Tag Archives: Collaboration

Gaston Together: Be Engaged

SEABROOK SAYS: Future leadership is an absolute essential if Gaston County is to move ahead.  Gaston Together is right now creating a plan that begins community-wide action on November 15th.  Please encourage the younger generation (ages25-40) to engage now.  Connect with Donna Lockett.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In 1997, a group of community leaders with foresight decided to launch a unique concept in Gaston County. A non-profit organization was developed with a mission that would tackle big Community Challenges by engaging the citizenry and working to avoid duplication of efforts in our community.  Gaston Together:  Communities of Excellence grew out of this effort.

Over the last nineteen years, Gaston Together has addressed many such challenges in our community. Some “solutions” have remained under its administration such as the “Pride in Gaston Traveling Tour” for third graders and the Gaston County MLK Unity Awards (honoring citizens in our county who build bridges of unity across lines of race, religion, gender, culture and geography in Gaston County.)  Others, such as “Keeping Families Intact”, now the Resource Connection at the YMCA , were transferred to other entities for sustainability.

One initiative developed by Gaston Together in its very beginning and still going strong today is the Gaston Clergy & Citizens Coalition (GC3.) The GC3 is a non-denominational ministerial association that provides faith-based leadership to address community issues.  Recently, they have created and signed a covenant with Law Enforcement in Gaston County including the Sheriff, the Chiefs of the County and all municipal police departments. The idea behind the covenant is to be proactive in Gaston County instead of reactive to community unrest; to develop a closer working relationship among clergy and law enforcement in Gaston County in an effort to prevent local protest events such as those experienced nationally.  Significant pro-active events since then have included a clergy/law enforcement breakfast to encourage relationship building, a gathering at the MLK Plaza to thank and pray for police following recent violence against police across our country, and a clergy specific police academy developed by the Gastonia Police Department.  Twenty-five Clergy members will take part in the training this fall.

The newest major initiative of Gaston Together is our Civic Engagement process. In an effort to attract and retain the 25 – 40 age group in our county and after several months of community review and cross-sector focus group sessions, in late fall Gaston Together will launch a community process to engage our next generation of leaders for Gaston County.  The underlying objective of this initiative, as the name implies, is to provide a vehicle for citizens- especially the next generation of leaders – to become engaged in endeavors that will improve our community’s vitality and quality of life.

These are just two specific examples of on-going Gaston Together initiatives, but there are numerous opportunities for people in this community to participate. So how can you help and what is the first step?

Find out what interests you. Whether it is just simply working with your neighbors to improve your street/neighborhood or getting involved by providing your opinions and desires to the elected leaders. Think of your county and its future; think of how it will drift if we all do nothing. We are the last county in the Charlotte Metro to experience tremendous growth. Be a part of deciding how, when and where that growth will happen. BE ENGAGED!

For more information about Gaston Together, please visit our facebook page, website: gastontogether.org, or call 704-867-9869.

Jaggy Anand
2016 Gaston Together Board Chair

 Donna Lockett
Gaston Together Executive Director

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Relations with America and Cuba

SEABROOK SAYS: Claudio Fuente is a native of Cuba, but has lived in the USA for many years.  He will share his thoughts about Cuba and the possible relationships with the US. Somehow, sometime, Gaston County may benefit from a relationship developed between Cuba and the US.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

On a recent trip to Little Havana in Miami, Florida I marveled at this vibrant community in action. Vendors and business owners graciously made everyone feel welcomed, despite language barriers and cultural differences.  As an American citizen originally born in Havana, Cuba, this environment reminded me of the warmth and friendliness the Cuban people show to each other and to everyone they meet.

Significant events have once again thrust Cuba and America together and all for the better. Many people who came to this country from Cuba take the view that America should have nothing to do with the present Castro regime. I’m of the opinion trade is good — eliminate the embargo and flood Cuba with blue jeans and car parts!

Cuba has many issues, and so does America — both countries have political prisoners, a history of human rights violations, a significant gap between rich and poor.   I’ve always had a dislike and distrust for the current Cuban government leadership.  Because of the actions of previous administrations, the door was opened for the current leaders, leading to mass migrations from Cuba in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

This year, my family and I will celebrate our 60th anniversary of arriving to America. For my sister and I, the move was like a camping trip.  For our parents it was pure hell.  They had to give up everything they owned in this world to be total strangers in a land that did not want them.  They endured being made to feel they were unwanted, got used to being shown the exit rather than the entrance.  They experienced discrimination because they were from another land and spoke another language.  They survived and provided for their family by accepting any employment available, even jobs that were well beneath their skill levels.  We knew many physicians, dentists and teachers from Cuba who came to America and found their degrees and experience meant nothing here, so they took any job they could, often working as housekeepers, shift workers in factories, or restaurant servers.  My family and I saw and experienced these hardships and many more.

Our family made a vow not to allow the hatred to discourage us. Many people were kind to us and provided encouragement as we found our way in this new country.  We pursued education and exhibited a strong work ethic, eventually meeting our goal of becoming American citizens.  As citizens,  we were excited to be granted the privilege to vote, looked forward to the honor of being called to serve on a jury pool, and felt secure knowing know that no one could take these and other rights away from us.

As someone who came to this country as a legal immigrant, I am concerned by the harsh language I hear from others about people who were not born in America. Please, never fear someone whose language you don’t recognize or speak — embrace them.    Show compassion — many of these families suffered greatly to leave faraway places that don’t enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted.  They want to be free to work hard, get an education, raise their families, and make a positive contribution to America.

Claudio Fuente
Retired Graphic Design Manager

Interfaith Trialogue

SEABROOK SAYS: Quietly and effectively, the Interfaith Trialogue has been working for the future of Gaston County. Who are they? Better find out!  The issues this group tackles are becoming more important every day.  If you do not know, start to learn right now.   NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

You may or may not know this, but Jews, Muslims and Christians have been meeting in Gastonia on a regular basis since the months following 9/11.

Also, you may or may not know that we have not only a synagogue, but also a mosque right here in Gastonia, too.

This group of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Gastonia (we call ourselves the Interfaith Trialogue) have been gathering for the purposes of better understanding one another’s beliefs and practices (and hence our own), to remove barriers of misinformation and distrust, and to build strong relationships within our community.

Meetings are held the third Monday of every month, taking turns at various houses of worship throughout the community, including the Islamic Center, Temple Emanuel, and at a variety of churches around Gaston County.

A main study method used is called “Scriptural Reasoning”, whereby passages are chosen from the holy texts of each faith, comparing and contrasting the verses to learn the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian perspective of each reading.

Significant outcomes of Trialogue have been personal spiritual growth for participants, and the development of close relationships built on mutual respect and trust. We do not proselytize or attempt to convert one another to our respective faiths, nor to homogenize our differences, but rather gather in the spirit of mutual deference and understanding.

Over the past few years, the media has highlighted the Islamic faith, both in a good, but mostly bad, light. Meeting with local Muslims in a posture of learning serves, among many other things, to counter the negative narrative.  Our last meeting at the Mosque drew 35 people, and, on a positive note, our numbers continue to grow.

In the interest of community awareness, members of Gaston Trialogue have organized a “Walk for Peace” starting at 8:00 am on Saturday, July 9th.  We will begin at First United Methodist Church on Franklin Boulevard and walk to the Temple, various churches in Gastonia, and then end at the Islamic Center to enjoy an “Abrahamic meal” to celebrate.  Fellowship, prayer, refreshments and transportation will be available along the way.  If you have more interest in our group and/or the “Walk for Peace”, please feel free to send an email to gastontrialogue@gmail.com.

Rev. Dr. Joan C. Martin
Chaplain
Covenant Village

 

 

It’s Now or Never

SEABROOK SAYS:  Charles Gray is a highly-respected attorney who is now retired and who has great concern about the welfare of Gaston County.  Read about his concern for lower Gaston County and the access from there to the Charlotte area.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The other day, I traveled through Tega Cay, part of Highway 49 and River Hills.  I was amazed at the growth and vibrant activity in those areas.  I continued on and saw new schools and new residential areas until I crossed into Gaston County on Union Road.  It was like going back in time – nothing but open, undeveloped land, all the way to Gastonia.  The same existed along New Hope Road. No activity.

The Garden State Parkway would have changed this, but the wisdom (or lack thereof) of our legislators killed that project.  But Gaston County has one last chance. With the announced residential and commercial project in Mecklenburg County, extending from I-485 to the river, the need for access becomes a priority.   The new southern bridge over the Catawba River gains more importance.

With the new bridge, we could see a road from I-485 cross the river and connect to New Hope Road.  With cooperation between private land developers, the Federal Government, the NC DOT, Gaston County, Belmont, Cramerton and Gastonia, improvements could be made to New Hope Road and connect it to I-485.  This would open up southern Gaston County to unbelievable development and provide needed access to the new Mecklenburg County development and the intermodal transportation center at the airport.

Gaston County would leave the dark ages and charge into the 21st century.  This, however, takes determined leadership at all levels. Will our leaders act or let another opportunity go by?  It’s now or never.

Charles Gray
Former attorney

Inside the Blue Line

SEABROOK SAYS: Jennifer Davis is a Gaston native who retired from IBM. Now she is a very successful consultant serving clients in Gaston, Mecklenburg and other area counties. She is very actively helping find solutions for the common good. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Working with law enforcement was never on my bucket list. But, for the past 22 years or so, I have had the privilege of going “inside the blue line” and being bathed in blue.  It may not have been on my list, but I have found it to be the most rewarding and frustrating thing I’ve ever done.  In those 22 years, I have been fortunate to work with dozens of agencies from here to California, often in some not so pleasant times

My initiation into working with cops came during a time of tension and unrest within a department and the community it served. I was asked to explore some issues with their employees, compile results and information, and make recommendations to address.  I had no idea what to expect and, I must say, was pleasantly surprised with the results.  As a result of that experience, I forged relationships and friendships with officers that are still intact today….including the detectives who were assigned to us when our son, Sean, died.  For me, this work is personal.

Despite the negative news that often captivates us, the vast majority of the men and women who choose to wear the uniform are some of the finest people I know. The overwhelming majority of them are kind, caring, men and women who feel “called” to this profession to “serve and protect” – especially for  who cannot protect or care for themselves.

I’m not so naïve to believe all cops are good. I’ve met a few that I felt needed to quit, die, or retire.  But, neither are all teachers, preachers, lawyers, managers, consultants….well, you get the picture…. good. As a consultant, I go where I am invited.  Better yet, I get to decide whether or not to accept the invitation.  Police go where they are called and not going is just not an option.  Often their sense of value and appreciation must come from within themselves.  Other than our military, who else  that straps on pounds of gear and equipment every day, runs toward  threats, danger, and unpredictable situations, sometimes only to find themselves being targeted, resisted, shot at or cursed.

Recently, the Gaston County Citizens and Clergy Coalition (GC3) and Gaston County law enforcement entered into a covenant committing  to “work together across lines of race, creed, class, gender, and location” to create and maintain a stronger and better community.  For us average citizens who have high expectations for our officers, it means we commit to work for and with them to ensure they are properly paid, trained, and equipped to keep our communities safe.  It also means we do what we can to expose and remove from the profession those who do not honor their oath.  For officers, it means they pledged to uphold their oath of office to support and maintain the laws of our state and nation.  Together it means we will have stronger, better, and safer communities, places where we are all proud to live and work.

What can we as average citizens say or do? Respect the badge; say “thank you” to a cop; pay for a meal or a cup of coffee once in a while; pray daily for them and their safety; honor them in your churches and organizations; address negative stereotypes and generalities when you hear them; identify and encourage men and women who may be interested in this noble profession; and, sign your name to the covenant, when given the opportunity.

I am often reminded of an officer’s response to me when I asked “why, in this day and time, do you want to be a cop?”    His answer:  “I want to be in a place where doing the right thing is the right thing to do.”

Shouldn’t we all.

Jennifer_Davis 1

Jennifer Davis
Human Resources Professional
Jennifer P. Davis, LLC

 

 

 

The Power of a Mentor

SEABROOK SAYS: Matt Kuiken, the lead pastor at First ARP Church, is leading the initiative to recruit adults to mentor our kids.  Read on, get inspired, become a mentor, share the benefits!  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

I was back in my hometown several months ago and I ran into him. John Raudenbush is a guy about fifteen years my senior.  He is an easy-going fella, with a sly smile, a sharp wit, and twinkle in his eye.  When I was in high school John was one of my mentors.  Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – John would never call himself that.  But John did for me what a mentor always does.  He engaged me and gave me attention.  He encouraged me in various aspects of my life.  He motivated me to pursue God’s call on my life by affirming me.  He mentored me.  So when I saw John recently, I thanked him.  I told him I appreciated the role he had played in my development and that any success I have had is in part due to his influence on me (I don’t hold him responsible for the many failures).  I wasn’t prepared for his response.  Tears filled his eyes.  It was honestly kind of uncomfortable as he told me that he never realized that I looked up to him like that.  But I could tell that he felt honored and affirmed to be considered a mentor.  In that moment we stood on holy ground.

A mentoring relationship, whether formal or informal, is a sacred space. It is life on life impact.  It reminds us that our most formative experiences come not through interactions with programs or abstract principles but with people.  Mentoring, at its most basic level, is simply one person intentionally investing in another.  I have been blessed to be the recipient of such mentoring relationships.  In High School it was John Raudenbush.  In college it was quirky Mike McGhee.  In Seminary it was the Rev. Ryan Laughlin.  Who has it been for you?  In his book The Mentor Leader, Tony Dungy writes, “Building a life of significance, and creating a legacy of real value, means being willing to get your hands dirty. It means being willing to step out in your life and onto the platforms of influence you’ve been given and touch the lives of people in need.  If you want to make a difference in the lives of the people you lead, you must be willing to walk alongside them, to lift and encourage them, to share moments of understanding with them, and to spend time with them, not just shout down at them from on high.  Mentors build mentors.  Leaders build leaders.  When you look at it closely, its really one and the same thing.”  If you have been blessed with a mentor at any point in your life, it is now time for you to pass this gift on.  There are a myriad of different ways to do this, but let me give you one opportunity that easy and available to you right now.

Did you know that every year there are students within the Gaston County School System who step forward and request an adult mentor only to be told that there are not enough adults willing to mentor them?   Of course I’m sure they don’t actually tell the kids this.  But kids are smart; they get the picture.  To be without a mentor is to be without a crucial lifeline.  We have a tremendous opportunity here as leaders within Gaston County.  It is not just to be a mentor our selves, but to encourage others within our sphere of influence to be a mentor as well.  And here is the big thing – it doesn’t take any special skills, or abilities, or talents, or a certain personality – to be a mentor.  It just takes a willingness to show up, for an hour a week, and to invest your life in someone else’s life.  That’s it.

This year there are 238 active adult mentors in the Gaston County School System. My hope is that this number continues to grow.  My hope is that Gaston County becomes a model, not just in the state but also in the entire country for student mentoring.  How cool would it be if it was the rule, and not the exception, that all community leaders in Gaston County were also mentors?  What if mentoring was the culture of our public schools, our private business and organizations, and our entire community?  I am convinced that this reality would contribute dramatically to the flourishng of our county on numerous levels.

If you are not yet a mentor in the Gaston County School System, I encourage you to contact Valerie Yatko, Director of Business and Community Partnerships for Gaston County Schools, to let her know you are interested in getting involved. You can reach her at vayatko@gaston.k12.nc.us or 704.866.6329.  Thanks in advance for your involvement.

Reverend Matt Kuiken
Senior Pastor
First ARP Church

 

Ask Yourself

SEABROOK SAYS: Remember all of the good stuff as we all work to solve our problems.

Continuous Improvement

Ask Yourself:  Can Gaston get the big things done?

We have many critical issues that need our attention.  Here are a few:

  • Greater access to Charlotte
  • More jobs that our people can handle
  • Better education so more are qualified for better jobs
  • Attack poverty and keep poverty from draining us dry
  • Some houses of worship consistently make huge contributions, others offer very little engagement beyond trying to take care of their own

Here are good and big things happening now:

  • More than 30 churches and many volunteers are active with the Back Pack food program
  • Community leadership will get better at multiple levels
  • Completing the Loray Mill project
  • Created, built and are operating the Highland School of Technology
  • Decreased teen pregnancy ratemore than 30%
  • Became an All American City – twice
  • Unemployment rate dropped to 5% after loosing our textile industry
  • High school graduation rate has become much higher, the dropout rate much lower
  • 19,000 students are now attending Gaston College
  • Greater Gaston Development Corporation is actively helping Gaston County grow and finding jobs

All of us must continuously improve in all that we do!

Are you supportive of the changes needed?

Bill Seabrook
Digging Deeper