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Last year, South Point Class of 2020 grads staged an impromptu gathering and parade in Belmont. This year, Gaston Schools plans on having a return to somewhat “normal” graduation events. See more on 2021 High School graduation plans, page 4. Photo by Jennifer Hall

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

(April 8, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

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

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

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

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

(March 25, 2021 Issue)

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

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

Mt. Holly Police Dept. Memorial Plaza will be spectacular

(March 25, 2021 Issue)


By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Multi-family development
planned for Imperial Mill site

(March 25, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

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

(March 25, 2021 Issue)

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

Great progress being made
on Rocky Branch Park project

(March 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

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

(March 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Board of Education member
Dot Guthrie receives lifetime achievement award

(March 18, 2021 Issue)

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

(March 11, 2021 Issue)

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

Bradley Martin named Belmont Firefighter of the Year 2021

(March 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Mt. Holly Girl Scouts build Blessing Box

(March 11, 2021 Issue)

By Glenda Painter

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

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

(March 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Mt. Holly branch
library has had a total transformation

(March 4, 2021 Issue)


By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

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

(March 4, 2021 Issue)

By TODD HAGANS
Gaston County Schools


There’s a new high school coming to Gaston County, and it will provide a quality education for students who are interested in the medical and healthcare fields.
The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences (GECMS) will open in August 2021 on the Gaston College campus in Dallas.  It is an innovative, healthcare-focused high school that is designed especially for students interested in careers in the medical/healthcare industry.
The new high school is a collaborative effort among Gaston County Schools, Gaston College, Belmont Abbey College, and CaroMont Health, and it is intended to develop a future workforce to meet the growing demand for healthcare professionals in Gaston County.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for students in our community,” said Denise McLean, executive director of student support services for Gaston County Schools.  “The medical and healthcare industry in Gaston County is growing and expanding, and we realize that CaroMont Health and other agencies will need a trained workforce that is ready to meet the demand.”
McLean added, “This new school will provide students with a pathway to obtain the education, knowledge, hands-on experience, and connections necessary for a successful career in healthcare right here at home.” 
The new high school will open with enough space for 80 ninth graders and 80 tenth graders.  Students need to submit an application, and a lottery selection process similar to the one for the Highland School of Technology will be 
used to choose the students who will attend.
The school is open to students in Gaston County, including students who currently attend Gaston County Schools as well as students enrolled in a private school, charter school, virtual school, or homeschool program.  Applications are accepted online at www.gaston.k12.nc.us/schoolchoice, and the submission deadline is February 28.
According to McLean, students will be able to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree from Gaston College in preparation for a career in the medical field.  The academic pathways include nursing, health information technology, human services technology, and pre-medicine/biotechnology sciences.  In addition to high school and college-level coursework, students will participate in job shadowing experiences and gain hands-on learning in real-world settings through CaroMont Health, conduct undergraduate research, and prepare themselves for post-secondary education and/or going directly into the workforce.
Further, students will take advantage of many resources available through Gaston College that will enhance their academic experience and engage them in the college campus setting.  Students may decide to transfer to Belmont Abbey College where they can obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology, biochemistry, psychology, social work, and related areas.
The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences is the second Early College program for Gaston County Schools.  It will be housed in the Comer Engineering Technologies building on the Gaston College campus in Dallas and operate separate from the Gaston Early College High School, which opened in 2012 and is housed in the Lena Sue Beam Building.
GECMS is one of the 21 choice/magnet school programs offered by Gaston County Schools for the upcoming school year.  Another program – the Health Sciences Academy at East Gaston High School – also provides opportunities for students who are interested in healthcare.
While both programs have similar concentrations, McLean says there are differences.  At East Gaston, the coursework focuses on nurse aide, pharmacy technician, animal medicine, health and fitness science, medical assisting, and foundations of healthcare.   Also, students at East Gaston benefit from being in the comprehensive high school setting with opportunities to take elective courses such as ones in the fine arts and participate in athletics.
The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences will follow the “cooperative innovative high school” model.  Such a program must be housed on a community college or university campus.  There are 132 cooperative innovative high schools in the state.
“Typically, a cooperative innovative high school is a smaller school that targets first-generation college students as well as students who would benefit from accelerated learning in a college environment,” said McLean.  “It is a different experience from the traditional high school setting where students often enjoy activities like band, chorus, and sports.”
McLean encourages students and families to explore all of the school choice options being offered by Gaston County Schools.  “We have quality programs in a variety of academic- and career-focused areas at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.  There really is something for everyone when it comes to our school choice and magnet school programs.  We invite parents to take some time to discover all of the excellent options we have available for their children.”
An overview of the school district’s choice programs is available online at www.gaston.k12.nc.us/schoolchoice.  Parents with questions may e-mail schoolchoice@gaston.k12.nc.us or call the Student Assignment Office, (704) 810-7284.
 
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The Spencer Mtn. kayak/canoe launch access point is at the South Fork River bridge on Stanley- Spencer Mtn. Rd.

Improvements set for Spencer Mountain kayak launch

(March 4, 2021 Issue)

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

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

(February 25, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Remembering Jethro Mann,
the Bicycle Man of Belmont

(February 25, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

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

Trains on Main tour arrives in Belmont

(February 25, 2021 Issue)

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

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

(February 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Habitat for Humanity to build
new community in North Belmont

(February 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Two popular Mount Holly events on hold for now

(February 18, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


The annual Black History Forum and Rotary Club Men Who Cook  events usually held in Mt. Holly around this time of year have been put on hold due to the pandemic. Both events traditionally pack the Grand Hall of the Municipal Complex with attendees but organizers are leaning on the side of Covid caution this year.
The Black History Forum was the brainchild of the late Mt. Holly African-American leader John Hope and a handful of other folks including Danny Jackson and Caroline Reid who were determined to preserve and perpetuate the history and heritage of their people past and present. Each year since its inaugural event 18 years ago, the Black History Forum has presented in music, word, and deed the legacy and lore of local African-America excellence.
As usual, last year’s event offered a spectacular array of presentations. The event kicked off with a welcome by Jackson who correctly declared “There are so many beautiful people here.”
Several speakers addressed the crowd with remarks outlining the trials and triumphs of the African-American experience. Kings Mtn. High standout student Kennedy Barnes gave an impassioned oration using quotes from Maya Angelou and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to illustrate the pride and power she feels from her heritage. Special guest speaker Valerie Melton traced her own journey from the blue collar Mt. Holly neighborhood she grew up in to her current position as an advocate for black college students. Melton focused many of her remarks on the importance and impact that the Historically Black Colleges and Universities program has had and continues to have on African-American students.
“Education is the great equalizer,” Melton said.
As it traditionally has, the Black History Forum also featured plenty of soul stirring music. Groups including the Wesley Chapel Choir, the Mt. Calvary Men’s Choir, and the 3M Production singers belted out a number of lively tunes that had the crowd up on their feet and clapping their hands.
The event concluded with an interesting and thought provoking skit that depicted an interaction in the Montgomery, Alabama jail where Dr. Martin Luther King was being held back in the early 1960s. The scenario acted out the thought provoking and dramatic interplay between Dr. King (played by Johnnie Walker), a white jailer (played by Richard Meier), and a white minister played by Bill Reilly). The skit was written by Harry McDowell.
Men Who Cook is the Mt. Holly Rotary Club’s main fundraiser. All funds raised are used to provide scholarships to deserving seniors at East Gaston High School and Stuart Cramer High School.
“We have canceled Men Who Cook due to Covid,” said organizer Brooke Elting. “We are currently thinking about other ways to raise money for the scholarships but have not put anything in place. I am not certain if we will hold it later in the year or not. Right now there are no postponement plans.”
The fun and food filled Men Who Cook event featured annually some of the finest male “chefs” in Gaston County. Elected officials, Rotarians, restaurateurs and members of the community who simply enjoy cooking, many of whom are men and few women, all came together and offered samples of vegetables, meats, soups, and desserts.
Men Who Cook has an interesting background. In 1981 the Mt. Holly Rotary Club  started awarding scholarships to deserving East Gaston High School seniors to further their education after high school. The scholarships have ranged in amounts from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the success of  the fundraisers and the generosity of local donors. The students awarded the one time scholarship must show that they are active in their community, demonstrate a need, and provide proof of good academic standing.
For two decades, people gathered annually to sample the food offerings presented at Men Who Cook. The first Men Who Cook event was held at Ida Rankin Elementary. In the years since then it has grown in attendance and has moved locations to accommodate ithat growth. It has been held at the Mount Holly Middle School cafeteria, the East Gaston cafeteria and most recently relocated to the Grand Hall of the Mount Holly Municipal Complex to more comfortably accommodate the numerous “chefs” and diners.
Screen shot 2021 02 11 at 2.17.04 pm

Seventy years of Valentines Days... and counting

(February 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

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

(February 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Belmont Parks and Rec. dance teachers keep kids stepping lively

(February 11, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

BackPack Weekend Food Program provides a vital service for students

(February 3, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

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

Progress being made to preserve Cramerton’s Baltimore School

(February 3, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

North Belmont and South Fork parks getting upgrades

(February 3, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

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

NC Gov. Cooper extends
Modified Stay at Home Order

(February 3, 2021 Issue)

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

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

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

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

Gaston County Meals on Wheels keeps seniors rolling right along

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Belmont Unity Day event brought folks together virtually

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

By Delta Sanders


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

YMCA honors local catering company for their work feeding the community

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

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

National Law Enforcement Day

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

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

Belmont’s Rocky Branch Park getting major upgrades

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

Other Parks and Rec. projects also moving forward 

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Mt. Holly honors two police officers

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Karen Hite Jacob makes beautiful music on a unique instrument

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Mt. Holly Community Garden scenes

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

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

 

Where to see virtual
Belmont Unity Day event

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

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

Gov. Cooper extends Modified Stay at Home Order

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

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

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

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Mt. Holly’s Arts on the
Greenway Gallery Photos

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

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

Students are soaring to new heights in Career and Technical Education

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

By Allison Drennan
Gaston County Schools

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

How our ancestors did business

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Belmont Unity Day event set

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

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

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

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

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

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

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


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

Fund set up in memory of Officer Herndon

(December 30, 2020 Issue)

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

COVID consternation and creative
courage marked the latter half of 2020

(December 31, 2020 Issue)

See more photos of the year on pages 6 and 7 


By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

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

Marc Jordan hired as Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce president

(December 31, 2020 Issue)

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

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