Community Supports Mt. Holly PD With Prayer Vigil

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

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

CaroMont Health Adds New Location To Urgent Care Network

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

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

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

Mount Holly Community Garden Is A Plant-Based Paradise

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

Kameron Radford Earns Award Nomination From The Grammys

Gaston County Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Alan Hodge

First Baptist Church in Belmont has a new preacher.

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s meet Renfroe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above all, Renfroe wants folks to know one thing.

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

Major Upgrades Transform Stowe Park

By Alan Hodge

“A picture perfect park.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The grass looks awesome,” Stowe said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Town Of Stanley Recipient Of $50,000 Grant

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

Belmont PD Looking For Public Input

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

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

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

Fate had other career plans for Clements.

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

Clements had found her niche.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smith returned the compliment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belmont Celebrates Juneteenth With A Parade

By Delta Sanders

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

By Mary Smith

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

By Alan Hodge

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

South Point Grads Celebrate With A Parade

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

Gaston EMS Celebrated ‘EMS Week 2020’

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

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

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

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