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Migjen Bakalli

Migjen Bakalli was a basketball standout

By Ray Hardee

Migjen is a legendary South Point High School athlete. This six-foot, six-inch guard lit up the nets as a high school standout and then as a Division 1 athlete at N.C. State.
His achievements on the hardwoods as he lit up the nets has earned him induction to the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame.
 Migjen is quick to give credit where credit is due-to his family, his community, and his coaches. He says, “My parents, Fejzullah and Virginia served as the foundation to all my basketball, athletic, and academic successes.” In addition to paying homage to his parents, he intones the value of his community when he says, “The basketball courts at Lakewood neighborhood in Cramerton are where I honed my skills as a child against my dad and his buddies.”
 As a 1990 graduate of South Point, Migjen had already earned All-Conference Honors on three occasions including his senior year. After his superlative senior season, he was named to the All-State Team.  He shares the credit with his high school coach, Bill Hannon (a Belmont Hall of Famer himself). Migjen writes, “Coach Hannon did a great job of teaching the game and always pushing me to get better. He would always take the time to open gyms during the summer at South Point where lots of the former athletic greats would show up and give you the business. Those runs during the summer were a great learning experience.”
 Migjen is the all-time South Point High School leader in career scoring with 1606 points as well as the single-season record holder with 658 points scored. Each of these records have stretched the scoring parameters and will not (if ever) be easily broken. During his senior season, he averaged 25.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 6.4 assists while leading South Point to their first sectional title game.
 Following his outstanding high school career, he was signed by none other than Jim Valvano, the legendary coach of N.C. State. During his four-year career at State, he averaged 6.7 points per game over a 72-game career span.  Selected as captain for his senior year, he also earned the distinction as a stellar three-point scorer over the entire span of his career scoring exactly 100 3-point goals for his career.
 Indeed, Bakalli still holds the N.C. State record for eight straight 3-point goals in a single game with a win over the University of Maryland. In addition, he hit six out of six field goal attempts in an NCAA tournament win over the University of Southern Mississippi that is still a Southeast NCAA Tournament Regional record.  His 47.7 percent three-point field goal completion percentage still ranks as seventh best all-time at N.C. State.
 Migjen Bakalli is a shining example of athletic excellence and a candidate who has certainly earned his place in the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame. The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held on April 19, 2022 at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, NC. Tickets can be purchased for $20 from Phil Champion State Farm Insurance in Belmont and the Belmont Drug Store.
 
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Father Paul Buchanan chats with Judy Bell before the St. Joseph’s Day Mass event. Photo by Alan Hodge

179-year-old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mt. Holly welcomed folks last Saturday

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


March is Irish American Heritage Month and last Saturday a Mt. Holly landmark gave people a chance to step back in time at a place with strong connections to Ireland.
The event was a Catholic Mass held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church- the oldest still standing original Catholic church in North Carolina and the fourth oldest Catholic house of worship built in the state- to honor St. Joseph’s Day.
Last year’s service was called off due to Covid concerns, but the sun shined brightly this year and folks showed up masked and unmasked alike.
St. Joseph’s caretaker Bill Bridgeman from Mt. Holly was an attendee.
“It’s great that everyone can get out,” Bridgeman said.
Belmont resident Janet Rhyne also attended.
“It’s a beautiful day,” she said. “I’ve been coming here for the St. Joseph’s Day service for years.”
Real estate agent Judy Bell came from Cornelius to attend.
“I discovered this little church while showing a home in the area,” she said. “I became fascinated by it. What a piece of history.”
Father Paul Buchanan from Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Belmont performed the Mass.
“It’s great to be back in person,” he said. “This church is a beautiful part of our history.”
The 179-year-old church was originally constructed in 1843 to serve local Irish Catholic miners and their families. The church is located on NC273 just past the Freightliner factory.
Nearly everything about St. Joseph’s except the roof, shutters, and a few other things date from its original construction. 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.
St. Joseph’s was built to serve the Irish miners who were in Gaston County 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 T.J. Cronin who started a fundraising 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. Unfortunately, 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.
These days, St. Joseph’s is a mission of Queen of the Apostle’s Church in Belmont.
Before its restoration, 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 repair, St. Joseph’s went through another decade sans maintenance. In 1974 Francis Galligan of Gastonia led an effort to set things right once and for all. 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 was restored inside and out.
In addition to the church building itself, one of the most important parts of the site is the statue of St. Joseph himself 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.
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The Mt. Holly Farmers Market is opening April 2 and will be celebrating its 17th anniversary this year.

Mt. Holly Farmers Market getting set for another great season

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

The long-awaited spring 2022 opening of the Mt. Holly Farmers Market is coming up.  The market will have a soft opening at 8 am-12 noon, Saturday, April 2. The market will stay open until October.
The market is located at 226 S. Main St. in downtown Mt. Holly. Look for the large open-air trellis. This year marks the market’s 17th anniversary.
There will be two Entry/Exit points into the market for customers- one on Main St. and the other at the market rear parking lot. A pickup area will be provided if needed.
Now, for even better, long awaited, news.
“We are going back to our normal, pre-Covid, operating procedures,” said market manager Scott Griffin. “We are excited. We are pumped.”
The market will be offering the usual bounty of fresh vegetables, meat, baked goods, flowers, and more. Last year, a record-setting 34 vendors were on hand.
“We are hoping for even more vendors this year,” said Griffin.
In addition, there will be music starting from the very first day, and food trucks too.
“People can eat breakfast or lunch,” Griffin said.
Wait, there’s more.
“We will have a chef on hand every other week for cooking demonstrations using market products,” said Griffin.
As usual, credit and debit cards will be accepted at the market, as will EBT/SNAP transactions.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. SNAP provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. This card can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.
To be eligible for SNAP, most households must meet certain bank balance limits. A household with an elderly (over 60) or disabled household member may have a higher bank balance limit. More details at https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program.
The way it works is folks can present their SNAP card at a booth for that purpose at the market. The card account values are used to obtain wooden tokens which are in turn used to purchase food. Precooked hot food and art and craft items cannot be bought with the tokens, but things such as fruit and vegetables can. Anyone, not just SNAP clients, can purchase the wooden tokens instead of using a bank card or writing a check for their purchases. Venmo electronic pay will also be available at some vendors.
Overall, this year’s Mt. Holly Farmers Market will once again be an oasis of healthy food for its customers and a place where folks can meet and mingle- closer than six feet if they take a notion.
For more information visit https://www.homegrownmountholly.com.
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MARK YOUNG

Mark Young- A life in sports

By Ray Hardee

He started playing competitive sports when he was still in the single digits- he was nine. Over the years, he played every sport to which he was introduced. In his family, it was a matter of survival. As part of a family of seven, they shared common characteristics- competitive and focused.  Mark says, “I often remember playing sports and truly enjoyed the experience of competing against my older brothers. It was always fun trying to get one up on them. The joys of childhood and the age of innocence with no responsibilities was a great thing in our house.”
 Mark got his start playing football for the “tiny” Optimist football team in Dallas, N.C. The next year, he took a step up with the Optimist Pop Warner. Moving to Belmont and living right on the line between Belmont and McAdenville- a haven for the vaunted McAdenville Dolphins. In a long line of excellence and tradition, he joined his team as they made the annual trek to Florida to play bowl teams there from the Sunshine State.
 In Junior High (then the name for what we call today “middle school”), Mark began playing at Belmont Junior High. He earned the tight to play the quarterback position, enjoyed it immensely, and found his niche. Previously, he had played the running back position almost exclusively.  Now, taking the helm behind the center, he discovered his true calling, hitting his stride with his now well-developed athletic talents and skills. The laboratory of athletic development for Mark was exactly what he needed to go to the next level.
Having climbed the ladder of success in the junior ranks, he entered Belmont’s South Point High School. Mark says, “It was there that I felt like I entered the arena to compete with older, better football players. I knew that I had to bide my time, compete, and make the most out of my opportunity. During my freshman year, I was the second-string quarterback I knew that I had to be persistent and knowledgeable with learning the high school system and playbook. This was challenging to say the least, but I knew from all the time, effort, energy, and determination that my efforts would eventually pay off.”
 And “pay off” they did as he ascended quickly during his freshman year to the starting position during the fourth game of the year against North Gaston when the starting quarterback was injured.  Since Mark had made the effort to hone his skills, talents, and maturity, he took led the offense with expertise and “never looked back” always determined to be the best player that he could be.  The team started winning more regularly and making progress each and every week finishing the season with a winning record.
 By his senior year, South Point was 10-0 and had a good feeling going into the state playoffs. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round.  But Mark’s exploits gave him the opportunity to sign a full scholarship to play college football at Wake Forest University on the Division I level. Mark says, “I was red-shirted my first year and it turned out to be a great thing, because it gave me more time to focus on my studies and to grow athletically and physically.”
 Fortunately, when he finally took the field, he was successful.
“I was runner-up for ACC Player of The Year to Ray Agnew from NC State University,” he said.  “The very next year, I was on the All-ACC First Team as a running back.  The college experience has shaped and molded me to be the person that I am and have always been grateful and humbled for the opportunities that I have had to be a student-athlete.”
 A perennial MVP in baseball and football, Mark was All-State in high school football, All-ACC player in football, and selected as an East-West High School All-Star as well. But his achievements were not confined to athletic fields. He was selected as a regular Member of the Student Council and in his Senior Year (1985), chosen to be President of His Senior Class, Member of the United Nations Club, and selected as one of the Who’s Who Among American High School Students.
 Mark Young has certainly earned his place in the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame. The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held on April 19, 2022 at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, NC. Tickets can be purchased for $20 from Phil Champion State Farm Insurance in Belmont and the Belmont Drug Store.

Easter meal kit offered

The members of Queen of the Apostles Church, 503 N. Main St in Belmont, will provide a meal kit to those needing to prepare an Easter meal at their homes. The meal kit will feed 4 people and will include a $15 gift card that can be used towards the purchase of a turkey or ham.
We can deliver a meal kit to your home on Saturday, April 9, or you can pick up a meal kit at the church on the same day between 10am and 11am. To place your order, you have 2 options:
1.  Call the church office to place your order. The  phone number is (704) 825-9600.  Give us your name, address, phone number, an email address if you have one, and the number of meal kits you need (maximum of 2).  The deadline to place your order is Monday, April 4.
2. Go to the church’s web site, www.queenoftheapostles.org, look for the “Easter Meal Kit Order” slide and click there.  That will take you to the on-line order form. Be sure to indicate on the order form if you want your meal kit delivered to your home or if you will pick it up.
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KBB Chairperson Susan Wall and KBB founder Judy Closson pitching in.

Keep Belmont Beautiful group lives up to its name

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

There are many unsung heroes in our area and the volunteers with Keep Belmont Beautiful (KBB) are among them.
On Thursday, February 24th Keep Belmont Beautiful recognized three volunteers for their service to the city of Belmont.
The first recipient, Terece Miller, has walked and run the streets of Belmont many times, but about three years ago she started volunteering with KBB picking and bagging trash as she walks. Anytime of the year, on a nice day, you may catch her walking along the corridor of South Main Street and Lower Armstrong Road. She’ll tell you it’s her therapy and laughingly refer to it as her obsession but, at the heart of it, is her disappointment in folks throwing litter along the roadside and trashing the very place that we call home.
The second recipients are community activists Elizabeth and Bob Atterberry. Liz and Bob have supported and worked tirelessly for KBB over 16-years. Liz retired as vice chairperson of the KBB Board in 2021.  She has worn many hats including chairing our litter abatement program, co-chairing our spring 2021 plant sale, and two supporting roles that KBB won first place for in Gaston County: Return the Warmth Grant and a program that recycled phone books.  Her husband Bob, a native of Belmont, has been there every step of the way – helping with litter surveys, our Christmas Parade float, and loading and unloading phone books from Belmont as well as plastic bottles from local schools. All this was done while volunteering for the Belmont Historical Society, the Montcross Area Chamber, Queen of Apostles Church, and other worthy causes.
KBB is dedicated to doing what its name says. On any day you might see volunteers on their hands and knees pulling weeds at the flowerbed at
See KBB, Page 3
 
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Cynthia Hibberts

Cynthia Leonard Hibberts covered the Belmont High court

By Ray Hardee
She did it all as a student at Belmont High School.
She covered the entire court. Back in the day when three players were assigned to each side of the court, Cynthia Hibberts was a guard on an offense that required her to cover the whole court. She took care of all the court during a time that most people only took care of half the court. Her parents and coaches always said, “Give it 100% and keep learning.” That proved to be prophetic in the way that Cynthia Hibberts has lived her life. Her constant commitment to excellence is being rewarded with induction into the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame.
 Cynthia always showed up. She was a four-year starter in basketball, track, and as a cheerleader. In her sophomore, junior, and senior years, she was the Gold Medal State Champion in track and field for her event of choice- the 100-yard low hurdles. She was co-captain of the basketball team and the cheerleading squad during her senior year. She was the Kiwanis Club Outstanding Athlete of The Year.
 Her exploits on the court and around the track were matched by her off the field accomplishments as well. Vice-President of what was then called Minute Maids and now Candy Stripers, she also excelled in the Drama Club while serving as the Junior Class Treasurer, Senior Class Secretary and on the Student Council for three years (serving as Vice-President he Senior Year. She was Chairman of the Junior Heart Board. She headed up the Sponsors Club for four years. Not content to just play on the field and in the classroom, she also served the school’s journalistic endeavors on the Clarion Staff as a Junior and Senior and Sport Editor during her Senior Year. Did you know that she was also the Homecoming Queen and the Most Popular Student as a Senior Superlative? She graduated Belmont High Class of 1966.
 There is a common theme that runs through Cynthia’s life in high school and beyond- excellent, devoted service to others rather than self. Over a forty-five-year professional career, she mastered Nursing through the Cabarrus Hospital School of Nursing as well as earning a Master’s Degree in Education. She served hospitals and secondary schools.  She was a Master Lamaze Class Instructor teaching for Western Carolina University. She began teaching Health Sciences during their first-year inception and continued for over three decades serving North Gaston and East Gaston in Gaston County and the Green Hope School of Technology in Cary, NC.  She created four programs in these high schools. She was named Teacher of The Year at North Gaston, East Gaston, and Green Hope School of Technology. For good measure, not wanting to leave dear old Belmont out of her resume, she coached Girls Tennis at South Point and also taught there as a teacher.
 While serving the secondary schools of our state, she of course stayed busy after school with athletic teams. While at North Gaston, she coached the Girls Swim Team in its inaugural year and continued for four years there. She coached the Cheerleaders and Girls Tennis Team there for five years and ended as the SWC Coach of the Year. Oh, for fun she also coached girls track for two years at North Gaston. She did not stop there. In addition to teaching thirty-three years in North Carolina schools, she also worked for the Gaston County Health Department, opened Covenant Village Retirement Center, and retired there as Director of Nursing along with stints at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine and the Presbyterian Hospital Cardiac Unit.
 She did whatever it took for things to be successful wherever she happened to be serving. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Success is doing the best you can with what you have where you are.” Cynthia Leonard Hibberts has lived that mantra well.
 The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held on April 19, 2022 at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, NC. Tickets can be purchased for $20 from Phil Champion State Farm Insurance in Belmont and the Belmont Drug Store.
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Curtis Gaston found this rare first edition of the Belmont Banner when he was looking through some things belonging to his late parents Harley Jr. and Kitty Gaston. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont Banner-News
86th anniversary coming up

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


The birthday of the BannerNews (formerly Belmont Banner) is coming up and a rare treasure donated to the paper several years ago by Curtis Gaston tells an important part of the story.
Dated March 18, 1936, the yellowed and fragile artifact, an actual copy of the very first Belmont Banner ever published, is not just a window on life in Belmont back then, but also of the philosophy and hopes of the publication that is now in its 86th year.
The logo of the paper summed it up, calling the Banner “A New And Modern Weekly Newspaper Published In The Interest Of All the People Of The Thriving City Of Belmont. This Issue Will Be Read  In Every Home Within the Community”.
The Banner’s publishers, Arp Lowrance, Clyde Moody, and Bomar Lowrance,  topped the front page of the inaugural edition with an open letter to the readership that stated- “For the people of Belmont and the surrounding community we present this as the first issue of the Belmont Banner in the hope that it will be accepted by all as Belmont’s own. The cooperation of the merchants and business men in making this a fine issue has been unexcelled in our experience and we could hardly expect a better approval from the readers and the homes of this thriving city.…..For some time the publishers have planned the publishing of a newspaper here and it appears the time is ripe for beginning such an enterprise. As we begin there is more confidence that this healthy baby newspaper will soon grow into one of the leading newspapers of the Piedmont section.”
Stories in that very first edition of the Banner kicked off with a profile of Belmont by Curtis Gaston’s grandfather Harley Gaston Sr. who described the town as “one of the Carolinas’ most prosperous cities”. Another front page article looked at the growth of local schools and declared the city started out with three teachers and ninety students in 1900 and had grown to the 1936 tally of 59 teachers and 2,204 kids.
Inside, the first Belmont Banner focused on good things that folks were doing in the community. One article profiled upcoming Boy Scout events and activities. Another piece announced plans by the local PTA to boost membership. On the cultural scene, the Banner covered a Belmont High School glee club and piano concert. The program included tunes such as “Dancing Fairies”, “Spinning Song”, and “My Curly Headed Baby”.
In sports, the Banner ran a story by James Dixon laying out plans for a local softball league. Players from local mills such as Imperial, Aberfoyle, and Eagle were hopping on board the league.
Dubbed “Local and Personal” the society page of the first Banner gave the lowdown on what area ladies and gents were up to. Tidbits included news that J. Ross Gilbert was coming home to Belmont after having had an appendix operation in Statesville, that Grady Bowen of Newport News, Va. was spending time with his parents in Belmont, and that Miss Estelle Hall was in a fashion show in Gastonia.
Advertisements in the first edition of the Belmont Banner shined a light on local businesses. The Hollywood Theater in East Belmont announced several flicks including “Waterfront Lady”, “The Invisible Ray”, and “Sweet Surrender”. The Leader department store had a big ad proclaiming “smart, spring dresses” for $2.98 each. Belk-Matthews on Main St. offered men’s socks for 10 cents a pair, denim overalls for 97 cents, and men’s shorts for 19 cents a pair,
Just a few of the other advertisers in the first Banner included W.H. and D.P. Stowe Company, Warren’s Grocery Store where eggs were 25 cent a dozen, and Ostwalt’s cafe.
Overall, the first edition of the Belmont Banner shows that community news was a vital part of the local landscape back in 1936 and is still relevant- and being printed- today.
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GAMTRA president Jeff Hovis with just one of his antique tractors- a 1949 John Deere. Photo by Alan Hodge

Jeff Hovis of Mt. Holly loves vintage farm machines

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


You might say Jeff Hovis of Mt. Holly has antique farm tractoring in his blood. A walk around his backyard on Oakwood Dr. and the sight of the numerous vintage machines there confirms this. A walk around the backyard of his mom’s house two doors down where more machines reside clinches the deal.
All together, Hovis has nine antique farm tractors. Brands include Farmall, John Deere, Case, and Alis Chalmers. Several are fully restored and shine. A few have a ‘patina’ of grease, oil, and red dirt. One is undergoing cosmetic surgery.   All have a story.
Hovis got the tractor bug from his dad, the late Larry Hovis.
“He told me stories about using tractors working on a dairy farm in Hardin,” Jeff said. “The interest grew from there.”
But Hovis does more than tinker with, show, and ride his tractors up and down the road. He is passionate about sharing the story of agriculture in our area and one way he does that is with the group he’s president of – GAMTRA.
What’s GAMTRA? That’s the acronym for Gaston Agricultural Mechanical Textile Restoration Association.
The group meets once a month and besides swapping tractor tales and tips, they work hard to plan the biggest event in Gaston County which is the Heritage and Harvest festival held in October in Dallas Park. It was formerly known as Cotton Ginning Days.
“The group was started in 1987 and in 1988 began displaying antique farm equipment such as hit or miss engines,” said Hovis. “In 1989 Gaston County Parks and Rec. partnered with us. My father took the first tractor there in 2002.”
The centerpiece of the event is the full scale, operating, cotton gin and its barn at the park’s festival grounds.
“Some members found the gin in Georgia,” Hovis said. “They took it apart and brought it to Dallas where it was reassembled. The gin is a link to our area’s textile industry history as well.”
GAMTRA members come from a wide geographical area and eclectic backgrounds- all bound by their common love of vintage farm machines.
“We have members from Gaston, Cleveland, Lincoln, York, and Mecklenburg counties,” Hovis said. “A lot of them are retired but their professions include business owners, famers, educators, engineers, and machinists.”
Like many groups that are enamored of old stuff, GAMTRA is in search of “young blood” to join its ranks. Jeff’s son John is 24-years-old, inherited the tractor bug, and is a member, but more youngsters are needed.
“You don’t have to own a vintage machine to join,” Hovis said. “You just have to have an interest in our agricultural heritage.”
Sound interesting? The next meeting of GAMTRA will be April 7 at 6:30pm at Jacksons Cafeteria in Gastonia.
Want to find out more about GAMTRA and/or joining? Contact Hovis at jhovis@eastgaston VFD.com. Happy tractoring.
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Coach Mike Houston

Belmont Sports Hall
of Fame Banquet set

By Ray Hardee
The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame gathers again this year to honor a fresh class of excellent athletes who have made their mark beginning in Belmont and outward to the world at large.
The Belmont Hall of Fame event is April 19th at 7:00pm at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, N.C. Tickets can be purchased at Phil Champion State Farm Insurance and the Belmont Drug Store.
Coach Mike Houston, Head Coach of East Carolina University, will be the headlining motivational speaker for the event. Houston is as well-known for his candor as he is for his athletic success. When asked, “How are you doing coach?” at a post-game press conference, he is likely to respond in kind with a “How are you doing?” to the reporter with questions.
After a win, Houston shines praise on his coaches and athletes. When a player makes a great play away from the ball, he is likely to say, “The old adage is to be a better player without the ball than you are with the ball.” After a tough loss, he will likely compliment his players and their opponents while noting “the electric atmosphere” of the stadium. When he discusses ECU fans, he regales them with pride and effusive praise in statements like this- “It’s one of the reasons so many of them came here to East Carolina is because of Pirate Nation, Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and the way it is on game day. I think it’s something that should be a great home field advantage and something for them to feed off of.”
Clearly, Houston is a coach’s coach who loves football. In 1994, he left Mars Hill College, where he starred at tight end and earned a biology degree, and went immediately into the coaching ranks. He climbed the ladder of success while dissecting offenses with his clever defensive mind, examining teams as a biologist would a cell, and bringing out the best in his players at all levels.
Houston ascended to the pinnacle of intercollegiate football success when he won the NCAA Division 1 championship with James Madison University in 2016 leading JMU over Youngstown State with a score of 28-14.
Houston says, “True servant-leadership is when you lead by example and bring somebody else with you.”
Join attendees at the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on April 19th at 7:00. Tickets are on sale at Phil Champion State Farm Insurance and Belmont Drug Store.
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Juan Logan and his sculpture Pillar of Enlightenment.

Sculpture by Belmont artist Juan Logan moves to Gaston County Museum

A beautiful sculpture by  internationally-known Belmont resident and artist Juan Logan will be getting a new home at the Gaston County Museum in Dallas.
“Public art requires a level of care that Pillar of Enlightenment has not seen in recent decades,” said Museum Assistant Director, Ali Pizza. “Museum staff are keenly aware of the need to preserve this important work by Juan Logan of Belmont and look forward to making it accessible to the public in its prominent new location,”
Pillar of Enlightenment was commissioned by the Gaston County Library at the request of the Margaret McConnell Holt Estate to highlight a significant regional artist with the intent that it would be accessible for the public to appreciate and enjoy for generations to come. The museum has placed the sculpture in an equally visible location at the entry to the museum so that staff can interpret it’s meaning for visitors and allow them to explore the sculpture themselves. Pillar of Enlightenment will undergo conservation treatment in its new home at the museum.
Library Director, Susan McDonald, said of the donation of Pillar of Enlightenment- “The Library has been extremely appreciative and honored to be the display venue for Juan Logan’s work, as well as the works of many other artists. However, the Library is now facing a time of change in order to serve our patrons most effectively. We are restructuring our floor layouts and optimizing our space to meet the needs of diverse audiences. Having an opportunity to collaborate with the Museum, and to know that these works of art will be professionally cared for, interpreted, and made available for public viewing is the best choice for the artwork and in keeping with the gracious intention of the donors who gave them to the library.”
The donation of the Logan sculpture comes at a time when Gaston County Leadership is striving for better collaboration between departments. Museum Director, Jason Luker, says “it has been very rewarding to work with the library on bringing artwork such as Pillar of Enlightenment into our care. It is our shared goal to preserve the art and history of this county and have it available for future generations to enjoy and study.” For more information, contact Alexandrea Pizza, Assistant Director, 704-922-7681 ext. 105 or Alexandrea.pizza@gastongov.com.
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Edifice General Contractors site superintendent Andrew Simonds, Sheba the wonder dog, and Belmont Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe checking out progress on the new building. Photo by Alan Hodge

Work on new Belmont Parks and Recreation facility well underway

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Take an inquisitive scientific mind, a love of horses, blend in a desire to do good deeds for others, and you have the formula that inspired East Gaston High senior Hannah Mullis to come up with a prize winning way to further the cause of hippotherapy at Shining Hope Farms near Stanley- and beyond.
Never heard of hippotherapy? The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes.
Mullis has been visiting Shining Hope Farms for about five years riding horses and learning more about the therapeutic work that goes on there.
“I started volunteering at Shining Hope because I loved horses,” she said. “Then I realized how much I enjoyed being a part of therapy and I now want to be a therapist after college.”
A couple of years ago it occurred to Mullis that it would make an interesting research project to investigate just exactly what the horses experience as they carry hippotherapy patients around the riding rink.
With the exception of Mr. Ed, horses can’t talk, so Mullis came up with the idea of Recent bad weather had an effect on the work, but Simonds says his crews took it in stride.
“The weekend of rain and snow cost us some time but we are sticking to the schedule,” he said.
According to Simonds, the next phase will see a large retaining wall built between the new building and CityWorks.
“The wall will be the first piece of vertical construction,” he said. “It will be formed in place.”
Simonds praise the cooperation he has been getting from the city staff.
“They have been fantastic to work with,” he said.
Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe was beaming as he looked over the construction scene.
“They are moving fast,” he said. “We are set for our opening date next March.”
Belmont is the only town in our area without its own building where things like basketball games can be held. What currently serves the city as a parks and rec. place is the decades old J. Paul Ford Center on Woodrow Ave., but the city’s needs have far outgrown that one medium sized building.
The new building will be two stories high and have 45,000 sq. ft. of space. The first floor will feature three basketball courts, a media room for gaming, an exercise studio, a kitchen, a kids play area, and a large lobby. The second floor will feature a walking track, an exercise room, a catering kitchen, a lounge, and more play space. The second floor will also feature a balcony with sweeping views of the Catawba River and Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park.
Just a few of the activities the new center can host includes pickle ball, gymnastics, cheerleading, karate, movies, ping pong, dance, badminton, classes of various types and many, many more. Folks will be able to rent space in the building for meetings, weddings, birthday parties, and that sort of thing.
Stowe sees the new center not only as a boon to the local activities scene, but as an economic driver as well.
“The center will be a place where we can hold events such as basketball tournaments and invite as many as fifty teams,” he said. ‘This will bring people to Belmont who will shop, stay in local hotels, and eat in local restaurants. It will be a big boost economically.”
Meanwhile, across Catawba St. at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park, the playground area is still closed for replacement of the wooden climbing structures, but that will be settled soon.
“The new equipment will be arriving any day now,” said Stowe. Some of the current playground equipment that’s made of plastic and metal was saved and moved to another park.
“The rock wall and boardwalk will also be reused,” Stowe said.
In other Belmont Parks and Rec. updates, work on the long awaited skate park will also begin soon.
“The materials are on the way,” Stowe said.
A new addition to the original plan will be a dedicated area for beginners.
“We got a grant for the beginner’s area,” said Stowe.
The park will be located on a strip of land beside CityWorks.

Work on Belmont Parks and Recreation facility

Photos by Alan Hodge
Renderings provided
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East Gaston senior Hannah Mullis loves horses and helping others. She’s seen at Shining Hope Farms with one of her favorite steeds named Duncan. Photo by Alan Hodge

East Gaston senior
Hannah Mullis is helping horses help people

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Take an inquisitive scientific mind, a love of horses, blend in a desire to do good deeds for others, and you have the formula that inspired East Gaston High senior Hannah Mullis to come up with a prize winning way to further the cause of hippotherapy at Shining Hope Farms near Stanley- and beyond.
Never heard of hippotherapy? The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes.
Mullis has been visiting Shining Hope Farms for about five years riding horses and learning more about the therapeutic work that goes on there.
“I started volunteering at Shining Hope because I loved horses,” she said. “Then I realized how much I enjoyed being a part of therapy and I now want to be a therapist after college.”
A couple of years ago it occurred to Mullis that it would make an interesting research project to investigate just exactly what the horses experience as they carry hippotherapy patients around the riding rink.
With the exception of Mr. Ed, horses can’t talk, so Mullis came up with the idea of measuring the horse’s heartbeat with a stethoscope as she played music from her phone.
“I played a variety of music from pop to classical,” Mullis said. “I found out that the faster the music, the faster the horse’s heart would beat.”
In a follow up project, Mullis also measured the heartbeat of horses as they had a person mount up, as they walked across a little footbridge, or as a rider stretched out to place a ring on a pole. She used both an experienced rider and a therapy client in the tests.
“The horses reacted differently to the level of rider experience,” said Mullis.
The purpose of the projects was to examine ways that the horses could go about their work in an efficient manner that put the least amount of stress on them.
“Hannah’s work can have implications for the hippotherapy industry as a whole,” said Shining Hope Farms founder Milinda Kirkpatrick. “It will allow us to make tweaks in our day to day operations and activities.”
Mullis hopes her work will build equestrian equilibrium and inner peace.
“I hope it helps horses be even happier than they are now,” she said.
During her project, Mullis had help from her East Gaston biology teacher Brian Johnson.
“He is a very supportive and awesome teacher,” she said.
Johnson had these to say about Mullis.
”She is a very driven, remarkable student and very advanced for her grade level,” said Johnson. “The project was her own idea and she did it on her own time.”
The inventive, detailed work that Mullis did and documented has brought her well-deserved recognition. Her project won first place at the Gaston County Science Fair. At the virtual UNC-Charlotte Science Fair she took Best in Fair Grand Prize. That honor qualified her for the International Science and Engineering Fair that will be held in Atlanta May 7-13. She is the first East Gaston student to go to that event and the first from Gaston County in ten years.
So, what’s the future hold for Mullis?
After graduation in June she will be attending Appalachian State and majoring in Exercise Science or Communication Science. No matter what her career path, there’s bound to be a horse not far away.
“I believe there will always be a horse in my future,” she said.  “As well as some form of work with children who have special needs.”
For more information about Shining Hope Farms visit https://shininghopefarms.org.
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Speakers at Cramerton Historical Society’s celebration of Black History Month were (from left) Dot Guthrie, Fred Glenn, Cramerton Historical Museum Chairman Richard Atkinson, Minerva Hardy and Gastonia Mayor Walker E. Reid, III.

Cramerton celebrates Black History Month

Cramerton residents observed Black History Month with a program featuring three speakers at the Cramerton Historical Society Museum on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
Cramerton natives Minerva Hardy and Fred Glenn were joined on the program by Dot Guthrie, founder and curator of the African-American Museum of History and Culture in Gastonia and member of the Gaston County Board of Education. Gastonia Mayor Walker E. Reid, III introduced the speakers.
Town of Cramerton Mayor Nelson Wills and Historical Society President Jeff Ramsey welcomed guests. Cramerton Historical Museum Chairman Richard Atkinson also made  comments.
Dot Guthrie opened the program by displaying a quilt depicting 175 years of African-American history, which is on exhibit at the African-American Museum of History and Culture at the Loray Mill in Gastonia. Mrs. Guthrie is a life-long educator, serving more than 40 years as a teacher, school librarian, media specialist, central office staff member and member of the Gaston County Board of Education. She also is an author and is associate pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Gastonia. Among her many awards is the prestigious Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Minerva Hardy has been an outstanding citizen of Cramerton for many years, and she received Cramerton’s Lifetime Citizen Award in 2021. She served on the town’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for six years and as chief judge for the Gaston County Board of Election’s Cramerton Precinct for four years. She is active in encouraging residents to register to vote and instructing new voters in how to get involved in local issues. In 1982, she was recognized by the Gaston County NAACP and Gaston County Concerned Citizens for successfully working to obtain home mail delivery in the Baltimore community.
United States Army and Vietnam War veteran Fred Glenn was born in Cramerton and graduated from Reid High School in Belmont. He attended NCA&T State University before enlisting in the army. After serving in Vietnam as a door gunner with the 118th Assault Helicopter Unit, and later as a drill sergeant at Fort Bragg, NC, he attended
Gaston College to pursue becoming a tool and die maker and later owned and operated his own machine shop. He retired from Phillip Morris after 20 years as a technician.
The Cramerton Historical Society was formed in 2015, and the Museum opened in 2021. Members receive invitations to special events, discounts in the museum store and discounts on rentals. For more information, visit Cramertonhistoricalsociety.org, see the Cramerton Historical Society on Facebook, or call Richard Atkinson at 704.906.5339.
 
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Belmont’s Moonlight on Main event recently raked in a plethora of awards. Seen with the plaques are Community Event Coordinator Morgan Abernathy, Downtown Director Phil Boggan, and Community Development Coordinator Cassidy Lackey.

Downtown Belmont events
are a labor of love

 

By Alan Hodge and Jamie Campbell
alan@cfmedia.info


When folks stream into downtown Belmont for special events like the award winning Moonlight on Main, or Red, White, and Belmont, or Garibaldifest, or Boofest, or the Friday night concert series it’s a safe bet few if any of them wonder just what goes on behind the scenes to make those things happen.
Read on to find out.
“It all starts with an idea.”
That’s what Belmont’s downtown director Phil Boggan says is the spark that kicks the logistical wheels in motion to make the events become a reality of light, color, sound, fun, and financial boon for downtown businesses.
Once the idea for an event is seized upon, Boggan, along with his co-workers Cassidy Lackey and Morgan Abernathy, spring into action.
“We think through things such as how much it will cost to have the event as well as how many volunteers it will take to make it happen,” Boggan said.
But that’s just the start.
“We work with the police and public works to close the streets where the event will be taking place,” he said. “We also contact the ABC commission if alcohol will be served.”
The planning for an event has a long lead time.
“We do it well in advance so the ball does not gets dropped,” said Boggan. “Ideally, planning begins a year in advance.”
Music is a big part of many downtown Belmont happenings.
“We also book bands a year ahead,” said Boggan. “You have to do that if   you want the best ones. We contact booking agents to find out what the hottest bands are.”
Other event attractions such as carnival rides and carriage rides need to be booked well ahead too.
“There are not many companies left that do those so we need to make sure we have them lined up,” he said.
Boggan says he and his staff strive to use local talent but go where they need to get the job done.
Funding for events is important too.
“Among other things, we write grants for funding,” said Boggan. “We research the grants and staff and volunteers write for them. It’s not always easy to get money. I lay awake at night thinking about money.”
Downtown businesses always get a heads up before events.
“We notify them so the crowd impact will be positive rather than negative,” Boggan said.
Boggan, Lackey, and Abernathy are deeply dedicated to their mission of putting on the very best events that folks will find anywhere.
“It’s not an eight to five job,” Boggan said. “Sometimes we work sixty or more hours a week making sure everything is ready.”
In a sense, Boggan is like a musical conductor or military general in charge of seeing the event goes off smoothly.
“I connect the dots,” he said.
For her part, Abernathy spends countless hours reading emails, keeping an electronic calendar, taking and reviewing vendor applications, and communicating with potential participants. Lackey runs the Main St. program and works with volunteers and businesses.
Besides fun, the events fulfill another goal.
“It’s not just about amusement,” Boggan said. “It’s about people eating, shopping, and supporting our downtown businesses.”
So, what drives Boggan, Lackey, and Abernathy to give their all for downtown Belmont?
“We do it for the community,” Boggan said. “At the end of the day we may be burned out but we get to enjoy the validation seeing the big crowds brings.”
All the work that the trio does for the city recently brought them well deserved recognition.
On January 31, 2022 the City of Belmont Main Street staff attended North Carolina Association of Festivals and Events 2022 ShowFest, an event innovators conference in Charlotte where they were presented with four awards associated with the Moonlight on Main event held in Downtown Belmont in fall 2021.
The conference concludes each year with an Excellence Awards Program, where the City of Belmont Main Street staff was presented with four awards for the Moonlight on Main festival held in late 2021. The event won: Best Brochure for the GOBO Art Walk Brochure, Best Event Photo, Best Event Associated with an Event for the GOBO Projection Art Gallery, and Event of the Year for Moonlight on Main.
 Moonlight on Main was a three-week arts and culture experience in Downtown Belmont where downtown was turned into a lunar-inspired, outdoor art gallery with GOBO artwork projected onto buildings around downtown.  The event centered around an international touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram, an exhibit of an internally lit replica of the moon measuring 23 meters in diameter and features detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. The event also featured art installations in downtown and throughout Stowe Park from local students and other groups.  The original GOBO artworks were sold in various downtown galleries and businesses throughout the event.
 The ShowFest Awards are part of the industry’s reward and recognition programs. The ShowFest Excellence Awards are a long-standing tradition of highlighting the best and brightest of festivals, events and associates across the Carolinas. Their membership is dedicated to identifying the professionals that raise the bar and providing outstanding examples. They also use this program to set new goals and standards for the event planning profession. The annual conference and awards are a way industry professionals can learn from each other and give a hardy round of applause to those who distinguish themselves with great work.
Boggan expressed an immense “thank you” to the Main Street and Downtown Belmont Development Association boards, committees, volunteers, community partners, artists, participating local businesses, and those who simply came out to enjoy the event for helping to make this recognition possible.
“We were honored to take home these awards on behalf of everyone that made this three-week festival such a huge success,” he said.
 When asked about the awards recognition, Mayor Charlie Martin stated, “We couldn’t be prouder of our staff, board members, volunteers, and community organizations for putting on such an unforgettable three-week festival in Downtown Belmont.  This festival brought people to Belmont from not only cities in our region, but from all over America.  This is a perfect example of how our staff and community work together to make Belmont such a special community to be a part of.”
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Cutter Foulk has firefighting in his genes.

Cutter Foulk named Cramerton Firefighter of the Year

​​​​​​​​​​By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Cutter Foulk comes from a long line of firemen and has been named Cramerton’s Firefighter of the Year.
Cutter’s father is John Foulk, captain at the Belmont Fire Dept., and his uncle is Lance Foulk, chief at the Cramerton Fire Dept. They were both excited at Cutter’s achievement at the tender age of 19 years.
“I am proud of Cutter for receiving this award,” Lance said.  “He has a bright future  in the fire service and the Cramerton Fire Dept. is lucky to have him.”
 As an aside, his grandfather is former Belmont city councilman Ron Foulk.
Cutter knew from the time of childhood that he wanted to enter the fire service.
“I remember sitting at the dinner table and dad would have to get up and go respond to a call,” he said. “I’ve just always been around it.”
Cutter jumped into the world of firefighting at an early age.
“I started volunteering at Cramerton when I was sixteen,” he said. “I realized right away how much I enjoyed the camaraderie. It’s like a brotherhood”
After graduating from Stuart Cramer High in 2020, he went to Gaston College and got his Firefighter I and II certifications as well as being certified as an EMT.
Cutter stays busy. Currently, he’s full time at the Belmont Fire Dept. and part time at Cramerton. He also helps out with his father’s landscape business.
“I don’t have a lot of down time,” he said.
All that activity has its rewards.
“My favorite part of being a firefighter is the variety,” he said. “We do something different every day. You never know what the next challenge will be.”
In fact, the morning of this interview saw him on duty at a car fire in Belmont.
Cutter also feels being a firefighter has helped him mature.
“Being a member of the fire department has helped me grow personally and professionally,” he said. “I try to improve every day.”
He’s looking forward to many years as a firefighter and helping others.
“This will be my career for the rest of my life,” he said. “I love my job.”
 

Six young women to represent region in this
summer’s Miss North Carolina competition 

Gaston pageant winners
are crowned for 2022

By Todd Hagans
Six young women have been crowned to represent the Gaston region in the 2022 Miss North Carolina and Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen competitions.
The Miss Gastonia/Miss Gaston County/Miss Mount Holly competition was held on January 8 at Stuart W. Cramer High School.  At the end of the program, six young women emerged from a field of 15 contestants as winners.  They are:
Miss Gastonia 2022 is Sharidan Costner.  She is the 19-year-old daughter of Sheldon and Sharon Costner of Gastonia.  A graduate of Forestview High School, she is a student at Winston-Salem State University where she is pursuing a degree in exercise science.  For the talent competition, she performed a tap dance routine.  Her community service project focuses on offering support and bringing Miss Gastonia’s Outstanding Teen 2022 is Lorelei Elberson.  She is the 15-year-old daughter of Scotty and Kristen Elberson of Denton.  A student at South Davidson High School, her college plans include attending Columbia University to obtain a degree in pre-medicine; she wants to become an anesthesiologist.  For the talent competition, she presented a speed painting demonstration.  Her community service project focuses on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Miss Gaston County 2022 is Bailey Beam.  She is the 24-year-old daughter of Scott and Sherri Beam of Lincolnton.  She is a graduate of Lincolnton High School and Lenoir-Rhyne University where she earned a degree in vocal performance/sacred music; she currently works as a children’s ministry director.  For the talent competition, she performed a vocal selection.  Her community service project focuses on the importance of organ donation.
Miss Gaston County’s Outstanding Teen 2022 is Morgan Wuest.  She is the 17-year-old daughter of Frank and KK Wuest of Hickory.  A homeschooled student, her college plans include attending Catawba Valley Community College and Appalachian State University to pursue a degree in chemistry.  For the talent competition, she performed a selection on the viola.  Her community service project focuses on the importance of involving youth in community-based activities.
Miss Mount Holly 2022 is Andersen Raines.  She is the 22-year-old daughter of Brannon and LeeAnn Raines of Midland.  A senior at Appalachian State University, she is majoring in hospitality and tourism management and currently pursuing employment opportunities in Charlotte.  For the talent competition, she presented a character monologue.  Her community service project focuses on Career and Technical Education programs in schools.
Miss Mount Holly’s Outstanding Teen 2022 is Zoe Gambino.  She is the 15-year-old daughter of James and Randi Wilde of Mount Holly.  A student at East Gaston High School, her college plans include attending Western Carolina University to participate in the university’s music program and pursue a degree in sports medicine; she eventually wants to become an athletic trainer for the NFL.  For the talent competition, she performed a selection on the clarinet.  Her community service project focuses on domestic violence prevention.
As Gaston County’s titleholders for 2022, the six young women will make public appearances, promote their community service project, and compete for the Miss North Carolina and Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen titles in June.  The state competition is set for June 23-25 at the High Point Theater.
In the Miss division, the list of contestants included Deoveune Chappell, Bailey Clayton, Olivia Taggart, Rebecca DeMar (runner-up), and Deanna Glenn (congeniality winner).  The Outstanding Teen contestants included Morgan Kimrey, Natalie Dail (runner-up), Hailey McClellan, and Savannah Royals.
The Miss division is open to young women ages 19-26 who live, work, or attend school in Gaston and nine surrounding counties.  The Outstanding Teen division is for young women ages 13-18 who are North Carolina residents; the teen contestants do not have to live in a particular county to enter.
The Miss Gastonia Scholarship Association sponsored the pageant.  The contestants competed for $218,700 in cash and in-kind scholarships.  Toyota of Gastonia, Hagans Real Estate of Kings Mountain, and the City of Mount Holly presented the $1,000 scholarships for Miss Gastonia, Miss Gaston County, and Miss Mount Holly.  Belmont Abbey College, Gardner-Webb University, Gaston College, and Paul Mitchell – The School in Gastonia provided in-kind-scholarships.
The pageant featured outgoing 2020-2021 titleholders Julia DeSerio, Miss Gastonia; Keelie Jones, Miss Gastonia’s Outstanding Teen; Mariana Linares, Miss Gaston County; Lexi Foy, Miss Gaston County’s Outstanding Teen; and Anne Marie Hagerty, Miss Mount Holly.  Todd Hagans was the emcee, Delores Cox directed the pageant, and Cathy Layton-Aupied served as the producer/choreographer.
A highlight of the program was the presentation of the Key to the City to Miss Mount Holly by city councilman David Moore.  During his presentation, Moore complimented Hagerty on her time of service and for finishing as the first runner-up to Miss North Carolina 2021.
For more information and to keep up with the 2022 titleholders, visit www.missgastoniapageant.com or find the “Miss Gastonia Organization” on Facebook.
 
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The Southern Piedmont Chapter of the Compassionate Friends leader Candace Hulsey at the Children’s Memorial Garden at Robin Johnson Hospice House near Dallas. Photo by Alan Hodge

Robin Johnson Hospice House getting a beautiful garden

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


“Our children will be remembered here.”
That’s what Southern Piedmont Chapter of the Compassionate Friends leader Candace Hulsey has to say about the new garden that group is having built on the grounds of CaroMont Health’s Robin Johnson Hospice House, 5005 Shepherds Way, near Dallas.
The idea behind the garden is for it to be a quiet, reflective place of natural beauty that folks can visit when they need to take a deep breath and think about things. Its official name is the “Southern Piedmont Chapter of the Compassionate Fiends Children’s Memorial Garden”.
“The garden will provide a place where our children, grandchildren, and siblings can be remembered,” Hulsey said. “It will also be a place of solitude and beauty for the patients and their families along with the staff at Robin Johnson Hospice House.”
Construction of the garden is well under way and plans are for it to be done by April. The general layout is a winding path of large flagstones flanked by flower gardens and other plantings. Three large arbors arch over the walkway. Small boulders offer places to sit and reflect. A focal point is a wild cherry tree whose moss covered trunk dips low, then twists and turns back skyward.
Other features the garden will have includes memorial pavers, a small amphitheater, benches, sculptures of children at play, and a small natural meadow.
The garden was laid out by Tiz Johnston of Garden Design. QLM (Quality Landscape Materials) provided the ingredients.
According to Hulsey, the garden has been in the dreaming and planning stages for six years. Compassionate Friends is footing the bill.

“The money came from fundraisers, the Community Foundation, and grants,” Hulsey said.
When it’s done, the garden will be gifted to CaroMont and Robin Johnson Hospice House.
Hulsey has a personal interest in the garden. She lost her son Steven on July 24, 2004 at age 33 in an auto accident.
“When you lose a child the fear is they will be forgotten,” Hulsey said. “Steven may not be here but the garden will be long after I am gone. I feel so blessed to be a part of this garden. It is a wonderful thing.”
During this interview, Hulsey stood by the twisted cherry tree and looked at it thoughtfully.
“This tree said to me, I am broken but I still live,” she said. “That is us.”
More about The Compassionate Friends 
The Compassionate Friends was founded over 50 years ago when a chaplain at the Warwickshire Hospital in England brought together two sets of grieving parents and realized that the support they gave each other was better than anything he, as a chaplain, could ever say or provide. Meeting around a kitchen table, the Lawleys and the Hendersons were joined by a bereaved mother and the chaplain, Simon Stephens, and The Society of the Compassionate Friends was born. The Compassionate Friends jumped across the ocean and was established in the United States and incorporated in 1978 in Illinois.
Each chapter, along with the supporting National Office, is committed to helping every bereaved parent, sibling, or grandparent who may walk through our doors or contact us.
Today TCF has over 600 chapters serving all 50 states plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, that offer friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members during the natural grieving process after a child has died. Around the world more than 30 countries have a Compassionate Friends presence, encircling the globe with support so desperately needed when the worst has happened.
The Southern Piedmont Chapter was started by John and Rose Stanley who lost their daughter Susan in a single car accident on May 29, 1984. The chapter was chartered in 1986 and meets monthly at First Presbyterian Church Gastonia.
Interested in learning more about how to join or contribute? Contact Hulsey at 704-678-6537 or email cdhulsey@gmail.com.
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Rev. Charles Wesley Reid

Rev. Charles Reid
remembered as a man who made a big impact on Belmont

Third in a series of Black History Month stories recognizing prominent Afrtcan-American people and places in our area.

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Even though Rev. Charles Wesley Reid passed away on Nov. 9, 2020  at age 68, his legacy in Belmont and beyond will continue on.
Reid’s motto and life philosophy was the acronym “B.E.L.I.E.V. E.” That stands for Brother, Exceptional, Loving, Inspirational, Energizing, Visionary, and Enthusiastic. He not only embraced those ideals, he lived them each and every day.
Reid had several siblings. They included brothers Oscar, Abriel, Forrest, and sisters Broncher and Vera.
Vera characterized Charles with these reflections.
“Charles was well known in Belmont as someone who stood up for what was right,” she said. “It did not matter what your skin complexion. He was there for everyone.”
Reid was founder of the Belmont Mass Choir.
“He wanted every race to be part of the choir, Vera said.
Reid was a familiar sight sitting on the porch of his grandparent’s home on Sacco St.
“On any nice and sunny day you would find him in one of the rocking chairs,” said Vera. “He loved for people to stop by and sit on the porch and rock with him. On Sundays after church you could find the front porch and yard full of family and friends.”
Even the pandemic failed to dampen Reid’s hospitable spirit.
“Charles would say we had to practice social distancing,” Vera said. “He always kept bottled water, sodas, and chips for the guests to enjoy. Whenever the family or someone in the community needed some advice Charles would always try to give them words of encouragement or even offer to pray with them.”
Oscar Reid remembered Charles in the form of another acronym..L.O.V.E. That one stands for Leadership, Obedience, Virtue, and Empathy.
“He showed love for all,” Oscar said. “He showed leadership to everybody in his community, ministry, and love of music. He showed obedience in showing his practical acceptance of the authority and will of God. He showed virtue in his daily life by honoring God and being willing to help out people. He showed empathy in his compassion for his family, community, and all mankind.”
Reid valued education.  He graduated from Belmont High School in 1969. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, a master’s in education from UNC Charlotte, and a master’s in divinity from Hood Theological Seminary.
Reid’s faith was also a driving force in his life starting with Hood Memorial AME Zion Church in Belmont. He went on to become a pastor at several AME Zion churches including Big Pineville, Steele Creek, and Clinton Chapel in Charlotte, as well as Mount Zion in Gastonia.
Reid also had a successful career as a counselor at Family Housing Services of Charlotte. He was also a personnel analyst for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and director of Student Support Services at Johnson C. Smith University. He worked as a career development specialist for Goodwill Industries in Charlotte where he retired in 2019.
 
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A group of educators from Colorado visited Gaston County to gain a better understanding of how three local elementary schools – W.A. Bess, Pinewood, and Rankin – are linking the fine arts to positive academic outcomes.

Educators from Colorado visit Gaston County Schools

By Sean Corcoran
Gaston County Schools


What’s going on in classrooms at three elementary schools in Gaston County has captured the attention of educators from Colorado.
W.A. Bess Elementary, Pinewood Elementary, and Rankin Elementary earned the prestigious North Carolina A+ School distinction, which is presented by the N.C. Arts Council.  W.A. Bess joined the program in 2019, and Pinewood and Rankin followed in 2020.  As an A+ School, Bess, Pinewood, and Rankin have added the arts across the curriculum.
Word spread, and a group of 24 educators from the Colorado Springs School District visited Gaston County Schools to learn more about our North Carolina A+ Schools.  What they saw were creative and inspiring ways that teachers are incorporating aspects of art, music, dance, and theater into their daily lessons and activities.
“It is great for them to see the amazing work being done in Gaston County Schools and find out more about the benefits of A+ learning and how children are engaged in this type of unique school environment,” said Michelle Burrows, the North Carolina A+ Schools director who arranged the visit.
The Colorado educators had the opportunity to observe teachers and students using the arts to focus on critical thinking skills.  For example, in Taylor Helms’ third grade class at Pinewood, students were asked to draw a city using arrays, which is the arrangement of objects, pictures, or numbers in rows and columns.
“The purpose of an array city is to inspire students to use creativity to make the buildings,” explained Helms.  “They cut out squares as windows, put them in rows and columns, and then wrote matching multiplication equations for each building.”
By integrating art into the assignment, children gain a better understanding of their multiplication skills, said Helms.  “They love the hands-on approach to learning.”
In Amanda Humphries’ classroom, third graders performed a skit using “The Tortoise and the Hare” story to demonstrate their reading comprehension skills.
“After reading a variety of folktales and discussing character traits, motives, and moral lessons in the stories, students had the opportunity to showcase a folktale through dramatization,” explained Humphries. “In groups, one student was the narrator of a fable while the other students did a pantomime, acting out key vocabulary words for actions and feelings of the characters.”
The hallways at W.A. Bess Elementary are lined with colorful and creative art projects with written explanations.  First grade teacher Ashley McGinnis used jack-o-lanterns for her students to learn about two dimensional shapes.
“Some students used triangles and rectangles for teeth, and others used different shapes such as ovals and circles to represent the pumpkin,” said McGinnis. “It’s one of the many ways our children are using their imagination to learn the curriculum.”
 This is what an A+ North Carolina School looks like on a typical day – integrating the arts into the curriculum and viewing the arts as a foundation for teaching and learning.
Research indicates that students who are engaged in the arts achieve at a higher level and also develop an understanding of and appreciation for the arts.  Through their visit to Gaston County, the Colorado educators were able to see how the arts are linked to positive academic outcomes and learn strategies and techniques to use in their own classrooms.
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On Monday, Habitat for Humanity Gaston County executive director Kay Peninger (fourth from left) and other dignitaries held an official groundbreaking event for the Dixon Village housing project on Lee Rd. in North Belmont. Photo by Alan Hodge

Dixon Village
construction begins

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Site work has started on the Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County Dixon Village project on Lee Rd. off Hickory Grove Rd. in North Belmont. The development will contain 28 homes and will occupy 7.5 acres.
Crews have started working clearing the property of trees and underbrush and an official groundbreaking took place last Monday.
Habitat Gaston completed its Phase One fundraising by meeting a goal of $1.5 million dedicated to the neighborhood’s infrastructure.  The start of Phase Two fundraising also began following Monday’s groundbreaking. The $1.2 million goal will go directly toward the construction of the Habitat homes. Each Habitat residence will cost an estimated $150,000.
“We are elated to get this innovative project off the ground and build beautiful homes where families can thrive,” said Kay Peninger, executive director of Habitat Gaston. “Dixon Village will provide more than just a house; this neighborhood will offer a community, a sturdy foundation and a homeownership dream fulfilled for many Gaston families.”
Plans are for the site work to be done by late April.
“We have contracted with Site Works to perform the horizontal work for the Dixon Village project,” Penninger said.  “They began working December 6, 2021 and are targeting April 25, 2022 for completion.  We do hope that we can begin pouring pads for two to four homes before
then.  It is very exciting to see this starting to take shape and form!”
According to Peninger, Habitat has updated the ratios of homeowners.  One-third will be Habitat homes. One-third will go to “hometown heroes” – police officers, firefighters, health care workers, teachers, veterans, etc. One-third will be market-rate entry-level buyers.
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.
 “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.”
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Muddy River Distillery founder/owner Robbie Delaney seen with rum aging in oak barrels. This is just a fraction of the product they have on hand. Photos by Alan Hodge

Belmont’s Muddy River Distillery growing by leaps
and bounds

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


One of Belmont’s most innovative and interesting small businesses, as well as a tourism destination, Muddy River Distillery, is growing at a prodigious rate. But it may not be in town much longer.
Muddy River was started back in 2011 by husband and wife team Robbie and Caroline Delaney.
The idea to start a rum distillery- the first in North Carolina- came to Robbie when he spotted a magazine article on the subject while flying back to Charlotte from a construction job in Texas. Work in the construction industry was drying up and he was casting about, looking for another career. Not only that, but the constant travel was making spending time with Caroline logistically problematic.
“I got excited when I read the magazine article,” Robbie said. “I started doing research on what it would take to build a still and to begin distilling.”
chat with friend Scott Huff, a rum connoisseur, led to the decision to make rum rather than bourbon or some other type of libation. Once the decision to distill legal rum was made, the Delaney’s found a space at the former Piedmont Processing plant.  Robbie used his construction skills to build his first still. The basis of the still was a stainless steel milk tank he got from his father’s farm in Greensboro. Muddy River became the first modern era rum distillery in North Carolina.
From the very beginning, the Delaney’s worked night and day at the distillery. They often slept in the building on a tent in sleeping bags on the concrete floor. The rum began to flow and sales rose.
By 2013 the distillery had two large stills operating. The rum was being sold at ABC stores across North Carolina. In 2017, a 450 gallon still named “Independence” came on line. Caroline began giving guided tours of the distillery.
Just when things were taking off, Covid came around. Bars and restaurant sales of rum slowed to a trickle. The Delaney’s shifted gears and began making alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It was an instant hit and the sales helped carry them through the worst of the pandemic lockdown.
Now that things are getting back to normal, rum sales are soaring and tour group visitors are lining  up again with folks eager to see Muddy River’s inner workings, taste rum samples, and buy bottles of the distillery’s award winning product.
Currently, the distillery has racks of rum aging in oak barrels. Thousands of bottles are in cases ready for shipment. Rum-making supplies are stacked on pallets everywhere including 30,000 lbs. of sugar and a tank with 2,000 gallons of fermenting molasses.
“We have to shuffle stuff around to get to the shipping dock door,” said Robbie.
Current production is 1,200 bottles of rum per day. The first rum runs of ten years ago made 35 bottles per day.
“Bottle sales grew 30 percent last year,” said Robbie.
The Delaneys have also hired two full time employees.
All that growth had led to a need for more room not just for rum making, but also to have a nice space where folks can come in and linger while they enjoy a rum cocktail or sip shots.
“We want to sell an experience like craft breweries do,” said Robbie.
Future plans for Muddy River include marketing to a multi-state area and becoming a rum distiller on the national level.
But Robbie is frustrated.
“We’ve been looking for a larger space for over a year,” he said. “We need at least 20,000 sq. ft. of room.”
Right now, the distillery has only about 6,000 sq. ft.
Thoughts of staying in Belmont are currently somewhat dim.
“Belmont is geared more towards residential development and real estate,” Robbie said.
However, the Delaneys have several irons in the fire.
“We are looking at a place in Mt. Holly that used to be a textile mill,” Robbie said.
The structure he referred to is the circa 1875 mill located at Alsace Avenue and N. Main. The building served as the Austrian Consulate for several years.
Another possibility Robbie mentioned is the Top Golf building on I-485 near Charlotte.
“We are also interested in the area of Gastonia near the new ball park,” said Robbie.
The bottom line?
“We are growing and we will move where we have to,” Robbie says. “We are probably going to leaving Belmont.”
For more information visit muddyriverdistillery.com.
 
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This marker is also at the Hunter gravesite at Hawthorne and Catawba St. in Mt. Holly.

Former slave
Ransom Hunter was an
entrepreneurial pioneer

One in a series of  Black History Month stories remembering prominent African-American people and places in our area.

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Ransom Hunter rose from the bonds of slavery to become one of Mt. Holly’s leading businessmen and citizens and though he died a century ago, his name is still remembered to this day.
Hunter was born a slave on a plantation near Charleston circa 1825. As a boy he was sold to the Hoyle family who owned a large farm near Dallas and Stanley in Gaston County.
Just before the Civil War broke out in 1861, Hunter’s owner set him free and gave him a plot of land near the Catawba River that Hunter named “Freedom”. It is believed that Hunter was the first free black in Gaston to own property.
Though the land was rugged, Hunter pitched in and through his sweat and sinew created a prosperous farm.
During Reconstruction following the war, Hunter’s hard work enabled him to purchase additional land in what is today’s appropriately named Freedom neighborhood in Mt. Holly. He operated a livery stable on Main St. and ran a general store for the local African-American populace making him one of the first black business owners in the area. He also helped recently freed slaves find jobs and housing.
 Hunter was a strong believer in education. He learned to read, write, and do math. He also learned carpentry and blacksmithing. He served on the Public School Committee of District No. 12, which at the time was called the “colored” school district, and deeded land to what became Rollins School in 1887.
Hunter also had strong faith. He was the founder of two Mount Holly churches still in existence today: Rock Grove Methodist Church, which became Burge Memorial United Methodist Church, and Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.
Hunter sold land to Abel Peterson Rhyne and Daniel Efird Rhyne to build the area’s first cotton mill in 1875. The Mount Holly Manufacturing Mill was constructed on the land which Hunter purchased in 1874 from R.C.G. Love. It was the fourth mill to be built in Gaston County and is the oldest surviving cotton mill today. The name of the mill was derived from the famed yarn mill in Mount Holly, New Jersey, in hopes of taking after their success. The mill’s success and the prosperity of the area led local residents to petition the North Carolina General Assembly for the incorporation of Mount Holly in 1879.
 In 1913, Hunter sold the Mayes Manufacturing Company a stretch of land near the South Fork Catawba River and the Southern Railroad, where they built a cotton textile mill.[8]
Hunter died in 1918 at the age of 93 in Mt. Holly. He’s buried near a large oak in the cemetery at the corner of Hawthorne and West Catawba  Ave. in Mt. Holly.
Hunter is still remembered for his many contributions to Mt. Holly.
In July 2014, his descendants held a family reunion and a new headstone was placed under the big tree near his grave.  In 2017, Hunter was named as the very first Mt. Holly Historic Person of the Year by the Mt. Holly Historical Society.
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2022 Gaston Together MLK Unity Awards honored Burks, Martin, and Meeks

The Gaston Clergy & Citizens Coalition (GC3), an initiative of Gaston Together, presented the 2022 Gaston County MLK Unity Awards to Mr. R. Dwayne Burks, Rev. Dr. Joan C. Martin, and Mr. Michael Meeks, Sr. on Monday, January 17th at 10:30 am. Out of an abundance of caution due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event this year was live-streamed through the Facebook page of Mt. Zion Restoration Church.
The Gaston County MLK Unity Award was established in 2004 by the GC3. The MLK Unity Award recognizes Gaston County citizens who have performed exemplary community service to help build bridges of unity across lines of class, race, gender, faith, and municipalities within Gaston County.
R. Dwayne Burks is being honored for his work in the community, including his teaching of cultural competency education sessions for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police and founding Gateway Gaston, which serves residents of Gaston County by connecting them to resources in times of need. Mr. Burks also hosted two Legacy of Freedom trips for local clergy from multiple denominations and participated in an outreach ministry serving meals to those in need. A resident of Gaston County since 1988, Mr. Burks continues to serve residents throughout the County.
Rev. Dr. Joan C. Martin has served residents of Gaston County since 2004 in many capacities. She has served as a facilitator of the Interfaith Trialogue, a leader and facilitator for the Clergy Women of Gaston County, and a member and past chair of the Gaston Together Clergy and Citizen’s Coalition. Rev. Martin currently serves as the Chaplin of Covenant Village and continues her work with non-profit organizations throughout Gaston County.
Mr. Michael Meeks, Sr., was born and raised in Bessemer City, NC. He served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and continued his service in the Army Reserve. After a career with Wyndham Worldwide Hotels, he returned to Bessemer City and began volunteering on many community projects and committees. He currently serves as the President of the Bessemer City Crisis Center, serves on the Gaston County Collaborative Board, and delivers Meals on Wheels to area residents. An active member of the Gaston County Honor Guard and Chairman of the Gaston County Veterans Day Parade, Mr. Meeks was honored in 2018 with the Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service and continues to serve the Greater Gaston community through his volunteer efforts.00
The awards are part of an annual event designed by the GC3 to recognize the dream of Dr. King to promote a culture that protects and nourishes every community and every person, a dream very much alive in Gaston County.
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CRO board of directors president Bob Duckworth stocking the shelves with food. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization celebrates 70th anniversary in 2022

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

For 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.”
The current CRO board of directors president is Bob Duckworth. He took over January 1 from First United Methodist Church Mt. Holly pastor Rev. Mike Carr who was reassigned to Oak Ridge UMC near Greensboro.
Duckworth talked about what the past couple of years has brought to the CRO.
“When the pandemic hit in 2020 we thought we would get lots of new clients,” he said. “However, with all the government assistance people were getting we actually saw a drop in numbers. We went from fifty or so people a week to the low teens.  When 2021 came we began to see our numbers return to normal levels about mid-year. November was a big month. I think one reason client numbers went up was things like unemployment benefits were cut.”
Duckworth estimates the CRO gave out around 30,000 pounds of food in 2021.
The CRO’s food comes from numerous sources- the USDA, purchases from Second Harvest Food Bank, donations from Food Lion, and private, church, or corporate donations.
“Food donations have been good,” said Duckworth. “We also get food from the Mt. Holly Community Garden and the Mt. Holly Farmers Market. We get fifty to one hundred pounds of food six days a week from Food Lion’s meat, produce, and bakery departments.”
Duckworth thinks 2022 will be a good year for the CRO.
“We have plenty of food and are looking forward to 2022,” he said. “We are also increasing our cash assistance program. Last year it was $300 a year for medicine and utilities. Now, it will be $500 a year for medicine, utilities, and rent.”
As far as a “wish list” for the CRO’s future, Duckworth says a new truck would be nice- the one they have now is 20 years old- but he says renting one rather than buying is something under consideration. In addition, more storage space for food is needed.
“We turned our lobby into a food storage space,” Duckworth said.
Overall, optimism is the CRO keyword.
“The people of Mt. Holly are very generous to us,” he said.
Here are some more CRO particulars- For the foreseeable future, the CRO will continue to operate under COVID-19 protocol. Clients and donors are asked to wait outside. A volunteer will sign you in and provide further direction. The CRO is committed to serving the community while also keeping clients, volunteers, and staff safe. Clients need to sign in by 11:45 a.m.
Donations are the lifeblood of the CRO. Not only food, but cash is welcome. Cash donations can be tagged for food or utility bills.
Location- 2120 Spring St. the CRO is nestled between Food Lion and the ABC store. Phone- 704-827-0450. Website cro-mtholly.org.
The CRO is open most weeks on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 am to 12:30 pm.The CRO is always closed on Tuesdays. If hours need to change for illness or inclement weather, the CRO will provide updates via Facebook and Instagram. Additionally, the CRO does close for some holidays and for the annual inventory and inspection. At present, the schedule of holidays includes:

01/17 - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
04/15 - Good Friday
04/18 - Easter Monday
05/30 - Memorial Day
07/04 - Independence Day
09/05 - Labor Day
11/11 - Veterans Day
11/24 - Thanksgiving Day
11/25 - Thanksgiving Friday

Belmont Banner bound volumes have a new home

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

From time to time folks contact the BannerNews office wanting to know where they can see past issues of the paper. Well, here’s the latest on the situation as well as a bit of background.
To begin with, year by year hardbound volumes of the Belmont Banner and later the BannerNews from 1945-2013 were kept in the newspaper office at 128 N. Main St. in Belmont. They took up a lot of space. Their future was uncertain. So in July, 2018 they were donated to the Belmont Historical Society. By and by storage conditions and space dictated that the volumes could not stay there. So, in January 2019, the BHS donated them to the Belmont Abbey College Library.
The Abbey library gave the volumes some much needed TLC. The volumes were placed in plastic bags and put in a deep freeze. The idea behind that was to kill book mites. The volumes had plenty of those biting, creeping critters and the cold killed them. The volumes were also wiped down with Lysol and treated for mold.
The idea was to digitalize the volumes and have their content available online. Some of that was started but a lot remains to be done. The volumes were in the Abbey library archives in the basement. Once again, they took up a lot of space. Once again, their future was uncertain.  Like a lop eared pup, they sorely needed a forever home.
Enter Allen Millican.
Millican is owner and founder of Millican Pictorial Museum that’s situated in the circa 1868 Abram Stowe House at 35 E. Catawba St., Belmont. His collection of vintage photographs and other local history memorabilia housed there is one of the largest anywhere.
Millican is a bona fide Belmont history nut. He found out about the volumes and the need to locate them where they would be safe and sound. He sprang into action and contacted Don Beagle, director of library services at the Abbey. The two met and drew up a formal agreement transferring the volumes to Millican’s care.
When the time came to move the big books, Millican’s neighbor Derek Peters and his six children, as well as Art Shoemaker, pitched in. The books were placed in the upstairs portion of the museum.
“The kids formed a bucket brigade and we passed the volumes to them one at a time,” Millican said.
The volumes are currently on heavy duty shelves. But they are not just going to sit there. Oh, no, Millican and friend Roland Setzer are already working on getting select pages in each one photographed and the resulting pictures restored in the interest of clarity.
“Right now we aren’t trying to photograph every page,” Millican said. “We are going through them and taking photographs of pages with significant historical interest. The photos will go on my Facebook page and website.”
Millican also says that hopefully, the volumes could also go back to the Abbey (temporarily) a few at a time to be digitalized. Provided the library gets a grant for that purpose.
“Digitalizing the volumes would take a lot of work and expense,” he said.
Meanwhile, the volumes are at Millican’s place safe and sound- and available for viewing by the public.
“They are full of such dynamite stories about Belmont,” he said. “If people want to make an appointment to look through them they can contact me and set up a time.”
Here’s the contact information. Call Millican at 704-829-8033 or 980-297-1064. Email is allenmillican45@gmail.com.
For front
Bids to buy the iconic Belmont Middle School building commenced on January 26.

“Old” Belmont Middle School up for sale

By Alan Hodge
Alan.bannernews@gmail.com

One of Belmont’s most iconic architectural, educational, historical, and whatever else you want to call it buildings is officially for sale.
Bids for the former Belmont High School, and later Middle School, building at 110 N. Central Avenue opened January 26. The building is owned by Gaston County.
 “We will not set an initial minimum bid for the property,” said Ray Maxwell, infrastructure and asset manager for Gaston County.  “We do expect bidders to submit reasonable offers though.  The final bid will go back to the Commission to be accepted or rejected.”
*See bottom of story for complete information on the bidding process.
The building has a history going back over 80 years. It was built in 1938 by local contractor Will Hand. The school was state of the art for its time. It had a spacious auditorium, a superb gym, science rooms, music rooms, a library, and textile vocational classes. When South Point High was built in 1964, the building became Belmont Middle School. Last year, when the new Belmont Middle School on South Point Rd. was opened, the building was closed and its furniture and other equipment auctioned off.  
A tour of the facility was given last week by Rebecca Edison, contracts coordinator for Gaston County. About a dozen interested parties showed up. The group included business folks, local municipal officials, interested citizens, and this reporter.
The overall impression of the building is one of space. It has over 105,000 sq. ft. That’s enough to equal 100 hotel rooms. The auditorium can seat 840 people. The gym has 7,800 sq. ft. of space. The cafeteria has 4,000 sq. ft. There are 65 parking spots right now. The school sits on 4.5 acres of prime real estate. One note- the field behind the school is part of Stowe Park and owned by the City of Belmont.
The school is just a couple of miles from US74 and I85. It’s about 15 minutes from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
Belmont businessman and former city council member Richard Cromlish was one of the tour takers.
“I want to see this done right,” he said of the building’s future. “There is huge potential here. It could be a hotel, or a senior living facility, or apartments.”
Cramerton town commissioner Richard Atkinson also took the tour.
“The auditorium could be used as an entertainment venue like the Don Gibson Theater in Shelby,” Atkinson said. “It could also be a senior living place like the former Mayworth School we have in Cramerton.”
Any and all repairs, upgrades, etc. are the responsibility of the buyer.
“It is being sold as is where is,” said Maxwell.
*Interested? Here’s how to bid.
This website below contains all the particulars concerning the bidding process. It also has information on the building’s structural condition as well as photos.
https://www.gastongov.com/government/departments/public_works/belmont_middle_school_property.php
 

Old Belmont Middle School Photos

Photos by Alan Hodge
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Community Public Charter School kindergarten students in Ms. Speas’ class enjoying their lessons.
​​​By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Community Public Charter School in Stanley is going to build a new school to house its growing enrollment.
Plans for a 47-room school are drawn up for the new facility slated for a 36-acre site on Mariposa Rd. just past Stanley Environmental.
“We are in final negotiations for the land,” said school founder Eddie McGinnis. “We hope to have the new building open in August, 2023.”
Cost of the facility will be around $20 million. It will be paid for by a private bond offering. The contractor is Durham-based Hubrich Contracting.
“They have built several charter schools across North Carolina,” said McGinnis.
Mussman Architects is handling the design.
The new building will initially house grades K-8, with more to come.
“Hopefully, we will add high school starting with 9th grade in 2023-2024,” McGinnis said.
The new building is needed to cope with the growth that CPCS has experienced since it first opened just a few years ago.
McGinnis, the former East Gaston High principal, hatched the idea of a charter school in 2016 when he was pastor at Community Pentecostal Center on Ralph Handsel Blvd. After jumping through the hoops required by the state to establish a charter school, Community Charter opened its doors in late summer, 2019, with around 220 students in grades K-5. Since then, the numbers have climbed steadily. By 2020, the school had 350 kids. This year, there are 470 students. Next year the number is expected to be 580 with 700 on the rolls by the time the new building is done. Students come from Gaston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, and Cleveland counties.
A tour of the current school campus reveals three shiny pre-fab buildings with classrooms, a gym, office space, and a nice playground area. A fourth mobile unit is planned for next year. The mobile units are leased. McGinnis says that when the new building is opened, the mobile units will be removed.
If a student needs transportation to and from school, Community Public Charter has two buses that run routes to Iron Station, Mt. Holly, Belmont, and Dallas.
What explains the success that Community Public Charter is seeing?
“We have hired good staff, we have a great school board, and we make sure we get the teachers what they need,” said McGinnis. “It has taken a lot of time, effort, and manpower, but the results are proving to be everything we hoped for.”
In addition, the school’s credo includes the following words- “We emphasize the importance of character, kindness, and community”.
“We teach American values,” said McGinnis. “We start every day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a patriotic song. We also have a rigorous academic program with the Core Knowledge Sequence and a values-based character education program with Core Virtues.”
McGinnis says the school has been getting support from Stanley.
“The town is working with us on traffic and zoning issues,” he said. “Also, the parental support is great.”
To learn more about Community Public Charter School, including how to put your name in the hat for the  2022-2023 selection process (deadline is January 31st), visit CPCSNC.org.
 

Lowell plans new park

City of Lowell story
Situated at 1602 North Main Street, Lowell, is a retired dye plant that has not been in operation since 2004. This property has been an eyesore to the community since the former dye plant shut its doors.
This 17.02 acre site boasts over 850 feet of frontage along the South Fork River and has over 25 abandoned structures from the previous dye plant. Residential neighborhoods are the predominant adjacent land uses, as well as Gaston County’s Poston Park to the north.
On December 14, 2021 the Lowell City Council unanimously voted to receive donation of the property to pursue a brownfield redevelopment of the site.
The architecture firm, Creech and Associates was selected in the August of 2021 to perform the conceptual master plan for this site. This process involved a high-level rendering of what amenities and layout of the site could look like. The planned redevelopment of this site would include: a new location for the City’s Public Works Facility and many recreational amenities such as: -Connection to the
    Carolina Thread Trail
-Outdoor classrooms
-Multiple playgrounds
-Amphitheater
-Fishing pier
-Kayak launch
-Banquet hall
-Picnic shelters
Steps forward will include citizen input on the amenities that may be offered at this site, a brownfield steering committee, and developing a plan to phase the project.
The City of Lowell has been working with a third-party environmental consultant, Mid-Atlantic Associates, for over 3 years to identify all environmental issues present on the site. The City has also utilized over 50 historical environmental reports from the property owner to determine the risk associated with this property. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has been very active remediating the site over the past several years. The City of Lowell applied for a Brownfield Agreement with NCDEQ in order to bring this property back to life for a different use. The City of Lowell subsequently received a Letter of Eligibility (LOE) into the Brownfield program on November 16, 2021.
A “brownfields site” is an abandoned, idled or underused property where the threat of environmental contamination has hindered its redevelopment. The Brownfields Program is the state’s effort to break this barrier to the redevelopment of these sites. Mid-Atlantic is an industry leader in Brownfield redevelopment. More than 500 sites around North Carolina have gone through with this process to redevelop these same types of properties. You have likely been to a brownfield site before and did not know. The US National Whitewater Center and the Bank of America Stadium are two local instances where brownfield sites were remediated and repurposed. Other regional examples include the Rocky Mount Event Center, Camden Center (Charlotte), Guilford Mills (Greensboro), Conover Station, Smith Property (Shelby), and many more.
 
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Auten-Stowe American Legion Post 144 members with the organization’s original charter. From left- Art Shoemaker, Barry Smith, Tommy Christopher.

Belmont’s Auten-Stowe American Legion Post 144 celebrating its centennial

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

One of Belmont’s most venerable and respected organizations- the Auten-Stowe American Legion Post 144- is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
Post 144 got its start on March 20, 1921 when a group of WWI Belmont veterans decided to form an American Legion Post. It was decided to name it after two Belmont lads who had been killed in the war-  William Auten and Charles Stowe. A year later, March 29, 1922, Post 144 received its charter.
For many years, Post 144 members met at a building called the “Community Center”. In 1952, the headquarters were located to its current location on Park Dr. near Davis Park.
Over the decades, Post 144 has been active in many civic affairs. In 1922, it organized the first volunteer fire dept. in Belmont. The group was instrumental in seeing that a memorial was built in Greenwood Cemetery honoring local WWI soldiers who had been killed in action.  This monument was dedicated on August 15, 1922. Post 144 has also made it possible each year since the 1960s for local students to attend the one-week Boys and Girls State seminar held at Catawba College. This program allows the students to study politics and government during their stay.
Post 144 was also active in the campaign that saw the Spirit of the Fighting Yank WWII memorial statue moved from its former location at Belmont Middle School to front and center at Stowe Park. Seeing the statue in its current location is a highlight of any visit to downtown Belmont.
Each Memorial Day, Post 144 places American flags on veteran graves in Greenwood Cemetery and other locations. It also organizes Memorial Day and Veterans Day events.
Baseball has been a big part of Post 144’s legacy. It has sponsored teams since the 1930s and is still active in baseball to this day.
Each year Post 144 holds a gala Christmas celebration. Traditionally, an outstanding local citizen receives the Community Service Award at the event.
Currently, Post 144 has over 200 members who share a strong bond of comradeship and camaraderie.
Post 144 member Art Shoemaker summed it up.
“Post 144 has been a vital part of Belmont for 100 years now,” he said. “It’s an amazing feat to have been here this long. Post 144 gives veterans a place to gather and to plan and do good works for the city of Belmont. It also gives young men a place to play baseball.”
All of this is wonderful, but there are some gaps in Post 144’s history that need filling in. Therefore, Post 144 is reaching out to the community for any information, news clips, photos, etc. that might flesh out its long and distinguished history.
“One thing we would like to know is where members met from 1922 to 1941,” said post commander Barry Smith. “Any other information is also greatly appreciated.”
Do you know more about the past of Post 144? If so, email at POST144BELMONT@GMAIL.COM.
Also, here’s a list of upcoming Post 144 events
March 29th - 100th year Anniversary of Post 144 1st meeting - Special Event in Planning.
Memorial Day Weekend - put out flags and breakfast.
Gun Raffle tickets begin sales in June - Drawing TBD.
August 27 - 100th year of Post 144 receiving charter from National American Legion,
September 17th - Fish Fry.
October 8th - SAL Golf Tournament (this date is tentative).
November 11th - Veterans Day.
December 10th - Army/Navy football game.
Also remember that regular meetings are the first Thursday of each month at 7:00 PM, but do not meet in July or December.

Belmont’s Auten-Stowe American Legion Post 144 celebrating its centennial (Photos)

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Trolley No. 85 makes its grand entrance into downtown Belmont. Photo by Ted Hall

Could Belmont become Trolley Town USA?

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Everyone knows that thanks to its spectacular holiday lights and events, McAdenville has acquired the name Christmas Town USA. In a similar vein of specialness, as of last week Belmont has now acquired not one, not two, but three vintage trolley cars that could give the city every right to call itself Trolley Town USA.
OK so that’s just a fanciful suggestion, but the true fact is now the CityWorks building on E. Catawba is where three trolleys are snugly situated awaiting finishing touches  and deployment on the tracks that run from downtown Belmont towards Wilkinson Blvd.
Last week saw two trolleys brought to Belmont from Charlotte. These cars, No. 1 and No. 85, join the 1913 Brill trolley that has called the CityWorks garage home for six years while it is undergoing a complete refurbishment.
The two Charlotte trolleys arrived on flatbed trucks. Monday saw No.85 pulled through downtown Belmont and parked for a while near Stowe Park before finally being delivered to CityWorks. The spectacle drew quite a crowd. Tuesday witnessed car No. 1 delivered straight to CityWorks. Flatbeds from Advantage Machinery did the delivering.  The cars were owned by the Charlotte Historic Landmarks Commission and had been housed since 2018 at the Sabona Mill in West Charlotte.
Belmont Trolley, Inc. co-vice president Nathan Wells was with the trolleys every mile of the way to their new home.
 “There’s kind of this little kid kind of tingle like a Christmas Eve sort of feeling waiting for Santa,” Wells said of the delivery. “Then there’s a more overriding sense of calm and satisfaction of a job well done. So though the project is not done, there’s still the sense of accomplishment knowing that it’s getting closer. It’s another plateau reached. And the buzz from others around the arrival of these two cars is palpable. Very cool!”
Wells explained the significance of having three trolleys in Belmont.
“What’s important about these cars is that it gives us two operable cars immediately and once we get our car (1913 Brill) operational that’ll be a third car. Other than Memphis and a museum around Washington DC, there are not three operating cars anywhere else that I know of in the southeast.  More importantly, is that now that the tracks are ready and we have two operable cars, there’s less pressure on us to complete the restoration of our car in the coming months.  This segues into another part of the project.”
The three cars run on electric motors. Since live overhead wires of the original type are not really an option, Wells says his group is working to obtain propulsion in another way.
“We are working with UNCC’s engineering department to design a battery pack that will provide power to the cars,” he said.  “There’s a group of seven young engineers, or soon to be, from the Electrical, Civil, and Mechanical departments designing this cart as their Senior Design project.  This battery pack will be on a cart that is towed behind the trolleys.  The battery pack itself will also be self-powered to drive down the tracks, switch tracks, and back up to another car when we choose to run another car.  Over the next few years, this will save us from having to provide power to each car separately.  It’ll be controlled with a remote and I think it will be a hit, even among the non-trolley fans, with the young and old kids alike.  The battery project is supposed to be completed this spring and ideally we would like to demonstrate it to the public, and the students design peers and mentors. So having those two operational trolley cars will give us an opportunity to potentially demo the entire trolley project this spring.  It’s unlikely our current car would have been ready by this spring.”
The future looks bright for the trolley scene in Belmont.
“What’s the big picture for 2022?” said Wells.  “So we will spend the bulk of this year trying to complete our capital campaign for the restoration of our car and to provide funding to build a car barn.  Ideally, we would like to begin construction on the car barn by the fall of 2022 with construction completed by the spring of 2023.  It will be a fairly large capital campaign, but we believe with the arrival of the two Charlotte cars and the progress we are making on the restoration of our own car and the battery cart to supply power to each car, it’ll help energize our campaign significantly.  That affectively summarizes our plans for 2022. Our vision looking out three, five, ten years, etc:  We’ll start to refine that vision as the capital campaign takes off and we look towards implementation of the project sometime hopefully in the spring of 2023.”

About the new trolleys 
Number 1 The Red One
Trolley No. 1 was originally built in Philadelphia by J.G. Brill in 1907 for Athens, Greece. The trolley’s restoration was complete in 1989 by trolley restorer Bruce Thain of Guilford, Connecticut.

Number 85 The Green One
Car 85, built in 1927, was the last electric streetcar to run in Charlotte on March 14, 1938. Alexander Garfield Collie, Sr. supervised the drivers when the streetcars were retired. His son, Alexander Garfield Collie, Jr. was driving car 85 for its final run in 1938. In his personal diary, Collie Sr. wrote of the car’s final run into the barn. Directing his son, Collie, Jr. to “move over,” he took the controls of number 85 for its final run. After retirement it was sold for $100, along with all the remaining cars. Following the system closure, Charlotte would rely solely on bus transit to serve its citizens until the opening of the Blue Line in 2007.
Car 85 was subsequently sold, stripped of its motors and seats, and sold to the N.C. Air National Guard, which used it for office space at the Charlotte airport. In 1939-1940, it was again sold and converted into a diner/concession stand at Caldwell Station, N.C., being used in this role until the early 1950s. Around late 1951, it was purchased for $125-150 by Daisy Mae Trapp Moore, a Huntersville resident, who moved it into her backyard and converted it into a mobile home to house relatives. The car was subsequently occupied by various renters. Its last occupant, construction worker Clay Thompson, lived in the former Car 85 from approximately 1972 to late 1987, when the town of Huntersville condemned the makeshift residence as it lacked indoor plumbing. Though Moore had intended to use the former streetcar as a storage shed, she sold it to the Emergency Properties Fund of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission for $1,000 on April 12, 1988.
Following the streetcar’s discovery, the Charlotte Historic Landmarks Commission led the charge in its restoration. On May 6, 1988, the streetcar was returned by road to Charlotte and stored behind the Discovery Place Museum for preservation and restoration. Original drivers’ stools from the Charlotte streetcars and a period trolley bell were located and donated to the project. By the end of 1989, the streetcar had been moved to a former city bus barn, where restoration continued. Motors, trucks, wheels and electrics were sourced from retired streetcars in Melbourne, Australia. Initially named “Trolley Car No. 2” but unofficially called “Car 85” the streetcar was conclusively identified as Car 85 when surviving interior identifying numbers were revealed during restoration work in 1990. Its restoration was completed in 1991 at a cost of just over $100,000.
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Rev. Mark Andews

Unity Day event will be virtual

The 31st annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Celebration sponsored by the City of Belmont, the Belmont Coalition of Concerned Citizens, the Gaston County NAACP, the Gaston County Organization for Community Concerns, and Race Matters Community Conversation will take place Monday, January 17th, 7pm. For the second year the service will be held virtually and hosted by the City of Belmont on its website (www.cityobelmont.org/MLKUnity). While organizers regret not being able to gather safely in person, the virtual service allows participants from all over the county, state, and beyond to participate live or at a later time. Last year almost the celebration was viewed almost 1200 times.
Mayor Charlie Martin will offer the welcome. The lighting of the Unity Candle by approximately thirty area children and teens will again be a part of the service. Local choirs will provide music. And the Reverend William Mark Andrews will offer the message. The son of Methodist missionaries and later a “preacher’s kid,” Reverend Andrews spent his childhood in Brazil and later western North Carolina. He attended Greensboro College for his undergraduate education and Duke University, where he earned his Master of Divinity in 1986. For thirty-three years Mark and his wife Denise served churches in the Western NC Conference, including First United Methodist Church in Belmont, where he served for ten years. In his final appointment Mark served as the District Superintendent for the Charlotte Metro District of the United Methodist Church.
Mark treasures being husband to Denise, father to daughter Courtney and son-in-law Phillip Clapp; plus son Wilson, daughter-in-law Carol; and, best of all, grandfather to Avery Clapp. Now retired, he spends his time with family, cycling, kayaking, playing tennis, and working towards racial reconciliation.
The online offering will benefit Habitat for Humanity’s Dixon Village in North Belmont. To learn more about this ministry and donate, visit https://habitatgaston.org/dixon-village-neighborhood/. Please designate Dixon Village when you donate.
Please mark your calendars, and join us online Monday, January 17th, 7pm, to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and our unity as a community.
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Ailene Friday, 94, of Stanley enjoys looking at scrap books filled with memories of her extensive travels.

Aileen Friday of Stanley has done some serious travelin’

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info
Back in 1962 country music star Johnny Cash recorded a tune entitled “I’ve Been Everywhere”. That song pretty much sums up the life of 94-year-old Ailene Friday of Stanley.
Friday, who has lived in Stanley since she was a teenager, was faced with a serious situation in 1994 when her husband Charles passed away. She could sit at home or she could get out and see the country. Well, she chose the latter and over the past quarter century has seen the U.S.A. from stem to stern.
“I had never been anywhere before except Lake Lure and Chimney Rock,” Friday said. “So in 1997 I decided to get together with some friends, charter a bus, and start traveling.”
Over the years, Friday’s circle of traveling companions has expanded and the scope of the sojourns has too. Sometimes so many folks go with her that it takes two buses.
“I’ve been to every state except Hawaii,” she said. “I don’t like flying over water.”
The list of places Friday has visited reads like an atlas of America. Some of them are- Grand Canyon, Alaska, five trips to California, Salt Lake City, Oregon, and Kentucky. She’s also been to Nova Scotia in Canada. One of her favorite spots is Branson, Missouri.
“I’m planning a trip there again for a group in April,” she said. “I already have thirty people signed up, but there’s room for a few more.”
Friday, who organizes the jaunts and makes all the arrangements, doesn’t have a computer at home. So, how in the world does she book rooms and make other arrangements?
“I use an old fashioned desk phone and contact the chamber of commerce wherever we are going,” she says matter of factly.
S.T.I Charters bus driver John Benton has been carrying Friday and her groups across the nation for years. He spoke highly of her choices in lodging arrangements.
“She does not book dog bed hotels,” he said.
Seeing new sights is cool, but Friday really relishes meeting new people.
“I have made friends all over,” she said.  “You meet the nicest people on a tour.”
Covid cut into Friday’s travels the last couple of years, but whenever she travels precautions such as masks are part of the scenario.
“Covid knocked it down a bit,” she said. “But we are hoping to be back to normal.”
So, how much longer does Friday plan to hit the highways?
“I’m going keep going as long as I can,” she said. “The customers don’t want me to quit.”
Interested in going to Branson with Friday? Call her at 704- 263-2264 and get ready to ramble.
 
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Town of Ranlo swearing-in ceremonies

The Town of Ranlo held swearing-in ceremonies for Mayor Lynn Black, Commissioner Trevor Hay, and Commissioner Wade Morton. Seated, left to right, is Commissioner Doug Moore, Commissioner Jamie Fowler, Mayor Lynn Black, Mayor Pro-Tem Katie Cordell, Commissioner Wade Morton, and Commissioner Trevor Hay. Also pictured is Town Clerk Sarah Rowan and Town Manager Jonathan Blanton.
 
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2021 Year in review: Part 2

​​​​​By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

The second half of 2021 saw folks continue to get their lives back to “normal” following 2020’s Covid restrictions. Festivals, high school football games, and Christmas parades all drew large crowds of folks happy to be able to mingle again.
July kicked off with Belmont’s Red, White, and Belmont July 4th street fest. A huge crowd crammed Stowe Park for music, fun, and fireworks. That same month saw Mt. Holly WWII veteran Willie Bert Rhyne celebrate his 100th birthday. On the school scene, Stuart Cramer High welcomed new principal Jessica Steiner.
August came in hot and the Mt. Holly PD was making good use of its new Mtn. Island Lake patrol boat making sure everyone was safe and sound on the water. August also saw ground broken for the MHPD Memorial Plaza next to the Municipal Center. Another August story covered the official opening of the new Belmont Middle School. In Stanley, Ashley Price was recognized as Gaston County Firefighter of the Year.
September rolled around and First Baptist Church Mt. Holly finally held its grand reopening event following five years of rebuild from the July 21, 2016 fire. The Cramerton Historical Society also held a ribbon cutting for its new museum. In Belmont, work continued at a rapid pace on the redevelopment of the 100 year old Chronicle Mill into luxury apartments and retail space. September also saw folks recall the 9/11/2001 attacks with memorial services including one at Community VFD 32 in North Belmont. Also in North Belmont, Centerview Baptist Church celebrated its 100th anniversary.
October brought cooler air to our region as well as a story recognizing cool Francina Burris who has been driving a school bus for Ida Rankin Mt. Holly students for over four decades. In Belmont, plans for the Moonlight on Main festival were in the final stages. The event in Stowe Park featured a 28’ in diameter inflatable moon. In Cramerton, members of the Women in Pink group held a fundraiser for Cancer Awareness Month at Cramer Mtn. Country Club. In Mt. Holly the fourth annual Lantern Parade took place. Downtown Mt. Holly was packed with people who were wowed by the amazing and creative lanterns that were carried by participants.
November brought Indian summer to our region and a Veterans Day story profiling Cramerton’s Larry Rick who served in Vietnam and was awarded the Purple Heart. Another personality profile in November looked at Belmont’s Charlie Craig and his incredible collection of vintage autos and artifacts. In Mt. Holly, a stretch of NC Hwy. 273 was officially named in honor of MHPD officer Tyler Herndon who had lost his life on duty December 11, 2020. The municipal elections were held in November and the turnout was steady. Cramerton got a new mayor in Nelson Wills and Belmont mayoral incumbent Charles Martin was reelected.
December brought 2021 to a close with a plethora of Christmas parades and the 66th annual lighting up of the holiday decorations In McAdenville. All the events were attended by heavy masses of humanity who were happy as larks to be able to see real parades after the Covid cancellations of 2020. December also brought an important day to Mt. Holly on the 11th when the spectacular Mt. Holly Police Dept. Memorial Plaza was officially dedicated. The plaza honors not only Tyler Herndon but all members of law enforcement who lost their lives in the line of duty.  December also saw the 100th birthday of Belmont’s Minnie Grier and groundbreaking for the new Belmont Parks and Rec. facility.

See more photos on pages 6 & 7 in January 6, 2022 issue of Banner-News
 

2021 Year in review: Part 2
Photos

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Crew member Mary Ellen in front of Cherubs Café.

Cherubs Café celebrated 25 years on December 21

By Shawn Flynn
A lot has changed in downtown Belmont the past quarter century. The one staple: the famous chicken salad served up by the Crew members at Cherubs Café.
 Cherubs Café officially opened the doors on Main Street in December, 1996. The business not only provided a meaningful employment opportunity for the differently able, but allowed Holy Angels to connect with the community.
 “Our whole goal is to serve the people we support, but also to serve our community,” said Holy Angels President/CEO Regina Moody. “Cherubs Café is our happy place (as the sign reads in the restaurant). This is a little piece of heaven.”
 Sr. Nancy Nance, Holy Angels vice president of community relations, helped to start Cherubs Café and managed it for the first decade. She called it her greatest mercy moment at Holy Angels.
 “I loved watching our crew members grow in their job skills,” said Sr. Nancy. “They were so proud of what they did because they knew people valued what they were doing. That was a major mercy moment for me.”
 She says the restaurant remains the longest business still open in downtown on Main Street. The late Belmont mayor, Kevin Loftin, even called Cherubs Café the anchor store.
 In 2017, Cherubs Café underwent extensive renovations giving the café a more modern look, to help draw in more people.
 Last year, all the businesses were closed for several months due to the pandemic, eventually reopened last fall. The Crew members returned in April 2021 to much fanfare and media attention.
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Faith Family Farm lives up to its name

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info
Faith. Family. Farm. Those three words make up not only the name of the Stroot family spread near Stanley, they also spell out the philosophy of the place.
Faith Family Farm is the passion of thirty-eight-year-old Joel Stroot, his wife Andrea, and their daughters, one-year-old Joanna, three-year-old Leah, and six-year-old Claire.
The root of the story starts with Joel, who grew up on a 200-acre farm in Missouri. When he was just 16-years-old, Joel lost his father, Mike, in a car crash, but the farming gene was already firmly planted in his soul. With Faith Family Farm, Joel is paying homage in many ways to the agricultural lessons he learned at his dad’s side.
“I grew up with fire in my belly to be a farmer,” said Joel. “This whole journey is about getting back to farming and continuing dad’s legacy.”
The family moved to the 35-acre former horse ranch off Rhyne Rd. in 2015 and set about turning it into an organic oasis. Joel, who is a bundle of physical and intellectual energy, is a dentist by trade and constantly works the farm when he’s not in his office. He’s been known to be on his tractor in the dead of night.
“The neighbors say I’m the midnight farmer,” he says with a smile.
Currently, Joel is taking a sabbatical from dentistry and devoting his time to getting the farm ready for spring.
“I have a big backlog of projects to do,” he said.
One of the biggest jobs Joel does is soil preparation.
The farm is dotted with huge heaps of leaves that the Town of Stanley brought there and dumped. Joel takes the leaves and churns them into the soil.
“When we first got the farm the horses had packed the soil down and depleted it,” Joel said. “Tilling in the leaves helps build it back up again.”
The trick works. The former hardpan soil is now dark and rich with a wide variety of plants thriving in it. In addition to a vineyard, vegetables, and herbs, the farm also produces fruit trees such as peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, apricots, pears, and cherries. One of the farm’s best crops are the elderberries that Joel and Andrea use to make a type of health supplement syrup that they sell.
“By using nutrient dense soil, you can produce nutrient dense food,” Joel says.
Livestock currently calling the farm home includes a flock of chickens and turkeys. These well fed critters are not pets, they provide eggs and meat for the table. Joel also adds wild game to the menu. He makes his own beer and wine.  He estimates that between the garden, the flocks, and the field, about ninety percent of the family food needs are met.
“I plan to add a couple of cows and pigs come spring,” Joel said.
Joel and Andrea want to pass on the knowledge they’ve gained at Faith Family Farm to others. Future plans include giving farmstead lessons and tours to interested individuals or groups. In this way, Joel, who was the 2017 annual North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture Award recipient, is carrying on his father’s legacy not only to his family’s benefit, but to the good of others as well.
“We are living out dad’s dreams,“ Joel said.
Interested in learning more about sustainable, organic, farming and Faith Family Farm? Text Joel at 704-689-0995 and prepare yourself for agricultural amazement. Oh, here’s the website https://www.faithfamilyfarmstead.com/.

FAITH FAMILY FARM PHOTOS

“Born Learning” addition in North Belmont Park

Gaston County Parks and Rec. has a new and interesting feature at North Belmont Park on Hickory Grove Rd. called “Born Learning”. Signs and other graphics lead kids and grownups on an adventure trail that sharpens minds and gets folks outdoors too. Gaston County United Way and Vallen provided the Born Learning Trail at North Belmont Park as part of the Day of Caring.

Chili Cookoff scenes...

Judah Christian Church in Stanley held a chili cookoff contest last week. Lots of folks came and enjoyed the chili and camaraderie. Above folks line up for the eats.     

Photos by Bill Ward

 
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Delores Stewart (left) and Pam Burleson voting in Mt. Holly where there was a brisk turnout. Photo by Alan Hodge

Municipal elections
saw steady turnout

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Well, the weather was perfect for last week’s municipal elections in Gaston County and a fair number of folks took advantage and got out and voted.
Poll chief Tian Sagasi at Precinct 46 in Mt. Holly summed up the pace that was typical of other voting places in the BannerNews distribution area.
“By 11am we had 239 voters come in,” Sagasi said. “It was very busy.”
Ditto at the Belmont Central Elementary voting station.
“It has been a steady turnout,” said poll chief Delilah Winchester.
Anyway, countywide, 13,562 out of 97,883 registered voters cast their ballot. Don’t forget the election was for municipal seats and/or issues (like the Mt. Holly Parks Bond referendum).
In Belmont, mayoral incumbent Charles Martin defeated challenger Claudina Ghianni 957 to 619, followed by Jason Lyle with 124 votes. In the city council contest, two seats were up for grabs. Incumbent Richard Turner topped the slate with 1,056 votes, followed by Alex Szucs with 860 votes. Richard Cromlish came in third with 811 votes, followed by Joe Green with 284 votes.
In Cramerton, a new mayor was elected with Nelson Wills getting 612 votes and incumbent Will Cauthen getting 535. Will Weber got 19 votes. Two Town of Cramerton commissioner seats were on the ballot. Kathy Ramsey won with 770 votes and Scott Kincaid grabbed the other seat with 551 votes. Third place went to Brad Milton with 462 votes.
In Lowell, there were three council seats available. Travis Smith got the most votes at 361, followed by Phil Bonham with 294 and Ken Ervin with 289. Larry Simonds got 254 votes and John Cato got 172.
McAdenville voters elected three council members. Carrie Breyare Bailey got 42 votes, Greg Richardson 39, and Jay McCosh 37.
In Mt. Holly, the aforementioned Parks Bonds were defeated 1118 “no” to 887 “yes”. The Mt. Holly council race saw three seats available. Incumbents David Moore and Lauren Shoemaker got 968 and 867 votes respectively. Newcomer Ivory Craig, Jr. rounded out the three with 803 votes trailed by Charles McCorkle with 644 votes, Dennis Petro with 636 votes, Kenneth Reeves with 424 votes, Jesse Fields, Jr. with 413 votes, Scott Lilly with 410 votes, and Randi Moore with 231 votes.
In Stanley, Kathy Kirkland ran unopposed for her Ward 02 seat and got 266 votes. Ward 05 saw Chad Jones win with 211 votes and Caroline Reid follow with 124 votes.
 
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Belmont Central Elementary Teacher of the Year Jennifer Ramsey with some of her AIG students from left Virginia Ernst, Jayden Brown, and Emmitt Widner.

Jennifer Ramsey named Belmont Central Elementary Teacher of the Year

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Working at any career for three decades is a feat, and when a person adds passion for that work to the mix, well, it’s a formula for success.
That pretty much describes Belmont Central Elementary School Teacher of the Year Jennifer Ramsey.
Cramerton native Ramsey has been a school teacher since she graduated from Appalachian State University back in 1990. She started at Lowell Elementary, and from there she moved over to Holbrook Middle. That was followed by several years at the Gifted Services division of Gaston County Schools. About 17 years ago she landed at Belmont Central and has been there ever since.
“It’s been a long time,” Ramsey said.
At Belmont Central, Ramsey is an AIG teacher for fourth and fifth grade students. What the heck is that? An AIG teacher teaches academically and intelligent/gifted kids who are sometimes bored by the “regular” curriculum.
“The key is to keep them focused and busy,” she says. “I make sure they have work that challenges their giftedness.”
Techniques that Ramsey says she uses in that regard includes deductive reasoning, manipulative math, algebra mysteries, and non-fictional text.
“These are things not usually associated with elementary school,” she said. “They are designed to frustrate them a little bit.”
Ramsey’s students rise to the occasion and appreciate what she does.
“She is really nice and shows us how to do our equations,” said student Emmit Widner.
“Another student, Jayden Brown, appreciates Ramsey’s sense of humor in the classroom.
“She’s really funny,” he said.
 Student Virginia Brown says Ramsey is “great!”
Ramsey has some advice of her own for parents of not only gifted children but all students.
“Make sure you open them up to new things,” she said. “Take them to museums, concerts, historical places. Try to spark their curiosity.”
Belmont Central principal Phyllis Whitworth knows Ramsey’s value.
“Naming Mrs. Ramsey as Teacher of the Year is a well deserved honor,” she said. “She is outstanding and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure all students succeed not just her AIG ones.”
With 30 years under her belt, Ramsey is not far from retirement, but even when that date comes she plans to keep her hand in teaching.
“I will miss the kids,” she confesses, “I would like to come back as a substitute.”
She might also bring back the summer science camp she held for the past nine years in Cramerton.
“There’s plenty to do,” she said.
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Cramerton Historical Society board chair Richard Atkinson (left) presenting Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Graham Bell.

Cramerton holds golf history seminar and also surprises local developer

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Members of the Cramerton Historical Society and special guests got together recently to discuss the game of golf- specifically as it relates to the town.
For nearly a century golf has been woven into Cramerton’s past as tightly as the weave of the famous military cloth once produced there. The first course was built on the banks of the South Fork River by Stuart Cramer back in 1922. The unnamed course was near Tenth St. and extended to Lincoln. St.
In 1927, a nine-hole course, Cramerton Golf Course, was constructed at the base of Cramer Mtn. near the Baltimore community. That course was said to be a “marvel of natural beauty and engineering”.
In 1954, Lakewood Golf Course was designed and built by Mike Michaels. The course was originally meant for Burlington Industries executives and workers. It was sold to Graham Bell in the early 1980s. Today, that property is the site of Stuart Cramer High School.
 In 1986, Cramer Mtn. Country Club was created on the slopes of Cramer Mtn. by Bell. The course was designed by world renowned Dan Maples who was also at the seminar.
Maples and Bell, as well as famed local golfer Joel Lineberger, shared their recollections on the past and present of golf in Cramerton at the seminar.
Now for the surprise. At the seminar, Bell was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his decades of service to Cramerton and Gaston County. The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is North Carolina’s top civilian honor. Recipients have included such luminaries as Andy Griffith, Charles Kuralt, Michael Jordan, Ted Hall, and even Art Shoemaker.
“I was totally surprised,” said Bell. “I had no clue this was going to happen. I am very honored and appreciative of the award.”
But wait, the story of golf in Cramerton is not over. Look for several special events to take place in 2022 to commemorate 100 years of knocking little white balls in holes in the ground in Cramerton.
For more information on the Cramerton Historical Society and upcoming events, visit Cramerton.org.
 

KBB Big Sweep did a great job

Keep Belmont Beautiful recently held its Big Sweep trash cleanup campaign. Others took part including Girl Scout Troop 13109, South Point High students, the Frank family, Nelson family, Jack and Jill Foundation of America,  and other folks including mayor Charles Martin (red shirt). The drive picked up an enormous amount of trash.

Photos provided
 

Queen of Apostles
Thanksgiving
 meal

The members of Queen of the Apostles Church, 503 N. Main St in Belmont, will continue our custom of providing a Thanksgiving Meal. Due to the Coronavirus, this year we will once again offer a meal kit to those needing to prepare a Thanksgiving meal at their homes. The meal kit will feed 4 people and will include a $15 gift card that can be used towards the purchase of a turkey or ham.
We can deliver a meal kit to your home on Saturday, November 20th, or you can pick up a meal kit at the church on the same day between 10am and 11am. To place your order, you have 2 options:
1. Call the church office to place your order. The  phone number is (704) 825-9600.  Give us your name, address, phone number, an email address if you have one, and the number of meal kits you need (maximum of 2).  The deadline to place your order is Friday, November 12.
2. Go to the church’s web site, www.queenoftheapostles.org, look for the “Thanksgiving Meal Order Kit” slide and click there.  That will take you to the on-line order form. Be sure to indicate on the order form if you want your meal kit delivered to your home or if you will pick it up.
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Cramerton’s Larry Rick served with honor in Vietnam

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day, but every day is a good one to honor those who served our nation. Here’s the story of one local veteran.
It’s been half a century since America was embroiled in the Vietnam War. That fact might be hard to believe for many folks, but for some, like U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Larry Rick of Cramerton, the memories of serving there are as vivid as yesterday.
The year was 1966 and the war in Vietnam was going full tilt. Rick was 20 years old when Selective Service came calling.
“I was drafted into the Army on October 13, 1966,” Rick said. I was in the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, 25th Division named Tropic Lightning.”
Quick as lightning, Rick was soon at Fort Bragg getting basic training, then he was shipped to Fort Jackson for advanced infantry training.
“They let us know at Fort Jackson that we would most likely be going to Vietnam,” said Rick.
Things moved along and in April, 1967 Rick found himself and his comrades on the ground at Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam.
“We were marched to Cuchi base camp,” Rick said. “We went straight into the field and started doing night patrols and search and destroy missions.”
One day, Rick and his pals got on helicopters and were flown to a spot called the Black Virgin Mountains in the Mekong Delta and Tây Ninh Province of Vietnam.
“We slept in a graveyard and watched B-52 bombers and jets bomb the area,” he said. “On Saturday, April 8, 1967 we marched through some rice paddies then into a forested area. We came upon a Viet Cong hospital area and had a battle.”
At 3:30pm on that day, Rick was seriously wounded by an enemy hand grenade.
“I was wounded in the left arm, right leg, and stomach,” Rick says matter of factly.
Rick was airlifted from the fight and spent a week in a hospital in Saigon. That was followed by a four month stay at a hospital in Japan. He finished his enlistment at Fort Bragg and was discharged on October 11, 1968.
Rick reflected philosophically on his experience in the Vietnam War- one which was controversial at the time for many folks.
“It was something nobody wanted to do,” he said. “But we felt as if we were serving our country as best we could. It was also a learning experience and made us appreciate what we have in America. If I had to do it over again I would in a heartbeat.”
Like many Vietnam vets, Rick held his memories inside. He credits one organization for helping him cope with being wounded- the Military Order of the Purple Heart-a national group of wounded veterans that has a local chapter 634.  (PS Rick’s brother in law Ron Wade of N. Belmont is also a member).
“The group helped me adjust to many things by interacting with people who have gone through a similar experience. They are such a great group of people.”
These days, Rick is retired from USF Holland where he was a supervisor and spends time enjoying his quiet home on Woodlawn St. in his hometown of Cramerton. With Veteran’s Day coming up, he mused on what that holiday means to him and other folks who put on a military uniform.
“Veteran’s Day is a special time for anyone who served no matter what branch of service,” he said. “It’s an awesome time to be remembered by our country as a whole.”
Thanks for your service, Larry.
Interested in the Military Order of the Purple Heart local chapter? Call Rick at 704-813-4566.