Tag Archives: Caring

Responsibility Leads to Great Success

SEABROOK SAYS: Think what our future would be like if all Gaston citizens would take full responsibility quite seriously.  Our Boys and Girls Club works on this everyday.  Is there something you can do to get more folks to be more responsible for themselves, family and community? If yes, please do it and start now.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The Boys and Girls Club is more than a place. It is a movement to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens. By reaching children at an early age, and providing positive activities and encouragement, the Club provides a compelling alternative to youth crime, gang membership, drugs, and other negative influences that affect our youth today.

Specifically, the Club’s programs promote the development of young people by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, influence and belonging. When this strategy is fully implemented, self-esteem is enhanced and an environment is created which helps the members achieve their full potential. Members learn to enjoy their interests, nurture their talents, dissolve their prejudices, express their personality, develop friendships, build self-esteem, contribute to society, and achieve personal success. An additional, and equally critical aspect in the education and development of club members, is the idea of personal and social responsibility.

At its core, Personal Responsibility means taking actions in life by making decisions to progress towards a better life for our family, a satisfying career, or personal and spiritual fulfillment. When making decisions, we need to take a responsible approach and consider the effects of our decisions and actions, all the while considering the overall impact and affect we can have.

Responsibility is built on self-discipline; the understanding of what is morally right and what action should be taken is not always evident. I have been raised and personally believe that responsibility is one of the best traits a person can have because it encompasses so much of one’s demeanor and the quality of life one has. It is not always so simple to take liability; not many are able to do so because it requires cooperation in some situations. There are many areas in life where responsibility can be important, including but not limited to, aspects of family, community, and society.

The relationship between personal and social responsibility can be best explained through musical analogy. If you envision the essence of responsibility in terms of musicians working together, you understand how responsibility affects the individual and society at large. Each individual musician must take responsibility for not only his or her part, but also for how he or she relates it to the fellow musicians as they share a collective goal. In the same regard, we as individuals must take responsibility for living our own lives responsibly and translating the benefits of living this way into how we relate to those around us. If the percussionist does not keep a steady rhythm, then the rest of musicians playing in conjunction could miscue on their parts of the composition. He must concede to the group in achieving its collective goal of creating a beautiful collection of sounds. The amount of self-discipline shown in the musician’s life and an individual’s life, directly translates to the quality of the music and the quality of his life. The harmony that can be achieved by practicing self-discipline with, for example, personal finances extends not only to immediate family, but also impacts our civil responsibilities. Being fiscally responsible is a very important part of ensuring the wellbeing of individuals and families and our community. Saving, planning, and investing wisely can make unforeseen hurdles a small matter to deal with in the overall picture, rather than causing great amounts of stress or financial ruin. Individuals that prepare for themselves, and those around them, can potentially avoid burdening others when problems arise. Furthermore, responsibility can free up individuals to make larger contributions to the harmony of society. This example can be applied to many other areas of life, including concepts from time management to nutritional management, or from personal to social responsibility. Understanding, learning from, and living with those around us can teach us to relate to one another with consideration, especially if we exhibit self-control when conflict arises and take responsibility for our mistakes. A responsible life lived can inspire others to play along, and thereby the melody will spread throughout society. For example, through self-disciplined saving, we can donate to a local charity. By donating, the echo of our responsibility will translate into a much-needed building block in bettering a community in need. If everyone can choose a part of his/hers life to be responsible in and see how that can impact others, we believe our society would be better as whole.
In the end, I believe that The Boys and Girls Club is making a difference in the lives of each child, meeting its goals to the best of its abilities, and constantly working to instill values and ideals, including personal and social responsibility. I applaud the community for their valiant effort and support in giving local youth a feasible alternative to socially undesirable after school activities. Now let’s all do our part–as a collective and diverse community–to become more responsible, in all aspects of life, and watch as positive changes happen throughout Gaston County.

Thanks to all for being an essential lifeline as we continue to CHANGE LIVES!

Chad Melvin
Executive Director
Boys & Girls Club of Greater Gaston

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Snap, Crackle and Pop

SEABROOK SAYS: Carolyn Niemeyer gives every day to the Gaston community! Very few citizens will ever know how much she does. The back pack program she brings is incredibly successful.  Read her article and ask yourself’ “Can I help kids get food for the weekends?”  More readers need to step forward and help. How about you?  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

How many of us have heard this phrase on TV and associated it with popular cereal?  Likely, many of us could just go to the kitchen in our homes and find cereal to eat.  What about the students in Gaston County who would not have had that opportunity if not for the BackPack Weekend Food Program, Inc.?  The food bags received on Fridays have meant the difference between being hungry over the weekend and having meals to eat.  The students are so anxious to get the weekend food they start asking their teachers on Friday morning, “Are we getting our food today?”

The Gaston County Schools currently report that 66% of the student population is eligible for free lunch. This is a 10% increase in need from 2011 when the BackPack Weekend Food Program began.

The US Census Bureau reports that 44% of households in Gaston County have yearly income of $35,000 or less. These statistics indicate a need for economic improvement in our area.

The BackPack Weekend Food Program, Inc. has grown from providing weekend food for students in 17 schools in the beginning to 43 schools currently.  The program provided almost 300,000 meals to 950+ students this year.  The operation of the program has grown out of the space at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and will start the new school year in a larger warehouse space on Linwood Rd.  It is anticipated that the program will begin with around 1,000 students.  Just imagine how many volunteers this will take to get the food from the truck to the back packs of the students!

The good news is that with so many caring people in the community the task will be accomplished. The number of students in need will increase in the near future and food costs will continue to rise as much as 5 to 7%.  A registered dietician assists the program to provide menus that meet the caloric and nutritional needs of the students K-12 within the budget for the meals.

Many schools and teachers report that the students have hope when they receive the weekend food bags. Hope that someone cares about them weekly, not just one time. Surveys report that there has been an increase in positive behavior and daily work in the classroom because they are not concentrating on their growling stomach.  As a community, it is our mission to encourage these students to stay in school and receive their education.  Without education these students will have difficulty finding jobs that will sustain themselves or their families. Individual failure leads to family failure and community failure.

The BackPack Weekend Food Program, Inc. is totally run by volunteers. Local churches and community groups provide funding for about 70% of the students. The remainder of funds come from grants, donations and fundraisers.

For more information about the program, how to make a donation, or volunteer, please visit our web site at http://www.backpackweekendfoodprogram.com.

You always stand taller when you kneel to help a child.”

Carolyn Niemeyer head shot

Carolyn Niemeyer Community Volunteer

 

 

How Being Mentored Helped Me

SEABROOK SAYS: Every story I ever heard about mentoring has mentioned benefits to both the mentee and the mentor.  Matt Adams’ story may be the best of all!  Has the time arrived when you should be mentoring for an hour per week?  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

A mentor is defined by Webster’s dictionary as, “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less-experienced, and often younger, person.” While this is certainly accurate, it does not fully convey the impact a mentor has on someone’s life. To me, a mentor is someone who makes such an indelible impression on the life of a young boy or girl that they become better equipped to realize their full potential. A mentor can play a fundamental role in altering a young person’s course in life for the better. It is, however, even more than helping them develop life skills that will propel them to eventual success. It oftentimes satisfies an emotional need that a young girl or boy is not having met, which carries an even more profound effect than equipping them for success.

How do I know this? I, myself, have experienced the positive effects of having a mentor. When I was five years old, my mom and dad split-up. My dad moved about two hours away and aside from my mom and brother I had no family around. We lived in a low-income part of Gastonia and, statistically speaking, the prospects for my life grew dimmer. By God’s grace, though, there was a man that had already been in my life, named Doug Mincey, who recognized that I needed a strong, male influence and he heeded the call.

What this man has done for me, in my book, places him among the saints. He was a giant to me then and is still a giant to me today. Writing briefly about him here frankly does not do him the justice he deserves. While my mom undoubtedly had the greatest influence on me, Doug would be a very close second. As someone himself who had the cards stacked against him, he instilled in me the belief that through hard work coupled with determination I could accomplish whatever I wanted. What I learned from him was to not let your circumstances define who you are but to use those circumstances to define yourself. I would say, though, that it wasn’t really what he taught me directly that impacted me. It was the example in his own daily life where I really paid attention. Among some of the things his example taught me was about the importance of faith, showing compassion to those less fortunate, conducting oneself with the utmost integrity in your profession, giving back to the community, and showing an undying devotion to family.

Doug has been more than a mentor to me. He has been one of my very best friends. I can say with certainty that my life would have been far different without his influence.  He has been with me during the highs of life and there for me during the very lows. I haven’t always followed his example and have made many mistakes, some of which I’m sure were disappointing to him, but he’s always been there to guide me back to where I need to be and has done so with grace and love. I owe a lot to him and could never repay him. I will be forever grateful to him for being that strong, male role-model that I needed but most of all for showing me unconditional love. I know my mom was very grateful as well and I believe she’s in heaven right now asking God to bless Doug as much as possible simply for the role he has played in my life.

I want to thank him, his family for sharing him, and to all those out there that take the time to mentor. You may not ever know fully the impact you are having but I can assure you it is positive. If you are considering becoming one, I’d encourage you to do so. You may just change a life.

Matt Adams
Senior Personal Banker
CommunityOne Bank, N.A.

 

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 flourishing 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
Senor Pastor
First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

 

Gaston County Schools Has Accepted Rachel’s Challenge

SEABROOK SAYS: Gaston County Schools are confronting BULLYING head on and are getting positive results.  Improvements are clear in relationship building, communications, learning and kindness towards peers!      NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In August 2012, Gaston County Schools became the first school district on the East Coast to launch district-wide participation in Rachel’s Challenge.  This program was made possible by a grant partnership with the United Way of Gaston County.  School support personnel including counselors, social workers, nurses, and media specialists experienced a powerful introduction to Rachel Scott’s story at our summer training.  Participants were all moved by the incredible vision of this young lady and the impact her life is still having nationwide, and they were excited to bring this message to everyone in Gaston County Schools.

Rachel Scott was a student killed in the Columbine school shooting.  Her ideals of kindness and compassion live on through the organization that sponsors the Rachel’s Challenge initiative.  Another important message of the Rachel’s Challenge program is the idea that each person can reach millions.  In the presentation, a story is shared that Rachel drew her hands on the back of her dresser and wrote that her hands would touch millions, a prophecy that has definitely come true.

From the organization’s website, www.rachelschallenge.org, five tenets for improving school climate include this challenge to students:

  1. Dream BIG and Believe in myself.
  2. Be KIND to others.
  3. Practice POSITIVE gossip with others.
  4. Show APPRECIATION to those I love.
  5. Be the ANSWER (not the problem).

In Fall 2012, school presentations were held to introduce the tenets of Rachel’s challenge to all students.  These programs were tailored to the appropriate learning levels for elementary, middle, and high school.  Students signed a banner, accepting Rachel’s Challenge to have a positive impact on school climate.  The message went beyond an anti-bullying message.  Students were being asked to complete targeted acts of kindness.  The speaker encouraged students and faculty members to consciously do something kind every day and to look for those who might need their friendship.  One important example in the program was for students to be inclusive.  An example was given to look around at lunch and other social opportunities in the school and to invite someone who may be sitting alone to join your table. In fact, Rachel was known to not only invite someone to her lunch table but to move to sit with someone who may have been sitting alone, and by this initiation to include them in a larger conversation that ultimately facilitated friendships.  Following the Rachel’s challenge presentation, many administrators, teachers, and support personnel witnessed this act of kindness happen throughout cafeterias across the entire school district.

At all schools, clubs were founded, Friends of Rachel (FOR) clubs and Kindness clubs.  These clubs had students write how they will be a positive link in the school climate chain.  These links were put together to decorate school lobbies, libraries, cafeterias, and classrooms.  These chains of kindness were a visual reminder to students that they are important and can make a positive impact on the lives of others.

In October 2012, Gaston County Schools partnered with Gastonia Rotary clubs to sponsor a Rachel’s Challenge video contest.  Schools videotaped implementation of club activities, programs, and student interviews to present at the Rotary Leadership program.  The Highland School of Technology won the competition with a student produced video.  The video showed students who had written on their hands that “these hands will touch millions” interspersed with clips of students showing kindness and interviews of students and faculty members answering questions about how Rachel’s Challenge can reduce bullying. In December 2012, high school FOR clubs marched in parades across the district.  The student groups had matching Rachel’s Challenge shirts to show unity among all club members at all schools.  A bus with banners encouraging people to accept Rachel’s Challenge followed the students marching in the parade.

Three years later, Rachel’s challenge continues to actively improve school climate by promoting positive character traits (respect, responsibility, kindness and courage) and reducing bullying incidents.  Schools are more welcoming and Gaston County Schools as a district has seen a subsequent rise in graduation rate and reduction in drop-out rate.  Below is a picture of hearts signed by Highland students displayed in the shape of a hand that can touch millions.

Here are some examples of Rachel’s challenge events across Gaston County Schools:

  • Belmont Central’s Kindness Club works on character education each month.
  • Chapel Grove Elementary school hosts a food drive for families in need during Christmas. The students make handprints and write well wishes and positive messages on the collected bags of food. The counselor supplements this activity with lessons on empathy.
  • Pleasant Ridge Elementary completes a Drumming for Kindness event to emphasize how listening to each other is an act of kindness and a great way to build positive relationships. Below is a picture of the students holding their chain reaction.
  • Belmont Middle School’s FOR members are the student ambassadors who give tours and mentor new students.
  • East Gaston High School FOR club hosts a food drive annually. They also hosted a faculty/student basketball game to raise money to help some students afford basketball camp.
  • The Highland School of Technology FOR partners with the Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) to host a rally on conflict resolution, positive decision-making, and safety (no texting and driving). Students write “I Believe” statements on a banner that is displayed. Below is a picture of hearts signed by Highland students displayed in the shape of a hand that can touch millions.
  • South Point High School incorporates Rachel’s Challenge with Project Unify to bring together students with disabilities with other students and promote acceptance of diverse populations.

 

Dr. Melissa Balknight 

Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services                           Gaston County Schools

Talking FROM Poverty, Not About Poverty

Let’s talk about the war on poverty.  Some of you remember the Johnson administration.  That’s when we went to war with poverty.

We are war weary at this point.

And as we are weary, we are, as would stand to reason after 50 long years, bitter with this pernicious, pervasive enemy.  Over time poverty, the enemy, evolved, or perhaps the better choice would be devolved, into something more personal, more tangible.   Poverty required a representative, a face.  Enter the poor.  We are increasingly tired of, weary of, and disdainful of the poor.

The poor are the enemy.  They are, to borrow a phrase from a weeklong news special on one of the ratings-seeking major news outlets, on the wrong side of: ENTITLEMENT NATION:  MAKERS VS. TAKERS.

Takers?  Entitlement?  Forget the least of these; we’re talking about thieves.  Takers.  And not just any takers.  Entitled takers.  Arrogant takers.  These stories wouldn’t run as a weeklong feature if they didn’t drive ratings.  So someone is watching and listening.  Is that someone you?  Are you doing your part to stoke the news ratings, to encourage the rhetoric?  If not you, then who?

Them.  I’m sure it’s them.  You know them.  They are the folks who rallied to eliminate emergency unemployment benefits in our state. Our state was the only state in the nation eligible for emergency benefits which said: No, Thank You.  We had more people unemployed in Gaston County than we had jobs available in North Carolina.  Let me type that again:  We had more people unemployed in Gaston County than we had jobs available in North Carolina. That’s North Carolina.  The state.   Vinegar sauce to   tomato sauce.  Manteo to Murphy.  Abowt to about.  The whole thing.  Why?  We did it because these takers don’t want to work.  These takers want to be poor.  They’re takers.  Takers, well, they take.  It’s just what they do.

The most immediate route to poverty is total loss of income.  Eliminating the unemployment income source pushed more people into the role of taker.  Some of them will be long term takers.  They are children growing up in poverty.  Taker children end up, all too often, with a condition known as Taker Brain.  (The scientific term is Poverty Brain.)  Taker Brain means less gray matter.  Less gray matter means a lessened ability to learn, to be prepared for kindergarten, to function socially.  Taker parents bring taker children into a world where:

  • Children receive less cognitive stimulation: less reading to them, talking to them, playing with them, engaging them, encouraging them. This stuff matters. It matters more than I could ever say.
  • They live in neighborhoods with more environmental risks. Lead paint, crowded and noisy living conditions, high crime, violence; all of these are more common in taker neighborhoods. None of them are beneficial to children.
  • Parents who are more likely to be involved in domestic violence and ongoing conflict. Stressed parents in a violent home. Add a crying child. Do the math.

Taker Children still grow up.  And they typically keep right on taking.

A taker.  As in taking what is not yours, taking what is mine.  As in being a drag on making.  As in being less, wrong, below the grade.  A failure.  A thief.  Takers are lazy.  Takers won’t work.  Takers enjoy taking.

When you frame the discussion of poverty this way, you do some amazing things.  You take any dignity, any honor, and sense of value from the poor.  You dehumanize the poor.   And then the poor don’t matter.

No happy ending here.  I don’t have a solution to poverty.  You don’t either.  No one does.

I do know this Maker/Taker distraction creates barriers for compassion, respect, graciousness, and, worst of all, understanding.  Let’s not talk about programs, benefits and what you read on the internet, and hear on the television for a moment.  We don’t understand poverty.  We don’t understand the poor.  We can’t.  We aren’t in poverty.  We aren’t poor.  We don’t live in that world.  Until we spend time, human to human, with someone who is poor, and we listen, we never will understand.

How do we create an environment where this is possible?     One of the most promising practices to meet this end is a community engagement strategy known as Circles.  Are you familiar?  Google Circles USA.  Have a look.  And watch this space.  You’re going to hear more about this soon.

James Burgess                                                                                                                            Community Impact Director                                                                                                                United Way of Gaston County

Leadership

I believe that for any community to prosper, it must have strong, capable leaders dedicated to helping made life better for everyone in it.

How do you become a leader or help those who are already helping, you ask? Get involved!

The United Way of Gaston County, the Salvation Army, Crisis Assistance Ministry, CaroMont Regional Medical Center, local churches, local government and many other organizations could use your time and financial support.  Find one whose mission speaks to your abilities or passion and volunteer to serve on their board of directors, work at their events or donate to their cause.

Get involved and know the satisfaction of sharing your God-given talents with others.  I don’t believe our so-called “Greatest Generation” is any greater than today’s young people.  They are many who are motivated to serve their community.

I ask the new, young leaders to show their dedication to our community by working to make life better for all in Gaston County.

Tete Pearson