Category Archives: Gaston County

The Threat to American Greatness

SEABROOK SAYS: Maybe you have been attempting to form your conclusions on this subject.  It is very difficult. Now, it would seem to be an imperative that you give study to Mark Epstein’s comments.  Do more than “think” them – write them.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

My family were once refugees, some of them long ago, some of them just a few generations past; true of most all reading this post.  They were once immigrants to the United States, most of them legal, some probably not; many were children when they made a journey unfathomable to most of us today (my grandfather came from Poland at age 17, with only his sister, 14).   Some just wanted to improve their lot, others were fleeing for their lives.   Of my family, their immigration to the United States was once prohibited because they were perceived as a grave threat to American sovereignty and its way of life (1924 Immigration Act; in the 1930’s under pressure from the America First movement).  Elsewhere they were once forced to register as a member of a religious minority.   They were blamed by their country’s leadership as the source of its problems, a fearful but false narrative that was nevertheless embraced by its citizens.  Laws were passed restricting their liberties; they became a focus for law enforcement. Their houses of worship were defaced; some were attacked.  Some were rounded up, taken from their homes, and deported.  Some were sent to internment camps, or locked into certain neighborhoods of towns and cities.  Some died there.  Isaac, his wife Chaya, and their 4 children Herschel, Yeshianu, Kraysal, and young Miriam were gassed at Treblinka on a cold November morning, 1942.  My mom’s great-aunt/uncle, and her cousins.  May their memory be a blessing.

Sympathy not sought; they were victimized yet no victim mentality here.  But:  in an era when one would think the lesson of history has been learned, nevertheless a religious registry, surveilling “certain” neighborhoods, “national stop-and-frisk,” a Deportation Force, and internment camps are being brought to the national dialogue by serious-minded and influential people with the ability to influence if not create actual policy.  The first step, an immigration ban focusing on religious affiliation, has already been undertaken.  In the public domain, mere mention and discussion of these things makes it tempting to consider them passably normal and worth considering – when in actuality such talk – much less actual policy – is a corrosive national poison that violates the most inviolable of American values.  That no one predicts it ends in industrialized murder here, doesn’t mean that where it starts is not insidious and destructive to who we are, and what this country is, what makes this country great, what Has. Always. Made. America. Great.

Arguments that such steps may be necessary in the name of national security and public safety should make the American hairs stand up on the back of our American necks, and send a collective shiver down our American spines.  To consider these things is not just to be afraid, but to be governed by fear, when famously it is fear itself that is most dangerous of all.   When any act of government, any act at all, can be justified in the name of security and safety, “to save even one life,” history is clear about the outcome, and it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t the United States, and in the extreme there is a word for it:  Police State.   History should make us know better than to even consider this path.  But by God if we have not stepped on it.

My faith tradition is not only very clear about how to consider those amongst us who are different (not only to love them, but to accept them as a native, to share my lot with them, to not wrong them, nor oppress them, nor detest them), it is also clear about WHY…even if in history they may have once wronged me.   It is because I myself have been seen as different; my family was once oppressed and considered the stranger, not native, and detested (and still is by some, sad to say).  Ex 22:21, Lev 19:34, Deut 23:7,  Ez 47:22-23, many more.

Thus should a religious registry come to the United States, register me first, as Jew or Muslim, I’ll take either one.   If there are internment camps, find me there as my family once was.  Deportation Force?  I will aid DACA or Muslim children, just as courageous Righteous Gentiles (Christian and Muslim), at their far greater peril, once aided children in my family.

It is clear the 2016 election was about much more than these issues, but these issues are nevertheless a consequence of the election.  Agree or disagree as we might on many things, as Americans, and people of faith, it is required of us to be vigilant against the corrosive forces of fear that can inadvertently, but without diligence invariably, decay moral and legal violations of our Constitution and our Scripture and the values both encode.

Mark E. Epstein

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Has Gastonia Turned the Corner?

 

SEABROOKS SAYS: Charles Gray is approaching the age of 80 and is consistently operation with tremendous energy.  One of the hard questions he asks is, “Have we (in Gaston County) turned the corner?” What is your answer? Are you ready to get involved in the same level as Charlie?  Why yes? Why no?  Now that you know, what will you do?   

 

In the past, I have expressed concern over Gastonia’s failure to grow in comparison to other cities in Metrolina.  I cited past reputation, missed opportunities, and unfavorable city regulations and inspections as reasons for our slow growth.  Recently, however, I have seen the following signs of hope (many of the facts have been furnished by Bill Seabrook):

 

  1. The Loray Mill and redevelopment of the Loray Mill.  The converted mill is now 96% occupied and we mill houses are scheduled for renovation and sale.

         

  2. The proposed sports center in West Gastonia.  The Sears building has already been purchased and the 15 million dollar project is scheduled for completion in 2019.

  3. The hotel in downtown Gastonia, with the first phase scheduled for opening in

    March of 2017.  

     

  4. The Harriss-Teeter shopping center and the new YMCA in South Gastonia. The 19

    million dollar YMCA project, headed by Tony Sigmon, has already been funded by local contributions and should be a showplace for the whole region.

     

  5. The formation of Gaston Outside (GO) under the leadership of Mark Cramer, who is working hard to improve Gaston’s image as a desirable place to live.

     

  6. A new attitude at city hall to make Gastonia more development friendly. The city

    council, under the direction of Mayor John Bridgeman, is providing strong leadership and the planning and inspections departments under the guidance of city manager Ed Munn and Flip Bombardier, are showing the much needed flexibility to encourage developers to come to Gastonia.

     

  7. The soon to be constructed artspace building will encourage the development of arts and culture in downtown Gastonia.

  8.  

  9. Through the hard work of our local school officials and Carrie Meier, Chris Dobbins

     and Steve Eason at our health department, teen pregnancy is down more that 52.7% with a tax savings of 40 million dollars. Our school drop-out rate is down and the graduation rate is up.

     

  10. The advanced manufacturing facility is well under way adjacent to the campus of

     Gaston College and should be completed ny the Spring of 2017.  

 

There are other needed projects, such as the southern bridge over the Catawba River and the expansion of the water and sewer down Union and New Hope Roads, but I believe Gastonia has turned the corner.

 

The other day I was playing golf with a young, successful real estate developer in Charlotte.  When he found out I was from Gastonia, he said, “I sure wish I lived in Gastonia. The traffic in Charlotte is unbearable.”  This tells me that our questionable reputation is fading and that Gastonia can be an ideal place for people to live and work in this rapidly growing area.  Let’s don’t foul it up.

 

 

 

Charles Gray

 

Retired attorney

 

Open Letter to DD Readers

SEABROOK SAYS: Hello Digging Deeper readers.  I may be wrong, but I think this might be the first article I have writer.  For sure, it should give us all some solid positives about the great happenings in Gaston.  It is entirely OK to read, pause and grin! NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

I continue to be delighted to see that so many folks in Gaston County are willing to offer their time, talents and expertise to write articles for Digging Deeper. Most all writers are Gaston citizens and all articles are about Gaston County. Each article has made Gaston County a little better. My thanks to all for this.

We do have a wealth of talent right here in Gaston. That is good, but we all know we are a long way from applying the talent that is among us right now. Surely, together we can get more citizens concerned about continuously improving our overall quality of life. And, as part of the process, we can develop more leadership to lead us to the future.

After 46 months of operation, Digging Deeper has issued over 131 publications with 16 more that either been written, but yet to be published, or writers have committed to write at the appropriate time for them and us.

Here are a few thoughts that continue to drive me and maybe you:

  • The cartoon character Pogo reminded us that “we have met the enemy and he is us”.
  • People closely associated with Digging Deeper reflect upon “Now that you know, what will you do?”   The emphasis is on DO.
  • Gaston residents have proven we can do most anything – working together we reduced teen pregnancy 57.2% while saving our health department a reported nearly $40 million.

My good friend, Bill Gross, told me that in spite of the fact that I am 84 years old, I should write and operate Digging Deeper’s five-year plan. I did it. So, you will see some improvements as time marches on.

We believe Gaston needs many stronger leaders in our communities. So, you will see that things show up in our writing that will hopefully encourage citizens to take steps forward, giving good direction.

Digging Deeper wants more readers. Our email list is about 1,286 strong, headed to a goal of 1,500. If you like what we do, please recommend to others to subscribe to our articles, usually two per month. It’s free!

Bill Seabrook

The Power of One

SEABROOK SAYS: Gaston County now has about 300 mentors for students.  The need is far greater.  Have you ever given serious thought to mentoring a kid for one hour per week? Elizabeth and I did.  The benefits to the Seabrooks and Phillip, the student, were huge.  Step forward – give mentoring a try.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

He’s a high school student. Good grades and social interactions haven’t come easily for him.  His home life is economically challenged; he has not grown up with a father figure or the advantages that others might take for granted. Is he another statistic destined for failure?  Perhaps. Except this student experienced the “Power of One,” the power of one caring adult … his mentor.

Our most recent success story for Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program is a young man who recently landed his first part-time job at a local restaurant. Making the difference in this outcome was his mentor, a caring gentleman who built a relationship with the boy going back to elementary school. While most mentor relationships in our schools involve shorter time periods, this particular one has navigated many ups and downs, challenges and disappointments, and the routine of regular visits that sent a simple message: “I’m not giving up on you.” It was the mentor who coached his mentee on interview skills, handshakes, eye contact and what it would take to keep his first experience in the workplace positive. That’s mentoring at its best!

Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program is in its 24th year of matching caring community individuals with deserving young people. Regular weekly meetings and activities at the child’s school help provide encouragement and valuable life skills that build confidence and self-worth.  This year, 257 mentors answered the call to volunteer in over 35 schools. That number sounds large, but immediately shrinks when you compare it to the 32,000 students attending Gaston County Schools. Wouldn’t every child benefit from a visit by a wise friend with experience?

The question I always ask at the start of every mentor training session is, “Who mentored you?” Think back — you may not have been part of a formal mentor program, but was there someone in your life who nudged you to try something out of your comfort zone? Was there a person who always seemed happy to hear your good news or just made you smile? Was there someone who was a comfort or just listened to you when life’s disappointments seemed to make it impossible to get back up? That’s mentoring!

“Young people with mentors, especially at-risk youth, have more positive visions of themselves and their futures, and they achieve more positive outcomes in school, the workplace and their communities,” writes David Shapiro, president and CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. “As a society, too often we leave these powerful human connections to chance. We must close the mentoring gap for the good of young people and our country.”

January is National Mentoring Month. It was launched by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership in 2002 to focus attention on the need for mentors. It is an invitation to individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, nonprofits and faith communities to come together to increase the numbers of mentors for our young people. I am proud to say that each of those six community sectors are represented by the 261 current mentors in Gaston County Schools.  As wonderful as that number sounds, more mentors are needed. There are children waiting.

Becoming a mentor for Gaston County Schools requires a short approval process and training session that equips new volunteers with some starting strategies. The mentor program is school site based, meaning all your interaction occurs on school grounds during the school day. You can choose a time that works with your schedule. Weekly visits with mentees averages about 40 to 50 minutes. Time is spent doing fun activities that the student and mentor choose, but usually revolve around meaningful conversations. You may request to work with an elementary, middle or high school student.

Gaston mentors come from all walks of life and possess the single best characteristic, the ability to listen. A one-year commitment to the mentor program is requested. Many mentors, after building strong relationships, have remained with their mentees for several years and in some cases to graduation. Numerous proud moments and “Power of One” stories have emerged from Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program. Will you consider sharing your powers with a deserving child? That’s mentoring!

Valerie Yatko
Director, Business and Community Partnerships
Gaston County Schools

For more information contact Valerie at 704-866-6329 or vayatko@gaston.k12.nc.us

Gaston’s Opioid Issue

SEABROOK SAYS: To Gaston County residents:  You, like most, are unaware of Gaston’s problems with opiate abuse and addiction.  It is bad.  We rank #5 in North Carolina behind Mecklenburg County, which is #1.  Read on, become aware and weep.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Initially, when the news started trickling out that Gaston County was one of the worst counties in North Carolina for opiate abuse and addiction, I sensed that many of my fellow residents were as unaware as I of just how deadly the epidemic was.  As we have begun to educate ourselves, the news has become pretty grim.  Consider this sobering statistic from the Gaston Gazette.

Gaston County remains one of the top counties in the state for heroin overdose deaths, ranking fifth in the total number of such deaths from 1999 to 2014.  Seventy five people in that time period have died from heroin overdoses, putting Gaston County behind only state-leading Mecklenburg (175), Wake (109), Guilford (103) and New Hanover (97).

When reading the stats and figures , remember we are talking about someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, child or spouse.  Opiate addiction does not discriminate and has permeated every race and social/economic demographic in Gaston County.  In fact, one of the quickest growing demographic is white, middle class women.  Whether or not we are aware, we all know someone who is struggling with this form of addiction.

How do we combat the crisis in Gaston?  Fortunately, we have some of the finest law enforcement agencies and some of the most knowledgeable addiction specialist, doctors, social workers and clinicians in the state.

The DDAT (Drug Diversion and Treatment) program initiated by Chief Ramey (Gaston County Police Department) has blossomed into an all hands on deck approach to not only assist those who are addicted, but work to keep them sober with short and long term goals and programs.  They correctly understand that we will not be able to incarcerate our way out of this epidemic.

Our Sheriff has partnered with CaroMont Health to provide over 500 doses of Narcan (a lifesaving drug that when administered can literally bring someone back from the brink) and is ensuring the proper training for GEMS and local deputies.

Our Gastonia City Police are also training their deputies on the use of Narcan and have been actively working with the DDAT program as well as increasing their arrests of major drug traffickers in the Gastonia.

Phoenix Counseling and other groups such as Gaston Controlled Substance Coalition, Partners Behavioral Health and the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services have also stepped up and initiated training programs, public awareness events and treatment programs to address the epidemic.

And still we need to do more.  We are making headway and lives are being saved, but as I talk with legal and clinical experts and recovering addicts; this struggle is far from over.

Gaston County has much to be proud of, -we are ahead of many NC localities that are still trying to assess and respond to the crisis.  What is critical now is more community involvement and awareness.

Faith leaders can help by opening their doors for community discussions and allowing recovery groups to meet free of cost.  There is a real need for more ALANON and NARCANON groups to be formed and facilitated by trained staff.  This could be a real asset to the community.

Local schools (public and private) need to formulate or update drug deterrent programs that address the troubling rise in youth addiction and abuse of opiates.  Young adults are quickly becoming one of the most vulnerable demographics of opioid abuse.

Finally, all of us can help by talking to our friends and family about the dangers of abusing opiates, discarding and storing medications properly and the rise in heroin addiction.  Be aware, educate yourselves, form community watch groups and take care of one another.

Like any other crisis that has come our way, Gaston County can and will rise to the challenge.  What will determine the speed at which we gain the upper hand will be equal to the amount our local communities come together to help.  This is your community and our challenge.  Let’s meet this challenge together.  Are you ready?

Robert J Kellogg

Gastonia City Council (Ward 1)

 

 

Investing in Educational Excellence

SEABROOK SAYS: Everybody knows Jennie Stultz.   But, for sure, everybody odes not know she is the leader of the Gaston County Education Foundation. This organization raises funds to meet needs that the Gaston County Schools budget cannot afford. Read on.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The Gaston County Education Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, was organized in 1992 to raise funds for extraordinary initiatives not covered in the regular Gaston County Schools budget.  Since our inception, we have funded over $950,000 in grants to Gaston County Schools teachers.  Our funds, raised through private and corporate investments, are housed within the Community Foundation of Gaston County.  A broadly-based board of directors directs the programs of the foundation and maintains our corpus of funds to create a valuable resource for Gaston County Schools.

Receiving a good education is a key component to each person’s quality of life. Providing a channel of educational excellence is the main objective of the Gaston County Education Foundation.

The Gaston County Education Foundation (GCEF) has lead positive change in the following capacities:

In the mid to late 1990’s, GCEF served as a vehicle for major contributions and investments in the building and development of Highland School of Technology, by providing a 501c3 organization to channel major grants, to include a $1 million grant from the N. C. Department of Public Instruction.  This N.C. School of Excellence now boasts a 100% graduation rate!

The Ron L. Ensley Grants awarded yearly to deserving teachers, provide funding for innovative teaching that otherwise would go unfunded.  Teachers must justify expected outcomes to include improved student performance in End of Grade and End of Course testing.  Sustainability and transferability are key components to the grants awarded.  An average of $50,000 each year is awarded in grants.

An annual Teaching and Learning Conference is held in August for all teachers.  The GCEF funds the cost of two renowned keynote speakers who open the two-day session with inspiring messages and praise to begin the new school year.

When the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative was being launched, GCEF pledged a three year funding commitment totaling $15,000 to establish S.T.E.M. in all Gaston County Schools fifth grade classrooms.

For the past ten years, the Gaston County Education Foundation has funded the handbooks for Gaston Together’s “Pride in Gaston County” program which reaches every third grader in Gaston County Schools.

“Are You Smarter than a Gaston County Fifth Grader” has become an epic event.  The yearly tradition pairs area businesses with local elementary schools for a friendly competition to raise funds and raise friends through the Education Foundation.  At least 9 of the 12 schools involved are Title 1 schools.  The members of each corporate team visit the school building team spirit, mutual cooperation and studying the questions to be posed from the standard End of Grade and End of Course tests. This opportunity offers students, who are ethnically diverse, a positive experience with professionals.  The students come to realize the capacity for local jobs and personal success.  The event celebrates 360 participants and an auditorium full of raving fans and serves as a major source of our grant funding.

The GCEF has provided creative leadership and problem solving through a diverse support base of educators, foundations, corporate partners, and advocates for public education to determine our most critical funding priorities.  As greater needs are identified by Gaston County Schools, the GCEF can continue to be a vehicle by which larger investments can be channeled.  The GCEF also offers opportunities for funders to earmark monies for a specific need they wish to meet, to include individual scholarships, memorials and honorariums.

Our foundation has developed the expectation that positive outcomes are not optional,  they are expected.

Our principles are paramount to the educational excellence required to keep our county competitive for growth and sustainability.

If you are inspired by our work, we want to partner with you as an individual, business or organization by:

  • Volunteering for any of our signature events or serving on our board of directors
  • Sharing monetary investments which build our capacity to build our grant awards.
  • Earmarking and directing donated funds for particular initiatives.
  • Donating funds to honor or memorialize friends and relatives.

We can broaden our sphere of influence through greater connections county-wide.  You can be that one connection that strengthens our public schools, one student at a time!

For additional information, go to our facebook page: Gaston County Education Foundation, our website at: gaston.k12.nc.us/gaston county education foundation, by phone at 704-874-1876 or 704-616-8613 or by email at gceducationfoundation@gmail.com.

Jennie Stultz, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

The Power of Local History

SEABROOK SAYS: Our article writer today is Amanda Holland, the new director for the Kessell History Center located in the Loray Mill.   I know you will find her article an enjoyable read.  In a minute or two, you will learn a lot about the folks and organizations that created success at the Loray.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In 1929, all eyes were on Gastonia, North Carolina. As the “Spindle City” was on strike, the country, and many parts of the world, watched to see how the strikers and officials worked things out. Once again, all eyes are on Gastonia, North Carolina, this fall. A community has come together to celebrate its history that has for so long not been shared or discussed. I am, of course, talking about the Loray Mill and mill village renovations, and the opening of the Alfred C. Kessell History Center at Loray Mill.

The History Center displays a permanent exhibit on the history of the mill, including the 1929 and 1934 strikes, Firestone’s long and impressive legacy, and the community that rallied together to save the mill from demolition. Today, the History Center and renovated mill represent revitalization of an area of town long forgotten. History isn’t always pretty, neat and tied with a bow. But there is beauty in that. Being able to learn where we as a society have come is crucial to understanding where we are heading. Many locals are unaware of Loray Mill’s story in entirety. It’s time to change that and celebrate our local history. For some who walk in the History Center doors, they are reliving their working years, not to mention having their experiences validated by having it preserved. Some are learning what it was like for their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents to work at the mill. The Loray/Firestone Mill represents so much for so many people. From a community feeling at work to a neighborhood full of people who looked out for one another, it is rare when I hear something negative about the mill, company, or co-workers. Many thank me, yet it’s important to note that this has been a tremendous group effort.

If it weren’t for Firestone deciding to donate the mill to Preservation North Carolina in the mid-1990s, if it weren’t for Lucy Penegar and Jennie Stultz rallying volunteers or educating the community on the importance of the mill, if it weren’t for Rick Kessell wanting to honor his father and grandfather who each had long legacies working at the mill, if it weren’t for UNC Chapel Hill working tirelessly on research, exhibit design, and “Digital Loray”… then the History Center and the spotlight on the mill’s history wouldn’t be the full brightness it is today.  Such a group effort is a testament to the power of local history. These are all locals striving to preserve, present and celebrate local history. It isn’t always glamorous, but it does not have to be. What it does have to be, however, is explanatory, educational and validating for those impacted. Gastonia, North Carolina is historically important, and should be celebrated as such.

There is no other time than now to research, engage, and celebrate our collective history and narratives. The Alfred C. Kessell History Center’s role is to help people better understand the history of Loray/Firestone Mill. My hope is that people will repeatedly visit, learn something new each time, and feel good about the community in which they live.

Amanda Holland
Director, Kessell History Center
Loray Mil, Gastonia, NC