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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
alan@cfmedia.info


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.”