Tag Archives: Quality of Life

#StayArtSY is the Latest Hashtag!

SEABROOK SAYS: Kim George is Gaston’s leader for our Gaston Arts Council.  Her article brings new insights into the arts locally and statewide.  This is important as new impacts will be coming to us via arts in the future. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The hashtag “stayartsy” was recently adopted by Arts North Carolina (Arts NC) – North Carolina’s statewide advocacy organization for the arts) to express the sentiments of many throughout the state who value and support the arts.

Speaking of Arts NC and news from Raleigh, there was great news for the arts in North Carolina at the conclusion of the Biennium budget sessions: $500,000 increase in Grassroots Arts Funds for 2016-2017 (these funds are distributed to all 100 counties and helps provide a diverse menu of arts opportunities and impact: festivals, arts in schools, administration overhead, sub-grants to community agencies, concerts) and $715,422 for A+ Schools (arts-based whole-school reform effort who since 1995 has been using the arts as a catalyst for creating connections and making school engaging, meaningful and enjoyable places to teach and learn).

On the national front there are some buzz words floating around:

  • Partnerships & Collaborations
  • Advocacy & Strategic Messaging
  • Diversity & Equity
  • Arts & Education
  • Community Development
  • Marketing/Communications/Social Media

And to determine the strides Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) are making in these areas, surveys were collected from more than 1,000 LAAs throughout 2015; the data gathered represents the most comprehensive information to date.

LAAs promote, support, and develop the arts at the local level ensuring a vital presence for the arts throughout America’s communities. LAAs are diverse in their makeup—they have many different names and embrace a spectrum of artistic disciplines. But each LAA, in its own way, works to sustain the health and vitality of the arts and artists locally, while also striving to make the arts accessible to all members of a community.  Local Arts Agencies are referred to by many different names or titles for example: Arts Council, Arts commission, cultural commission, or heritage commission, Cultural alliance and Arts service organization.

North Carolina is in on the data gathering and “Help Us Document the Impact of Arts & Culture in NC” is the appeal from the North Carolina Arts Council who is participating in the 5th national Arts & Economic Prosperity research study to be conducted by Americans for the Arts (AFTA) during 2016. This research will produce a report on North Carolina’s arts and culture industry, as well as each of the seven economic development regions.

The 2012 Arts & Economic study found that nonprofit arts and culture are a $1.24 billion industry in North Carolina – one that supports 43,605 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $119 million in local and state government revenue. These facts are powerful tools in making the case for state and local funding for arts and culture by demonstrating the significant return on investment.

Nonprofit arts and culture organizations across the North Carolina will help measure this economic impact in their communities throughout the year. In 32 counties, local study partners will coordinate the data gathering. The arts and culture organizations in the rest of the state will work directly with the N.C. Arts Council. Audiences at arts and culture events will be surveyed throughout 2016.

Gaston Arts Council hosted an Arts and Business luncheon on Monday, June 13 at the Historic Courthouse in Dallas where leaders from Gaston County, Charlotte and Raleigh provided updates and key highlights.  The featured presenters were: Rick Coleman, Mayor, Dallas, NC; Michael Applegate, CDME, Director, Gaston County Travel & Tourism; Malissa O. Gordon, Existing Industry Manager, Gaston County EDC; Ted Hall, President, Montcross Area Chamber; Liz Fitzgerald, Arts and Science Council (Mecklenburg), Program Director, Cultural & Community Investment; Andrea Schrift, Manager of Member Engagement & Events, Gaston Regional Chamber; Rebecca Scroggins, Director of Government Relations and Grants, Arts and Science Council (Mecklenburg) Karen Wells, Executive Director, Arts North Carolina (Arts NC).  In attendance were area artists, community leaders, arts organization representatives from Kings Mountain as well as Gaston, Lincoln, Cleveland and Stanly counties.

To discover more about upcoming arts, cultural and entertainment events in Gaston County as well as artist opportunities visit GAC’s newly redesigned website at www.gastonarts.org.  The new website features “artist of the month” and “arts organization of the month” sections.


Kim George
Gaston Arts Council
(704) 853-ARTS (2787)



F3- Fitness, Fellowship, Faith

SEABROOK SAYS: Steven Long, the co-leader of Gastonia Sheet Metal, tells about his high level of commitment to F3.  F3, a national organization, was founded in Charlotte.  The organization is dedicated to grow young male county leadership in unique ways.  Gaston County desperately needs young leaders to emerge to lead us now and into the future. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?


Six days each week, usually in the gloom of 5:30 am or 7:00 am, men gather at different locations throughout Gaston County for a 45 – 60 minute workout. The number of attendees at any given workout can vary from 3 – 35+.  The rules for these ‘Boot Camp’ style workouts are very simple and are as follows, they are open to all men, are held outside regardless of weather conditions, are free, are led by the attendees in a rotating fashion and each workout ends with a Circle of Trust.

The F3 movement began on New Year’s Day 2011 in Charlotte, NC. The mission of the group isn’t to get men in better shape, it’s “to plant, grow and serve small workout groups for the invigoration of male community leadership.”  You can find this exact wording on the website, www.F3Nation.com.

Something happens on the road to better leadership the F3 way with regular attendance at workouts. Regular attendees get in better shape.  It is impossible to attend multiple workouts each week and not see your fitness level improve.  Regular attendees meet other men with similar goals and thoughts on life, family, faith, etc.  This fellowship is ultimately what brings the men back week after week.  New friendships are formed from this fellowship and interaction leads to more opportunities to serve each other and the community.  Regular attendees become a part of a group that supports each other, motivates and holds each other accountable, and pushes each other to be better.

For me personally, the F3 story started in March, 2015 when a good friend from Church invited me to the first few workouts. Initially, there was one weekly workout held on Saturday mornings with the group meeting in the parking lot at the Schiele Museum.  When I finally got out for that first Saturday, I was blown away by what I experienced.  First, there were 18 – 20 persons in attendance including several that I personally knew.  There were guys from other F3 Regions there to lead the first few weeks of workouts until the Gastonia group was ready to lead on its own.  I had the same thoughts that most have at the first workout, “I’m not in good enough shape”.  What I found was a group of men working to be better regardless of fitness level.  I witnessed all ranges of fitness level that first day including guys who could have done that workout in half the time and then ran a marathon right after to guys who were struggling to keep up after the first 10 minutes.  It was terrific. I found myself to be somewhere in the middle of the pack that day for most of the workout and that is where I continue to be.  The guys in front did all they could to help the guys in back and that’s what struck me mostly at that first workout.  Since then, I have posted over 130 times, led 15 – 20 workouts and helped launch a workout in Lincolnton.  I have become close friends with men I would have never met otherwise and had these same men check on me after missing a few workouts.  I have found it to improve my daily outlook and health.

From that first workout in March, 2015 to now, we have grown to 13 different workouts throughout the week at 8 different locations and are looking to add more. We have multiple workouts scheduled each week in Cramerton, Gastonia and Dallas with the newest location on Saturday mornings in Belmont.  This link shows the exact locations and times, http://f3nation.com/schedules/gastonia-nc/ . Please come out and see what it’s about.  I can almost assure you won’t regret it…….at least not after getting a few workouts behind you.  Aye!!


Steven Long (F3 Stroganoff)
President, Residential Divisions
Gastonia Sheet Metal

P.S. – At the end of your first workout, you’ll be given your F3 nickname…so think hard before answering those questions.


SEABROOK SAYS: Tony Sigmon is the leader of the Gaston County Family YMCA which has five operational facilities.  When the Y’s $18 million new facility is ready, Gaston County may well have the best in America. Tony writes on HOPE.  Read on and commit to give it your thought time. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

When my friend Bill Seabrook asked if I would write an article for “Digging Deeper,” it immediately hit me what I wanted to cover.   In a time like this, in a place like this, we all need a good healthy dose of Hope in our lives. For several years I have been pondering the question, “what is our greatest need?”  Looking around and seeing the unrest locally and abroad, observing the current political climate, seeing young people put off adulthood longer now than ever and seeing yet others have to jump into adulthood way too early; all of this brings me to my next question, where is the hope?  Some get so busy with day to day and yet others find ways to escape reality.  There seems to be a huge void of hope in our world.

Last week I had the pleasure of serving my 22nd year at the YMCA’s Blue Ridge Leaders School in Black Mountain, NC.  This “school” is a week long program where 700 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 from YMCAs throughout the South experience a physical education and leadership development training school so that they can become better leaders for their home YMCAs and communities.   Once again I was reminded what “Hope” looks like and through the eyes of a young person.   At the school there are eight 17/18 year olds who serve the school, having been selected the previous year as the “best of the best.”  They are called Honor Leaders.  Two of those Honor Leaders shared a reflection on HOPE.  Instead of listening to me pontificate, here is some of what they had to say.


Hope. A small word, with a large meaning.  It plays a different role in each of our lives and there are many ways to define it.  Hope is looking towards the future with a clear vision.  Hope is acknowledging the uncertainty that is possible in any given situation.  Hope is our motivation to continue persevering through a difficult situation.  Often, hope is the idea we cling to when all our efforts have failed.  That small word, with such an incredible meaning, is essential to having a healthy spirit and mind.  Throughout different experiences in life, we have a persistent twinge of hope that the best outcome will be in our favor.  During these times, where do we find hope? Often we turn to temporary gratifications such as social media, negative attention or bad habits.  But they are just that, temporary and usually unhealthy.  Ultimately, this leaves us unsatisfied and wanting more.  When we find hope in temporary satisfactions, we are restricting ourselves from experiencing the hope that God provides us every day.

Think back to when you were a young child. Can you recall just how simple life was then?  We were surrounded by stories of happily ever afters, courageous heroes and victorious underdogs.  As children we have so much hope around us every day that it’s hard to be anything but positive.  The older we get, the realities of life alter our pure sight of this hope and it becomes more and more blurred.  Although we no longer cling to fictional stories to instill our hope, we have things that we do believe in.  For us and so many more we have the YMCA.  Here we see hope in action.  We see it when the dreams of an underprivileged child come true, when a struggling parent receives the financial assistance she needs to allow her children to attend camp or afterschool so she can work without worrying about them, or when a lonely widower gets time to socialize while they exercise in classes at the Y.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to use the hope we receive every day and spread it to others.  We all of have the potential to be someone’s hero.

When I hear an 18 year old talk like that to a group of 700 teens and 200 adults, I am inspired. It ignites a Hope in me that I want to share with others.  Our local community is right at that “Tipping Point” and there are so many great things that inspirational leaders are doing here in Gaston County.  My closest and favorite example is the New Y at Robinwood Lake.  To be a part of this incredible community lifting project is amazing, but working alongside leaders like Andy Warlick, Gene Matthews, George Henry, Richard Rankin, Steve Huffstetler, May Barger and Frank Craig is beyond a blessing to me.  Seeing so many more people excited to the point that they give the largest gifts that they have ever given to any project is a testament to leadership, inspiration and hope.  It is also a focused energy that creates a best of the best attitude and an excitement that is unparalleled.  My hope is that this is a beginning for Gastonia and Gaston County to see how bringing energy, vision, community and leadership together around a common cause brings great hope and makes dreams come true.  We have great potential to thrive as leaders, as community and as a county.  Now, “go be someone’s hero.”

Tony Sigmon
CEO, Gaston County Family YMCA

photo (13)

Pushi Patel- Take a Stand to Reduce Obesity

Over past decades, obesity rates in the United States have increased rapidly. Obesity is a very complex health issue that results from eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity; as a result, causing an energy imbalance. Obesity is associated with genetic, behavioral, and social factors; however, physical activity and eating habits contribute the most.

Being overweight or obese also increases the risk for many chronic health conditions, such as coronary heart disease, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and respiratory problems. Additionally, women who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for miscarriage, still birth, and other complications during pregnancy. Babies born to women whot are overweight or obese are at higher risk for birth defects, preterm birth, and being obese later in life.

Three out of four Gaston County residents are either overweight or obese*. In 2013, the Gaston County Board of Health announced obesity to be our county’s top health priority. The Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) aims to reduce the incidence of obesity by increasing programming to promote physical activity and improving nutritional practices. To do this, everyone has a role to play- including parents, schools, healthcare professionals, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations.

Leaders in faith communities play a vital role in reducing obesity rates, as they are most trusted by their community and can encourage members to take action. Leaders of congregations know their members well; they represent their congregation, and can communicate key health and nutrition information in the most effective ways. Additionally, faith based organizations provide opportunities to share information, link members with resources in the community, and to organize initiatives.

DHHS is excited about new programs that are specifically tailored to tap into our local faith community’s expertise in moving people towards positive and healthy changes. The programs include educational sessions that target individual and family oriented behavioral changes; walking groups to increase physical activity; and assisting organizations in making policy level changes that will result in environmental and behavioral changes. These research-based programs are free and if you are interested, please call 704-853-5083 for more information.

Again, programs are just one piece of the puzzle and success does not happen overnight. It truly takes an entire community to plant the seeds that will lead to a healthier and happier generation.

By: Pushti Patel, Health Education Coordinator
Gaston County Department Health & Human Services

*Overweight and obese adults are those that weigh greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms overweight and obesity identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

Community Health and Well-being

With the consolidation of the Gaston County Health Department and the Gaston County Department of Social Services on July 1, 2013, our county took an enormous step to improve the public’s health and wellbeing.

This merger works because public health and social services look at the same issues through different and compatible lenses. While public health works to improve community health by preventing disease and promoting health, social services protects vulnerable populations and promotes the wellbeing of families and individuals by assuring they have essential resources for healthy living.

Historically, our departments have addressed the causes of situations treated by the other. So, when public health professionals talk about social determinants of health they speak about the poverty, poor nutrition, families in crisis, limited access to healthcare, and unemployment addressed daily by social services professionals. And, these social services workers often cite poor health as the reason so many of their clients face difficult and challenging life circumstances.

So, the merging of public health and social services into the Department of Health & Human Services creates opportunities for these staffs to collaborate and bring more prevention and intervention programs to their clients. Today, we are actively engaged in strategic planning to build these program connections.

Looking at the five leading health issues in Gaston County, based on priorities set by the Board of Health in January 2013, it is clear prevention offers opportunities to avoid and delay their onset:

  • Obesity, which is clearly linked with diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Obesity can often be prevented through regular physical activity, good nutritional practices, and timely medical management.
  • Teen pregnancy. Between 2010 and 2012, our county’s teen pregnancy rate dropped 28% because of collaborative community education and new
  • clinical services.
  • Use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, which influence the onset of cancers and respiratory disease (tobacco), and accidents, family violence, and crime (alcohol and drugs).
  • Integrating behavioral health and physical health to work on the health of the “whole person.” Because we are physical, social, and emotional beings, developing this approach will enable us to greatly improve community health.

We are also beginning to explore the concept of Health in All Policies which would have us work with community organizations to understand how our decisions affect Gaston County’s economic, physical, social, and living environments. By considering the health implications of these decisions, we will have another tool for making our County a healthier place to live, work, play, and pray.

Chris Dobbins

Director, Gaston County Health & Human Services

Reviving the American Dream

The following is strictly my personal opinion. Working in Washington, DC more than a decade ago, I had the opportunity to engage David Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States, as a speaker for a conference I was hosting.  Mr. Walker had the bully pulpit In DC because he held a position in which he had ready access to economic and fiscal information at the highest levels, a first rate team of professionals and could not be fired by anyone for speaking out for the duration of his fifteen-year term.  At one point I asked Mr. Walker if people on the Hill were listening to him and his response was something like “very rarely”.

During that time and for some years before, he and others were devoted to educating Congress on the perils of maintaining our questionable financial management practices as a nation.  This miscarriage of fiduciary responsibility is well known to most observers of the American political process and generally involves the avoidance of fiscal discipline.  Specifically, Congress and the President have ignored looming problems with Social Security, Medicare and the need for both entitlement reform and fiscal restraint to deal with our national debt which exceeds $17 trillion.  In addition, we have failed to make the kinds of strategic investments that will promote economic vitality and American competitiveness. All of these problems were set forth more recently by the Boyles-Simpson Commission which was authorized by President Obama.  Like Mr. Walker’s earlier recommendations, the work by Boyles Simpson was disregarded despite the fact that the remedies for our fiscal problems have been known for many years.

This recalcitrance is troubling locally for a number of reasons. In coming decades, servicing the national debt and covering the costs of Social Security and Medicare will consume ever larger portions of the federal budget.  Local governments deliver a broad array of services that are essential for our citizens.  Everyone in local government has seen a recent decline in both intergovernmental transfers and grants.  These forms of revenue support many types of locally delivered services and may be irreplaceable considering the limitations of local revenue generation capacity.  Secondly, we are informed that succeeding generations of Americans will not be able to sustain the same levels of economic prosperity their parents have enjoyed.  Finally, our weakened financial condition makes us more vulnerable to all sorts of calamities and inhibits our nation’s ability to make the kinds of strategic investments that will promote future economic vibrancy and quality of life.  In short, abdication of fiduciary responsibility at the federal level will have a trickle-down effect on local government and citizens.

Although the remedies to these problems are far from painless, the solutions are well known.  The real obstacles seem to be the lack political will to address these challenges and an operating environment in Washington which is scandalously polarized.  Ultimately, the repercussions of this inaction on the part of Congress and the President will be borne by American taxpayers.  Various groups, including the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, have pointed out that correcting our fiscal imbalance can be accomplished in a gradual manner that supports economic growth and protects the most vulnerable in society. Delaying action, however, simply exacerbates the problem and extends the pain further into the future.  Instead of politics as usual and lame attempts to deflect blame, America desperately needs strong bipartisan leadership at the national level that is willing to take decisive action.  Climbing out of the hole we have dug for ourselves may require a generation of belt tightening.  The alternatives of continued brinksmanship, a gradual decline in American influence and the inability to address strategic priorities is even less appealing.  It is time for Congress and the President to revive the American Dream.

Earl Mathers, Gaston County Manager