Category Archives: Gaston County

The Public Library’s Role in Early Literacy

SEABROOK SAYS: Is it just too much to ask that Gaston parents and their close associates DO SOMETHING to improve the reading at an early childhood age?  Imagine how much better Gaston would be if all could read.  Schools and libraries are engaged.  So, what about the adults? NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Did you know that the week of April 8-15, 2017 is designated as National Library Week? It’s a great time to celebrate all the ways that public, school, and special libraries serve the needs of communities and people…of every age, background, and walk of life. Libraries have a long history of being community gathering places and of providing educational and entertainment opportunities for everyone. In today’s digital age, libraries can reach even more people through virtual services: providing online reading, listening, and informational services around the clock from the comfort of a laptop, e-reader, or cell phone.

Founded over 110 years ago, the Gaston County Public Library recently updated its mission and vision statements:

Vision Statement:   A versatile community center, open to all, that evolves with changing technology and social trends to empower lifelong growth, learning, and education.

Mission Statement: Meeting individual and community needs through information, education, engagement, and enrichment.

One of the most important ways that your Public Library has and continues to meet these goals is through its leadership in the area of early literacy. Librarians have traditionally focused on helping their youngest patrons acquire the building blocks they need to become successful readers and students.  Through baby, toddler, and preschool storytimes, each featuring stories, songs, and activities developmentally appropriate and targeted to the specific age group, library staff engage the children and model suggested methods for parents and caregivers to make learning fun for the little ones. Many studies have shown that basic activities such as talking, playing, singing, reading, and writing with preschool children are crucial to their future success when they begin school.

But despite the Library’s ongoing efforts to reach our youngest citizens, there are many, many children in our community who arrive at the kindergarten doorstep without these essential pre-literacy skills. For this reason, the Gaston County Public Library has been working with many community partners, including the Partnership for Children of Gaston and Lincoln Counties, the Gaston County Department of Health and Social Services, the Gaston Literacy Council, the United Way of Gaston County, the Gaston Family YMCA, Gaston County Schools, Boys & Girls Clubs of Gaston County, and the Gaston Gazette, to form the Gaston Early Literacy Collaborative (ELC).

The Gaston ELC is affiliated with the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the NC Early Childhood Foundation and has been working on ways to more adequately prepare our kids for reading and school success.  Most significantly, the Gaston ELC has organized an event entitled “Literacy Builds Gaston,” an Early Literacy Convening to be held on Friday, May 12, 2017, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at the Main Library, 1555 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia.  At this event, local organizations such as churches, neighborhood groups, book clubs, and service groups will be able to hear about successful early literacy techniques and programs that they can implement in different parts of our community, to help parents and caregivers get their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers ready for school.  There will be inspiring messages and question and answer sessions where specific program ideas will be discussed, and assistance will be provided for groups who are considering implementing an early literacy program.

This is a problem that all of us working together can solve. If we can do our part to help our youngest residents be fully prepared for school, the chances of them staying on grade level, staying in school, and graduating will significantly increase, and this will benefit the entire community.

If you want to find out more or would like to attend the May 12 event, please contact Sarah Miller at the Gaston County Public Library, 704-868-2164, ext. 5538, sarah.miller@gastongov.com

Laurel R. Morris
Director, Gaston County Public Library

Our Local Media – Let’s Take a Closer Look

SEABROOK SAYS: Until recently, the now retired Tim Gause was Duke Energy’s go-to man for Gaston County.  Gause’ words help us better understand the words coming from the media, specifically the Gaston Gazette and the Charlotte Observer. He, too, challenges us to help the media by offering them good stuff to print and showing exceptions of fair, honest and balanced news. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

You are busier than ever and your appetite for fast but reliable information has never been more significant. Whatever your interest – sports, politics, business or local events, you expect to receive information that is fair and balanced. News that you can take to your workplace or social gathering. Solid information that measures risk and influences your perspectives, decisions and outcomes. This editorial is not about protecting the First Amendment, nor is it a popularity commendation for journalism.

So, how would rate your local media? Can you rely on the six o’clock news, the Gaston Gazette or Charlotte Observer?  The talk show with celebrity appearances?  Is your iPhone the fountain of truth?

A recent Gallup poll suggests that only 32% of the public has confidence in the media. Why is there a presumption of negativity from the media?  Is the media seeking conclusions in lieu of reporting the facts?  Standards have dropped, hurting everyone.

In my former working life – there was often a frustration with the media —- the quality of the reporting or the intent of the media. Has this happened to you or to your business?  During the recent political campaigns and following the elections, my family became entwined in the news, including the “Wiki-Leaks”, Facebook posts, and Twitter.  We were continually challenging each other about the most reliable networks to watch and which newspapers maintained reputational values.  So what did we learn?

Here are take-aways that will make you a more discerning media participant:

  • Have an open mind but keep a healthy skepticism for what is being reported. It’s no longer your grandfather’s media.
  • Your first step as you read an article should examine who authored it. A local reporter or a syndicated columnist?
  • Are they reporting the news, attempting to create a larger story, or writing for entertainment? Did the story pass judgment or convict its subject ahead of the fact gathering process?
  • Ask you read the Gazette or the Observer or watch the six o’clock news, ask yourself: Did they report the facts or did they express an opinion? I would never suggest that our Gaston Gazette or Charlotte Observer create “fake news” (fake news seeks to mislead, rather than entertain readers for financial or other gain).
  • Validation of sources. Often, it’s not what is reported, but what has been left out of a story or in some cases, just not reported. Fact checking is often left to the reader or a rebuttal because fact checking takes time and reporting deadlines have to be met. In this day of instant messaging, the pressure to get it out there often overrides the contextual value of the event.
  • Did their headline or opening statement used to capture your attention really match the story? The guy that writes the story doesn’t always create the header.
  • Here’s a favorite: When a reporter starts a question with “ some would say” or “it’s been said” – here we go. That reporter is taking you on an expedition.

News is a tough competitive business. Smaller media companies are facing difficulty with declining home delivery succumbing to digital delivery. Large media syndicates are buying or shutting down the smaller hometown outlets and media markets are being consolidated. Media is a business with owners and shareholders who expect reasonable profit.

So here in Gaston county, let’s work together to raise our expectations and our standards. This is our home, with so many wonderful attributes. So, when an investor or a relocating family looks at us, let’s be polished and positive in how we present our community, whether it’s in our personal expression or in the media. We can help our local media by supplying them with the good things to report and by letting them know that we EXPECT a standard of excellence in reporting fair, honest, balanced news.

Tim Gause
Retired Utility Executive

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

 

Has Gastonia Turned the Corner?

SEABROOK SAYS: Charles Gray is approaching the age of 80 and is consistently operating 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 written.  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

 

Manufacturing Our Future

SEABROOK SAYS: Thanks to Pat Skinner for leading Gaston College to becoming one of the best (of not the finest) in North Carolina. Julia Allen, the college’s chief development officer, writes about the Advanced Manufacturing program bring introduced and becoming operational soon at Gaston College. Gaston County is a manufacturing place where people should have high interest in this new technology! NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

This time of year reality sets in for many high school seniors and their parents that graduation day is near. If you are a parent or guardian finding yourself in this position, research shows that you have more influence over your child’s educational and career choices than you may think. With that in mind, consider that the average four-year college graduate of the Class of 2016 left campuses all over the country with over $37,000 in educational loans, and many of them are still seeking jobs because they did not gain skills necessary to move seamlessly into a career.

Society has created the illusion that the only key to a meaningful and lucrative career is a degree from a four-year college or university. I ask that you consider that there are other options, ones that are just as good and maybe even better for your son or daughter, which can easily be found close to home at Gaston College.

Gaston County’s largest employment sector is manufacturing. Over 15,000 of our friends and neighbors work within this sector; and over the past five years, the number of manufacturing jobs in our county has grown by 6.5%. It is estimated that over the next ten years an additional 3,500 positions will be available due to an aging workforce and industry growth. While the numbers seem positive, they present a challenge for the ongoing health of our local economy. The single largest frustration voiced by local manufacturing executives is that they are not able to find skilled employees for the jobs they have available.

One of the cornerstones of Gaston College’s mission statement is that we provide “educational programs and services responding to economic and workforce development needs.” To that end, we are excited about the upcoming completion of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. The College has a deep commitment to train workers for advanced manufacturing programs, and that was the case long before the term “advanced manufacturing” was the buzz word of the day. This new facility will dramatically increase the College’s capacity to train the next generation of manufacturing employees to meet regional needs, and it is possible because of strong support from local, state and federal agencies as well as the Golden LEAF Foundation and private donors. Our community has invested resources in the College so that we may now employ them to train your sons and daughters for careers that will challenge and sustain them for life.

We need your help to change the perception of how a future in manufacturing may look. While 70 percent of Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong economy, only 30 percent of parents encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. Few graduating high school seniors are aware of the opportunities within the manufacturing sector, or their expectation of industry is dark and dirty—yet that image is grossly outdated. Many manufacturing facilities today are cleaner than most offices in downtown high-rises, and they are staffed by well-trained, educated professionals who are highly skilled and are on the cutting edge of today’s innovations in robotics, mechatronics, 3-D printing, automation and more.

Gaston College will open the Center for Advanced Manufacturing this summer; and it offers affordable Associate Degree programs in fields such as Mechatronics, Nuclear Technology, Robotics, and Alternative Energy. Students are taught by caring faculty, in state-of-the-art facilities, to prepare them for challenging and rewarding careers. The College is doing its part to support local industries – industries that pay average annual wages well above Gaston County’s $42,158 median household income; we now need you to encourage your children to envision their future in advanced manufacturing.

For information about programs or enrollment, please contact the office of admissions at 704-922-6232 or visit our website at http://www.gaston.edu.

Julia P. Allen
Chief Development Officer
Gaston College

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)