These ladies were greeting voters at the Catawba Heights precinct. They said they were proof Republicans and Democrats could get along. From left Georgia Smith, Linda Allison, Andrea Chewey. Photo by Alan Hodge

2020 election one for the history books

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The 2020 General Election last week is one that will go down in history. 
The local voting scene was pretty much wrapped up quickly. The national Presidential scenario not so much.
Early voting was the name of the game across the board. In Gaston County alone, 63.24 percent (95,449) of the 150,704 registered voters cast their ballots before the Nov. 3 election day came along.
Visits to local polling places confirmed that fact. This reporter visited polling locations in Mt. Holly, Belmont, Cramerton, and Catawba Heights and the long lines of voters that some folks had feared were not in evidence.
Neil Chastain had arrived early at the Belmont Central Elementary polling place and had this to say.
“I was here at 6:30 am and there were about fifty people in line but the line dwindled quickly,” he said.
At the Mt. Holly polling place, poll chief Tina Sagasi gave this report.
“After early voting was over, there were only about 1,600 voters in this precinct who had not voted,” she said.
Poll chief Jonathan Baines at Cramerton gave his observation.
“It has been steady, but slow,” he said.
Catawba Heights poll chief Jeremy McCarey called the turnout “steady”.
At press time, here are the numbers.
North Carolina governor Roy Cooper (DEM) defeated challenger Dan Forest (REP) 2,803,782 (51.48%) to 2,563,258 (47.06%)
In the contest for U.S. Senator, incumbent Thom 
Tillis (REP) beat challenger Cal Cunningham (DEM) 2,640,381 (48.73%) to 2,543,693 (46.94%).
The U.S. House of Representative District 5 race witnessed Virginia Foxx (REP) beat David Brown (DEM) 255,767 (67.02%) to 118,444 (31.04%).
Closer to home, the NC Senate District 43 race between Kathy Harrington (REP) and William Young (DEM) saw incumbent Harrington come out ahead 68,545, (65.55%) to 36,031 (34.45%).  The District 44 contest saw Ted Alexander (REP) win over David Lee Lattimore (DEM) 3,837 (69.57% to 1,678 (30.43%).
The local NC House of Representatives District 108 race witnessed incumbent John Torbett (REP) come out ahead of David Caudill (DEM) 24,656 (63.38% to 14,302 (36.71%). District 109 had Dana Bumgardner (REP) win over Susan Maxton (DEM) 28.715 (62.16%) to 17,477 (37.84%). In District 110, Kathy Hastings (REP) ran unopposed and got 19,612 votes.
The NC District  Court Judge District 27A Seat 03 contest witnessed Donald Rice (REP) top Richard Abernethy (DEM) 68,401 (62.40% to 41,209 (37.60).
The Gaston County Board of Education had several contests going. At Large member Jeff Ramsey won with 39,987 votes (43.74%). The Cherryville Township race was won by Beverly Lovelace with 43,231 votes (51.50%). Crowders Mtn. Township was won by Brent Moore with 55.412 votes (65.33%). Gastonia Township Dot Guthrie with 42,532 (45.62%).
The Gaston County Board of Commissioners South Point Township race was won by Ronnie Worley (REP) who ran unopposed and got 75,246 votes.
And now for the Presidential election.  This year there was no election night winner. In fact, it was not until last Saturday (Nov. 7), that Joe Biden was said to be the victor. However, as this week’s edition of the BannerNews went to press on Nov. 10, questions of alleged improprieties regarding voters/vote counting were still being aired and Donald Trump had not officially conceded.
* Complete and more detailed election results from Gaston County can be seen at the Gaston County Board of Elections website. Updated statewide votes are on the NC Board of Elections website.
Belmont Parks and Rec. Director Zip Stowe poses proudly with the new bus.

Belmont Parks and Rec. gets new bus

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The City of Belmont Parks and Rec. Dept. has just received a much needed brand new activity bus. The  bus, a Starcraft brand, was bought from Carpenter Bus Sales out of  Franklin, Tenn. and cost $98,000. “It was a good deal,” said Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe. “It was mostly paid for with money from the sale of some land in North Belmont. The rest came from the general fund.”
The bus can carry 25 passengers along with two wheelchairs. Colorful graphics with the new City of Belmont logo were done by Gaston Printing and Signs.
Stowe says the city should get at least ten to fifteen years of use out of the bus. Parks and Rec. already has an older bus that was very well used with over 60,000 miles on the odometer..
Stowe explained how the new bus will enhance the Parks and Rec. transportation situation.
“We will use it for senior citizen outings as well as trips by the city council to other cities and counties,” he said. “It will really help with our summer youth and adult programs and trips to ball games.”
All that planned travel and action is of course is dependent on the Covid-19 situation.
Rocky Branch Park update
Stowe also talked about the situation at Rocky Branch Park.
The park is located at the end of Woodrow St. and was originally built for mountain biking. In response to requests by citizens for more hiking trails, it will be receiving some updates and changes.
“We will be changing 3,200 feet of trail to make it better suited for multi-purpose activities such as walking,” Stowe said. “It will be more diverse and  part of the Carolina Thread Trail.”
Seven new bridges will be built on the trail at a cost of $94,600. The city will pay $4-6 thousand with the rest being picked up by a  Carolina Thread Trail grant.
According to Stowe, work on the project should start in December and take three to six months to complete depending on  the weather.
The upcoming project is just the first of several planned for the trail and while that’s going on folks will still be able to use it while the work is underway.
NC Rep. John Torbett presenting O’Brein’s parents with a replica bridge sign and other awards. Photo by Bill Ward

Stanley bridge named for Lance Cpl. Nicolas O’Brien

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

The Town of Stanley recently honored the late U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicholas O’Brien by naming the new Blacksnake Rd. bridge in his honor.
O’Brien, 21, of Stanley, North Carolina died June 9, 2011 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  O’Brien was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine  Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.
He was born May 23, 1990 in Charlotte, NC and was a graduate of East Gaston High School.
Over a thousand people showed up for O’Brien’s memorial service at the First Assembly of God Church on Myrtle Street in Gastonia.
He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on June 28th, 2011.
At the Oct. 22 Stanley town council meeting, N.C. Rep. John Torbett presented Nic’s parents Richard and Tammy O’Brien with a replica of the sign that is now on the bridge as well as with a NC state flag and certificate of honor.
Other dignitaries at the presentation included Stanley mayor Steven Denton, Gaston County commissioner Chad Brown, police chief Derek Summey, recreation director Tug Deason, councilman Bud Pate, and Vidia Torbett.
A monument to O’Brien also stands in Harper Park on Blacksnake Rd.

Belmont’s Larry Norwood was a Cold War warrior

(November 5, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

During the 1950s the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union was one of the most tense times in history and Larry Norwood of Belmont was in the middle of it as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Norwood joined the 82nd at the tender age of 18 years.  He served from 1957-1961.
“I had a friend that was a paratrooper and I thought I wanted to try that too,” Norwood said. “I took my basic training at Fort Jackson and parachute training at Fort Bragg.”
Norwood recalled his first parachute jump.
“It was more or less the easiest since I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “It was exciting floating down in dead silence.”
Norwood soon found himself in Germany where the U.S. and its Soviet bloc protagonists were nose to nose. Damage from World War II was still in evidence in some places.
“I spent over two years in Germany,” Norwood said. “We did a lot of training in bombed out buildings.”
Given the political and military climate, the 82nd had to be ready for anything.
“One time we  were given live ammunition and loaded on our planes,” he said. “We flew around for a couple of hours. Nobody was saying a word. You could have heard a pin drop. We thought we were going to have to fight. We eventually landed and got off. We never did find out what it was all about.”
Norwood also got to see the German countryside.
“It was beautiful and there were lots of quaint villages,” he said.
Norwood also served in Alaska.
“We learned how to snow ski on a big hill covered with straw at Fort Bragg,” he said. “In Alaska we had to camp out and it was below zero.”
After he got out of the army, Norwood came home 
to Belmont and became a member of the American Legion- Auten-Stowe Post 144 to be exact where he’s been a member for 30 years. Some of the Legion activities Norwood has been in on include the Boys and Girls State programs, being a part of the drive to get the Spirit of the Fighting Yank WWII memorial statue moved to Stowe Park, and taking part in Veterans Day and Memorial Day services where he performs the POW/MIA ceremony. Norwood also served as Post 144’s commander for ten years.
COVID19 will impact this year’s Veterans Day event, but Norwood and his fellow legionnaires will carry on as best they can.
“We will not be able to have a big celebration,” Norwood said. “But, I am sure we will find a way to have a small one to honor our veterans, living or deceased, so they will not be forgotten.”
Miles Braswell has been named as Mt. Holly’s new city manager. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly names new city manager

By Alan Hodge

The City of Mt. Holly has named Miles Braswell as its new city manager. Braswell had served as assistant city manager since April 2016. He was officially named to his new post by the city council on October 26 and his first day in the office  as city manager was November 2.
Braswell’s predecessor Danny Jackson recently retired after ten years as city manager and was instrumental in preparing him for his new post.
“I  had the pleasure of hiring Miles as the City’s Streets & Solid Waste Director in 2014,” Jackson said. “Miles performed really well at the position. I was then able to promote Miles to assistant city manager, all due to his effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace. Miles and I embarked upon succession planning which has now culminated in him being appointed by the city council as the new city manager in Mount Holly. I am extremely proud of Miles for his hard and dedicated work as a city employee and my partner. Miles possesses the kind of skills that it takes to be successful in his new position. He is prepared to lead the City of Mount Holly into the next chapter of its future.”
Braswell thanked Jackson for his support and guidance.
“I learned so much from Danny,” Braswell said. “He’s been a mentor since day one.

He’s really a great person in general as well as a friend.”
Braswell brings energy, youth, enthusiasm, and experience to the job.  He is a Gaston County native and a graduate of NC State University with a BS in Natural Resources- Soil and Water Systems. He also attended the University of North Carolina School of Government  where he was a Leading for Results Fellow and also earned a Municipal and County Administration Certificate.
Before joining the City of Mt. Holly, he worked for the City of Charlotte as  a project manager and Gaston County Schools as a bond project manager and transportation director.
Just a few of his myriad accomplishments  and involvements with Mt. Holly include the Hwy. 273 widening project, N. Main St. parking lot improvement, downtown and parks WI-FI project, recycling truck art wrap project, revise trash and recycling route collections, gateway signage, new public works and fire station projects, website redesign, ADA transition, assisting with annual city budgets, and many, many, more.
Braswell plans on taking a listen and learn approach to his new position.
“I have been evaluating things,” he said “I will meet with the city council, staff, as well as business, and civic leaders to hear their advice. I am fortunate to know the city staff and the team that Danny assembled and it is a great one.”
Braswell feels fortunate to be where he is.
“I’m, so excited and blessed to take this step with the City of Mt. Holly,” he said. “It will be an honor to serve the council and citizens. Mt. Holly is a great place to live and work. It is a vibrant community with a proud history and a bright future.”
Braswell and his wife of  20 years Erin have three children, Mason, Reese and Riley.

We got zapped by Tropical Storm Zeta

(November 5, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Tropical Storm Zeta zinged through our area last Thursday bringing high winds, rain, and power outages.
Winds in Gaston County gusted to 50mph most of the day. A number of trees were toppled including at least three in Stanley. Around 7,000 local residents lost power due to fallen lines.
About 2,000 of the homes without power were  between Bessemer City and Cherryville.
Tropical Storm Warnings in our area expired Thursday afternoon.
Flash flood warnings were issued for counties in western North Carolina but  expired early Friday morning.
By late Thursday afternoon, Zeta rapidly moved off the U.S. coast at 55 mph.
Tropical Storm Zeta had slammed into Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane Wednesday.
Mt. Holly city manager Danny Jackson is retiring. Jackson’s 33 year career with the City of Mt. Holly includes ten years as city manager. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly city manager Danny Jackson is retiring

(October 29, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

After many years of exemplary and heartfelt service, Mt. Holly city manager Danny Jackson has announced his retirement. His last official day as city manager will be Nov. 1.
However, after a 30 day period as stipulated by the NC Local Government Employee Retirement System, he will return in December as a consultant to the city council working on special projects.
A strong faith and fierce love of his town have been two of the driving forces behind Danny Jackson’s three decades working for the City of Mt. Holly.
Jackson has held the post of city manager since 2010, but started his career back in 1987 with the parks and recreation department.
“I was working in the private sector at the time and one day was playing basketball with a friend who worked for the City of Mt. Holly,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t planned, but I heard about a job opportunity in parks and recreation and I grabbed it.”
Jackson, who is an Appalachian State grad with a degree in Business Management,  worked that position for three years, then in 1990 he transferred to the planning department as a code enforcement officer. In 1995 he was promoted to planning director. In 2003 he became assistant city manager and in 2010 the city council named him city manager.
Throughout his career, Jackson has been a person that people could trust. He looked back on his beginnings as a coach at parks and rec. as the foundation and essence for that feeling.
“When I was coaching kids I tried to built a relationship with them,” he said. “Now, those kids are adults with their own families. I hope my legacy is one of trust.”
Jackson’s desire to guide and mentor youth will also be a big part of his retirement. He plans to achieve that goal with the non-profit Danny Jackson Leadership Institute.
“I want to teach the principles of leadership to young people in middle and high school,” he said.
In addition to his city duties, Jackson has managed to find time for other civic involvements including the United Way, serving on the Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization Board, the Gaston County Land Use Planning Committee, and the Gaston Outside Image Campaign Committee. He’s also a founding member of the Mt. Holly Black History Committee and has served as president of the Mt. Holly Rotary Club. He was Mt. Holly’s Man of the Year in 2016.
Over the years, he has received numerous awards including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Award, the Kay Jackson Living Legend Award, the Jessie Mae Robinson  Humanitarian  Award, and being named Mt. Holly Man of the Year 2016 to name a few..
Jackson’s biggest accolade was presented to him at the Oct. 12 city council meeting- the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. That prestigious award is the highest that the State of North Carolina gives to people who have made significant contributions to their communities, in their profession, and to the state.
“Receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine was a great honor and totally unexpected,” Jackson said. “I am thankful to everyone who brought it about.”
Other retirement good wishes also have also come Jackson’s way from the offices of Congressman Patrick McHenry and NC Rep. John Torbett.
Another trait that Jackson and all great leaders have is to give a tip of the hat to others for their support.
“I appreciate the Banner and the good things it has done for me and the City of Mt. Holly,” he said. “Dwight Frady, Jim Heffner,  and Sarah Nixon were all kind to me. “Alan is the last stop.”
Of course, retirement will give Jackson some “down time” as well. He plans to spend it with his wife Kay, their four children, and his grandchildren.
Overall, Jackson has been and will continue to be a beacon of light  in Mt. Holly.
“I have always wanted to be a good representative of Mt. Holly,” he said. “I have always wanted to do what was best for the city. I am so grateful for the opportunity the city has given me and I hope it has been an even exchange.”
Lantern Parade founder and organizer Emily Andress and her lanterns. See more photos on pages 10-11 in the October 29, 2020 issue. (Photos by Alan Hodge)

Third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade lit up the night

(October 29, 2020)

By Alan Hodge

Even with many special events of other types canceled due to the COVID19 situation, the much-anticipated third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade took place on October 24 starting at 7pm in Tuckaseege Park and as expected provided a spectacular show.
The event was a “parade in reverse”. That is, the hand crafted paper, wire, and lights lanterns were placed at stations in the park, and folks who attended strolled past them. About 1,400 people pre-registered to come see the dozens and dozens of lanterns glowing in the dark.
Social distancing guidelines were observed and everyone wore masks.
The previous two lantern parades were artistic spectacles that saw lanterns in
an amazing array of shapes and sizes marched down Mt. Holly’s Main St. Lantern designs and constructed in those events ran the gamut from sea creatures to birds, mermaids, a huge beer bottle, and even a vintage carriage with a (real) fairy princess child inside.
This year’s parade was just as great. The theme was “The Circus is Coming to Town” and many of the lanterns resembled circus animals and other big top scenes including acrobats, tents, clowns, and more. A balmy autumn evening provide the perfect backdrop to see the parade. As in previous years, the third annual parade had plenty of participation by local schools and students. Schools that took part included Ida Rankin Elementary, East Gaston High, Mt. Holly Middle, Kiser Elementary, Springfield Elementary, Beam Elementary, Cramerton Middle, and Pinewood Elementary.
Ida Rankin art teacher Abigail McLaurin talked about the importance of having students take part.
“We really need things like this,” she said. “It gives the kids a sense of pride in their community and school.”
This year’s parade was a collaboration between organizer  and Awaken Gallery owner Emily Andress, the Mt. Holly Community Development Foundation, and the City of Mt. Holly.
“Cheri Love with the city did so much to help us get this done,” Andress said. “She was invaluable.”
The lantern parades were the brainchild of Andress who in previous years had brought in lantern making talent from as far away as Ireland to help teach parade participants how to craft their creations with hands-on workshops.
The lanterns this year were arguably the best ever in terms of craftsmanship and artistic vision.
“The people who made lanterns really stretched themselves,” Andress said. “If someone had to have a pandemic project, this is possibly the most exciting thing ever!”

North Carolina will remain paused in Phase 3

Governor Roy Cooper announced last week that North Carolina will remain paused in Phase 3 for three more weeks as health officials continue to monitor North Carolina’s viral trends. North Carolina has seen increased hospitalizations and trajectory of cases in recent weeks. Governor Cooper underscored the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, and using good judgment despite fatigue or frustration with the pandemic.
“As this pandemic continues, I know it’s difficult and tiring to keep up our guard, especially when we’re gathered with people we love. But it’s necessary. No one wants to spread COVID-19 accidentally to friends or family,  so we must keep prevention at the forefront,” said Governor Cooper. “Wearing a mask shows you care about people. Wearing a mask is an easy way to protect our communities and look out for each other. Confronting the virus head on and doing our part as individuals is good for our health and good for our economy.”
Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen and Secretary of Department of Public Safety Erik Hooks also sent a letter to local officials in communities with increased viral spread urging their continued action in fighting COVID-19 and suggesting additional measures to mitigate its spread.
“We are doing everything we can to slow the spread of this virus. This simple fact is we can’t do it on our own. Ignoring the virus doesn’t make it go away – just the opposite,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “As hard as this is, it will end. We will get through this. Let’s do it by looking out for one another. Whatever your reason, get behind the mask.”
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is level.
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 but is lower than it was during the last time North Carolina’s cases were at their peak in July.
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.
Laboratory Testing-Testing capacity is high.
Tracing Capability- The state is continuing to hire contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments.
North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.

Abigail Watkins was the blue ribbon youth winner in the Mt. Holly Plein Air Paint Out.

Mount Holly hosts
outdoor art event

(October 22, 2020 Issue)

Arts Mount Holly, part of the Mount Holly Community Development Foundation, has completed a very successful second annual Plein Air Paint Out titled “Fall Palette”!
For three full days - Thursday, September 24th through Saturday, September 26th - local artists and students from the Mount Holly, Gaston County, and greater Charlotte metro areas were out and around the city of Mount Holly, painting in “plein air” (outdoors). It was rainy much of the first two days of the event, but that didn’t stop the artists who huddled under vehicle hatch doors, awnings, or umbrellas!
Twenty adults and more than thirty students submitted artwork that was judged by artist Kate Worm for awards totalling more than $1,000. The winning student artist also received a sketch box worth $200 donated by Hallman Design.
The public was able to preview the work of artists and students at the Mount Holly Farmer’s Market at 226 S. Main Street and listen as awards were announced before having a chance to purchase and take home the fresh-off-the-easel paintings. All proceeds from the sales, excluding taxes and transaction fees, went directly to the artists.
For more information about Arts Mount Holly and future events, please visit us on Facebook at
So, what is Plein Air art?
It’s a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in France in the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio. It’s a painting executed out of doors and representing a direct response to the scene or subject in front of the artist having the qualities of air and natural light.
Kaitlyn and Audrey Leazer show off a Cramerton High letter jacket that’s part of the collection. Photo by Alan Hodge

Cramerton Historical Society officially open for artifact
collecting and donations

(October 22, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

There’s so much positive energy flowing in Cramerton these days  the air crackles.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the town got a striking new mural applied to the fire department building. Now,  the  Cramerton Historical Society (CHS) is officially open for the beginning of their artifact collecting and donations campaign.
The Cramerton Historical Society’s physical location is at the Cramerton Community Center’s first (bottom) floor at 1 Julian Street. A CHS representative will be available from 10am-12noon every Thursday and Friday in October and going into November.
If you think you have special artifacts that are important to Cramerton’s rich history, please feel free to come by.
All public health protocols must be followed when entering the Community Center such as wearing a mask and appropriate social distancing.
The CHS’s first president, Jeff Ramsey explained how the society and museum museum ideas were hatched.
“In 2015 we had very successful Cramerton Centennial Celebration.  Everyone enjoyed the 100 year time display from 1915-2015,” he said.  “It portrayed Cramerton’s rich history and artifacts during the celebration . We decided to create a non-profit organization, Cramerton’s Historical Society, in 2015 to share our history with surrounding communities, since we did not have a place for a museum.  Our focus was celebrating the 100 year landmarks in Cramerton with fundraiser events by presenting them with historical markers, such as Maymont’s mansion from 1917 to 2017 and Mayworth / Cramerton’s School from 1919 to 2019.  Multiple events were held at local elementary schools to share the history of Cramerton. We were able to help spearhead the Cramerton Veteran memorial in 2018 with the Town of Cramerton to honor all the Veterans of Cramerton.  Cramerton is very excited to have a museum enabling us to provide events and display our rich history and artifacts of Cramerton. We want to thank the Town of Cramerton for all their support and for providing us a place for the museum.”   
The museum will be strong on visuals including plenty of vintage photos from Cramerton’s past. A good example of this is the huge, black and white aerial photo of Cramer Mills that covers one entire wall of the museum’s main space.
“Allen Millican provided the photo and Ken Parrott of Bedgood Advertising made the mural,” museum chairman Richard Atkinson said.
Another feature of the museum will be large, foldable panels that will have photos and graphics attached. There will be six double panels measuring 80x30 inches. Subject matter on the panels will be changed periodically.
One big item on the museum’s to do list is turning a small room into a replica of Stuart Cramer’s office when he ran the mills. His imposing desk is currently in the Cramerton Town Hall.
“We need items that would have been in an office circa 1920s to 1930s,” Atkinson  said.
Other items planned for display will naturally include a tribute to Cramerton’s famous khaki cloth that was used to make countless WWII uniforms.
Another, larger room on the Community Center’s lower level is currently used by senior citizens as a fellowship hall for their weekly lunch gatherings. One wall of that space has already been covered with large, framed, archival photos showing things such as the hotel and rail depot that were once in Cramerton. The photos were previously in the recreation center gym across the street.
“We plan to use the fellowship hall for special events,” said Atkinson.
Speaking of special events, the museum plans several fundraisers as soon as things return to “normal”.
“We plan to have a fish fry this fall,” Atkinson said.
The Cramerton Historical Society is actively seeking young folks to join its ranks. Stuart Cramer High student Tanner Stroman, 16,  is a member and is helping with the audio-visual and technical side of things.
“It’s important for everyone to know about their past,” he said. “It’s important to know about where you live.”
Please note that the Cramerton Historical Society is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization. If you have any questions, please contact the Chairman of the Museum Committee, Richard Atkinson at
For future announcements regarding the Cramerton Historical Society’s artifact collecting and other news, please visit their Facebook page:
Old Goshen Cemetery in N. Belmont dates to the early 19th century. A dozen veterans of the American Revolution are among the pioneers buried there. Photo by Alan Hodge

This time of year great
for visiting old graveyards

(October 22, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

Now that cool fall days are here and Halloween upon us, it’s a perfect time to get some outdoor exercise and learn about our local lore by strolling through old graveyards.
The oldest graveyard in the BannerNews region is Goshen Cemetery on Woodlawn St. in North Belmont. This plot dates back to the early part of the 19th century and was the burying ground for Goshen Presbyterian Church that was founded in 1764. It is said to be the oldest graveyard west of the Catawba River.
The ground where Goshen Cemetery is located was originally owned by Robert Smith. It was part of a 650 acre piece of property that Smith had bought from two Catawba Indians that encompassed what is now most of Catawba Heights and North Belmont. In 1839 Smith sold 17-acres to the Goshen Church Trustees for eighty-five dollars. Smith and many of his relatives are buried in Goshen Cemetery.
Joining Smith in the graveyard are about a dozen men who fought in the American Revolution. A plaque naming them was at one time affixed to the cemetery gate, but it is now gone. Most of the old tombstones in Goshen Cemetery have survived, including some going back nearly 200 years, but vandals have also desecrated several others.
Other graves in the older portion of Goshen Cemetery hold members of Belmont area pioneers including names such as Armstrong, Abernethy, Fite, and Rhyne.
Local legend has it that there were once Indian burial mounds and a village near where Goshen Cemetery is located.
The Abernethy clan itself also has a small and very old cemetery at the end of Turner Rd. off Hickory Grove Rd. not far from Goshen Cemetery.
The Smith name also appears on an old graveyard on Belwood Dr. off South Point Rd. This Smith graveyard has dozens of graves going back to the early 19th century. For many years it was neglected and had fallen prey to vandals, nature, and time. However, an effort led by Leigh Ford of Charlotte a couple of years ago saw most of the broken tombstones repaired. Ford and other volunteers also cleaned up the overgrown grounds and formed an organization dedicated to preserving the site.
In East Belmont there’s a tiny old graveyard on Old NC7 near the Catawba River known as the Abee Cemetery. The cemetery is surrounded by a stone wall. Names that appear on some of the tombstones go back to the early 1800s and include Fite, Smith, Abee, Ewing, and Wells.
Machpelah Presbyterian Church’s rock-walled cemetery off Old Plank Rd. near Stanley was established in 1801 as a family graveyard located halfway between Joseph Graham’s Vesuvius Furnace and Alexander Brevard’s Mt. Tirzah Forge. In 1848, the quaint church was built beside the cemetery. The first pastor of the church was Dr. Robert Hall Morrison, president of Davidson College and father-in-law of Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson. The small Greek Revival Church contains pews and a slave gallery that are thought to be original. Members of the Graham, Brevard, and Morrison families are buried in the cemetery.
Flat Rock Cemetery on Flat Rock Rd. near Mount Holly holds the graves of several Civil War veterans. This graveyard is maintained by the Flat Rock Cemetery Association and Confederate History and Monument Preservation Society. Among the markers is one dedicated to seven Confederate soldiers who drowned in the Catawba River as they were returning home after the end of the Civil War. The men had hitched a ride on a fishing boat that capsized as they were crossing the swollen river on April 25, 1865.
An old graveyard in the backyard of a school might seem an odd mix, but that’s the case with the Pinhook Cemetery and Lowell Elementary. The graveyard is on a gravel path in the woods behind the school and has an association with the 19th century Pinhook textile mill that once stood nearby on the banks of the South Fork River. Among the graves is Nathan Ford who died in 1824. Other graves are marked Harris and Huffstetler. Each year, the kids from Lowell Elementary as well as other volunteers tidy the little graveyard up.
Old graveyards are not only interesting to visit during Halloween, they are a reminder of our area’s  past and the people who lived here in decades gone by.

Major snack food company coming to Kings Mtn.
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

Benestar Brands, an international snack food manufacturer, will create 129 jobs in Cleveland County.. The company will invest $24 million to establish a new production
Benestar Brands, the parent company of Evans Food Group, is a rapidly growing snack food manufacturer focused on better-for-you, high-quality snacks. The newest project in North Carolina will provide easier access to the fast-growing company’s customer base and the nation’s east coast market. This new facility will support Benestar Brands’ expansion plans into new snack categories.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce led the state’s efforts to support Benestar Brands’ decision to expand its operations to North Carolina. The company’s 129 new jobs will include managerial, operational, maintenance, warehouse and office staff. The average annual salary for all new positions is $43,021, creating a payroll impact of more than $5.5 million per year. Cleveland County’s overall average annual wage is $40,019.
Benestar Brands’ North Carolina expansion will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier today. Over the course of the 12-year term of the grant, the project is estimated to grow the state’s GDP by more than $431 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the 129 new jobs, the JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $1,212,000 over 12 years. State payments occur only after verification by the departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met incremental job creation and investment targets.
Projects supported by JDIG must result in positive net tax revenue to the state treasury, even after taking into consideration the grant’s reimbursement payments to a given company. The provision ensures all North Carolina communities benefit from the JDIG program.
In addition to the N.C. Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, other key partners in the project include the North Carolina General Assembly, North Carolina Community College System, Cleveland Community College, Cleveland County Government, Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership, and the City of Kings Mountain.

National Night Out
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

The Lowell Police Department recently gave out 202 goodie bags  at their National Night Out event. It was great to see so many smiling faces and our officers are really appreciative of all the kind words, gestures, and handwritten notes from the kids. Special thanks to Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont Troop #20023 Leaders Sandi Heavener, Rosemary Grant, and Melanie York for volunteering at our event this evening and thanks to our sponsors McKenney Chevrolet and DICK’S Sporting Goods.
City of  Lowell photos
Outdoor swings at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park.

Social distance in nature
in Belmont

(October 22, 2020 Issue)

Tucked away in the Charlotte suburbs, Belmont, N.C. has grown to become a delightful destination for escaping the hustle and bustle, steeping oneself in the blossoming environment and connecting with the beauty and benefits of nature.
As COVID-19 effects continue in North Carolina, there’s no better time to experience the peaceful excitement of recreation in this quaint city.
Whether it’s “quarantine fatigue” or a simple desire to reconnect with the great outdoors, Belmont shares its many recreational opportunities with families, friends, passersby and individuals needing a nature-filled break. Cooler temperatures in the southern United States usher in perfect moments for fresh air, family activities and necessary exercise –and Belmont is a superb suburb for doing just that.
From casual walks through the historic downtown to adventures along the Catawba River or Carolina Thread Trail, Belmont  extends ample beauty alongside movement and play as well as occasions for improving mental health.
Places to explore in Belmont include: Daniel Stowe BotanicalGarden. Find 300 acres of lush land featuring seasonal blooms and colorful walkways.The Garden recently reopened to the public with extended hours open to members. This destination also boasts its Persimmon Trail, a half-mile short trail that is part of the Seven Oaks Preserve Trail (this trail is available without Garden admission). Seven Oaks Preserve Trail–at 2.8 miles with moderate difficulty, hike or bike down this longest continuous trail along Lake Wylie. Its pathways are part of the Carolina Thread Trail and connect to trails at the Garden. Rocky Branch Park–In the heart of Belmont, Rocky Branch boasts 40 acres, which includes a four-mile trail for hikers and cyclists. Anchored Soul–This Belmont-based business offers standup paddle boarding rentals and lessons to Lake Wylie watergoers of all skill levels. South Fork River Blueway–This 8.4-mile segment of the South Fork River welcomes kayaking and slow-moving paddles among other activities. There are numerous launches across Gaston County, including one at South Fork Village in Belmont.
The renowned Mayo Clinic shared ways to cope with anxiety, worry and social distancing during the ongoing pandemic. Regular physical activity was recommended in addition to “relax and recharge” techniques. Nature is an ideal medicine for just this; according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, numerous researched studies indicate a positive relationship between mood improvement and escaping outside. Notes published research from the university, “It appears that interacting with natural spaces offers other therapeutic benefits. For instance, calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.”
As October begins, our recreational opportunities remain openat this time, welcoming adventurers from near and far for improved mental health, increased activity and abundant sightseeing.
“We’ve shared al fresco dining and noticed more and more people discovering our local parks,” said Jim Hoffman, chairman of the Belmont Tourism Development Authority. “We look forward to cooler weeks, changing leaves and the brisk air that brings locals and visitors to our city’s trails, parks and sidewalks.”Contact:Melinda Skutnick|Lyerly
From aquatic adventures to land-based leisure, Belmont has a little something for everyone. Find picnic tables and water views at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park, the Belmont GO History Walk on the brick-lined streets of downtown and the vibrant autumnal blossoms across our city “where southern charm blossoms.” It’s a season of adventure in Belmont, N.C., and we’ll see you outside soon!

City of Belmont political sign ordinance
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

The 2020 election is nearly here. The City of Belmont has an ordinance outlining guidelines and restrictions for campaign signage. The ordinance restricts size and locations. Specifically, signs are allowed on private property and along NCDOT streets, but are not allowed on city property (parks, facilities, etc.) and along city streets. All signs must be removed within 10 days of the election.
To review the entire sign ordinance visit the city’s website:…/ldc-chapter-10-signs.

Cramerton News Briefs
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

Leaf pickup
Town of Cramerton leaf pickup will begin next week. Place all raked leaves to the curb.  Do not place leaf piles on sidewalks or in roadways.  Do not park any vehicles within twenty feet of leaf piles.  The Town will pick up bagged leaves weekly. The Town crew operates a leaf vacuum machine during the months of October through February. Leaves must be raked parallel to the curb, but not into the street or over storm drains. From March to September, leaves must be bagged, or put in a 32 gallon can, or placed on a 4’x4’ tarp and placed at the curb for collection. Crews generally operate on Thursdays and Fridays for leaf pickup depending on the weather. Blocking of storm drains is a violation of the Town’s Ordinance.
Monster eggs
Cramerton’s witches and wizards will come to your home and hide monster eggs in your yard filled with spooky sweets and ghoulish goodies. Limited supply available for delivery in Cramerton town limits only. PUMPKIN PAINTING A take-home kit and craft where you can paint your very own pumpkin! This kit will include a pumpkin, paint brush, and paints! You can use to decorate your home, or your Thanksgiving table. PLEASE PRE-REGISTER FOR THESE EVENTS BY CALLING PARKS AND RECREATION AT 704-824-4231.
Thread Trail signs
The Carolina Thread Trail recently installed new signage in Cramerton as part of a pilot program. Cramerton was selected and the pilot program location for several reasons – our great partnership with the Catawba Lands Conservancy and the Carolina Thread Trail, the amount of trails and greenways in Cramerton that are part of the Carolina Thread Network, the South Fork River Blueway, and Cramerton’s position in the South Fork River Priority Corridor. The South Fork River Priority Corridor is an area of priority for the Carolina Thread Trail that runs from Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, all the way to Spencer Mountain and includes all the municipalities in between. The new signage includes small reassurance markers, sidewalk and trail blaze/arrows, trail wayfinding and distance signage, and larger Trail Head Signs which not only map the individual trails but also show the individual trails location in the larger South Fork River Priority Corridor.
November dates
Recycling Dates NOVEMBER November 1: Daylight savings time ends November 4, 5, and 6: Recycling Dates November 11: Town Hall, Public Works, Parks and Recreation Department will be closed in observance of Veterans Day November 18, 19, and 20: Recycling Dates November 26 and 27: Town Hall, Public Works, Parks and Recreation Department will be closed in observance of Thanksgiving.
Citizen of Year nominations
The Community Committee is looking for nominees for the 2020 Cramerton Citizen of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award. If you would like to nominate a Cramerton resident, please visit for the forms under the Document Center tab. For additional information please call Town Hall at 704-824-4337.

Domestic violence advocates have a new number
(October 22, 2020 Issue)

At the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, advocates are available to assist victims of domestic violence by filling out applications for emergency restraining orders and/or warrants they may need against an alleged abuser, as well as assist someone in getting resources or answers to general questions surrounding restraining orders. Domestic Violence Advocates available inside the Sheriff’s Office for victims Monday through Friday, from 8:00am-2:00am; as well as Saturdays, Sundays & holidays, from 1:00pm-2:00am.
Advocates are also riding with Deputies daily to assist other agencies responding to Domestic Violence calls in the county in order to reach out to victims for first hand support and with applicable resources.
Domestic Violence is not just physical violence. If you or someone you know needs to speak to an advocate please call (704) 869-6843.
Professor CJB Reid descendants on the front porch of the 1920 house. Rear from left Charles Reid, Oscar Reid. Front row from left Forrest Reid, Jered Reid, Abriel Reid. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont’s CJB Reid House celebrates 100 years

By Alan Hodge

One of Belmont’s most historically significant structures has been hiding in plain sight at 301 Sacco St. for 100 years.
The Professor Charles Jesse Bynum Reid House dates to 1920 and was his residence during his time as a professor and principal at Reid High School which was located right next door. The property  where the school was is now occupied by a City of Belmont park.
On September 20, Reid relatives, friends, and Reid community citizenry gathered at the house for a special program recognizing its significance not only to the local African-American neighborhood, but to the region as well.
The event included music, remarks by keynote speakers, and prayer. A raffle was also held and the prize went to Gianni Rodriguez, a charter member of the Reid Junior Rams group.
The Reid Junior Rams has about ten members at the current time. Members range in age from five to eighteen years old.
Charles Jesse Bynum Reid Foundation, Inc. president/CEO Charles Reid described the group’s mission.
“We want to teach them the heritage and legacy of Reid High,” he said. “We want to inspire them to excel in whatever they want to do.”
Tours of the house were also part of the day.
According to Abriel Reid, the house looks pretty much like it did when Professor Reid and his brother Craig built it.
“He was living in Lowell at the time and rode a bicycle here every day to work on it,” Abriel said.
Inside, the house is a treasure trove of Reid family and school memorabilia including yearbooks, photos, awards, a letter from Barack Obama, and the original keys to the school. There’s also an original school desk. Upstairs, bedrooms are furnished in old time style and dedicated to civil rights leaders Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Frederick Douglas. A large poster also pays tribute to the Tuckaseegee Airmen, WWII pilots.
Charles Reid recalled how the house and grounds looked when he was growing up.
“I remember the chicken coop and a big cherry tree,” he said. “There was a fig tree too.”
Charles says a cow was once a resident and an antique butter churn found under the house backs that legend up.
The house today is kept in good repair and it’s obviously loved by everyone on Sacco St. and the surrounding neighborhood. Charles Reid stays there sometimes and keeps an eye on things. The lawn is tidy and the front porch has several inviting rocking chairs. It’s easy to imagine the days when Professor Reid might have sat on the porch and thought deep thoughts.
The Charles Jesse Bynum Reid Foundation, Inc. is a 501C3  non-profit organization. Grants are going to be applied for to improve the house and make it more museum-like. For now, anyone interested in taking a tour of this fascinating and informative Reid community icon or taking part in the Junior Reid program can contact Charles Reid at 704-825-4017 and make arrangements. Online at or

About CJB Reid 1879-1940
He was a 1908 graduate of Knoxville College and the founding principal of the “colored school of Belmont” (later Reid High) in 1918. His wife, Maude Henderson Reid, was a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University and taught at several Gaston County schools.
In addition to being an educator, Professor Reid was also a civic activist. His involvements included Gaston Schoolmasters Club, Gaston Welfare Board, Governor’s Interracial Commission, State Teachers’ Association, Trustee for the Gastonia Colored Hospital, Masonic member, he and his wife were among the co-founding  members of Hood Memorial AME Zion Church in Belmont, and many more.
The museum is located at 112 Main St. in downtown Stanley. Photo by Alan Hodge

Brevard Station Museum traces the Stanley area heritage

By Alan Hodge

Looking for something interesting to do on a Saturday? Try the Brevard Station Museum in Stanley.
Wait. Why is it called Brevard Station Museum instead of Stanley Museum? That’s because Stanley was originally known as Brevard Station. In the town’s infancy back in the 1800s it was a railroad stop. During the Civil War, soldiers who signed up for the Confederate Army at the old courthouse in Dallas would march down the road to Brevard Station and board the train for the trip to boot camp in Raleigh.
But that was then and this is now. The Brevard Station Museum is located right in the heart of downtown Stanley. It started around 1990 in the old railroad depot building on the other side of the tracks and moved to its current location at 112 S. Main several years ago.
One of the museum’s most popular features is its extensive genealogical collection. The volumes include notebooks on local families such as Carpenter, Clemmer, Abernathy, and Forney.
“We had some women come in and spend four hours looking at their family history,” said Pat Smith, the museum’s secretary.
The same area of the museum where the volumes are located is also a meeting space where programs are held. Right now, the programs on hold thanks to COVID, but they are scheduled t return as soon as restrictions ease.
Local military lore gets plenty of space in the museum. Exhibits include uniforms and equipment going back to the Civil War. Medals, hats, flags, helmets, and more that were donated by local folks fill several display cases.
“We are proud to be a place where people can donate items so their loved ones can be remembered,” said Smith.
The museum also pays homage to the Stanley area’s textile heritage. This includes archival photos of mill workers and other related items. Vintage clothing is also on display as well as items that folks in Stanley once used in their homes in days gone by.
The Stanley area has always been a sports hotspot and the museum features cases with trophies, sports uniforms, cheerleader uniforms and an autographed football from the 1950s.
Another section of the museum is a tribute to Ralph Handsel who was Stanley’s police chief for 50 years. A sculpted bust and a painting of Handsel as well as news clips trace his career as Stanley’s legendary and beloved lawman.
One item at the museum that gets a lot of attention a replica of Stanley’s African-America Springfield Baptist Church. The model was made by legally blind craftsman Everett Brown and features a removable roof that lets folks peer inside and see the church interior.
No visit to the museum would be complete without a look at the full size replica of a Big Leaf Magnolia bloom that was donated by the Schiele Museum in Gastonia. The display is a tribute to French botanist Andre Michaux who prowled the Stanley area back in the early 1800s and discovered the Big Leaf Magnolia growing there. Stanley and its environs are one of the few places on earth where the species is found.
Overall, the Brevard Station Museum is a fascinating place to visit and find out how Stanley grew from a sleepy railroad stop to the vibrant town it is today.
For more information visit or call Barry Smith at 704-813-5015 to arrange a Saturday tour.


Annual Christmas Town 5K
will look different in 2020  

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

Cramerton gets another beautiful downtown mural

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

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

Progress being made on East Gaston facade project

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

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

Belmont’s Muddy River
Distillery earns national ranking

(October 8, 2020 Issue)

By Alan Hodge

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

Hurricanes have been here before

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

Gaston County Schools

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

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

Did Lincoln’s mother
live in Belmont?

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

Officials: do not plant unsolicited seeds from China

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

Belmont Fire Dept. gets brand new fire truck

By Alan Hodge

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

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

St. Joseph College Seminary College holds grand opening

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Veteran’s program launched at Shining Hope Farms

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

Plans for new Belmont Parks and
Recreation facility making progress


By Alan Hodge

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

Belmont’s own
‘Catawba Catfish’ passes away

By Alan Hodge

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

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

East Gaston teacher
earns award

By Allison Drennan
Gaston County Schools

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

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

NC moves into  Phase 2.5

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

Gertrude Harris has hit the century mark with style and grace

By Alan Hodge

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

Belmont Public Works building renovation in final phase

By Alan Hodge

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

“Of the Year” winners announced for Gaston County Schools

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

Third annual Mt. Holly lantern parade is a go

By Alan Hodge

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

Mt. Holly Lantern Parade Sponsorships

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

Duke Energy begins construction of new solar projects

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

Dudkos have an incredible story of survival during WWII

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Gaston County Schools

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

Two kings casino logolarge.png

Name announced for Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dudkos of Belmont survived harrowing days in WWII

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

Millican Pictorial Museum
a treasure trove of images

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Belmont Community Organization fills a big need

By Alan Hodge

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

ALERT GASTON system implemented

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

A new and unusual school year begins in Gaston County

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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