Girl Scout Kathryn Cupp with the “Caring Cupboard” at Cramerton Town Hall. Photo by Alan Hodge

Cramerton Girl Scout creates Caring Cupboards

By Alan Hodge

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

Big development
underway in North Belmont

By Alan Hodge

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

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

First Baptist Church Mt. Holly rebuild nearing completion

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Progress being made on Cramerton Historical Museum

By Alan Hodge

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

Local EMS staff provide
support after hurricane

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


Cotton Ginning Days Festival called off

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

Mt. Holly PD gathering school supplies

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

Gov. Cooper extends Phase 2 again

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

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

Ground For A Multi-Million Dollar Casino


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

Piedmont Homestead Is A Little Bit Of Heaven

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

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Belmont Abbey College Housing Update

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

New Event Venue Could Be Coming To Belmont

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

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

South Point High School Gets Facelift

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

No Vote Taken On Confederate Monument At Board Of Commissioners Meeting

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

YMCA Supports Parents As Schools Reopen

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

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

South Point Peninsula Was Once A Native American Haven

By Alan Hodge

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


Gaston Schools Adopts Reopening “Plan B”

By Alan Hodge

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

Lunch Truck Lights Up Children’s Lives

By Alan Hodge

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

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

Gov. Cooper Announces Back To School Plan

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

Jeffrey Booker

Superintendent’s Message For Parents And Employees

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

Community Supports Mt. Holly PD With Prayer Vigil

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

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

CaroMont Health Adds New Location To Urgent Care Network

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

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

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

Mount Holly Community Garden Is A Plant-Based Paradise

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

Kameron Radford Earns Award Nomination From The Grammys

Gaston County Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Alan Hodge

First Baptist Church in Belmont has a new preacher.

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s meet Renfroe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above all, Renfroe wants folks to know one thing.

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

Major Upgrades Transform Stowe Park

By Alan Hodge

“A picture perfect park.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The grass looks awesome,” Stowe said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Town Of Stanley Recipient Of $50,000 Grant

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

Belmont PD Looking For Public Input

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

By Alan Hodge

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

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

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

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

Fate had other career plans for Clements.

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

Clements had found her niche.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smith returned the compliment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belmont Celebrates Juneteenth With A Parade

By Delta Sanders

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

By Mary Smith

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

By Alan Hodge

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

South Point Grads Celebrate With A Parade

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

Gaston EMS Celebrated ‘EMS Week 2020’

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

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

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

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