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East Gaston’s
Deshaun Corry loves soccer and singing

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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.

Principal
Transfers
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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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 info@awakengallery.com
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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
alan@cfmedia.info


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 https://gofund.me/7c68c804.

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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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 https://www.belmont.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/connections.

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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info

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 www.kdmonline.org 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
alan@cfmedia.info


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.
Casino

 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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info

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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


“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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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)

By TODD HAGANS
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 www.gaston.k12.nc.us/schoolchoice, 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 www.gaston.k12.nc.us/schoolchoice.  Parents with questions may e-mail schoolchoice@gaston.k12.nc.us 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
alan@cfmedia.info


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 cro-mtholly.org. 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
alan@cfmedia.info

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 www.irisolgonzalez.com 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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info


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 hhttps://www.cityofbelmont.org/departments/parks-recreation/.
Weeekndfood
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
alan@cfmedia.info

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  www.bwfpgc.com to find out more.
 
Baltimore
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
alan@cfmedia.info


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
alan@cfmedia.info

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 YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov.
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.
Farmersmarket

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 https://www.gastongov.com/government/departments/solid_waste/recycling_centers.php
Mealsonwheelsvolunteer
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
alan@cfmedia.info


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.
Belmontunityday
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 www.cityofbelmont.org/MLKUnity. The link can be found on the City of Belmont website.
Ymca
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.