to Belmont at their regular monthly meeting on Monday, April 5, 2021.
Awards included:
Organization Award – Best Economic Recovery Plan – “Keep The Lights On” Campaign Organization Award – Best Public-Private Partnership – TechWorks Gaston Promotions Award – Best Retail Promotion – Al Fresco Dining in Downtown Belmont An Award of Merit was presented to the City of Belmont Main Street Program and Downtown Belmont Development Association for the “Keep The Lights On In Belmont” campaign for Best Economic Recovery Initiative.
On March 12, 2020, Gaston County declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. The City of Belmont Main Street Program and the Downtown Belmont Development Association (DBDA) created the “Keep The Lights On” campaign to encourage the community to support downtown businesses through the pandemic. A “Keep The Lights On” video brought stark awareness to the effects COVID-19 could have on small businesses and captured 31,588 views on Facebook. A specific Keep The Lights On webpage was created, which became a one-stop shop for customers to find out the operating status of businesses, changes to business hours,
Ten-minute curbside pickup signs were also distributed to increase customer accessibility to downtown businesses. A follow-up “Signs” video showing owners of retail businesses and restaurants with hashtag signs was also produced as a reminder to the community to keep supporting downtown businesses and drive people to the City’s webpage.
The Main Street Program also worked with City leadership to create a $400,000 small business emergency loan program that immediately offered $10,000 loans to downtown businesses. Several fundraisers were held that raised over $20,000 for a relief fund to help downtown businesses keep their lights on. Because of this campaign, businesses were able to keep their doors open and maintain operations through a devastating time. As a direct result of the initiative, new retail shops and restaurants are locating in downtown Belmont because of the support they saw small businesses receive during the pandemic.
An Award of Merit was presented to RAH Construction Consulting, Redline Design, Momentum Construction, National Mills, LLC., Gaston County, City of Belmont, Alliance Bank, Zander Guinn Millan, Open Broadband, and TechWorks for the Best Public-Private Partnership for TechWorks Gaston.
Located in a renovated textile mill in Downtown Belmont, TechWorks Gaston features gigabit fiber and state-of-the-art audiovisual capabilities in a 14,000 square foot, digitally connected, learning center of office and co-working space, conference and training rooms, and a large event space. TechWorks provides a place for leaders, entrepreneurs, and students to collaborate.

An Award of Merit was presented to the City of Belmont, Belmont Main Street, and Creative Solutions for Best Retail Promotion for Belmont’s Al Fresco Dining event and promotion.
The City of Belmont traded vehicle traffic for foot traffic last summer when it closed Main Street on weekend evenings to take dining out under the stars. Belmont is a culinary destination, and the Al Fresco Dining promotion was created to continue and bolster that status throughout the unprecedented challenges of the past year.
The Belmont Main Street program received permission to close Main Street to vehicle traffic on Friday and Saturday evenings during May, June, and July 2020. The City and restaurants partnered with Creative Solutions, a wedding and event business located in downtown Belmont, to decorate downtown with lights, fencing, tables, and chairs. An “Al Fresco” logo was created for use by the City and restaurants to promote a safe eating environment for the community. On each night of the event, Belmont Main Street volunteers set up a station to collection donations to support downtown businesses and raised over $20,000.
Many communities created outdoor dining spaces during the pandemic, but Belmont created a retail promotion to fortify restaurants and retail businesses. Retailers extended their hours to capture foot traffic generated by the restaurants, and the event organizers created an outdoor dining experience for the community. As a result of the successful Al Fresco Dining promotion, restaurants and retail establishments received much needed business through a complicated season.
The promotion successfully filled tables and allowed restaurants to continue to provide the culinary experiences that make Belmont such a special place to dine. One restaurant owner commented that the al fresco setup restored the seating capacity of the business back to 100%, enabling it to bring in additional serving staff on busy weekend evenings.
Many community members expressed gratitude toward the City for creating a safe space to eat and relax during the summer.
One of the Main Street volunteers was also named a Main Street Champion at the NC Main Street Conference. Ron Foulk from Belmont is the personification of a Main Street Champion. Few realize the quiet work Ron does every day to make Belmont’s downtown the best it can be. In the past year alone, Ron could be found working to connect volunteers, find vendors, and share information for every project happening in downtown. He is the first to volunteer, whether the task is selling tickets at the Friday Night Live concerts, working at the Christmas Village, or literally climbing a tree in Stowe Park to add some extra sparkle for the Festival of Trees.
When asked about Ron Foulk’s contributions to the Main Street Program and to Belmont, Downtown Director Phil Boggan stated, “the most visible contribution Ron made over the past year was his pulling together of talents, pushing forward, and managing the renovations to Stowe Park, a centerpiece of downtown Belmont. Ron gives to the Belmont community in numerous ways, not only through his work for the Main Street organization, but also in what he does for so many others. A conversation with Ron is likely to end with him saying, “Let me know how I can help.” Ron Foulk is the epitome of a North Carolina Main Street Champion!”
City Manager Adrian Miller was thrilled with the success of Belmont’s Main Street Program over the last year.
 “Our vibrant, historic downtown won three statewide awards during the 2021 NC Main Street conference, highlighting the hard work and innovation of our local businesses, Main Street board and volunteers, and city staff. I am glad that the TechWorks renovation project is receiving recognition since it has the potential to create new businesses in our community, but I am especially proud of our awards for how our community responded to save our existing businesses during the height of the COVID crisis. Our “Keep the Lights on in Belmont” program highlighted the seriousness of the economic crisis in late March 2020 and then the overwhelming response of our community in supporting local businesses. 2020 was a tough year for everyone, but Belmont showed it was even tougher than the challenges we faced.”
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The City of Belmont’s CityWorks Center is now officially open for business. Photo by Julie Bowen

Belmont’s CityWorks Center officially open

(April 15, 2021 Issue)

The City of Belmont recently celebrated the grand opening of the magnificent CityWorks Center with an official ribbon cutting. This building is now home to the following city departments: Administration, Planning & Zoning, Public Works, Finance, Customer Service & Utilty Billing*, and Parks & Recreation. The City Hall building in downtown is now home to the Main Street staff and the Montcross Chamber of Commerce. All city buildings are now opened back up to the public.
“After two years of construction and a year of being closed to the public due to COVID-19, I am excited that our new CityWorks Center is officially open to the public,” said Belmont city manager Adrian Miller. “We opened the building for city staff in October 2020, and it has provided much-needed office and meeting space for our operations.  Mayor Martin and the city council wanted to meet in person so that our residents could continue participating in their local government, and our Community Room allowed 30 people to safely attend meetings over the past six months. We have missed seeing our residents over the past year, so we are glad to welcome them back into our buildings and especially the new CityWorks Center.”
The CityWorks Center is a 1980s era building, which was formerly occupied by Woodlawn Mills and Beltex Corp.  and had been used by the City of Belmont as its public works headquarters for the past several years. A major remodeling project  transformed it from a huge concrete cavern into a modern, state of the art, efficient, spacious, and comfortable complex for the city’s business and its administrative staff.
The building has a lot of space including 55K sq. ft. that will retain its use as a warehouse for city equipment, supplies, and vehicles, as well  as a 21K sq. ft., three level portion that will serve as the administrative office complex side of things.
Offices have been painted in soothing tones of green, gray, and blue with matching carpeting. Other flooring is done in grey-toned hardwood laminate. The colors compliment the view that employees will enjoy of sky, water, and trees  as they look out the windows towards Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park across the road. There is a nice lunch room for employees as well as a kitchen and lockers.
The project included building a three story glass and steel elevator and staircase tower on the outside of the front of the building.
  Parking will be plentiful at the renovated complex with 85 spaces.
The remodeling job also included LED lights throughout. The LEDs are automatic. When a person goes into a  room, they come on automatically. A few minutes after the room is empty, they go off. Another energy saving feature of the new building is tinted glass for the windows.
Cost of the renovation  work was estimated at $4.8 million. The city bought the building and 30 acres ten years ago for $2.5 million.
*A note about utility bills - City facilities are now open to the public, but will no longer accept in-person water payments.  There are multiple ways for customers to make their water bill payments: online, mail, automatic draft, or physical drop boxes. There is currently the dropbox located behind City Hall and another one will be installed outside the new CityWorks in the upcoming weeks.  Customers do not come inside to pay their water bills as staff will not accept the payment and customers will be instructed use one of the alternate payment methods.
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River Hawkins received the 2020 Southwestern 2A Conference Coach of the Year award after guiding the Warrior’s soccer team to a 7-5 record in 2020.

Coach Hawkins shows
a special kind of wisdom

(April 15, 2021 Issue)

By John Wilson

As a society, we rarely look for wisdom from that group of Americans known as Generation Z, or Gen Z for short. In a nutshell, the Gen Z crowd is made up of those Americans born after 1996.
Conventional wisdom would dictate that if you hadn’t been around during Y2K, Bush v. Gore or the September 11th attacks you probably aren’t very world savvy.
Funny thing about conventional wisdom. Sometimes, it’s just dead wrong.
East Gaston soccer coach River Hawkins, 21,  is an example of conventional wisdom turned upside down.
Hawkins is a young man who has experienced some real highs and some tough lows over the last two years. How he dealt with those challenges is impressive, to say the least.
For starters, Hawkins recently guided the Warriors men’s soccer team on a successful 7-5 run for the 2020 season.
That record coupled with a positive coaching outlook resulted in Hawkins being honored by his peers with the Southwestern 2A Conference Coach of the Year Award.
In addition to the conference award, Coach Hawkins was also honored with being named the Regional Coach of the Year as well.
While Hawkins was pushing his players to live up to their potential on the field the coach was also dealing with more personal matters off the field.
A terrifying battle with cancer.
The tale of how Hawkins got to that point is an interesting one.
River Hawkins comes from a family with a rich history of involvement in East Gaston athletics.
His father, Roger Hawkins has been the Warriors swim coach for 16 years.
River’s older brothers, Tanner and Hunter were both soccer standouts at East Gaston.
Hunter was an All-state goalie, while Tanner received regional honors as a striker.
River never attended East Gaston, instead, he played varsity soccer at Stuart Cramer graduating in 2017.
After graduating high school River landed a scholarship playing lacrosse at Belmont Abbey College.
Hawkins’s lacrosse career was cut short when in 2018, he broke his femur and tore his ACL and meniscus in a game against the Citadel Bulldogs.
With his athletic career all but over, River regrouped and decided to go to work with the East Gaston Volunteer Fire Department while also studying to be an EMT/Firefighter.
For the most part, Hawkins thought he was about done with sports when in the summer of 2019 he learned from his Dad that East Gaston was in need of a soccer coach. Originally the school had hoped for Tanner Hawkins to take the spot. As it turned out, Tanner was unable to do it so River threw his hat in the ring. East Gaston athletic director Ryan Resendez decided to give the youngest Hawkins brother a shot.
In River’s first year as head coach, the Warriors went 5-14-1 during the 2019 season. In 2020 coach Hawkins’s role was expanded and he took on the coaching duties for not just the men’s team but the EG Lady Warriors soccer program as well.
In the spring of 2020, the Lady Warriors started their season off well jumping out to an impressive 2-1 start. Sadly we will never know what could have been because just as things started rolling the season was cut short due to COVID.
COVID not only devastated the women’s season, but it also threw a wrench in the scheduling of other high school sports across the state. Normally, men’s soccer is played in the fall. However, due to COVID, the 2020 season was pushed back and soccer didn’t get underway in January of 2021.
Just as January tryouts were getting started and the Warriors were preparing for a new season, Coach Hawkins was hit with some tough medical news.
“On the first day of tryouts I was diagnosed with testicular cancer,” Hawkins said.
News like that can be devastating. It’s fair to say that all kinds of thoughts can run through a person’s mind as they try to process what they have just been told. River Hawkins was no different.
While sorting things out Hawkins definitely thought about himself, but he also took a moment and thought about how his diagnosis could impact the soccer program.
 “I remember the first three things I thought about,” Coach Hawkins recalled. “I was thinking, okay now what? What are we going to do about tryouts? And, can I have kids?”
The fact that he thought about his players shows what kind of a person he is.
After his diagnosis, Hawkins was scheduled for surgery on January 19th. After surgery Hawkins had no desire to remain idle. While still recovering Hawkins did all he could to get back to work. With a lot of help from assistant coach Jayce Bass, Hawkins was able to be on the sidelines after only missed three days of practice. Not only that, but Hawkins even made it to the season opener on January 26th.
“I sat on a lawn chair so I could watch,” the coach explained. “My assistant coach was great in helping me get back.”
Little by little the coach gained his strength back and before long he was back in full swing. Medically things turned out all right and River found out that he was cancer-free.
The last two years have taught coach Hawkins a lot.
Hawkins is very grateful that despite his youth, EG took a chance on him because he has come to believe that coaching is a truly special job.
Connecting with the players and trying to make a difference in their lives is something the coach strives to do every day.
“A coach can be a good role model for someone that may not have one,” Hawkins said.
More than anything, Coach Hawkins wants his players to learn to appreciate what is important in life. He wants them to seize the moment because he understands that tomorrow is never guaranteed.
“I like to win,” Hawkins laughed. “But I’m also guilty of not caring as much about the X’s and O’s as I am about the progression of the players. I try to tell the players that they’re only athletes for four years, but the relationships they can develop during that time will last a lifetime.”
Coach Hawkins is also very open when talking about his battle with cancer. In fact, he looks at the situation as a teachable moment.
“Many guys my age don’t think it can happen to them,” Hawkins added. But it can.”
Coach Hawkins hopes that his experience and the challenges that his players have endured while dealing with COVID will help them learn to better cope with the everyday challenges of life.
“I don’t want them to ever give up,” Hawkins went on to say. “I want them to know that even with COVID and someone getting hit with cancer that the only person that can stop them is themselves.”
Coach Hawkins’s outlook and life perspective is refreshing and a source of hope for the future.
When you break it down it would seem that many of us really do have something to learn from the younger generation.
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Belmont Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe (right) and recreational specialist Alex Godette with the mobile fun trailer. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont Parks and Rec.
launching exciting new program

(April 15, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Back in the 1960s the British rock group The Who had a hit song entitled “Going Mo-bile”. Taking a note from that, the Belmont Parks and Recreation Dept,. is going mo-bile with a new program that will see staff members traveling out into parks and neighborhoods with a trailer full of fun.
The idea revolves around the concept of loading  a former Belmont PD enclosed trailer with a wide variety of recreational activity equipment,  and pulling it to parks and neighborhoods, and letting the kids there avail themselves of the stuff for free.
The activities will include spikeball, ladderball, basketball, badminton, dodgeball, wister, soccer, cornhole, checkers, chess, waterpark at Stowe Park, fishing and paddleboats at Loftin Riverfront Park, and tumbling mats to name a few.
Academy Sports donated  a lot of the equipment and supplies for the programming.
Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe says the idea was hatched after he talked to some parents.
“I was at Davis Park and some of the moms were talking about ways to take recreation to the people,” Stowe said. “This new program will be a great way to see that happen.”
Parks and Rec. employee Alex Godette will be one of the staff involved in getting the equipment out there.
“This will be a great opportunity to go to all areas of Belmont and give the community more recreational choice,” he said.
Stowe says that in addition to Parks and Rec. employees, he’s also looking for volunteers to help with the program. Call him at 704-901-2069 to find out about volunteering.
A tentative schedule of places the trailer will go and activities it will provide has been drawn up. June 19- Linford Park; June 26- Reid Park; July 10- Rodden Ball Field; July 17- Davis Park; July 24- Stowe Park; July 31st- Loftin Park; August 7-Peninsula; August 14- Back to School cookout Loftin Park.
In other Belmont Parks and Rec. news, April 28 at 6pm at the CityWorks Center meeting room downstairs will be the date for citizen input on a Skate Park. The park is planned to be located behind the CityWorks Center.
Also, Belmont will be part of a photo contest with the cities of Belmont, Mass., Belmont, Cal., and Belmont, New Hampshire. The contest is being called “Capturing Connections” and includes the categories Connection with Nature, Connection with Others, and Connection with Self.
The year 2020 highlighted the importance of connections for many, so take and share a photo of a connection that’s meaningful to you. Photos will be judged by representative for all four “Belmonts”.  Submissions are due May 31.
Here’s a link

North Carolina’s COVID-19 vaccine
eligibility now open for all adults

(April 15, 2021 Issue)

Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. gave an update last week on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress and announced the opening of vaccine eligibility for Group 5. This means anyone 16 years and older who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination is eligible to get one.
“We remain focused on getting people vaccinated as quickly and as equitably as possible and continuing to slow the spread of the virus,” said Governor Cooper. “The more people we vaccinate, the more we can safely do.”
North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 5.2 million doses. 39 percent of those 18 and up is at least partially vaccinated, and 26 percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.
“These tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will help us get back in control of our lives and back to the people and places we love – like safely hugging a grandmother, traveling to see vaccinated family or friends, or having a potluck dinner with your vaccinated neighbors,” said Secretary Cohen.
State health officials are continuing to monitor the presence of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to follow the state’s mask mandate and practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.
Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing.
Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is level.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is level.
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is level.
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
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Chronicle Mill developers John and Jennifer Church.

Chronicle Mill project going great guns

(April 8, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

About a decade ago John and Jennifer Church first launched their dream of  transforming Belmont’s oldest standing cotton mill building, the 1901 Chronicle, into a showcase living and commercial space. Now, after many stops, starts, and delays, not the least of which has been the COVID pandemic, construction workers are on the E. Catawba St. site and pitching in with a passion.
Last week saw crews from firms such as RCI Demolition and the Church’s partner Virginia Beach-based Armada Hoffler Construction, busy with everything from heavy equipment to hammers toiling to transform the mill’s brick shell, wooden beams, and heart of pine floors into a modern residential and commercial landmark.
John Church smiled as he looked at the work taking place.
“What’s exciting is the amount of energy and the tremendous resources being focused on finally making it
happen,” he said. “It’s amazing what’s going on here.”
According to Church, when completed in the autumn of 2022, the $50 million project will have 238 apartments as well as 9,000 sq. ft. of commercial space. Studio and one bedroom apartments, which will comprise about seventy percent of the residential area, will rent for around $1,000-$1,600 a month. Units will feature open and airy lofts, have exposed brick walls, and boast expansive windows amplifying tons of natural light. Modern upscale finishes and high-tech features will also be part of the package. There will be plenty of amenities such as a clubhouse and pool.
The entire mill site is about seven acres.  The land behind the mill will have a new 150-apartment building while the mill itself will have around 90 apartments plus parking.
There will be greenspace along E. Catawba St. in front of the Mill.  It will be called Chronicle Green.  A walkway in front of the building will connect the greenspace to E. Catawba and to N. Main St.
There will be a parking deck for about 80 spaces at the east end of the property near First St. There will be a total parking 240 spaces.
Church believes the Chronicle Mill apartments will be a financial boon to Belmont.
“Each family in the community spends around $19,000 annually,” he said.
“The project will have nearly 240 apartments. That’s five million dollars in the local economy.”
Church expressed an appreciation for the support he’s had on the project.
“I found a really good partner in Armada Hoffler,” he said. “They appreciate the location and the historic aspect of the project.”
He also gave a nod to his wife.
“I could not have done it without her support,” he said.
In addition to the Chronicle building proper, Church also has plans for the adjacent property he owns straddling First St. on E. Catawba. Subject to approval by the City of Belmont, those lots will see the construction of between seven and fourteen townhomes. In addition, Church has bought the office building and parking lot at 85 E. Catawba directly across from the mill and that will become 6,000 sq. ft. of office and retail space.
The bottom line? Church is eager to see the dream finally become reality.
“We are hustling to get this thing done,” he said. “It’s full speed ahead.”
A brief history of Chronicle Mill
The 110,000 sq. ft. Chronicle Mill was built in 1901 by R.L. Stowe and other investors. Workers who laid the bricks for the imposing three-story structure earned $1.75 for every thousand they put down. Timber and other lumber used in the building cost $13 per thousand board feet delivered to the site. The mill’s name was chosen to honor a Revolutionary War patriot from Gaston County, Major William Chronicle, who had lived near the mill site and was killed in the Battle of King’s Mountain in October 1780. The first bale of cotton was fed into the Chronicle Mill’s steam-powered machinery on Feb. 28, 1902. By 1908, the mill was powered by electricity, a move that doubled production. In time, countless cones of cotton thread would be spun at the Chronicle Mill until it finally shut down in 2010.
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Belmont Yoga Ribbon Cutting

(April 8, 2021 Issue)

Owners Michelle LoSardo and Cory Miller cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Belmont Yoga at 37 Glenway Street in downtown Belmont. Belmont Yoga is the first business to locate in the new North Main Station retail center. 

Montcross Chamber photo
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Gaston Hearing Center PLLC Ribbon Cutting

(April 8, 2021 Issue)

The Montcross Area Chamber celebrated Gaston Hearing Center PLLC with a ribbon cutting last week. The office is  located at 19 Myrtle St. in downtown Belmont.

Montcross Chamber photo
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The King’s Daughters Ministry founder and president Sheryl Dorsey (left) and accountant Dawn Smith work together at the non-profit’s headquarters at 112 N. Main in Stanley. Photo by Alan Hodge

The King’s Daughters Ministry celebrating ten years in Stanley

(April 8, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Back in 2011 Sheryl Dorsey had a dream of starting a residential ministry in Stanley providing counseling, education, and daily life skills to women 18-30 and their children who may be homeless, battered, self-harming or recovering from substance abuse. Since that time the idea has not only survived, it has blossomed and grown.
“It’s been challenging and very rewarding,” Dorsey said of the journey. “God has been amazing in changing and healing the lives of the families that come here.”
The King’s Daughters offers a variety of services for its residents. Services are free of charge. These include- Provide a safe and loving residential environment which includes food, clothing and shelter. Foster emotional support and healing through professional counselors and peer advocates.  Proclaim the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ as foundation for all healing. Provide spiritual and personal growth through biblical teaching, partnerships with spiritual and educational experts, and through lay leader mentoring.
The King’s Daughters headquarters are currently located at its Center for Counseling & Education at 112 N. Main Street in Stanley.  The facility is home to the administrative office, counseling rooms, a kitchen and dining area, space for tots to play, and a study room where classes on subjects such as budgeting, parenting, and resume’ writing take place.
“We try to use all of our space to meet the needs of our residents,” said Dorsey’s assistant Dawn Smith.
The King’s Daughters residents actually live in its Stanley area home called Emerald House. The house is a spacious and clean environment. Up to six women and children can live there. The residents take turns grocery shopping, cooking, and doing household chores.
“They can stay as little as one day or as long as two years,” Dorsey said. “The house is supervised 24/7.”
According to Dorsey, potential residents must complete an interview process.
“They come from all over,” she said. “Most are from Gaston County, but as far away as Asheville.”
Where does the funding for The Kings Daughters come from? Nearly half (47%) comes from the organization’s bargain store the Penny Thrift Shop at 530 Hwy. 27 in Stanley. The store features a wide variety of clothes, household furnishings, and other items at bargain prices. Volunteers keep the store organized and operating efficiently. All store proceeds go directly back to the ministry.
“It’s a wonderful cause,” said volunteer Cindy Hammond. “I volunteer because I wanted to give back to the community.”
Other funding comes from donations (40%), fundraisers (10%), and grants and reimbursements (4%),
Overall, The King’s Daughters Ministry is stepping up to provide a helping hand for folks caught in difficult circumstances and a way to rise above therm.
“God is already at work in the lives of our residents,” said Dorsey. “He just invites us to participate.”
If your group would like to find out more about this amazing opportunity to rescue young women at risk  contact the ministry office for more information at 704-263-4204 or visit The Kings Daughters Ministry is a 501 C3 non-denominational ministry.
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Last year, South Point Class of 2020 grads staged an impromptu gathering and parade in Belmont. This year, Gaston Schools plans on having a return to somewhat “normal” graduation events. See more on 2021 High School graduation plans, page 4. Photo by Jennifer Hall

This year’s high school graduation will take a turn towards normalcy

(April 8, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Because of COVID concerns, last year’s Gaston County high school graduation ceremonies were a socially distant departure from the usual  festivities. This year, the Class of 2021 event will look more like the traditional deal- but with a twist on the time frame.
Ergo, Gaston County Schools plans to hold in-person ceremonies for high school graduations and the ceremonies will be held outdoors in cohorts.
The graduations were  originally scheduled for Saturday, May 29, but Gaston Schools leaders approved a plan at the March 15 meeting that will break graduation up into  groups and times to allow for current COVID-19 protocols. Graduation for most Gaston County high schools will be held the night of Friday, May 28.
Traditionally, graduations were held on Saturday mornings.
Each school would hold two graduation ceremonies on May 28, with the Cohort A family starting at 5:30 p.m. and Cohort B family starting at 8 p.m.:  These schools include: Ashbrook, Bessemer City, Cherryville, East Gaston, Forestview,  Highland Hunter Huss,  North Gaston, South Point, Stuart W. Cramer.
The following schools will hold graduation ceremonies on the following days: Gaston Early College - May 20, Gaston Virtual Academy - May 26, Warlick - May 26, Webb - May 26.
Of course, COVID and other safety practices will be in place at the events. These will include- health screening, temperature checks,  metal detecting, masks required, social distancing.
Graduation seniors will be required to stay for both ceremonies and the entire class will march into and out of the stadium together.
In the event of inclement weather, a second attempt to hold the ceremonies would be on Saturday, May 29 at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Gaston Schools also plans to offer a minimum of four tickets per graduate, and a pre-recorded video showing each graduate will be available for those unable to attend the ceremonies.

 Catawba Nation to fast-track casino opening this summer with 500-slot  ‘pre-launch’ facility at Kings Mountain site 

​​​​​Faster opening of Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort will accelerate job creation for region 

KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C. – The Catawba Nation today announced it will fast-track the opening of the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort project in Kings Mountain by opening a “pre-launch” facility this summer with 500 slot machines.
The pre-launch facility, which will be constructed using prefabricated modular structures, will provide an initial opportunity for patrons to game with limited food & beverage and other guest amenities.
“With the completion of our compact with the State of North Carolina, the Catawba Nation is eager to open the casino as quickly as possible to begin bringing economic benefits and jobs to the state and region,” Catawba Chief Bill Harris said. “We’re working with Delaware North, our consultant on the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort project, as well as our developer, Skyboat Gaming, to make that happen by opening what we are calling a ‘pre-launch’ facility this summer.”
An introductory phase of the full casino is still planned and will feature an additional 1,300 slot machines. It will be a permanent structure that will become part of the full casino. Its construction is expected to take about a year.
“It makes sense to have the temporary pre-launch facility to start, and it will continue to operate during the construction of the introductory phase and possibly subsequent phases,” said Brian Hansberry, president of Delaware North’s gaming business. “It gives us a place to teach incoming staff and accommodates people in the region who are anxious to start gaming this summer.”
The 17-acre casino site off Dixon School Road in Kings Mountain, Cleveland County, is near Interstate 85 and about 35 miles west of Charlotte. The total $273 million casino resort project is expected to create 2,600 permanent jobs at full buildout and thousands of construction jobs in the region.
“This project will prove to be a long-lasting and sustainable economic engine for the residents of Cleveland County, we are excited about the expedited timeline” said Cleveland County Commissioner Johnny Hutchins.
“Chief Harris and the members of The Catawba Indian Nation are great partners. Our team looks forward to continuing to work side by side as the project develops” said Cleveland County Manager Brian Epley.
The Catawba Nation and the State of North Carolina in January signed a compact that allows the state to share in revenues generated by the new casino, which will be operated by the Catawba. In March 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior, following a thorough, years-long review, took the 17 acres of land into trust for the Catawba Nation. The action recognized the Catawba Nation’s historical and ancestral ties to its aboriginal lands throughout North Carolina, as evidenced by names such as Catawba County and Catawba College, as well as in the six counties, including Cleveland County, specifically identified by Congress as part of the Catawba’s service area. The state compact acknowledges this connection to North Carolina as well.
In addition to creating revenue for the State of North Carolina, the casino will help support an education fund that will benefit environmental conservation, provide educational support for members of federal and state-recognized tribes, support local communities on economic development initiatives and foster employment opportunities on or near Catawba lands.
# # #

Catawba Nation Compact with the State of North Carolina approved by U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs 

(March 25, 2021 Issue)

Compact allows Class III gaming at Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain 

KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C. – The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has approved the Catawba Nation’s Tribal-State Compact with the State of North Carolina, allowing the state to share in revenues generated by the new Two Kings Casino Resort
The Catawba can now conduct Class III gaming, including operating slot machines and table games, at the casino being developed at a site in the City of Kings Mountain in Cleveland County, about 45 minutes from downtown Charlotte.
The approval of the compact was communicated to Catawba Chief Bill Harris in a March 19 letter from Darryl LaCounte, director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and takes effect when the notice of the approval is published in the Federal Register. A similar letter is also being sent to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, LaCounte’s letter noted.
“We completed our review of the Compact and conclude that it does not violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and any provision of the Federal law that does not relate to jurisdiction over gaming on Indian lands, or the trust obligations of the United States to Indians,” LaCounte wrote. “Therefore, pursuant to my delegated authority and Section 11 of IGRA, I approve the Compact.”
The Catawba Compact was approved by Gov. Cooper, as well as North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Attorney General Josh Stein, in mid-January, and underwent a 45-day review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“This is great news for the Catawba Nation, the State of North Carolina and the Kings Mountain region, and I’d like to thank the Bureau of Indian Affairs for its work in reviewing our Compact,” Harris said. “Our focus now is developing the casino to bring economic benefits and thousands of jobs to the citizens of North Carolina.”
In March 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior, following a thorough, years-long review, took 17 acres of land into trust status in Cleveland County, North Carolina, for the Catawba Nation. The action recognized the Catawba Nation’s historical and ancestral ties to its aboriginal lands throughout North Carolina, as evidenced by names such as Catawba County and Catawba College, as well as in the six counties, including Cleveland County, specifically identified by Congress as part of the Catawba’s service area. The compact with North Carolina acknowledges this connection to North Carolina as well.
In addition to creating revenue for the State of North Carolina, the casino will help support an education fund that will benefit environmental conservation, provide educational support for members of federal and state-recognized tribes, support local communities on economic development initiatives and foster employment opportunities on or near Catawba lands.
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This large photo of Officer Tyler Herndon is in the MHPD office. Hundreds of folks signed it to show their support and caring.

Mt. Holly Police Dept. Memorial Plaza will be spectacular

(March 25, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Sometimes deep tragedy can forge an even deeper bond of fraternity and friendship between people and that certainly seems to be the case in Mt. Holly following the death on December 11, 2020 of MHPD Officer Tyler Herndon who lost his life in the line of duty while responding to a larceny call.
Since that time, outpourings of support and affection for the MHPD have come flooding in from all over the nation. Tributes have ranged from artworks to heartfelt condolences in all forms. Sensing the need to remember Herndon as well as honor all law enforcement officers who put their lives at risk daily to keep us safe, the City of Mt. Holly formed a committee to explore ways to meet that goal.
The committee was appointed by Mayor Bryan Hough. It included local officials and citizens including Bobby Black, Miles Braswell, Melanie Black, Phyllis Harris, Jeff Meadows, Randi Moore, Paige Sigmon, Cindy Suddreth-Williams, David Sisk, Brian Reagan, and Don Roper.
The committee met with design and engineering specialists David Malcolm and Nick Lowe with the Charlotte-based design firm McAdams and a concept for the project was developed. The concept was presented to the city council on March 8 and approved.
The project will be known as the Mt. Holly Police Department Memorial Plaza. It will be located on a grassy rise on the Hill St. side of the Municipal Complex. The location is exactly where Herndon’s patrol car was parked for a time after his death and covered with flowers and tributes.
The Memorial Plaza will be stunning in its appearance. In addition to extensive landscaping, it will feature a statue of a police officer holding a child. There will be benches where folks can sit and reflect. There will be an eternal flame. There will be a memorial wall. Blue lights will be a prominent feature. These will represent the police department but also recall the hundreds of blue lights that people in the Mt. Holly area displayed and still display in remembrance of Herndon. People will be also able to purchase memorial pavers similar to those at the Mt. Holly Community Garden.
“It will be impressive,” said Mt. Holly Police Chief Don Roper. “It will be a focal point of gathering, reflection and healing. It will have a strong connection to the Mt. Holly community. It will be a space honoring not only Tyler, but the service of all officers.”
In addition to the Memorial Plaza, Officer Herndon will be remembered in other ways. A five mile stretch of Hwy. 273 between I-85 and the Freightliner factory will be designated as the Officer Tyler H. Herndon Memorial Highway. The route is one that Herndon often patrolled. N.C. Rep. John Torbett helped expedite the highway’s designation- a process that can sometimes take a year but in this case was passed through the N.C. General Assembly in just a couple of months.
In addition, a delegation of MHPD officers will attend the National Police Memorial Service event on Oct. 22 in Washington, D.C. where Herndon’s name will be unveiled on the wall there. Herndon’s family will also be attending. On May 6th, all members of the MHPD will be attending the North Carolina police memorial event in Winston–Salem.
Chief Roper also expressed hope for a MHPD non-profit foundation that would make possible services such as helping needy families at Christmas.
Talking to Chief Roper, it’s obvious he is full of emotion when the subject of Officer Herndon’s passing and all that has happened since then comes up.
“December 11th seems like yesterday and it seems like forever,” Roper said. “The overwhelming support from the Mt. Holly community has helped us move forward and grow closer as a police department and has helped the connection between us and the community grow stronger. It allows us to better the serve the people who have been so good to us. And we can’t thank them enough.”
Now that the design phase of the Mt. Holly Police Memorial Plaza has been completed and approved, the next steps will begin to fall into place. Timeline?
“We would like to see it done by the end of the year.” said Roper.

Multi-family development
planned for Imperial Mill site

(March 25, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

A major residential development could be coming to the site of the former Imperial Mill in downtown Belmont. The project would be located across McLeod Ave. from the Hawthorne townhomes.
The developer is Belmont Land and Investment Co. LLC.
A “sketch plan” application for the project has been submitted to the Belmont Planning and Zoning Dept. for a portion of Parcel ID# 126732 for a mixed use TN-D development including  one 30,000 SF commercial building , eleven 30,000 SF multi-family buildings, one single family dwelling, and an area for civic use. Each multi-family building is proposed to contain approximately 36 dwelling units, for a total of 397 residential units in the proposed plan.
A sketch plan is basically a drawing of the project.
The Imperial Mill project is in the early stages of many approval steps needed before dirt can be turned, but it’s interesting to know what hoops any major development in Belmont must jump through to get to the actual construction phase.
Here’s the steps for a major development as laid on by the Belmont Land Development Code:
Major Development Plans will be reviewed by the planning board and approved by the city council. The Applicant shall follow the process flow chart provided in this section. A sketch plan along with an Environmental Survey to the planning department shall be submitted for a non-binding review. Upon determination of completeness and general conformity with this Code, the planning department will authorize the applicant to conduct a neighborhood meeting. Formal submittal of the Schematic Plan to the planning department shall be accompanied by community meeting minutes.
The planning department will review and make comment on the Schematic Plan. When the planning department determines that the application is complete and complies with the Code it shall be forwarded to the planning board. The planning department shall provide a written notice to owners of properties adjacent to land under consideration for the Major Development Plan at least 10 days, but not more than 25 days, prior to the planning and Zoning board meeting at which the Major Development Plan is under consideration.
A sign shall also be posted on property under consideration for a Major Development Plan at least 10 days, but not more than 25 days, prior to the planning and zoning board meeting. The planning board shall have 40 days from the date of their first review to recommend that the Schematic Design be approved, approved with conditions, or denied. Following the planning board review, the Schematic Design shall be submitted to the city council for their review and approval. The planning department shall provide a written notice to owners of properties adjacent to land under consideration for the Major Development Plan at least 10 days, but not more than 25 days, prior to the city council meeting at which the Major Development Plan is under consideration.
A sign shall also be posted on property under consideration for a Major Development Plan at least 10 days, but not more than 25 days, prior to the city council meeting. The city council shall have 90 days from the date of their first review to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the Schematic Design. If they deny the Schematic Design, they shall state their reason(s) for denial in writing and permit the applicant to resubmit the Development for further review.
Following denial by the city council, the Applicant may file a new Application and associated fee. Unless the city council explicitly states conditions that must be met prior to the resubmission of an Application, the Applicant shall not submit a new Application for the same property within one (1) year of the date of denial by the city council unless the Application is significantly different from the previously denied Application. All Applications shall be resubmitted for full review unless the Application is resubmitted to address conditions set forth by the city council.
Approval of a Major Development Plan shall constitute final city council approval for all phases of the development except for any required approval of Construction Documents. Informal Review of Sketch Plan Including Environmental Survey and tree inventory in compliance with Chapter 11 Applicant holds at least one neighborhood meeting open to the public. Formal Submission of Schematic Plan to planning Staff for Review and Recommendation Review and Approval of Schematic Plan By city council Pre-Design Meeting with planning Staff Review and Recommendation of Schematic Plan By planning & Zoning board Formal Submission of Construction Documents to Technical Review Committee Approved Preliminary Plat Review and Approval of Final Plat by planning Staff.
Following approval of the Schematic Design by the city council, the Applicant shall submit the Construction Documents for review by the Technical Review Committee. The TRC may require that the Application be circulated to the relevant City, County, and State agencies and officials for comment(s) as to the proposed development’s conformance to all applicable standards and requirements and whether approval is recommended.
Once the TRC deems the Construction Documents to be complete in information provided and in compliance with all provisions of this Ordinance, it may be approved and a Preliminary Plat may be issued. This phase does not confer any approvals for individual site plans.
About the Imperial Mill
The Imperial Mill began operating in 1907 on the south side of the Southern Railroad tracks in downtown Belmont. It was the second textile mill to be built in Belmont (Chronicle Mill was the first). The machinery was run by electricity and was the first textile mill in North Carolina to do so. The mill was two stories high and built of bricks. The mill village had about 50 houses on a hill behind the main building. The mill was sold to Pharr Yarns in 1959. It was torn down about a decade ago.
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Mt. Holly brothers among science fair winners

(March 25, 2021 Issue)

While many activities have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, middle school and high school students in Gaston County are still actively engaged in developing their critical thinking skills through science and engineering.
The county science fair also featured two brothers winning top prizes.  Luigi and Nikki Bortolussi have enjoyed being involved in the annual competition since 2017. Nikki attends Mt. Holly Middle School and Luigi attends Forestview High.
With projects focusing on using salt to get more power out of the soil, determining which helmet protects your head the best, and deciding whether music increases student productivity, Gaston County Schools students demonstrated their experiments and shared their findings during the Gaston Regional Science and
Engineering Fair, which was conducted virtually this year.
“In light of the current pandemic restrictions, the North Carolina Science Fair Foundation made the decision to hold all science fair competitions virtually this year,” explained Bianca Yavelak, who coordinates the local program.  “Although participation was expectedly lower than usual, we were excited to still have more than 40 students put in the time and work to submit their independent research.”
Students were asked to submit a research paper along with a two-minute video presentation and written “interview” in lieu of the usual display board and interview session with judges.  Community members volunteered their time to evaluate the projects.
Most of the students earning awards are enrolled in the Collegiate Prep Academy at Forestview High School.
One of the prerequisites for the Collegiate Prep Academy at Forestview is for ninth grade students to complete Honors Research Methods.  The class is part of the Academy program that is designed to prepare students for success in college and beyond.
Integrating the science fair experience into Honors Research Methods prompts students to participate in research, exploration, and discovery on a topic that piques their interest.

Great progress being made
on Rocky Branch Park project

(March 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Improving weather has meant that the $95,000 upgrade project at Belmont’s Rocky Branch Park is moving forward.
Last week saw employees of Chapel Hill based Nature Trails hard at work in the Rocky Branch woods.
Crew members were tackling tasks like bridge building, brush clearing, and trail blazing.
According to Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe, the purpose of the  major upgrades is to make Rocky Branch  a more walkable and a family friendly oasis of outdoor area just a couple of blocks from the heart of downtown. The cost of Phase I of the project will be $94,650.
“The City funds amount to $46,000,” Stowe said. “The remaining funds come from the Trailblazer’s by way of grants and donations.”
So, what is the the project entailing?
“The trail is being widened to give it multi-purpose use,” said Stowe. “Several of the old bridges are being  taken out and replaced with seven new ones. The trail will be a lot better for walking. There will also be a new split rail fence.”
Improved drainage and erosion control is also included in the work.
A tour of the project last week showed a lot of work has taken place. The improved trail is nice and wide and covered in crushed gravel. The new bridges are sturdy and cross the creek at several scenic locations where the water flows over large and small stones. The overall feel is like being in a deep and lovely forest despite the fact that downtown Belmont is barely a mile away.
“We hope to bring groups to the trail for activities such as nature walks,” Stowe said. “It’s nice and peaceful in the woods.”
Eventually the trail will link up with another section of the Carolina Thread Trail  and go all the way to Cramerton.
Rocky Branch Park has primarily been a mountain biking/hiking trail park. It first opened for use in July 2013 with a couple miles of biking and hiking trails.  It was carved out of the woods at the bend in the road where Sacco St. and Woodrow Ave. meet. The initial construction was done mainly with volunteer labor and free land making it one of the city’s best park deals ever.
Just around the corner from Rocky Branch Park, Reid Park at 305 Sacco St. is also getting some much needed attention. A new picnic shelter has been erected with four tables expected to arrive soon.
A small community garden with raised beds and surrounded by a white picket fence is also being freshened up at Reid Park. Stowe outlined plans for the garden.
“We are hoping to get the Reid community involved in the garden,” he said. “We are contacting local churches and people that live in the neighborhood.”
In other Belmont Parks and Rec. news, Stowe said that his department will soon be receiving a trailer that will be loaded with recreational equipment and taken to local parks and neighborhoods. More on that in a future story. Also, Davis Park will be getting a picnic shelter later this year.
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Banner-News lottery winner Judy Keller, center, with advertising sales executive Mayra Littman and editor Alan Hodge.

Mt. Holly woman wins $10,000
Banner-News lottery

(March 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

“Are you kidding me?!”
Those were the first words out of Mt. Holly resident Judy Keller’s mouth when she was informed Monday morning that she had won the long-running BannerNews $10,000 cash lottery.
After the initial shock wore off, Keller became emotional when the reality sunk in.
“I was smiling all day long,” she said.
Keller moved to Mt. Holly from Florida back in June at the urging of a long time friend. She’s been playing the numbers every week since she got here.
“I just picked whatever numbers pop into my head,” she said. “I picked a different set every week.”
Keller says she enjoys the BannerNews for its content as well.
“It’s a really informative paper,” she said.
Keller works at CaroMont family Medicine on New Hope Rd. and says she enjoys our area.
“Everyone is so nice and friendly,” she said. “I feel like I’ve found a home.”
So, what does she plan on doing with her winnings?
“I am going to give $500 to St. Judes and go visit my grandchildren in Colorado,” she said. “I’m also going to pay off part of my car.”
BannerNews publisher and Community First Media CEO Greg Ledford had this to say.
“Congratulations to Judy for being our winner and thanks to everyone who has played the lottery and who reads the BannerNews.
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Dot Guthrie

Board of Education member
Dot Guthrie receives lifetime achievement award

(March 18, 2021 Issue)

Gaston County Board of Education member Dot Guthrie is the recipient of the prestigious Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement that is presented by the American Library Association (ALA).
A veteran educator with more than 40 years of dedicated service as a teacher, school librarian, central office administrator, and Board of Education member, Guthrie is “the epitome of an educational leader who goes beyond the call of duty to do what is best for children,” according to Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker, who wrote a recommendation letter in support of Guthrie’s award nomination.
Long before becoming the Gastonia Township representative on the Board of Education, Guthrie worked for Gaston County Schools for more than 30 years.  She served as the district’s library/media services director and was named the Media Coordinator of the Year for three consecutive years.  After retiring from Gaston County, she served as a librarian in the neighboring Clover, South Carolina school district.
Well-known and respected in the community, Guthrie wrote the book, “Integrating African-American Literature in the Library and Classroom,” and coordinated the first Gaston County Diversity Book Fair.  She has served as a leader, conference presenter, and contributor for the ALA, and two years ago, she was instrumental in founding the first African-American history and culture museum in Gaston County.  Additionally, she is active in Tabernacle Baptist Church in Gastonia, serving as an associate minister.
In 2019-2020, the North Carolina School Boards Association acknowledged Guthrie’s many contributions by presenting the School Board Member Leadership Award to her. 
Perhaps most of all, Guthrie is known for her love of books, reading, and libraries.
“It is appropriate to say that one of Mrs. Guthrie’s callings in life is to promote the importance of reading by making sure that the necessary resources are available to engage children in reading,” wrote Dr. Booker.  “She wholeheartedly believes that a child’s academic success is dependent on a child’s strong foundation in reading.”
 As chairperson of the Board of Education’s curriculum and instruction committee, Guthrie has worked with the committee members to make a commitment to ensuring that classroom libraries and school media centers are the best they can be.
“She has provided guidance and leadership on two important projects in Gaston County Schools:  our efforts to update classroom library collections and our efforts to renovate school media centers,” said Dr. Booker.  “The progress we have made in this area is largely because of Mrs. Guthrie’s oversight, her regular reminders about how crucial our school libraries are to the overall instructional program, and her unique ability to rally support and consensus from her fellow Board members.”
The Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement is named for author and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King and award-winning children’s author Virginia Hamilton, who wrote more than 35 books during her career and received the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1975.
The award is presented (in even years) to African-American authors and illustrators for their successful efforts to produce and publish quality literature for children and young adults.  In odd years, the award is given to practitioners who use African-American literature to engage youth in reading and related activities.  Further, all recipients have a proven record of making a significant and lasting literary contribution.
As the 2021 practitioner winner, Guthrie was recognized during the ALA’s Youth Media Awards virtual presentation on January 25.  She received a medal and $1,500 check.
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Cramerton River Sweep
is March 13th

(March 11, 2021 Issue)

Join Cramerton Parks and Recreation and the Cramerton Community Committee on Saturday, March 13th at 9am at Cramerton Town Center for the 5th Annual South Fork River Sweep.There will be water and land/riverbank options for cleanup.
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Belmont Firefighter of the Year Bradley Martin knew from an early age what his career path would be. Photo by Alan Hodge

Bradley Martin named Belmont Firefighter of the Year 2021

(March 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

An abundance of energy and passion for his career are just two of the reasons the Belmont Fire Department has named Bradley Martin its Firefighter of the Year.
“Since joining the Belmont Fire Department as a full-time career firefighter, Firefighter\EMT Bradley Martin has carried the Belmont Fire Department patch with pride and honor,” said. Division Captain Craig Austin. “Rookie firefighters are a challenging breed in the fire service to tame. From day one, Martin wanted nothing but to soak up all the knowledge from his instructors, fire officers, and senior firefighters. He continues in his endeavors and shows the rest of the fire service what it looks like to be an eager and willing servant of his community.  Priding himself in stellar customer service and continual sharpening of his training, we are proud to boast him as part of the Belmont Fire Department family.”
Martin, 25, lives just across the Catawba River in Charlotte. He had an idea of what he wanted to do for a job early on.
“When I was growing up, a friend and I often talked about entering the fire service,” Martin said. “He didn’t make it but I did.”
After graduating from Charlotte Catholic High, Martin went to East Carolina University for a spell.
“I didn’t take any particular course of study but a variety of classes,” he said.
After that, Martin homed in on his goal of becoming a firefighter. He joined the Cook’s Community VFD on Mt. Holly/Huntersville Rd. part time while working at an auto parts store across the street.
“I would get off work at the parts place and go to the fire station,” Martin said.
Martin was at Cook’s for six years.
By and by, he came to the Belmont Fire Department full time in January, 2019. In addition to being a firefighter, Martin is also an EMT, a certification he earned at CPCC in Charlotte.
“Getting my EMT was a challenge,” he said.
Martin says his favorite part of being a firefighter is the variety of action he gets to take part in.
“I enjoy using my skill sets to do things such as vehicle accident extractions, water rescues, emergency medical events, and fighting fires,” he said.
Martin aims to grow as a firefighter.
“I want to keep working on getting more certifications,” he said. “I want to get better at all of them. I am going to work hard and retain all that I am taught.”
It seems Martin has found a home at the Belmont Fire Department and is going to build a future there.
“I have no plans to leave,” he said.
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These are some of the Girl Scouts that had a hand in creating the wonderful Blessing Box at First United Methodist Church in Mt. Holly. From left- Sarah Burlinski, Sierra Russell, Sarah Helms, Tila Kravis. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly Girl Scouts build Blessing Box

(March 11, 2021 Issue)

By Glenda Painter

Late in 2019 the Cadette scouts of Girl Scout Troop 20036 in Mount Holly were deciding on a project for their Silver Award which is the highest achievement for Cadette Girl Scouts. This is a project that can be done individually or as a group.  Since this group worked so well together, they decided to make it a team project.
The girls had to choose a project that they cared about.  Then they had to study the community and determine what would be required to complete the project. Once the planning was done, the scouts had to take action to make the project happen by raising the money to fund the project, do the design and make sure all of the details were covered.
After much discussion and brainstorming the Cadettes came up with several great projects.  They talked about each one, determined the costs involved, the benefit to the community, and the sustainability of the project over the years.  After a few weeks of working out the details it was decided the scouts would build and stock a Blessing Box.
A Blessing Box is a mini food pantry filled with food staples and small necessities.  It is available to anyone who needs just a little assistance to get them by.  Everyone is encouraged to take what they need and leave what they can for others.
After the decision was made, Stephen Loftin volunteered to help the scouts with guidance on design and construction of the Blessing Box.  Under his guidance the box was built and installed at Mount Holly First United Methodist Church on N. Main Street.  The Box was originally planned to be dedicated on Girl Scout Sunday  March 2020, and then the corona virus pandemic hit our community.  Everything came to a halt as far as the dedication; however, the box was stocked and has been used continually during the pandemic.  It seems as if it was the right time and the right place for the Blessing Box to be built.
Mount Holly and the surrounding community have been outstanding in helping to keep the box stocked.  A great big thank you to Mount Holly First United Methodist Church as they have been a great source of help to the Scouts in providing this community service.  People often stop by the box and leave all sorts of items inside for others to use.  And, you can often see others who need a little bit of help and have found a resource for them.  It is a real blessing for those who are looking for something to tide them over during a particularly rough time.
The Scouts are so appreciative of the great support they have received for this project and that the Blessing Box is now self-sustaining and should last for many years.  In fact, the next group of Cadettes are working on another Blessing Box in another location to help others.
If you would like to help with the Blessing Box, drop by any time and leave a few canned goods, personal hygiene items, small personal items, etc. whenever you can.  You never know what a difference you can make in someone’s life with this small act of kindness.
Cadette Scouts that worked on the project include  Savannah Griffin, Sierra Russell, Sarah Helms, Tilia Kravitz, and Sarah Burlinski. Cadette Leaders are Misty Griffin and Glenda Painter.

178-year-old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is a link to our local Irish past

(March 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

March is Irish American Heritage Month and a Mt. Holly landmark  gives people a chance to step back in time at a place with strong connections to Ireland.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is the oldest still standing original Catholic church in North Carolina and the fourth Catholic house of worship built in the state.
The 178-year-old church, originally constructed in 1843 to serve local Irish Catholic miners and their families,  holds services twice a year- on St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day. It’s located on NC273 just past the Freightliner factory.
Even though the 1841 St. Paul’s Catholic Church in New Bern was the first church Catholic church built in North Carolina, a fire destroyed much of the original building in 1947. The fact that St. Joseph’s is nearly all the same as it was in 1843 lets it claim the title as the oldest original Catholic church in the state.
The Irish miners who were in Gaston County were looking for gold. They had come here to work for an Italian gent named Chevalier Riva de Finola and prior to the church’s construction had used his home as a place of worship. After de Finola met with financial setbacks, he moved out of the Gaston County and the miners were without a place to worship. Thus was born the need for a Catholic church near what would eventually be Mt. Holly.
A driving force behind the building of St. Joseph’s was Father Cronin who started a fund raising effort for the church’s cost which was estimated at $400. Father Cronin had come to Gaston County from Charleston, S.C. A “circuit preacher”, he traveled a wide area, including Gaston County, depending on the hospitality of others as he spread the gospel. Around 1841, one of the Irish miners, William Lornegan, donated six acres of land that would be the site for St. Joseph’s. The church was finished, debt free, in 1843. However,  Father Cronin had passed away in 1842 in Salisbury before he could see St. Joseph’s built. His body was later brought to the Lornegan plot and he was the first person interred in what would be the St. Joseph’s church cemetery.
Next on the St. Joseph’s scene was another missionary, Father J.J. O’Connell who conducted the first Mass there soon after the building was completed. Though he still continued his circuit riding duties, Father O’Connell would still swing by St. Joseph’s as often as possible to hold services.
In 1844, Father John Griffin came to St. Joseph’s. He would later become the bishop of Chicago. Other priests that served St. Joseph’s in the 19th century included Father L.P. Connell (1861-1865), and Father A.J. McNeil (1865-1870). Father O’Connell returned to St. Joseph’s from 1870-1877.
St. Joseph’s went through decades of neglect and was even used at one time as a hay barn.
In 1965, Father James Keenan of Queen of the Apostles raised money and had the roof repaired and a paint job done on the church. After that, St. Joseph’s went through another period sans maintenance. In 1974 Francis Galligan of Gastonia led an effort to set things right. With $15,000 raised from donations by the Knights of Columbus, Belmont Abbey College, Sacred Heart College, the Boy Scouts, and many individuals, St. Joseph’s received major repairs.
In 2018 the church received another  renovation. The Diocese of Charlotte Properties Office oversaw the significant repairs made to the church. Repairs were made to the roof, floors and other areas of architectural weakness found in the historic structure. The altar and sanctuary area were also restored to freshen up the renovations that had been done in the 1970s.
The repair project cost $150,000 to address the most critical issues.
In addition to the church building itself, one of the most important parts of the site is the statue of St. Joseph  that overlooks the cemetery. The statue stood for 75 years at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Asheville and arrived in Mount Holly in 2001. It weighs 1,600 lbs.
On Nov. 2, 1975, St. Joseph’s was rededicated by Rev. Michael Begley, bishop of Charlotte, and the Rev. Abbot Jude Cleary, of Belmont Abbey. More than 250 people attended the ceremony. In 1979, St. Joseph’s was named a National Historic Site by the US Dept. of the Interior and that same year a NC Highway Historical marker was erected in front of the church and cemetery.
See more photos in this week's Banner News (March 11, 2021)
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The Mt. Holly branch library staff is glad to be open for patrons in their totally remodeled facility. From left- Geordin Christopher, Chelse Harris, and branch manager Debra Trogdon-Livingston. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly branch
library has had a total transformation

(March 4, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The venerable Mt. Holly branch of the Gaston County Public Library system has just reopened after a year-long major overhaul that has totally transformed the building’s look and feel. Cost of the project was $584,158.
A branch public library has been located in Mt. Holly at 245 W. Catawba Ave. since around 1960. The building was refurbished in 1980 but little other than routine maintenance has taken place since then. In short, the place needed a serious face lift- and it has one now.
The curb appeal of the building has been raised to a high level. Tan colored field stone veneer on the front has been combined with brown wood trim to give a Craftsman-type of architectural appeal. The parking lot has been widened and more spaces added. Landscaping is being carried out with new grass and plantings. Overall, the building has been taken from shabby to chic. The library’s interior has also undergone major remodeling. The list of improvements is long and includes carpet, furniture, a new circulation desk, new family-sized and configured restrooms, lighting, ceiling tiles, shelves, paint, and more. The color combinations of bright green and other vibrant colors gives the inside a bright and airy ambiance.
Every part of the branch inside and out is ADA compliant. That includes things such as the width between book shelves, parking lot ramps, and restrooms.
On the technological side, the branch has received three new computers bringing the total public computer access number to eight. A really neat addition to the branch is a WI-Fi transmitter that’s located on the outside of the building. That means folks can access the internet in the parking lot or on the grounds. The WI-Fi access was funded in part by a grant from Band NC.
The Mt. Holly branch has always offered patrons a wide variety of material to peruse or check out and now there’s even more available. Currently, the branch has 14,493 items available including 13,467 books and 1,026 audio-visuals.
Staffing is strong at the Mt. Holly branch and everyone is  keen on serving patrons in the best possible way. Debra Trogdon-Livingston is branch manager. Full time staffers include Geordin Christopher and Chelse Harris. They are all thrilled with the way the remodeling turned out.
“It will be easier for people to use our space,” said Trogdon-Livingston. “I am most excited about everything being ADA accessible.”
“The new design gives the branch a more open atmosphere,” said Harris.
“It’s beautiful and bright and the community is really going to enjoy it,” said Christopher.
Patrons are also being awed by the remodel job. Former library employee Delores Blanton stopped by to check things out. Her reaction was priceless and pretty much sums it up.
“Wow!” she said. “Wow and wow again!”
Currently the Mt. Holly branch is open Monday-Thursday 10am to 6pm and Friday and Saturday 10am to 2pm. Visit the branch Facebook page for more information and a virtual tour.
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East Gaston High School student Hollee Woodward in the school’s Health Sciences Academy.

New high school designed to prepare students for careers
in the medical field

(March 4, 2021 Issue)

Gaston County Schools

There’s a new high school coming to Gaston County, and it will provide a quality education for students who are interested in the medical and healthcare fields.
The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences (GECMS) will open in August 2021 on the Gaston College campus in Dallas.  It is an innovative, healthcare-focused high school that is designed especially for students interested in careers in the medical/healthcare industry.
The new high school is a collaborative effort among Gaston County Schools, Gaston College, Belmont Abbey College, and CaroMont Health, and it is intended to develop a future workforce to meet the growing demand for healthcare professionals in Gaston County.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for students in our community,” said Denise McLean, executive director of student support services for Gaston County Schools.  “The medical and healthcare industry in Gaston County is growing and expanding, and we realize that CaroMont Health and other agencies will need a trained workforce that is ready to meet the demand.”
McLean added, “This new school will provide students with a pathway to obtain the education, knowledge, hands-on experience, and connections necessary for a successful career in healthcare right here at home.” 
The new high school will open with enough space for 80 ninth graders and 80 tenth graders.  Students need to submit an application, and a lottery selection process similar to the one for the Highland School of Technology will be 
used to choose the students who will attend.
The school is open to students in Gaston County, including students who currently attend Gaston County Schools as well as students enrolled in a private school, charter school, virtual school, or homeschool program.  Applications are accepted online at, and the submission deadline is February 28.
According to McLean, students will be able to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree from Gaston College in preparation for a career in the medical field.  The academic pathways include nursing, health information technology, human services technology, and pre-medicine/biotechnology sciences.  In addition to high school and college-level coursework, students will participate in job shadowing experiences and gain hands-on learning in real-world settings through CaroMont Health, conduct undergraduate research, and prepare themselves for post-secondary education and/or going directly into the workforce.
Further, students will take advantage of many resources available through Gaston College that will enhance their academic experience and engage them in the college campus setting.  Students may decide to transfer to Belmont Abbey College where they can obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology, biochemistry, psychology, social work, and related areas.
The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences is the second Early College program for Gaston County Schools.  It will be housed in the Comer Engineering Technologies building on the Gaston College campus in Dallas and operate separate from the Gaston Early College High School, which opened in 2012 and is housed in the Lena Sue Beam Building.
GECMS is one of the 21 choice/magnet school programs offered by Gaston County Schools for the upcoming school year.  Another program – the Health Sciences Academy at East Gaston High School – also provides opportunities for students who are interested in healthcare.
While both programs have similar concentrations, McLean says there are differences.  At East Gaston, the coursework focuses on nurse aide, pharmacy technician, animal medicine, health and fitness science, medical assisting, and foundations of healthcare.   Also, students at East Gaston benefit from being in the comprehensive high school setting with opportunities to take elective courses such as ones in the fine arts and participate in athletics.
The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences will follow the “cooperative innovative high school” model.  Such a program must be housed on a community college or university campus.  There are 132 cooperative innovative high schools in the state.
“Typically, a cooperative innovative high school is a smaller school that targets first-generation college students as well as students who would benefit from accelerated learning in a college environment,” said McLean.  “It is a different experience from the traditional high school setting where students often enjoy activities like band, chorus, and sports.”
McLean encourages students and families to explore all of the school choice options being offered by Gaston County Schools.  “We have quality programs in a variety of academic- and career-focused areas at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.  There really is something for everyone when it comes to our school choice and magnet school programs.  We invite parents to take some time to discover all of the excellent options we have available for their children.”
An overview of the school district’s choice programs is available online at  Parents with questions may e-mail or call the Student Assignment Office, (704) 810-7284.
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The Spencer Mtn. kayak/canoe launch access point is at the South Fork River bridge on Stanley- Spencer Mtn. Rd.

Improvements set for Spencer Mountain kayak launch

(March 4, 2021 Issue)

A favorite spot for outdoor enthusiasts, the Spencer Mountain River Access Canoe and Kayak Launch in Spencer Mountain, N.C. will soon get a facelift thanks to a grant provided by The Gaston Community Foundation.
The grant of $15,000 was awarded to the Catawba Lands Conservancy, which owns and maintains the kayak launch, located along the South Fork River. It is one of the most popular of the nine “put-ins” for paddlers along the river, which is also a designated blueway within the Carolina Thread Trail network. Users who access the river from the Spencer Mountain River Access will paddle through some of the most ecologically diverse lands in our region, many of which are permanently protected by the Conservancy.
Since the launch opened 12 years ago, Gaston County has increasingly come to be a premier destination for paddle sports, one of the fastest growing segments of the outdoor recreation industry, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. However, the wooden launch has sustained damage from frequent flooding and is in need of an upgrade. The funding from The Gaston Community Foundation will be used to replace the current launch with a more sustainable and safe metal launch.
“The South Fork River is a wonderful outdoor recreation spot, right in Gaston County residents’ backyard. We are very grateful to The Gaston Community Foundation for helping us improve the launch so it can better serve residents and provide access to the river,” said Bart Landess, Executive Director of Catawba Lands Conservancy.
The Conservancy hopes to have the launch upgrades completed and open for use in the fall of 2021. The current launch will remain open for use during the 2021 season up until construction begins.
*Special note: The Spencer Mountain access is by permit only. Permits are free and can be requested by contacting the Catawba Lands Conservancy. Please allow up to five business days to process your request.
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These are just a few of the many eager volunteers that keeps the CRO going strong. From left- Sherry Ridlon, Bob Duckworth, Wanda Holloway, and Jean Panzica.

Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization has provided a vital service for nearly seven decades

(February 25, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

For many, many, of our local citizens in need of nutritional or financial assistance, the Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization (CRO) has been there to help since 1952.
The CRO was created by the Ministerial Association of Mount Holly, It is the largest provider of emergency assistance in Mount Holly, providing over $1 million in assistance to over 5,000 residents a year.
The CRO’s stated mission is to “Assist neighbors in crisis in a compassionate and respectful manner while engaging them in a series of actions that will empower them to move beyond crisis.”
Since July 2020 when the CRO’s current fiscal year began, it has given out 123,975 pounds of food and helped 3,087 people. That includes 1,026 families and 908 children.
The CRO’s food comes from four sources- the USDA, purchases from Second Harvest Food Bank, donations from Food Lion, and private, church, or corporate donations.
Food distributed by the CRO runs the gamut from meat, to vegetables, non-perishables, bread, canned goods, you name it and the CRO has it.
As you might expect, the pandemic has impacted the CRO, but the demand for food from clients has been a roller coaster sort of thing.
“Demand has depended a lot on the stimulus checks,” said CRO volunteer coordinator Sherry Ridlon. “When people get the checks our demand actually goes down because they spend the money on food. Now, demand is going up again. If people need food we always have it and they can spend stimulus money on things like power bills.”
Another impact that Covid has had on the CRO is the fact that classes being held there to teach folks about better ways to manage their budgets have not been held since last March.
“The classroom is vacant now,” Ridlon said. “The classes were a great benefit and a lot of folks want to know when they will start back up. I will be so glad when Covid goes away.”
Yet another Covid impact that the CRO has been feeling is cancellation of food drives.
“The Post Office food drive this year had to be called off,” said Ridlon. “That would have been eight thousand pounds of food.”
However, the food drive scene is going to improve soon. According to Ridlon, the Stowe Family YMCA will hold a drive the first week in March. Donations can be dropped off there or at the CRO itself.
Donations are the lifeblood of the CRO. Not only food, but cash is welcome. Cash donations can be tagged for food or utility bills. The CRO also needs more refrigeration equipment and cash can help in that area as well.
“My big dream is a walk in cooler or freezer,” said Ridlon.
Overall, the CRO is driven by giving hearts and hard work with an eye on both the present and the coming years.
“We are always looking to grow in the future,” said Ridlon.
Here are some CRO particulars- Location- 2120 Spring St. the CRO is nestled between Food Lion and the ABC store. Phone- 704-827-0450. Website Hours- Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 9-12:30  closed Tuesday.
Services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Clients must be signed in by 11:45 a.m. due to the time it takes to conduct an interview. Registration could end earlier depending on the number of people who come for services that day.
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Belmont’s Jethro Mann achieved great fame but remained humble and caring his entire life. Photo courtesy Millican Pictorial Museum

Remembering Jethro Mann,
the Bicycle Man of Belmont

(February 25, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Black History Month is wrapping up and and what better way to commemorate it than with a look at one of Belmont’s most famous and unique African-America citizens- the late Jethro “Bicycle Man” Mann who passed away on Nov. 11, 2013 at the age of 96.
Mann was a long-time resident of the Reid community in Belmont where his garage was filled with bicycles he rebuilt and loaned or gave to local children.
Mann’s “Bicycle Lending Library” was featured on Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road” TV series. He was also featured in “Our State Magazine”, “Reader’s Digest”, and on the CBS Evening News. Mann received the Good Samaritan Award from “National Enquirer” for his work with needy kids. A German TV film crew also visited Mann for five days and filmed a documentary on his life and lore.
Here are a few of the other awards Mann received during his decades of service to others – Belmont Citizen of the Year, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Citizen of the Year, Special Volunteer for the State of North Carolina, the Good Neighbor Award from the National Council of Christians and Jews, City of Belmont Outstanding Community Service Award. Also, the N.C. Department of Labor Certificate of Appreciation Award, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Good Samaritan Award and Charlotte District A.M.E. Zion Outstanding Service to Youth Award.
A native of Curryville, Georgia, Mann was one of 12 children born to Jesse and Ida Mann. Early days at the public schools in Curryville gave Mann a thirst for knowledge that led him to an eclectic blend of institutions of higher learning. Just a few of the places Mann has cracked the books include the Palmer Memorial Institute, Lincoln Academy, West Virginia State College, Institute of West Virginia, International Correspondence School in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.
A true patriot, Mann served two years in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and during that time he received the Company Honor Man Award.
Mann’s working career was long and productive. He was the first African-American in North Carolina to receive a general contractor license. In 1972, Mann became the first African-American Apprentice Representative to the N.C. State Department of Labor, passing on his expertise in the building trade, Mann taught related subjects at schools in Cleveland, Gaston, and Lincoln counties. He taught construction and building at Central Piedmont Community College. Mann built many of the houses and even a movie theater in the Reid area. What made Mann all the more remarkable was the fact that he suffered from a crippling form of arthritis in his hands.
His love of sharing bikes with kids extended beyond the Belmont city limits. Mann once gave 65 bikes to the Boys and Girls Home at Lake Waccamaw.
In addition to his bike and building work, Mann also served as a minister at Hood Memorial AME Zion Church.
The last couple of years before his passing saw Mann move from Belmont to Lakeland, Florida where he stayed near his daughters in an assisted living facility. He took his love of bikes with him and according to daughter Peggy Robinson had a couple of them in his room.
Mann’s legacy remains one of caring for his community and working tirelessly to help others.

Trains on Main tour arrives in Belmont

(February 25, 2021 Issue)

The  “Trains on Main” tour has arrived in Belmont.  This fun, history-based, outdoor, educational activity, targeted to middle schoolers, takes visitors on a historic tour of Downtown Belmont using the Belmont Go app.  All aboard to discover eight miniature, painted trains, uniquely placed in locations on Main Street.
Belmont’s roots as a historic railroad hub that was once home to North Carolina textile industry provided a vision to Jamie Campbell, City of Belmont’s City Clerk/Public Information Officer.  The Downtown Belmont Development Association (DBDA), DBDA volunteers, and local artist Irisol Gonzalez partnered with the City to create this tour, available on the Belmont Go app, to support public art and history in downtown Belmont.
Having seen a similar concept elsewhere, Campbell was inspired to initiate this project with customizations appropriate for Belmont and added twists for extra impact. There were several steps involved in this project that required a lot of coordination.  First, the miniature 3D old train engine replicas were fabricated, then Campbell enlisted the help from the DBDA to help locate an artist to put a creative, modern spin on this history project, then she enlisted the assistance of Downtown Director, Phil Boggan, to coordinate with downtown property owners, and finally she worked with Public Works to install the trains.
The Downtown Belmont Development Association (DBDA) was thrilled to partner with the City of Belmont on this project to provide artist resourcing, history, written content, custom printed map design, Belmont Go app tour creation and funding assistance. as a part of its ongoing effort to support public art and history in downtown Belmont, Turning to Belmont’s own nationally and internationally celebrated artist Juan Logan for guidance, the DBDA was able to connect Mr. Logan’s colleague Irisol Gonzalez with the City, and soon she was “on board” artistically painting the tiny trains. With that key component underway, the DBDA turned to its many volunteers to take on other aspects of the work. Many thanks to Design Committee member Jennifer Brown; DBDA Chair Angela Street; Design Committee Chair Emilie Rudisill; Former City Councilman, board member and committee member Ron Foulk; and Belmont resident Virginia Baxter for the tremendous talent, time and effort they’ve invested in volunteering on this project, as well as to the downtown property owners who agreed to host the trains on their properties.
About the artist
Irisol Gonzalez  is a fine artist and muralist who has been living and working in Charlotte for more than eight years. She immigrated to the United States with her Costa Rican immediate family at the age of ten. She grew up and went to college in North Carolina, but her upbringing was traditionally Costa Rican at home. Her public work often reflects her interpretation of what it means to be a Latin American immigrant, a brown woman, and a person who has two cultures working simultaneously in every endeavor and experience. With a double mayor in psychology and political science from Appalachian State University, Gonzalez often poses moral questions from a psychological and/or political standpoint. When she’s not questioning motives in her work, she is celebrating the gift and privilege of diversity and heritage.
“Since the train engines had specific years of operation, I felt it would be interesting to reflect what was happening in the city when those engines came around--like time travel in a way,” Gonzalez said. “Because adding the name graffiti style was the only specific request, combining that with historical pieces of information served as a fun way to explore and review the city’s history. The freedom of graffiti combined with the rigidity of history creates a dynamic and inviting concept. Public art creates a sense of ownership and belonging to a community. I believe that public art demonstrates that people here care.” Visit to find out more.
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Caroline Reid of Stanley attended the A.M. Rollins School from 1965-1969.

Caroline Reid of Stanley fondly recalls A.M. Rollins School

(February 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Since February is officially known as Black History Month, it seems fitting to recognize a chapter in Mount Holly’s African-American heritage that is too often forgotten and whose only tangible evidence of having ever existed at all is a stone monument near the Rollins Apartments on South Hawthorne Street.
What the stone marks is the location where the A.M. Rollins School stood from 1930-1969. The school was unique in that it was where all of Mount Holly’s African-American children in grades one through eight were educated before public schools were integrated in the late 1960s.
The Rollins School was originally called the Mount Holly Colored School, but was later named after its first principal, A.M. Rollins. There was also another school for African-American kids in the Lucia community, with just one teacher for all grades. This school eventually was merged with the Rollins School, meaning all African-American children in the area made the trek to S. Hawthorne St.
Teachers at the Rollins School who needed a place to live and who had trouble finding transportation often stayed at the nearby home of Mrs. Roceda Bailey. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, schools began to integrate and in 1969, Rollins School was closed. For a short time, the school building was used as a community center, but like the Reid High School in Belmont about the same time, Rollins was relegated to the wrecking ball.
But the memory and spirit of the Rollins School would not die. In the mid-1990s a group known as the Black History Committee and led by the late John Hope in Mount Holly began working on a project to commemorate the school and the work that had gone on there. Other folks involved in the project Danny Jackson, and Stanley resident Caroline Reid.
Through fund-raisers, corporate and private sponsorships, and the sale of brick pavers engraved with the names of donors, an eight-foot granite monument and “Memory Walk” sidewalk in honor of the Rollins School was constructed where the school had once stood.
The granite monument is engraved with a likeness of the school as well as the names of principals Rollins and Willie McDuffie. In front of the monument are three granite pavers bearing the names of notable Mount Holly African-Americans from the Mt. Holly area. The culmination of the project came on Sept. 12, 2009 with an unveiling of the monument and speeches by Mount Holly civic leaders.
In addition to her work on the monument project, Reid also had the distinction of having been a Rollins student from 1965-1969. She recalled her days there.
“I have many fond memories of the Rollins School,” Reid said. “When I meet former classmates we talk about how much we enjoyed ourselves. It was a community school. It was a school where a black child never felt part of being racially divided.”
Reid praised the teachers at Rollins.
“I felt love there and the teachers were like family,” she said. “If there was a problem with a child, the teacher went to the home and spoke with the parents.”
Reid recalled how much she and her classmates looked forward to lunch.
“We had a little cafeteria and the ladies who worked in it made home style food,” she said. “It was great.”
Another fond memory Reid had of Rollins was the May Day event.
“We took long ribbons and wound them around a May Pole,” she said. “Parents came to the school and also took part in the celebration of spring.”
But there were less jovial times too.
“My friends and I had to walk over a mile to school and back every day,” she said. “Sometimes we would hear racial slurs but we were taught to ignore them.”
The assignation of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 impacted Reid and her Rollins classmates.
“I remember they brought a television set into the classroom and we watched his funeral on it,” she said. “We were all crying.”
Reid summed up the Rollins School legacy.
“We had great teachers and we were a community that looked after each other,” she said. “We had love and peace. It’s been said it takes a village to raise a child, and Rollins fulfilled that.”
Today, Ida Rankin Elementary is where students, black and white, in the Hawthorne St. area of Mount Holly attend classes, but the memory of the Rollins School that was located just a couple of hundred yards down the road, lives on.
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This architectural rendering shows one of the home designs that will be built at Dixon Village.

Habitat for Humanity to build
new community in North Belmont

(February 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County has announced it will be building a community of 28 homes to be known as Dixon Village on Lee Rd. off Hickory Grove Rd. in North Belmont. The project will occupy 7.5 acres.
The Belmont city council approved the project at its February 1 meeting.
The project will provide homes for Habitat families and entry-level market-rate buyers in a community that is an innovative approach to providing affordable housing.
According to Habitat, the housing will be a mix of single story 3-bedroom houses and two story 4-bedroom houses. The architectural design of the houses will be in the style of a Craftsman bungalow. Design elements such as shingles and material accents will be used to add variation, visual interest, and color to the exteriors. The neighborhood will feature
community building amenities such as front porches, sidewalks, and a park-like green space with a playground, picnic tables, and a walking path.
Habitat Gaston executive director Kay Peninger, and the Habitat Gaston board of directors, are leading the development of Dixon Village as part of their strategic goals to serve more families in Gaston County due to the overwhelming need for affordable housing and for the transformative effects of homeownership.
“Homeownership is the foundation of healthy families and communities,” Peninger said.  “We are excited to be able to provide affordable housing – housing that families can afford based on their income – in Belmont.  When families have a safe and stable home it provides many benefits such as a stable home life, their children do better in school, and they have improved health.  Homeownership also contributes to breaking the cycle of poverty as families have the opportunity to build equity in their home. Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County is committed to accomplishing this project and serving more families.  We have a strong project team in place that will result in a charming and attractive neighborhood.”
The Dixon Village project team is composed of experienced real estate and construction professionals, along with Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County’s Executive Director and Board of Directors who are committed to successful execution of this project.
Tom Ras, owner of Thomas Construction and Renovation, is a successful builder with over 20 years of experience in the construction industry on projects that range from commercial projects to custom million-dollar homes.
Cathy Young, with Allen Tate Realty, is a successful Realtor/Broker and a former elected official with extensive knowledge regarding the real estate market and the zoning process.
Jeff Howe, owner of Custom Building Systems, a third-generation construction company that is a leading construction and paving firm in the Charlotte region.
Brent Cowan, with The Isaacs Group, is the project engineer who is designing the site plan, storm water design, roadway design, and construction documents.
Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County is seeking to raise $1,575,000 to begin development of the Dixon Village neighborhood.  The initial work will consist of clearing, grading, installing water and sewer utilities and paving. Habitat will also install sidewalks, a mailbox kiosk, and an entrance sign with accompanying landscaping.
Habitat hopes to begin the site preparation work in June 2021.
“It will take a couple of months to receive construction document approvals and all the permits required,” said Peninger.  “Then after that we begin clearing, grading, water and sewer infrastructure installation, etc.”
“We are still working to raise the money,” said Peninger.  “We have about $500,000 either in hand or committed. Due to the timing of the awarding of grant funding, there may be some cash flow gaps. We are exploring bridge loans for horizontal construction.”
Horizontal construction is the clearing, grading, water and sewer infrastructure installation at the site. Vertical construction is the houses.
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These lovely ladies, who are sisters, came from Charlotte for the 2020 Mt. Holly Black History Forum. Front from left- Myra R. Payne, Donna Robinson, Sheila Edwards, Lavone Samuel. Rear- Na’Tanya Hardin. Covid concerns canceled this year’s event. Photo by Alan Hodge

Two popular Mount Holly events on hold for now

(February 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The annual Black History Forum and Rotary Club Men Who Cook  events usually held in Mt. Holly around this time of year have been put on hold due to the pandemic. Both events traditionally pack the Grand Hall of the Municipal Complex with attendees but organizers are leaning on the side of Covid caution this year.
The Black History Forum was the brainchild of the late Mt. Holly African-American leader John Hope and a handful of other folks including Danny Jackson and Caroline Reid who were determined to preserve and perpetuate the history and heritage of their people past and present. Each year since its inaugural event 18 years ago, the Black History Forum has presented in music, word, and deed the legacy and lore of local African-America excellence.
As usual, last year’s event offered a spectacular array of presentations. The event kicked off with a welcome by Jackson who correctly declared “There are so many beautiful people here.”
Several speakers addressed the crowd with remarks outlining the trials and triumphs of the African-American experience. Kings Mtn. High standout student Kennedy Barnes gave an impassioned oration using quotes from Maya Angelou and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to illustrate the pride and power she feels from her heritage. Special guest speaker Valerie Melton traced her own journey from the blue collar Mt. Holly neighborhood she grew up in to her current position as an advocate for black college students. Melton focused many of her remarks on the importance and impact that the Historically Black Colleges and Universities program has had and continues to have on African-American students.
“Education is the great equalizer,” Melton said.
As it traditionally has, the Black History Forum also featured plenty of soul stirring music. Groups including the Wesley Chapel Choir, the Mt. Calvary Men’s Choir, and the 3M Production singers belted out a number of lively tunes that had the crowd up on their feet and clapping their hands.
The event concluded with an interesting and thought provoking skit that depicted an interaction in the Montgomery, Alabama jail where Dr. Martin Luther King was being held back in the early 1960s. The scenario acted out the thought provoking and dramatic interplay between Dr. King (played by Johnnie Walker), a white jailer (played by Richard Meier), and a white minister played by Bill Reilly). The skit was written by Harry McDowell.
Men Who Cook is the Mt. Holly Rotary Club’s main fundraiser. All funds raised are used to provide scholarships to deserving seniors at East Gaston High School and Stuart Cramer High School.
“We have canceled Men Who Cook due to Covid,” said organizer Brooke Elting. “We are currently thinking about other ways to raise money for the scholarships but have not put anything in place. I am not certain if we will hold it later in the year or not. Right now there are no postponement plans.”
The fun and food filled Men Who Cook event featured annually some of the finest male “chefs” in Gaston County. Elected officials, Rotarians, restaurateurs and members of the community who simply enjoy cooking, many of whom are men and few women, all came together and offered samples of vegetables, meats, soups, and desserts.
Men Who Cook has an interesting background. In 1981 the Mt. Holly Rotary Club  started awarding scholarships to deserving East Gaston High School seniors to further their education after high school. The scholarships have ranged in amounts from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the success of  the fundraisers and the generosity of local donors. The students awarded the one time scholarship must show that they are active in their community, demonstrate a need, and provide proof of good academic standing.
For two decades, people gathered annually to sample the food offerings presented at Men Who Cook. The first Men Who Cook event was held at Ida Rankin Elementary. In the years since then it has grown in attendance and has moved locations to accommodate ithat growth. It has been held at the Mount Holly Middle School cafeteria, the East Gaston cafeteria and most recently relocated to the Grand Hall of the Mount Holly Municipal Complex to more comfortably accommodate the numerous “chefs” and diners.
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Seventy years of Valentines Days... and counting

(February 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1951 was a fateful day in the lives of Belmont residents Jack Page and Gearl Dean Russell. That’s because it was their first date- an event that eventually led to their marriage on August 19, 1953 and a lifetime together.
“I first saw her in ninth grade science class and though what a good looking girl,” Jack says. “When I found out she was first in her class I figured I wasn’t in her league.”
Nonetheless, Cupid’s arrow struck.
“Our first date was the Valentine’s Day sweetheart dance at First Baptist Church,” Gearl Dean said.
The Belmont High couple was soon going steady- but college loomed. Jack went to Appalachian State and Gearl Dean to UNC-Greensboro.
“We stayed true to each other while we were in college,” Gearl Dean said.
When the Korean War came along, Jack enlisted in the Army, and the couple decided to tie the knot soon after he put on a uniform.
“We got married when I was home on leave from basic training at Fort Jackson,” said Jack.
After college, they both became educators. Gearl Dean taught elementary school for 31 years. Jack earned a Masters degree in counseling and was the first school counselor in Gaston County.
Along the way, the couple had three kids- Forrest (a Morehead Scholar), Martha (graduated from App. State in just three years), and Dan (a member of the NCSU Electrical and Computer Engineers Hall of Fame). They also have six grandkids and five great-grandkids.
Both Jack and Gearl Dean have what might be called “inquiring minds” and this quality has formed the basis for many of the activities they have enjoyed together over a span of seven decades. Together, they’ve traveled extensively over Europe and America.
“We’ve been to every state except a few in the Great Lakes area,” Gearl Dean said.
Jack is a Renaissance man of sorts and his interests run the gamut from local Native American archaeology, to beekeeping, to being a founding member of the Belmont Historical Society. For her part, Gearl Dean is an accomplished quilter and seamstress. Other activities the pair have enjoyed includes visiting shut-ins and volunteering for the Meals on Wheels program.
These days are challenging for everyone, and for retirees like the Pages who spend a lot of time together at home, they are especially “interesting”. Nonetheless, both folks have easy going personality and with such a long number of years together are managing quite well.
“We exercise every day,” said Jack. “I paint and she works on quilts. We keep in touch with people on the phone.”
So, you are probably wondering by now, what’s the Page’s secret to a long, a very long, and successful marriage?
“We took an oath til death do us part,” said Gearl Dean.
“I still admire her as much today as I did in 1951,” said Jack.
Oh, one other thing- “We don’t hold grudges,” they said “We have good forgetters.”

Reid High School was
an African-American
educational icon in our area

(February 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

February is African-American History Month and one of the most important parts of that story is Reid High School in Belmont.
It’s been 103 years since Belmont’s Reid High for African-America students was founded- and just over 50 years since it was torn down- but the school’s memory still burns bright in the hearts and minds of all who attended it.
The school was called the “colored or negro school”.  Later, the school would be named “Reid School” in honor of Professor Reid who was the first principal.  The school would grow and offer high school classes and take on the name of “Reid High School”.
Students that attended Reid School came from as far away as South Gastonia. Some walked as far as five miles to attend classes. Others rode in an old vehicle that had been converted into a makeshift bus.
Reid School grew and by the 1940s was expanded to include high school grades. The school sports nickname and mascot was the Rams, and students excelled on and off the athletic field. Graduates included artist Juan Logan, political activist Ron Leeper, Belmont civic leader Elsie Grier, and many more.
When schools were integrated in 1966, Reid High was closed and its students sent to Belmont High School.
Reid alumni held a series of events in 2018 that  culminated in a grand celebration in September. The evolutionary journey of Reid High School (1918-2018 / “100 Years”)  was directed by the  Reid High School Alumni Association under the presidency of Mrs. JoAnn Bowens Holmes, a 1956 graduate of Reid High School.
“Reid High (encompassed in Reid School / Grades K-12) was closed in 1966 and totally demolished by 1968,” said Holmes.  “So we as alumni have no physical building that we can go to.  This place where we were given an excellent education is physically gone, but we carry it in our hearts and memory always.”
Previously, in 2016, the City of Belmont proclaimed the “Year of Remembrance of Reid High School”.  That same year saw a  large number of Reid High alumni and supporters converge in early September for what was dubbed the 50th Anniversary Grand Reunion. The reunion marked 50 years since Reid High was demolished, but the tone of the event was one of celebration and pride by those who went there during its heyday. Heading up the excitement was a big parade honoring the school. The parade formed up at Davis Park and wound its way to Reid Park where a pep rally and picnic lunch was held. The Belmont Historical Society also  featured a  display of memorabilia by the Reid High Class of 1960.

Belmont Parks and Rec. dance teachers keep kids stepping lively

(February 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Belmont Parks and Rec. Department’s J. Paul Ford Center on Woodrow Ave. sees kids dancing up a storm and loving every minute of it..
The action is part of the dance classes there for kids aged 2-5 years that are taught by instructors Anna Edwards and Keeisha Law. The pair have been imparting their own love for dance into students and from the looks on the kids’ faces when they kick up their heels and put down their toes, it’s a win-win for everyone.
“I am very impressed that both Anna and Keisha have so much passion and knowledge on teaching and performing dance routines,” said Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe. “The Recreation Department is happy to bring their dance skills to the community. You can see some of their dance moves on City of Belmont Recreation Facebook page.”
Edwards is from Charlotte and earned a  Bachelors in dance and performance at UNCC in 2018. In 2019, she went on to earn her Masters in dance from Hollings University. From there she taught dance at various venues until joining Belmont Parks and Rec. last August.
“My favorite style of dancing is contemporary which is a blend of ballet and modern,” Edwards said. “I also enjoy choreography.”
Edwards talked about her role as a dance instructor in Belmont.
“I think it’s important to have a program that’s accessible to the public,” she said. “It’s a great outlet for the kids and a means of self expression and creative decision making.”
Law is from Mt Holly and earned her Bachelors in dance from UNCC in 1995. Before coming to Belmont, she taught dance at a variety of places including Latta Dance at Spirit Square and Gold Hill Missionary Baptist in Lucia. Like Edwards, she began her work with Belmont Parks and Rec. in August.
“I love modern dance,” she said. “I feel like dancing is important for self expression and the students get to do that in our classes. The kids say they really enjoy it.”
Law has these words for parents.
“I would tell any parent interested in signing their child up that the kids not only learn dance, they also learn interpersonal skills and develop friendships with the other students.”
The Parks and Rec. program has around 50 students total. The next sign up won’t be until August, but there’s the possibility of a summer camp before that. In the meantime, current classes are held in a Covid-conscious environment. Edwards, Law and the kids wear masks. The floor is cleaned before classes start and the students take frequent water and hand sanitizer breaks.
To find out more about the dance and other Parks and Rec. offerings visit h
BackPack Weekend Food Program volunteer Rebecca Willey returns to Queen of Apostles Catholic Church after another successful food delivery run. Photo by Alan Hodge

BackPack Weekend Food Program provides a vital service for students

(February 3, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Students in Gaston County have several options for lunch during the weekday, including school cafeterias, delivery to homes and apartment complexes via bus runs by the YMCA and school system itself, and drive by pickup at schools, but kids need nutrition on weekends too and, frankly, some find it hard to come by.
That’s where the BackPack Weekend Food program has been stepping in by providing good eats to students who might otherwise not get the food they need on Saturday and Sunday at home.
BackPack Weekend Food was founded in 2011  by Carolyn Niemeyer, former nurse and community advocate, and was intended to serve as a temporary service to help feed students on the weekends during the school year. However, nearly 10 years later, the program is still viable and serves nearly 1,000 students in grades k-12 every school year.
The administrative portion of the program started out of the Niemeyer’s home; their daughter’s bedroom, in fact. Mrs. Niemeyer and her husband, Dr. Charles Niemeyer, hovered over a computer and two twin beds many nights sorting through stacks of paperwork and organizing tickets for food orders. Food items were stored at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Gastonia,  where board member Rev. Brack East serves as Senior Pastor. For five years, the BWFP operated out of the church basement with volunteers unloading the food truck, filling food orders and distributing food to partners each month.
The BWFP started with nineteen partners and 387 students in elementary schools. The following school year, the program added five middle and two high schools.
In March 2015, the BWFP received 501c(3) status.
The program continued to grow and eventually out-grew the church basement and the Niemeyer’s home. In 2016, the Board of Directors determined it was time for the program to get its own office space and warehouse.
Current Gaston County statistics show the program has 1.6+ million meals distributed since 2011,  has over 500 volunteers,  works with 43 schools, has 45 program partners (places that pay for the lunches), had 2,755,824 pounds of food distributed in 2019-20, 138,588 meals served in 2019-20 (through school closing in mid-March), 911 students in grades k-12 received meals.
Partners in the BannerNews circulation area include Ebenezer United Methodist, First Baptist Cramerton, First Presbyterian Belmont, First United Methodist Belmont, First United Methodist Mt. Holly, McAdenville Wesleyan, Mt. Sinai Baptist Mt. Holly, Park Street Methodist, Queen of the Apostles, South Point Baptist, Steel Specialty Inc., St. Mark’s United Methodist Belmont, The Pointe Church Belmont.
The food that the program provides ranges from Ramen noodles to chicken noodle soup. Just a few of the other foods that goes out includes juice, cheerios, green beans, spaghetti-os, pudding, milk, and vegetables. The food comes from US Foods. CaroMont Health allows the program to purchase the food wholesale through CaroMont’s Premier purchase agreement with U.S. Foods..
At Queen of Apostles, site partner coordinator Julie Russo explained how the food gets from the delivery truck into the hands of students at North Belmont Elementary.
“We receive the food and it is placed in bags for the individual students,” she said. “Volunteers take it to the school and, because of COVID,  leave it outside for the school social worker to take in. Then, the kids go to the social worker’s office and pick it up. It’s brilliant. People come from all over to see how our program works.”
Russo says there are about thirty volunteers at Queen of Apostles who do inventory, pack bags, or delivery.
“I’ll find a job for everyone if they want to volunteer,” she said.
Volunteer Jean Panzica explained why she’s involved with the program.
“It’s an important thing to feed these kids,” she said “If not for the program, they would be hungry.”
Liked other partners, Queen of Apostles pays for the food it delivers. If the demand exceeds that amount of money, BackPack Weekend picks up the slack. Donations are appreciated.
“One hundred percent of the donations go for food,” Russo said.
Interested in donating to or volunteering with BackPack Weekend Food Program- including information on upcoming fundraisers? Visit to find out more.
Owner Fred Glenn on the porch of the Baltimore School in Cramerton.

Progress being made to preserve Cramerton’s Baltimore School

(February 3, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Work to have the circa 1925 Baltimore School in Cramerton preserved for future generations is moving forward.
Last year, the Town of Cramerton Commissioners passed a resolution giving the school a local historic designation.  The historical significance of school has also received approval from the North Carolina Dept. of Archives and History. The Baltimore School has also officially been designated as a Historic Site in Gaston County.  It’s the first Gaston County Historical Preservation Site in Cramerton. Owner Fred Glenn is in the process of finalizing wording that will go on a plaque to be erected at the school at a later date.
Also, the Cramerton Community Committee is planning a volunteer work day at the school on April 17th, to clean up the yard and do other odd jobs that Glenn needs completed.
Where and what is the Baltimore section of Cramerton and what purpose did the school serve?
Baltimore is a tiny corner of Cramerton wedged between the base of Cramer Mtn. and the South Fork River. It is where the town’s African-America citizens mostly lived. Baltimore St. is not much over 100 yards long and with a couple of even shorter side streets branch off and dead end. There are just a couple dozen small homes on the narrow pavement, most of which were built during the 1920s by Stuart Cramer. These days, a flock of free range chickens forms a cackling and crowing welcoming committee as you drive along.
The Baltimore School served African-American children first through eighth grades. From there, the kids went to Reid High in Belmont. The school continued to operate until until integration came along. Once that happened, the African-American students from Baltimore were transferred to schools in Belmont and Cramerton.
The school was nothing fancy. A potbellied stove provided heat. Students sat at wooden desks. There were no steps. Kids had to jump off the porch and get pulled back up by classmates. Books were second hand ones from white schools.
Today, the Baltimore School is an abandoned wooden building with basically one large room. There’s a porch on the front corner. Inside, there are several original benches, one desk, and a couple of old washing machines. The windows are blacked and there’s soot on the ceiling. On the bright side, the original clapboards and foundation are in good shape. The roof was replaced several years ago. In other words, a solid core is there for a restoration project.
The building is owned by 75 year old Fred Glenn, a Vietnam vet. He was born at 555 Patterson Street in Baltimore and currently lives in Charlotte. He comes back to Baltimore and tends a garden there.
Glenn’s deep love of Baltimore led him to buy the school building from Burlington in 2003 and is currently driving his desire to see it preserved.
“There are a lot of memories here,” Glenn said. “My mom Mary Lucinda Adams and aunt Helen Falls Holmes went to school here. When I was growing up in the 1950s, we used to come see movies on Tuesdays at the school and sit on the benches that are still inside. Fred Kirby (WBTV singing cowboy star) would come and put on shows for us. He would park his horse trailer at the end of the street and ride Calico to the neighborhood. We also had fish fries.”
Glenn has a dream for the future of the Baltimore School.
“If you think about it, the school was our community center,” he said. “I would like to see it preserved.”
That’s going to take money. Glenn says that fundraisng has been slowed by COVID.
“The plague has me hunkered down,” he said. “I want to see the school preserved possibly as a museum for  current and future generations in memory of those who attended it.”

North Belmont and South Fork parks getting upgrades

(February 3, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Two Gaston County parks- North Belmont and South Fork River- are slated for  some major improvements. While the work is going on, North Belmont Park will be closed for several weeks.
North Belmont Park is located at 3110 Hickory Grove Rd. It is a highly popular, 35-acre place and features a number of attractions including a softball field, a Little
League field, two soccer/football fields, three covered picnic shelters, a playground, restrooms and a half-mile walking track.
Construction at North Belmont Park is being done by Pinnix and is aimed at repaving the parking lot, improving some drainage issues, building ADA compliant sidewalks, grass planting, and other landscaping. Depending upon the weather, the work is expected to take at least three weeks.
South Fork River Park, 4185 Mountain View St. off Hickory Grove Rd.,  will soon be getting a paved parking lot to replace the gravel one. The paving will begin after the North Belmont Park project is complete.
South Fork River Park is one of Gaston County’s most interesting recreational facilities.
The park boasts three trails with a total length of about one mile. The main trail, from the parking area to the South Fork River, was carved from a former dirt roadbed. The trails are broad, smooth, covered with gravel and feature benches where hikers can rest. A picnic table and more benches are on the riverbank where 800 feet of shoreline have been cleared.
There’s plenty of nature to enjoy. As you walk the main trail to the South Fork River, you can hear the rapids even before they come into sight. And what a sight it is – the rushing, sparkling whitewater flows over boulders and around an island in the middle of the river.
Upstream from the rapids, the waters of the South Fork River are calmer. The smoother water is ideal for canoeing and kayaking, and the park provides paddlers with a riverbank ramp to launch their watercraft.
Fishing will no doubt be a popular activity at South Fork River Park, as huge catfish swim in those waters.
Birdwatchers will have plenty to see with many species of warblers, woodpeckers, and songbirds populating the forest. Waterfowl of several types are also evident.
Mammals run the gamut at the park, from deer to beavers. Several types of lizards can be seen darting among the rocks and leaves that line the trails.
Plant life in South Fork River Park is diverse. The land is located where famed French botanist Andre Michaux discovered the rare Big Leaf Magnolia during the 18th century.
South Fork River Park also includes another trail that  leads to a stream at the base of a scenic cliff.
Though enjoyment of nature is the theme of South Fork River Park, there are some rules in place to preserve that tranquility. These include a ban on ATVs, hunting, campfires, alcoholic beverages and concealed weapons. The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

NC Gov. Cooper extends
Modified Stay at Home Order

(February 3, 2021 Issue)

Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen  announced last week that North Carolina’s Modified Stay At Home Order, requiring people to be at home from 10 pm – 5 am, will be extended. Face covering requirements and restrictions on individuals gathering in both indoor and outdoor settings are still in place. Executive Order No. 189 will be in effect through at least Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.
The extension of Executive Order No. 190 allowing for the sale of “to-go” or delivery of mixed beverages will continue to help businesses that are struggling right now. The extension of Executive Order No. 191 will help families have the ability to stay in their homes, a critical component of slowing the spread of the virus.
The Executive Orders for “to-go” or delivery sales of mixed beverages and the evictions moratorium both received concurrence from the Council of State.
“With more than 3,300 people in the hospital, and the percent of positive tests in double digits, we know this virus is still spreading,” said Governor Cooper. “And with at least one new contagious variant of COVID-19 in our state, we still have work to do.  We cannot let our guard down, especially in these cold winter months.”
In addition to the Modified Stay at Home Order, the DHHS secretarial directive remains in effect. People should stay home and only leave for essential purposes such as buying food, accessing health care, and going to school or work.
“The 3 Ws are as essential as they have always been,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Remember people can have COVID-19 and not know it. The best way to protect those around you is to act as if you do have the virus and could be contagious. That means always wearing a mask – over your mouth and nose, always waiting apart from others, and always washing your hands frequently.”
North Carolina continues to administer Covid-19 vaccines across the state. As of last week, 99.8% of all first doses received by the state were reported as being administered and 859,695 total doses have been administered. Vaccine supply continues to be very low and the state is hopeful for more vaccine to be on the way.
North Carolinians can find out when they will be eligible to get their vaccine through a new online tool, Find My Vaccine Group. The screener walks users through a series of questions to determine which vaccine group they fall in. Learn more about North Carolina’s vaccine rollout at
On January 23, NCDHHS reported the first identified case of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 Variant in North Carolina. Early data suggest that this variant may be more contagious than other variants and state health officials continue to recommend staying at home when possible and practicing the 3 “W’s:” Wear a face covering, Wait 6 feet apart and Wash your hands.
Dr. Cohen provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing, but high.
Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is stabilizing, but high.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is leveling, but high.
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is leveling, but high.
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
Testing- Testing capacity remains high.
Tracing Capability- There have been more than 666,000 downloads of the exposure notification app, SlowCOVIDNC.
Personal Protective Equipment- North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.

Gaston County changes hours to Recycling Center with
expansion of Vaccination Clinics

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

Gaston County’s Recycling Center Convenience Site located at the Gastonia Farmers Market, 410 E. Long Ave., has temporarily changed its operating hours while the Gastonia Farmers Market is being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site. All other Recycling Center Convenience Site hours will not be affected.
The new hours at the Farmers Market location are:
Monday 7:30am – 5:30pm
Tuesday 7:30am – 2pm
Wednesday – CLOSED
Thursday 7:30am – 2pm
Friday – CLOSED
Saturday – 7:30am – 5:30pm
This change is in preparation for the county to add a second day of vaccination clinics on Wednesdays so as to provide the second shot in the dose for those who previously received the first shot.
For more information on Recycling Centers in the County, visit
Meals on Wheels volunteer Cadi Putnam delivers lunch to client Elvira “Duckie” Huffstetler as Belmont officers C.B. Farmer (right) and J.G. Reagan look on. The Belmont PD helps with Meals on Wheels deliveries on Tuesdays. Photo by Alan Hodge

Gaston County Meals on Wheels keeps seniors rolling right along

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Luncheon is served (with a smile).
That’s the credo of the Gaston County Meals on Wheels program that delivers a hot and hearty lunch every weekday to its senior citizen clients who are unable to get out and about and who might otherwise go hungry.
The Gaston Meals on Wheels program is a branch of Meals on Wheels America. That umbrella group has more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America’s seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity.
Gaston Meals on Wheels is one of the programs under the Adult & Aging Services Division which is under the Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services.
Gaston Meals on Wheels has seven locations in Gaston County, there is representation in each township.  It has over 850 volunteers, with approximately 500 that are active.  Gaston Meals on Wheels serves approximately 300 meals daily (both hot and frozen meal delivery). 
The South Point meal site operates out of Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Belmont and runs four routes-  two routes in Belmont, one in Cramerton and one in Lowell. It has about 95 volunteers.
Jasha Hunter is the site monitor in Belmont and explained a bit more about who Meals on Wheels serves and how the logistics work.
“Most of our clients are 60 years or older,” said Hunter. “There is no income limit so not all live in poverty but they must not be able to drive. We have thirty six clients on our roll who get a lunch every weekday. There are fourteen more who have five frozen meals delivered on Mondays. The ACCESS van delivers the frozen meals.”
The lunches are balanced and nutritious. They are prepared by Trio Catering in Charlotte.
“The meals are planned with the elderly in mind,” said Maren Brown, Adult Nutrition Specialist. “They are designed to meet state nutritional requirements.”
The menu changes daily. Just a few of the tasty items on it include pinto beans, Spanish chicken and rice, pizza casserole, western baked beef, glazed carrots, chocolate chip cookies, milk, Italian vegetable blend, and much, much, more.
The meals are packaged and loaded into insulated bags that keep them warm for delivery.
The COVID situation has changed the way the meals get in the hands of clients.
“Because of COVID our volunteers try not to go in the client’s house,” Hunter said. “They meet the client at their door or have the lunch in a bag and leave it at the door to maintain social distancing.”
Speaking of volunteers, they are the backbone of Meals on Wheels. Charles Sellers volunteers at Belmont.
“I’ve been a volunteer for four of five years,” Sellers said. “I am retired and have time and wanted to help where I could in the community.
Cadi Putnam is another volunteer. She works from home and has a flexible schedule that lets her deliver in Belmont, Lowell, and Cramerton.
“I look forward to helping people who are so isolated,” Putnam said.
One of Putnam’s favorite deliveries are the ones she makes to Elvira “Duckie” Huffstetler who lives in Belmont’s Myrtle Terrace apartments. Huffstetler is a lovely and lively lady who beams when Putnam shows up. PS she was also an editorial contributor to the Belmont Banner years ago.
“I’ve been on the Meals on Wheels program for about eight years now,” she said. “It’s really great. I highly recommend it.”
Overall, Meals on Wheels provides a much needed service to its clients that keeps them healthy, happy, and on the path of a good quality lifestyle.
Interested in Meals on Wheels?
People interested in volunteering can call Meals on Wheels staff: Amanda Dawson at 704-862-7825 or Maren Brown at 704-862-7676.
People interested in receiving services can call the Adult & Aging Services Intake staff at 704-862-7540.
Princeton Ballen, son of Dominique Isles holds the Unity Candle during this year’s Annual Belmont Unity Day event which was held virtually.

Belmont Unity Day event brought folks together virtually

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

By Delta Sanders

In a production that was a true display of unity itself, four organizations united with the City of Belmont for the 30th Annual Belmont Unity Day. Belmont Coalition of Concerned Citizens, Race Matters Community Conversation Group, Gaston County NAACP, and Gaston County Organization for Community Concerns, Inc. collaborated for the completely virtual program. City of Belmont Information Technology Specialist Seth Norkett wove their respective pieces into a single masterpiece that premiered to over 140 viewers.
“Working on the 30th MLK Unity Service has been very therapeutic for me.” said Kathleen Boyce of Race Matters Community Conversation Group. “It’s been great to focus on something positive in the midst of all the negativity. And it’s been fun to work closely with both old and new friends, several of whom I have never met in person.”
While there was no Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award presented this year, the unity candle ceremony continued with a powerful “Pass The Light” montage. Appropriately, one of the youngest light bearers,  Princeton Ballen, son of Dominique Isles,  wore a shirt with the caption “INSPIRE.” Mt. Pleasant Men’s Choir’s iconic version of “God Bless America” followed. The Charles Jesse Bynum Reid Foundation was beneficiary of the Unity Day offering.
“It’s been very uplifting to see all these parts come together,” Boyce added. “I admit I was very stressed about the Unity Candle, but folks stepped forward to assume leadership for every part of the service - speaking, setting up Givelify accounts, planning music, creating strong messaging, and editing. It was exciting to hear a strong message from Belmont-born Fred Davie delivered with the skyline of New York City in the background. Another pandemic blessing is that we may well have reached more people than we have in the past. Certainly more people were involved in putting together the service. I am grateful.”
Rev. Frederick Davie’s message reflected on numerous quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He emphasized that  “we are woven into the same garment of destiny.” In closing, he recited Mathew 25 and urged us to “...move beyond hopelessness and despair, into the bright hope of tomorrow...where all dwell in that beloved community of mutuality and respect.”  Pastor Kevin Ford gave the parting benediction.
Patricia Franks from Belmont Coalition of Concerned Citizens had the pleasure of introducing Rev. Davie. Of his message, she said “Rev. Davie shared a timely word. The question is are we listening?”
The service remains available for viewing at The link can be found on the City of Belmont website.
Sharon Padgett, Megan Kanal, Hans Kanal, and Mary Moffitt at the award presentation. Photo provided

YMCA honors local catering company for their work feeding the community

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

Each year, the Gaston County Family YMCA honors an individual dedicated to serving the community. In 2020 this award is being given to Hans and Megan Kanal from H&M Catering, located in Mt. Holly, for their tireless work combating hunger during the COVID shutdown.
One in five children in North Carolina struggle with food insecurity which can be an anxiety-provoking for kids who struggle with hunger and don’t have access to free and reduced lunch at school. In addition to children, the COVID impacted seniors, many of which were on waiting lists to receive home deliveries. H&M Catering worked alongside YMCA staff and volunteers to safely make and deliver nearly 4,000 meals to children and seniors across Gaston County from March 18 until May 28, 2020.
“What you have done for the Y this year, for the kids and the seniors, was phenomenal. We could not have done it without you.” said Sharon Padgett, Gaston County Family YMCA CEO. “We are thrilled to award you the 2020 Volunteer of the Year.”
“What a great honor,” said Hans adding, “When everything was going down, it gave us purpose.”
“We feed people, that’s what we do,” added Meagan as she was being presented the etched glass award by Mary Moffitt, Stowe Family YMCA, Executive Director.
 “Our reach would never have been as large without you. You were the backbone and we were able to take the bus and go out and see the smiling faces of kids and seniors as they were waiting on their porches for us,” said Moffitt.
This award it typically presented at the YMCA Annual Meeting, which was not held due to COVID this year.
Padgett explained why it is important to recognize volunteers.
 “Whether it is the Board volunteer, youth sports coach or a greeter at the door, our volunteers are the foundation on which the Y was built. They give of their time, talent and treasure because they believe in our mission,” said Padgett.

National Law Enforcement Day

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

January 9 was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day and the men and women who wear the badge at Gaston County Police and Gaston County Sheriff’s Office were recognized.  If you see an officer or deputy or any member of law enforcement out in the community, don’t hesitate to share your thanks with them as well.
Photos provided

Belmont’s Rocky Branch Park getting major upgrades

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

Other Parks and Rec. projects also moving forward 

By Alan Hodge

One of Belmont’s most popular recreational areas, Rocky Branch Park, is current closed. However, it’s all for a good cause- that being major upgrades to make it a more walkable and a family friendly oasis of outdoor area just a couple of blocks from the heart of downtown.
Rocky Branch Park has primarily been a mountain biking/hiking trail park. It first opened for use in July 2013 with a couple miles of biking and hiking trails.  It was carved out of the woods at the bend in the road where Sacco St. and Woodrow Ave. meet. The initial construction was done mainly with volunteer labor and free land making it one of the city’s best park deals ever.
The current upgrades project got started a couple of weeks ago and are expected to be done by mid-March weather permitting. A company based in Chapel Hill called Nature Trails is doing the job. According to Belmont Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe, the cost of Phase I of the project will be $94,650.
“The City funds amount to $46,000,” Stowe said. “The remaining funds come from the Trailblazer’s by way of grants and donations.”
So, what will the project entail?
“The trail will be widened to give it multi-purpose use,” said Stowe. “Several of the old bridges will be taken out and replaced with seven new ones. There will also be a new split rail fence.”
Improved drainage and erosion control will also be included in the work.
“It will be a lot better for walking,” said Stowe. “It will be a lot more family friendly.”
Just around the corner from Rocky Branch Park, Reid Park is also set for an upgrade that will happen in a few weeks.
“We will be installing a picnic shelter with four tables,” said Stowe. “There wasn’t much shade there.”
Stowe also said that Davis Park is slated for a picnic shelter.
Other Belmont Parks and Recreation action in the works includes upcoming talks about a dog park.
“A lot of people want a dog park,” said Stowe.
The new Parks and Recreation facility that will be built in front on the CityWorks complex is also moving forward.
“We are in the design phase,” said Stowe.
The planned new building will be two stories high and have 45,000 sq. ft. of space. The first floor will feature three basketball courts, a media room for gaming, an exercise studio, a kitchen, a kids play area, and a large lobby. The second floor will feature a walking track, an exercise room, a catering kitchen, a lounge, and more play space. The second floor will also feature a balcony with sweeping views of the Catawba River and Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park.
Just a few of the activities the new center can host includes pickle ball, gymnastics, cheerleading, karate, movies, ping pong, dance, badminton, classes of various types and many, many more. Folks will be able to rent space in the building for meetings, weddings, birthday parties, and that sort of thing.
Stowe sees the new parks and rec. center not only as a boon to the local activities scene, but as an economic driver as well.
“The center will be a place we can hold events such as basketball tournaments and invite as many as fifty teams,” he said. ‘This will bring people to Belmont who will shop, stay in local hotels, and eat in local restaurants. It will be a big boost economically.”
 “If everything is approved we could start construction in May 2021,” said Stowe. “It will take about 14 months to build.”
Stowe says the idea is to use local builders for the project, further helping the area economy. Cost of the project is estimated to be $9-10 million.

Mt. Holly honors two police officers

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

At its January 11 meeting, the Mt. Holly city council honored MHPD officers the late Tyler Herndon as well as Sgt. Todd Calhoun who retired after 30 years on the job.
Herndon was posthumously awarded the prestigious Commander’s Coin for his actions during a Dec. 11, 2020 event where he was fatally wounded in action. The MHPD Commanders Coin award recognizes employees who have distinguished themselves by acts of special accopliusjmnen tor other acts of service above and beyond those normally expected by members of the department. It is the highest award given to members of the department.
MHPD chief Don Roper wrote the following memorandum for the award.
“While on duty on this date (Dec. 11), Officer Herndon responded in the early morning hours, along with other officers, to the report of a breaking and entering in progress in the 300 block of Beatty Dr. Upon arrival, Officer Herndon and the other officers encountered a felony suspect attempting to flee the scene on foot. Officer Herndon took quick action in an attempt to apprehend the suspect. Officer Herndon’s actions were executed with courage and dedication as he sought to bring the incident to a conclusion. During the confrontation, Officer Herndon was assaulted and sustained fatal injuries. The felony suspect was ultimately taken into custody.
Officer Herndon performed his duty with valor, skill, and dedication to service.
These actions were taken in keeping with the highest standards and tradition of service of the Mount Holly Police Department and reflect credit upon the city of Mount Holly. A copy of the memorandum will be maintained in Officer Herndon’s official file.
The Commanders Coin was presented to Officer Herndon in a private ceremony on December 14, 2020 and he carries this coin with him now.”
Sgt. Todd Calhoun was also recognized by the city on his retirement after 30 ½ years on the job. Calhoun is only the second Mount Holly officer to serve his entire career as an officer in the Mount Holly Police Department.
He was presented with a key to the city as well as a proclamation that spelled out his many accolades and accomplishments just a few of which include- he was the first full time school resource officer in Mt. Holly; he was also the City’s first bike officer; he also worked in the area of community outreach including assisting and establishing various community watch organizations; he had the nearly perfect demeanor for being a police officer, being a natural born leader who served by example and never shirked or complained about any task assigned to him; he was supported throughout his years as an officer by his wife, Robin, his sons, Roland and Chandler, and his stepdaughter, Taylor, who understood that when duty called his family endeavors would be put on hold and he would put the Department first; he was easily identified for his physical fitness and his rather enormous arms from working out, and he was often referred to by people not knowing his name as, “you know, the cop with the big arms;” he is a humble and respectful gentleman who has a knack for sizing up a situation and taking the appropriate action without undue harm or stress to anyone; he is a major contributor to the establishment of the fine reputation that the police department enjoys, and has helped to establish the “Mount Holly way of policing” which means so much to the department.
Karen Hite Jacob prepares to play a tune on the Belmont Abbey harpsichord. Photo by Alan Hodge

Karen Hite Jacob makes beautiful music on a unique instrument

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

When Karen Hite Jacob of Belmont sits down at the keyboard of her harpsichord, beautiful music flows like water from her fingertips.
Wait. What the heck is a harpsichord?
The harpsichord is a musical instrument that was the forerunner of the modern piano. The harpsichord was most likely invented in the late Middle Ages. Harpsichords vary in size and shape, but all have the same basic mechanism. The player depresses a key that rocks over a pivot in the middle of its length. The other end of the key lifts a jack (a long strip of wood) that holds a small plectrum (a wedge-shaped piece of quill, often made of plastic in the 21st century), which plucks the string. When the player releases the key, the far end returns to its rest position, and the jack falls back; the plectrum, mounted on a tongue mechanism that can swivel backwards away from the string, passes the string without plucking it again. As the key reaches its rest position, a felt damper atop the jack stops the string’s vibrations.
Since it uses quills instead of felt covered “hammers” like the modern piano, the notes a harpsichord makes are lighter and crisper in sound. In fact the whole instrument is lighter in weight and construction than a piano.
The harpsichord was a favorite instrument during the Baroque time period (1600-1750). Folks that wrote and played copious amounts of music for it include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Georg Philipp Telemann.
So, how did Jacob, a modern and well-educated woman, become enamored of and a professional player of a type of musical instrument whose roots go back many, many centuries?
Her father had a lot to do with it.
“My father said he saw an advertisement in a magazine for a harpsichord kit,” she said. “He built it while I was in college at UNC-Greensboro. When he finished the kit he called me and said I could come tune it up.”
By this time Jacob was already an accomplished piano player and organist.
“I went home and tuned the harpsichord by playing a note on it one at a time and running into the next room and playing a note on the piano,” she said. “I have to credit dad for getting me interested in the harpsichord.”
Jacob went on to teach the instrument to students at placed like CPCC in Charlotte. She also began performing in public. In the early 1970s she formed a group called Carolina Pro Musica that is still actively playing Baroque era chamber music at various venues including Belmont Abbey College.
Jacob has three harpsichords at home. She shared an interesting story about the one she plays at the Abbey.
“Richard Kingston made it in 1986 for a customer in Raleigh,” she said “That man eventually sold it to the Abbey in 2005.”
Kingston is an expert and well known instrument maker who lives in Fort Mill, S.C.
The Abbey instrument is a stunning piece of work. It has Baroque era themes and flowers painted on an ebony background and the sound Jacob coaxes from its keys is uplifting and lovely.
“Baroque music is beautiful and full of emotion but not stuffy,” she said. “It is inspiring. I like it because not many people are doing it. Electric pianos are not my thing.”
Like many other musicians and musical groups, Jacob and Carolina Pro Musica are trying to work around COVID restrictions. Meanwhile they are doing virtual performances and waiting for “normalcy” to return.
“We hope to go back to live concerts in the fall,” she said.
Want to learn more about Carolina Pro Musica? Visit

Mt. Holly Community Garden scenes

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

The weather may have been dreary last week, but there were still lots of bright and cheery things to see at the Mt. Holly Community Garden and a positive message too.
Photos by Alan Hodge


Where to see virtual
Belmont Unity Day event

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

A January tradition continues with the 30th Annual Belmont Unity Day Service on January 18 at 7pm. Four organizations are uniting to sponsor the program: Belmont Coalition of Concerned Citizens, Gaston County Organization for Community Concerns, Gaston County NAACP, Race Matters Community Conversation Group.
Rev. Frederick A. Davie, a 1974 graduate of South Point High School, will deliver the keynote speech at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event. For the first time in its history, the service will be virtual. Beyond that, the service will be familiar to regular attendees and even include a creative unity candle lighting ceremony. Where To W.atch: The link will be available on the City of Belmont website,, homepage and under the “News” section.

Gov. Cooper extends Modified Stay at Home Order

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

Last week, NC Governor Cooper extended North Carolina’s Modified Stay At Home Order that requires people to be at home from 10 pm – 5 am to last through at least Friday, January 29. Secretary Cohen also issued a Secretarial Directive with stark warnings for North Carolinians to avoid indoor spaces without masks and gatherings between households.
“We have turned the page on a new year – one that we’re hoping will bring better times. But as we know, the virus didn’t disappear at midnight on December 31,” Governor Cooper said. “In fact, in North Carolina, we have seen some of our highest case counts, percent positives, hospitalizations and ICU bed usage numbers in the past few days. No matter where you live, work, worship or play, COVID-19 remains a deadly threat, and we must treat it that way.”
“We are in a very dangerous position. North Carolinians need to take immediate actions to save lives, slow the spread of the virus, and protect hospital capacity so that medical care is available to anyone who may need it, whether for COVID-19 or for any other reason,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Dr. Cohen provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is increasing.
Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is increasing.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is increasing.
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is increasing.
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
Testing- Testing is widely available across the state.
Tracing Capability- There have been more than 600,000 downloads of the exposure notification app, SlowCOVIDNC.
Personal Protective Equipment- North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.
Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map. There are now 84 counties designated as red (critical community spread) and 12 counties that are yellow (substantial community spread).
Vaccine Efforts Underway
Governor Cooper and Dr. Cohen also highlighted North Carolina’s efforts to support the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Governor Cooper has mobilized approximately 50 North Carolina National Guard personnel to support NCDHHS and North Carolina Emergency Management. The Guard will assist with administering the vaccine and logistics support for local entities.
Arts on the Greenway members from left- Jane Newsome, Wanda Campbell, Jason Reynolds, Sandy Collier, and Dottie Scher show off just one of the many wonderful items on display at the group’s headquarters in Mt. Holly. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly’s Arts on the Greenway is a happening place

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The former Massey Building at 500 E. Central Ave. in Mt. Holly is a small, industrial type of structure  that might not look like much on the outside, but inside its concrete walls  is a cornucopia of beautiful and creative artworks done by members of the Arts on the Greenway group.
Arts on the Greenway moved into the Massey Building  a couple of years ago and transformed it from its previous role as a storage space for the City of Mt.  Holly into a series of studios for Arts on the Greenway members, a retail space where members’ artworks are sold, art class space, and more. Overall the transformation has been nothing short of miraculous.
“It’s a happy place,” said Arts on the Greenway member Sandy Collier.
Right  now, there are around a dozen Arts on the Greenway members working in the building. Each member has a studio space where they let their creative juices flow in acrylics, pottery, watercolors, textile arts, jewelry making, and just about anything else they can think of.
There’s also a retail space up front where pieces are offered for sale.
“The gallery and retail pace is open Saturdays from 11am to 4pm,” said artist Dottie Scher. “Masks are required and the area is wiped down with sanitizer every thirty to forty five minutes.”
Arts on the Greenway also has an online 
Besides making nice things, Arts on the Greenway members are also working with Mt. Holly business owners to display their work.
“We call it the Share the Art program,” Scher said. “The artwork hangs in a business for three months then is swapped out. Right now artist Carlos Alvarez Cotera has a piece in Jack Beagle restaurant and Stephanie McLaughlin has a piece in Catawba Coffee.”
Another recent Arts on the Greenway involvement saw the creation of a large “Christmas gift” box made of crochet panels that was displayed at the Municipal Center. The box was made and placed there to honor first responders of all types. Now, sections of the work are being cut into smaller pieces for adaptive reuse.
‘We are going to make blankets out of the panels for local homeless shelters, battered women shelters and other similar locations,” Scher said.
Arts on the Greenway currently leases the Massey Building from the City of Mt. Holly and intends to stay a while. Future plans include a glass blowing studio, pottery kiln, and a pergola out back with picnic tables for festivals and outdoor classes.
“One step at a time,” said Scher.
Arts on the Greenway is also interested in accepting volunteers.
Arts on the Greenway is an oasis of artistic talent, creative collaboration, and cultural celebration  that not only has a bright future but firmly places Mt. Holly on the regional arts scene.

Mt. Holly’s Arts on the
Greenway Gallery Photos

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

(Photos by Alan Hodge)
Rebecca Hill is a Career and Technical Education teacher at Stuart W. Cramer High.

Students are soaring to new heights in Career and Technical Education

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

By Allison Drennan
Gaston County Schools

Students should do what makes them happy, and they should love what they do.
That is the attitude that Stuart W. Cramer High School teacher Rebecca Hill has as she teaches Spaorts Entertainment Marketing to her students every day.  Hill is a part of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) faculty at Stuart W. Cramer, a job and a curriculum pathway that she truly enjoys.
Recently, it was announced that Gaston County Schools ranks first in the state for the number of CTE credentials earned by students and first in the state for the percentage of students earning more than one credential in a particular CTE area.  This is the only time since the state began tallying credentials data that the same county has captured both rankings.
Four Gaston County high schools are in the top 15 statewide for the number of credentials earned by students during the 2019-2020 year: Hunter Huss ranks second in the state with 2,976 credentials; Ashbrook ranks fifth with 2,297 credentials; Forestview ranks 13th with 1,721 credentials; and
Stuart W. Cramer ranks 14th with 1,706 credentials.
For Hill, she is proud to be associated with a Career and  Technical Education program that is among the best in the state.  She knows that the knowledge, skills, and credentials earned by students will benefit them in the workforce.  Earning a CTE credential is important, she believes, because it can set a student apart from others when applying for a job.
The CTE teachers at Hunter Huss are beaming with pride knowing that their school ranks second in North Carolina (out of more than 1,000 high schools) in the number of credentials earned by students.  Hunter Huss is home to the district’s Career Academy for high school students.  Now in its fifth year, the Career Academy offers courses in more than a dozen career pathways, everything from health science, nursing, construction, and advanced manufacturing to firefighting, EMT, business, and culinary arts.
“The credentials make our students job-ready upon graduation,” said Sam Bishop, CTE instructional management coordinator at Hunter Huss.  “It also puts them ahead if they plan to go on to college to further their education.”
CTE educators across the county say they’ve seen a difference in their students when incorporating the vocational courses into their education.  Career and Technical Education promotes training students for the workforce, something that some teachers can speak to personally.
Chuck Austin, who teaches masonry at Forestview, knows how important it is to gain real-life experience to help set yourself apart in a particular industry.  Austin, who owned a masonry business for a number of years, said he has seen his students get excited about what they are learning, and that’s exciting for him as a teacher.
“Students love these classes because they get to put their hands on things and physically work and learn,” Austin said. “It’s not sitting at a desk all day, listening to lectures and taking notes. You’re really getting the hands-on experience right here in the shop.”
Ashbrook High School teacher Kristen Poarch said her business education classes have helped her students to see that there are careers available to them that they may not have considered as an option.
“CTE gives students an opportunity to consider alternatives in their career path,” Poarch said. “I have several students who are creative and have designed some outstanding work, but prior to taking my class, they had never considered a career in graphic design.  Now, they are.”
The number of students interested in CTE continues to grow.  For example, public safety classes used to have fewer than 10 students.  Now, because of interest, enrollment in the classes has to be capped at 25.
Hill, who is a 2014 graduate of Gaston County Schools, said she’s seen a huge difference just in the time since she was a student at South Point High School.
“I started high school in 2010, and the amount of growth I’ve seen since then, both in career pathway options and the number of students wanting to take these classes, is amazing,” she said. “They’re no longer just ‘maybe’ options or something you do for a hobby.  Students are competing to get into classes with limited enrollment.  We have come so far.”
Bishop spoke to the same sentiment at Hunter Huss.  He says having to find more teachers to meet students’ demand for CTE classes is a good problem to have.  “Students are getting more and more interested in these careers, and we just keep developing more pathways.  It’s a win-win situation,” said Bishop.
The future of Career and Technical Education is soaring, which is understandable since Poarch believes the courses really complement a student’s education.
“CTE classes are like the bow on a package,” she said. “It really brings education together and gives students opportunities to use what they have learned in other courses and apply their knowledge and skills to the real world.”
And interest in CTE will only continue to grow.
“There’s always going to be a need for people in the trades,” Austin points out. “Somebody has to build the house – computers can’t do that, at least not yet.”
The Smiths

How our ancestors did business

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

These days most financial and business transactions involve the use of a computer or plastic card, but a recently discovered treasure trove of Belmont area documents from the 19th and early 20th centuries tells a story of deals made on a handshake, written on paper in flowing script, and signatures done with a flourish.
The papers are mostly related to the Smith family that in the early 19th century owned most of Catawba Heights and North Belmont. However, other prominent names and signatures appear on the documents including Stowe, Abernathy, Lineberger, and Bishop Leo Haid of Belmont Abbey.
The deeds, bills, and checks going back 177 years were once kept in a metal box in a cabinet in the Smith family farmhouse in Catawba Heights. When Sinclair Smith died in 1971, his sister Louise Surratt took the box to her home in Jackson Hill, N.C. When she died her son Julian found the box but it was many years before he forwarded the contents to cousin Rhonda Hambright in Georgia. She in turn gave the pack to her mother Emily Smith Helton who organized it chronologically and placed it in an acid-proof album.
Helton grew up in the farmhouse and remembered the box of ancestral documents.
“We weren’t allowed to touch it,” she said.
The earliest document is dated January 23, 1837 and involves a land deal between Robert Smith and John Hayes. Smith bought 500 acres in what is now North Belmont and Catawba Heights from Hayes for $1,000. The deal is written in cursive longhand and uses a measurement called a “pole” to lay out the linear boundaries. A pole, or rod, is 16.5 feet. Corner boundaries were marked by terms such as “black oak stump”, “large stone”, and “spring near a post oak”.
Another land deed dated February 25, 1881 is between Robert Smith and his son, John B. Smith. This deed was for $237.50 and describes a property next to that of a “Louis Lineberger”. A hickory tree, an oak, a spring, and a graveyard wall are used as points of reference. The graveyard mentioned is Old Goshen Cemetery on Woodlawn Ave. in North Belmont.
Yet another original deed in the archival material dated March 8, 1889 is between G.W. and Susan Abernethy and John B. Smith. This 31 acre plot adjoined property owned by Jasper Robinson and stretched from North Belmont to the South Fork River. The cost was $200.
Belmont Abbey Bishop Leo Haid was also a player in local land deals. A deed bearing his signature and dated February 8, 1905 reveals that Haid (likely acting on behalf of the Abbey) transferred five acres to Andrew Jackson Goforth and his wife Catherine for the sum of $150.00.
Modern property lines are marked by satellite such as the Gaston County GIS system, but hand drawn maps were once the norm. A map dated March 25, 1895 in the materials shows property lines and ownership in the area between McAdenville, Belmont Abbey, and North Belmont. Roads are drawn in red pencil. A stone boundary rock is highlighted with the illustration of a hand and pointing finger. Reference is made to an old graveyard.
In addition to land deeds, another original bill of sale in the materials dated December 18, 1895 describes a transaction between R.H. Hanks and John Benny Smith. The bill is for a horse valued at $75.00 but Hanks worked out the following bargain.
“I hereby convey to him (Smith) these articles of personal property to wit: Two-thirds of my entire crop of cotton and corn, one bay horse seven years old. I vouch this special trust that if I (Hanks) fail to pay said debt before the first day of December 1896 then he may seize said property or so much thereof as may be needed by public auction for cash.”
Hanks signed the bargain with an X.
Another handwritten bill dated February 3, 1906 is the conveyance of a “black horse mule” worth $200 to Walter V. Smith from his mother Sarah A. Smith. The bill also lists a “double pair of wagon harness and one wagon” as part of the transaction.
Several wills are also in the materials. The earliest ones are handwritten on lined paper. One dated December 22, 1898 by John B. Smith is typewritten on parchment-like paper and in it he conveys his property to his wife Sarah and children John Sidney, Ida, Benjamin Franklin, and Walter Valentine. He also bequeathed $25 each to his grandsons Lawrence, Robert, and Lloyd Suggs. John Benny died in 1903.
Once there was a Bank of Belmont and a number of items in the materials are from its early days. Several checks date from its founding in 1925 and are signed W.V. Smith. One check from 1932 is for $26.80 property tax on land known as the 112-acre “Shipp Place” in Riverbend Township.
Original WWII war rations books for W.V. Smith and his wife Ella Eugenia are also in the materials. Tabs are torn out of them for things such as sugar they could not grow on their Catawba Heights farm.
A final Bank of Belmont check dated Jan 1, 1945 to Fite Funeral Home for $850.00 paid for W.V. Smith’s burial.
Looking through business papers from long ago not only gives us an appreciation of how folks got along with one another, they are also a window into the lives of those who worked to build our area out of the wilderness.
Rev. Frederick A. Davie

Belmont Unity Day event set

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

The Belmont Coalition of Concerned Citizens and Race Matters Community Conversation group will present the 30th Annual Belmont Unity Day Service on January 18, 2021 at 7pm.   The virtual program will feature Rev. Frederick A. Davie as the keynote speaker.
Complete details and viewing information are forthcoming.
Rev. Frederick A. Davie is in his tenth year as Executive Vice President of Union Theological Seminary. In this role he works with the President of the seminary on management and administration, strategic planning, new program development, resource development, community life, and faith and policy in the public square.
Prior to coming to Union, Rev. Davie was the Interim Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation; President and CEO of Public/Private Ventures; a Program Officer at The Ford Foundation; Deputy Borough President of Manhattan; a chief of staff in the Dinkins NYC mayoral administration; and Deputy Executive Director of the NYC Mission Society.
Rev. Davie also holds several public positions. He is Chairman of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the nation’s largest independent police oversight agency of the nation’s largest police department; a Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bi-partisan federal entity that advises the White House, Congress and Secretary of State on issues of global religious freedom; and a founder and Chairman of Faith 2020, a broad coalition of people of faith promoting hope over fear in politics and public policy.
Rev. Davie serves on the board of directors of several organizations, including a Trustee of his alma mater Greensboro College, the Interfaith Youth Core, the Interfaith Center of New York, the Interfaith Assembly for Homelessness and Housing, and the Stax Museum and Soulsville Foundation in Memphis. He is also on the advisory board of the Interfaith Assembly for Homelessness and Housing.
He also served on the inaugural White House Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, appointed by President Barack Obama. He also served on the Policy Committee of the Biden-Harris Presidential Campaign.
Rev. Davie is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA.  He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where he was the President of Yale Black Seminarian and a Benjamin Elijah Mays Fellow of The Fund for Theological Education; and a BA from Greensboro College graduating on the Dean’s List and recipient of the Harold H. Hutson Award.  He is also a 1974 graduate of South Point High School in Belmont, NC.
Samuel Lee Dunlap, Jr. completed the Gaston College BLET program and successfully passed the exam this month. He is now state-certified and can be sworn in as an officer to work for the Belmont Police Department.

BLET program prepares Samuel Dunlap for a new career in law enforcement

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

The Basic Law Enforcement Training program at Gaston College equips students with essential skills for beginning a career as an officer at the state, county, and municipal level. Some of the program’s students, however, choose to enter law enforcement after having established other careers. One such student is Samuel Lee Dunlap, Jr.
Dunlap, who enrolled in the BLET program in July 2020, already had a bachelor’s degree in business management from Belmont Abbey College and had worked at Planet Fitness since 2011. In March 2020 he moved to Alabama to become a Regional Manager with the company, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the franchise owner from expanding in that area and Dunlap’s position was eliminated. He and his wife returned to North Carolina in June.
“A friend encouraged me to consider a career in law enforcement shortly after I moved back home,” said Dunlap. “Through my belief in prayer and faith, my wife and I discussed the idea and considered my previous experience. I have three years in the military, almost nine years of servant leadership with Planet Fitness that included working as a General Manager, my college degree, being a husband, step-father, foster parent, leader at my church and in the local Masonic Lodge, and Gaston County Schools Mentor. All of that – and my passion 
to serve others – brought us to the conclusion that law enforcement would be an ideal career change.”
“At 42 years of age, Mr. Dunlap is a little older than our average student,” said Dennis Crosby, Director of the Gaston College Criminal Justice Academy and the BLET program. “His maturity, life experiences and business background are beneficial when seeking a career in law enforcement. He also came prepared, he’s in excellent physical condition, and he always projects a positive attitude.”
Crosby tells students that the program is part of the selection process for law enforcement agencies. The program has approximately 60 to 70 instructors, and most of them are full-time law enforcement officers who teach part-time at the College. Many of them are unofficial recruiters for their agencies and they often make hiring recommendations based upon students’ performance in the BLET classes. Dunlap’s qualifications and suitability for a law enforcement career made him an attractive candidate.
The Belmont Police Department sponsored Dunlap in his pursuit of this new direction. He was accepted into the Gaston College BLET program in July and the Belmont Police Department hired him in September. Dunlap completed the program on November 30 and on December 3 he took the NC BLET State Exam. He successfully passed the exam and will become state-certified and can be sworn in to work. “I look forward to a career of 20 to 25 years serving in law enforcement with an opportunity to attend as many trainings as available, to earn ranks of Corporal, Sergeant, and Captain, and to be an instructor in the NC Criminal Justice Academy and teach a BLET course at Gaston College.”
Dunlap’s family and friends are excited that he is embarking on this new career, and they are confident that he will do well. He is grateful for their support and for the education and encouragement he received at Gaston College. “Director Dennis Crosby, assistant director Shane Caughey, and facilitator Melanie Hoyle, along with first class administration, my phenomenal classmates and instructors throughout the course, have made my experience with the BLET program nothing less than exceptional,” he said.
“Mr. Dunlap epitomizes what we look for in BLET candidates,” said Crosby. “He came into the program well prepared and gave 100 percent every day. He has a great public service attitude. There are numerous job opportunities for people interested in a career in law enforcement these days. Mr. Dunlap is an example that you can get hired even before the class is completed if you work hard and have a great attitude. I think he will be very successful in his newly chosen field.”
The BLET program at Gaston College prepares students for challenging and rewarding careers in law enforcement. “If anyone is considering law enforcement as a career in Gaston County, no matter your age,” said Dunlap, “don’t look any further than Gaston College to receive the best instruction, guidance, and opportunity to succeed.”
Samuel’s BLET classmates graduated and completed the state certification exam at a 96% pass rate! Ten of the eleven students passed the exam on their first attempt.
For more information about the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at Gaston College, contact Melanie Hoyle at or 704-922-6531.
Two longtime City of Belmont employees, Chuck Flowers (left) and David Isenhour retired last week after decades of service to the municipality and its citizens. Photo by Alan Hodge

City of Belmont’s Dynamic Duo ride off into the sunset

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

History records some great partnerships- Lennon and McCartney, Lee and Jackson, Laurel and Hardy. Last week saw a similar winning combination- Public Works Director David Isenhour and Utilities Director Chuck Flowers- retire from the City of Belmont after decades of loyal service.
Isenhour and Flowers put in a lot of years with the city. In Isenhour’s case it would have been 24 next month. Flowers racked up 32 years.
“I came to Belmont as a part time code enforcement employee,” said Isenhour.  “Then I became utility director, then public works director in 1998.”
Isenhour recalled his early days with the city.
“My career began in the old public works building on Mill Street,” he said. “That was torn down and is now a parking lot. We had one backhoe, a tractor, and a few dump and trash trucks. It was bare bones.”
Time moved along, and Isenhour witnessed and participated in helping Belmont evolve into the beautiful small city it is today.
“I feel like my greatest accomplishment is the part I played in the beautification program in the downtown area,” he said. “That includes things like the new retaining wall and gazebo in Stowe Park as well as enhancing the water fountain.”
Another highlight of Isenhour’s career was seeing the stunning Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park become a reality.
“In the beginning it was just woods, vines, trash, and two old houses there,” Isenhour said. “Developing the boat landing was another great project. It is one of the best on the river.”
Flowers outlined his career with the city.
“I was working at the water plant for Belmont Converting Co. when the city bought it on August 1, 1988,” he said. “I was an operator and also did maintenance work. In 1997 I became superintendent at the water plant and in 2006 David asked me to be utilities director and I said yes.”
Flowers has been in charge of all the city’s water plants and underground infrastructure. Right now that includes 121 miles of water main, and 110 miles of sewer main.
“When I started we had 3,000 customers,” he said. “Now, that number is 7,146 customers.”
Flowers has seen big changes in how the utilities situation in Belmont is handled.
“We used to have meter readers,” he said. “Now, it’s done by the automated MI.Net system. We also have a customer portal called Watersmart.”
Flowers has also overseen a refurbishment of the water plant with upgrades to the testing lab and a break area for employees.
But neither Isenhour nor Flowers take all the credit for their accomplishments.
“We are proud of our relationships with our employees,” they both said. “They made us successful and we are going to miss them.”
The pair have also formed a bond over the years, not only as professional colleagues but friends as well.
“Chuck and I have had a remarkable relationship,” said Isenhour.
Now that they are retired, what will the two do with all that free time?
“I think I will try to find my golf game again,” Isenhour said.
“I am going to spoil my grandkids and hunt and fish, Flowers said.
Good luck to two great guys.
Mt. Holly police officer Tyler Herndon

Fund set up in memory of Officer Herndon

(December 30, 2020 Issue)

A memorial fund has been set up in honor  of Mt. Holly police officer Officer Herndon who lost his life in the line of duty on December 11, 2020. “The Tyler Herndon Memorial Fund” has been created at  SouthState Bank. Cash or check donations can be dropped off at any Gaston county location (Mount Holly, Belmont, Gastonia, Dallas, Stanley). All monies collected will be given to the Herndon family in honor of their son.
Statesville Stained Glass employees Ryan Tulbert (left) and Robbie Edwards installing a panel in the front window of First Baptist Mt. Holly. The year 2020 meant plenty of people had to call on their faith to get by. Photo by Alan Hodge

COVID consternation and creative
courage marked the latter half of 2020

(December 31, 2020 Issue)

See more photos of the year on pages 6 and 7 

By Alan Hodge

The second half of 2020 brought more social and economic challenges to folks everywhere, yet through it all, people found creative ways to cope with the difficulties and to look forward to better days ahead.
The July 9 issue of the BannerNews kicked off with a story highlighting the incredible career of First United Methodist Belmont Child Development Center teach Susan Clements who had been on the job for 39 years. That issue of the paper also looked at the outstanding athletic accomplishments of local senior citizen David Hostetler who once again raked in plenty of medals at the Senior Games. On the inside, the July 9 paper ran a series on the retirement of Montcross Chamber president Ted Hall.
The July 16 Banner News profiled First Baptist Belmont’s new pastor Andrew Renfroe. Major upgrades at Stowe Park was also a front-page piece. Improvements at the park included a nice new pavilion for outdoor concerts and other events. The paper also ran a story that week recalling the 50th anniversary of the Love Valley Rock Festival - NC’s version of Woodstock.
The July 23rd BannerNews visited the Mt. Holly Community Garden for a story on all the good things growing and going on there.  COVID related news that week was the fact that both the Cleveland County and NC Mountain State fairs were called off. In Belmont, a drive by farewell to retiring Queen of Apostles Catholic Church pastor Father Frank Cancro was held and lots of photos from it made the pages.
July 30 came along and the BannerNews for that week spotlighted the lunch truck program named Our Daily Bread that saw Karen Leatherman drive through neighborhoods giving out lunches to kids and sharing Bible stories as well. Local history got a mention that week with a piece on Jack Page who had accumulated a large collection of Native American artifacts on his rambles years ago on the South Point peninsula.
The month of August started out with BannerNews dated the 6th and a front page piece on Piedmont Homestead organic farm near Stanley. The farm is the brainchild and dream of Mike and Kristina Lore and raises all kinds of crops without chemicals. Another piece that week featured a page of pictures from a cool custom car show that was held at Community Pentecostal Center in Stanley.  The rides ran the gamut from  old timey to fast and modern. On the schoolhouse front, the paper that week also ran a series of photos highlighting East Gaston High and the makeover to its front entrance.
The August 13 BannerNews made a visit to the Cramerton Historical Society Museum to get a look at the work underway there. Another story that week visited First Baptist Mt. Holly to get an update on the nearly complete restoration project following the fire from several years back. On the COVID side, NC Gov. Cooper extended his Phase 2 rules.
August 20 would have normally been the start of new school year, but as the BannerNews reported, it did not happen as usual due to COVID restrictions and precautions. On the bright side, Cramerton Girl Scout Kathryn Cupp built a mini-food pantry and stocked it with canned goods. The cupboard is at Cramerton City Hall. The paper that week also announced a big new development coming to North Belmont on the site of the former Acme mill.
August 27 wrapped up that month in the paper and it was topped by a story on the incredible WWII adventures of Polish-born Stanley Dudko and his wife Jasia. Both of them escaped the Nazis and came to Belmont where he was a teacher at Belmont Abbey and she was a businesswoman. That same paper also spotlighted the Millican Pictorial Museum and the 20,000+ archival photos Allen Millican had gathered from all over the region. School news that week looked at the new Grab and Go lunch program where folks could drive by their school and get a bagged lunch for the kids.
September came along and the Banner News issue dated the 3rd looked at plans for the third annual Mt. Holly Lantern Parade. The event had drawn large crowds to downtown Mt. Holly the previous two years but plans for 2020 were altered a bit to cope with COVID. On the schools front, another article spotlighted renovation work at a number of local schools. Bond money from 2018 was being used to fund the work.
The September 10 BannerNews had a great story on Gertrude Harris who had just turned 100 years old. She had lived in East Belmont most of her life and still kept house there.  On the municipal front, the City of Belmont’s CityWorks building project was nearly complete. The project converted a 40 year old former mill into a modern facility for city staff and cost $34.8 million.
The September 17 BannerNews looked at plans for the City of Belmont’s new Parks and Rec. facility that is also slated to be built in front of the CityWorks structure. The 45,000 sq. ft. building will house a gym, offices, workout rooms and more. Good news for the September 17 Banner News included the information that Gaston Schools had achieved an 88 percent grad rate. Over in Mt. Holly, the fire department held a special COVID mask giveaway event.
The month of September came to an end with the BannerNews edition for the 24th. That issue visited the new St. Joseph College Seminary in North Belmont and its incredible main building and campus. Another outing that week went to Shining Hope Farms near Stanley where veterans were receiving care via hippotherapy- therapeutic horse riding.  In Belmont, the fire department took delivery of a new $600,000 fire engine that was sorely needed.
Autumn and October rolled along and the BannerNews issue for the first of that month saw an article asking if Abe Lincoln’s mom Nancy Hanks had lived in Belmont for a while. To this day a stone marker in the Pinstowe subdivision marks the spot where her uncle Dickie’s cabin once stood and she is said to have spent a spell there before Abe was born. Another article that week looked at our area’s hurricane history including Hugo and Irma. A big void in the October papers was the lack of football game photos due to COVID.
The October 8 BannerNews took a look at the new mural that had been created on the side of the Cramerton fire department. The mural featured the town’s logo and a goat in a canoe. In Belmont, Muddy River Distillery was recognized for having earned a national award for the quality of its rum. Owners and founder Caroline and Robbie Delaney started their business on a shoestring and have built it up to a huge success.
October 15 came around and the BannerNews that week featured a piece on the Brevard Station Museum in Stanley and the treasure trove of historical items there. Another article looked at the CJB Reid House in Belmont where Professor Charles Jesse Reid had lived around 1920. The house is next door to where Reid High used to be. Another article that week explained how the 2020 Christmas Town 5K race would have to be a virtual event due to COVID concerns.
October 22 had several upbeat stories including an update on the Cramerton Historical Society’s artifact collection efforts. Another piece that week had an artistic flair and covered the outdoor painting event in Mt. Holly called “Plein Air Paint Out”. The event featured works by local artists who had created them outdoors and then put them up for display and sale at the Mt. Holly Farmer’s market pavilion.
October 2020 wrapped up with the BannerNews dated the 29th. That issue focused on Mt. Holly city manager Danny Jackson who had announced his retirement after being with the city since 1987. The third annual Mt. Holly Lantern Parade took place and BannerNews was there taking photos of the incredible and artistic lanterns that been created with a circus theme. On a different note - NC Gov. Roy Cooper issued another order continuing Phase 3 COVID restrictions for at least three more weeks.
The November 12 BannerNews looked at the recent election and its results. Local results were tabulated quickly, but the presidential election not so quickly and as you know is till being wrangled over. In Stanley, a story there looked at the naming of the new Blacksnake Road bridge for USMC Cpl. Nic O’Brien who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2011. In Belmont, the Parks and Rec. Dept. got a new and much needed activity bus for a cool $98,000.
Moving along, the November 18th BannerNews featured artist Irisol Gonzalez and the great mural she was creating in the CityWorks building. The mural traces Belmont’s history from its early days to the present time in a wide variety of images and colors. That same issue saw coverage of the Cramerton Veterans Day event. Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Larry Rick was the main speaker.
The November 25 BannerNews ran a good story taking a look at the installation of stained glass windows at First Baptist Mt. Holly. The beautiful windows are one of the last phases of the church’s post-fire reconstruction. In Belmont, an article profiled work being done at VFW Post 144 by Boy Scout Troop 56 member Jesse Whaley to beautify the place for his Eagle project. On the inside pages, a photo spread featured the Lowell River Sweep cleanup where volunteers picked up a lot of trash along the South Fork River.
December 3 came along and the BannerNews that week featured a story on local beauty queens and the fact that they had won some valuable scholarship funds. Another article that week took a ride with Gaston Schools lunch truck that was delivering lunches to kids in several local apartment complexes. An inside article passed on the word from Gov. Cooper that folks needed to wear their COVID masks at all times. Good news that week came in the form of three GEMS employees getting awards for resuscitating a heart attack patient.
December 10 rolled up and the lead story that week was the announcement that Kevin Krouse had been named as the City of Belmont assistant manager. That same issue also saw photos from the reverse Christmas parade in Belmont. It was the parade that wasn’t a parade but was a parade. Also that week, as in years past, the BannerNews was on the scene at the annual Toy Run for Kids that started in Ranlo. Hundreds of motorcyclists gave out toys to kids and a great time was had by all.
The December 17 BannerNews covered two somber stories - the death of Mt. Holly police officer Tyler Herndon who was killed in the line of duty on December 11, and Rev. Charles Reid who had recently passed away from health issues. The bright spot that week was a profile of the Keep Belmont Beautiful organization.
December drew to a close and the issue dated the 23rd ran a story on Sharon Hodge and her upcoming retirement after serving banking customers in Belmont for 48 years. The inside pages of that paper also ran some photos from Lowell’s reverse Christmas parade which did  a lot to lift the spirits of folks after a year that had been a trying year at best.
Marc Jordan

Marc Jordan hired as Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce president

(December 31, 2020 Issue)

The Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce has announced the hiring of its new president, Marc Jordan. Jordan began work on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
Jordan has more than thirty years of experience consulting and working as a leader for numerous local, regional and metropolitan chambers of commerce. He was previously recognized by his peers as Chamber Executive of the Year in both North Carolina and South Carolina. Jordan also served as president of state chamber associations in North Carolina and Tennessee.
“We are excited to have Marc Jordan lead the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce as our president,” said Heath Jenkins, board chair.

“His experience, passion, collaborative spirit and leadership abilities make him the perfect fit for our organization.”
Most recently, Jordan served as president and CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and CVB where he grew the membership base and raised $5 million for a capital campaign and other programs. While there, he earned a five-star Chamber/CVB accreditation.
“I am honored, appreciative and excited to have been selected to join the leadership team of the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce as the new president,” Jordan said. “I was immediately drawn to the dedication and commitment of the volunteer leadership and staff. I’m anxious to begin my new duties and get to know our members and the unique communities we serve in Gaston County.”
A search committee consisting of numerous past board chairs and led by Shannon and Brad Thomas of Creative Solutions interviewed candidates. Shannon Thomas remarked, “Marc’s resume with his impressive credentials quickly rose to the top of our stack. Once we interviewed him, we knew he was the person with the skills and attitude to lead us forward.”
The Belmont Police Department is keeping an eye on vehicle speed downtown and in other areas. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont PD conducts
N. Main St. traffic study

(December 31, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The Belmont Police Department recently did an in-depth study of traffic speeds in the stretch of N. Main St. between Woodrow and E. Catawba streets.
The study was done over the period Dec. 1 through Dec. 5. The device used to monitor traffic condition was a “Stealth Stat” camera that used radar to both count and clock vehicles. The camera recorded taffic in both directions. The camera was mounted on a light pole in front of the BannerNews office.
Belmont officers Mike Harris and Cody Willett compiled and analyzed the data.
“It was a very good study,” said Willett.
Statistics gathered from the study produced some interesting results. To begin with, a total of 16,700, that’s right, 16,700, vehicles passed down the N. Main/downtown “slot” during the study period.
The speed limit on the stretch in question is 20mph. The study showed that the average speed folks were travelling was 19.89mph. Half of the vehicles were going 20mph or slower. Eighty five percent of the vehicles were going 26mph or slower.
The fastest vehicle clocked was going 43mph.
“That could have been an emergency vehicle,” said Willett.
The study isn’t a one-time done and forget it deal.
“We will do a follow up study just to see if there are any changes,” Willett said.
Another traffic issue on that same stretch of N. Main that Willett will be looking into is the current lack of a sign in the crosswalk informing motorists that they must stop for pedestrians. Signs have been placed there before, only to be knocked down. Similar signs are in place on E. Catawba and the portion of N. Main in the center of downtown.
Now that vehicle speed on the N. Main portion of downtown Belmont has been studied, Belmont PD plans to continue monitoring vehicle speeds in other parts of town.
“We will be out there,” said Willett.
Mt. Holly police officer Tyler Herndon

MHPD officer loses life in line of duty

(December 17, 2020 Issue)

(See photos of Candlelight Vigil in  honor of Officer Herndon in this issue of Banner-News)

By Alan Hodge

Deep tragedy struck last Friday morning when Mt. Holly police officer Tyler Herndon lost his life performing his duty.
Herndon, 25, was killed in an exchange of gunfire after responding to a report of a breaking and entering at Mt. Holly Car Wash and Arcade near Beatty Drive on NC273 just north of I-85. The incident took place around 3:30am.
Herndon and several other officers engaged a suspect later identified as Joshua Tyler Funk, 24, of Mt. Holly. Shots were exchanged and Herndon was hit. He was taken to CaroMont Main in Charlotte where he passed away.
Funk received a minor injury and was taken to CaroMont Medical Center in Gastonia. He was released and taken first to Gaston County Jail then to Cleveland County Jail. He is being held on charges of first degree murder. Highway 273 was closed for several hours while the investigation took place.
Herndon had been with the Mt. Holly Police Department for less than two years. He was a native of Kings Mtn. where his family had lived for generations.
Mount Holly Police Chief Don Roper honored Herndon during a news conference later Friday afternoon.
“We are hurting, our department is hurting, our family is hurting,” Roper said. “Tyler Herndon is a great man,” Roper said. “He is a hero, he served his community well. Our community is less because our community has lost him. He was a selfless man, wanted to do what he could to serve his community.”
In 2019, Herndon was recognized for his effort to build better relationships between officers and civilians. Herndon would introduce himself to citizens throughout Mount Holly, and would sometimes buy gas and food for people in need.
Roper recalled Herndon fondly, calling him a “fine young man, quiet, with a sense of humor”.
“You could tell he was raised well,” Roper said. “He had great potential.”
Roper said this is the first time one of their officers was killed in the line of duty.
The scene Saturday at the Mt. Holly Municipal Complex was a somber one. In the police department headquarters, officers and staff stood together and talked quietly. Outside, a police car was covered over with flower bouquets and memorials. Officers, firefighters, and a steady stream of citizens stood nearby.
A candlelight vigil was held in Herndon’s honor Sunday evening. It would have been his 26th birthday. His funeral was Tuesday, December 15 at 2:00 pm at First Baptist Church in Kings Mountain, with Rev. Dr. Steve Taylor and Rev. Dr. John Sloan officiating. Burial followed at Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery, Kings Mountain.
Governor Roy Cooper has ordered all North Carolina flags at state facilities to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Herndon. The flags will be at half-staff 12 until sunset on Monday, Dec. 14.
The late Rev. Charles Wesley Reid always had a smile on his face.

Rev. Charles Reid made a big impact on Belmont

(December 17, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Even though Rev. Charles Wesley Reid passed away on Nov. 9 at age 68, his legacy in Belmont and beyond will continue on.
Reid’s motto and life philosophy was the acronym “B.E.L.I.E.V. E.” That stands for Brother, Exceptional, Loving, Inspirational, Energizing, Visionary, and Enthusiastic. He not only embraced those ideals, he lived them each and every day.
Reid had several siblings. They included brothers Oscar, Abriel, Forrest, and sisters Broncher and Vera.
Vera characterized Charles with these reflections.
“Charles was well known in Belmont as someone who stood up for what was right,” she said. “It did not matter what your skin complexion. He was there for everyone.”
Reid was founder of the Belmont Mass Choir.
“He wanted every race to be part of the choir, Vera said.
Reid was a familiar sight sitting on the porch of his grandparent’s home on Sacco St.
“On any nice and sunny day you would find him in one of the rocking chairs,” said Vera.
“He loved for people to stop by and sit on the porch and rock with him. On Sundays after church you could find the front porch and yard full of family and friends.”
Even the pandemic failed to dampen Reid’s hospitable spirit.
“Charles would say we had to practice social distancing,” Vera said. “He always kept bottled water, sodas, and chips for the guests to enjoy. Whenever the family or someone in the community needed some advice Charles would always try to give them words of encouragement or even offer to pray with them.”
Oscar Reid remembered Charles in the form of another acronym..L.O.V.E. That one stands for Leadership, Obedience, Virtue, and Empathy.
“He showed love for all,” Oscar said. “He showed leadership to everybody in his community, ministry, and love of music. He showed obedience in showing his practical acceptance of the authority and will of God. He showed virtue in his daily life by honoring God and being willing to help out people. He showed empathy in his compassion for his family, community, and all mankind.”
Reid valued education.  He graduated from Belmont High School in 1969. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, a master’s in education from UNC Charlotte, and a master’s in divinity from Hood Theological Seminary.
Reid’s faith was also a driving force in his life starting with Hood Memorial AME Zion Church in Belmont. He went on to become a pastor at several AME Zion churches including Big Pineville, Steele Creek, and Clinton Chapel in Charlotte, as well as Mount Zion in Gastonia.
Oscar recalled one of his brother’s favorite preaching habits.
“He always laid out the theme of his sermons in seven words,” Oscar said.
Reid also had a successful career as a counselor at Family Housing Services of Charlotte. He was also a personnel analyst for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and director of Student Support Services at Johnson C. Smith University. He worked as a career development specialist for Goodwill Industries in Charlotte where he retired in 2019.
One of Reid’s greatest accomplishments was his leadership role with the Charles Jesse Bynum Reid Foundation.
The foundation is named after Reid’s grandfather, Professor Charles Jesse Bynum Reid and his wife, Maude Herndon Reid for whom Reid School for African-American students was named. Today, Reid Park in Belmont is named in the Reid’s honor.
One of Keep Belmont Beautiful’s best projects was giving out coats to kids. These volunteers are seen with the goods- from left- Deborah Brooks, Sandra Cromlish, Judy Closson, Susan Cromlish, Janice Stowe, Carolyn Sly, Judy Marett.

Keep Belmont Beautiful group lives up to its name

(December 17, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

There are many unsung heroes in our area and the volunteers with Keep Belmont Beautiful (KBB) are among them.
KBB is dedicated to doing what its name says. On any day you might see volunteers on their hands and knees pulling weeds at the flowerbed at the point of N. Main St. and Central Avenue, or picking up litter along the roadside or riverbank, or tidying up planters in downtown Belmont. If it helps keep the city neat and lovely, KBB is on the job.
“We appreciate all of the hard work that Keep Belmont Beautiful and its volunteers provide to keep our streets clear of litter and our downtown flower beds clear of weeds,” said Belmont city manager Adrian Miller. “They do a great job assisting our public works staff to keep our town looking great!”
Judy Closson helped start KBB about 20 years ago.
Closson had moved from Fort Worth, Texas, where she had been a member of the Fort Worth Clean City and was interested in joining such an organization in Belmont.  She inquired at City Hall and was put in contact with councilman Dick Cromlish.  Dick and Sandra Cromlish had organized a city wide clean up with their son, Stan Cromlish, as a Boy Scout project.  After meeting with Dick and a group of four other Belmont residents; Dick and Sandra Cromlish, Carol Dixon Strange, and Harold Fite, a committee was formed.  Each person contributed $50.00 seed money and Keep Belmont Beautiful began.
Once this committee began meeting regularly, they inquired how to form and become an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful with Jernnie Stultz, who at that time was executive director of Keep Gastonia Beautiful and a trainer with Keep America Beautiful.  Stultz helped KBB organize and train its board, complete by-laws, become incorporated, obtain office space, telephone, etc.  Once all of the requirements were met KBB was certified on April 21, 2001, with Keep America Beautiful.
“Our first office was in the basement of historic City Hall,” Closson said.  “As we grew we were given a small closet at School Specialities by Dick Cromlish.  KBB planned two clean ups (fall and spring) where we would have 100 plus volunteers attend to clean up the city.  David Isnehour, director of public works, played a huge part working with KBB to make these clean ups successful.  Our volunteers are from many groups – Boy and Girl Scouts, church groups, sport teams, Belmont Middle School, South Point High School, school clubs, ROTC, as well as. many regular citizens.  KBB quickly learned the value of a volunteer always remembering ‘a volunteer does not have to be there’.  Mini clean ups were organized by learning that ‘litter breeds more litter’.  Also, some volunteers adopted areas to clean up on a regular basis.”
Later, KBB moved to space provided by City of Belmont in the public works building.  Several years passed and the group moved into the portable building when construction began on the new CityWorks building.
“KBB branched out with several contests, one being the naming of our ‘mascot’ Cleaning Beauty,” said Closson.  “This mascot was designed with a trash can and we won $200.00 at the first Run for the Money sponsored by the Community Foundation of Gaston County.  This Run continues today each spring with matching funds given to nonprofits by donors in the surrounding communities.  Once we had secured funds we were able to begin giving grants to the five Belmont schools each year for a school beautification project on their campus. The Clean Campus project began with judging of the outside grant projects.”
KBB volunteers went into the schools for educating students on ways to help with the drought, growing gardens and recycling.  KBB was instrumental in helping North  Belmont Elementary plan and build an outdoor reading garden.
“We received a grant from KAB to promote a recycling program of plastic bottles,” Closson said.  “They were collected and counted daily.  The classes that collected the most were treated to ice cream parties at the schools.  We were awarded first prize in the area and received 1,000 blue fleece jackets which were made from plastic bottles and were given to the students.”
Over the years KBB added Yard of the Month which is held during the summer months.  Each month four Belmont resident yards and one business are chosen to display the Yard of the Month sign for that month.
Last year under the direction of Board Member, Susan Wall, the Flower Power program began with volunteers maintaining the flower beds on Main Street and in the River District.
“We have purchased pansies for Main Street and mulch for the point of Main and Central Avenue,” said Closson.  “KBB helped get graffiti removed from a building downtown. We have participated in the Christmas Tree Lighting, Christmas Parade and decorated City Hall for Christmas.”
In addition, KBB holds a plant sale in the spring, held a telephone book recycling  contest along with all county schools and won, put markers on drains for storm water, has held shred days, planted an Angel Tree at Holy Angels in 2014, donated waste containers, a Stowe Park bench, and received a grant from KAB for cigarette waste containers that have been put around the city.
Most recently KBB partnered with the Montcross Chamber giving away 900 free redbud seedlings provided by Dominion Energy to residents.
“We have continued to grow and obtained office space in the new CityWorks building,” Closson says.  “In 2018 the City hired a part time executive director, Beryl Campbell.  Until that time KBB was the only affiliate in NC that was run by a total volunteer staff.”
KBB currently has fifteen board members. The officers are:  Judy Closson, Chairperson, Elizabeth Atterberry, Vice Chairperson, Claudina Ghianni, Secretary and Marcia Abernathy, CPA-Treasurer.
Anyone interested in volunteering call KBB at 705-825-8587.
Woodrow and N. Main St.

Belmont installs signal box art wraps in downtown

(December 3, 2020 Issue) 

The Main Street Advisory Board and Downtown Belmont Development Association (DBDA) have recently unveiled eight newly wrapped traffic signal boxes in Downtown Belmont that finally brings a nearly two-year effort to a close. The group’s Design Committee developed the idea to cover the large, silver boxes with artwork selected by the community that would encourage and spur discussion and education about our history by its interpretation through public art, while beautifying these otherwise common looking fixtures. The committee created and selected themes to represent each of the downtown districts in a meaningful way.
A call to artists was published in April of 2019 asking for artwork for the boxes in each of the three themes. For the Historic Downtown District, the committee selected the “Rail” inspiration to feature the inherent mode of transportation in the City’s history. For the Chronicle District the “Innovation” inspiration was chosen to showcase the visionary mill entrepreneurs of the past and the technology-driven innovation of today. In the River District, “Water” was picked as the inspiration to highlight the City’s location surrounded by two bodies of water.
After the call to artists closed in June 2019, the group sought public input through a Facebook survey and through in-person voting at the annual Red, White, and Belmont Festival on July 4th that year.  It was from the top vote getters that the group determined the winners based on suitability of their look at the desired locations, as well as suitability of the art file submitted to be replicated by the printer.  The selected art was also submitted to the NCDOT for its approval and suitability, as it related to public safety.
The artists of the winning pieces were notified of their selection, were provided with honorariums, and formalized final permissions to have their artwork replicated. The featured artists are Michael Clapp, Torian Parker, Lisa Livengood, Holt Harris, and a team representing Holy Angels. Main Street and DBDA Board Chair, Angela Street, stated that among these artists are teachers, an architect, and a group of differently abled individuals.  “It’s inspiring that the anonymous judging process undertaken by the community and the committee resulted in selection of artworks from a diverse group of artists, aptly reinforcing the adage that art knows no boundaries.”
These first installations of Belmont’s Box Art Wrap initiative can be found downtown on Main Street and Catawba Avenue in Belmont.  If you are interested in learning more about the wining Artists and/or the winning Artworks, or if you are an artist wishing to participate in future installations, more information is available on the DBDA website ( under the Box Art Wraps tab.  A public art tour is also in development on the Belmont Go app where more in depth information regarding the history and the artists will be available.  The Belmont Go app is available for free download at the App Store or Google Play and features tours and activities pertaining to Belmont NC.
The organization would like to give recognition of thanks to all participants who worked diligently to bring these installations to fruition, including Angela Street, DBDA Chair;  Emilie Rudisill, Design Committee Chair; Katie Miller, Box Art Wrap sub-committee lead; the team at Gaston Printing and Signs, and special thanks to former committee members Ron Foulk, Ryann Fairweather, and James Dobies for their efforts on bringing public art to Belmont; as well as to the Belmont’s Downtown Director and City Council for helping this initiative navigate and resolve all NC DOT requirements.

The Gaston County Schools lunch bus at its Holly Hills Apartments stop. Staff includes Mary Hemphill and Renee Underwood. Siblings getting their Thanksgiving lunch are from left- D.J., Zanariah, Tristan, and Jeremiah- plus GiGi the pooch. Photo by Alan Hodge

Gaston Schools lunch bus is a welcome sight

(December 3, 2020 Issue) 

By Alan Hodge

Back in the 1960s the musical group The Who had a hit tune “The Magic Bus”. Now, Gaston County Schools has a bus that may not be magic but still brings smiles when it pulls up.
The bus is the vehicle that brings ‘Grab and Go’ meals  to students who are engaged in remote learning.
Students who are at school two days a week for in-person instruction have breakfast and lunch meals served to them in their classrooms.  But, what about when students are engaged in remote learning at home?
To ensure that breakfast and lunch are available to all students, Gaston County Schools is continuing its “grab and go” meal program. The program dates back to March when schools closed due to the pandemic.
Now, students involved in remote learning can pick up a breakfast/snack meal and a lunch meal at one of 41 school locations.  Pickup times are weekdays from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. 
However, buses are used to deliver “grab and go” meals on weekdays to neighborhood locations across the county. Locations in our area includes Rollins Apartments, Holly Hills Apartments, Kendrick Apartments, Stanley Square Apartments, Reid Park, Flowers Court, Hickory Village Mobile Home Park, McKee Mobile Home Park, Thornwood Community, and Temple of Truth.
The meals are free for children ages 1-18 years, and children are not required to be present to receive a meal.  Students/parents may pick up a meal at the location.
Recently, the grab and go buses delivered Thanksgiving lunches. The menu included turkey or chicken,  dressing, milk, stewed apples, green beans, and a roll.
The bus that visited Holly Hills Apartments in Mt. Holly was driven by Mary Hemphill with Renee Underwood riding along. The bus also visits several other locations and hands out around 130 lunches per day. The route is run five days a week. On Friday, double lunches are given- one for that day and one for Saturday.
Underwood explained how vital the lunch bus- indeed, the entire grab and go program is to students who might not otherwise have their nutritional needs met.
“If the kids don’t have a good meal their mind won’t function,” she said. “We’ve got to fill their bellies.”
For more information about the “grab and go” program, call (704) 836-9110.
2020 Winners from left to right Miss Gastonia’s Outstanding Teen Keelie Jones, Miss Gaston County’s Outstanding Teen Lexi Foy, Miss Mount Holly’s Outstanding Teen Micah Eustache, Miss Mount Holly Anne Marie Hagerty, Miss Gaston County Mariana Linares, and Miss Gastonia Julia DeSerio pose for a group picture at the conclusion of the Miss Mount Holly competition, which was held on Saturday, February 8. The six young women are looking ahead to representing the Gaston region in the 2021 Miss North Carolina competition.

Even with no Miss
NC pageant, Gaston’s
representatives win scholarships

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

By Todd Hagans

Even though this year’s Miss North Carolina pageant was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gaston’s three representatives still managed to win more than $11,000 in scholarships.
Recently, the Miss North Carolina organization awarded a total of $40,500 in benefactor scholarships to the young women in the pageant’s Class of 2020.  Miss Gaston County Mariana Linares received $1,000, Miss Mount Holly Anne Marie Hagerty earned $3,000, and Miss Gastonia Julia DeSerio tallied $7,800 – the most scholarship money of any contestant.
“We are extremely proud to see our Miss Gastonia, Miss Gaston County, and Miss Mount Holly share a total of $11,800 in scholarships – that is more than one-fourth of the money available,” said Delores Cox, the local pageant’s executive director.  “It has been a challenging year for our representatives because of the pandemic, but they have worked hard to make the best of our current circumstances and find ways to promote their community service programs and represent their community.”
Hagerty received the Jennifer Vaden Barth Innovation Scholarship valued at $1,000 and the North Carolina Community Service Impact Scholarship valued at $2,000.  Linares received the North Carolina Electric Cooperatives STEM Scholarship valued at $1,000.
DeSerio was the big winner, claiming five scholarships:  Eric Ennis Endowed Music Scholarship valued at $3,000, North Carolina Community Service Impact Scholarship valued at $2,000, Sunday Allen Teaching Scholarship valued at $1,500, Ward Black Law World Changer Scholarship valued at $1,000, and Quality of Life Scholarship - First Runner-Up Award valued at $300.
“I will use the money to help pay for my college degree from Gardner-Webb University,” said DeSerio, who is the chorus teacher at Crest Middle School in Shelby.  “It is a blessing to receive five scholarships from the Miss North Carolina organization.  I was hoping to win at least one, but I never imagined winning five of them.  It came as a surprise.  Receiving the scholarship money has made a significant difference in my life.”
Hagerty said, “I appreciate the willingness of the scholarship benefactors to award scholarships this year to the young women who will compete for Miss North Carolina.  We were disappointed when the state competition had to be canceled so it was great to learn that scholarships would be presented anyway.  It shows the state organization’s commitment to providing scholarships, which is the foundation of our program.”
Linares said, “I would like to thank the Miss North Carolina committee and the North Carolina Electric Cooperatives for making scholarship money available.  To win the STEM scholarship is an honor, and I am grateful for the state pageant’s efforts to provide scholarship opportunities this year.  The scholarship recognition has been a positive for us in a year that has had its share of negatives because of the pandemic.”
The scholarship winners were announced during a live presentation on the Miss North Carolina Facebook page on November 11.  A total of 31 scholarships were awarded, and most of them were associated with a particular field or area such as academics, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), education, music and the fine arts, community service, business, and healthcare.  Contestants were given the opportunity to apply for the various scholarships.
Like most things, it has not been a normal year for pageantry.  DeSerio and Linares were crowned last November, and Hagerty was crowned in February.  They were supposed to compete for Miss North Carolina in June.  But the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the state pageant had to be postponed.  It was rescheduled for late July, but eventually canceled.  That left 36 young women who had hopes of competing for the title of Miss North Carolina 2020 in a quandary.
After the Miss America pageant was canceled, local contestants were given the option to hold on to their title and compete at the state level next year.  DeSerio, Linares, and Hagerty have committed to continuing their reign through the 2021 Miss North Carolina event, which is scheduled now for the week of June 21.
Like DeSerio, Linares, and Hagerty, Gaston’s three local teen pageant winners will extend their reign for another year.  Miss Gastonia’s Outstanding Teen Keelie Jones, Miss Gaston County’s Outstanding Teen Lexi Foy, and Miss Mount Holly’s Outstanding Teen Micah Eustache will continue their year of service leading up to the Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen competition next summer.
For now, the plan is to crown a new Miss Gastonia, Miss Gaston County, and Miss Mount Holly next November along with three new Outstanding Teen representatives.  For more information, visit or “like” the Miss Gastonia Organization on Facebook.
Artist Irisol Gonzales working on the beautiful mural she created in Belmont’s new CityWorks building. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont’s new CityWorks building gets a beautiful mural

(November 19, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

When the new Belmont CityWorks building at 1401 E. Catawba St. opens to the public, folks who step out of the elevator onto the second floor to conduct business such as paying a water bill will be agog at what they see painted on the walls there.
The special and spectacular feature is a mural created by artist Irisol Gonzalez that traces the story of Belmont from its earliest days to the present time and even into the future.
But first, a bit about the artist. Gonzales is a native of Costa Rica who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years. She studied political science and psychology at Appalachian State. She is a self-taught and very talented artist who delves deep into whatever subject she is illustrating. Just a few of her credits include doing a large mural in Charlotte on climate change and a floor mural in the Elizabeth neighborhood on COVID.
Her Belmont project involved plenty of research.
“I used books such as ‘Between Two Rivers’ to learn about Belmont’s history and to see photos from its past,” Gonzales said.
The concept that Gonzales employed to tell Belmont’s story is unique and interesting. First of all, the images she chose from Belmont’s earlier days includes things like trains, the Great Flood of 1916, textile mills, and people such as Professor CJB Reid. These are done in dream-like shades of blue and grey. The 1916 flood waters are painted in a shimmering, Impressionistic style.
Moving on to more modern times, Gonzales shifted her palette to a full spectrum of colors. Once again, trains and textiles are represented as well as iconic images of the city such as Stowe Park and the famed Belmont High letter girls marching in a parade.
“I really love the letter girls,” Gonzalez said.
The mural also looks into Belmont’s future with images of folks riding bikes and enjoying the high quality of life the city offers now and will continue to provide its citizens and visitors for many years to come.
The project took about a month to do and was just finished last week.
“I put a lot of love and work into this project,” Gonzales said.
Overall, the mural is a great example not only of an individual piece of public art but also the desire of city leaders to make the CityWorks structure a place where Belmont’s rich heritage and its progressive present can blend seamlessly together.
To find out more about Gonzales and her work go to She also has an Instagram site at irisolgonzalezart and is on facebook.

Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Larry Rick addressing the crowd at the Cramerton Veterans Day event.

Cramerton and Belmont
observe Veterans Day

(November 19, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Both Cramerton and Belmont held Veterans Day ceremonies last week.
Cramerton’s outdoor event took place Saturday at the Veterans Memorial plaza downtown. A nice sized crowd showed up under sunny skies. Several Crameron civic groups were involved in planning the event including the Cramerton Historical Society.
The colors were presented by the Marine Corps League. The National Anthem was sung by Sgt. John Cates, USMC. The prayer was led by Capt. Scott Kincaid, U.S. Army. Rhett Cozart, CWO-4 U.S. Navy was Master of Ceremonies. Cramerton commissioner Richard Atkinson made remarks. Cpl. Glenn Perkins, USMC played Taps.
Guest speaker was Sgt. Larry Rick, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
“This Veterans Day, I urge all Americans to pause and give thanks that you reside in the only nation in the world where you truly live free, enjoy the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Rick said. “When you pass a man or woman wearing a hat that says ‘veteran’, take a moment to shake their hand and thank them for their service and sacrifice.”
 Belmont’s Veterans Day service was held last Wednesday at American Legion Auten-Stowe Post 144.
Post members and special guests attended the ceremony that honored and remembered veterans past and present.
Post Commander Barry Smith had these opening remarks.
“Let there be no doubt that veterans have a common bond in their willingness to die for our nation,” Smith said. “We are here today to show our support for the men and women who serve our country. There is no such thing as an insignificant military service.”
As is the Post 144 tradition, veterans in attendance at the ceremony were invited to share their thoughts.
Veteran and new Post 144 member Scott Carty told about how he enlisted right after high school.
“I always wanted to be a soldier,” he said. “I signed up in October 1985 and served in Germany. I was stationed near mine fields. It was an adventure.”
Carty became emotional as he wrapped up his remarks.
“The main thing is, you always think about the guys,” he said.
Veteran Tom Klem told about how joining the military turned his life around .
I went to boot camp in July 1981 and it woke me up,” he said.
Klem also spoke about how several of his family members were veterans including his grandmother who was in the WACS in WWII and his father who served in the Navy, also in WWII.
“I was in the National Guard in peacetime and I pray to live up to their honor,” he said.
About Veterans Day
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime. Veterans Day commemorates veterans of all wars. Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World War I and World War II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11. Every Veterans Day and Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery holds an annual memorial service. The cemetery is home to the graves of over 400,000 people, most of whom served in the military.

Mount Holly city council approves compensation plan for police officers

(November 19, 2020 Issue)

By Mary Smith

Police agencies around the nation are experiencing a variety of challenging issues including recruitment from other agencies, reduced applicant pools, and lost training resources from officers who leave a few years after being hired.
 After a compelling presentation by Chief Don Roper and Deputy Chief Brian Reagan during Monday night’s city council meeting, the council unanimously voted to approve a new Recruitment and Retention Plan for the Mount Holly Police Department.
 The fully-funded strategy features an increase of base pay and percentage salary increases for police officers, based upon their years of experience. The increases will be distributed over the next few years. These additional funds allow the Mount Holly Police Department to be more competitive when compared to similar-sized municipalities.
 “It is imperative for the city to attract and retain the highest quality law enforcement professionals possible. The new compensation plan is designed to accomplish this directive,” says Mayor Bryan Hough. “We are a great community and have one of the best police forces in North Carolina. We strongly support our police force and want to continue to provide the tools necessary for them to perform their duties.”
See COUNCIL, Page 4

City of Belmont gets beautiful table for City Hall

City of Belmont gets beautiful table for City Hall

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

Last week the City of Belmont received a magnificent, handmade, table for the conference room in the new City Hall.
The 14x5 ½ foot table was made from wood re-purposed from the 100-year-old  Chronicle Mill project owned by John and Jennifer Church. The centuries old yellow heart pine wood was part of the mill’s second story supports. Construction of the table was done by Brian Hackett and Christopher Stone. Iron Giant crafted the wrought iron base.
“We want to make an effort to bring the history of Belmont to the new City Hall building through furniture and art that honors our heritage,” said city spokesperson Jamie Campbell.

Covid-19 grants available

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

There is still time to apply for the NCDHHS North Carolina Extra Credit Grants for families who have been impacted financially by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The EIP – Economic Impact Payment deadline has been extended to November 21. The exact details can be found at the link below.

New COVID testing location in Gaston County

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

Gaston County residents have a new COVID-19 testing site available.
As part of a state-initiative, private vendor Optum will be running the testing site three days a week in Dallas, outside the Citizens Resource Center, 1303 Dallas-Cherryville Hwy. The site will be open from  11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. The testing site will be a drive-through operation.
The testing site is intended to compliment the community testing being done four days a week by Kintegra. Using its mobile clinic, Kintegra is able to provide testing to multiple areas in Gaston County each week. Their testing location schedule can be found here:
Those who want to get tested at the Optum site are encouraged to register in advance at Testing will be made available for free for those without insurance or without the means to pay for it. Children as young as 1 can be tested and individuals do not need to show identification to receive a test.
These ladies were greeting voters at the Catawba Heights precinct. They said they were proof Republicans and Democrats could get along. From left Georgia Smith, Linda Allison, Andrea Chewey. Photo by Alan Hodge

2020 election one for the history books

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The 2020 General Election last week is one that will go down in history. 
The local voting scene was pretty much wrapped up quickly. The national Presidential scenario not so much.
Early voting was the name of the game across the board. In Gaston County alone, 63.24 percent (95,449) of the 150,704 registered voters cast their ballots before the Nov. 3 election day came along.
Visits to local polling places confirmed that fact. This reporter visited polling locations in Mt. Holly, Belmont, Cramerton, and Catawba Heights and the long lines of voters that some folks had feared were not in evidence.
Neil Chastain had arrived early at the Belmont Central Elementary polling place and had this to say.
“I was here at 6:30 am and there were about fifty people in line but the line dwindled quickly,” he said.
At the Mt. Holly polling place, poll chief Tina Sagasi gave this report.
“After early voting was over, there were only about 1,600 voters in this precinct who had not voted,” she said.
Poll chief Jonathan Baines at Cramerton gave his observation.
“It has been steady, but slow,” he said.
Catawba Heights poll chief Jeremy McCarey called the turnout “steady”.
At press time, here are the numbers.
North Carolina governor Roy Cooper (DEM) defeated challenger Dan Forest (REP) 2,803,782 (51.48%) to 2,563,258 (47.06%)
In the contest for U.S. Senator, incumbent Thom 
Tillis (REP) beat challenger Cal Cunningham (DEM) 2,640,381 (48.73%) to 2,543,693 (46.94%).
The U.S. House of Representative District 5 race witnessed Virginia Foxx (REP) beat David Brown (DEM) 255,767 (67.02%) to 118,444 (31.04%).
Closer to home, the NC Senate District 43 race between Kathy Harrington (REP) and William Young (DEM) saw incumbent Harrington come out ahead 68,545, (65.55%) to 36,031 (34.45%).  The District 44 contest saw Ted Alexander (REP) win over David Lee Lattimore (DEM) 3,837 (69.57% to 1,678 (30.43%).
The local NC House of Representatives District 108 race witnessed incumbent John Torbett (REP) come out ahead of David Caudill (DEM) 24,656 (63.38% to 14,302 (36.71%). District 109 had Dana Bumgardner (REP) win over Susan Maxton (DEM) 28.715 (62.16%) to 17,477 (37.84%). In District 110, Kathy Hastings (REP) ran unopposed and got 19,612 votes.
The NC District  Court Judge District 27A Seat 03 contest witnessed Donald Rice (REP) top Richard Abernethy (DEM) 68,401 (62.40% to 41,209 (37.60).
The Gaston County Board of Education had several contests going. At Large member Jeff Ramsey won with 39,987 votes (43.74%). The Cherryville Township race was won by Beverly Lovelace with 43,231 votes (51.50%). Crowders Mtn. Township was won by Brent Moore with 55.412 votes (65.33%). Gastonia Township Dot Guthrie with 42,532 (45.62%).
The Gaston County Board of Commissioners South Point Township race was won by Ronnie Worley (REP) who ran unopposed and got 75,246 votes.
And now for the Presidential election.  This year there was no election night winner. In fact, it was not until last Saturday (Nov. 7), that Joe Biden was said to be the victor. However, as this week’s edition of the BannerNews went to press on Nov. 10, questions of alleged improprieties regarding voters/vote counting were still being aired and Donald Trump had not officially conceded.
* Complete and more detailed election results from Gaston County can be seen at the Gaston County Board of Elections website. Updated statewide votes are on the NC Board of Elections website.
Belmont Parks and Rec. Director Zip Stowe poses proudly with the new bus.

Belmont Parks and Rec. gets new bus

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The City of Belmont Parks and Rec. Dept. has just received a much needed brand new activity bus. The  bus, a Starcraft brand, was bought from Carpenter Bus Sales out of  Franklin, Tenn. and cost $98,000. “It was a good deal,” said Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe. “It was mostly paid for with money from the sale of some land in North Belmont. The rest came from the general fund.”
The bus can carry 25 passengers along with two wheelchairs. Colorful graphics with the new City of Belmont logo were done by Gaston Printing and Signs.
Stowe says the city should get at least ten to fifteen years of use out of the bus. Parks and Rec. already has an older bus that was very well used with over 60,000 miles on the odometer..
Stowe explained how the new bus will enhance the Parks and Rec. transportation situation.
“We will use it for senior citizen outings as well as trips by the city council to other cities and counties,” he said. “It will really help with our summer youth and adult programs and trips to ball games.”
All that planned travel and action is of course is dependent on the Covid-19 situation.
Rocky Branch Park update
Stowe also talked about the situation at Rocky Branch Park.
The park is located at the end of Woodrow St. and was originally built for mountain biking. In response to requests by citizens for more hiking trails, it will be receiving some updates and changes.
“We will be changing 3,200 feet of trail to make it better suited for multi-purpose activities such as walking,” Stowe said. “It will be more diverse and  part of the Carolina Thread Trail.”
Seven new bridges will be built on the trail at a cost of $94,600. The city will pay $4-6 thousand with the rest being picked up by a  Carolina Thread Trail grant.
According to Stowe, work on the project should start in December and take three to six months to complete depending on  the weather.
The upcoming project is just the first of several planned for the trail and while that’s going on folks will still be able to use it while the work is underway.
NC Rep. John Torbett presenting O’Brein’s parents with a replica bridge sign and other awards. Photo by Bill Ward

Stanley bridge named for Lance Cpl. Nicolas O’Brien

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The Town of Stanley recently honored the late U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicholas O’Brien by naming the new Blacksnake Rd. bridge in his honor.
O’Brien, 21, of Stanley, North Carolina died June 9, 2011 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  O’Brien was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine  Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.
He was born May 23, 1990 in Charlotte, NC and was a graduate of East Gaston High School.
Over a thousand people showed up for O’Brien’s memorial service at the First Assembly of God Church on Myrtle Street in Gastonia.
He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on June 28th, 2011.
At the Oct. 22 Stanley town council meeting, N.C. Rep. John Torbett presented Nic’s parents Richard and Tammy O’Brien with a replica of the sign that is now on the bridge as well as with a NC state flag and certificate of honor.
Other dignitaries at the presentation included Stanley mayor Steven Denton, Gaston County commissioner Chad Brown, police chief Derek Summey, recreation director Tug Deason, councilman Bud Pate, and Vidia Torbett.
A monument to O’Brien also stands in Harper Park on Blacksnake Rd.

Belmont’s Larry Norwood was a Cold War warrior

(November 5, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

During the 1950s the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union was one of the most tense times in history and Larry Norwood of Belmont was in the middle of it as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Norwood joined the 82nd at the tender age of 18 years.  He served from 1957-1961.
“I had a friend that was a paratrooper and I thought I wanted to try that too,” Norwood said. “I took my basic training at Fort Jackson and parachute training at Fort Bragg.”
Norwood recalled his first parachute jump.
“It was more or less the easiest since I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “It was exciting floating down in dead silence.”
Norwood soon found himself in Germany where the U.S. and its Soviet bloc protagonists were nose to nose. Damage from World War II was still in evidence in some places.
“I spent over two years in Germany,” Norwood said. “We did a lot of training in bombed out buildings.”
Given the political and military climate, the 82nd had to be ready for anything.
“One time we  were given live ammunition and loaded on our planes,” he said. “We flew around for a couple of hours. Nobody was saying a word. You could have heard a pin drop. We thought we were going to have to fight. We eventually landed and got off. We never did find out what it was all about.”
Norwood also got to see the German countryside.
“It was beautiful and there were lots of quaint villages,” he said.
Norwood also served in Alaska.
“We learned how to snow ski on a big hill covered with straw at Fort Bragg,” he said. “In Alaska we had to camp out and it was below zero.”
After he got out of the army, Norwood came home 
to Belmont and became a member of the American Legion- Auten-Stowe Post 144 to be exact where he’s been a member for 30 years. Some of the Legion activities Norwood has been in on include the Boys and Girls State programs, being a part of the drive to get the Spirit of the Fighting Yank WWII memorial statue moved to Stowe Park, and taking part in Veterans Day and Memorial Day services where he performs the POW/MIA ceremony. Norwood also served as Post 144’s commander for ten years.
COVID19 will impact this year’s Veterans Day event, but Norwood and his fellow legionnaires will carry on as best they can.
“We will not be able to have a big celebration,” Norwood said. “But, I am sure we will find a way to have a small one to honor our veterans, living or deceased, so they will not be forgotten.”
Miles Braswell has been named as Mt. Holly’s new city manager. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly names new city manager

By Alan Hodge

The City of Mt. Holly has named Miles Braswell as its new city manager. Braswell had served as assistant city manager since April 2016. He was officially named to his new post by the city council on October 26 and his first day in the office  as city manager was November 2.
Braswell’s predecessor Danny Jackson recently retired after ten years as city manager and was instrumental in preparing him for his new post.
“I  had the pleasure of hiring Miles as the City’s Streets & Solid Waste Director in 2014,” Jackson said. “Miles performed really well at the position. I was then able to promote Miles to assistant city manager, all due to his effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace. Miles and I embarked upon succession planning which has now culminated in him being appointed by the city council as the new city manager in Mount Holly. I am extremely proud of Miles for his hard and dedicated work as a city employee and my partner. Miles possesses the kind of skills that it takes to be successful in his new position. He is prepared to lead the City of Mount Holly into the next chapter of its future.”
Braswell thanked Jackson for his support and guidance.
“I learned so much from Danny,” Braswell said. “He’s been a mentor since day one.

He’s really a great person in general as well as a friend.”
Braswell brings energy, youth, enthusiasm, and experience to the job.  He is a Gaston County native and a graduate of NC State University with a BS in Natural Resources- Soil and Water Systems. He also attended the University of North Carolina School of Government  where he was a Leading for Results Fellow and also earned a Municipal and County Administration Certificate.
Before joining the City of Mt. Holly, he worked for the City of Charlotte as  a project manager and Gaston County Schools as a bond project manager and transportation director.
Just a few of his myriad accomplishments  and involvements with Mt. Holly include the Hwy. 273 widening project, N. Main St. parking lot improvement, downtown and parks WI-FI project, recycling truck art wrap project, revise trash and recycling route collections, gateway signage, new public works and fire station projects, website redesign, ADA transition, assisting with annual city budgets, and many, many, more.
Braswell plans on taking a listen and learn approach to his new position.
“I have been evaluating things,” he said “I will meet with the city council, staff, as well as business, and civic leaders to hear their advice. I am fortunate to know the city staff and the team that Danny assembled and it is a great one.”
Braswell feels fortunate to be where he is.
“I’m, so excited and blessed to take this step with the City of Mt. Holly,” he said. “It will be an honor to serve the council and citizens. Mt. Holly is a great place to live and work. It is a vibrant community with a proud history and a bright future.”
Braswell and his wife of  20 years Erin have three children, Mason, Reese and Riley.

We got zapped by Tropical Storm Zeta

(November 5, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Tropical Storm Zeta zinged through our area last Thursday bringing high winds, rain, and power outages.
Winds in Gaston County gusted to 50mph most of the day. A number of trees were toppled including at least three in Stanley. Around 7,000 local residents lost power due to fallen lines.
About 2,000 of the homes without power were  between Bessemer City and Cherryville.
Tropical Storm Warnings in our area expired Thursday afternoon.
Flash flood warnings were issued for counties in western North Carolina but  expired early Friday morning.
By late Thursday afternoon, Zeta rapidly moved off the U.S. coast at 55 mph.
Tropical Storm Zeta had slammed into Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane Wednesday.
Mt. Holly city manager Danny Jackson is retiring. Jackson’s 33 year career with the City of Mt. Holly includes ten years as city manager. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly city manager Danny Jackson is retiring

(October 29, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

After many years of exemplary and heartfelt service, Mt. Holly city manager Danny Jackson has announced his retirement. His last official day as city manager will be Nov. 1.
However, after a 30 day period as stipulated by the NC Local Government Employee Retirement System, he will return in December as a consultant to the city council working on special projects.
A strong faith and fierce love of his town have been two of the driving forces behind Danny Jackson’s three decades working for the City of Mt. Holly.
Jackson has held the post of city manager since 2010, but started his career back in 1987 with the parks and recreation department.
“I was working in the private sector at the time and one day was playing basketball with a friend who worked for the City of Mt. Holly,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t planned, but I heard about a job opportunity in parks and recreation and I grabbed it.”
Jackson, who is an Appalachian State grad with a degree in Business Management,  worked that position for three years, then in 1990 he transferred to the planning department as a code enforcement officer. In 1995 he was promoted to planning director. In 2003 he became assistant city manager and in 2010 the city council named him city manager.
Throughout his career, Jackson has been a person that people could trust. He looked back on his beginnings as a coach at parks and rec. as the foundation and essence for that feeling.
“When I was coaching kids I tried to built a relationship with them,” he said. “Now, those kids are adults with their own families. I hope my legacy is one of trust.”
Jackson’s desire to guide and mentor youth will also be a big part of his retirement. He plans to achieve that goal with the non-profit Danny Jackson Leadership Institute.
“I want to teach the principles of leadership to young people in middle and high school,” he said.
In addition to his city duties, Jackson has managed to find time for other civic involvements including the United Way, serving on the Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization Board, the Gaston County Land Use Planning Committee, and the Gaston Outside Image Campaign Committee. He’s also a founding member of the Mt. Holly Black History Committee and has served as president of the Mt. Holly Rotary Club. He was Mt. Holly’s Man of the Year in 2016.
Over the years, he has received numerous awards including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Award, the Kay Jackson Living Legend Award, the Jessie Mae Robinson  Humanitarian  Award, and being named Mt. Holly Man of the Year 2016 to name a few..
Jackson’s biggest accolade was presented to him at the Oct. 12 city council meeting- the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. That prestigious award is the highest that the State of North Carolina gives to people who have made significant contributions to their communities, in their profession, and to the state.
“Receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine was a great honor and totally unexpected,” Jackson said. “I am thankful to everyone who brought it about.”
Other retirement good wishes also have also come Jackson’s way from the offices of Congressman Patrick McHenry and NC Rep. John Torbett.
Another trait that Jackson and all great leaders have is to give a tip of the hat to others for their support.
“I appreciate the Banner and the good things it has done for me and the City of Mt. Holly,” he said. “Dwight Frady, Jim Heffner,  and Sarah Nixon were all kind to me. “Alan is the last stop.”
Of course, retirement will give Jackson some “down time” as well. He plans to spend it with his wife Kay, their four children, and his grandchildren.
Overall, Jackson has been and will continue to be a beacon of light  in Mt. Holly.
“I have always wanted to be a good representative of Mt. Holly,” he said. “I have always wanted to do what was best for the city. I am so grateful for the opportunity the city has given me and I hope it has been an even exchange.”
Lantern Parade founder and organizer Emily Andress and her lanterns. See more photos on pages 10-11 in the October 29, 2020 issue. (Photos by Alan Hodge)

Third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade lit up the night

(October 29, 2020)

By Alan Hodge

Even with many special events of other types canceled due to the COVID19 situation, the much-anticipated third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade took place on October 24 starting at 7pm in Tuckaseege Park and as expected provided a spectacular show.
The event was a “parade in reverse”. That is, the hand crafted paper, wire, and lights lanterns were placed at stations in the park, and folks who attended strolled past them. About 1,400 people pre-registered to come see the dozens and dozens of lanterns glowing in the dark.
Social distancing guidelines were observed and everyone wore masks.
The previous two lantern parades were artistic spectacles that saw lanterns in
an amazing array of shapes and sizes marched down Mt. Holly’s Main St. Lantern designs and constructed in those events ran the gamut from sea creatures to birds, mermaids, a huge beer bottle, and even a vintage carriage with a (real) fairy princess child inside.
This year’s parade was just as great. The theme was “The Circus is Coming to Town” and many of the lanterns resembled circus animals and other big top scenes including acrobats, tents, clowns, and more. A balmy autumn evening provide the perfect backdrop to see the parade. As in previous years, the third annual parade had plenty of participation by local schools and students. Schools that took part included Ida Rankin Elementary, East Gaston High, Mt. Holly Middle, Kiser Elementary, Springfield Elementary, Beam Elementary, Cramerton Middle, and Pinewood Elementary.
Ida Rankin art teacher Abigail McLaurin talked about the importance of having students take part.
“We really need things like this,” she said. “It gives the kids a sense of pride in their community and school.”
This year’s parade was a collaboration between organizer  and Awaken Gallery owner Emily Andress, the Mt. Holly Community Development Foundation, and the City of Mt. Holly.
“Cheri Love with the city did so much to help us get this done,” Andress said. “She was invaluable.”
The lantern parades were the brainchild of Andress who in previous years had brought in lantern making talent from as far away as Ireland to help teach parade participants how to craft their creations with hands-on workshops.
The lanterns this year were arguably the best ever in terms of craftsmanship and artistic vision.
“The people who made lanterns really stretched themselves,” Andress said. “If someone had to have a pandemic project, this is possibly the most exciting thing ever!”

North Carolina will remain paused in Phase 3

Governor Roy Cooper announced last week that North Carolina will remain paused in Phase 3 for three more weeks as health officials continue to monitor North Carolina’s viral trends. North Carolina has seen increased hospitalizations and trajectory of cases in recent weeks. Governor Cooper underscored the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, and using good judgment despite fatigue or frustration with the pandemic.
“As this pandemic continues, I know it’s difficult and tiring to keep up our guard, especially when we’re gathered with people we love. But it’s necessary. No one wants to spread COVID-19 accidentally to friends or family,  so we must keep prevention at the forefront,” said Governor Cooper. “Wearing a mask shows you care about people. Wearing a mask is an easy way to protect our communities and look out for each other. Confronting the virus head on and doing our part as individuals is good for our health and good for our economy.”
Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen and Secretary of Department of Public Safety Erik Hooks also sent a letter to local officials in communities with increased viral spread urging their continued action in fighting COVID-19 and suggesting additional measures to mitigate its spread.
“We are doing everything we can to slow the spread of this virus. This simple fact is we can’t do it on our own. Ignoring the virus doesn’t make it go away – just the opposite,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “As hard as this is, it will end. We will get through this. Let’s do it by looking out for one another. Whatever your reason, get behind the mask.”
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is level.
Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is increasing.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is increasing but is lower than it was during the last time North Carolina’s cases were at their peak in July.
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days-North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is increasing.
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
Laboratory Testing-Testing capacity is high.
Tracing Capability- The state is continuing to hire contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments.
North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.

Abigail Watkins was the blue ribbon youth winner in the Mt. Holly Plein Air Paint Out.

Mount Holly hosts
outdoor art event

(October 22, 2020 Issue)

Arts Mount Holly, part of the Mount Holly Community Development Foundation, has completed a very successful second annual Plein Air Paint Out titled “Fall Palette”!
For three full days - Thursday, September 24th through Saturday, September 26th - local artists and students from the Mount Holly, Gaston County, and greater Charlotte metro areas were out and around the city of Mount Holly, painting in “plein air” (outdoors). It was rainy much of the first two days of the event, but that didn’t stop the artists who huddled under vehicle hatch doors, awnings, or umbrellas!
Twenty adults and more than thirty students submitted artwork that was judged by artist Kate Worm for awards totalling more than $1,000. The winning student artist also received a sketch box worth $200 donated by Hallman Design.
The public was able to preview the work of artists and students at the Mount Holly Farmer’s Market at 226 S. Main Street and listen as awards were announced before having a chance to purchase and take home the fresh-off-the-easel paintings. All proceeds from the sales, excluding taxes and transaction fees, went directly to the artists.
For more information about Arts Mount Holly and future events, please visit us on Facebook at
So, what is Plein Air art?
It’s a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in France in the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio. It’s a painting executed out of doors and representing a direct response to the scene or subject in front of the artist having the qualities of air and natural light.
Kaitlyn and Audrey Leazer show off a Cramerton High letter jacket that’s part of the collection. Photo by Alan Hodge

Cramerton Historical Society officially open for artifact
collecting and donations

(October 22, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

There’s so much positive energy flowing in Cramerton these days  the air crackles.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the town got a striking new mural applied to the fire department building. Now,  the  Cramerton Historical Society (CHS) is officially open for the beginning of their artifact collecting and donations campaign.
The Cramerton Historical Society’s physical location is at the Cramerton Community Center’s first (bottom) floor at 1 Julian Street. A CHS representative will be available from 10am-12noon every Thursday and Friday in October and going into November.
If you think you have special artifacts that are important to Cramerton’s rich history, please feel free to come by.
All public health protocols must be followed when entering the Community Center such as wearing a mask and appropriate social distancing.
The CHS’s first president, Jeff Ramsey explained how the society and museum museum ideas were hatched.
“In 2015 we had very successful Cramerton Centennial Celebration.  Everyone enjoyed the 100 year time display from 1915-2015,” he said.  “It portrayed Cramerton’s rich history and artifacts during the celebration . We decided to create a non-profit organization, Cramerton’s Historical Society, in 2015 to share our history with surrounding communities, since we did not have a place for a museum.  Our focus was celebrating the 100 year landmarks in Cramerton with fundraiser events by presenting them with historical markers, such as Maymont’s mansion from 1917 to 2017 and Mayworth / Cramerton’s School from 1919 to 2019.  Multiple events were held at local elementary schools to share the history of Cramerton. We were able to help spearhead the Cramerton Veteran memorial in 2018 with the Town of Cramerton to honor all the Veterans of Cramerton.  Cramerton is very excited to have a museum enabling us to provide events and display our rich history and artifacts of Cramerton. We want to thank the Town of Cramerton for all their support and for providing us a place for the museum.”   
The museum will be strong on visuals including plenty of vintage photos from Cramerton’s past. A good example of this is the huge, black and white aerial photo of Cramer Mills that covers one entire wall of the museum’s main space.
“Allen Millican provided the photo and Ken Parrott of Bedgood Advertising made the mural,” museum chairman Richard Atkinson said.
Another feature of the museum will be large, foldable panels that will have photos and graphics attached. There will be six double panels measuring 80x30 inches. Subject matter on the panels will be changed periodically.
One big item on the museum’s to do list is turning a small room into a replica of Stuart Cramer’s office when he ran the mills. His imposing desk is currently in the Cramerton Town Hall.
“We need items that would have been in an office circa 1920s to 1930s,” Atkinson  said.
Other items planned for display will naturally include a tribute to Cramerton’s famous khaki cloth that was used to make countless WWII uniforms.
Another, larger room on the Community Center’s lower level is currently used by senior citizens as a fellowship hall for their weekly lunch gatherings. One wall of that space has already been covered with large, framed, archival photos showing things such as the hotel and rail depot that were once in Cramerton. The photos were previously in the recreation center gym across the street.
“We plan to use the fellowship hall for special events,” said Atkinson.
Speaking of special events, the museum plans several fundraisers as soon as things return to “normal”.
“We plan to have a fish fry this fall,” Atkinson said.
The Cramerton Historical Society is actively seeking young folks to join its ranks. Stuart Cramer High student Tanner Stroman, 16,  is a member and is helping with the audio-visual and technical side of things.
“It’s important for everyone to know about their past,” he said. “It’s important to know about where you live.”
Please note that the Cramerton Historical Society is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization. If you have any questions, please contact the Chairman of the Museum Committee, Richard Atkinson at
For future announcements regarding the Cramerton Historical Society’s artifact collecting and other news, please visit their Facebook page:
Old Goshen Cemetery in N. Belmont dates to the early 19th century. A dozen veterans of the American Revolution are among the pioneers buried there. Photo by Alan Hodge

This time of year great
for visiting old graveyards

(October 22, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Now that cool fall days are here and Halloween upon us, it’s a perfect time to get some outdoor exercise and learn about our local lore by strolling through old graveyards.
The oldest graveyard in the BannerNews region is Goshen Cemetery on Woodlawn St. in North Belmont. This plot dates back to the early part of the 19th century and was the burying ground for Goshen Presbyterian Church that was founded in 1764. It is said to be the oldest graveyard west of the Catawba River.
The ground where Goshen Cemetery is located was originally owned by Robert Smith. It was part of a 650 acre piece of property that Smith had bought from two Catawba Indians that encompassed what is now most of Catawba Heights and North Belmont. In 1839 Smith sold 17-acres to the Goshen Church Trustees for eighty-five dollars. Smith and many of his relatives are buried in Goshen Cemetery.
Joining Smith in the graveyard are about a dozen men who fought in the American Revolution. A plaque naming them was at one time affixed to the cemetery gate, but it is now gone. Most of the old tombstones in Goshen Cemetery have survived, including some going back nearly 200 years, but vandals have also desecrated several others.
Other graves in the older portion of Goshen Cemetery hold members of Belmont area pioneers including names such as Armstrong, Abernethy, Fite, and Rhyne.
Local legend has it that there were once Indian burial mounds and a village near where Goshen Cemetery is located.
The Abernethy clan itself also has a small and very old cemetery at the end of Turner Rd. off Hickory Grove Rd. not far from Goshen Cemetery.
The Smith name also appears on an old graveyard on Belwood Dr. off South Point Rd. This Smith graveyard has dozens of graves going back to the early 19th century. For many years it was neglected and had fallen prey to vandals, nature, and time. However, an effort led by Leigh Ford of Charlotte a couple of years ago saw most of the broken tombstones repaired. Ford and other volunteers also cleaned up the overgrown grounds and formed an organization dedicated to preserving the site.
In East Belmont there’s a tiny old graveyard on Old NC7 near the Catawba River known as the Abee Cemetery. The cemetery is surrounded by a stone wall. Names that appear on some of the tombstones go back to the early 1800s and include Fite, Smith, Abee, Ewing, and Wells.
Machpelah Presbyterian Church’s rock-walled cemetery off Old Plank Rd. near Stanley was established in 1801 as a family graveyard located halfway between Joseph Graham’s Vesuvius Furnace and Alexander Brevard’s Mt. Tirzah Forge. In 1848, the quaint church was built beside the cemetery. The first pastor of the church was Dr. Robert Hall Morrison, president of Davidson College and father-in-law of Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson. The small Greek Revival Church contains pews and a slave gallery that are thought to be original. Members of the Graham, Brevard, and Morrison families are buried in the cemetery.
Flat Rock Cemetery on Flat Rock Rd. near Mount Holly holds the graves of several Civil War veterans. This graveyard is maintained by the Flat Rock Cemetery Association and Confederate History and Monument Preservation Society. Among the markers is one dedicated to seven Confederate soldiers who drowned in the Catawba River as they were returning home after the end of the Civil War. The men had hitched a ride on a fishing boat that capsized as they were crossing the swollen river on April 25, 1865.
An old graveyard in the backyard of a school might seem an odd mix, but that’s the case with the Pinhook Cemetery and Lowell Elementary. The graveyard is on a gravel path in the woods behind the school and has an association with the 19th century Pinhook textile mill that once stood nearby on the banks of the South Fork River. Among the graves is Nathan Ford who died in 1824. Other graves are marked Harris and Huffstetler. Each year, the kids from Lowell Elementary as well as other volunteers tidy the little graveyard up.
Old graveyards are not only interesting to visit during Halloween, they are a reminder of our area’s  past and the people who lived here in decades gone by.

Major snack food company coming to Kings Mtn.
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

Benestar Brands, an international snack food manufacturer, will create 129 jobs in Cleveland County.. The company will invest $24 million to establish a new production
Benestar Brands, the parent company of Evans Food Group, is a rapidly growing snack food manufacturer focused on better-for-you, high-quality snacks. The newest project in North Carolina will provide easier access to the fast-growing company’s customer base and the nation’s east coast market. This new facility will support Benestar Brands’ expansion plans into new snack categories.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce led the state’s efforts to support Benestar Brands’ decision to expand its operations to North Carolina. The company’s 129 new jobs will include managerial, operational, maintenance, warehouse and office staff. The average annual salary for all new positions is $43,021, creating a payroll impact of more than $5.5 million per year. Cleveland County’s overall average annual wage is $40,019.
Benestar Brands’ North Carolina expansion will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier today. Over the course of the 12-year term of the grant, the project is estimated to grow the state’s GDP by more than $431 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the 129 new jobs, the JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $1,212,000 over 12 years. State payments occur only after verification by the departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met incremental job creation and investment targets.
Projects supported by JDIG must result in positive net tax revenue to the state treasury, even after taking into consideration the grant’s reimbursement payments to a given company. The provision ensures all North Carolina communities benefit from the JDIG program.
In addition to the N.C. Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, other key partners in the project include the North Carolina General Assembly, North Carolina Community College System, Cleveland Community College, Cleveland County Government, Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership, and the City of Kings Mountain.

National Night Out
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

The Lowell Police Department recently gave out 202 goodie bags  at their National Night Out event. It was great to see so many smiling faces and our officers are really appreciative of all the kind words, gestures, and handwritten notes from the kids. Special thanks to Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont Troop #20023 Leaders Sandi Heavener, Rosemary Grant, and Melanie York for volunteering at our event this evening and thanks to our sponsors McKenney Chevrolet and DICK’S Sporting Goods.
City of  Lowell photos
Outdoor swings at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park.

Social distance in nature
in Belmont

(October 22, 2020 Issue)

Tucked away in the Charlotte suburbs, Belmont, N.C. has grown to become a delightful destination for escaping the hustle and bustle, steeping oneself in the blossoming environment and connecting with the beauty and benefits of nature.
As COVID-19 effects continue in North Carolina, there’s no better time to experience the peaceful excitement of recreation in this quaint city.
Whether it’s “quarantine fatigue” or a simple desire to reconnect with the great outdoors, Belmont shares its many recreational opportunities with families, friends, passersby and individuals needing a nature-filled break. Cooler temperatures in the southern United States usher in perfect moments for fresh air, family activities and necessary exercise –and Belmont is a superb suburb for doing just that.
From casual walks through the historic downtown to adventures along the Catawba River or Carolina Thread Trail, Belmont  extends ample beauty alongside movement and play as well as occasions for improving mental health.
Places to explore in Belmont include: Daniel Stowe BotanicalGarden. Find 300 acres of lush land featuring seasonal blooms and colorful walkways.The Garden recently reopened to the public with extended hours open to members. This destination also boasts its Persimmon Trail, a half-mile short trail that is part of the Seven Oaks Preserve Trail (this trail is available without Garden admission). Seven Oaks Preserve Trail–at 2.8 miles with moderate difficulty, hike or bike down this longest continuous trail along Lake Wylie. Its pathways are part of the Carolina Thread Trail and connect to trails at the Garden. Rocky Branch Park–In the heart of Belmont, Rocky Branch boasts 40 acres, which includes a four-mile trail for hikers and cyclists. Anchored Soul–This Belmont-based business offers standup paddle boarding rentals and lessons to Lake Wylie watergoers of all skill levels. South Fork River Blueway–This 8.4-mile segment of the South Fork River welcomes kayaking and slow-moving paddles among other activities. There are numerous launches across Gaston County, including one at South Fork Village in Belmont.
The renowned Mayo Clinic shared ways to cope with anxiety, worry and social distancing during the ongoing pandemic. Regular physical activity was recommended in addition to “relax and recharge” techniques. Nature is an ideal medicine for just this; according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, numerous researched studies indicate a positive relationship between mood improvement and escaping outside. Notes published research from the university, “It appears that interacting with natural spaces offers other therapeutic benefits. For instance, calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.”
As October begins, our recreational opportunities remain openat this time, welcoming adventurers from near and far for improved mental health, increased activity and abundant sightseeing.
“We’ve shared al fresco dining and noticed more and more people discovering our local parks,” said Jim Hoffman, chairman of the Belmont Tourism Development Authority. “We look forward to cooler weeks, changing leaves and the brisk air that brings locals and visitors to our city’s trails, parks and sidewalks.”Contact:Melinda Skutnick|Lyerly
From aquatic adventures to land-based leisure, Belmont has a little something for everyone. Find picnic tables and water views at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park, the Belmont GO History Walk on the brick-lined streets of downtown and the vibrant autumnal blossoms across our city “where southern charm blossoms.” It’s a season of adventure in Belmont, N.C., and we’ll see you outside soon!

City of Belmont political sign ordinance
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

The 2020 election is nearly here. The City of Belmont has an ordinance outlining guidelines and restrictions for campaign signage. The ordinance restricts size and locations. Specifically, signs are allowed on private property and along NCDOT streets, but are not allowed on city property (parks, facilities, etc.) and along city streets. All signs must be removed within 10 days of the election.
To review the entire sign ordinance visit the city’s website:…/ldc-chapter-10-signs.

Cramerton News Briefs
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

Leaf pickup
Town of Cramerton leaf pickup will begin next week. Place all raked leaves to the curb.  Do not place leaf piles on sidewalks or in roadways.  Do not park any vehicles within twenty feet of leaf piles.  The Town will pick up bagged leaves weekly. The Town crew operates a leaf vacuum machine during the months of October through February. Leaves must be raked parallel to the curb, but not into the street or over storm drains. From March to September, leaves must be bagged, or put in a 32 gallon can, or placed on a 4’x4’ tarp and placed at the curb for collection. Crews generally operate on Thursdays and Fridays for leaf pickup depending on the weather. Blocking of storm drains is a violation of the Town’s Ordinance.
Monster eggs
Cramerton’s witches and wizards will come to your home and hide monster eggs in your yard filled with spooky sweets and ghoulish goodies. Limited supply available for delivery in Cramerton town limits only. PUMPKIN PAINTING A take-home kit and craft where you can paint your very own pumpkin! This kit will include a pumpkin, paint brush, and paints! You can use to decorate your home, or your Thanksgiving table. PLEASE PRE-REGISTER FOR THESE EVENTS BY CALLING PARKS AND RECREATION AT 704-824-4231.
Thread Trail signs
The Carolina Thread Trail recently installed new signage in Cramerton as part of a pilot program. Cramerton was selected and the pilot program location for several reasons – our great partnership with the Catawba Lands Conservancy and the Carolina Thread Trail, the amount of trails and greenways in Cramerton that are part of the Carolina Thread Network, the South Fork River Blueway, and Cramerton’s position in the South Fork River Priority Corridor. The South Fork River Priority Corridor is an area of priority for the Carolina Thread Trail that runs from Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, all the way to Spencer Mountain and includes all the municipalities in between. The new signage includes small reassurance markers, sidewalk and trail blaze/arrows, trail wayfinding and distance signage, and larger Trail Head Signs which not only map the individual trails but also show the individual trails location in the larger South Fork River Priority Corridor.
November dates
Recycling Dates NOVEMBER November 1: Daylight savings time ends November 4, 5, and 6: Recycling Dates November 11: Town Hall, Public Works, Parks and Recreation Department will be closed in observance of Veterans Day November 18, 19, and 20: Recycling Dates November 26 and 27: Town Hall, Public Works, Parks and Recreation Department will be closed in observance of Thanksgiving.
Citizen of Year nominations
The Community Committee is looking for nominees for the 2020 Cramerton Citizen of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award. If you would like to nominate a Cramerton resident, please visit for the forms under the Document Center tab. For additional information please call Town Hall at 704-824-4337.

Domestic violence advocates have a new number
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

At the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, advocates are available to assist victims of domestic violence by filling out applications for emergency restraining orders and/or warrants they may need against an alleged abuser, as well as assist someone in getting resources or answers to general questions surrounding restraining orders. Domestic Violence Advocates available inside the Sheriff’s Office for victims Monday through Friday, from 8:00am-2:00am; as well as Saturdays, Sundays & holidays, from 1:00pm-2:00am.
Advocates are also riding with Deputies daily to assist other agencies responding to Domestic Violence calls in the county in order to reach out to victims for first hand support and with applicable resources.
Domestic Violence is not just physical violence. If you or someone you know needs to speak to an advocate please call (704) 869-6843.
Professor CJB Reid descendants on the front porch of the 1920 house. Rear from left Charles Reid, Oscar Reid. Front row from left Forrest Reid, Jered Reid, Abriel Reid. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont’s CJB Reid House celebrates 100 years

By Alan Hodge

One of Belmont’s most historically significant structures has been hiding in plain sight at 301 Sacco St. for 100 years.
The Professor Charles Jesse Bynum Reid House dates to 1920 and was his residence during his time as a professor and principal at Reid High School which was located right next door. The property  where the school was is now occupied by a City of Belmont park.
On September 20, Reid relatives, friends, and Reid community citizenry gathered at the house for a special program recognizing its significance not only to the local African-American neighborhood, but to the region as well.
The event included music, remarks by keynote speakers, and prayer. A raffle was also held and the prize went to Gianni Rodriguez, a charter member of the Reid Junior Rams group.
The Reid Junior Rams has about ten members at the current time. Members range in age from five to eighteen years old.
Charles Jesse Bynum Reid Foundation, Inc. president/CEO Charles Reid described the group’s mission.
“We want to teach them the heritage and legacy of Reid High,” he said. “We want to inspire them to excel in whatever they want to do.”
Tours of the house were also part of the day.
According to Abriel Reid, the house looks pretty much like it did when Professor Reid and his brother Craig built it.
“He was living in Lowell at the time and rode a bicycle here every day to work on it,” Abriel said.
Inside, the house is a treasure trove of Reid family and school memorabilia including yearbooks, photos, awards, a letter from Barack Obama, and the original keys to the school. There’s also an original school desk. Upstairs, bedrooms are furnished in old time style and dedicated to civil rights leaders Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Frederick Douglas. A large poster also pays tribute to the Tuckaseegee Airmen, WWII pilots.
Charles Reid recalled how the house and grounds looked when he was growing up.
“I remember the chicken coop and a big cherry tree,” he said. “There was a fig tree too.”
Charles says a cow was once a resident and an antique butter churn found under the house backs that legend up.
The house today is kept in good repair and it’s obviously loved by everyone on Sacco St. and the surrounding neighborhood. Charles Reid stays there sometimes and keeps an eye on things. The lawn is tidy and the front porch has several inviting rocking chairs. It’s easy to imagine the days when Professor Reid might have sat on the porch and thought deep thoughts.
The Charles Jesse Bynum Reid Foundation, Inc. is a 501C3  non-profit organization. Grants are going to be applied for to improve the house and make it more museum-like. For now, anyone interested in taking a tour of this fascinating and informative Reid community icon or taking part in the Junior Reid program can contact Charles Reid at 704-825-4017 and make arrangements. Online at or

About CJB Reid 1879-1940
He was a 1908 graduate of Knoxville College and the founding principal of the “colored school of Belmont” (later Reid High) in 1918. His wife, Maude Henderson Reid, was a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University and taught at several Gaston County schools.
In addition to being an educator, Professor Reid was also a civic activist. His involvements included Gaston Schoolmasters Club, Gaston Welfare Board, Governor’s Interracial Commission, State Teachers’ Association, Trustee for the Gastonia Colored Hospital, Masonic member, he and his wife were among the co-founding  members of Hood Memorial AME Zion Church in Belmont, and many more.
The museum is located at 112 Main St. in downtown Stanley. Photo by Alan Hodge

Brevard Station Museum traces the Stanley area heritage

By Alan Hodge

Looking for something interesting to do on a Saturday? Try the Brevard Station Museum in Stanley.
Wait. Why is it called Brevard Station Museum instead of Stanley Museum? That’s because Stanley was originally known as Brevard Station. In the town’s infancy back in the 1800s it was a railroad stop. During the Civil War, soldiers who signed up for the Confederate Army at the old courthouse in Dallas would march down the road to Brevard Station and board the train for the trip to boot camp in Raleigh.
But that was then and this is now. The Brevard Station Museum is located right in the heart of downtown Stanley. It started around 1990 in the old railroad depot building on the other side of the tracks and moved to its current location at 112 S. Main several years ago.
One of the museum’s most popular features is its extensive genealogical collection. The volumes include notebooks on local families such as Carpenter, Clemmer, Abernathy, and Forney.
“We had some women come in and spend four hours looking at their family history,” said Pat Smith, the museum’s secretary.
The same area of the museum where the volumes are located is also a meeting space where programs are held. Right now, the programs on hold thanks to COVID, but they are scheduled t return as soon as restrictions ease.
Local military lore gets plenty of space in the museum. Exhibits include uniforms and equipment going back to the Civil War. Medals, hats, flags, helmets, and more that were donated by local folks fill several display cases.
“We are proud to be a place where people can donate items so their loved ones can be remembered,” said Smith.
The museum also pays homage to the Stanley area’s textile heritage. This includes archival photos of mill workers and other related items. Vintage clothing is also on display as well as items that folks in Stanley once used in their homes in days gone by.
The Stanley area has always been a sports hotspot and the museum features cases with trophies, sports uniforms, cheerleader uniforms and an autographed football from the 1950s.
Another section of the museum is a tribute to Ralph Handsel who was Stanley’s police chief for 50 years. A sculpted bust and a painting of Handsel as well as news clips trace his career as Stanley’s legendary and beloved lawman.
One item at the museum that gets a lot of attention a replica of Stanley’s African-America Springfield Baptist Church. The model was made by legally blind craftsman Everett Brown and features a removable roof that lets folks peer inside and see the church interior.
No visit to the museum would be complete without a look at the full size replica of a Big Leaf Magnolia bloom that was donated by the Schiele Museum in Gastonia. The display is a tribute to French botanist Andre Michaux who prowled the Stanley area back in the early 1800s and discovered the Big Leaf Magnolia growing there. Stanley and its environs are one of the few places on earth where the species is found.
Overall, the Brevard Station Museum is a fascinating place to visit and find out how Stanley grew from a sleepy railroad stop to the vibrant town it is today.
For more information visit or call Barry Smith at 704-813-5015 to arrange a Saturday tour.


Annual Christmas Town 5K
will look different in 2020  

In just seven years the Christmas Town 5K has become one of Gaston County’s most popular holiday traditions. Well over 1,000 runners and their supporters usually come to McAdenville for one night in late November, however this year will need to look different.
“With the current government restrictions on crowds and the news of a scaled-back light display in 2020, we had to come to the tough conclusion that our normal event was just not possible,” said Ashley Westmoreland, Event Coordinator.
Therefore, the 2020 Christmas Town 5K will be a virtual event.
What does that mean? You register for the race as usual, but then agree to run/walk the 3.1 miles on your own, on any course you prefer and at any pace you desire. Each participant will receive a shirt, as well as a bib you can personalize and print at home to use on your run. If you prefer to run the traditional unlit course, mile
marker flags and some course markings will be set up for starting Saturday, November 21st and throughout the week of Thanksgiving.
There will be photo contests on the Christmas Town 5K Facebook page, so be sure and share photos and videos of you completing your 3.1 miles. Participants will have the option to pick up their shirt in person on Saturday, November 21st or have it mailed the third week in November for a small fee. All proceeds stay in McAdenville and fund projects like a new canoe launch on the South Fork River, textbooks for McAdenville Elementary School, and improvements at the Pharr YMCA.
“Fundraising this year has been extremely difficult,” said Westmoreland. “Our YMCA counts on this event, and to lose it in a year filled with so many setbacks is disheartening. Our hope is that this virtual event can replace some of the funding they have lost in 2020.”
Registration for the event is  at  There is also an option to send donations, if you prefer to not pay for the event or receive a shirt. Contact Kristin Turner McAdenville Woman’s Club or call 704-280-5120.
The Christmas Town 5K is an annual road race through the lights of Christmas Town U.S.A. in McAdenville, North Carolina. Founded in 2013 by the McAdenville Woman’s Club, the nighttime 5K is the largest in Gaston County regularly welcoming 1,300 participants. All proceeds from the event stay in the town of McAdenville.
See more photos on Page 4 of the October 8, 2020 issue of Banner-News.

Cramerton gets another beautiful downtown mural

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Public art is alive and well in Cramerton.
Last year, the Town of Cramerton installed a spectacular mural of a WWII P51 fighter plane on the side of a building downtown. Last week saw an equally impressive mural put up on the side of the fire department building as well as a smaller one placed on an older structure on Mayflower St.
The fire station mural was installed by Charlotte-based 310 Signs. The way it was installed was similar to the P51 project. The mural came in sectional vinyl rolls which were stuck to the side of the building, Next, a heat gun was applied to the vinyl sections which bonded them to the bricks.
“The vinyl is good for around seven to ten years,” said Cramerton mayor Will Cauthen. “If any section of it fades or is damaged it can be removed and replaced with a new one.”
The new mural is a play on Cramerton’s “goat in a boat” town logo and shows a billy goat riding in a canoe. Goat Island Park is just across  
the South Fork from the fire station. The image was created by artist Julie Masluk who has lived in Cramerton most of her life. She’s a 23-year-old, 2019 graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design and hopes to build a career as a freelance artist. She has a website
“Since I often do animal based portraits I was excited to do this project,” she said. “The idea of the goat represents a steady, calm, leadership with the goat the captain of the boat and the guardian of the town.”
Masluk explained how the image went from her mind to the side of the fire station wall.
“I created it digitally using the Clip Studio Paint Program,” she said. “It took about five or six hours to do. The nice part of doing it digitally is the fact that the image can be modified easily. After I finished, the image was sent to 310 Signs and they transferred it to the vinyl.”
In addition to the fire station goat mural, a smaller mural was installed that same morning on the former salt house on Mayflower St. The 60-year-old  building was a storage place for salt that was used in the town water treatment plant many years ago. That mural is a colorful diamond shape with ”Cramerton” spelled out on it.
Mayor Cauthen is excited about the future of public art in Cramerton.
“The Cramerton Merchants Association and several families funded the new mural,” he said. “We have good support for the public arts program.”
 The P51 mural has gotten a lot of looks since it went up last year.
The image is on the side of the Design Tech (former BB&T) building at 109 Center St. and depicts a North American P-51 fighter plane in the background, a Women Air Force Service pilot (WASP) walking away from it after landing, and a pilot telling another one a  flying story with his hands.
All three figures are dressed in uniforms of khaki cloth, made in Cramerton of course. Rounding out the mural scene are several crates marked with the Crameron cloth logo as well as a quote by Maj. Gen. Edmund Gregory from a speech he gave on Sept. 18, 1942 when Cramerton Mills was awarded the Army-Navy E Production Award for the quality and quantity of khaki cloth it had churned out.
Cramerton Army Cloth, an 8.2 ounce twill fabric, was developed by Major Stuart W. Cramer, Jr. following his retirement from the U.S. Army in 1922. Cramerton Mills was awarded the first contract to manufacture the fabric in 1929. Due to its durability and comfort, Cramerton Army Cloth became the standard uniform cloth for the military during WWII and for many decades following. In 1942, Cramerton Mills received the Army-Navy “E” Award for Excellence recognizing the company’s achievement in production of the fabric. Veterans returning home continued to wear their khaki trousers as an everyday garment of civilian life.

Progress being made on East Gaston facade project

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

Progress is being made on the facade project at East Gaston High School with a few changes.
Engineers have updated the initial design to coincide better with the school’s colors, and construction crews are working now to put the various components in place, according to principal Jennifer Reep, who says “the new front entrance will make all of us very proud.”
“The revamped facade design features all of the background panels in a navy blue color,” explained Reep.  “Originally, the panels were a mix of navy blue, light blue, and white, but the panels have been repainted after it was determined that the color scheme did not reflect our school colors accurately.”
Reep describes the facade project as “amazing.”  The right end of the facade includes a large screen panel in a red color that features “EG” in white lettering with a navy background.  On the left end of the facade is the name of the school in raised lettering that will be illuminated from behind at night.  Also, lights will shine on the entire facade at night.  Reep mentioned that landscapers were at the school last week planting shrubs near the front entrance.
“Looking at the rendering, you immediately notice that the color scheme correlates better with our school colors, and the facade complements the new entranceway awning that has already been installed,” said Reep.  “It is important to note that the old concrete walkway covering was showing signs of deterioration and needed to be replaced for safety reasons.  We also are very pleased with our new front doors that enhance safety and security.”
The construction project at East Gaston is made possible by the school bonds that were approved by voters in May 2018.  The $250 million school bond referendum provides funds for new school construction, additions to schools, and critical renovations and repairs.  The first allocation of school bond 
funds – $60 million – is being used to build a new middle school in Belmont and conduct various renovation and repair projects at schools across the county.
Reep added, “Without a doubt, the project gives East Gaston a contemporary facade that dramatically improves the ‘curb appeal’ of our school.  Our school building is almost 50 years old, and I think everyone will agree that when finished, the facade project will give our school a modern, inviting appearance.  After all, we want to make sure that our school looks its very best while ensuring a safe environment for our students, employees, parents, and visitors.”
This summer, facade projects also were completed at South Point and Ashbrook high schools.  At Ashbrook, the concrete sidewalk canopy (similar to the one at East Gaston) was showing its age and was replaced.  The work at South Point included a renovated front entrance with a restructured lobby/vestibule area that controls visitor access to the building and repaving the front parking lot.
The spring and summer months were busy for school projects, including roof replacement at seven schools: Highland, East Gaston, Page, Brookside, Beam Intermediate, North Gaston, and Mount Holly Middle.  The gymnasium at Holbrook Middle School was painted and a new floor, windows, bleachers, and lockers were installed.  Paving projects were completed at Cherryville High, Mount Holly, and Carr Elementary, and the tennis courts at North Gaston were revamped.
Additional projects completed over the summer include gymnasium locker updates at Hunter Huss, elevator upgrade and drainage work at North Gaston, fencing/railing work at Highland and Chapel Grove, elevator upgrade at East Gaston, and a new freezer and dry storage facility at the School Nutrition office in Lowell.
There are a number of school bond construction projects that are planned for the months ahead.  They include the following:
Ashbrook High School: painting and lighting upgrade.
Bessemer City High School: food lab renovation.
Carr Elementary School: life safety improvements (intercom, camera, security, and door upgrades).
East Gaston High School: lighting upgrade and cafeteria update.
Forestview High School: drainage work.
Hunter Huss High School: parking lot paving and cafeteria update.
Mount Holly Middle School: media center update.
New Hope Elementary School: life safety improvements (intercom, camera, security, and door upgrades).
South Point High School: painting and media center update.
Southwest Middle School: HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) improvements.
Additionally, work is continuing on the new campus for Belmont Middle School, which will replace the historic school building on Central Avenue that is more than 80 years old.  The new school is expected to be ready for students and teachers to move in for the 2021-2022 year.
Muddy River Distillery owners and founders Robbie and Caroline Delaney have built a successful business from the ground up and recently received national recognition. See more photos on page 8 of the October 8, 2020 edition of Banner-News.

Belmont’s Muddy River
Distillery earns national ranking

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Robbie and Caroline Delaney’s Muddy River Distillery in East Belmont is living proof that the combination of a dream and lots of hard work can pay off.
Last week it was announced that Muddy River was ranked second among all craft rum distilleries in America  by USA Today’s Ten Best Readers’ Choice Awards contest. A panel of spirits experts selected 20 nominees, and the winners were determined by popular vote. This was the first year that Muddy River was nominated and they surprised a lot of folks in the rum industry.
Actually, it should not have come as such a shock, because Robbie and Caroline have poured their heart and soul into every drop of their rum since the first went into business in 2011.
“It was awesome to get the recognition,” Caroline said. “We were excited just to be on the list. There were some national brands on it and to get  second was huge.”
The idea to start a rum distillery- the first in North Carolina- came to Robbie about a decade ago when he spotted a magazine article on the subject while flying back to Charlotte from a construction job in Texas. Work in the construction industry was drying up and he was casting about, looking for another career. Not only that, but the constant travel was making spending time with Caroline logistically problematic.
“I got excited when I read the magazine article,” Robbie said. “I started doing research on what it would take to build a still and to begin distilling.”
 According to Robbie, a chat with friend Scott Huff, a rum connoisseur, led to the decision to make rum rather than bourbon or some other type of libation. Once the decision to distill legal rum was made, the Delaney’s found a space at the former Piedmont Processing plant.  Robbie used his construction skills to build the his first still. In 2017 he added a 450 gallon whopper called “Independence”.
“It is a mix of art and science,” said Robbie. “The science comes in the design of the still and the art in getting the flavor profile just the way you want it.”
Right now, the Delaney’s are making about 2,400 bottles of rum a week.   Muddy River produces Carolina Rum in four flavors, Silver, Spiced, Coconut, and Basil.  They also produce the premium Queen’s Charlotte Reserve Carolina Rum and Queen’s Charlotte Reserve Single Barrel 4 Year Carolina Rum. The rum is sold in about 200 NC ABC stores as well as in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and South Carolina.. Muddy River also makes a hand sanitzer.
As for the future, Caroline says she and Robbie would like to buy a building to call their own and also have  a bar on site.
The distillery is a fascinating operation. The Delaneys offer tours of the place on Saturdays at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm, Tour-takers need to wear a mask. The physical address is 1500 River Dr, Suite 100. Muddy River also offers sales of its rum, shirts, coozies, and other items.
For more information Muddy River’s inspirational  past and preset, visit
The backlash from 2017’s Hurricane Irma sent this huge tree crashing in Sam Stowe’s yard in Belmont.

Hurricanes have been here before

By Alan Hodge

As recent weather reports and events prove, including the recent drenching we got from Hurricane Sally, this time of year is hurricane and tropical storm season. Even though our coast generally bears the brunt of this foul weather, some of their power has been felt right here in our region.
In mid-September 2018,  Hurricane Florence brought Belmont and the surrounding towns torrents of rain and frisky winds, but thankfully no widespread destruction like the storm left elsewhere.
As usual, before the storm even got here, folks rushed to stores and stripped the bottled water and other drink supplies shelves as cleanly as a piranha fish removes flesh from bone. Gas stations also reported super brisk sales.
Local municipalities braced for the blow and made contingency arrangements early in the week.
All week prior to Florence’s arrival, weather forecasters scratched their heads trying to figure out where the storm was headed and what would happen when it got there.
For us, the answer came  with winds starting to pick up on September 14. The rain held off but dark clouds scurried by overhead as folks craned their necks looking skyward in nervous fashion. A second wave of folks hit the stores and gas stations. TV broadcasters ramped up their rhetoric.
The Saturday morning of September 15 brought showers and blustery winds. This pattern continued all day long and through the night. A quick trip to the South Fork River in Cramerton on Saturday showed no flooding as of late in the afternoon. Goat Island Park was closed.

Sunday saw more rain and winds of over 40mph. Trees were stripped of their leaves. By Sunday afternoon, the South Fork at McAdenville and Cramerton was rising. Water roared over the McAdenville dam.  Weather broadcasters were going wild.
It was not until Monday that things began to settle down and folks could take stock of what had hit our area from the sky.
A year earlier, on September 11, 2017, Hurricane Irma’s “backlash” came to our end of Gaston County.
Irma brought local winds at a steady 20-25mph with overnight gusts to 40mph. Sheets of rain fell throughout the period. Parts of Belmont were without power, phone, or internet service. Besides Belmont, power outage areas also included Mt. Holly, Ranlo, and Stanley.
In Belmont two large trees fell. On Todd St. a tree split in half and blocked the roadway as well as pulling down power lines. On Central Avenue, a massive oak on the grounds of Stowe Manor also knocked down several other large trees on its way to the ground. The root ball was over six feet in diameter.
The effect of Florence and Irma contrasted strongly with what took place in our region back on September 22, 1989 when Hurricane Hugo came calling. Hugo’s smash was the worst natural disaster to hit us since the Great Flood of 1916.
The first images of Hugo’s wrath that folks saw on the front page of the Belmont Banner  showed downed power lines, the screen of the Belmont Drive In Theater lying in a twisted heap, homes with shingles torn away, the water tower at Parkdale Mills with its top missing, and the ticket booth at South Point High sans its roof.
Hugo caused students at Belmont Abbey to be sent home. The roof of the Haid was torn off. The cross at the top of the Abbey bell tower was blown askew.
Belmont’s city manager at the time, Ken York, talked about the mess Hugo left.
“Due to the large mass of tree debris on the sides of the streets, it will take a massive effort to achieve total cleanup.”
In McAdenville, Police Chief James Swanson had a near miss Hugo-style when a tree hit his patrol car as he was driving through town.
“I was coming down Main Street at Mockingbird Lane when the rear end of the car was struck,” Swanson said at the time. “It just pushed the car on across the street.”
Swanson and others worked to clear limbs and debris from the roads in McAdenville, where the damage estimate from Hugo was $1.7 million. That included 300 homes with minor to heavy damage, the roof of the town hall being blown off, and the police department being flooded. An estimated 2,000 trees were down in McAdenville.
In Mount Holly, Mayor Charles Black spoke after Hugo had departed.
“We can survive,” he said. “We’ve had people offering to help in any way they can.”
To house those whose homes were damaged by Hugo, the Mount Holly Jr. High gym was opened as an emergency shelter. Members of the Catawba Heights VFD went to work helping clear streets and yards of limbs and trees. Mount Holly police Sgt. Bob Johnson reported there were no injuries due to the storm. However, cars were damaged.
“We did have some trees striking moving vehicles,” he said.
In Stanley, the town’s civil defense siren tower was broken and trees were devastated.
“It’s something I have never seen before and don’t want to see again,” said Police Chief Donnie Davis.
Stanley police worked 16-18 hour shifts after the storm. Stanley Mayor Ned Cannon praised the town’s citizens.
“I’m proud of the people of Stanley,” he said. “We came through the storm well.”
Also in the aftermath of Hugo, the Red Cross set up mobile kitchens in the Belmont/ Mount Holly area that served Hugo victims sandwiches, soup, and drinks. The kitchens were located at places such as Mount Holly Jr. High, Belmont First Presbyterian, and Stanley Rescue Squad. A photo in the Mount Holly News showed Red Cross volunteers from Michigan handing out vittles to folks.
To get the electricity flowing again to the thousands of area homes that were without it, crews from Alabama Power and Light came up to help Duke Power workers. In appreciation, Allen Foreman in North Belmont hung an old quilt with the words “Thank You Alabama Power and Light” painted on it from his front porch.
People pulled together to help one another after Hugo. One person that the Banner profiled in this regard was Ann Auten of Catawba Heights who was helping her disabled neighbor, Shirley Robinson, cope with being without electricity by cooking meals for her on a camp stove. Another story talked about how Stanley postmaster Frank Guida and his colleagues at the post office were loaned a generator so they would have lights to sort the mail.
W.C. Friday Middle School teacher Jennifer Bumgarner will travel abroad next summer through her participation in the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program. 

W.C. Friday teacher is ready to travel and learn through Fulbright program

Gaston County Schools

Jennifer Bumgarner is well on her way to experiencing a full lifetime of learning.
The W.C. Friday Middle School English teacher has a passion for education that has encouraged her to pursue professional learning opportunities outside of the classroom.  Her zeal for teaching and experiencing new opportunities led Bumgarner to apply for the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program.
Bumgarner is one of 71 individuals chosen to participate in the program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.  Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected based on academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership potential.
Spending 26 years as a teacher in Gaston County, the Florida native, who now lives in Lowell, was selected to attend the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching’s “Teaching the Holocaust: Resources and Reflections” program at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.  She says the immersive, life-changing experience in 2017 started her on the path to participate in more opportunities like it.
Bumgarner spent the following days and weeks doing research, trying to find other programs like the one she had attended.  A new quest for knowledge had been sparked in D.C., and she was determined to find other professional development opportunities.  This resulted in her being named one of 32 educators (and the only North Carolina-based teacher) to participate in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Native Knowledge 360 Teacher Institute in Washington D.C.  She also was one of 36 teachers from around the country to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute in the Adirondack Mountains.
Bumgarner says it is because of these opportunities that she was able to learn about and apply for the Fulbright program.
“These experiences have introduced me to an extensive professional network of like-minded educators,” she said. “It is because of that network that I learned about the Fulbright program. Not only will this opportunity mark the greatest professional achievement of my career to date, but it will also be my first experience traveling abroad.”
Next summer, Bumgarner will be able to cross ‘traveling abroad’ off her to-do list.  Though her destination is currently unknown, she is excited to see where the program takes her, quite literally, as Fulbright is active in more than 160 countries worldwide.  Once she is assigned a destination in January, she will travel with a small group of Fulbright educators to foster lasting connections between the United States and other countries.
Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright program has given more than 390,000 passionate students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals of all backgrounds the opportunity to study, teach, exchange ideas, and contribute solutions to important international issues.
A graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College, Bumgarner hopes that her experience will help encourage others to apply for programs that interest them.
“Teachers possess an inherent conviction that education is a vehicle for opportunity, achievement, and adventure,” she said. “And, we’re right!  There are so many opportunities for educators, and they are available at all levels.”
And if you don’t get an opportunity you apply for?  That’s OK, too, says Bumgarner.  She has applied for other high-ranking professional development experiences and was not selected.  But from those rejections, she was able to improve her application and learn from her mistakes.
“I am incredibly honored to represent my school and my community in this venture, and I am looking forward to bringing back insights that will inspire my students, colleagues, and neighbors,” she said.  “I would encourage anyone to look into opportunities that spark your passion.”

Belmont author and historian Jack Page remembers camping near the Hanks monument when it was in the woods long before any houses were built nearby. photos by Alan Hodge

Did Lincoln’s mother
live in Belmont?

One of American history’s most controversial mysteries- who  the biological father of Abraham Lincoln actually was- has roots in a Belmont neighborhood.
In the early part of the 19th century, Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, as well as her mother Mandy and sister Lucy, are said to have not only spent time in what would eventually become Belmont, but according to some folks conceive Abe while she was in this part of Gaston County- with someone other than Tom Lincoln, Abe’s “legal” daddy.
As a girl in the early 19th century, Nancy and the other girls supposedly visited her uncle Dicky Hanks who lived on land off what is now South Point Rd. To commemorate that time, there’s a stone and bronze marker on the site where Uncle Dicky’s log cabin is said to have stood.
The monument is at the very end of Hanks Creek Lane off Dorie Drive in the Pinsto development near South Point High School.
The marker was put up in 1923 by descendants of C. T. Stowe, namely Samuel Pinckney Stowe, who at that time owned the land where the cabin was situated, and features the bas relief of a cabin and rail fence. Words inscribed on the plaque read, “This stone marks the site of the log cabin home of Dicky Hanks, an uncle of Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln. Nancy spent much  
of her girlhood with her uncle.”
The rock that forms the base of the monument was supposedly dragged to the spot by mules and, according to author and historian the late Minnie Stowe Puett, was placed where the chimney to Uncle Dicky’s cabin was located.
Hanks Creek runs near the monument and prompted Puett to describe the pastoral scene.
“At the foot of the hill, under the spreading beeches, still bubbles the family spring where Nancy often quenched her thirst,” Puett wrote.
Uncle Dicky was said to often quench his thirst too, but not with water, and is referred to in some texts as a “shiftless sort of fellow.”
The tale of Nancy’s activities in our area is as tangled as the whiskers in her son’s beard and the fate of the cabin likewise.
As far as the cabin goes, in his book “Between Two Rivers”, author Ross Yockey quotes Puett as saying the cabin was bought by a man named Sam Ewing who used the logs to construct a granary. In turn, the granary was torn down and the logs recycled by C.T. Stowe for a cotton shed.
Legette Blythe’s book “Robert Lee Stowe: Pioneer in Textiles” declares that the cabin was moved from its original spot on “Uncle Sammy” Stowe’s to land at another Stowe home where it sat for years before eventually being sheltered by a shed. An undated, black and white photo of what is purported to be the cabin appears in Blythe’s book.
Then there’s Nancy’s Belmont area love life.
As far as Nancy and the possibility that she became pregnant with Abe during her Gaston County days, that tale too has taken on folkloric proportions. One theory is that Adam Springs of McAdenville is the father of Abe. Folks that follow that line of thinking point out that Springs and Abe bear a striking resemblance to one another and that Nancy had often visited Springs to do chores- and whatever else the days might have brought.
Billy Miller’s book “McAdenville, Spun From the Wilderness” declares, “The story goes on that she was forced to leave the area because of her relationship with Adam, and was taken in by Abraham Enloe of Rutherfordton, NC. When it became evident that she would bear a child, the wife of Abraham Enloe insisted she leave.”
Miller’s book contains photos of Adam Springs and Lincoln and readers can draw their own conclusions.
Local author and historian Jack Page, one of the founders of the Belmont Historical Society and co-author of “Images of America: Belmont” is familiar with the Hanks tale.
“I used to camp near the stone monument long before there was a housing development there,” Page said. “I even tried gold panning in Hanks Creek and found a few flakes.”
But Page has done research on the Hanks story and says he believes it is not as iron clad as some folks think.
“My reading uncovered the fact that in the time period that Dicky lived in the cabin that there were about a dozen girls named Nancy Hanks between Gaston and Rutherford counties,” Page said. “I don’t want to offend anyone but there is a lot of evidence to the contrary that the Belmont Nancy Hanks might not have been the one that was Lincoln’s mother.”
Nonetheless, the story of a girl named Nancy Hanks and her Belmont days is an intriguing one.  For those  interested in digging deeper, and coming to one’s own conclusions, a trip to the Main Gaston County Library’s NC history room will provide plenty of food for thought on the subject, and a trip to actually see the Hanks monument, the icing on the cake.

Officials: do not plant unsolicited seeds from China

If you have received an unsolicited packet of seeds from China, do not plant them. In recent weeks, people in Gaston County and across the country have received seed packets in the mail that they never ordered, and officials are concerned that the seeds contain invasive species.
Gaston County residents that have received these seed packets are asked to contact the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) immediately to file a report so that NCDA&CS personnel can retrieve the packets.
To file a report, residents can call the NCDA&CS at 1-800-206-9333 or go online to Once the NCDA&CS has been notified, the seed packets should be dropped off at a local county NC Cooperative Extension Center.
Gaston County NC Cooperative Extension is located at 1303 Dallas-Cherryville Highway in Dallas, NC. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Extension office is open to the public by appointment only. Please call ahead at 704-922-2119 or 704-922-2130 before bringing any seeds.

Belmont Fire Dept. gets brand new fire truck

By Alan Hodge

After many months of planning and building, the Belmont Fire Department has taken delivery of a much needed new fire truck. The 2020 Smeal brand machine was custom built for Belmont in Nebraska. It arrived in Belmont last week and will be assigned either to the Keener Blvd. or the  station on South Point Rd.
Belmont FD division captain Craig Austin led the committee that determined how the truck would be configured and equipped. Cost of the truck was around $600,000. It took a year to build.
“It should be ready for use in a couple of weeks,” Austin said. “We still have some more equipment that’s coming for installation.”
The truck weighs 44,000 pounds and is just over 32 feet long. It replaces a truck that dates to 2008 That truck will be kept at the Keener Blvd. Station as a spare.
The new truck has an amazing array of safety and firefighting devices. LED spotlights all around the truck can light up a night time scene bright as day. The cab has airbags for firefighter safety. It also has air conditioning.
The new truck has small “blind spot” cameras on the outside that show the driver what’s near the truck.

“It’s part of an advanced protection system,” Belmont FD public information officer Matthew Hodge said. When it comes to fire and rescue equipment, the new truck is trick.
The front bumper has a storage compartment for rescue tools such as the “Jaws of Life”. The new truck can carry more ladders. The truck can carry 750 gallons of water. It has inflatable air bags that can be placed under heavy objects like a wrecked car to lift it off  a victim. The truck has 1,100 feet of large diameter hose to get water from hydrants and 1,200 feet of hose for squirting on fires. Other features include an automatic oil dry dispenser and a portable electrical outlet box and generator.
The new truck is designed to carry the Belmont FD into the near future and better cope with houses that have more setback from the road as many of the ones currently being built do.
Overall, the new truck is a good example of Belmont’s city government working with the needs of its first responders and citizens.
Bishop Peter J. Jugis cuts the ribbon at St. Joseph College Seminary. See more photos in this week's Banner-News (September 23, 2020) Photo by Alan Hodge

St. Joseph College Seminary College holds grand opening

By Alan Hodge

Tuesday, September 15 saw the official opening of the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte’s St. Joseph College Seminary near Mt. Holly. Bishop Peter J. Jugis cut the ribbon for the 30,000 sq. ft. facility which is located on 86 acres just off Perfection Ave.
The school will be home to 40 young men who are exploring a vocation to the Catholic priesthood while also pursuing their undergraduate degrees at Belmont Abbey College less than two miles away.
“Priesthood is a special calling that requires a certain intellectual, human and spiritual formation,” Bishop Jugis said. “Though we’ve been blessed with many good and holy priests, we need more to meet the needs of our rapidly growing flock. So it is essential that we make every effort to help form young men to be ready to serve in our parishes when the time comes.”
St. Joseph is the only college seminary program between Washington, D.C., and Miami. It has proven so popular since it began in temporary quarters just four years ago that enrollment has tripled, construction had to be accelerated, and donors have already contributed more than $15.5 million toward the $20 million project.
With Gothic architecture and brickwork inspired by Belmont Abbey, where in 1876 Benedictine monks planted the roots of Catholicism in western North Carolina, St. Joseph College Seminary includes 40 dorm rooms, a chapel, classroom and library, faculty offices, a dining hall, and a picturesque cloister walk where students go to meditate and pray.
“We broke ground on St. Joseph in the middle of a tropical storm two years ago and are opening the doors in the middle of a pandemic – because the work of the Church goes on amid any challenges,” said Father Matthew Kauth, who serves as St. Joseph’s rector. “This is an enduring structure that is both traditional and modern, with beauty and function, that we hope will inspire future generations of Catholics in western North Carolina to continue our mission to share the Gospel.”
With a Catholic population that has grown by double digits in the past decade, the diocese launched the college seminary program in 2016 with eight students and now has 27 in residence, with young men from communities across the diocese including Arden, Boone, Charlotte, Forest City, Gastonia, Huntersville, Lenoir and Salisbury.
The college seminary program provides an opportunity for young men to study and discern a possible vocation to the priesthood close to their home. Upon graduation, most will go on to major seminaries elsewhere to pursue graduate degrees in theology and receive more specific training before returning to be ordained as priests for the Charlotte diocese.
At Tuesday’s opening ceremony, more than two dozen college seminarians standing at attention six feet apart punctuated their bishop’s remarks by singing the seminary’s Latin fight song, the hymn “Salve Pater,” which salutes St. Joseph as the college’s patron.
One of the seminarians, Clement Akerblom, explained what led him to St. Joseph.
“Since I was young, I had a desire to give myself to something,” Akerblom said. “I responded to the call and asked God where I should go. He led my family from Sweden to Charlotte. I understood seminary was where I needed to be to get to know Jesus and myself. I think it’s important for young people to understand that life is an adventure and to trust God.”
Since his episcopal ordination in 2003, Bishop Jugis has prioritized efforts to nurture potential priests from within the diocese, starting their training locally to help prepare them to serve the growing Catholic population. While the number of priests has grown 76 percent since the diocese was founded in 1972, the number of Catholics has grown by 900 percent – which means large parishes and a reliance on priests from elsewhere to help serve local  spiritual needs.
Overall, the diocese has a total of 41 men in various stages of formation for the priesthood, between the college seminary and major seminaries, up from 16 four years ago.
Learn more about St. Joseph College Seminary:
About the Diocese of Charlotte
The Diocese of Charlotte encompasses 92 parishes and missions and 19 schools in the 46 counties of western North Carolina, with a growing Catholic population estimated at more than 400,000. The diocesan website is

Shining Hope Farms client Michael Frazier sits astride Lewis flanked by instructors Rachel Evans (left) and Verena Stock. Photo by Alan Hodge

Veteran’s program launched at Shining Hope Farms

By Alan Hodge

When U.S. Navy veteran Michael Frazier, 51, climbs on Lewis the horse at Shining Hope Farms near Stanley, he’s all smiles and his worries fade away.
That’s because Frazier is one of a group of veterans taking part in Shining Hope Farm’s new “Saddles and Salutes” therapeutic riding program.
“I was looking for therapy to manage my stress and anxiety,” Frazier said. “I learned about Shining Hope Farms through my church, Stonebridge Church Community.”
Frazier has been coming to Shining Hope Farms each week since the start of the year.
“It’s something I look forward to,” he said. “It really calms me down.”
On his most recent therapy session, Frazier and Lewis were in the capable hands of riding instructors Rachel Evans from Brevard and Verena Stock who hails from Germany.
“The people at Shining Hope Farms are really nice and the instructors are very knowledgeable,” Frazier said. “Everyone is super kind and supportive.”
So, how did Saddle and Salutes get going?
The name of the program was chosen by the current veterans being served. Shining Hope Farms won a grant from PATH, Intl. to be able to start the program offering scholarships to eight participants.
Retired Program Director, Debbie Cloy, who still works for Shining Hope Farms as a PATH Intl. Instructor and her husband, Michael Cloy, who is a Colonel, USA Retired, MS, MA, MSST, EdS, Regional Coordinator, ABCCM-Veterans Services, are helping Shining Hope Farms by providing oversight for the program.
Both of these individuals have spent their entire careers, which spans over four decades, working in and with the military. Kim Deal, program director at the Shining Hope Farms Conover facility, along with Debbie, initiated the start-up program there. The staff also includes a licensed Psychologist, three PATH Intl. Registered Instructors, three PATH Intl. Equine Specialists, and a Dr. of Occupational Therapy, (American Hippotherapy Association therapist).
The grant funds are providing much needed Equine Assisted Activities and therapies to the local veteran population. Shining Hope Farms is the only service provider that is a PATH Intl. Accredited Center and has the appropriately credentialed staff to provide high quality, professional services. Through its programs, Shining Hope Farms clients build strength, life skills, and independence resulting in them becoming more productive citizens in the community. This benefits their families and neighborhoods and contributes to a stronger healthier community overall. Shining Hope Farms has received international recognition due to the positive measurable outcomes of its program participants.
“We have been wanting to do the Saddles and Salutes program for a long time,” said Shining Hope Farms executive director and founder Milinda Kirkpatrick. “There really was a need for it.  We had been getting calls from veterans and welcome more of them to participate.”
About Shining Hope Farms
Shining Hope Farms is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to enable children and adults to reach their full potential through the use of equine assisted activities and therapies. Programs provided include physical, occupational, and speech therapy utilizing equine movement as a treatment strategy called Hippotherapy. Shining Hope Farms is the only facility offering this treatment strategy in the counties that they operate in. Therapeutic Riding, a Veteran’s Program, and Mental Health Counseling is also offered to children and adults. Shining Hope Farms serves over 200 individuals weekly. They are a Premier Accredited Center of PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International) and members of the American Hippotherapy Association, and currently operate sites in Gaston, Mecklenburg, and Catawba Counties. There are 30 horses and 41 staff members consisting of occupational and physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, PATH Intl. certified riding instructors, and administrative staff, plus many wonderful volunteers which make a well-rounded program. Shining Hope Farms is also a GuideStar Exchange Gold participant, a leading symbol of transparency and accountability among nonprofits. For more information, please visit or call 704-827-3788.

Mt. Holly Fire Dept. issuing free masks while supplies last

The Mount Holly Fire Department is distributing free face masks, courtesy of the Gaston County Emergency Management Agency, while supplies last.
Residents may visit any of the fire stations Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. to receive a face mask. There is a limit of one mask per person/family member:
Fire Station 33 (Catawba Heights, 1201 South Main Street, 704-827-6722)
Fire Station 34 - Headquarters (433 Killian Avenue, 704-822-2927)
Fire Station 35 (North Station, 13455 Lucia Riverbend Highway)
Ring the doorbell when you arrive. If no response, first responders may be on a call.
Masks are required in public spaces while in public is under order of Governor Cooper.
Mount Holly first responders continue to encourage everyone to stay vigilant in the fight against the spread of infectious disease, like COVID19 Observe social distancing, wash hands regularly and wear masks when in public.
This architectural rendering shows the front and side of the new City of Belmont Parks and Rec. facility.

Plans for new Belmont Parks and
Recreation facility making progress


By Alan Hodge

The dream of a new parks and rec. facility for Belmont is slowly but surely coming closer to being a reality.
Belmont is the only town in our area without its own parks and rec. building where things like basketball games can be held. What currently serves the city as a parks and rec. place is the decades old J. Paul Ford Center on Woodrow Ave., but the city’s needs have far outgrown that one medium sized building.
On September1, Belmont’s Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe gave a presentation outlining the plans for a new and grand building to be located on Catawba Street between Kevin Lofitn Rocvwerfoprmt Park and the soon to be opened new City Hall are located.
“The response to the presentation was great,” Stowe said.
The planned new building will be two stories high and have 45,000 sq. ft. of space. The first floor will feature three basketball courts, a media room for gaming, an exercise studio, a kitchen, a kids play area, and a large lobby. The second floor will feature a walking track, an exercise room, a catering kitchen, a lounge, and more play space. The second floor will also feature a balcony with sweeping views of the Catawba River and Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park.
Just a few of the activities the new center can host includes pickle ball, gymnastics, cheerleading, karate, 
movies, ping pong, dance, badminton, classes of various types and many, many more. Folks will be able to rent space in the building for meetings, weddings, birthday parties, and that sort of thing.
Stowe sees the new parks and rec. center not only as a boon to the local activities scene, but as an economic driver as well.
“The center will be a place we can hold events such as basketball tournaments and invite as many as fifty teams,” he said. ‘This will bring people to Belmont who will shop, stay in local hotels,  and eat in local restaurants. It will be a big boost economically.”
The next step in making the new center a reality will be a zoning hearing on September 17. The plans will be presented to the Belmont city council on October 5.
“If everything is approved we could start construction in May 2021,” said Stowe. “It will take about 14 months to build.”
Stowe says the idea is to use use local builders for the project, further helping the area economy. Cost of the project is estimated to be $9-10 million.
“A new parks and rec. facility has been part of our capital improvement plan for twelve years,” said Stowe. “It’s exciting that it’s going to happen.”
Want to see the September 1 presentation on the new facility? Visit the City of Belmont website, click on Quick Links, then click on Live Meetings, the click on Community Rec Center video.
The late Reg “Moon” Huffstetler of Belmont set many swimming records. In this photo taken a couple of years ago he’s holding a trophy given to him by Humpy Wheeler for treading water for over 100 hours back in 1991 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont’s own
‘Catawba Catfish’ passes away

By Alan Hodge

One of Belmont’s most interesting individuals,  Reg “Moon” Huffstetler aka the “Catawba Catfish”, passed away on Sept. 6.  Huffstetler  left a legacy of incredible aquatic accomplishments.
 Huffstetler’s  list of swimming records are  as long as Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps’ arms.
Huffstetler got his swimming start in local water holes.
“When I was a kid I used to dam up creeks and that plus Suttle’s swimming pool on Wilkinson Blvd. is where I learned to swim.” Huffstetler once said.
Huffstetler grew up on Central Avenue near where the old Belmont city swimming pool was located. It was there as a 14-year-old that the urge to swim competitively first entered his mind. The story goes that he could beat two college age swimmers that also used the pool
The Belmont pool is also where Huffstetler got the idea to engage in long distance swimming. He honed that skill by swimming the length of the pool up to 50 times without stopping. He would swim at the pool all day and half the night.
Huffstetler’s first “official” long distance swim was in the Catawba River when he was 21-years-old. For that event he jumped in the river at the Buster Boyd Bridge and stroked upstream to the bridge at Wilkinson Blvd. In Belmont- a distance of 15 miles.
It took him just over nineteen hours to make the swim. A man in a rowboat with a

flashlight guided him in the dark. When he got to the Wilkinson bridge a thousand people were waiting.
That first marathon swim in the Catawba was just the start of Huffstetler’s swimming career. He has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records many times for his stamina treading water.
When I was treading water I went into another dimension,” he once said. “It was like going into outer space.”
Some of the water treading stints went for 100 hours, including one staged at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1991 when a special pool was constructed at turn four near the racetrack.
After Huffstetler hit the 100-hour mark, track owner Humpy Wheeler gave him a big trophy, a check for $1,000, and he got to ride in a car with a model on the parade lap.
Huffstetler’s swimming took him to places such as Canada, Holland, England, and France. In 1970 he tried to swim the English Channel from Cape Griz, France to Dover, England and was on a record-setting pace until a squall made the water too rough. In 1989, Huffstetler received an award for swimming the length and breadth of Lake Norman. He’s also a member of the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame.
East Gaston teacher Brian Johnson shows off the 2020 DENny Award, which is presented by The Discovery Education Network and recognizes his efforts in community work.

East Gaston teacher
earns award

By Allison Drennan
Gaston County Schools

Gaston County Schools teacher Brian Johnson knows that things don’t always go the way you might originally plan.
The East Gaston High School biology teacher, who says he is “on loan” to the Gaston Virtual Academy this year, is the recipient of the 2020 DENny Award, which recognizes his efforts in community work.
The Discovery Education Network presents the DENny Award to educators who actively involve students in activities that contribute to the growth of community through effective teaching and learning.  The recognition came after Johnson, who has served as the student council adviser at East Gaston, had to find a new way to organize the school’s Spring for Charity Fun Run.
The student council had been organizing and participating in the community-based run for four years.  Every year, the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes select a nonprofit to represent, raising funds for that charity with the run.

Consistently, they had been able to donate $1,500 to charities each year.
But, Johnson and his students had to find a new plan for the 2020 run.  The event could no longer be held the way it had in previous years because of social distancing requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We are so grateful for the support the community gives to our school that we wanted to be able to say ‘thank you’ and give back,” Johnson said of the motivation for organizing the run. “But this past year, we had to do something a little different.”
Teaming up with a racing company in Charlotte, the students were able to organize a virtual event to celebrate the fun run.  Because it was held virtually, community members were able participate, which was something that was not possible at previous on-campus runs.  Participants conducted their own run or walk, logged it on the computer, and asked for sponsors.  While those involved could not gather in person, they were able to communicate with each other through the online race platform.
“We just had a really good group of students,” he said. “They were great at organizing things, and they were very active in staying positive,” said Johnson.  “They were just happy the run was happening in some way.”
The students’ efforts resulted in being able to give to local food banks in Stanley and Mount Holly.  It was a worthy and timely cause especially as people in need are feeling the economic effects of the pandemic.
Receiving the DENny recognition was so unexpected that Johnson almost deleted the email, thinking it wasn’t real.  Shortly after that, he got a text from a friend, asking if he had received anything from Discovery Education.  That is how he found out he had been nominated for the award by another teacher at East Gaston, which he says is the best honor of all.
“The biggest reason that it meant so much to me was that I didn’t know I had been nominated,” he said.  “A colleague saw something I did and was appreciative enough that he took the time and effort to nominate me.  I didn’t even know I was getting the award.”
Johnson is originally from Ohio, but loves calling North Carolina home.  He started teaching in Gaston County at Mount Holly Middle School in 1999.  Two years later, he moved to East Gaston.  He graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College and earned a master’s degree in 2013 from UNC-Charlotte.  This past spring, he was chosen as the 2020 Star Teacher for East Gaston.
Johnson teaches honors biology, research methods, and Advanced Placement (AP) biology.  He especially enjoys the research aspect of his classes and encourages his students to engage in exploration, critical thinking, discussion, and discovery.  This approach helps him to connect with his students and the students to connect with science and their peers.
He credits working with great people – students and staff alike – for his love of teaching, which was not his original career path.  Now, he feels like teaching is what he was called to do.
“I work as hard as I can, and I love being a teacher,” he said.  “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

NC moves into  Phase 2.5

NC Governor Roy Cooper has announced that after a summer of hard work to slow the spread of COVID-19, North Carolina will take a modest step forward move into Phase 2.5. The order went into effect  Friday, September 4th at 5pm. Mask mandates and other prevention methods remain in effect and are even more important to contain the virus, Cooper said.
“Safer at Home Phase 2.5 continues our state’s dimmer switch approach to easing some restrictions,” said Governor Cooper. “We can do this safely only if we keep doing what we know works — wearing masks and social distancing. In fact, a new phase is exactly when we need to take this virus even more seriously.”
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shared an update on North Carolina’s data trends. Dr. Cohen explained that North Carolina has seen stability in our key metrics.
“As we take modest steps forward today, it’s important to remember that moving forward doesn’t mean letting up on slowing the spread of the virus. Our progress is fragile and we need to maintain focus on the 3Ws especially as we head into flu season,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, MD.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness continues to decline.
Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases is stable.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is stable.
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is declining.
Although these numbers are still stable or declining, they remain high. In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to be able to adequately respond to prevent virus spread. These areas include:
Laboratory Testing- The state continues to have testing capacity and lab turnaround times are averaging two days. However, fewer people are getting tested. Anyone who has symptoms or has been exposed should get tested. There are supports available to help people who may face challenges in being able to miss work or safely stay home.  
Tracing Capability- The state continues hiring contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments.
Personal Protective Equipment- North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.
Phase 2.5 means the following for North Carolina: Mass gathering limits will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors from the current limit of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors. Playgrounds may open.  Museums and aquariums may open at 50% capacity.  Gyms and indoor exercise facilities, such as yoga studios, martial arts, and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball, volleyball etc., may open at 30% capacity.  Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, amusement parks, dance halls will remain closed.  Large venues remain subject to the mass gathering limits. 
In addition, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen issued a Secretarial Order allowing for outdoor visitation at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. To participate, nursing homes must meet several requirements, including, but not limited, not having a current outbreak, having a testing plan and updated written Infection Control or Preparedness plan for COVID-19, and having adequate personal protective equipment. The Secretarial Order is effective as of September 4 at 5 PM and remains in effect through September 22, 2020.

Gertrude Harris has hit the century mark with style and grace

By Alan Hodge

There have been a lot of changes in East Belmont over the decades and Gertrude Harris has seen them all which is not surprising given the fact she will be 100 years old on September 10.
Gertrude’s parents were Claude and Martha Robinson. Like a lot of other folks in our area, her dad worked in the mills while her mom kept house. Gertrude was one of eight kids. She has a sister, Sarah Shinn, who is in her mid-90s and lives in Charlotte.
Gertrude attended East Belmont Elementary School and then went to Belmont High. She left to work at Acme Mill in North Belmont and retired for there at age 62.
Gertrude’s grandfather W.T. Robinson had a movie theater in East Belmont back in the 1920s.  It was located on Catawba St.  next to where Headhunters hair salon is now.
“My sister and I went to the movies a lot,” Gertrude said. “We had a lot of fun. We would throw peanut hulls in the fan and scare the adults with the noise.”
Gertrude grew into a stunningly beautiful young lady. Folks called her “Blackie “ due to her coal black hair. When she was 25 years old she married her husband John Harris in 1945.  They had two kids, a boy and a girl. He also worked in the textile industry and passed away in 1984.
“We traveled quite a bit,” Gertrude said. “We went to Florida, Virginia, and the mountains every chance we got. We loved going to Chimney Rock.”
Gertrude never got a driving license, but recalled when her husband bought a car.
“He walked to the Chevy dealer in Belmont and drove the car home,” she said,
The new car was such a game-changer that Gertrude said once John drove the car to a store, forgot about it, and walked home.
Gertrude has lived on Volk St. in East Belmont for around 60 years. It’s a little lane on the river. The Aberfoyle Mill once stood right behind it. Now, new apartments and townhouses occupy the mill site.
Gertrude recalled life on the river back in the day.
“My husband and father loved to fish,” she said. “There were boat shows and water skiing on the river. I remember when the airplane pilot Manson Arrowood would fly low over the river.  Back then, the river looked different than it does today. It was not as wide. I used to play on the sandy shore.”
Gertrude’s faith has always been strong. She is a charter member of Unity Baptist Church.
“I love Unity Baptist,” she says.
Another thing Gertrude loves is gardening and growing things. Until recently, she grew a vegetable garden every year. She still likes to plant flowers.
“I scoot around in the garden,” she says. “I can still wash and hang my clothes on the line. I still do my own housework. I run my house inside and outside.”
Gertrude gazes out her window and considers the way Belmont is now compared to how it used to be.
“Everything has changed,” she says. “It will never be the same.”
Gertude’s 100th birthday will be one of celebration to a life and lady that has stood the test of time in a graceful and energetic manner. What’s the big plan for the special day?
“A party at Catfish Cove!” she said. “My favorite hangout!”
Happy Birthday Blackie!
The three-story glass and steel tower on the front of the new City of Belmont Public Works Dept. building is a spectacular architectural feature. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont Public Works building renovation in final phase

By Alan Hodge

The major remodeling project on the City of Belmont Public Works building at 1401 Catawba St. is entering its final phase.
The 1980s era building, which has formerly occupied by Woodlawn Mills and Beltex Corp.  has been used by Belmont as its public works headquarters for the past several years and a major remodeling project has transformed it from a huge concrete cavern into a modern, state of the art, efficient, spacious, and comfortable complex for the city’s business and its administrative staff.
The building has a lot of space including 55K sq. ft. that will retain its use as a warehouse for city equipment, supplies, and vehicles, 
as well  as a 21K sq. ft., three level portion that will serve as the administrative office complex side of things.
As of last week, the majority of work has been done on the interior. Offices have been painted in soothing tones of green, gray, and blue with matching carpeting. Other flooring is done in grey-toned hardwood laminate. The colors compliment the view that employees will enjoy of sky, water, and trees  as they look out the windows towards Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park across the road.
The project included building a three story glass and steel elevator and staircase tower on the outside of the front of the building. The tower will feature  a large City of Belmont logo.
The upper two levels of the building will be occupied by the city’s administrative departments such as city clerk, city manager, planning and zoning, billing, and customer service. The offices will get new furniture and equipment. The furniture is expected to arrive in October. There will be a nice lunch room for employees as well as a kitchen and lockers.
For now, the lower level will be home to the Parks and Rec. Department. The lower level will be a also be a temporary  location for city council meetings. There will be room for about 300 seats unlike the current situation where council meetings at city hall are generally standing room only.
Parking will be plentiful at the renovated complex with 85 spaces.
The remodeling job also included LED lights throughout. The LEDs are automatic. When a person goes into a  room, they come on automatically. A few minutes after the room is empty, they go off. Another energy saving feature of the new building is tinted glass for the windows.
Cost of the renovation  work is estimated at $4.8 million. The city bought the building and 30 acres ten years ago for $2.5 million.
“To get this much land and have a new building for that amount of money is a no-brainer,” public works director David Isenhour said. “It is a great deal for the city.”

“Of the Year” winners announced for Gaston County Schools

Gaston County Schools has announced its “Of the Year” award recipients for the 2020-2021 academic year.
The Zoom video conferencing platform was used to inform the finalists of the winner in each “Of the Year” category:  Teacher, New Teacher, Teacher Assistant, Principal, Assistant Principal, and Central Office Administrator.
 Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year
Peter Jones, a biology, forensics, and physical science teacher at North Gaston High School, was chosen as the Gaston County Teacher of the Year, and Crystal Houser of Forestview High School was named the Gaston County Principal of the Year.  Jones and Houser will represent Gaston County in the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year regional competitions.
As the winners of the school district’s most prestigious awards for educators, Jones and Houser will receive the Wells Fargo Bank Educator Apple trophy and $1,250 from Wells Fargo to use for professional development.
Jones joined Gaston County Schools in 2015.  He is a graduate of Lee University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.  He says his secret to success in education is focusing on building relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.  
Houser joined Gaston County Schools in 1997, and before being appointed principal at Forestview, she served as the W.C. FridayMiddle School principal.  She obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology, a teaching certificate in comprehensive science, and a master’s degree in school administration and curriculum and instruction, all from UNC-Charlotte.
The finalists for Teacher of the Year were Sharon Beckford, exceptional children teacher at Carr Elementary School; Steven Austin, chorus teacher at Forestview High School; and Jennifer Gallagher, business and marketing teacher at Highland School of Technology.  The finalists for Principal of the Year were Chad Hovis, Brookside Elementary School; Audrey Devine, Stuart W. Cramer High School; and Amy Holbrook, York Chester Middle School.
The Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year finalists will receive $250 from Wells Fargo to use for professional development.
Here’s a look at the additional “Of the Year” award winners:
New Teacher of the Year
The 2020-2021 New Teacher of the Year is Trevor Dunlap of Pleasant Ridge Elementary School.
Dunlap teaches fourth grade and serves as the School Improvement Team chairperson.  He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Western Carolina University and a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Hartford.    
The finalist for New Teacher of the Year were Mica Cline, Bessemer City Middle School; Hannah Fore, W.A. Bess Elementary School; and James Tatum, Mount Holly Middle School.
Teacher Assistant
of the Year
The 2020-2021 Teacher Assistant of the Year is Maggie Jo Hess of Webb Street School.
Hess has worked for Gaston County Schools for four years.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy from East Carolina University and aspires to become a physical education teacher.  Hess also serves as the cross country coach at Ashbrook High School.
The finalists for Teacher Assistant of the Year were Kathaleen Heath, Pinewood Elementary School; Karen Hendricks, Chapel Grove Elementary School; Bridget Means, Carr Elementary School; and Shirley Trobaugh, Springfield Elementary School.
Assistant Principal
of the Year
The 2020-2021 Assistant Principal of the Year is Tom Potter of Bessemer City High School.
Potter graduated from N.C. State University with a bachelor’s degree in textile management.  He earned a master’s degree in secondary mathematics education and a doctorate degree in education leadership from UNC-Charlotte.  Before becoming an assistant principal, he taught math at Forestview High School.
The finalists for Assistant Principal of the Year were Connie Greene, Cherryville Elementary School; Deana Ohman, Bessemer City Primary School; and Patrick Watson, Bessemer City Central Elementary School.
Central Office
Administrator of the Year
The 2020-2021 Central Office Administrator of the Year is Tamara Houchard, the MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) facilitator and PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) coordinator for the school district.
A National Board Certified Teacher, Houchard joined Gaston County Schools in 2016, but began her career in education in 1999.  She obtained a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Western Carolina University.
The finalists for Central Office Administrator of the Year were Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education; and Shannon Hullett, director of elementary instruction.
“We would like to congratulate all of our award winners, finalists, and nominees for their outstanding work and dedication to the education profession,” stated W. Jeffery Booker, Superintendent of Schools.  “The educators being recognized represent more than 3,800 employees who go beyond expectations every day to support our students and inspire success.”
Dr. Booker continued, “The Board of Education joins me in commending each of our award recipients for the 2020-2021 academic year and expressing our sincere appreciation to all employees for their steadfast commitment to Gaston County Schools.”
The teacher, principal, assistant principal, and central office administrator winners are usually announced during Teacher Appreciation Week in May at the Evening of Excellence ceremony while the new teacher and teacher assistant winners are honored during a reception at the Schiele Museum.  Unfortunately, the events were not held this year because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gaston County Schools Communications Department is producing a video to recognize the winners and finalists in each category.  The “Excellence in Education Awards Presentation” will air on Spectrum Cable Channel 21 the week of September 21 and be available on the district’s YouTube channel.
The third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade is still planned for October 24 at Tuckaseege Park unlike previous years where the parade was held in the streets of downtown. Awaken Gallery photo

Third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade is a go

By Alan Hodge

Even with many special events of other types canceled due to the COVID19 situation, the third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade is still planned to take place on October 24 starting at 7pm in Tuckaseege Park.
The event will be a “parade in reverse”. That is, the lanterns will be placed at stations in the park, and folks who attend will walk past them.
“We will be following social distancing guidelines and everyone will be wearing masks,” says lantern parade founder and organizer Emily Andress of Awaken Gallery.
The previous two lantern parades were artistic spectacles that saw dozens of illuminated, handcrafted, paper and wire lanterns in an amazing array of shapes and sizes marched down Mt. Holly’s Main St. Lantern designs and constructed ran the gamut from sea creatures to birds, mermaids, a huge beer bottle, and even a vintage carriage with a (real) fairy princess child inside.
This year’s parade will be just as great. The theme will be “The Circus is Coming to Town” and many of the lanterns will resemble circus animals. Another spectacle at the parade will be the images of artist Nick Napoletano and Birdie Tucker projected into the trees and greeting everyone.
“It will be like the image of Oz in the Wizard of Oz movie,” said Andress. 
Also, lanterns will be placed on kayaks and floated down the river past the park.
As in previous lantern parades, Andress expects a a large turnout of participants and spectators.
This year’s parade is a collaboration between Andress, the Mt. Holly Community Development Foundation, and the City of Mt. Holly.
“Cheri Love with the city has done so much to help us get this done,” Andress said. “She has been invaluable.”
The lantern parades were the brainchild of Andress who in previous years has brought in lantern making talent from as far away as Ireland to help teach lantern parade participants how to craft their creations with hands-on workshops.
As in previous years, the third annual parade will have plenty of participation by local schools and students. Last year, schools that took part included Ida Rankin Elementary, East Gaston High, Mt. Holly Middle, Kiser Elementar, Springfield Elementary, Beam Elementary, Cramerton Middle, and Pinewood Elementary.
Andress has brought in Alex Brooks from the Gaston County Museum of Art and History’s educational outreach program to assist the schools with their lanterns.
“He will be working with the teachers,” Andress said. “He’s amazing and wonderful to work with.”
For more information on the parade visit
Mthollylanternparade check
The Mt. Holly lantern parade has been fortunate to garner several sponsorships including this one from Stanton Enterprises. Pictured from left Jeff Stanton, Karen Kleiner, Emily Andress, Morgan Castro.

Mt. Holly Lantern Parade Sponsorships

The Mt. Holly lantern parade has been fortunate to garner several sponsorships including this one from Stanton Enterprises. Pictured from left Jeff Stanton, Karen Kleiner, Emily Andress, Morgan Castro. 

Duke Energy begins construction of new solar projects

Continuing its expansion of solar energy to deliver cleaner energy for customers, Duke Energy has announced it has begun construction on two major solar projects in North Carolina. The projects include a  25-MW Gaston solar facility located on Neal Road in Bessemer City and a 69-megawatt (MW) Maiden Creek solar facility, located on Didley Dadburn Road in the Catawba County town of Maiden.
The projects were selected as part of a competitive bidding process that was established from 2017’s landmark solar legislation in North Carolina. The projects were among the most cost-effective and will deliver clean solar energy at the lowest possible cost.
The projects will feature about 400,000 solar panels and generate enough energy to power approximately 20,000 homes and businesses. Both projects are scheduled to come online by the end of this year. At peak construction, a combined 380 workers will be employed at the two sites.
On-site workers will fluctuate throughout the construction process. Duke Energy will ensure safe work practices by contractors meeting the highest expectations. Duke Energy will also provide proper traffic management support to ensure safe operations around the site at all times.
Under North Carolina’s Competitive Procurement for Renewable Energy, proposed projects must be built where there is a need for energy capacity on the Duke Energy system in North Carolina or South Carolina. The bids can come from any company, including Duke Energy, and can be in the form of power purchase agreements (PPA), utility self-developed facilities or utility asset acquisitions.
Duke Energy maintains more than 3,300 MW of solar power on its energy grid in North Carolina, which could power about 700,000 homes and businesses at peak output. The company also operates 40 solar facilities in the state. North Carolina currently ranks No. 2 in the nation for overall solar power.
This photo of two-year-old Jasia Guryn and her mother Romualda was made in Poland in 1938 one year before Germany invaded their homeland. Jasia would grow up to become a U.S. citizen and marry Stanley Dudko in 1962.

Dudkos have an incredible story of survival during WWII

By Alan Hodge

In last week’s edition of the BannerNews, readers learned the story of Belmont resident and Polish native Stanley Dudko, 86, and how he survived WWII. This week, marvel at his wife Jasia’s own miraculous and dramatic experiences during that time.
Jasia was born into a middle class family in Poland in 1936, just three years before Germany invaded her homeland. Her mother Romualda Guryn was a dentist that spoke seven languages, but that didn’t spare her from twice being jailed for her anti-Nazi activities.
“They smuggled packages to Jews and helped some hide from the Germans,” Jasia said.
According to Jasia, a worse fate than jail could have awaited her mother had it not been for her dental practice.
“A high ranking German officer came to her with a toothache that she fixed,” Jasia said. “Later, she was due to be shot by firing squad but he intervened at the last moment and she was spared.”
The fighting in Poland saw Jasia and her family moving from place to place. In 1944, she and her parents were on the refugee trail traveling by a horse drawn cart in an attempt to get away from the Russians. They had no money or food so her mother literally traded the coat off her back for a loaf of bread.
“The next morning we got up and started looking for the bread,” Jasia said. “Then we saw the crumbs that were left. The horse had eaten the whole loaf.”
According to Jasia, her mother maintained a low profile by dressing as a peasant in a long dress and a scarf on her head. However, the family’s ace in the hole was the jewelry stitched in the dress hem.
“I still wear one of the bracelets that was hidden in the dress,” Jasia said.
There was danger everywhere. Jasia and her fellow refugees often had to dive for cover from strafing fighter planes.
“A lot of people were killed,” Jasia said. “I asked God to have mercy on us and he did.”
That same trek saw Romualda give birth to a girl that she named Marysia. However, due to the fact that the Romualda was ill from having been exposed to polluted water, the child was sickly. Salvation in that situation came from an unlikely source.
“We were standing on the roadside when a German Army doctor stopped and put us on a truck to Germany,” Jasia said. “He said he had a baby with blue eyes like Marysia.”
The family made it to Germany where Romualda worked as an interpreter in a hospital. However, Marysia’s health grew worse.
“At the hospital they were sure my sister would die so they put her in a trashcan,” Jasia said.  “A nurse came along and heard a sound in the can and thought it was a cat or something and she opened the lid. She saved my sister’s life.”
Marysia not only lived, she grew up and eventually married Julian Hall of Mount Holly.
After the war, the family entered a Displaced Persons camp. They came to the United States in 1949 with the help of the National Catholic Welfare Association. In 1954, they became U.S. citizens. For a time they lived in Southern Pines, then came to Belmont where Jasia and Romualda attended and graduated from Sacred Heart College.
While she was at Sacred Heart, Jasia met her future husband Stanley, himself a native of Poland and a victim of the Nazis. They were married in 1962. The Dudkos have a son Michael who lives in Charlotte, a daughter Roma Grogan who lives in New Rochelle, New York, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Even though it was nearly eight decades ago that Jasia lived through harrowing times, the lessons learned then still stay with her today.
“Back then we lived by the grace of God,” she says. “Today in this country we live like kings and have never had to experience misery like so many others have.”
To top if off, several years ago Jasia took her daughter to Westerplatte, Poland, near where the Germans invaded on September 1, 1939. A large monument is located there dedicated to the Polish soldiers who fought in the battle. Jasia recalled how she felt.
“I was in awe thinking of all the people who got killed,” she said.
The front of South Point High School that shows the updated front entrance. See more photos of school updates in this week's issue of the Banner-News (September 3, 2020).

East Gaston, South Point front entrances getting a facelift
Thanks to bonds, renovation and improvement projects going on at schools

Gaston County Schools

If you have driven by one of Gaston County Schools’ campuses over the past several months, you likely noticed construction work going on.
Some of the most visible work has taken place this summer at East Gaston, South Point, and Ashbrook where the front entrance area of each high school has gotten a facelift.  The concrete canopy and sidewalk at Ashbrook and East Gaston have been replaced; they were nearly 50 years old and showing signs of deterioration. At South Point, the front entrance and offices have been reconfigured to include a secure vestibule to welcome visitors.
What the principals are saying
“The construction work has given us a front entrance that is prominent, welcoming, and secure,” said Gary Ford, principal at South Point.  “Because of the way our front office and lobby are configured, we really had two ways to enter the building, and this often confused visitors.  Now, with the renovations, visitors will know what entrance to use.  When they come into the building, they will be in a secure vestibule area that makes it possible for them to interact with our office staff without having the ability to easily access the adjoining hallways.”
“I encourage everyone who loves East Gaston to drive by our school to see the improvements to our front entrance area,” said principal Jennifer Reep.  “The concrete sidewalk canopy has been replaced as well as the front doors and windows.  The metal siding on the front of the building is being replaced, and the area will have new landscaping.  I cannot wait to see what our school looks like when all of the work is complete.  We really appreciate this investment in East Gaston.”
“We are very proud of the transformation that has taken place,” said Dr. Rebecca Wilson, principal at Ashbrook.  “It was time to replace the sidewalk canopy because of safety concerns.  The new canopy and sidewalk, the new windows, and the large panels on the front of the building have given us an updated, modern look, and we especially love the large green A that is over the front entrance.  The students and staff were amazed to see what improvements had been made.  It certainly contributes to our strong Green Wave pride.”
Other work going on 
In addition to the facade work at East Gaston, South Point, and Ashbrook, other projects are taking place.
Roof replacement is in progress at seven schools:  Highland, East Gaston, Page, Brookside, Beam Intermediate, North Gaston, and Mount Holly.  Paving projects have been completed or are near completion at Cherryville High, Mount Holly, Carr, and Bessemer City Central.
The gymnasium at Holbrook Middle School has been painted and a new floor, windows, bleachers, and lockers have been installed.  The tennis courts at North Gaston have been revamped, and work is expected to begin soon on the tennis courts at South Point.
Additional projects completed over the summer include: Gymnasium lockers at Hunter Huss.
Elevator upgrade and drainage work at North Gaston, Fencing/railing at Highland and Chapel Grove, Elevator upgrade at East Gaston, Freezer and dry storage facility at School Nutrition.
Upcoming projects: So, which projects are next?  Here’s a look. Ashbrook High School: painting and lighting upgrade, Bessemer City High School: food lab renovation, Carr Elementary School: life safety improvements (intercom, camera, security, and door upgrades), East Gaston High School: lighting upgrade and cafeteria update, Forestview High School: drainage work, Hunter Huss High School: parking lot paving and cafeteria update, Mount Holly Middle School: media center update,  New Hope Elementary School: life safety improvements (intercom, camera, security, and door upgrades), South Point High School: painting, front parking lot paving, and media center update, Southwest Middle School: HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) improvements.
How much does all of this cost?
Most of the renovation and repair projects are being paid for by the school bonds that were approved by voters in May 2018.  In the first allocation, the county approved $60 million of the $250 million in school bonds.  Approximately $40 million is for the new Belmont Middle School campus, which is under construction now.  The remaining $20 million is for renovations and repairs.
The current roofing projects cost $3.1 million, and the parking lot paving projects have a $650,000 price tag.  The work at Ashbrook, East Gaston, and South Point totals $2.1 million.  The other projects total about $1 million.  Funds (not part of the school bonds) were approved by the county to renovate the North Gaston tennis courts, and grant funding is being secured to repair the South Point tennis courts.
The superintendent says- “We are extremely pleased with the progress that has been made on critical repairs, renovations, and improvements at more than 25 schools since the school bonds were approved two years ago,” said W. Jeffrey Booker, Ed.D.  “Without question, the school bonds are an important investment in our schools, our community, and our future, and we are very appreciative of the overwhelming support for the bonds.”
Keep up with the progress- Visit the school bonds page on the Gaston County Schools website to keep up with the progress:

Two kings casino logolarge.png

Name announced for Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort

The Catawba Nation today announced Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort as the name of the gaming and entertainment destination the Nation is developing in Cleveland County, North Carolina.

“Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort celebrates our rich history and hopeful future in our ancestral lands in North Carolina – where our people were established hundreds of years ago, as the names Catawba River, Catawba County and Catawba College suggest,” said Catawba Chief Bill Harris.

“The name pays tribute to the 18th century Catawba Chief King Hagler and to the City of Kings Mountain, which will be home to the new casino resort. It also symbolizes the unique relationship that the Catawba people have historically had – and will continue to strengthen going forward – with fellow residents of the region,” Harris said.

The Catawba unveiled the name and logo for the new casino resort on Aug. 28 at a private event attended by citizens of the Catawba Nation community, casino project partners and City of Kings Mountain officials.

The Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort logo depicts a silhouette of King Hagler set against a representation of Kings Mountain.

The logo was developed in consultation with Delaware North. The global hospitality and entertainment company is advising the Catawba on the project.

King Hagler, Chief of the Catawba from 1750 to 1763, forged a peaceful relationship with the American colonists in the region while firmly defending the rights of his people. The Catawba helped protect the colonists, including during the French and Indian War, and in return the Catawba people received their support.
Stanley and Jasia Dudko of Belmont lived through perilous times in WWII and went on to have successful and productive lives afterward.

Dudkos of Belmont survived harrowing days in WWII

By Alan Hodge

This is the first of a two-part series about the World War II experiences of Polish natives Stanley Dudko and his wife Jasia who now live in Belmont. 

Next week, September 1,  marks the official beginning of WWII in Europe in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. It’s a fact that many men and women from Belmont, Mount Holly, and the rest of Gaston County have recollections of those days. However, probably no one from our area had quite the experiences that befell Polish natives Stanley Dudko and his wife Jasia who now call Belmont home.
A native of Rowno, Poland, Stanley was just five-years-old when Nazi troops invaded his homeland and the farm where he and his family lived.
“The Germans made us give them food and wire,” Dudko recalled. “They used the wire to build fortifications.”
After several years of being under Nazi rule, Stanley and his folks were liberated, so to speak, by the Russians in 1942, but as the fortunes of war see-sawed back and forth, the Germans regained the upper hand in 1943 and showed up once again at the Dudko digs.
“We had to leave the farm with nothing but a suitcase and a horse wagon,” Dudko said.
The family eventually found itself loaded into cattle cars and sent by railroad to a labor camp at Plauen, Germany, near Dresden. It was the first time young Dudko had seen a train.
“When we got to Plauen they separated the men and women and put us in barracks at the camp,” Dudko said.
Even though he was only a child at the time, Dudko was put to work in a factory building tanks for the German army. The factory was over two miles long and held over 10,000 workers. Dudko was too small to do any heavy lifting so he was given the job of crawling into newly built tanks and sweeping them clean. One day, Dudko found himself cleaning a tank, and being a curious lad, began fiddling with the starter. Sure enough, the engine roared to life, Dudko slipped the transmission into gear, and the tank took off towards the Elbe River.
“I managed to stop the tank before it went in the river,” he said.
Certain death by firing squad would have been Dudko’s fate except for the fact that he was liked by the “meister” who just laughed about Stanley’s short-lived career as a tank commander.
 “I can truly say I drove a tank before I could drive a car,” he said.
 However, as Dudko recalled, other aspects of the war were anything but humorous for a kid. Things he witnessed included seeing Jews forced to dig their own graves then being shot down into them. Bombs also rained down on Dudko’s head. As the war in Europe wound down, American and British bombers raided the tank factory day and night.
“You could put your ear to the ground and hear the vibrations from the bomber engines when they were still 200 miles away,” Dudko said. “When the bombs fell the ground was shaking and I was praying. On one raid the roof collapsed and I injured my back.”
To get out of the line of fire, Dudko and his fellow laborers would often leave the factory and head for the woods. The blazes set by the bombing were enormous. The nearby city of Dresden was reduced to ashes.
 “The fires lit up the night sky so brightly you could see the pine needles on the forest floor,” Dudko said.
The worse the bombing became, the more time Dudko and his peers spent in the woods.
“We had just a little food to eat,” he said. “Once we were cooking some potatoes and a group of prisoners came by and took them, pan and all.”
In the absence of the spuds, Dudko and the others ate roots and berries. In May 1945, American soldiers came on the scene, Dudko was freed, and sent to a Displaced Persons camp. From there, he and his family made their way in 1949 to Greenville, S.C. where he worked on a farm. Dudko then came to Belmont Abbey College in 1954 to attend college, a significant feat considering he didn’t learn to read and write until he was 11-years-old. After having lived through a nightmarish childhood, Dudko went on to great accomplishments in education and athletics as a teacher and soccer coach at the Abbey, but he still recalls those harrowing years under the Nazi boot heel and how many times he literally dodged a bullet. “I should have been killed many times,” he said. “But by the grace of God, I lived.”
 Next week, Jasia’s own hair raising WWII experiences.

Allen Millican’s photo museum currently houses around 21,000 archival pictures he’s restored and reproduced. He takes the old photos and restores them at his computer. Photo by Alan Hodge

Millican Pictorial Museum
a treasure trove of images

By Alan Hodge

If a picture is worth a thousand words then the over 21,000 images housed in the Millican Pictorial History Museum in Belmont speak volumes.
Created by Allen Millican, and located at 35 E. Catawba in the Abram Stowe House, which is the oldest house in Belmont, the free museum is the third most popular tourist stop in the Belmont area according to TripAdvisor.
“People come from all over to see the photo collection,” Millican says. “I’ve had people from as far away as Paris, France and Puerto Rico stop by.”
What’s the attraction? An incredible array of old photos that Millican has restored and reproduced.
The main body of work consists of pictures taken in and around the Belmont area. Most of these span the years from the 1920s to the 1960s. Scenes the pictures reveal include textile mill villages and workers, schools, amusements such as Stowe Park, churches, sports teams and players, and local celebrities and civic leaders. More recently, Millican has expanded his photo collection to include early scenes from Charlotte and Gastonia. He has also built up a large number of photos showing movie stars from the golden age of films.
Many of the photos are donated by folks who don’t want to see them thrown in the trash, but rather, preserved with the Millican magic. A good example are the dozens of photos donated by Yates Abernethy showing a variety of scenes and people from North Belmont.
The photos are just part of the museum’s allure. Millican knows the history behind nearly every one of the pictures and can tell the stories to anyone interested in hearing them.
“There are so many stories it’s unbelievable,” he says.
In addition to the pictures, Millican also has a large number of historical, local city directories and high school annuals.
The museum is an outgrowth of Millican’s interest in photography. After a career in the auto parts industry, he found himself ready for a change and challenge. He opened a studio in Belmont back in 2003 and things grew from there.
“The Lord designed this job for me,” he says.
Now that Millican’s collection has grown to epic proportions, he’s simply run out of space to put things. Not only that, but at age 74 he wonders what will happen to everything when the day comes he can no longer “run the shop”. Nonetheless, he has faith that things will work out.
Maybe something will come along,” he says.
To learn more about the Millican Pictorial Museum, visit the website or email Millican at or call 704-825-5391.

A number of Millican photos are also available at these sites.
Lowell NC Memories & Photos
Smyre & Ranlo NC Memories & Photos
Belmont NC Memories & Photos
Spencer Mountain NC Memories & Photos
Mt Holly NC Memories & Photos
Gastonia NC Memories & Photos
Cramerton NC Memories & Photos
The Belmont Community Organization held a drive through lunch meeting last week to thank its volunteers with a bbq plate from Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ. BCO volunteer Mitzy Bondurant gets her vittles from fellow vols Betty Moore, BCO executive director Paula Wilkerson, and vols Pat Ford and Karen Valentine.

Belmont Community Organization fills a big need

By Alan Hodge

The Belmont Community Organization (BCO) helped a large number of clients during its 2019-2020 fiscal year that ended June 30. The BCO lends a hand when people need assistance getting food, clothes, utility bill funds, Christmas gifts for 
kids, furniture, appliances, rent money, and more.
BCO statistics for 2019-2020 reveal the numerical extent of the helping hand. At Christmas, the BCO “adopted” 85 families with 193 children. The BCO kept the water on in 40 homes. A total of 729 families received clothing. A whopping 800 houses (2,020 individuals) received nutritious food orders totaling 67,881 pounds of food. Over 500 families received furniture, appliances, and household items. Sixteen families benefitted from fans and heaters.
The BCO purchased gasoline for four vehicles. Five families received kerosene for winter heating. Medical assistance was provided for 24 families. Gas was kept on in 12 homes. The BCO helped 117 households keep the lights on. A dozen families avoided homelessness when the BCO helped pay the rent.
School got started with the BCO helping 88 kids in 42 families with supplies, backpacks, and shoes. Thirty clients had a great Thanksgiving meal and holiday gift baskets delivered by BCO volunteers. The BCO also provided 43 instances of help that included everything from charges at Roses for things the BCO didn’t have on hand, gift cards, diapers, dental bills, household repairs, and more.
But the BCO is more than numbers. It’s also about the caring hearts and tirelessly working hands of its volunteers. Last week saw the BCO have its annual lunch for volunteers, with a “drive by” barbecue. The food was provided by Ranucci’s Big Butt BBQ and the 46 lunches were handed out as volunteers pulled up in their cars. BCO executive director Paula Wilkerson and vols Pat Ford, Karen Valentine, and Betty Moore braved the broiling sun to give out the much deserved ‘cue.
Wilkerson had this to say about the meal and the folks that keep the BCO going strong.
“The annual meeting is our way of saying thanks to all of our volunteers who make the BCO such an outstanding success,” she said.
The BCO is located at 91 Catawba St., Belmont. The phone is 704-825-4526.

ALERT GASTON system implemented

The Gaston County Office of Emergency Management and Fire Services (GCOEMFS) is now working with Everbridge, a leading company in emergency notification systems, to implement ALERT GASTON, a communications platform that can be used to send citizens and businesses notifications during emergencies and other critical events. This system not only allows communications to all cell phones in affected geographical areas through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning Infrastructure (IPAWS), but also allows citizens to sign up for notifications through landline and cell phones, emails, and texts.
ALERT GASTON will serve as the primary emergency notification system that GCOEMFS will use to alert residents about a variety of events, ranging from severe weather, fires, floods and other emergencies, to more routine announcements, such as road closures. Residents who sign up for ALERT GASTON can receive notifications through their preferred method of contact—cell phone, SMS, home phone, email, fax, and pager—to ensure real-time access to potentially lifesaving information.
Anyone who lives, works, or travels through Gaston County is encouraged to register immediately to receive these alerts. This can be done by going to  and clicking on the ALERT GASTON link, by downloading the Everbridge Contact app (which only allows you to receive emergency notifications) from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and registering your device, or requesting a registration form by emailing
For further information contact W. S. Melton, Jr., Public Information Officer, Gaston County Office of Emergency Management and Fire Services at 704-866-3350.

A new and unusual school year begins in Gaston County

By Alan Hodge

The 2020-2021 Gaston County Schools academic year began on August 17, but teachers and other staff members were on the job the week before getting rooms ready for students.
The traditional array of close rows of desks and chairs has been replaced by a socially distant setup. Floors are marked to show where students should stand when waiting for rides or in hallways. Temperatures are being taken. Students are going to be attending “in person” learning in rotating shifts.
In other words, things have been altered to accommodate the new reality brought on by COVID-19.
Belmont Central Elementary principal Phyllis Jacobs described what’s going on there, but her remarks pretty much apply to all schools in the county.
“We know it’s different but our mission and purpose is the best interest of everyone,” she said. “We have rallied around each other and put safe practices into place. We are putting up signs to remind staff  and students to wear masks and wash their hands. Parents can expect a safe environment for students and staff. We are excited to welcome everyone back and for the students to learn and grow. We have never experienced anything like this before, but we know the business of school.”

To help everyone become acquainted with the “new normal” Gaston Schools has issued the following information- ‘5 Things to Know’ as a new academic year begins.

Number 1: Blended model for teaching and learning
Teachers, school administrators, and other personnel are committed to providing quality teaching and learning for students.   
Gaston County Schools will operate under the state reopening plan referred to as “Plan B,” which is a blended model of in-person instruction at school and remote learning at home.
Students whose last name begins with A-K (referred to as Group A) will attend school on Monday and Tuesday and engage in remote learning on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Students whose last name begins with L-Z (referred to as Group B) will engage in remote learning on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and attend school on Thursday and Friday.
All students will be involved in remote learning on Wednesday (no students at school).  This allows for “deep cleaning” between Group A and Group B attending school for the week and gives staff time for planning and professional development.

Number 2: Technology and learning at home
Parents with concerns about sending their child(ren) to school for in-person instruction had the opportunity to enroll in the Gaston County Virtual Academy, the school district’s online school that is beginning its fourth year.  The students will engage in full remote learning five days a week and be taught by local, certified teachers who are employed by Gaston County Schools.
More than 7,000 students chose to attend the Virtual Academy – this represents about 23 percent of the school district’s total student population based on 31,000 students.
To support remote learning at home, the district is making a Chromebook computer available to every student.  The district has installed outdoor WiFi access points at high schools to aid in providing Internet access for families.  Technicians are working now on installing outdoor WiFi access points at middle schools and elementary schools. 

Number 3: Health screenings and temperature checks
When arriving at school each day, students and staff will participate in a temperature check and health screening.  The health screening form includes questions about COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, and diagnosis.  Students and staff will be required to wear a mask/face covering while at school.  Each student and staff member will receive five face masks that are washable and reusable. 

Number 4: Inside the school
The school classroom will look different for students.  Desks and other furniture have been placed six feet apart; signs about social distancing, handwashing, masks/face coverings, good hygiene, etc. have been placed throughout the building; and floor markings are in place to guide the flow of students/staff as they move through the building. 
The classroom also becomes the place where students will eat their breakfast and lunch meals.  On days when students are at home for remote learning, a meal can be picked up at their school through the district’s “grab and go” nutrition program.

Number 5:  School buses
There are 211 buses in the Gaston County Schools fleet.  Social distancing is required on school buses, which means the number of students allowed to ride the bus at one time will be limited.  A standard-size bus will be able to transport 20-24 students (depending on the number of seats) at one time.  
A temperature check/health screening will be conducted when students board the school bus in the morning.  The health screening form includes questions about COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, and diagnosis.  Parents are encouraged to accompany their child(ren) to the bus stop to aid in the health screening process.
Buses will be used first to pick up elementary school students.  Buses start rolling at 6:15 a.m. to complete the elementary school routes.  Elementary schools begin at 7:30 a.m. (unless otherwise noted).  Once elementary school routes are complete, buses will be used to pick up students for middle schools and high schools, which begin classes at 8:30 a.m. (unless otherwise noted).  In the afternoons, elementary schools dismiss at 2:30 p.m. (unless otherwise noted), and middle schools and high schools dismiss at 3:30 p.m. (unless otherwise noted).
Buses will be cleaned/disinfected between routes.  Parents will receive information from their child’s school about bus routes, pick-up and drop-off times, etc.
Girl Scout Kathryn Cupp with the “Caring Cupboard” at Cramerton Town Hall. Photo by Alan Hodge

Cramerton Girl Scout creates Caring Cupboards

By Alan Hodge

Some people might think that Girl Scouts sell cookies once a year and sit around a campfire eating s’mores. Wrong! And in the case of Kathryn Cupp of Cramerton it’s very, very, wrong.
Cupp, 16, is a Stuart Cramer High senior who is a member of Scout Troop 20416 based at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Gastonia. She’s been in scouting since childhood and risen in the ranks from Daisy to her current status as an Ambassador.
Over the years, Cupp has done service projects that earned her a Bronze and Silver Award. When the time came to go for her Gold Award, she gave it some deep thought and came up with the concept of “Caring Cupboards” which are freestanding boxes filled with food and toiletries that folks can avail themselves of for free.
Cupp explained how she formulated the plan and carried it out.
“The pandemic led me to the idea  of building coverings for nonperishable foods and other items people need,” she said. “I had a bake sale fundraiser and raised $1,400. I baked for twelve hours. Things like brownies and rice crispy treats and cookies. I advertised them on Instagram and Facebook and spent eight hours delivering them. It was a lot of hard work.”
Cupp took the money to local home improvement stores and bought the wood and other materials to build three Caring Cupboards. She did a lot of the sawing and 
hammering herself- with a bit of help.
“My dad has a background in carpentry and he helped,” she said. “I also had some help from my team mates Conner Griffin and Ronan Morano.”
After the cupboards were built, she put them up in three locations- Town Hall in Cramerton, First Presbyterian in Gastonia, and St. Mark’s Episcopal in Gastonia.
Next, Cupp stocked the cupboards.
“I took the money that was left over from buying the materials and bought things to fill them,” she said.
A peek inside the Cramerton cupboard revealed soup, ravioli, personal care  items, bottled water, macaroni, and Vienna sausages.
People are welcome to give and receive via the cupboards.
“It’s take what you need and give what you can,” Cupp said.
The Caring Cupboards are proving to be a hit.
“The ones in Gastonia have been up for two weeks and have had to be filled twice a day,”she said.
The Cramerton one is new and should get plenty of action too.
“It’s gratifying to see the cupboards being utilized,” Cupp said.
Cupp’s mom, Leah, had this to say about the project.
“I’ve very impressed,” she said. “The pandemic took some things away that she enjoyed doing, but it  also allowed her time to help people in the community.”
Cupp says he’s gotten a lot out of  her Girl Scout years and says it’s a great thing to be a part of.
“I would encourage girls to get involved and get started on their own service projects,” she said.
This is an architectural rendering of how the planned warehouse in North Belmont will look when completed.

Big development
underway in North Belmont

By Alan Hodge

After many months of planning, construction began last week on a major development in North Belmont.  The project will be a business park at Woodlawn and Cason streets. The development will be known as River West Business Park. The rezoning applicant was Belmont Industrial, LLC represented by Scott Bortzk. The rezoning was approved at the Nov. 11, 2019 meeting of the Belmont city council.
Plans are for two warehouse and office structures to be built with a total area of 60,000 sq. ft. The property where the project will take place is owned by Alliance Real Estate III. When completed, it is estimated the project could generate 250 to 350 new jobs. The project will likely require road improvements one of which would eliminate the blind intersection at Acme Rd. and Woodlawn and also shut a section of Centerview St.
 The 40 acre site where the development is slated has 
a long and interesting history going back to the 19th century when it was part of a 600 acre plot that Robert Smith purchased from Catawba Indians in 1830 for $1,000.
Later, the land was the site of Acme Spinning Mill. That textile facility opened around 1920 and operated not one, but two mills. It also had a village of company houses as well as a baseball field for workers and their families. In 1986, “the Acme” as it was known, was sold to Parkdale Mills who kept it going until 2002. In 2005 the mill and many of its houses was torn down. Since

First Baptist Mt. Holly pastor Dr. Kendell Cameron (right) and building committee chair Reeves McGlohon take a break in the nearly completed sanctuary. (Photo by Alan Hodge) See more photos on page 6 of this week's Banner-News (August 13, 2020)

First Baptist Church Mt. Holly rebuild nearing completion

By Alan Hodge

It won’t be long now.
That’s a good way to succinctly put the current state  of construction regarding the repair and rebuild of Mt. Holly’s First Baptist Church.
July 21, 2020  marked the fourth anniversary of a fire that destroyed the sanctuary of First Baptist  and damaged its Education Building. The fire was one of the biggest in Mt. Holly history and took 150 firefighters from 16 different departments several hours to control. The fire was eventually blamed on a propane torch used by a crew repairing the roof.
The sanctuary building was gutted but the exterior walls stood firm. Work took place last year to clear the twisted rubble from the sanctuary interior and allow structural engineers to assess the building’s integrity. The cleanup took six months.
After the fire, the First Baptist congregation overwhelmingly voted to use, to the extent possible, the remaining walls of the structure in the rebuilding process. The architect chosen by the church, WKWW Architects of Charlotte, created a design that blended the old and the new. Beam Construction was picked to do the actual work.
The rebuild has included several important upgrades. One is the roof structure that’s now made of heavy duty steel beams. The other is a band of concrete around the uppermost rows of bricks. The concrete will tie the walls together for extra strength.
But those are just technical details. What’s actually happened in the time from when the twisted and charred rubble inside the church was hauled off and the rebuild began is amazing.
A look inside the church sanctuary last week revealed a stunning, beautiful, awe inspiring and reverential feeling at what workers have accomplished.
“We’ve come a long way,”  First Baptist pastor Dr. Kendell Cameron said in a huge understatement.
Blackened wood and plaster has been replaced by beautiful cream-colored walls accented by rich hardwood trim. The sanctuary ceiling is the crowning touch and is shaped like a Greek cross. Recessed lighting gives the sanctuary ceiling a celestial look and feel.
New windows currently have clear glass, but new stained glass ones will be placed on the inside of them. The new windows will be similar to the original 1928 ones and are being made by Statesville Stained Glass.
“Having the stained glass windows on the inside will also help with energy efficiency,” Cameron said.
The church organ was destroyed in the fire and  Schantz Organ Co. based in Orrville, Ohio has started creating a bigger and better one. However, because of COVID, the company had to shut down for a spell. Nonetheless, the instrument will still be coming soon.
“It will be here in a couple of months,” Cameron said.
New pews for the sanctuary are slated for delivery any day now. Several of the church’s original chandeliers were saved and have been installed in the sanctuary.
Other spaces in the church have received rebuilds as well. New restrooms, classrooms, flooring, and hallways are nearly complete.
Building committee chair Reeves McGlohon estimates the bill for the rebuild will be $5-5.5 million.
So, when exactly will First Baptist be ready? That’s a good question and the answer still depends on what happens regarding the COVID impact.
“Beam has been here every day,” McGlohon said. “However, their suppliers have been impacted by COVID. We still hope to be ready by early fall.”
Having First Baptist rise from the ashes has always been more than restoring a building. It’s always been about faith.
“We are deeply excited to have a future here,” Cameron said. “COVID put a damper on the near future but we plan  on  long future.”

Cramerton Historical Society members Richard Atkinson and Ted Reece are just two of the many folks working hard to make the museum a reality. (Photo by Alan Hodge)

Progress being made on Cramerton Historical Museum

By Alan Hodge

Work is continuing to make the dream of an historical museum in Cramerton a reality, but just exactly when the facility will open is still uncertain thanks in large part to COVID19.
Nonetheless, small groups of Cramerton Historical Society members are beginning to gather artifacts and figure out how they will be displayed at the museum site in the lower level of the Community Center at 1 Julian St.
The CHS’s first president, Jeff Ramsey explained how the society and museum museum ideas were hatched.
“In 2015 we had a very successful Cramerton Centennial Celebration. Everyone enjoyed the 100 year time display from 1915-2015,” he said.  “It portrayed Cramerton’s rich history and artifacts during the celebration. We decided to create a non-profit organization, Cramerton’s Historical Society, in 2015 to share our history with surrounding communities, since we did not have a place for a museum. Our focus was celebrating the 100 year landmarks in Cramerton with fundraiser events by presenting them with historical markers, such as Maymont’s mansion from 1917 to 2017 and Mayworth / Cramerton’s School from 1919 to 2019. Multiple events were held at local elementary schools to share the history of Cramerton. We were able to help spearhead the Cramerton Veteran memorial in 2018 with the Town of Cramerton to honor all the Veterans of Cramerton. Cramerton is very excited to have a museum enabling us to provide events and display our rich history and artifacts of Cramerton. We want to thank the Town of Cramerton for all their support and for providing us a place for the museum.”
Time marched on and work began on the museum until COVID stepped in.
“We had hoped to open this summer,” said former CHS president Richard Atkinson. “But we haven’t been able to have group meetings and are a little behind schedule. We are playing it by ear and when things open up we will hit the ground running.”
According to Atkinson, the museum will be strong on visuals including plenty of vintage photos from Cramerton’s past. A good example of this is the huge, black and white aerial photo of Cramer Mills that covers one entire wall of the museum’s main space.
“Allen Millican provided the photo and Ken Parrott of Bedgood Advertising made the mural,” Atkinson said.
Another feature of the museum will be large, foldable panels that will have photos and graphics attached. There will be six double panels measuring 80x30 inches. Subject matter on the panels will be changed periodically.
One big item on the museum’s to do list is turning a small room into a replica of Stuart Cramer’s office when he ran the mills. His imposing desk is currently in the Cramerton Town Hall.
Other items planned for display will naturally include a tribute to Cramerton’s famous khaki cloth that was used to make countless WWII uniforms.
Another, larger room on the Community Center’s lower level is currently used by senior citizens as a fellowship hall for their weekly lunch gatherings. One wall of that space has already been covered with large, framed, archival photos showing things such as the hotel and rail depot that were once in Cramerton. The photos were previously in the recreation center gym across the street.
“We plan to use the fellowship hall for special events,” said Atkinson.
Speaking of special events, the museum plans several fundraisers as soon as things return to “normal”.
“We plan to have a fish fry this fall,” Atkinson said. “Another fundraiser will be a Christmas event at the historic C.C. Dawson House.”
Plenty of people in Cramerton and elsewhere are licking their chops at the thought of having a nice place to go and see the town’s rich history. Hopefully that dream will become a reality sooner rather than later.
GEMS photo

Local EMS staff provide
support after hurricane

Gaston County EMS, along with Lincoln County EMS and Stanley Rescue, deployed twelve personnel to Clayton, NC, to provide support for the effects of tropical storm Isaias. They will form an ambulance strike team consisting of three advanced life support ambulances, two basic life support ambulances, an AST logistics trailer, and an ambulance strike team leader. Gaston County EMS personnel: Deputy Chief Jamie McConnell, Crew Chief Josha Crabtree, Paramedic Dwayne Shipton, Paramedic Ashley Pierce, EMT Mark Hines, EMT Cameron Woods, EMT Shelby Speas, EMT Darrell Williams. Lincoln County EMS personnel: Paramedic Jonathan Thomas, Paramedic Steven Bridges. Stanley Rescue personnel: EMT Madison Meadows, EMT Lindsay Nelson.


Cotton Ginning Days Festival called off

The Gaston County Parks and Recreation Department announced today it is canceling the popular Cotton Ginning Days Festival this fall due to the continued impacts of COVID-19.
The three-day festival in recent years has drawn more than 30,000 attendees to enjoy antique tractors, a still-functioning cotton gin from 1900, craft and food vendors, plus live music and much more.
County staff had worked for months on trying to come up with alternatives for how to safely host the event, but given the continued high number of COVID-19 cases in both Gaston County and the state, leaders determined it was in the best interest of everyone involved to wait until 2021.
“This was a really hard decision,” said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Hart. “We know how much the community loves this event and we’re heartbroken to have to cancel it for this year. But we know next year’s event is going to come back even bigger and better than ever and we look forward to seeing everyone again in 2021.”

Mt. Holly PD gathering school supplies

Officers of the Mt. Holly Police Department have started a school supply drive called “Books & Badges”. This school supply drive will be for the four schools within Mount Holly jurisdiction. A  box is  located in the MHPD lobby for donations of any new school supplies you would like to give. Pens, pencils, colored pencils, 3 subject notebooks, 3 ring binders, loose-leaf paper, crayons, hand sanitizers, tissues, and disinfectant spray are needed. When school restarts, MHPD separate the school supplies and distribute them to Mount Holly Middle, Ida Rankin, Catawba Heights, and Pinewood. Your donations are greatly appreciated!!

Gov. Cooper extends Phase 2 again

Last Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper  announced that North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 for another 5 weeks as students and staff return to schools, colleges and universities and the state doubles down on efforts to decrease COVID-19 numbers.
“Other states that lifted restrictions quickly have had to go backward as their hospital capacity ran dangerously low and their cases jumped higher. We will not make that mistake in North Carolina,” said Governor Cooper. “In keeping with our dimmer switch approach with schools opening, and in order to push for decreasing numbers which will keep people healthier and boost our economy, North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 for 5 weeks.”
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shared an update on North Carolina’s data trends. Dr. Cohen explained that while some of North Carolina’s numbers have mostly leveled, any progress is fragile as other states have shown with sudden and devastating surges in viral spread.

“While overall we are seeing signs of stability, we still have much work to do. Our recent trends show us what is possible when we commit to slowing the spread by wearing face coverings and following those simple but powerful 3Ws,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is declining, though remains elevated.
Trajectory of Lab-Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases has stabilized but remains high.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is stable but still elevated. 
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is beginning to level.
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to be able to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread. These areas include: Laboratory Testing-  While testing turnaround times have improved, the number of tests done has decreased over the past week. Testing is a priority for anyone who has symptoms or those who may have been exposed to COVID-19, including:  Anyone who has attended a mass gathering including a protest.  Anyone who works in a setting at higher risk of exposure such as a grocery store, restaurant, gas station, or childcare program.  People who live or work in high-risk settings such as long-term facilities, homeless shelters, correctional facilities or food processing facility.
Tracing Capability- The state will continue hiring contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments. There are over 1,500 full-time and part-time staff supporting contact tracing efforts, including the 615 Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) contact tracers.
Personal Protective Equipment- The state personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.
The groundbreaking for the Catawba Nation Casino gets under way (on Wednesday, July 22) as nine men, representing the Nation and its leaders, the City of Kings Mountain, Cleveland County Commissioners, Delaware North, and Sky Boat Gaming ceremoniously get a shovelful of dirt to toss into a pile, signifying work is officially begun on the long-awaited casino. Left to right are: Wallace Cheves (Sky Boat Gaming); Butch Sanders (Catawba Nation); Jason Harris (Assistant Chief of the Catawba Nation); Sam Beck (Catawba Nation Councilman); Johnny Hutchins (Cleveland County Commissioner); E. Brian Hansberry (Gaming President, Delaware North); Rodrick Beck (Catawba Nation Secretary/Treasurer), Scott Neisler (Mayor, City of Kings Mountain); and Catawba Nations Chief William “Bill” Harris. Photos by Michael E. Powell

Ground For A Multi-Million Dollar Casino


Recently representatives from the Catawba Indian Nation, located in Rock Hill, S.C., and the City of Kings Mountain, and from Cleveland County, met to break ground for the Catawba’s Casino Resort Project.
The group of individuals met at 10:30 a.m., at the Catawba’s 16-acres of land set aside for the casino, just off Exit 5 on I-85, the actual address being 260 Dixon School Rd., Kings Mountain.
In a Monday, July 20, media release from Tribal Administrator Elizabeth Harris, there was limited space available due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the expected mask and social distancing guidelines and rules were in place.
Catawba Chief William “Bill” Harris, after brief introductions of all those who were invited to speak and take part in the auspicious occasion, said, “We are privileged to work with the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners and the City of Kings Mountain. We are also pleased to be working with Delaware North as well as Sky Boat Development.”
Chief Harris spoke about the history of the Catawba Nation and the tribe’s close historical ties with first the English during the French and Indian War, then with the Colonial Americans, when they later took up arms against the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain.
He spoke of the Catawba’s great King Hagler, who in the 1750s spoke about living in peace, love and friendship with all nations. King Hagler, or Nopkehee, was born about 1700, and died in 1763. He became Chief of the Catawba in 1754.
“We, the Catawba Nation, were there to read the signs and warn the colonists of British attacks,” Chief Harris said, as he continued on the history of the Catawba Nation.
Chief Harris referenced how their nation has developed many partnerships over the many years, bringing it home by referring to the coming casino and its many job opportunities by saying, “Today, we celebrate the thousands of jobs that will be created; we celebrate the economic growth that will come about.”
Regarding that economic growth: it is estimated that a total of $428.1 million will be realized as far as an annual economic impact is concerned. The breakdown is as follows: $308 million (once operational, in per year of direct economic activity and employment of an estimated 2,600 workers); $77.3 million (an additional per year in indirect impact through local purchases from local business); and another $42.8 million per year in induced impact from employer expenditures, according to information provided by London & Associates (February 2020). This same study projects that construction activity alone will generate $311 million, with a “total employment of 2,347 from direct, indirect, and induced effect”, as per that same media release.
Harris continued, “Today the Catawba Nation wants to express it gratitude to Kings Mountain, Delaware North, Cleveland County, and Sky Boat, as well as others as this project unfolds.” Some of those others he talked about include U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, Richard Burr, Tom Tillis, and Sen. Scott for their 2019 support that encouraged the request to accept the 16 acres of land into trust for the Catawbas. That decision is still being contested by the Cherokee Tribe but the casino continues to move forward, noted Chief Harris, in a March 2020 article in the Eagle.
According to the Project History & Timeline handed out at the groundbreaking, the projected Introductory Phase, complete with 1,300 operational gaming devices is possibly summer of 2021.
Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler, who was one of the project leads, along with Cleveland County Commissioner Johnny Hutchins, was quoted on the handout as saying, “Finally, the Catawbas have the opportunity to perpetuate their culture as a meaningful elevation of their place in North American history.
“Before today, this eight-mile stretch of I-85 had little to offer to locals and tourists. With this project we will become the premier destination between Atlanta and Washington, DC, for entertainment.”
Neisler said at the groundbreaking, “Today, we are standing on official Catawba Nation lands! This is historical Catawba land! We are all Americans, and we are in lockstep with them, and wish them well in the furthering of their culture. I want to thank Chief Harris and others of this Catawba Nation for having us as guests on their land.”
Commissioner Hutchins was quoted on the handout as saying, “Our steadfast partnership with the Catawba Indian Nation has brought us to this moment in time to celebrate their culture and their desire to improve the future of tribe members and those in Cleveland County and the region through jobs, tourism, and economic potential.”
He added at the groundbreaking, “This (casino and its jobs) is going to be beneficial to us all.”
In addition to Hutchins being there for the Cleveland County Commissioners, Chairperson Susan Allen was present as well, as was Delaware North’s Gaming President E. Brian Hansberry, and a host of dignitaries and others. Sheriff Alan Norman and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Department provided security and direction for the event.
Hansberry noted that Delaware North wants “to create a world-class operation here,” and that they were “glad to be working on this.”
In closing, Chief Harris, said, just before inviting everyone to the actual groundbreaking area, “This project will have a huge economic impact on this area!”
Providing tribal music and prayers for the event, along with ceremonial drumming were Jason and Ronnie Beck.
For those desiring more information on the Catawba Nation Casino or the tribe, contact Elizabeth Harris, Tribal Administrator at, or call (803) 366-4792, ext. 225.
Mike and Kristina Lore getting set to tend their great Piedmont Homestead garden. The Lores sell their organic produce at the Mt. Holly Farmers Market. See more photos in this week's Banner-News (August 6, 2020) - Photo by Alan Hodge

Piedmont Homestead Is A Little Bit Of Heaven

We are stardust, we are golden. We are billion year old carbon, And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
– Woodstock ~ Joni Mitchell

By Alan Hodge

Mike and Kristina Lore’s Piedmont Homestead market garden and farm near Alexis is a miniature Garden of Eden.

Several years ago the couple decided to plant a garden on their six acre piece of land located on Alexis-High Shoals Rd. and the banks of Sailors Branch. Now, those few rows have grown in scope to the point where they are able to have plenty of vegetables for themselves and enough to carry each weekend to the Mt. Holly Farmers Market for sale.
“Two or three years ago I started learning about food and the more I got into it I decided to share that knowledge and the produce we grow,” Mike said.
Right now, the garden has about a fifth of an acre under cultivation out in the open and another large space under a high shelter similar to a greenhouse. Goodies the Lores are growing includes melons, kale, carrots, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, cukes, and several types of herbs just to name a few things.
Like most uncultivated places in our area, the soil the Lores started out with was red dirt with plenty of weeds. Mike shared his tips on how he took that situation and turned it around so that vegetables and flowers can really get going.
“You need plenty of compost,” he said. “We don’t till the soil which stirs up weed seeds. We put sheets of plastic on top of the weeds to kill them then take it up and put lots of compost down. Wood chips go between the rows. We turn the compost over with a broad fork.”
The Lores get their compost by the yard from Earth Farms in Dallas. A big heap is stockpiled behind their house ready for spreading.
“Clean compost also helps keep the weeds down,” Mike said.
Water is also a vital element for gardening and Mike offers this advice.
“The first step in gardening is planning the location so you have good light and water,” he said. “That’s very important.”
To keep the critters from eating up everything in the outside garden, Mike took black locust poles and plenty of wire to build a high fence. They have a flock of Golden Comet chickens and an electric fence keeps varmints out. Their friendly red dog does his part by patrolling the grounds.
When crops are picked Mike and Kristina take them to a room out back of their garage for washing, packaging, and transport to the Mt. Holly Farmers Market. Some of the crop they donate to Mt. Holly’s Community Relief Organization.
Right now, the garden is a supplemental form of income, but there are plans in that regard.
“Hopefully, in a couple of years we will be able to farm full time,” Mike said. “That’s the goal.”
For Mike and Kristina, having the garden is a lot more than about making money, it’s a rich, healthy way of life and a boon to body and soul.
“There is a lot of meaning in having your hands in the soil,” Mike said. “It’s a lot of work, but well worth it.”
To find out more about Piedmont Homestead, visit the website at

Belmont Abbey College Housing Update

Progress continues with the new housing facility at Belmont Abbey College. The five-story residence hall will be the Belmont Abbey College home for 136 upperclassmen – 34 students on each of floors two through five with classrooms and faculty offices on the first floor.
Unfortunately, due to numerous weather delays during the initial stages, the Abbey is anticipating an October completion for the most significant housing project in the history of the College. To support safety during the pandemic and rather than providing an option to triple its residents, the College will be providing a modular unit option, at a significantly reduced rate—$2,300 rather than $3,700 for fall 2020.
The modular units will offer the same amenities as  existing housing options. The single occupancy 10’ x 10’ rooms will include a shared bathroom with one other resident—the same assigned roommate for the new hall. Each room has a single bed, desk, vanity, and television with shared laundry facilities located within. The units will be temporarily located in the parking lot adjacent to the baseball field, dining hall, and the Saints residence halls.
To accommodate the temporary loss of parking during this growth phase, the College is permanently expanding the parking lot adjacent to the Alumni House and Science building, which will add approximately 90 additional parking spots. The Abbey is currently developing a more detailed parking plan for fall 2020, particularly for residents of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica.
The modular units, while temporary, will still provide a safe, high-quality, living experience until the construction of the new hall concludes in October. With its integrated location, the new units provide an ample opportunity for new community building with its easy access to the residential side of campus, the Crusader Success Hub, the dining hall, athletic facilities, and the quad.
New event venue could be coming to Belmont... Deborah Baxa (right) and friend Laura Blye in the Camelot Meadows bamboo forest.

New Event Venue Could Be Coming To Belmont

By Alan Hodge
Belmont resident Deborah Baxa lives on a stunning 30+-acre piece of land right on Lake Wylie near the Hot Hole. She could sell some of it to developers for yet another subdivision, or keep it all to herself. But Baxa has what she believes is a higher and better use for the property- a new event venue she’s calling Camelot Meadows.

Deborah’s husband, Lt. Col. Dr. Mark Baxa, passed away just a few years ago from brain cancer at the age of 59. He was an incredibly accomplished man who among other things was a U.S. Navy and Air Force Reserves veteran, and medical director at what is now CaroMont Health. He was also passionate about working on and beautifying the property he and Deborah shared.
Deborah says the concept for Camelot Meadows came to her as a way of honoring and remembering Mark’s love of their land and a desire to share its splendor with others.
“I feel it’s important to share it with the community,” she said. “There are so many hidden gems on this property that most people are not even aware of.”
A tour of the acres turned up one really interesting feature- an enchanted bamboo forest. The bamboo growing there towers over 20 feet tall. Walking or riding through it on a trail Mark carved out is a unique and magical experience. Deborah is also sharing the bamboo for a good cause.
“Once a year Bhutanese refugees come over from Charlotte and harvest the shoots,” she says. “Last year they harvested five hundred pounds which fed one hundred fifty people.”
Another way that Baxa wants to help the Belmont area community is by having people with physical challenges come use her horses for equine riding therapy.
Another cool feature of the Baxa land is a creek with large boulders. The creek runs down to the lake and the view from the adjacent field is stunning.
It’s in that very field that Baxa wants to build  Camelot Meadows’  huge, 7,560 sq. ft. barn. Actually, the barn is built, but about 1,500 miles away.
“It’s in Nebraska waiting to be brought here,” she said.
The type of events that Baxa envisions for Camelot Meadows could include weddings, corporate events, arts and craft fairs, photo shoots, concerts, holiday parties, private parties of all types, etc.
In addition to the event structure, Baxa also has plans for cabin to be built on a knoll beside the rocky creek overlooking the lake.
So far Baxa has gotten letters of support for the project from the Gaston Regional Chamber, Belmont Mayor Charles Martin, the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce, Gaston County Travel and Tourism, to name a few.
So, when will the project move from the planning stage to a physical reality? Seems there’s a bump in the road. Or lack of a road. The property is landlocked in a sense and Baxa needs road access to it from South Point Rd.
“There are access issues I am still working on,” she said.
In the meantime, Baxa is holding a series of concerts on the lake with the money benefiting local nonprofits. The next one is set for August 9 for Girls on the Run, then September 13 for Holy Angels, and October 11 for Belmont Memorial Skate Park. The music starts at 6pm and winds down at 8pm. The address is 156 Lake Mist Dr., Belmont (Baxa’s house). For boaters it’s the Hot Hole area.
As Baxa says- “This land is meant to be shared and appreciated by others and will always be a part of Mark’s legacy.”
For more information visit
South Point High in Belmont has been getting a much needed face lift this summer. Money for the project came from the 2018 bond referendum. Photos by Alan Hodge

South Point High School Gets Facelift

South Point High in Belmont has been getting a much needed face lift this summer. Money for the project came from the 2018 bond referendum.

No Vote Taken On Confederate Monument At Board Of Commissioners Meeting

The Gaston County Board of Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, July 28, but  did not vote on a possible relocation of the Confederate monument outside the Gaston County courthouse.
The meeting took place at 6 p.m. at the Harley B. Gaston Public Forum at the Gaston County Courthouse, 325 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, in Gastonia. The meeting was livestreamed on the County’s website,, as well as broadcasted on the Gaston County Government Access Channel, which is available to Spectrum and AT&T U-Verse subscribers.
Last month, the Board of Commissioners tasked a 12-member citizen panel dubbed the “Council of Understanding” to debate the future of that Confederate Monument.
The Board plans to receive a report on the Council of Understanding’s 7-5 vote to recommend relocating the statue from Commissioner Tom Keigher, who chaired that citizen council. The board may provide direction to County staff as to allowing citizens to vote on a referendum, asking state officials to lobby for a change in the 2015 law concerning objects of remembrance, or to pursue other options.

YMCA Supports Parents As Schools Reopen

The Gaston County Family YMCA responds to community needs amidst Gaston County Schools recent school reopening decision by providing both full day and Afterschool options to support working families.
 “With school reopening we know it is more important than ever to ensure working parents have safe and reliable childcare as well as support as they learn remotely,” said Sharon Padgett, CEO. “The Y has been a long time partner of Gaston County Schools. It is only natural to work together.”
The Y Enrichment Program will offer options for students in cohort A, cohort B, as well as virtual only students at four locations serving children from kindergarten through 8th grade. This program will provide a safe and enriching environment that is fully outfitted for remote learning as well as traditional YMCA programming such as themed weeks, small group games, physical activities, arts and crafts, and more.
The program will take special precautions outlined by the CDC to ensure the health and safety of staff and participants, including limited group sizes, assigning students to one group for an entire week and modifying adult to student ratios.
“We are hard at working preparing for students,” said Padgett, “We know this school year will look and feel different than ever before and want to help all kids have the opportunity to thrive.” The Y is working hard to serve children throughout Gaston County for the 2020/2021 school year. Reservations are now available at for the 2020 School Year to allow parents to secure your spot. Please note, we are taking extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of all participants during the COVID19 crisis, therefore, spaces are limited.

Jack Page with just a few of the Native American artifacts he found on the South Point peninsula. Photo by Alan Hodge

South Point Peninsula Was Once A Native American Haven

By Alan Hodge

Long before, centuries before, the South Point peninsula began its transformation into a clogged two lane road and a sea of subdivisions, the area was a wilderness home to Native Americans and early European settlers.
Few, if any, folks know that better than lifelong Belmont resident and historian Jack Page who spent many, many days exploring abandoned South Point farmsteads and the banks of the South Fork River looking for whatever historical treasures the soil held. Page’s finds included an impressive collection of arrowheads, spear points, pottery, musket balls, and colonial era utensils a considerable amount of which is on display at the Belmont Historical Museum.
Page recalled finding his first Native American artifact on the South Point peninsula.
“The area had been logged fairly recently,” he said. “The trucks had left some deep ruts. My eyes fell upon a perfect spear point. I later discovered it was over 10,000 years old.”
Page was bitten by the amateur archaeology bug.
“At one time there was a lot of abandoned farm land on the South Point peninsula. I could park my vehicle beside the road with full confidence that no would mind if I walked those fields. I never dug. I was a surface hunter. I loved to hunt artifacts that emerged when the ground had been plowed or disturbed in some mammer.”
Page described some of the places he found artifacts.
“Any old home site was a prime area,” he said. “Also, where Indian camp sites had been situated near water such as the South Fork River.
Usually I began by looking for rock chips from arrowhead making. Then I began looking in such  an area in earnest.”
What did he find?
“Local tools and points in our area are made from quart and rhyolite,” Page said. “Each culture in our area had distinct projectile types. As time moved on, the introduction of agriculture began a cultural revolution that needed tools for clothes making, food preparation, and containers for storage.”
Europeans appeared on the South Point peninsula in the early 1700s. At one time there was a small fort built there. Early settlers were named Leeper, Kuykendall, Stowe, Armstrong, and Smith. Among the artifacts that Page found that might be attributed to these and other pioneer folks were musket balls and table knives.
Page commented on the changes that have taken place on the South Point peninsula.
“The demise of farming on South Point and the building boom has limited or destroyed evidence of Native American having lived here for thousands of years,” said Page. “The Catawba tribe was a late coming group that had been predated by numerous earlier cultures. If you are lucky you might still stumble upon a projectile point or a pottery shard. These artifact are overlooked unless you educate yourself by studying those like the ones in the Belmont Historical Society.”


Gaston Schools Adopts Reopening “Plan B”

By Alan Hodge

Last week the Gaston County Board of Education voted 8-1 to adopt the state’s “Plan B” for the reopening of schools on August 17. Board member Dot Guthrie cast the “no” vote
Superintendent Jeff Booker recommended the  plan after studying reports by school officials. Other plans that were under consideration included reopening under plan B, at 50-percent capacity, and plan C, totally remote learning.
Plan A/B will use a combo of learning options for student “cohorts”. Cohort A will go to school classrooms and see teachers on Mondays and Tuesdays. Cohort B students will go on Thursdays and Fridays.
On the days when students aren’t actually in a classroom, they will avail themselves of remote learning. Wednesdays will see all students doing the remote learning thing and classrooms will get a good cleaning.
To get to their remote learning lessons, kids in grades K-5 will dial up the Schoology program while their older classmates in 6-12 will use Canvas.
Another learning option will be the school system’s Gaston Virtual Academy.
Health and safety are at the heart of the back to school plans. Students either exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 won’t be allowed in school even if they don’t show symptoms. Students who have been exposed but don’t show symptoms will have to stay home for 14 days. If they test positive but don’t have symptoms the wait is ten days. At least one symptom means no school. A negative test means the student must not have a fever or any other symptoms for 24 hours before going back to school.
School nutrition has been factored into the plan as well. Each day will see breakfast and lunch brought to the classrooms. On the days that students aren’t actually in class, the highly successful “Grab and Go” food delivery program will be used to make sure the kids are fed.
Gaston Schools will also develop other COVID-19 safety plans including how to handle the situation if an outbreak happens not only in classrooms but buses as well. The state currently requires only one student per bus seat. Students must also wear a mask while riding the bus. Gaston County Schools buses will be cleaned electrostatically after each trip.
Karen Leatherman, Joan Widenhouse, and Candace Nichols getting ready to give out Today’s Daily Bread lunch boxes. Photo by Alan Hodge

Lunch Truck Lights Up Children’s Lives

By Alan Hodge

During the summer, the sound of music coming from  a truck rolling down a neighborhood street usually means the ice cream man has arrived. However, this summer, a similar sight and sound has a very different meaning for kids in several local neighborhoods. That’s because Candace Nichols has created  a unique and uplifting variation to that scenario.

A former HR executive, Nichols felt an itching dissatisfaction with her career and felt that there had to be a higher calling out there  so she came up with a unique concept- why not deliver free lunches to kids and while the chaps chow down, share a Bible story and sing a little hymn together. You might call it a Vacation Bible School on wheels.
Nichols named her brainstorm Today’s Daily Bread and set about making it a reality.
“I was astonished to learn about the hunger need in Gaston County,” she says.  “My heart has been broken with the knowledge that over sixty percent of school-age children are accustomed to receiving a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year, but during the summer, the story is quite different. While some of these children have ways to receive a free lunch during the summer via the Summer Feeding Program hosted by Gaston County Schools, a large gap exists among the population of children, that are unable to get to where these meals are served.  The gap of hunger included all ages of children, from elementary to high school. As I walked through doors and met people that God ordained along this path, I learned of neighborhoods being served in this county and in my town, but I also learned that the need for a mobile food delivery truck would complement the great and commendable efforts that are in place today via organizations and churches in my community to fill the hunger gap. The mobile food truck idea could indeed fill a unique need in our county and yes even in my town of Belmont. God took me on the fact-finding mission by using people such as Brad Rivers, Dallas Butler, Sue Johnson, Ann Hixson, Cliff Calvert, the late Reverend Alexander, and others to open my eye that even in my town of Belmont, where the main street flourishes with restaurants, coffee shops, shopping. In my town, just past the mix of new homes and old mansions, are neighborhoods that have children that are hungry when school is out of session.  God had confirmed this, His purposefully planted idea, of having a mobile food delivery truck was not a perceived need. There was/is a real need for this in my community.”
With the help of numerous sponsors, Nichols acquired a delivery type truck and outfitted it. She put a sound system in it that belts out hymns as the vehicle rolls along. Food is supplied by the Gaston County Schools nutrition department. Nichols picks it up at North Belmont Elementary School and with the help of a volunteer, heads out into neighborhoods where the lunches are distributed to children waiting in yards and curbside.
Currently, Nichols is delivering around 170 lunches per day. The food is good. A typical meal might have chicken nuggets, a couple of types of vegetables, and a cookie. Oh, by the way, ice cream is on the menu on Fridays.
Nichols summed up her mission plan succinctly.
“Our objective is to provide a healthy free lunch to any child 18 years and younger that falls within this hunger gap during the summer while school is out of session and ensure they know that Jesus loves them,”  she said.
Hall Park is one of the neighborhoods that Nichols delivers to. Karen Leatherman lives there on Peachtree St. and her lawn is where her twin granddaughters and several other kids gather under a big tree for a shady lunch and Bible lesson.
“Today’s Daily Bread is the most refreshing thing to come  in a long time,” Leatherman said. “It really gives the kids something to look forward to. It’s been a blessing. The kids enjoy the lunch and learn a lot too.”
Even though she’s the muscle and brains behind Todays’ daily Bread, Nichols is only taking a sliver of the credit for herself.
“This is God’s thing,” she said. “He allows me to do it.”
Today’s Daily Bread is a non-profit and donations are its lifeblood. To find out more go to www.Today’

Gov. Cooper Announces Back To School Plan

Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen were joined last week by education and health leaders to announce health and safety plans for K-12 public schools for the new school year. Schools will open for in-person instruction under an updated Plan B that requires face coverings for all K-12 students, fewer children in the classroom, measures to ensure social distancing for everyone in the building, and other safety protocols.
“The most important opening is that of our classroom doors. Our schools provide more than academics; they are vital to our children’s’ health, safety and emotional development,” said Governor Cooper. “This is a difficult time for families with hard choices on every side. I am committed to working together to ensure our students and educators are as safe as possible and that children have opportunities to learn in the way that is best for them and their families.”
The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit outlines the updated requirements for Plan B. Districts may choose to operate under Plan C, which calls for remote learning only, and health leaders recommend schools allow families to opt in to all-remote learning. Modifications have been made to Plan B since it was released in June to make it more protective of public health.
“After looking at the current scientific evidence and weighing the risks and benefits, we have decided to move forward with today’s balanced, flexible approach which allows for in-person instruction as long as key safety requirements are in place in addition to remote learning options.” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD. “We will continue to follow the science and data and update recommendations as needed. We ask every North Carolinian to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and follow the three W’s: Wear a face covering when in public, Wait 6 feet apart, Wash your hands.”
Governor Cooper also announced that the state will provide at least five reusable face coverings for every student, teacher and school staff member in public schools. In June, the state provided packs of personal protective equipment to schools that included a two-month supply of thermometers, surgical masks, face shields and gowns for school nurses and delegated staff who provide health care to students.
“Educators and stakeholders across our state have worked tirelessly to reopen our school buildings safely for our students, teachers and staff. Today, we take another critical step towards that goal. We also know families need to choose the option that is best for their children, so all school districts will provide remote learning options,” said Eric Davis, Chairman of the State Board of Education.
“In-person education is important for children, and it happens in the context of a community. This plan strikes the right balance between health and safety and the benefits of having children learn in the classroom. We must all continue with proven measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission like wearing a face covering, keeping distance between people, and frequent hand and surface cleanings so we can move closer to safely re-opening public schools,” said Dr. Theresa Flynn, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, a practicing pediatrician who serves on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Pediatric Society and joined today’s announcement.
Under Plan B, schools are required to follow key safety measures that include:
Require face coverings for all teachers and students K-12. Limit the total number of students, staff and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure 6 feet distance can be maintained when students/staff will be stationary. Conduct symptom screening, including temperature checks.  Establish a process and dedicated space for people who are ill to isolate and have transportation plans for ill students. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the school and transportation vehicles regularly. Require frequent hand washing throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in every classroom. Discontinue activities that bring together large groups.  Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups. Discontinue use of self-service food or beverage distribution. 
In addition, schools are strongly recommended to follow additional safety measures that include: Designate hallways and entrance/exit doors as one-way. Keep students and teachers in small groups that stay together as much as possible. Have meals delivered to the classroom or have students bring food back to the classroom if social distancing is not possible in the cafeteria. Discontinue activities that bring together large groups. Place physical barriers such as plexiglass at reception desks and similar areas .
In addition to the announcement about school plans, Governor Cooper shared that North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 after the current Executive Order expires on Friday, July 17.
“As we continue to see rising case numbers and hospitalizations, we will stay in Safer At Home Phase 2 for three more weeks,” said Governor Cooper. “Our re-opening priority is the school building doors, and in order for that to happen we have to work to stabilize our virus trends.”

Jeffrey Booker

Superintendent’s Message For Parents And Employees

Dear Parents and Employees:
Last week, Governor Roy Cooper made an announcement about the reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 academic year.
School districts across North Carolina, including Gaston County, will be able to implement a blended model of instruction (referred to as Plan B by the state) that allows for students to attend school in-person on a part-time basis and engage in remote learning at home.
While “Plan B” makes it possible for students to attend school in-person for the first time since March, it challenges school districts to develop a comprehensive plan that outlines how schools will operate when the new year begins on Monday, August 17.  Our operational plan must take into consideration a number of health and safety guidelines such as social distancing, wearing face coverings, hand washing recommendations and other cleanliness precautions, etc. as they relate to scheduling, classroom setup, delivery of instruction, bus transportation, school nutrition, arrival and dismissal procedures, and many other logistics.
It goes without saying that the upcoming school year will be like none that we have ever experienced before.  The coronavirus pandemic has changed almost everything about how we live, and it has brought about a “new normal” for our society.  Without question, school will be very different for the unforeseeable future.
We know that you have many questions about what school will be like for 2020-2021.  You will be receiving more information  and your school will be sharing information with you very soon.  Additionally, we want to thank those of you who have shared your comments with us, sent an e-mail, completed our parent and staff surveys, and/or participated in our Parent Advisory Council meeting and our meeting with teacher representatives from the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) local chapter.  Your feedback is important to us as we develop our operational plan and the Board of Education considers the plan.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will need everyone associated with Gaston County Schools to be flexible, patient, open to change, understanding, and willing to do whatever is necessary to provide quality instruction for children while adhering to the highest health and safety standards.  Make no mistake about it, the time ahead of us will be difficult, but our school family is very capable of turning challenges into opportunities.
Thank you for your support and commitment to Gaston County Schools.  Working together, I am confident that we will continue to inspire success and a lifetime of learning even during an unprecedented pandemic.
Jeffrey Booker, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Community Supports Mt. Holly PD With Prayer Vigil

The Mt. Holly Police Dept. was recently honored and humbled to have Pastor Mike Johnson (pictured), Pastor Jesse Fields, his wife Annie Fields, Pastor Shannon Williams, MHPD Chaplain Reverend Angela Pleasants, and members of the community coordinate a prayer vigil. Pastor Johnson presented Chief Roper with a beautiful plaque and it is now displayed inside the department headquarters. He also presented “Tool Kits” for every Officer and they were very much appreciated. The level of support MHPD receives from everyone is truly appreciated and they are honored to serve such an outstanding Community.

Photo provided
Ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of CaroMont Urgent Care in Belmont. (Left to right): Ryan Campbell, Vice President of Operations for CaroMont Medical Group; Dr. Costa Andreou, Executive Vice President of CaroMont Medical Group; Charlie Martin, Mayor of Belmont; Ted Hall, Former President of the Montcross Area Chamber; Julie Bowen, Director of Member Services for the Montcross Area Chamber; Tommy Roache, Administrative Resident for CaroMont Health; Jared Dyson, Director of Urgent Care Services for CaroMont Health.

CaroMont Health Adds New Location To Urgent Care Network

On Tuesday, July 14, CaroMont Health  added another location to its growing clinical network with the opening of CaroMont Urgent Care in Belmont.
Located at 1223 Spruce Street, the new office will offer expert care for urgent medical issues seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. With online reservations available and walk-ins welcome, the new office will offer convenient access for neighborhoods and businesses in this growing area.
“In a family-oriented community like Belmont, urgent care is important to ensure patients have access to flexible care options,” said Costa Andreou, MD, Executive Vice President at CaroMont Health. “CaroMont Urgent Care is located a short distance from CaroMont Pediatric Partners, CaroMont Women’s Health and South Point Family Practice, to name a few, so the location should be very convenient for both existing and new patients to CaroMont Health.”
The 4,950 square-foot-facility includes onsite x-ray and laboratory testing, and healthcare providers will offer care and treatment for minor illness and injuries, like colds, ear infections and sprained ankles.
As in all CaroMont Health facilities, additional COVID-19 safety protocols, such as social distancing, enhanced cleaning measures and required face covers, are in place to ensure the safety and comfort of all patients.
“It’s great to see CaroMont Health growing and expanding here in Belmont,” said Charlie Martin, Mayor for the City of Belmont. “We are looking forward to the new hospital, and the addition of this urgent care facility is going to be a big help to our residents.”
CaroMont Urgent Care is the first of many projects CaroMont Health will undertake in the Belmont area. In addition to the announcement of a new hospital planned to open in 2023, the health system is also working on several medical office projects in the area, including the renovation of CaroMont Pediatrics Partners-Belmont.
“The Belmont area plays a critical role in our medical network, and we are fortunate to be part of a community that has supported our efforts to expand healthcare services,” explained Dr. Andreou. “These projects are a reflection of our steadfast commitment to the thousands of patients who trust us to care for them and their families.”
Patients may reserve their spot online by visiting
Patients who have concerns of COVID-19 should call the practice to discuss their symptoms prior to scheduling online or arriving at the practice.

Yates Pryor - The Mayor Of Ridge Drive - Has A Lot To Celebrate

By Alan Hodge
Celebratory and congratulatory vehicle parades have been a popular way of well-wishing these past few months and one took place on Ridge Dr. last week in to celebrate the 90th birthday of Yates Pryor.
The 20-vehicle parade included Mt. Holly police cars, a Community Fire Dept. truck, and numerous other autos driven by friends and family. Huge balloons and festive greetings painted and penned on signs were also part of the curbside party. One sign even announced that Pryor was the “Mayor of Ridge Dr.”.
Pryor’s daughter Beth, who with sister Amanda Eldridge had planned the show, described another unique aspect of the already amazing event.
“A storm was predicted during the time we were decorating and lining up the cars for the parade,” Beth said. “It held off until we were all safe in the carport partaking of the refreshments. After the storm passed, we were blessed to see both ends of a beautiful rainbow.”
As you might imagine, Yates was totally surprised by the tribute.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “Nothing at all.”
Pryor is still enjoying a pretty interesting life. He was born on July 9, 1930 in North Belmont and graduated from Belmont High in 1950. After graduation, he was in the Air Force and served in the Korea and Japan.
For many, many years he was involved in the movie theater business. He worked for Paramount Pictures. His job was to make sure movies got distributed to theaters. He did a lot of traveling and meeting with theater managers and owners. Paramount supplied him with a new car every couple of years. When the car hit 50,000 miles or three years, he was allowed to purchase on the cheap.
Some of the theaters Pryor dealt with included ones in Mt. Holly like the Gaston, Belmont’s Iris, the Lure in Lake Lure, the Mimosa in Morganton, the Rocky in Lowell, the Joy in Kings Mountain and many, many more.
“Sometimes I went to theaters as far away as Atlanta,” Pryor said.
The movie business still holds a special place in Pryor’s heart, but something else is even more dear to him- his wife of 64 years, Sarah.
“My cousin introduced us,” he said. “She was working at McLure Lumber in Charlotte as a bookkeeper.”
According to Sarah, their first date was as Tony’s Ice Cream in Gastonia for a milkshake.
That milkshake got things going sweetly. Another place the pair enjoyed going was Suttles Swimming Pool on Wilkinson Blvd. You might say the romance blossomed and even went swimmingly, because on March 25, 1956 they were married in Homestead Methodist Church in Charlotte.
After living with Yates’ mom for a while and also in an apartment near the old Park N Shop on Wilkinson Blvd., they built the house they still live in on Ridge Dr. in 1962.
So, what has been the secret of their 64 years together? Travel and going to movies, lots of movies since Yates had passes to many theaters provided amusement.
But the bottom line?
“Love!” says Yates. “She’s a keeper!”
Shepherd, Henry, and Emily Rust harvest some goodies from their plot at the Mt. Holly Community Garden. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mount Holly Community Garden Is A Plant-Based Paradise

By Alan Hodge
The Mt. Holly Community Garden is in its sixth season and bigger and better than ever.
Located at 126  N. Main St next to First United Methodist Church,  the garden has become a mecca not only for the folks who have garden plots there, but also for people just wanting to sit on a bench and take in all the flowering and vegetable wonderfulness.
Right now, the garden has 52 beds brimming with a bounty of fantastic flowers and an astounding variety of vegetables ranging from ten-foot-tall Russian Mammoth sunflowers to tons of tomatoes, many pounds of peppers, artichokes that won’t choke Arty, cornucopias of corn, etc. etc.
“We had a great growing season,” said garden VP Erin Denison. “It was perfect for all kinds of produce and flowers.”
As it has before, the garden is giving a part of the harvest to the Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization.
“This year we have the produce from ten beds dedicated for donation to the CRO,” said Denison. “So far, that’s one thousand pounds. We’re hoping for two thousand pounds.”
Wait, there’s more. A beautiful new mural on the side of the tool storage shed is nearly complete. The artwork  
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Kameron Radford is the band director at Stuart W. Cramer High School. One of his students nominated him for the Grammy Music Educator Award. See RADFORD, Page 4

Kameron Radford Earns Award Nomination From The Grammys

Gaston County Schools

It is every musician’s dream to win a Grammy Award.  One band director in Gaston County Schools is a step closer to making that dream come true.

Kameron Radford of Stuart W. Cramer High School is one of 216 quarterfinalists from across the United States to be nominated for the Grammy Music Educator Award.  It’s a recognition that honors K-12 and collegiate music educators who have made a significant contribution to the field of music education and advocate for maintaining music education in schools.

The winner will be chosen from 10 finalists and attend the 63rd annual Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.  The finalists will receive $1,000 as well as $1,000 for their school’s music program.  Fifteen semifinalists will receive $500 prizes.

“For me, being nominated is especially humbling because it was a student who secretly submitted the initial application,” said Radford.  “I was extremely surprised to receive the e-mail informing me that I was chosen as a quarterfinalist.”

Selected from more than 2,000 applicants, Radford takes his place as one of the top music educators in the country.  It is a well-deserved acknowledgement for Radford, who always knew that he wanted a career in music.

Radford is “homegrown” in Gaston County Schools.  He graduated from Hunter Huss High School in 2004 and Appalachian State University in 2008.  After earning his degree, he returned to his high school alma mater as the band director.

When Stuart W. Cramer opened in August 2013, he jumped at the opportunity to become the school’s first band director, a job he has thoroughly enjoyed for seven years.

“As a band director, I have the opportunity to work with the most amazing students, and everyone in the Stuart W. Cramer community is so supportive,” said Radford, who has high expectations of his students and wants them to strive for the best not just in band, but in everything they do.

“The best part of my job is teaching students the skills needed to reach the highest level of excellence,” said Radford.  “Many of the skills learned in band like responsibility, commitment, perseverance, and teamwork are the same skills needed to be successful in life.”

Radford’s interest in music began at a young age.  He recalls listening and dancing to music at his grandmother’s house when he was just three years old – his favorite song at the time was “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys.  He enjoyed learning songs while in elementary school at H.H. Beam and began developing his musical talent in middle school.

“I feel like my passion for music took off in the Southwest Middle School band room where learning to play the trumpet was the best thing for me,” said Radford.  “Once I got to high school, I realized that being a part of the band was so important.  It’s where I found a friend group of like-minded people who all supported each other as we worked toward a common goal.”

While in high school and college, he emerged as a band leader, serving in the prestigious role of drum major.

“My experience in high school taught me the skills necessary and gave me the confidence to audition for drum major my freshman year at Appalachian,” said Radford.  “As the drum major at Appalachian, I got the opportunity to travel to three Division 1-AA national championship games, march in the New Year’s Day parade in London, and have a sideline view for our historic upset of the Michigan Wolverines in 2007.”

Radford credits his band and music experiences over the years as well as his high school and college band directors, Andy Washburn and Dr. Scott Tobias, for shaping him into a successful band director who is worthy of the Grammy Music Educator Award.

“Being involved in band during a formative time in my life is what ultimately solidified for me that education would be my life’s work,” explained Radford.  “I will cherish my memories of band for the rest of my life, and they are part of the reason why I strive so hard to give my students similar experiences.”

Radford added, “Through music education, it is my hope that I can give my students the same thing my teachers provided for me – a sense of purpose and a place to feel safe and valued.”
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First Baptist Belmont Welcomes New Pastor

By Alan Hodge

First Baptist Church in Belmont has a new preacher.

Pastor Andrew Renfroe, 32, preached his first message there on July 28 standing at a podium made from wood that had been part of the original 1874 sanctuary.

That connection between past, present, and future is at the heart of this story.

First, a quick look back at the founding of First Baptist.

Back in 1874 a group of about a dozen folks living in and near what was then called Garibaldi Station decided to form a church. At first they met under a brush arbor- basically tree limbs on a frame. Soon the desire for a sanctuary was hatched.  Two of the attendees, John Benny Smith and his wife Sara Abernethy Smith sprang into action. Sara donated the plot of land where the current First Baptist Church sits. John had wood sawed and stacked at the ancestral Smith farm in what is now Catawba Heights. The lumber was intended to upgrade the log cabin where they lived. Instead of using it for that purpose, it was taken to the little plot of land and the very first sanctuary, Friendship Baptist, was built with it. Over the years, the original building was replaced with larger and larger ones as the church membership grew. The main sanctuary now is an imposing and grand structure that sits on the original plot- the highest point in the city of Belmont.

Now, let’s meet Renfroe.

A native of Shelby, he’s married to wife Jayda who is a teacher at Gaston Christian School. They have two children, five-year-old Elliott and eight-year old Amelia. They currently live in South Gastonia. Renfro graduated from Crest High in 2006 and from North Greenville University in 2011.

Growing up, Renfroe attended Second Baptist in Shelby. His first church job out of high  school was at Hope Community Church in Cleveland County. He went from there to New Hope Baptist in Earl where he was associate student and children pastor. Next, he went to Second Baptist in Mt. Holly where he was an associate children pastor for two and a half years and interim pastor for a ear and a half. The First Baptist folks voted him in as their pastor in May and, as previously mentioned, he preached his first message on June 28. It had been four years since First Baptist had a senior pastor.

Refroe is a history buff and has spending hours in the First Baptist archives room learning about the church’s rich history and the place it has held in Belmont for nearly a century and a half. He’s well aware that attendance has dwindled from around three or four hundred twenty years ago to the fifty of so folks that show up on Sunday mornings now.

He’s determined to reverse that trend through new programs and philosophies designed to raise the First Baptist profile and recapture the spirit that led to its formation in the first place.

Renfroe says one of his main goals will be to increase awareness that First Baptist is eager to become more involved in community events.

“The church members have a heart for community outreach,” he said.”They love each other and they love the community. They are happy to serve and meet people where they are.”

Just from talking to Renfroe, it’s obvious his energy and enthusiasm for First Baptist is genuine and deep.

“My family and I are very excited to start the next chapter not only in our ministry but also in the life of First Baptist Church, Belmont,” he said.  “If you are looking for a church where you will be treated like family and welcomed in with open arms, look no further. First Baptist Church, Belmont is the church that exists in the community, for the community. Be on the lookout for exciting things to be going on at FBC, Belmont!”

Above all, Renfroe wants folks to know one thing.

“The brightest thing First Baptist has is its future,” he said. “God has plans for this church!”

Major Upgrades Transform Stowe Park

By Alan Hodge

“A picture perfect park.”

That’s how Belmont Parks and Recreation director Zip Stowe describes the new look of Stowe Park.

A fixture and attraction in downtown Belmont for decades, Stowe Park has seen some improvements over the years, but the latest phase of work has taken the place to a whole new level of loveliness and usefulness. The project was started back in March.

Topping the list of new upgrades is the pavilion. This structure forms a graceful arch 22-feet high and sits on a 30x40-foot concrete pad. The pavilion is lighted for evening events and will be the perfect venue for concerts, parties, company picnics, even weddings. The pavilion was built by Blueprint Construction out of Graham, N.C. and cost about $150,000 which was paid for out of the city General Fund.

The new stone retaining wall at Stowe Park is a classy addition that blends in with the Spirit of the Fighting Yank WWII memorial statue’s location on S Main St. The wall replaces an eroded dirt embankment and has several levels with each of them filled with nice flowers and shrubs. The stone walkway from the Fighting Yank down to the famed Stowe Park fountain has also been landscaped with rose beds and new benches.

The crumbling main staircase leading into Stowe Park has been replaced with a grand looking stone one. It also features a stunning new center metal handrail that’s

built to resemble leaves and foliage. The rail was designed by Tiz Johnston of Gastonia.

The drainage problem in the center of the park often left that area a soggy mess after heavy rain, but that problem has been solved. Numerous picnic tables and mulch have replaced the mud. Grass has been sown there and it’s coming up nicely.

“The grass looks awesome,” Stowe said.

About the only thing that’s left to totally finish the Stowe Park facelift is the placement of some new playground equipment that will include a handicapped accessible roundabout and play unit for kids aged two to five years.

“The factory that’s making the playground equipment had to close so delivery has been delayed,” said Stowe.

Besides Stowe Park, other parks in Belmont have been getting a going over.

“Davis Park will also eventually get new playground equipment,” said Stowe. “Other parks such as Linford and Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park have been getting landscaping work and rubber mulch.”

A note- as of this week, park restrooms and playgrounds are still closed, but Belmont parks are still a great place to visit and enjoy some peaceful scenery and shade.

Officials: ‘Do Not Use Pre-Filled Absentee Ballot Request Form’

If you have received an unsolicited pre-filled Absentee Ballot Request Form in the mail,  Gaston County Elections officials say “do not use it” because it is invalid and should be thrown away immediately.
If you send in this form, it will be rejected for violation of North Carolina law because it contains partially printed or pre-filled information, such as your name and address.
A third-party organization known as The Center for Voter Information (CVI), which is an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., has mailed out approximately 80,000 pre-filled forms to NC voters, and nearly 1,500 of those went to Gaston County residents. It is possible that you may receive one within the next week.
NC elections officials have informed the group of the issue, and it has stopped any additional mailings with the pre-filled voter information. However, CVI plans to send out blank absentee ballot request forms, which are valid.
If you would like to request an Absentee Ballot, voters may pick up a request form at the Gaston County Board of Elections (BOE) or call to request a form. You may also use this form to submit your request and return it to the Gaston County BOE.
For the November 3 General Election, the deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is October 27.

Town Of Stanley Recipient Of $50,000 Grant

he Town of Stanley has received a grant from SC Johnson to support a local initiative to help the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $50,000 grant provides funding for a program to assist citizens, who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with utility bills and groceries and supplies. The program is being administered by the Town of Stanley and a special committee; to ensure the funds are distributed to community members in need during these unprecedented times.
Working together, Town Manager Heath Jenkins and Stanley Parks and Recreation Director, Tug Deason, developed the program to provide critical assistance for those who had and continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Steven Denton stated “The Town of Stanley is so fortunate to have a great corporate citizen, who during a national, state, and local emergency, step up and offer their assistance to those impacted by COVID-19. We are very blessed to have SC Johnson, a family owned company, in our community”.
For more information regarding this grant program, please contact the Town of Stanley at 704-263-4779 or email

Belmont PD Looking For Public Input

On Monday, July 20, 2020, a team of assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement  will begin examining the Belmont Police Dept. compliance with 459 law enforcement standards. The assessment is part of a voluntary process to receive accreditation, a highly prized recognition of professional excellence. As part of the on-site assessment, agency employees and members of the community are invited to offer comments about the Belmont PD’s ability to meet standards for accreditation in one of two ways:
By telephone at 704-829-4036 between the hours of 3pm and 6pm on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Telephone comments are limited to 10 minutes and must address the agency’s ability to comply with CALEA standards, or by submitting written comments to Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., 13575 Heathcote Blvd., Suite 320, Gainesville, VA 20155.
Please contact the Belmont Police Dept. at 704-825-3792 or email bcarroll@cityofbelmont .org and reference CALEA if you have questions. You can review a list of CALEA standard titles at this link
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Susan Clements Touched A Lot Of Young Lives During Her Career At FUMC Belmont

By Alan Hodge

At the end of this month, when First United Methodist Church Belmont Child Development Center assistant director Susan Clements retires, she will leave behind a 39 year legacy of love and learning.

Clements grew up in a military family and says she’s from “all over the place”, but landed in Gaston County in 1972.

“I graduated from Ashbrook High in 1974,” she said.

She married her husband Ronnie and held jobs at John’s Hobby Shop, Akers Motor Lines, and the kindergarten at Belmont Central.

Fate had other career plans for Clements.

“One of the teachers at FUMC left and I got the job,” Clements said. “I taught the two year olds for six years. My son was in my first class.”

Clements had found her niche.

“That’s when I knew I loved working with the younger kids,” she says. “They have been my calling.”

Clements explained what her favorite part of working at FUMC has been.

“I love how eager the kids are to learn and how happy they are when they figure something out,” she said. “They also love for me to tell them stories- any kind of story. They also love to dance. We have a part of class called Spotlight Dance and they get up one by one and dance to music.”

Getting the kids ready for the day when they enter the school system is also a big part of their FUMC day.

“One joy for me is the fact that at the beginning of the year they can’t spell their name but by the end of the year they can,” Clements said. “I tried to teach them a letter of the alphabet each week so they know how to write it.”

Clements has also stressed the importance of a well-rounded day for her kids.

“They get outdoor recess at least a couple of times a day,” she said. “They hear a Bible story on Tuesday and a music teacher comes on Friday.”

Clements says she has had good fortune to have worked with her boss, Linda Smith, who is FUMC’s Childhood Development director.

“We have worked together well, we are like sisters,” she said. “Linda is the reason this place is so successful.”

Smith returned the compliment.

“I would like to thank Susan Clements for giving 39 years of service to First United Methodist Church Child Development Center,” she said.  “What a legacy of love and care she has given to our church and the Belmont community. Susan has enriched the lives of so many children over the years. She is an institution in our CDC program. She’s a joy to work with and I will always treasure our work relationship that we have shared for 39 years. Many fond memories!! This community has been blessed by her leadership and her compassion for children. Susan has been a delightful co-worker and a great friend to everyone and yes, Thelma, you will be sorely missed by me, Louise. Happy retirement! Much love goes with you from all of our staff. May God bless you, Susan.”

July 1 marked 39 years since Clements first arrived at FUMC, so what does she plan to do in her retirement?

“We have a little cabin in Rutherford County,” she said. “My goal is to travel and camp.”

As far as advice to the FUMC CDC teachers now and in the future, Clements offers this.

“Keep it simple,” she said. “Love the children like they are your own and they will love you right back. They will always remember your smile and that you made them happy.”
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Stanley Middle School Drive By Farewell

Stanley Middle School held a drive by farewell for its departing eighth grade students. It was a bittersweet moment to see the kids go, but everyone was happy at the thoughts of the bright futures they will have and all they will accomplish in high school. More photos on page 11 of this week's Banner-News (July 9, 2020)

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Vince Hill Junteenth event organizer and Elements of Empowerment Inc. officer waves to the crowd. Photo by Monique Floyd Photography

Belmont Celebrates Juneteenth With A Parade

By Delta Sanders

It was a Belmont Juneteenth Celebration like none before. There was no gathering in Stowe Park. There was no drum circle, no face painter, no tie dye T-shirt station, and no cultural food vendor.
However, there was an unprecedented acknowledgment and recognition of Juneteenth, as many celebrated it for the very first time.
In recent weeks, several people have learned that Juneteenth is the celebration of the abolishment of slavery in the United States, specifically the June 19, 1865 reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas.
Elements of Empowerment, Inc. worked with the City of Belmont to convert their traditional cultural festival to a virtual format.
The Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Parade was a central piece of the virtual event.
Main Street, Belmont was the center stage for the parade, complete with Belmont Police and Fire Department escorts.
The Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of Charlotte led Elements of Empowerment, Inc., sponsors, partners, vendors, and other participants in a regal procession that ended just after crossing Wilkinson Boulevard.
Along the way, the downtown crowd and Belmont residents expressed excitement and pleasure as the caravan passed by.
“I was very impressed and at the same time humbled by the pouring out of support shown today during our parade,” said Vince Hill, co-founder of Elements of Empowerment, Inc.  “Many thanks to all who participated and those who waved from the street.”
Keisha Byrd, who drove in the parade,  echoed his sentiment. “I was in awe of the business owners who came out to the sidewalk as we passed by and the residents who waved and greeted us from their porches and driveways,”  said Byrd.
Duane Patterson, who also drove in the parade, took notice of the many vehicle spectators who happily paused to honor the motorcade.
The moment that police and fire vehicles blocked Wilkinson Boulevard, historic reality became apparent to those participating in the parade.
Six-lanes of traffic were halted while the Juneteenth Celebration Parade crossed to the other side.
Gene Sanders got caught up in that moment. “I didn’t want it to end,” he said.
Throughout the planning and execution of the revamped event, Elements of Empowerment, Inc. received significant support from their “nearest” and dearest sponsoring partners.
 “The City of Belmont truly contributed on all levels,” Delta Sanders said. “I enjoyed working with Cassidy Lackey on the fine details.”
She added- “Belmont Abbey College Athletic Department had a large presence in the parade.  The Abbey Players joined the parade lineup after producing a Juneteenth video that features Director Simon Donoghue.”
 “The Abbey Players were honored to take part in the 2020 Belmont Juneteenth Celebration,” Margaret Petry Smith commented. “From the car parade to all of the creative and fun online components, it was truly a meaningful way to commemorate this important anniversary.  We were especially moved to be asked to film a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, highlighting and reaffirming its historical significance.”
Looking forward, Vince Hill remarked- “I am so proud of our relationship with the City of Belmont and Belmont Abbey College and The Abbey Players. We can only anticipate the success we will experience with our 2021 Juneteenth event,  jazz concert, and our reading series.”
The history of Juneteenth
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston , Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. These days, Juneteenth  celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures.  
Belmont has a tradition of recognizing Juneteenth. The Juneteenth idea was introduced by former Belmont city councilwoman Anna Young. From there city council recruited a group of volunteers to help develop the event. The first Belmont Juneteenth celebration was in 2012.
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MHPD Officer Ray Mathis Named 2020 Rotary Club Officer Of The Year

By Mary Smith

Each year the Rotary Club of Mount Holly honors our local police department through a special luncheon during their weekly meeting. At this event, the Officer of the Year is announced by the Chief of Police.
Due to COVID-19, festivities were planned a bit differently than in the past. This past week Rotary Club ordered lunch for each of the Mount Holly Police Department staff members. The meals were purchased from local eatery JackBeagle’s, located in downtown Mount Holly.
It was clear as soon as Officer Ray Mathis walked into the room that this special recognition was a true surprise. He was joined by his loved ones and the other officers on his team who were scheduled to work later that day.
Officer Mathis has worked with the City of Mount Holly for two and a half years, hired while attending BLET (Basic Law Enforcement Training) at Gaston College. He is a member of the county’s Mobile Field Force Leadership and also serves in the National Guard.
During his remarks, Chief of Police Don Roper highlighted Mathis’ work ethic and warrior mentality. Last month, he and fellow officers assisted in the delivery of a baby on the side of a Mount Holly road.
The result of his hard work is still paying off dividends. Officer Mathis noticed a possible print on a small piece of glass from a bathroom window that was broken during a break-in last winter. He dusted and lifted the fingerprint and the department received the results back last week.  The print he lifted resulted in a 100% positive match for the suspect, and charges are forthcoming.
Officer Mathis has also taken it upon himself to share information with the Department by creating a “Leads List” containing information about possible leads regarding possible crime in the area.
The true definition of a public service, Mathis has a heart for serving the community. He recently decided to create a back-to-school program called “Books and Badges” in which he will be accepting donations of school supplies for the upcoming school year for each school in Mount Holly.
“Officer Mathis has proven himself to be a great fit for our community during his time at MHPD. His caring attitude and work ethic highlights his contribution to our team. Mount Holly is fortunate to have Ray as an officer, and I am proud to have him representing our department,” remarked Chief of Police, Don Roper.
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Steady Progress Being Made On New Belmont Middle School

By Alan Hodge

Progress continues to be made on the beautiful new Belmont Middle School under construction on South Point Rd.
Ground was broken in late March 2019 for the project and despite a few weather related hiccups has continued at a steady pace ever since.
Gaston Schools employee and project manager Paul Nault had this to say.
“We hope to be finished by the end of January, depending on the weather,” he said. “We are under the roof and getting a lot of work done inside. We are not stagnant. We are moving forward.”
Inside work currently underway includes installing terrazzo tile flooring, ceilings, wiring, and painting, and  other odds and ends. The terrazzo will be polished to a glass-like sheen, adding even more beauty to an already stunning  school.
“The terrazzo floors will be here as long as the building,” said Nault.
One nice feature of the inside are the skylights that let natural light flood in. In this respect, Belmont Middle is similar to the new Stanley Middle School where skylights are an important architectural feature. Indeed, Belmont Middle’s  floor plan is similar to Stanley, but as Nault calls it “stretched” to accommodate more students.
Sports are an important part of Belmont Middle and the new school will have superb facilities for them. Out back, a nice brick concession stand and press box overlooks the football field and a paved running track. Bleachers will be ADA accessible.
“This is a nice setup,” Nault said. “It is being done right.”
Other outdoor work that still needs doing includes installing more sidewalks, curbing, paving, finishing the athletic fields, and landscaping.
What’s Nault’s overall feeling about the project?
“Belmont loves South Point and Belmont Middle,” he said. “They were well due for a new school and this is one they can be proud of.”
Here are some more Belmont Middle School construction facts:
The new school will replace the current Belmont Middle School located on Central Avenue. That structure  is nearly 80 years old and was formerly Belmont High.
Beam Construction Company of Cherryville is building the new school, and LS3P Associates is the architect.  LS3P also designed the new Stanley Middle School, which opened in March 2018.  The new Belmont Middle School is similar in design to Stanley Middle School.  Beam Construction also built the new Pleasant Ridge Elementary School in Gastonia, which opened in August 2017.
The cost to build the school is an estimated $33.54 million, and construction will take about two years.  It is expected to open for the 2021-2022 academic year.
The new two-story school will feature more than 155,000 square feet of space and be able to accommodate 1,000 students.  The core areas of the school such as the cafeteria and gymnasium will be built to accommodate 1,200 students to plan for future growth.
A modern library and media center, which will serve as the heart of the school and be located near the main entrance;  a spacious cafeteria with stage area and large gymnasium to allow for a variety of uses; grades separated by wings, with the sixth grade on the main floor and seventh and eighth grades on the second floor as well as administration areas on each floor; separate bus and vehicle entrances with more than 200 parking spaces and a pick-up lane that is able to accommodate 100 cars; maximum use of natural light and energy efficiency throughout the school; and new athletic facilities including a multipurpose football field with a six-lane track, baseball and softball fields, bleachers, a field house, and equipment storage facility.
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Photo by Jennifer Hall

South Point Grads Celebrate With A Parade

South Point High graduating seniors held a celebratory parade last Saturday. The conga line of cars formed up at Main Street Crossing shopping center and made its way through  downtown and then on to the school. It was a great way to say farewell to the Class of 2020.
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Paramedic Trevor Gosselin receives his recognition for Outstanding Rescue Preparedness from Acting Captain Melanie Massagee.

Gaston EMS Celebrated ‘EMS Week 2020’

Paramedic Trevor Gosselin receives his recognition for Outstanding Rescue Preparedness from Acting Captain Melanie Massagee.

May 17-23, was the 46th anniversary of National Emergency Management Services or EMS Week. As the coronavirus health crisis continues to unfold, our country and the world are bearing witness to the remarkable dedication, commitment to service and courage of EMS practitioners.
The theme for EMS Week 2020 was “Ready Today, Preparing for Tomorrow.”  Although this theme was selected well before the current pandemic, it is particularly relevant to how your local EMS professionals have stepped up to the many challenges presented to them in these trying times. Everyone owes a great debt of gratitude to all of the Paramedics and EMTs who are serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response while still responding to and meeting the needs of everyday emergencies that arise.
Because of the impact of COVID-19, Gaston County EMS was unable recognize its men and women with the usual EMS Week festivities. However, Gaston Coumty EMS did recognize the efforts and contributions that specific team members have made to the agency throughout the last year. Employees are selected for these particular recognitions through a peer-nomination process. GEMS presented the following employees with recognition.
Outstanding part-time employees – Lynn Drum and Saraina Hurley
Outstanding rookie – Rebecca Shaffer, Madison Ballard and Christopher McLaughlin
Outstanding Paramedic –Courtney Johnson, Justin Greer, and Caleb Robinson
Outstanding EMT – EMT Andrew Molby, Bridgett Wilkinson, Allison Langley, Bridget Robinson
Outstanding Customer Service – Mark Hines, Kristina Monk, Steven Wall
Outstanding Clinical Preparedness – Robert Paul, and Andrew Adams
Outstanding Rescue Preparedness – Trevor Gosselin
Outstanding Public Educator – Tia Slone and Lanny Bivens
Outstanding Training and Staff Development – Chris Marlowe
Outstanding Mentor – Hannah Orr
Outstanding Field Training Officer – Kelly Marlowe
Outstanding Mentor – Brendon Axe
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Mt Holly Fire Dept. Receives Prestigious Statewide Award

North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey visited the Mt. Holly Fire Dept. headquarters last week ans shared some exciting news. In March, MHFD was inspected by the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal. The North Carolina Response Rating (ISO) inspection looks at many different aspects of our department and city. The City of Mount Holly classification improved from a Class 5 to a Class 2. The new rating will be effective September 1, 2020 and could help to lower insurance premiums.
Commercial, industrial and manufacturing businesses are more likely to be in line for these reductions. Homeowners and businesses should contact their insurance companies. This possible premium reduction will depend on the insurance carrier.
This visit included a delivery of smoke detectors for the MHFD neighborhood canvas program. 
“I am proud to be the fire chief of this top-notch organization,” said Chief Ryan Baker  “Each member of our department played a vital role in this achievement and it shows in the final result of the inspection.  At the time of the results, the data given showed that there were only 38 “Class 2” fire departments in the state of North Carolina, and this is out of 1,520 fire departments.  Nationwide there are only 1,673 “Class 2” fire departments out of 40,355.  This puts us in the top two percent in the state among fire departments and in the top four percent in the nation.  We give our very best every day and we will keep striving to be even better for our next inspection.” 
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Mike Patton Named Athletic Director At Stuart Cramer High School

Stuart W. Cramer High School principal Audrey Devine is pleased to announce that Mike Patton, a respected and long-time middle school and high school coach in Gaston County, will become the school’s new athletic director.
Patton replaces Terry Radford, who is retiring at the end of the 2019-2020 school year after 38 years of dedicated service to Gaston County Schools.
A 22-year employee of Gaston County Schools, Patton has taught and coached at Stanley Middle School, Belmont Middle School, South Point High School, and North Gaston High School.  For the past nine years, he has served as the head football coach at North Gaston, and he has been the school’s athletic director since 2016.
“We are extremely proud to have Mr. Patton coming to Stuart W. Cramer High School to serve as our next athletic director,” stated Devine.  “He possesses a wealth of experience, knowledge, leadership, and enthusiasm in the areas of teaching, coaching, and managing athletic programs.”
Devine continued, “Mr. Patton has a positive vision for high school sports, and we look forward to what he will bring to our school.  I am confident that everything he will do at Stuart W. Cramer will benefit our students, coaches, and everyone associated with our athletics program.”
A 1990 graduate of North Gaston High School, Patton attended N.C. State University and was a member of the Wolfpack varsity football team during the 1990 and 1991 seasons.  His coaching career includes serving as the head football coach at Stanley Middle School, assistant football coach at Belmont Middle School, and assistant football and baseball coach at South Point High School.  He became the head football coach at North Gaston High School in 2011.
“While I will miss being a part of the Wildcat family at North Gaston, I appreciate the opportunity to become the athletic director at Stuart W. Cramer, and I am excited about what’s ahead,” said Patton.  “Coach Terry Radford, who has served as the athletic director since the school opened, established an outstanding sports program at Stuart W. Cramer, and I look forward to building on his great foundation.”
Patton added, “The student-athletes at Stuart W. Cramer are incredibly talented.  I want them to experience victories on the field and court, but more important, I want them to be winners – and leaders – in life.  Sports are about learning discipline, building confidence, developing character, and instilling pride.  I know the coaches, teachers, parents, and administrators that I will be working with will support all of the student-athletes at Stuart W. Cramer to ensure they continue to experience success and represent the Storm school community in a way that makes all of us proud.”