• Derby days

    Cub Scout Pack 173 gears up for racing with annual pinewood derby event

    By Jessica Groover
    [email protected]
    Several miles from Lowe’s Motor Speedway, another type of race took place on Saturday. Cub Scout Pack 173 hosted its Pinewood Derby at Harrisburg Presbyterian Church.

    The race started shortly before 10 a.m. Tommy Warlick, the Cubmaster for Pack 173, announced, “Who wants to go racing?” before the six rounds began.

    More than 75 Cub Scouts participated in an event that drew about 100 onlookers. For the 13 races in each of the rounds, the boys grabbed their painted cars, set them at the mark at the top of a long, metal track and waited at the bottom to collect them.

    The pack used a new computer scoring system this year that scored the time for each 5-ounce car, and showed the rankings and times immediately after every race. The placements were then projected on a screen for all to see.

    The reason for having each car race six times was so it was fair, and that each car traveled in all six lanes once.

    “Each of the six lanes has its own unique characteristics,” Warlick said.

    After the six rounds, each car’s average time was calculated, and the top six cars raced for another six races in a final round.

    While the race was a few hours long, the preparation for building the cars took even longer.

    The Cubs received their Pinewood Derby kits at their holiday party in December. For some, the work on the car began immediately after.

    Jeff Morris of Harrisburg said he and his son, 10-year-old Michael Morris, started working on their car five weeks ago. They spent about six hours working on the car, turning it from a block of wood into a shape that Michael designed. Then they waited for a warm weekend day to spray paint it.

    Earlier this week, Tyler Warlick and Austin Krum were putting the final touches on their cars, adding stickers of their choice and getting ready for the weekend.

    It was Austin’s first time in the race and Tyler’s second. Austin’s mother, Jelena Krum, who helped while his father was out of town, learned quickly how to prepare the car for the race.

    “You’ll run into parents all over getting their supplies,” Krum said. “I was in the hobby store, and the dads there asked, ‘Do you need help?’”

    She learned many tips from her neighbor, a NASCAR engineer. One of the tricks was to put baby powder on the car to increase its speed.

    With the Pinewood Derby taking place near a major speedway, there were several parents who work in the racing industry and were able to help design the cars and even acquire racing tickets for the winner.

    “The NASCAR influence is definitely a big thing,” Warlick said. “I think we took our competitiveness to a higher level because of that.”

    Jay Wiles, an engine builder for Hendrick Motorsports, had a son in Cub Scouts who crossed over into Boy Scouts, but he still helps with the Pinewood Derby.

    “It’s one of the most exciting events for Cub Scouts,” Wiles said. “We try to help them as much as we can, because it can be a little intimidating for some of the parents.”

    Wiles helps smooth out the imperfections in the cars’ wheels and makes sure everyone follows the rules at the race. He, like many current and former Cub Scout parents, has as much fun being there as the children.

    Not only can it be fun, but Warlick pointed out that it’s a good bonding experience for parents and their sons.

    “For a lot of these guys, it’s the first opportunity to work in the shop with their father,” Warlick said.

    Warlick was proud of his son, Tyler, and the rest of the Cub Scouts not only for their hard work, but also their good sportsmanship. By the end of the Pinewood Derby, most of the Cubs stood side-by-side to watch and cheer, “Let’s go everybody!”

    Bradford Godkin and Dominic Weihs each won three of the six races in the final round.

    In the end, Godkin won. 

    “I won by two thousandths of a second,” said Godkin, who placed 27th in his first try last year. “I couldn’t believe it.”

    Godkin took home a large trophy and tickets to the Coca-Cola 600 in May. His parents were just as happy.

    “Usually you say you’re going to go to Disney World,” said Paul Godkin, Bradford’s father. “We’re going to the races.”

    • Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

  • County roads in 1868 – Part II

    By Janet Morrison
    Did you know?
    The “Did You Know?” column two weeks ago asked if you knew that most of the main roads in Cabarrus County in 1868 were named for their destinations. That practice continues today but is not quite as prevalent. 

    Some roads were re-routed and renamed over time. More direct roads replaced some earlier roads as bridge construction became a common practice in the early 1900s. More than 140 years after 1868, it’s difficult to determine where the early roads lay. Unfortunately, this two-part series raises more questions than answers offered.

    Refer to the accompanying sidebar which lists 24 roads in Cabarrus County in 1868. The names of overseers have been included for roads known to have been in Township 1.

    The “Albemarle to Charlotte road” of 1868, undoubtedly, pretty much followed the current route of today’s Albemarle Road. What about the Philadelphia Road, though? If the “old wagon road” from Charlotte to Philadelphia, closely followed the current route of U.S. 29 and Interstate 85, what was the difference between the Philadelphia Road and the Salisbury Road? 

    I have always been intrigued by the name of Irish Potato Road, so I found it interesting that there was a “Potatoe Road” in 1868. Hileman Road was unfamiliar to me, but I discovered that a John Hileman owned and operated Hileman’s Mill, a grist mill, on Cold Water Creek in the vicinity of present-day Lake Fisher. Lake Fisher is just west of I-85 on the Cabarrus-Rowan County line.

    From the above description, we know that the Charleston Road ran all the way through Cabarrus County from Union County to Rowan County by way of Mount Pleasant. Muddy and Anderson creeks mentioned are in Township Ten, the township in which Midland lies. If you take a map and draw a line from the Union-Cabarrus County line to Salisbury, that probably approximates where the Charleston Road was. It also closely coincides with present-day Mount Pleasant Road. 

    Several roads are of particular interest to us in Township One. For instance, I would like to know where Rocky River Road was in 1868. No doubt, it was the road that ran in front of Rocky River Presbyterian Church, but did it follow the same route? I have been told that Stallings Road used to be called Rocky River Road.

    Another set of roads of local importance comes to light as one considers the Philadelphia Road. We know from the above detail about the work to be done on the Philadelphia Road that it crossed Back and Reedy creeks to the Cabarrus-Mecklenburg County line. That means it did not go north from Concord, as I originally assumed. Therefore, there was a Philadelphia Road, a Charlotte Road, and an Old Charlotte Road in 1868. 

    Incidentally, Isaac B. Teeter, listed as an overseer on the Philadelphia Road was the Teeter who purchased the grist mill on Reedy Creek from Joseph Alfred C. Welch in 1866.

    This two-part series about the roads in Cabarrus County in 1868 leaves more questions than answers. There is no extant county road map from that era for us to reference. As always, if you have any information to lend credence to or dispel any of the speculation presented, contact me through the Harrisburg Horizons editor.

    Microfilmed minutes of Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners, Lore Local History Room, Cabarrus County Public Library in Concord, NC..

    By the Old Mill Stream, by The Stephen Cabarrus History Club of Harrisburg School, Harrisburg, NC, 1968.

    Roads and caretakers
    On Sept. 19, 1868, the Cabarrus Board of Commissioners appointed citizens to oversee each of the “public roads.” The following 24 roads (with spelling not corrected from the original Board minutes) were listed along with the designated overseers: 

    1. Salisbury Road;
    2. Old Beth Page Road;
    3. old Charlotte Road from the middle of the creek at Dotsons Mill to the Poor House to the Patton Branch to the forks of the road at the Gingles Place;
    4. Statesville Road;
    5. Tuckaseege Road;
    6. Baties foard road;
    7. Road from Poplar Tent to the Charlotte road;
    8. Charlotte road;
    9. Rocky River Road;
    10. Old Camden Road;
    11. Cheraw Road;
    12. Wadesborough Road;
    13. Albemarle to Charlotte road with R.G. McEachern working from Bethel Church to the Charleston Road and Samuel A. Greer working from the Bridge across the [illegible] at Mill Grove to the Mecklenburg County line;
    14. On the Philadelphia Road, Joseph H. McLelland working from the Charlotte Road to the middle of Back Creek; Isaac B. Teeter working from the middle of Back Creek to the middle of Reedy Creek; and M.A. Wilson working from the middle of Reedy Creek to the Mecklenburg County line;
    15. Fayetteville Road;
    16. road from the Wadesborough road east of Dutch Buffaloe Creek to the Fayetteville road east of Barriers Mill;
    17. Mount Pleasant Road;
    18. Stokes ferry Road;
    19. Gold Hill Road;
    20. the Potatoe Road;
    21. the Charleston Road from the Union County line to Muddy Creek to Anderson Creek to Rocky River to the Furr Branch to the Fayetteville Road from forks of road at P.B.C.Smith’s to Mt. Pleasant to middle of Dutch Buffaloe Creek of Millers Mill to Gold Hill road to Rowan County line;
    22. New Salisbury Road;
    23. Hileman Mill Road; and
    24. New Road from Concord to China Grove.

  • Cabarrus dropout rate below state average

    By Jessica Groover
    [email protected]
    Cabarrus County Schools announced that the dropout rate for the 2007-08 school year remained about the same compared to the 2006-07 year.

    Three hundred and ninety-four students left the system’s high schools, with a rate of 4.76 during 2007-08, compared to the 383 students and rate of 4.77 for the 2006-07 year.

    “Our dropout rate is not good, but it’s better than it ever has been in history,” said Wayne Williams, vice chair for the county board of education. “We’re not where we want to be, but we’re doing pretty well.”

    During the 2004-05 school year, the rate rose to 5.24 and dropped to 5.03 during the 2005-06 year. 

    Students who are considered dropouts are ones who have withdrawn from school before graduation. 

    They include those who attend community college classes and students who have moved to a new school and not requested for their transcript to be transferred.

    The school system boasted that its dropout rate for 2007-08 is below the state average. The statewide dropout rate was 4.97 percent for the 2007-08 school year, according to a report released on Thursday.

    And with the impact from the economy, a high school diploma is even more essential for students, said Holly Blackwelder, chair for the board of education.

    “This is not the time for students to leave school without a diploma at a time when the job market is so competitive,” Blackwelder said.

    She acknowledged that some parents might also want students to help support their family during the economic hardship, but Blackwelder said she hoped families would encourage their children to do well and stay in school.

    “We need for the community to value education,” Blackwelder said. “If the community doesn’t value education, then the students won’t.”

    According to the state report, attendance is the main reason for students to leave the school system, with enrollment at a community college without a high school degree being the second highest reason.

    “We want to impress why attendance is so important,” Blackwelder said. “If students get behind, they get frustrated.”

    She and the rest of the board said they hope that the new strategic plan will help the rates decrease more but said that it takes a year or more to see the results.

    • Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

  • Schools mark first 100 days of classes

    By Jessica Groover
    [email protected]
    County kindergarten students looked a little peculiar on Friday as they celebrated school being in session for more than 100 days.

    At Covenant Classical School, a sign outside of Kim Cregger’s kindergarten class read, “Beware of Dogs,” and inside were about 13 children dressed as Dalmatians to celebrate 101 days of school. 

    Other elementary schools around the county celebrated 100 or more days of school with fun and academic activities.

    “Based on the ‘101 Dalmatians’ movie, we decided to connect that with the 101st day (of school),” said Kim Hartsock, another kindergarten teacher.

    Most of the 26 kindergarten students at the school had white outfits with black spots and dog ears. Some even barked and pretended their hands were dog paws to truly get into character.

    Beth Bridges, parent of kindergarten student Gabby Bridges, came to help with the event and painted the children’s faces to look like dogs.

    “It’s a really good way to mark the halfway point of the completion of the school year,” Bridges said.

    As Dalmatians, the students had relays to put dog treats in a bowl and run back, they made dog collars with names like “Spike” and “Pearly” on them and played the game “Who’s Got Your Bone.”

    The students also practiced counting to 101 with various items, similar to what kindergarten students at Pitts School Road Elementary did in their classes.

    Beginning in the morning, students from each of the eight kindergarten classes at Pitts School Road rotated into various classrooms. 

    Many were dressed like 100-year-old people, complete with glasses, shawls, robes, curlers and canes.

    “I’ve got a bad back,” 6-year-old kindergarten student Trinity Harton-Robinson, who is in Shannon Chrisco’s class, joked. “I’m 100 years old.”

    Like many of her peers, Harton-Robinson had baby powder in her hair to look the part. The students wanted to look 100 years old to celebrate the 100th day of school.

    Five-year-old Michael Cardona, a student in Lauren Townsend’s class, wore a black vest, pinstripe pants and a moustache his grandmother drew on his face.

    In each classroom, the students completed a different activity with the number 100. In Sherry Lee’s class, students hopped 100 times and did 100 toe touches. As a way to complete the activity and learn how to count to 100, students were selected to do 10 hops at a time.

    The teachers at Pitts School Road also joined in on the celebration by wearing glasses and shawls to look 100 years old. It seemed that everyone who participated at both schools enjoyed the day.

    “This day will definitely be one they always remember,” said Michelle Ward, development director at Covenant. “If I did that, I would never forget it.”

    • Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

  • Working out with Wii

    By Jonathan E. Coleman
    [email protected]
    The Cabarrus Senior Center took on the feel of a bowling alley earlier this month, with the sounds of bowling pins colliding and the smell of freshly-cooked popcorn in the air.

    Seniors took turns lining up their stance, taking aim and perfecting their backswings.

    The only thing missing was the bowling ball.

    As part of a new program at the Senior Center, officials are looking for new ways to integrate technology into programs to offer new levels of health and fitness opportunities to the county’s older population.

    The latest effort uses technology most often reserved for much younger generations.

    The Nintendo Wii is a video gaming system that supports a wide array of games. Its wireless remote controls allow — and in many cases, require — a more active approach to playing games than more traditional video game systems.

    “We try to promote an overall wellness concept with increased physical activity,” said Mike Murphy, the center’s director. “Anything that gets people up and out of the house and active has got to be a good thing.

    “There are a lot of people we have here who can participate in the virtual games and are active, but it’s not as strenuous as getting out there on the field.”

    That’s certainly the case for Willene Price, who was on hand to take part in the Senior Center’s Wii clinic, the first of which introduced seniors to the game through a bowling exercise.

    “I bowled for about 20 years, and it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve bowled,” she said. “I had to quit because of shoulder pain. I minded the doctor.”

    But with the Wii, Price traded in a 12-pound bowling ball for a small (and light-weight) handheld remote control.

    As she stepped forward for her turn, it was as though she stepped back in time 20 years. Her form returned and she knocked down nine of the frame’s 10 pins with her first “ball”. With her next ball, she picked up the spare.

    It wasn’t her first time using the Wii, Price admitted. In fact, she has one of her own.

    “I never did like the games where you just sit there and do everything with your thumbs,” she said. “This is so much better because you’re actually doing it.”

    It’s definitely a workout, Price admitted.

    “When I play tennis, I have to turn the ceiling fan on high,” she said with a laugh.

    But that’s exactly the reason the Senior Center wanted to invest in the gaming system.

    Murphy said the center purchased four systems with money provided by a state grant. If the program is successful, he hopes to purchase additional units to have on hand at each of the center’s six sites around the county.

    In addition to the basic system, Murphy has purchased an additional component called the Wii Fit. The special exercise pad offers a wide range of games to improve balance, stretching and strength.

    As seniors master the basics, Murphy and Teresa Kiser, the center’s program coordinator, hope to establish sports leagues and set up tournaments to encourage continued participation.

    “What we don’t want to do is just to make this a play time,” Murphy said. “If we keep it structured, we can keep the interest there.”

    As for those who are nervous about adapting to new technology, Price offered some simple, but practical advice.

    “It’s kind of like aerobics. You may not be doing it right, but you’re still getting lots of exercise.”

    • Contact reporter Jonathan E. Coleman at 704-789-9105.

  • New service helps town connect with residents

    Phone messaging system can quickly reach thousands with important information, should improve communication

    By Jonathan E. Coleman
    [email protected]
    In an effort to increase the efficiency of communication with Harrisburg residents, officials have installed a new mass notification call service capable of calling thousands of residents and delivering a recorded message from town staff.

    The Connect-CTY service, which was tested across the Harrisburg market last week, will help officials get important messages to the public, said Town Administrator Joel Davis.

    “Informing residents immediately and accurately in time-sensitive situations will help prevent the spread of misinformation, prevent injuries, streamline our recovery and improve current service levels,” Davis said. “We will also utilize Connect-CTY for communication such as Town events and announcements.”

    One such announcement, where the Connect-CTY system could have proven helpful occurred recently, said councilman Steve Sciascia.

    The town shut off water service to more than 300 customers for failing to pay water bills and late fees. Under the town policy, customers only get one notification of an overdue payment, Sciascia said. With a service like the Connect-CTY, delinquent customers could be notified for a second time by phone. This would help avoid a lot of confusion, he said.

    Sciascia said the service could be used to notify the public of any number of things like criminal activity, road closures or recreational opportunities.

    Call lists can also be customized to include only specific addresses or neighborhoods. 

    Davis said the cost of the service is based on the number of households served and includes unlimited messages. The service will cost $4,397 for the fiscal year starting July 1, he said.

    The system also provides the town with important feedback.

    “After it does the call, it will tell us who answered, how many were answering machines, how many were busy and how many were bad numbers,” Davis said, adding that last week’s test call reached 80 percent of the numbers tested.

    “I just want to make sure we communicate with the public as much as we can and this is just one more tool to do that.”

    About Connect-CTY
    The service requires no additional hardware, and can be used from any Internet-enabled computer.

    Residential and business phone numbers that are publically available in Harrisburg are automatically included in the system.

    Residents can register additional numbers and e-mail addresses by visiting the Town’s Web site, http://www.harrisburgnc.org or calling 704-455-

    • Contact reporter Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected].

  • Developer to County: Rethink Adequate Facilities Ordinance

    By Karen Cimino Wilson
    [email protected]
    A soft economy has pushed one local developer to ask the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners to reconsider its rules regarding fees designed to offset the cost of building new schools.

    Joe and Scot Collins, a father and son team who plan to develop an upscale 69-home subdivision called “Wyndham Estates” on Old Camden Road in Midland, asked to pay the fee when they have actually sold lots and are ready to start construction. 

    The county requires developers to pay the fees up-front when their plans are first approved. That means developers must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars before they know if they can sell the lots.

    “It’s making a lot of projects now almost impossible, because your property has to be appraised to get the money. With the economy worsening, it can’t get appraised,” Scot Collins said. “It’s great for the county, but it just about puts the developer out of business.”

    Wyndham Estates is expected to push the capacity at Bethel Elementary School over 110 percent, which is considered the maximum capacity by Cabarrus County Schools. Bethel is at about 78 percent capacity now, but will be at 117 percent after the project is completed.

    Under the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, adopted in 2004, the Collinses will have to pay $4,034 per lot in Wyndham Estates, or $278,346 total, to help pay for schools.

    Scot Collins said he was lucky to lock in the $4,034 fee when he started planning for the subdivision in 2007. But the fee is now $8,617.36 per single family home, and commissioners are considering raising it to $9,279.

    “At $8,000 a lot, this subdivision could not have been done in this economy or even a better economy,” he said. “In order for the developer to afford that, the owner has to take less than they want for their land. If they can’t, it’s no good.”

    Wyndham Estates was first planned with homes ranging from $400,000 to $600,000, but that may have to come down because of the economy, Collins said. 

    Cabarrus County enacted its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance in 2004 to help pay for new schools. The county has spent $262 million in the last 10 years to build 16 public schools because of the area’s rapid growth. About 25,000 new single-family homes have been built in Cabarrus since 1998.

    As of July, the county had collected about $5.2 million from the mitigation payments for new school construction, according to county records. 

    County commissioners agreed to allow the Collinses to pay $44,374 for 11 lots now while commissioners reconsider their stance on when fees are collected and when to collect the remaining $233,972 for Wyndham Estates. The county also recently tabled a vote to raise the fees because of the weak economy.

    Commissioner Bob Carruth said he wanted to wait to vote because he wants to learn the outcome of a lawsuit against the county regarding its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. 

    Scot Collins said Wyndham Estates is planning for a three-year build out, but in reality the project could take up to eight years to complete with the current housing market.

    Nationally, builders started construction on 550,000 new single-family homes in December 2008, about a 45 percent decline over December 2007 when construction began on one million new homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders. 

    Commissioner Grace Mynatt said she believes the fee should be charged when developers apply for building permits.

    “It makes a lot more sense to put it at permitting,” Mynatt said.

    Mynatt earlier this year also questioned whether the fee should be increased this year since the housing market and economy are in such bad shape. 

    Cabarrus County Schools is slated to receive funding in fiscal year 2009 to replace A.T. Allen Elementary School, providing relief to both A.T. Allen and Bethel elementary schools. There are also plans to build a new elementary school south of Harrisburg in 2013. That project will relieve crowding at Bethel and Harrisburg elementary schools. 

    Wyndham would also impact C.C. Griffin Middle and Central Cabarrus High schools, but school improvement plans for 2008-09 will keep those schools from going over capacity, according to school officials.

    Commissioners are expected to review the school facility fee increase and the rules for when it is collected at their next meeting in February.

    • Contact reporter Karen Cimino Wilson: 704-789-9141.

  • County approves sex offender ban in parks, facilities

    By Karen Cimino Wilson
    [email protected]
    The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to ban registered sex offenders from Cabarrus County parks and recreation facilities.

    Counties and cities throughout North Carolina have been adopting ordinances banning registered sex offenders from recreation facilities to strengthen their ability to enforce a state law. The state law makes it a felony for a person who has committed a sexual offense to visit any place where it is reasonable to expect to find children. 

    The county ordinance makes the offense a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine or jail time. It does not restrict registered sex offenders from entering public facilities to vote or attend official public meetings. 

    There are at least 187 registered sex offenders living in Cabarrus County, according to the N.C. Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry database.
    North Carolina requires individuals convicted of offenses against a minor or sexually violent crimes such as rape and assault to list their name on the registry. 

    In other business
    • Commissioners voted 5-0 to table an increase to the Adequate Public Facilities Voluntary Mitigation fee required for homes and townhouses. 

    The ordinance requires developers to pay a mitigation fee of $8,617 per single-family home and $4,570 per townhouse to help offset the cost incurred by the county to build new schools. 

    The commissioners have been asked to vote on an 8 percent increase to the fee, raising it to $9,279 for single-family homes and $4,921 per townhouse. 

    Commissioner Bob Carruth said he wanted to wait to learn the outcome of a lawsuit against the county regarding the mitigation ordinance. 
    Commissioner Grace Mynatt earlier this year said she was concerned over increasing the fee during tough economic times.

    • The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a 168-condominium development called Edison Square that will be located at the intersection of Harris Road and Ellenwood Drive near the Skybrook Golf Club and the Cabarrus-Mecklenburg county line.

    The project was approved despite commissioners’ concerns and a lengthy discussion about the impact on local schools. The proposed project is expected to increase the school capacity at Cox Mill Elementary School from 88.2 percent to 134.32 percent.

    “It’s not just this development that’s doing it,” Commissioner Bob Carruth said. “It’s development that’s already there.”

    Commissioner Coy Privette said it would be irresponsible to approve the proposal. 

    “Schools are for students,” he said. “We don’t build schools for developers.”

    Developer Shea Homes is expected to pay $223,608 to offset the impact to local schools before it can receive building permits. The developer expects to build 45 units per year for the next three years and then 33 units in 2012 to complete the project.

    • Contact reporter Karen Cimino Wilson: 704-789-9141.

  • Business, students share Valentines with troops overseas

    By Jonathan E. Coleman
    [email protected]
    A small box sitting in front of the reception desk at Liberty Tax Service includes a sign that reads “Cell Phones for Soldiers.”

    The message is simple, but the meaning is much deeper.

    Since 2005, the business has collected cell phones that are recycled and used to purchase phone cards to be delivered to soldiers serving overseas. 

    Those phone cards allow them to reconnect, if only for a short time, with family and loved ones here at home.

    “This year, I’ve already sent out three boxes (of donated phones),” said Gina Lassiter, manager of Liberty Tax Service on N.C. 49 in Harrisburg. “People really understand it’s important to support our troops.”

    But this time of year, as Valentine’s Day nears, the thought of a calling card just wasn’t personal enough.

    Lassiter wanted to do more to let military service men and women serving overseas know how much their service means.

    So, in addition to her work with Cell Phones for Soldiers, Lassiter has begun working with Valentines for Soldiers.

    “We approached the elementary schools here and got their involvement,” Lassiter said. “We appreciate the schools for participating.”

    Elementary school students will create special Valentines cards then Lassiter — whose father, brother and in-laws all served in some line of military service — will make sure they are delivered to the troops.

    “It’s about love,” Lassiter said of the Valentines for Soldiers program. “They’re giving love being over there — sacrificing being away from their families and loved ones. They’re protecting our freedom. They deserve anything we can do.”

    Lassiter said there is no way of knowing who will ultimately get the Valentines, but it’s not about delivering them to anyone specifically. The important thing, she said, is that all the troops know how much their service means.

    “Thinking of their smiles when they read those cards and knowing these kids are thinking of them, that’s important,” she said.

    Lassiter will collect the handmade cards at a roadside party on Saturday. The event, which she said is a way to say ‘thank you’ to the students who gave their time to make the cards, will include food, prizes and activities.

    Lassiter encouraged anyone who’s interested, elementary school students or not, to drop off cards Saturday.

    “Even if they don’t get them in on time, drop them off and we’ll still send them in,” she said.

    • Contact reporter Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected].

  • School board to take meetings on the road

    By Jessica Groover
    [email protected]
    The Cabarrus County Board of Education nicknamed itself “the traveling school board” on Thursday, when members decided to host its monthly work sessions at locations other than the Education Center.

    The board usually convenes at the center on Old Airport Road in Concord, but the Feb. 26 meeting will be at Northwest Cabarrus High School at 6 p.m.

    “We circulated a suggestion of traveling work sessions, and the response was positive,” said Barry Shepherd, superintendent for Cabarrus County Schools. “We’ll get to see the schools and hopefully that will help us make better decisions.”

    Shepherd had suggested in December that the board host meetings at schools with the most critical issues. The board decided to start at Northwest.

    “That one being our most critical for capacity,” said Holly Blackwelder, the board’s chair. “That’s why we chose it.” 

    Board members expressed interest in eventually hosting meetings at every school, but acknowledged there are not enough work sessions left for this school year.

    On Feb. 26, board members will tour Northwest with staff at 6 p.m. and begin the work session at 6:30 p.m. 

    Having these traveling meetings will let the board examine the school and grant the community more accessibility to meetings, members said. 

    They added that having students at the meetings also would be useful.

    “Maybe teachers would suggest an incentive, such as a one-page summary about what they learned [at the meeting],” said Carolyn Carpenter, board member.

    The board also decided on Thursday to host a public hearing at its April 6 business meeting to name an elementary school to be built in the lower Rocky River area and a middle school anticipated for the northwest part of the county. Nomination forms are online for anyone who wants to suggest names at http://www.Cabarrus.k12.nc.us 

    • Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

  • Town announces new staff hires

    From staff reports
    The Town of Harrisburg announced the addition of two new staff members this week, adding a Finance Director and Parks & Recreation Director.

    Michele Reapsmith, who was hired as finance director, comes to the position with 20 years of experience in the public, private and governmental sectors. Most recently, she served as finance manager for the City of Salisbury. 

    In addition to providing advice and support to the town management on fiscal issues, she will be responsible for the town’s internal controls, external audit coordination, budget preparation and monitoring, as well as preparation of the comprehensive annual financial reports, management of accounting functions, customer service and utility billing/collections. 

    Reapsmith recently completed her PhD in Business and holds an MBA and two Bachelors of Science in Accounting and Business respectively. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Government Finance Officer’s Association, and the American Accounting Association, which she has published academic journals. 

    Officials also announced the hiring of a full-time Parks & Recreation Director. 

    Foster Hughes began his duties on Jan. 7 and comes with a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Management along with 19 years of experience working in Recreation Departments in other towns. 

    Sixteen of those years were spent in the City of Asheboro, first as the Director of Special Programs for six years, then as Assistant Parks & Recreation Director for seven years, and finally as Parks & Recreation Director for the last three years. 

    Hughes also holds certifications in Pool Operation, Water Safety Instruction, Lifeguard Training, NYSCA Clinician, as well as being a certified Park & Recreation Professional.

    One of the first projects that Hughes will be involved in is the merger of the Harrisburg Youth Association into the Town’s Parks & Recreation Department. He will also be working closely with the Fourth of July Committee and volunteers as preparation begins for the parade and festival this year.

  • Building a future of hope

    By Jessica Groover
    [email protected]
    Concord resident Paula Espinal came one step closer to living in her dream home on Saturday. Espinal expressed excitement as she watched Habitat for Humanity volunteers install framing at the site of her future home on Sweet Bay Lane in the Magnolia Crossing subdivision.

    “It’s something I never imagined having,” Espinal said. 

    Espinal and two of her three sons currently live in an old home in Concord with poor insulation, problems in both of her bathrooms and wire hanging from the ceiling.

    Last year, Espinal applied to the non-profit program. Not long after, she received a visit from a Habitat committee member to see if she was eligible for a new home.

    “The person who made the home visit was appalled at what [Espinal] was having to deal with,” said Shirley Kennerly, family services coordinator for Habitat for Humanity. “She was immediately accepted into the program.”

    Once Espinal was approved for the program in April 2008, she began acquiring equity hours, a requirement for receiving a Habitat for Humanity home. 

    Each adult per household must complete 250 hours of volunteer work for the organization, as well as 50 hours of classes on topics such as finances, parenting and home repairs.

    “The main reason we do all this is we do not want someone to fail,” Kennerly said. “We want them be able to maintain their homes.”

    Espinal has already logged more than 400 hours of work, because she visits the Habitat office and helps recruit Hispanic families and translate. Espinal said she will continue to volunteer with the organization after she moves into her house.

    “I can never pay to Habitat what Habitat is doing for me,” Espinal said.

    About 30 people came out to her future home on Saturday to work from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

    Habitat for Humanity site supervisor, Bob Lamarche, said that on days of framing and putting a roof on a home, more volunteers are necessary.

    Approximately eight of the volunteers were future homeowners. Others were staff members and volunteers from the community.

    Espinal will move into her new home in April. She is looking forward to having working heat, insulation and two bathrooms.

    Espinal will also reap the benefits of having a no-interest mortgage, something that she appreciates in a tough economy, and having more money and time to go back to school to become a teacher’s assistant.

    “I never [thought] I could have a new home, so that’s something that’s really great for me,” Espinal said. “It’s like a dream. I tell my kids, ‘Pinch me to see if I’m dreaming.’”

    • Contact reporter Jessica Groover, 704-789-9152.

  • Crime Stopper tips help Cabarrus law officials

    By Robin L. Gardner
    [email protected]
    A Cabarrus County school bus is stolen and makes national news. As police look for leads, a tip is called into the Cabarrus Area Crime Stoppers, and case closed.

    The Crime Stoppers program uses tips from private citizens to help solve crimes that take place in our area. 

    Totally anonymous tips are called to the Crime Stopper’s hotline, 704-93-CRIME.

    Crime Stoppers works to keep the process totally anonymous. When someone calls the tip hotline, the phone that receives it has no caller ID.

    The caller gives the tip to the officer of choice — a Concord, Kannapolis or Cabarrus County sheriff’s deputy. The caller gives the officer a four-digit code of choice to identify them later. 

    The officer will give the tip to the appropriate investigator, and if an arrest happens, the tipster is paid. When the tipster checks back and an arrest has happened, they are directed to a local bank where they can pick up the money.

    “We guarantee anonymity,” said Sgt. Bryan Ritchie of Kannapolis Division of Cabarrus Area Crime Stoppers.

    Crime Stoppers began in another incarnation in 1982 in Kannapolis and was very successful, according to Ritchie. However, he says, when the two chambers of commerce for Kannapolis and Cabarrus County combined in 1996, the program fell by the wayside.

    Ritchie, who has been on the force for 20 years, took over Crime Stoppers as part of his duties in 1999. He met with the chief of police and his other commanders to either find a better way to conduct the program or do away with it.

    “We decided the program could still work. There are a lot of good things to come out of it. So let’s try to merge it with the other two agencies and make it a county-wide program,” said Ritchie.

    The merge occurred in 2003.

    Sgt. Keith Cauthen of the Concord Police, an officer since 1982, and Deputy Eric Sossoman from the sheriff’s department, who has been in law enforcement for 19 years, joined forces with Ritchie in 2003 to create the Cabarrus Area Crime Stoppers.

    “It has taken over four years to get the officers who haven’t worked with Crime Stoppers to understand it. Law enforcement officers are funny when it comes to information,” Ritchie said.

    “We give the information to whoever is working the case; the investigators will follow up (on the information),” Cauthen said. “They must find independent means to back it up, because the tip is anonymous and the caller will not be testifying in court.”

    Cauthen and Sossoman explained how a bus stolen in December by teenagers was retrieved by a call to the hotline.

    “We take the information they call in,” Sossoman said.

    “They rode the bus down to a wooded area and left it. I went down with another officer and sure enough found it on its side,” Cauthen said.

    “You just never know what you’re going to get,” added Sossoman.

    Crime Stoppers will pay out on an arrest, recovery of stolen property, warrants and substantial recovery of drugs, all three officers emphasized.

    Cabarrus Area Crime Stoppers is a tax exempt 501 (C)(3) nonprofit group. It receives no funds from any government agency.

    The money Crime Stoppers uses comes from private donations and fundraising events.

    The annual golf tournament will be held April 27 at the Cabarrus Country Club. 

    Most of the money raised for this program comes through this event. 

    The cost of the tournament is $75 per golfer or $300 for a team. There are also sponsor opportunities for the tournament at $100 up to $1,000 (tax deductable).

    Chris Shoemaker, of Ben Mynatt Dealerships, serves as the head of the board of directors for Crime Stoppers this year and is organizing the fundraiser.
    For more information on the fundraiser or to reserve a spot, call Chris Shoemaker at 704-721-7452.

    • Contact reporter Robin L. Gardner: 704-789-9140.

  • Making winter a little warmer

    By Jessica Groover
    [email protected]
    Patients of the Hospice & Palliative Care of Cabarrus County are keeping warm this winter, thanks to the efforts of the Hooks and Needles Club at Taylor Glen in Concord.

    The club with 18 members has been actively making lap robes, which are blankets that cover patients from their waist down, and prayer shawls for the last two years. Last year, they made more than 300 lap robes and prayer shawls for terminally ill patients.

    Every Thursday night after dinner, the group of mostly retirement home residents meets to crochet and knit, while also talking about the latest news. 
    Donna Cameron, the head of the group, also reads thank you notes from the patients who receive the lap robes and prayer shawls and their families.

    Past notes have included messages, “Your gift was a great comfort,” “There are angels,” and “The warmth will feel so good this winter.”

    The effort began about three years ago when another woman started to crochet the gifts. After she died and Cameron moved to Taylor Glen, Cameron found the yarn and started crocheting, something she has been doing for most of her life.

    Gradually, more people joined Cameron.

    The group decided to give their gifts to hospice patients because some of the men at Taylor Glen had been making wooden angels to sell for the hospice center.

    After the Hooks and Needles Club finishes its projects for each month, the lap robes and prayer shawls are displayed at Taylor Glen before a representative from the hospice center collects and distributes them to the patients.

    “It’s amazing how fast a month goes by, and we have enough to fill the benches (at Taylor Glen to display them),” Cameron said.

    While the thread can be limited at times, the members of Hooks and Needles try to find colors that go well together for the lap robes. 

    “Sometimes we’re lucky enough that it’s their favorite color,” Cameron said.

    The members of Hooks and Needles know how much their gifts mean to the hospice patients, and they also gain something from being in the group.

    “It’s a very caring group,” Cameron said.

    For Cameron, the most rewarding part of being in the Hooks and Needles Club is getting people involved at Taylor Glen.

    Cameron plays a large role in recruiting new members for the group. After all, she was able to recruit Dr. Winfry Whicker, a longtime family practice physician from China Grove who had never crocheted before.

    “I’d come by here, and every week, Donna would say, ‘Come in and I’ll show you how to [crochet],’” Whicker said. “One week, I decided to do it.”

    Since he joined the group about a year ago, Whicker has made approximately 18 to 20 lap robes, one of which was for a friend of his who had been terminally ill with prostate cancer.

    “He was a Wake Forest grad, as I am, and I did a black and gold (lap robe),” Whicker said.

    After crocheting for a year now, he continues to challenge himself with new patterns. Cameron has noticed Whicker learned fast, something she attributed to his career.

    “He’s good with his hands, but he was a doctor, so I guess you’d have to be good with your hands,” Cameron said.

    Even though he is the only regular male member who crochets, Whicker does not mind. After all, he is keeping busy and helping people, something he is used to as a doctor.

    “It’s good to know (the lap robes) go to a cause where they are used and wanted,” Whicker said.

    Whicker and others have no plans to stop knitting and crocheting for the hospice patients.

    “Right now, I don’t see any reason to stop,” Whicker said. “Once you get involved in (Donna’s) group, you can’t get out.”

    • Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

  • The green diet

    By Melody Bell Wilkes
    A Walk in the Woods
    Everywhere you turn, people are touting a new diet to get the New Year started in the right direction. January is a good time to think about changes in our diet and lifestyle that can make us feel better and also help the environment at the same time. If you are thinking about a healthier lifestyle, here are a few green tips to get you started:

    1. Buy produce from a local supplier.  This cuts down on transportation costs from large distributors to your neighborhood grocer and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases. By supporting your local farmer you are helping the economy in your own community and at the same time getting the freshest produce possible straight from the farm. For a list of produce suppliers, please contact the Cabarrus County Cooperative Extension Office. 

    2. Walk more and drive less.  It sounds so simple and yet it is something we take for granted in our day to day lives. Research has shown just walking an average of 30 minutes a day can dramatically improve your health. Take the time to strengthen your heart, your mind and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. 

    3. Tighten your belt and spend less on energy costs. If every American home replaced their five most frequently used lights with equivalent compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), each home would save more than $60 per year in energy costs. Other energy cost savings include installing an insulating wrap around your water heater to save on electricity. Caulk any gaps around windows and doors. Watch the temperature in your home. Ideally, the thermostat should be set at 68 degrees F in the winter and 78 degrees F in the summer. For 101 easy ways to save energy around your home, visit http://www.powerhousetv.com   

    4. Reap the green benefits of having your own garden. There is great satisfaction in growing your own food and it also serves as a backyard education for any growing child. Please don’t be intimidated if you have never grown your own vegetables. Start small and expand your garden as you gain more experience. Many vegetables can be grown in patio pots if you don’t have any land. Tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, onions, collards, mustard greens and peppers are easily grown here. For proven vegetable varieties and knowing when to plant, check out the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office Web site at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu 

    5. Enjoy the sunshine! Studies have shown that we need at least 15 minutes a day of sun exposure to get adequate dosages of Vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for our bodies and serves as a catalyst for the uptake of calcium. Without vitamin D, calcium is not well absorbed. As we age, getting enough calcium is even more crucial for healthy, strong bones. Another good reason to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. 

    6. Take some time to help others and be rewarded with soul satisfaction. There are plenty of places to look for volunteer opportunities. For the environments sake, consider helping out at animal shelters, work with a wildlife rehabilitator or donate needed supplies, pick up trash from waterways and roadways, volunteer to help with school science projects or work with animal rescue groups. There are also a number of organizations that rely on public support with memberships to continue their work such as the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy and many others. There are a lot of benefits in becoming members. It’s educational, fun and strengthens the network of concerned individuals supporting environmental issues. 

    Whatever you decide to do this year, I hope you consider healthy choices for yourself and the environment. Happy New Year!

    Melody Bell Wilkes is the owner of A Walk in the Woods, an environmental education company.  For more information, call 704-436-9048 or visit http://www.awalkinthewoods.us