Annual Christmas Town 5K
will look different in 2020  

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

Cramerton gets another beautiful downtown mural

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

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

Progress being made on East Gaston facade project

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

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

Belmont’s Muddy River
Distillery earns national ranking

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

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

Hurricanes have been here before

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

Gaston County Schools

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

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

Did Lincoln’s mother
live in Belmont?

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

Officials: do not plant unsolicited seeds from China

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

Belmont Fire Dept. gets brand new fire truck

By Alan Hodge

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

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

St. Joseph College Seminary College holds grand opening

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Veteran’s program launched at Shining Hope Farms

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

Plans for new Belmont Parks and
Recreation facility making progress


By Alan Hodge

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

Belmont’s own
‘Catawba Catfish’ passes away

By Alan Hodge

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

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

East Gaston teacher
earns award

By Allison Drennan
Gaston County Schools

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

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

NC moves into  Phase 2.5

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

Gertrude Harris has hit the century mark with style and grace

By Alan Hodge

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

Belmont Public Works building renovation in final phase

By Alan Hodge

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

“Of the Year” winners announced for Gaston County Schools

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

Third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade is a go

By Alan Hodge

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

Mt. Holly Lantern Parade Sponsorships

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

Duke Energy begins construction of new solar projects

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

Dudkos have an incredible story of survival during WWII

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Gaston County Schools

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

Two kings casino logolarge.png

Name announced for Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dudkos of Belmont survived harrowing days in WWII

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

Millican Pictorial Museum
a treasure trove of images

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Belmont Community Organization fills a big need

By Alan Hodge

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

ALERT GASTON system implemented

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

A new and unusual school year begins in Gaston County

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cramerton Girl Scout creates Caring Cupboards

By Alan Hodge

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

Big development
underway in North Belmont

By Alan Hodge

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

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

First Baptist Church Mt. Holly rebuild nearing completion

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Progress being made on Cramerton Historical Museum

By Alan Hodge

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

Local EMS staff provide
support after hurricane

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


Cotton Ginning Days Festival called off

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

Mt. Holly PD gathering school supplies

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

Gov. Cooper extends Phase 2 again

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

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

Ground For A Multi-Million Dollar Casino


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

Piedmont Homestead Is A Little Bit Of Heaven

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

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Belmont Abbey College Housing Update

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

New Event Venue Could Be Coming To Belmont

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

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

South Point High School Gets Facelift

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

No Vote Taken On Confederate Monument At Board Of Commissioners Meeting

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

YMCA Supports Parents As Schools Reopen

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

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

South Point Peninsula Was Once A Native American Haven

By Alan Hodge

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


Gaston Schools Adopts Reopening “Plan B”

By Alan Hodge

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

Lunch Truck Lights Up Children’s Lives

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Gov. Cooper Announces Back To School Plan

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

Jeffrey Booker

Superintendent’s Message For Parents And Employees

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