Ayden Magazine - Fall/Winter 2022

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SEASONAL CELEBRATIONS Christmas Town comes back Coltrain Hardware Southern Bank Packs 4 Patriots INSIDE Car Shows and more
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Ariyanna Smith, Donna Marie Williams Writers Christina Ruotolo, Lewis Smith, Ruby Smith Advertising Restoration Newsmedia Layout AYDEN© is published biannually by e Standard newspaper. Contents are the property of this newspaper and the Town of Ayden and may not be reproduced without consent of the publisher. To advertise in this publication, please contact e Standard at 252-747-3883. FALL/WINTER 2022 TABLE OF CONTENTS Coltrain Hardware fills a niche Couple worked to ensure store meets needs unique to Ayden Community means everything Staff at Ayden branch go the extra mile for their clients and the town Christmas comes back to town Community effort makes annual Christmas Town effort special Packs 4 Patriots stocking suffers Area quilter, Packs 4 Patriots take care of troops Employee spotlight: Joanne Floyd Ayden finance director balances the books Car shows taking it to street Car club’s weekly cruise-in gives Ayden a boost High hopes at groundbreaking Construction nears for Food Commercialization Center 04 08 13 21 24 27 30 SEASONAL CELEBRATIONS Christmas Town comes back Coltrain Hardware Southern Bank Packs 4 Patriots INSIDE Car Shows and more The Ayden-Grifton High School Marching Chargers perform during Ayden’s Parade of Lights during the Christmas Town event on Dec. 1.
Bobby Burns
Emily Bronson,

Couple worked to ensure store meets needs unique to Ayden

It’s a family a air at Coltrain Home and Hardware in Ayden, where the eponymous Sarah and Shane Coltrain are lling a need for artists, farmers and DIYers out of a historic downtown building.

On Black Friday, Nov. 25, the building at 524 ird St. was abuzz with activity for Coltrain Hardware’s grand opening. Sarah acquiesced to an interview for a few minutes amid the controlled chaos, still taking time to direct sta and greet customers as she discussed her family’s journey and the need for a community hardware store in Ayden. e latter, Sarah said, came about in 2019 when Bob McCurry retired a er 45 years owning and operating McCurry Hardware and Garden Supply on Lee Street. Suddenly, it seemed trips to the store for materials were taking as long as the projects themselves. “ is is our hobby,” Sarah said. “We

live on a farm just outside of town. We were having to drive to Greenville and that was … a two-hour ordeal to go to Lowe’s and come back. A er McCur-

ry’s closed, which was our only resource here for hardware, we looked at di erent options and chose to partner with Do It Best, which is a co-op.”

4 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
Peanuts, grills and tools make a customer-pleasing mix at Coltrain Hardware. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando Sarah Coltrain and her husband, Shane, said they began work to open Coltrain Home and Hardware a er McCurry Hardware and Garden Supply on Lee Street, Ayden’s only Hardware store, closed in 2019. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando

And so the seed for Coltrain Hardware was sown, marking the couple’s rst venture into Ayden’s business landscape. In 2006, Shane founded Orthotics and Prosthetics East in Greenville. Sarah’s grandfather was a second-generation general store owner, making her roots seemingly made for the business.

Instead, she’d spent 20 years touching up oth-

ers’ roots as a hairdresser, where she had also been the warden of a di erent kind of community gathering place. Instead of hair, she is now cutting keys and PVC pipe.

“Both of those businesses o er a service to the community,” Sarah said. “Everyone needs it. It’s a way to touch people and help people.

“A hardware business is a solutions business. People

come here because they have something they are working on and we help them nd and x their problems.”

For some patrons, the problem of proximity has been solved. Jill Snyder said she is a native of England who has grown up on farms her entire life. Her chickens at the nearby farmhouse she shares with her husband, George Snyder, will be the

bene ciaries of express delivery, the couple said.

“I said she can walk down the street with her wagon and ll it up,” said George.

In addition to chicken feed and farm supplies, the store also boasts a selection of goods for people who might just be passing through. Boiled peanuts and a variety of barbecue seasonings and supplies, because Que Marks

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 5
The store carries a line of Stihl products so residents don’t have to drive to Greenville for tools. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando
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Coltrain Hardware is about more than tools as the owners conducted surveys to learn that products like Meyer’s cleaning supplies are in demand locally. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando

the Spot in Ayden a er all, are available for sale alongside the rows of more typical hardware store products.

Sarah said that the partnership with Do It Best allowed for a survey of regional demographics to see what eastern North Carolinians were purchasing. More speci cally, the survey gave the Coltrains insight on what people within a 10mile radius want in a locale.

“Based on that, and the work of our interns this summer, we got a very good idea of what the town of Ayden wants and needs,” Sarah said. e bold decision to open on Black Friday was not lost on the Coltrains either. Initially plans were to welcome the public in September, according to an earlier interview with

e Daily Re ector. Time waits for no DIY couple, however, and so the grand opening came on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

“It would have been nice to open two months ago but that was not in the cards for us,” Coltrain said. “We knew we were prepared for this week, which just so happened to be anksgiving, so we said let’s do Black Friday and we’ll go Friday and Saturday to celebrate not only Black Friday but Small Business Saturday.”

And do it they did. Cookies were sold outside the store to fend o a chill and wet weather. e store also hosted giveaways for products and made sure to get people registered in promotional programs by phone number.

6 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
Pam Ingle, center, rings up customer Ben Stalker Nov. 29 during the store’s first full week in business. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando Sam Jones BBQ supplies are among a number of barbecue-oriented items sold at Coltrain Hardware, located next door to Sam Jones’ corporate offices and in the heart of Ayden, where Que Marks the Spot. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando
Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 7
Barbecue supplies include grills. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando Coltrain, who is an avid do-it-yourselfer, also was a hairdresser for 20 years. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando Milwaukee provides a variety of hand tools on sale at the store. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando

Community means everything at Ayden’s Southern Bank

Staff at Ayden branch go the extra mile for their clients and the town

Southern Bank has served customers in Ayden for more than 50 years. Since it opened its doors, the bank also has served the community.

“We take great pride in being a community bank,” branch manager Pam Justice said. “We do not just call ourselves a community bank, we live that statement out on a daily basis. Everyone in the branch is encouraged to serve in the community.”

e commitment shines through its employees as they participate in local events, work with community organizations and take extra e orts to help their clients outside the walls of branch at 236 W. ird St., Justice said.

Justice works with Ayden government o cials and has served on many local boards. She serves on the Ayden Chamber of Commerce board, the Ayden Economic Development Board and has assisted with the Ayden Collard Festival, the

Marketing and Branding Committee and with Ayden’s Christmas Town celebration. She and the bank’s sta members also work closely with civic groups and participate in activities bene cial to all of Ayden’s residents whether or not they bank at Southern, she said.

Sta members give presen-

tations at events and to community groups about “fraud, exploiting seniors, scams where people get phone calls and emails. We educate those that we engage with to help protect them, their family members, and others from being taken advantage of,” Justice said.

Community banking

extends internally as well, as employees work hard to garner trust and build relationships with each one of their clients, said Charlie Wells, area executive and senior vice president. e relationships allow employees to better meet the individual needs of their customers.

“We’re relationship

Iris Colon, Melissa Tims, Charlie Wells, Chelsea Moye and Pam Justice, from le , staff the Southern Bank branch in Ayden. Photo by Donna Marie Williams

focused,” Wells said, “where we not only get to know the customer and can understand, not only from the nancial needs but get to know their entire families. We become a part of what is going on in their lives, and learn how we can be a bene t to them. Once we get to know our customers’ needs we develop a long-standing partnership.”

Employees understand that customers are more than numbers and truly desire to help each of them.

“We are matching the products we carry to the needs of the customer. We are not order-takers. We get to know our clients. We create nancial snapshots and then we cra solutions to their banking needs. We engage with the customers so we can walk with them through every phase of their lives. Whether they are just starting, buying their rst home, or their rst car, or if they are wanting to start or grow a business or retire from the business community. We can help them with their succession plan,” Justice said.

Sta also is very apt to go above and beyond, providing curbside service for senior citizens, guidance on using the tube system in the second drive-through and simply greeting customers by name.

“I’ve been to customer’s o ces to help with online banking,” said Chelsea Moye, customer service representative. “I have helped a lady with the steering wheel in her car. Anything I can do to help people, I try to do. I know if it was me or my mother, I would want someone trying to help them out as well.

“We really do have their best interest at heart. I know a lot of people think of banks as just out to make as much money as we can — we are a business of course — but we really do care about the customers and their wellbeing,” Moye said.

Caring about the customers is more than a motto at Southern Bank, Wells said. Employees strive to make each customer feel like family.

“We want to know our customers,” said Melissa Tims, teller supervisor, adding that Moye will o en call customers she hasn’t seen in a while to conduct wellness checks and ensure they are OK.

“She is genuinely worried for them.”

Teller Iris Colon said getting to know clients has bene ts for

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 9
Teamwork plays a vital part in getting to know bank customers, said Charlie Wells, area executive and senior vice president. Photo by Donna Marie Williams


Beginning Jan. 1, Southern Bank will operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the branch in Ayden, 236 W. Third St. The lobby is closed each day between 1-3 p.m. to allow sta to conduct operations, but both lanes of the drive-through are open. Appointments are available and can be made at any time to discuss banking needs. For more information, call 252-746-6138.

them and the bank. “ ey want to come back and bring everything here. ey know they are being treated as an actual person and not as a number.”

Colon speaks Spanish to help bridge gaps that may occur with its Hispanic customers.

“She’s been a great blessing since she’s come here,” Tims said. “ is helps us gain a better understanding of our clients. When they realized she spoke Spanish, they started speaking uently with her. We were better able to understand their nancial needs,” Tims said.

Colon speaking the language is a good way to interact from a personal perspective and encourage more people to bank at the branch.

“Some people are scared to go to the bank because they are not sure if they will be understood,” Colon said. “Having someone communicate and nd out what is going on is bene cial to them and us. It’s always good having someone to be able to understand you.”

Giving back to the community and building relationships is rewarding in many ways, sta members said.

“We feel that by serving others in the community it comes back to us tenfold. By taking that extra step and going that extra

mile to explain processes in the bank, it helps us communicate more e ectively with our customers. When they are at their family table gathering and Southern Bank is mentioned, they know us as trusted nancial advisers,” Justice said.

Southern Bank has grown steadfast in its values and continues to strive for integrity, sincerity, credibility and character since its founding in Mount Olive 1901, the bank’s employees said. e bank has assets over $4 billion and 60 locations throughout eastern North Carolina and Virginia.

e bank opened in downtown Ayden 55 years ago then moved to the ird Street location closer to N.C. 11.

It o ers a variety of services from mobile banking, online banking, cash management products, investment strategies, mortgages and other loan and deposit accounts, said Wells.

“We take great pride in o ering nancial solutions that provide our

customers success in saving money, and tools to assist in meeting budgets and creating a future for saving for retirement,” he said.

One bene t that creates planning and budgeting is the Financial Wellness program, he said, which can be found at www.southerbank.com. “We are also sensitive to con dential information and adhere to making sure all conversations are held to the highest standard.”

e Ayden bank o ers two drivethrough lanes. e second lane, which operates with the tube system, opened right before the COVID-19 pandemic, when banks and other businesses were required to close their lobbies.

e bank also draws on the resources at the ve other Pitt County locations and the network across the region, Wells said. Teamwork among the branches and employees is a vital part of bank’s ability to meet client’s needs, he said.

“Teamwork plays a vital part in getting to know our customers,” Wells said. “When our customers know our entire team, we can be responsive and equipped to fully understand their nancial needs. We are able to assist them with achieving their nancial goals. We get to know them on a rst-name basis and this strengthens continuity to build a foundation for long-term relationships.”

Teller superviser Melissa Tims offers a friendly wave to a drive through customer. Photo by Donna Marie Williams Customer service representative Chelsea Moye calls customers who haven’t stopped by the branch in a while to make sure they are fairing well. Photo by Donna Marie Williams
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Community e ort makes annual Christmas Town e ort special,

On the rst ursday in December, Ayden transforms itself into Christmas Town.

A er two years stopped or stunted by the pandemic, the community rallied in 2022 to put the town back into Christmas again.

“ is year we wanted to come together to bring it back in full force,” said Bailey Harris, interim director of the Ayden Chamber of Commerce, who worked with a team of volunteers to put on the Dec. 1 event. “ e whole thought behind it was to get

the businesses involved, get the community involved, and get everybody in the holiday spirit,” Harris said.

Holiday decorations, beautifully illuminated with Christmas lights, sparkled with cheer all along Ayden’s downtown streets. Community members created a Christmas Village for Santa and Mrs. Claus and Christmas Marketplace for vendors to sell their wares, both on West Avenue. A dozen businesses participated in the storefront decorating contest, and the grand nale was the Parade of Lights.

“For Christmas Town we transformed downtown Ayden, which is our main business hub, into a Christmas town for the day,” said Harris. “Our goal was to make it look as much or as close to a Hallmark movie as possible.”

In the Christmas Village, a long line of children excitedly gave Santa and Mrs. Claus earfuls of Christmas wishes, played games, took photos and won prizes. Volunteers included high school students and adults from the community who were all excited to be a part of the

organizers said.


Lynn Coward with Risk Managers Inc. had a station in the village with letters for kids to write to Santa and place them in their big red mailbox. “We are letting the children write their letters to Santa, and the parents are addressing the return envelope so that they will get a return letter from Santa hopefully before the 15th of December, because you know Santa’s elves are pretty busy,” said Coward.

Ayden resident Porshe Bell is an educator and was enlisted to help with the

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 13
Ashley, 10, and Edwardo Marin, 6, have their picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus during Christmas Town in Ayden on Thursday, Dec. 1. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando

festivities. “My friends Bailey and Tony are with the Chamber of Commerce and asked me to volunteer by taking pictures, and my daughter is volunteering at one of the Christmas Village booths where the kids are blowing marshmallows with straws.”

Bell said it was so cute watching the kids have fun, and that it’s a good feeling when you give back to your community. “It’s always good to see all of my friends from Ayden and to get out and experience positive things in the community,” said Bell. “It feels good to be around people, it feels good to be outside, and it’s great to try to get back to some semblance of normalcy.”

Ayden’s Southern Bank branch manager Pam Justice said this was her fourth year being with the Christmas Town committee. “ is is the chamber’s annual celebration of the holidays giving the businesses a chance to invite the community into their establishments and generate opportunities for everyone

by celebrating the holiday,” said Justice.

Justice helped organize this year’s storefront decoration contest. “We’ve got about 11 participants that are decorating their storefronts; the community will get a chance to vote on who has the most decorated or best decorated location, and the winner will be awarded a one-year membership to Ayden Cham-

ber of Commerce as their prize.

Participants included Andy’s Grill and Recreation, Coltrain Hardware, Gwendy’s Goodies, Quality Auto Care, Salon 535, Bum’s Restaurant, Carolina

HEAT Martial Arts, Risk Managers Inc, Langley Computers, Pequeno Mexico Lindo and Tripp’s Auto. Each location took creative liberties to decorate their

14 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
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Louie’s Promotional Products was among a dozen downtown businesses that participated in a decorating contest as part of Christmas Town. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando

storefronts and they all had their own styles.

Gwendy Yzynitsky is the owner of Gweny’s Goodies, and not only did she help coordinate the decorating contest with Justice, she also participated in it. Yzynitsky said that they went around and visited di erent stores and encouraged them to decorate.

“Tonight we have decked out our store, made it beautiful, merry and bright, and we’re putting out all sorts of great treats for everybody that comes to visit,” said Yzynitsky. “Decorating the storefront is just something we build on every year and we absolutely love the holidays here.”

Yzynitsky said Gendy’s Goodies is a place that children love to visit, and so with that in mind they always try to make sure it’s whimsical and fun for them. “So we’ve got colorful lights and elves, and we’ve been working since just before anksgiving getting everything decorated and ready,” said Yzynitsky.

Coltrain Hardware’s Laura

Bonnett was out in front of their cozy decorated location spreading holiday cheer, serving free hot chocolate for the Christmas Town visitors and welcoming everyone to come out and enjoy their new store. Bonnett said it feels wonderful to be able to celebrate the holiday.

“We love to do things that bring people together, we just wanna love on people, give them a good smile, help them feel welcomed, and be here for all their hardware needs,” said Bonnett.

All of the local restaurants and businesses that were open saw an enormous amount of foot tra c. A line of patrons wrapped inside and outside of Gwendy’s Goodies, all of the tables at Bum’s restaurant were full, and all of the barstools at Andy’s Grill and Recreation were occupied as the band Harvey and the Spatics performed right out front on the sidewalk.

Carolina HEAT Martial Arts won the storefront decorating contest, and will receive the free membership to the Chamber of Com-

merce for one year.

e Christmas Marketplace was teeming with vendors, and Georgia Childs was the lead coordinator of the market. Childs said they had a list of vendors from prior events like the Collard Festival and the BBQ Festival, which helped the process of recruiting them. When she started putting the calls out for vendors, Childs said they got an overwhelming response.

“We had 37 to respond and we got seven food trucks,” said Childs. “ ere was a very low fee of $25 a spot for each vendor, and that money goes back to the Chamber of Commerce to kind of help run the event and pay for di erent things we have to do.”

Some of the participating vendors were Salty Carolina Sass, Bella Lia Creations, Pallet Christmas Decor, Wags to Riches, With Love Bakery, and a few participating food trucks were Hwy 55, Mr C’s Hotspot and Tula Fish and Chips.

Childs said it means a lot to her to be able to partic-

ipate in community events like Christmas town, which is why four years ago she chose to get more involved in her hometown. “I have joined several di erent committees and boards in town, and the downtown Main Street board that I’m a part of is really about revitalizing our community, seeing more stores opening up in some of our old buildings, and making it a walkable, accessible place, inclusive to everybody, and we’re just excited to have something like this here in Ayden,” said Childs.

Childs said she likes to be out seeing community members really thriving together, especially with the mental health struggles many are facing nowadays. “ e way things are going with folks now, it’s really important for us to kind of come together as a community,” said Childs. “So this year, Christmas Town is a lot bigger, and it keeps getting bigger and better every year, and we’re building on something that people have been doing for a long time and we just keep nding ways to make it bigger and

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 15
Kids dance and play in the artificial snow while awaiting the parade on Second Street. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando

better, and really highlighting our hometown of Ayden.”

Around 5 p.m. there were a good 300-400 people hustling and bustling around Christmas Town and in and out of the local restaurants and shops, but by the time the parade began that number almost doubled. e parade of lights began at 6:30 pm a er the sun went down, starting on Martin Luther King, down ird Street and le on West Avenue in front of the grandstand stage where radio host John Moore had been emceeing the entire event. e march took another le on Second Street and it ended on Snow Hill street.

e parade’s grand marshal was Sarah Radcli , Ayden’s town clerk. She helped coordinate town departments with the chamber and various committees that helped put on the event, she said. “So I’m kind of a central part of communication between everybody that went into preparation for today’s event,” Radcli said. is is a great time for the town of Ayden because it’s one of the rst Christmas events in the area, said Radcli . “It’s always the rst ursday a er anksgiving, we have a nighttime parade, and there’s not many nighttime parades that’s a parade of lights in the area,’’ she said.

“We all try to make it bigger and better, so that everybody can enjoy it,” said Radcli . “And you know it’s a lot of chaos going on during the day, everybody’s running around, stressed out, and worried that things aren’t going to work out, but in the end it’s just so nice when you see all of the kids and their families out there smiling and waving.”

ere were 60 entries in the Parade of Lights including several Sudan organizations, marching bands, schools, re

16 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
Sybil Shirley and Georgia Childs helped put together the Christmas Market, where visitors could browse and buy at more than 30 vendors and food trucks. Photo by Willow Abbey Mercando

departments, businesses, and leaders in local, county and state government, as well as community members.

e oats and cars were decked out in decorations and Christmas lights, and the sidewalks were crowded with people the entire parade route from beginning to end. People from all over the county and locals came out in impressive numbers for a ursday evening, and everyone appeared to be in the best of holiday spirits.

People had their lawn chairs lined up on the streetsides, and people were watching from the edge of the road all the way back on the sidewalks closer to the buildings.

“It was very exciting to see the lights, the people, Santa, the snow, and just everything,” said Radcli . “It’s just a wonderful time for everybody to come out here and be together as a family, to have good old-fashioned clean family fun, and for business and local commerce to have so many people gathering is great.”

“I want to make sure that the chamber is recognized because they are the ones that pulled this o ,” said Radcl . “And Bailey has done a great job. is is her rst time doing this and I think she did a really good job.”

ere were plenty more thanks to go around from Pam Justice, the Southern Bank manager, as well.

“I thank the community for coming and enjoying, I thank the volunteers who spent many meetings and hours of planning and organizing and energy to get things set up,” said Justice. “And I thank Bailey Harris, our executive director for spearheading it, the town employees for supporting us, the chief of police for giving us guidance on the parade route, and Steve Smith, who is our interim town manager and public works director. He gives us a lot of support and direction guidance, and then Mallory Denham, our economic development o cer, he also is very supportive in our e orts.”

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 17
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20 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
Miriam Fent, Harvey Estes and Patrick Fent, also known as Harvey and the Spastics, played outside of on the streets of Ayden during Christmas Town in Ayden on Thursday, Dec. 1. Photos by Willow Abbey Mercando Addilynn Wells, 9, sends a letter to Santa, as part of an activity at the Christmas Village sponsored by Risk Managers Inc., who will make sure Santa answers them. Brooke Castleberry, 4, Reagan Hellyer, 3, Bristol James, 4, and Ellie Harrell, 5, play a snowball game with cotton balls and straws at the Christmas Village during Christmas Town in Ayden on Thursday, Dec. 1. Shivon G. Cannon of Face It! paints a Minnie Mouse design on Paisley Smith’s face at the Christmas Village during Christmas Town in Ayden on Thursday, Dec. 1. Some of the team who helped organize the Ayden Christmas Town and Parade of Lights are, from le , Gwendy Yiznitsky, Sarah Coltrain, Mallory Denham, Daniel Heffner, Sarah Radcliff, Georgia Childs, Bailey Harris.

As number of days before Christmas began to dwindle away, an Aydenbased nonpro t was working overtime to stu stockings for American service people all over the world.

NC Packs 4 Patriots creates care packages for military men and women and ships them year-round to service members stationed overseas. Even though the work is nonstop, there is something special about the holiday gi s, said Barabara Whitehead, founder of the organization.

“It’s to provide them with not only a touch of home, but also it is to show them the appreciation and care from America,” Whitehead said.

An added touch is that the stockings are hand-made by a volunteer quilter who uses fabric donations from the community to make them every year.

Chris Harris, a member of the Greenville Quilters Guild, has sewn hundreds of custom stockings for the e ort over the last year. With di erent patterns and fabrics, each recipient receives a one-of-a-kind gi .

“It is absolutely amazing,” Whitehead said. “ ey are beautiful stockings. People in the community donate the material for the stockings and she sews them and irons them. ey aren’t just two pieces of material sewn together. ey have beautiful trim on them.”

A er they are made and pressed, a group of volunteers from the organization packs them with “goodies,” Whitehead said.

“ ey (stockings) are smaller than regular stockings so we can get more in a package that we are mailing because postage is always a cloud over our organization,” Whitehead said.

Trail mix, nabs, crackers, hot chocolate packages, candy, candy

A small army of volunteers helps NC Packs 4 Patriots pull off a year-round effort to send gi s and supplies to U.S. armed service members stationed overseas, but the work is particularly busy, and meaningful during the holidays, organizer Barbara Whitehead said.

canes and personal greeting cards from volunteers are put in the stockings before they are sent out.

NC Packs 4 Patriots is in its 18th year of operation, and roughly its third year of packing and sending out stockings during the holiday season, Whitehead said. It supports all ve military branches and it is run by local volunteers.

Whitehead has a personal tie to the military so she knows just how special it is to receive a gi or memento from home, she said.

“I’m the mom of two soldiers, one soldier and one veteran now,” Whitehead said. “And I know the impact that cards and letters from home or a touch of home means to them when they are so far away, especially if they are in a dangerous area.”

e stockings have been sent all around the world, Whitehead said.

ey have ended up in the hands of American servicemen on every continent except for Antarctica, she said.

Some service members have gotten back to the organization to send their gratitude for the gi “It’s really humbling to hear them say that they have held something in their hand that came from America,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead said she continues on with Packs 4 Patriots a er 18 years because she realizes how much it means to service members who cannot come home for the holidays.

“We are so proud of them for standing up,” Whitehead said. “You know we have a military force that is all-volunteer, and they have stood up to not only defend our country, but the entire world.”

e organization starts preparing the handmade stockings in September, Whitehead said. ough most people are just starting to think about Christmas,

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 21

Packs 4 Patriots is in the full holiday swing.

e volunteers have already packed stockings for hundreds of troops. “Right now at our center, it is like the North Pole,” Whitehead said. “We call it the North Pole Southern Branch.” e organization is always accepting donations. ey also welcome groups who wish to come in and help put together the stockings and packages to send overseas, Whitehead said.

Monetary donations are much appreciated as well, she said. ey will be used to help fund the postage for these packages.

“We’ve sent some stockings out already,” Whitehead said in November. “We’ve packed some and have them ready to mail and there’s a few more, maybe 100 that have not been lled yet.”

Not only does NC Packs 4 Patriots send soldiers stockings during the holidays, but they also send small faux Christmas trees and a few decorations to help spread some holiday cheer overseas, Whitehead said. ey send handmade ornaments made by local children and senior citizens to hang on the trees that are sent with the stockings.

“It comes from the heart,” Whitehead said. “It’s absolute-

ly a labor of love.”

Harris, the quilter who continues to make the stockings, said she originally made them for an event her church put on every Christmas.

One year, it was brought to her congregation’s attention that Packs 4 Patriots needed donations for their Christmas care packages.

at’s when Harris asked Whitehead if she wanted the le over stockings from her church’s Christmas event.

Harris started making the quilted stockings is because she was involved in a car wreck a year ago and broke her back. She can no longer stand for long periods of time, she said.

“Last year, I made a total of 1,697 stockings,” Harris said. “If you are familiar with quilting, you’ll know you stand up to cut your quilts out before you start. I can’t do that. So, to me these stockings were almost a God-send because I do just about everything on these stockings sitting down.”

Harris is originally from Germany, she said. at is where she met her husband, who was in the U.S. military.

She understands how nice it is for military personnel to know that someone from back home is thinking of them during the holidays.

Community support she

has received from people donating fabric and extra material to make the stockings is overwhelming, she said.

It is almost impossible to a ord fabric to make hundreds of stockings, she said.

“I will have to say, I am not bashful to hit you up for Christmas fabric,” Harris



Anyone who wants to donate material can take it to Greenville Vacuum and Sewing on 1912 E. Fire Tower Road or Packs for Patriots at 249-J ird St.

“My favorite part is knowing I made somebody’s Christmas,” Harris said.

22 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022

Whitehead, third from right, has a personal tie to the military. “I’m the mom of two soldiers, one soldier and one veteran now. And I know the impact that cards and letters from home or a touch of home means to them when they are so far away, especially if they are in a dangerous area.” Contributed photos

Employee spotlight: Joanne Floyd

In her second year with the town, Ayden nance director balances the books

Ayden’s nance director will celebrate two years with the town in January, but when she joined the sta in 2021, Joanne Floyd brought more than 20 years of experience to the job.

A former town manager for Plymouth, she started her career at the Washington County town as a temp a er moving from Pensacola, Florida, to nearby Williamston.

ough the beginning of her career was modest, she lled it with commitment, dedication, long hours, and hard work, she said.

“I applied at a temp agency. It was a choice between the Town of Plymouth and Weyerhaeuser. I chose the town of Plymouth and was fortunate to start my career as a temporary customer service

clerk. I was hired full-time in September 1998,” Floyd said.

From there, Floyd worked her way into better positions. She received her tax collector certi cation then earned her certi cation for municipal clerk from the state of North Carolina. e certi cations allowed her to transition into a nance and town clerk position and later as the town’s manager.

“My mom was an accountant. I had been around it all my life. My sister went to school to be an accountant too. It just fell in my lap,” Floyd said.

During her time with Plymouth, Floyd was named as interim town manager on a half dozen occasions and she accumulated about eight years of town manager experience.

She ultimately was promoted to the

position on a full-time basis and spent two years in the role before transitioning.

ings happened and I was able to move from position to position. I was able to gain all this experience with it,” Floyd said.

She with the town 22 years. She was recruited to come to Ayden by former town manager Matthew Livingston.

Livingston and Floyd had worked together closely while Livingston was the interim town manager of Plymouth.

“He told me about the job opening. I applied and got it,” Floyd said.

Floyd is thankful for her time and all the experience she garnered while working with Plymouth, she said.

In January 2021, Floyd accepted the job as the town of Ayden’s sta accountant. Her duties included assisting the

24 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
Joanne Floyd brought more than 20 years of experience in municipal administration to Ayden when she joined the finance staff in 2021. She was named finance director in January 2022.

nance director, overseeing the daily duties of the town’s customer service clerk as well as performing daily duties needed for proper nancial operations.

She was also responsible for reviewing the budget, helping with audits and assisting with ac counts payables among other duties. She said the change has been good.

“I had been with the town of Plymouth from the time I started my career. I wanted to branch out and have more experience,” she said.

When she rst came to Ayden, Floyd went straight to work and joined other sta members who were working to clear away backlogs created when the town was unable to ll roles in its accounting department.

“ is position had some challenges, but we worked hard solving those problems,” Floyd said.

Transitioning from Plym-

outh to Ayden also presented unique challenges, Floyd said.

Getting Ayden back on the right track is Floyd’s greatest accomplishment thus far, she said.

“It was a big achievement. I came in behind someone else that I had never worked with,” Floyd said, adding she was able to help the town catch up and release its 2021 audit on time.

“To get the town back on course with that was a proud moment and a big achievement for the town itself.”

With a population of about 3,200, Plymouth is much smaller compared to Ayden’s growing population of more than 5,000. Plymouth did not operate utility departments like Ayden does.

“Plymouth is a tier one community. ere was no development going on. It was a whole di erent world coming to Ayden,” Floyd said.

anks to her dedication and success in the accounting post, Floyd was promoted to nance director in January 2022 and continues to serve in that capacity.

As nance director, she is responsible for assisting in

the preparation of the annual budget, which includes the town’s general fund, electric, water and stormwater funds. She is also in charge of the annual audits, all scal controls and accounting of the town’s nances, managing nancial accounts associated with federal and state funding sources, maintaining budgetary controls over all departments, and more.

As nance director, Floyd hopes to make a positive impact in the town, she said.

“My biggest challenge is to provide the residents of the town with the quality of life they seek at a ordable rates,” Floyd said.

“I believe this is the biggest challenge for most.”

Floyd is committed to her job and the town of Ayden residents, she said. When working, she always strives

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 25
Floyd and Temika Williams, accounts payable tech, review a portion of the town’s budget.

for the best possible solution.

“We really do work hard for the residents of Ayden,” Floyd said.

“We work hard to try and give them a good quality of life and give them the cheapest rates we can.”

Floyd’s commitment and dedication to Ayden and its residents is obvious, interim town manager Stephen Smith said.

“She is de nitely a go-getter and she is a numbers person,” Smith said.

“She is very scally respon-

sible and is always looking at ways to save the town money while keeping our quality of service high.”

Floyd has enjoyed her time working with the town and is excited about what Ayden’s

future holds.

“I enjoy working here. e mayor and commissioners seem to want to head it in the right way. Ayden is a good little town. ere are a lot of good residents and business owners


“I think Ayden is going to go a long way. I think it’s going to thrive with all the new development going on down N.C. 102 and with the food commercialization project.”

Floyd is currently working to obtain her master’s in business administration.

When she is not working she enjoys spending time with her family, which includes her husband, three children, and three grandchildren. She also enjoys shopping and playing golf.

26 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
A er more than 20 years in Plymouth, Floyd says she’s excited about what Ayden’s future holds. “I think Ayden is going to go a long way.”
She is very scally responsible and is always looking at ways to save the town money while keeping our quality of service high.”
-Stephen Smith, interim town manager

Car club’s weekly cruise-in gives Ayden a boost

A local car club is taking to the streets in Ayden with a weekly cruise-in that organizers hope will grow and keep on rolling.

e Saturday event is hosted by e Backyard Bandits, a group founded by Toot Boone, a Greenville resident with strong ties to the Ayden community.

Club members, friends and guests line West Avenue with classic and current cars on display, drawing residents and visitors to the downtown area for a few hours of fun. e event includes food and music.

“I’ve always been a car guy,” said Boone, who originally is from Ayden and says his lifelong love of cars inspired him to start Backyard Bandits three years ago. “When I was a kid, there was a group of older guys in Ayden who had hot rods and I used to look up to them.

“Dean and Randy McLawhorn were two members of that group, and they came up with the name Backyard Bandits. I got permission to use the name for our club and made them honorary members,” he explained.

Boone and his 15-member group

visit car shows in the surrounding areas and host the weekly cruise-in event in downtown Ayden. He got the idea to host the show in Ayden a er getting input from the group.

“A lot of people have the same

body said ‘Let’s do something in Ayden,’ and that’s what we ended up doing,” he said.

Boone teamed up with the local business community, a church and town government to put on the event.

Michael Priddy, owner of Doghouse Tavern, provides brats and hotdogs and organizes the musical performances for each show. e tavern’s back patio is easily accessible to West Avenue.

Members of the Ayden Original Free Will Baptist Church also attend events with hot chocolate and snacks. Boone said the participation and generosity of both groups have helped make the event successful.

“If folks don’t feel comfortable go-

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 27
A weekly car show in Ayden is the brainchild, Toot Boone, an Ayden native and member of the The Backyard Bandits car club.

ing into Doghouse, the church is also out there handing out drinks and food so everyone is covered,” Boone said.

e largest show so far consisted of 75 cars, but Boone wants to see the event expand further. “I want to see it grow to the point where the whole town is full of cars, not just this one street.”

Latisha Boone, Toot’s wife, says they have learned how to improve the event as time has passed. “We have found that playing music tends to get people to stick around a little longer, especially when

we play oldies. It’s nice to have people just getting together, hanging out and talking with one another in their chairs,” she said.

The Boones stated they were grateful for the support they have received from members of the Board of Commissioners, who approved their request to host the shows weekly at their October meeting, and town leaders like economic developer Mallory Denham and Gwendy Yzynitsky of Gwendy’s Goodies and the

the Ayden Chamber of Commerce.

“We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without all the people who support us like Mike, Gwendy and many others. is wouldn’t even be possible without Mallory, he has helped us make this happen and does his best to help us whenever we need anything,” the club leader said.

Denham also views the shows as successful and a boost for business. “Having the weekly car shows has been wonderful, it bene ts everybody,” he said.

Before daylight savings time, the shows were held every ursday and have

since been moved to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. During those hours, the downtown streets are home to a fun, free and family-friendly event that has brought residents of Ayden and surrounding towns out in droves.

One visitor said he has been coming out to the shows for the past few weeks whenever he could. Gabe Lawson attended a recent Saturday show where he praised the organizers for the variety on display and the accessibility of the show.

“I love cars and my son enjoys looking at and working on them, sometimes, with me too. Car shows are never too far away, but it’s awesome to have something like this right here in town every week for us to check out when we want,” he said.

Boone invites fellow car lovers like Lawson and business owners to participate in the event. “We keep it open, you don’t have to be a member to participate. e way we plan on growing is by continuing to spread the word about the shows and getting even more cars and vendors which is going to draw more people to come out. We plan on lling these streets.”

28 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
Dave Erdmann shows off his 1986 Buick during one of the weekly car shows in Ayden. The open events bring folks downtown every Saturday for music, food and cool cars. Lou Robinson rebuilt a Ford truck found in a Wyoming field and shows it off during the weekly car show in Ayden where car enthusiasts and car admirers meet and talk shop.
30 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 31
Construction nears for Food Commercialization Center thanks to sustained e ort
Officials breaking ground for the Eastern North Carolina Food Commercialization Center in Ayden included, from le , Reginald Speight of USDA Rural Development, project manager Keith Purvis, N.C. Rep. Brian Farkas, N.C. Sen. Brent Jackson, Mayor Steve Tripp, ENCFCC Board Member Stacy Thomas, ECU Associate Vice Chancellor Angela Lamson, and ENCFCC Board Chairman Brad Hufford. Photos by Scott Davis

A er years of cultivating strong partnerships and persevering through funding challenges, the town of Ayden will soon be home to a new food commercialization center.

e Eastern North Carolina Food Commercialization Center (ENCFCC), the 24,000-square-foot facility to be built in Worthington Industrial Park, will be utilized by farmers, food manufacturers and entrepreneurs in Pitt County and several surrounding counties in the region as an industry hub.

Ayden Mayor Stephen Tripp reported the facility will create 30 jobs and $11 million in income within the rst two years of operation and over eight years would create $900 million in economic growth in the Ayden area.

Keith Pervis, president of Greenville Produce, has led the $9 million project with the support of a team of local and state o cials who have lobbied on behalf of the project over the years. State Sen. Brent Jackson recalled being in the process of working on a similar project in Kannapolis with the N.C. Food Innovation Lab, a plant-based food processing facility, when he was rst approached with the idea of creating the ENCFCC.

“ ere were so many similarities between what they presented me and what I had been working on for the past few years in Kannapolis. It dawned on me that we needed this in the east,” the Sampson County senator from Clinton said during the facility‚ groundbreaking in November.

“ is is the perfect location. You have the rail, interstates and all the farmland we will need to produce this product. I bought into this project and I’m so proud that I have been able to be a part of it,” he said.

Tripp is grateful for the support of Sen. Jackson. “He has been one of the most helpful people during this long journey. We visited him a lot and he was very inspirational and encouraging. What he did was take a town that he did not know anything about and welcomed us into his o ce. He is a true

supporter of this project.”

State Reps. Brian Farkas and Chris Humphrey also were instrumental in the process. Last year, Farkas helped obtain an initial $4 million for the project and later an additional $500,000 from the Agriculture and Consumer Services agency of the O ce of State Budget and Management. Farkas discussed working with Humphrey.

“He has been a tremendous partner and a friend to me,” Farkas said at the groundbreaking. “I think we really had a good partnership over the last two years and we made this project a real priority.

It’s an honor to serve with him.”

Along with government o cials, Pervis has partnered with the Greenville-ENC Alliance, ElectriCities, East Carolina University, Miller School of Entrepreneurship at East Carolina University, Pitt County government, N.C. State University, the state departments of agriculture and commerce and more on the project.

At the groundbreaking ceremony Pervis highlighted the network of people who helped make the project happen. He recognized each member of the group’s board.

32 Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022
State Rep. Brian Farkas helped secure more than $4 million in state funding for the facility.

“ is commercialization center started a long time ago. It’s been a dream to work with the Town of Ayden, the community of eastern North Carolina, to work with the farmers to bring products and produce and manufacturing workers here with entrepreneurs bringing their rst products into production here and also to package food. It’s been a long journey and we are so appreciative of

the partnerships we have had along the way.”

ENFCC Board Chairman Brad Hu ord praised Pervis’ tenacity in pursuing the project.

“Without Keith’s dogged pursuit of this project and his support, I know we wouldn’t have gotten the funds we needed,” he said. “ e hard part starts now. As chairman of the board, I’m going to be growing this board and get-

ting more involved so we can get this project launched. As someone whose mother was raised in Ayden, this food commercialization center will have a great impact on not only the town of Ayden but the residents of our region in multiple counties and across the state of North Carolina.

“It will give people the opportunity to create businesses and to be more impactful

with the agriculture that we have here in our region. I have been talking with companies and telling people about the food commercialization center for a couple of years now. Hopefully, those companies will have a shiny new facility to launch their products in the near future.”

Construction is set to begin in June, Tripp said. e project timeline will evolve as building plans are approved.

Ayden Magazine • Fall/Winter 2022 33
Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County has been working with local officials to bring the center to fruition since the effort began. Ayden Mayor Stephen Tripp says the center is expected to bring $900 million in growth to the community of eight years.
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