Monthly Archives: January 2016

We Must Keep Trying

SEABROOK SAYS: The dialogue in Gaston County related to Jews, Christians and Muslims is a hot topic right now – and that is as it should be. Through energetic dialogue, new understandings will be reached and needed changed will quite likely occur. Enter the dialogue starting now:

I am responding to the Jim Pass letter that appeared in the Gaston Gazette on December 30, 2015. I want to thank him for the letter since we need to continue a dialogue on religious issues in hopes that a solution can be found.

Mr. Pass basically concludes that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have such contradictory beliefs that there is no way to reconcile the three religions. He may be right but that is no reason to avoid the joint study, dialogue and understanding. All three faiths start with the uniform belief in monotheism – one god.  Christianity and Islam recognize Jesus as a great prophet of God.  The Jewish Messiah issue prohibits the Jews from accepting Jesus, who is one of their own.

There is no question that each faith traces its origin back to Abraham so there is common ground. The biggest obstacles that I see are the sacred writings.  The Bible and Quran were written 1,500 to 2,500 years ago in a violent, primitive time and in cultures completely foreign to the 21st century. Both texts contain violent language and strange, outdated practices.  By meeting and discussing with Jews, Muslims and other Christians, I have found that most of each faith have relegated these passages to a time long ago with no relevance today.

The problems of today stem from the fringe element of all three faiths that use this outdated, violent language to justify many horrific acts we have witnessed recently. The letter put forth by the trialogue not only condemned terrorism, but disavowed the violent language in the Bible and the Quran. That was a huge step forward.

I will keep going, discussing and exploring because if we don’t find a way for all three faiths to live together in peace and harmony, then the world is in for a rough time. I urge Mr. Pass and all others who are concerned with the current situation to join our discussions. It can only help.

Charles Gray
Attorney, Gray, Layton, Kersh, Solomon, Furr, and Smith


Philanthropy “Forward Together”

SEABROOK SAYS: Many thanks to Ernest Sumner for key thoughts on fundamentals of giving.  Collaboration in giving increases the effectiveness.  The number of generous givers in Gaston County is huge.  You’ll probably note a place where you already connect or should. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

An oversimplified definition of philanthropy is giving for the common good. Using this interpretation, Gaston County is home to many philanthropists.  The impact of their generosity spans the boundaries of our community and touches the lives of all citizens.  Examples of this impact are abundant and range from the quality of our drinking water to how we educate our youth and care for each other.

Gaston County has a history of planning for the future. Because of the wisdom of the community leaders in first creating The Community Foundation of Gaston County, everyone can participate in philanthropy and know that their gifts are amplified and directed toward areas to achieve the greatest impact.

Collaboration is a critical component of philanthropy. It is through collaboration good things happen.  As a community we can achieve so much more by working together.   Consider making a mental list of significant organizations and institutions in our community.  To start the list include:  Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, the Schiele Museum, the Whitewater Center, Habitat, AS One Ministries, Gaston Together, YMCA, United Way and many more.  The list will become quite lengthy but the common thread will be collaboration by generous donors.

Henry Massey, a twice elected Chairman of the Community Foundation of Gaston County Board, put it in these words: “Volunteerism and philanthropy go together. There are many opportunities for people to get started on any level at which they feel comfortable.”  Mr. Massey cites the building of Highland School of Technology as an example of the community pulling together to achieve a goal.

Today, thirty teenagers from ten different high schools in the county gather for scheduled meetings with the purpose of learning about writing and awarding grants through the Teens Changing Gaston County program. These teens volunteer their time for a meaningful purpose that helps others in the community.  The Next Generation Fund, a giving circle of young adults, gives back by volunteering and donating to worthy causes.  From all indications, Mr. Massey is correct in noting volunteerism and philanthropy go together and have many points of entry.

The Alliance for Growth is another example of concerned and active citizens working together to make Gaston County stronger. Recently CaroMont Health has stepped forward to collaborate with the City of Gastonia and the Community Foundation to support the ArtSpace project for downtown revitalization.  The future of Gaston County is bright with possibility.  Given we have a history of collaboration and a philanthropic spirit, so much can be accomplished.  The notion of volunteering and collaborating is alive and well.

If we all join together and focus on the community goals, the results will be exciting.  Gaston County is a thriving community.  The philanthropic spirit has been a driving force and will continue to make a difference if we all work together for the common good. “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Ernest W. Sumner
Executive Director
Community Foundation of Gaston County, Inc.


Let’s Resolve to Be Bold in 2016

SEABROOK SAYS: Some of Gaston’s leaders have reduced their leadership contributions. Some have aged out and, of course, some have died.  New leaders must emerge and you must be a part of that emergence.  Read Ash Smith’s comments and allow them to bring new energy to your community leadership.  Now that you know, what will you do?

There has been a lot of discussion over the last year on leadership in our community. Most of the discussions center on a lack of leadership development opportunities, a lack of political leadership, or a lack of engagement by particular segments of our population such as millennials or minority groups. As I gathered research for this article, I read back through the articles written for Digging Deeper over the last year and a half and it dawned on me how many great leaders our community has already identified.

Beyond the many leaders who have contributed to Digging Deeper, I have had the privilege of working with dozens of amazing leaders in the nonprofit and business communities, who are making a difference by providing services or jobs that our community desperately needs. The Gaston County Jaycees have shown me that our millennials are dedicated to improving Gaston, and I’ve heard tales of the well-organized Junior League’s work on personal development and community service. I have had thoughtful conversations with newly elected political leaders who want to make Gaston County a better place to live, work, and play.

It has become clear to me that our community doesn’t have a problem identifying leaders; we have a problem embracing boldness. I once read that boldness is the translation of values into action. It is difficult to be bold, because when we are bold as leaders it means that we are going against the grain, are trying something new, or are changing the way that things are done. The fear of having others disagree with you and the potential of failure are both strong deterrents that hold organizations and communities back from creating the change necessary to do extraordinary things.

Often times we deter our leaders from taking risks. The results of that deterrence can be devastating to the development of new ideas. When we create an environment that is hostile to change or risk, the really impactful ideas are never proposed, are met with resistance and then dropped, or suffer the worst fate of all in a slow, painful death by committee. That last one is what I have seen all too often in Gaston County. How many of you have heard a bold idea, only to see it get sent to a committee and never resurface, or take a year or longer before any action on the idea occurs?

John Maxwell writes about the “Law of the Big Mo”, or momentum, in his famous The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He says, “It takes a leader to create momentum. Followers catch it. And managers continue it once it has begun. But creating it requires someone who can motivate others…”

In Gaston County, we need our leaders to be bold and undeterred in their pursuit of big ideas. And as followers we have an obligation to help them maintain the momentum of those ideas once they are proposed. This is not only true of our political leaders, but with anyone proposing something that will create positive change in our community or organizations. There are some good examples of people doing bold things in our community: Jesse Cole and the excitement that he creates around the Grizzlies organization, Kenny Gehrig of Partners Behavioral Health and his committee’s work on developing a coordinated intake system for the homeless, Lisa Marisiddaiah and the work she is doing with the FaithHealth program over at CaroMont Health, and the Gastonia City Council as they pursue the potential of a new ballpark downtown. They, and many others, are working on bold ideas.

So today I challenge You. In 2016, resolve to do at least one bold, new thing that will benefit your organization, company, or the community. Take a risk and be willing to fail. Don’t let others kill your motivation, and motivate others to follow you. Act with boldness, and make 2016 the start of something great.

Ashley Smith works with the USAF on leadership development, continuous improvement programs, and enterprise learning projects.


So You Think They Should Know Better

SEABROOK SAYS:  Those who know must help those who do not know.  Think 30 years.  Interfaith Hospitality Network works every day, Sundays too, to help whose who do not know.  Read, please.

Since 2004 I have had the honor of serving the homeless community of Gaston County, particularly homeless children and their families. I serve as the Executive Director of Family Promise of Gaston County. Family Promise provides shelter, meals, transportation and supportive services to homeless families of Gaston County. The shelter program called Interfaith Hospitality Network is organized by several congregations in Gaston County that provide lodging space, volunteers, meals and a tremendous amount of support to the families we serve.

The beauty of Family Promise’s Interfaith Hospitality Network model is the selfless commitment of volunteers to serve homeless families that enter their own congregation’s facility each day. It provides an opportunity for volunteers to touch the very lives of everyone with whom they come into contact.

While all those we have served over the years are considered impoverished, they can be categorized in two different ways. As described in Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” some are experiencing generational poverty, while others are experiencing situational poverty. Generational poverty can be defined as being in poverty for two generations or longer. Situational poverty is a shorter time and is caused by circumstances. Regardless of the circumstances, when you are facing homelessness or in a homeless situation, it is highly possible that learning what is socially acceptable will not be high on your priority list.

“They should know better”, “don’t they know better than that”, “well everyone should know that!” These are reoccurring comments I have heard over the years from volunteers, community members and even staff who have worked with the homeless children and their families we have served. While I do not believe in making excuses for others, I find myself taking it as a teaching opportunity to better inform those who feel the people we serve “just should know better.” Fact is, in many cases they do not know better, but this does not give anyone reason to judge, but instead be sensitive to the situation and when the opportunity presents itself, take the opportunity to share a bit of wisdom with those we encounter. No one is born knowing all they need to know to be productive and successful in life. Someone, whether it was our parents, teachers, or neighbors, had to teach those of us who feel “we know better.” Do those who struggle in impoverished situations not deserve the same experience? Most of the individuals I am privileged to serve are eager to “know better” as long as they are approached in a respectful and dignified manner, especially the children, they are starving for attention and someone to impart life lessons into them.

There is a fine line you must walk between being judgmental and empathetic. While one cannot assume that everyone that is impoverished is ignorant to certain social norms, one must be empathetic toward those who are impoverished and exercise patience when it appears “they just don’t know any better.” I believe “when you know better, you do better,” and this is the truth on which I stand and serve those in their time of need. So when the opportunity presents itself to share a nugget of positive redirection, seize it. Help someone you come into contact with know better, so they will do better.

Donyel Barber
Executive Director
Family Promise of Gaston County