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IN THIS ISSUE
14 Having a Ball & Making a Racket
20 At Your Service
32 Picking Up the Torch
Greene County Schools
38 The Word on Infinitylink
Church is a Rock of Unity in Greene County
THE COVER Photography by Jim Green A PL ACE TO GR O W. TH E WAY TO LI VE. 2020 EDITION 2020
Bobby Burns Editor Deborah Griffin Jim Green Staff Photographers Donna Marie Williams Staff Writer Michael Abramowitz Christopher Decker Karen Eckert Contributors Tom Little Advertising Emerson Designs Layout & Design
Rec Sports Boost Business
4 | Greene Living Magazine 2020
Greene LivingÂ© is published annually by The Standard newspaper. Contents are the property of this newspaper and many not be reproduced without consent of the publisher. To advertise in this publication, contact The Standard at (252) 747-3883
Greene County, NC
Greene Living Magazine 2020 |
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Greene Living Magazine 2019
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Greene Living Magazine 2020 |
Having a Ball & Making a Racket
Sports Programs Fuel Economy In Snow Hill, Greene County STORY BY CHRISTOPHER DECKER; PHOTOS BY JIM GREEN
When Mike Anderson took over as Greene County Recreation director nine years ago, he decided instead of running from travel baseball programs, programs many believe were killing recreation baseball, he embraced them.
The Greene County Recreation Department sponsors 12-year-old, 10-year-old and 8-year-old travel baseball squads.
“Before I took the job, I had experience being an umpire and being involved with travel baseball for many years,” Anderson said. “So, I decided to embrace it and it has been very successful for our program. As far as the rec department goes, I would say probably 60 percent of the revenue we bring in each year comes from travel baseball.” Since then, the excitement around travel baseball has grown exponentially. The Greene County Recreation Department has three travel teams of its own, a 12-year-old, 10-year-old and an 8-year-old squad associated with Top Gun Baseball, the leading travel ball program in North Carolina, according to Anderson.
In a normal year, the Greene County Recreation Department hosts three travel baseball tournaments a month.
8 | Greene Living Magazine 2020
BATTING IN BUSINESS The success of the travel ball program has gained attention not only from North Carolina but on a regional and national level as well. Anderson and the Greene County Sports Complex were set to host a Southeast Regional for the Cal Ripken Baseball organization. While COVID-19 postponed the event for 2020, Greene County will host in 2021.
“I do think tennis put Snow Hill on the map. I remember the first time we ever went to the state tournament in boy’s tennis and people were coming up and asking where Snow Hill was and no one had heard of it. By the end of the 90s, there were very few people who didn’t know where Greene Central was at.”
“I’m pretty sure that was a direct result of the success we have had in the travel industry and the work we have put in to make sure we are putting on a good tournament,” Anderson said. “We try to make sure our The partnership with Top infields are some Gun began several years into of the tops around. Anderson’s tenure as director Heck, a little small after deciding to end the community like us Greene Central High School department’s partnership probably shouldn’t girl’s tennis coach Donald Clark with Nations Baseball. even have been in the talks to host a “Since then, I’ve been full every weekend,” Anderson said regional, and I didn’t even apply, in an interview Oct. 7. “Top Gun usually holds over 50 but I was contacted by them. We percent of the market in the state. I think a few weeks ago are going to try and make sure we there were over 4,000 teams that play travel baseball and are giving you the best we can Top Gun had 64 percent of the market.” when you come here.” In a normal year, the Greene County Recreation The revenue generated by the Department hosts three travel baseball tournaments a influx of teams traveling to the month. Anderson said the profit from each tournament area has helped the recreation is between $2,500 and $4,000 from field rentals and department to open a $3 million purchases at the concession stand. wellness center in the Greene County Sports Complex. The facility That tournament schedule shifted due to COVID-19 features indoor batting cages, in 2020, however, and after a hiatus during the initial workout facilities and a basketball shutdowns, Anderson had run 17-straight tournaments court. successfully without an outbreak of the coronavirus as of Oct. 14, even with teams entering the area from many “Our fields are usually full every counties across the state and even from other states like night of the week,” Anderson said. Virginia. “The travel ball teams that are local are calling us for practice time. I “The complex here has three fields, and when we are know about nine or 10 travel teams maxed out, we have 15 teams,” Anderson said. “But we’ve are practicing here and out of been using two fields at the middle school, two fields at those, six or seven of them aren’t the high school and another field called Rouse Field. So, even from our county. When those we have another 12 teams at the middle school, 12 at the teams come once or twice a week high school and six at Rouse. We are right around 48 or 50 to practice on our fields, they are teams a week here in Greene County.”
Travel baseball and tennis tournaments help bring visitors to Snow Hill and Greene County.
driving from another county more than likely. Hopefully they stop and get gas and pick up something to eat before they go home after practice, so they are still helping our community out in some way or another.” After buying Beaman’s restaurant in 2014, Steve and Starr Rouse purchased a lot in front of the Greene County Sports Complex and opened Rouse’s Restaurant in May 2017, with hopes of drawing the weekend crowds to their new business. “The reason we built here was because of the park and the traffic that it created,” Steve said. “We were expecting a 7 or 8 percent traffic increase or even a little more and that is about what we have gotten. It has been about a 6 or 7 percent increase. Typically, we were loaded when they had tournaments. We have anywhere from 150 to 200 people from the ballfield come through in a day’s time, come through on the weekends, especially Friday and Saturday.” While Rouse’s Restaurant sees traffic from the recreation leagues during weeknights, Steve said nearly 90 percent of his clientele are from outside of Greene County. Across the street, Anderson said Highway 55 will call to confirm the tournament schedule so they can add staff to best accommodate the traffic. “We also have a store called Fast Break,” Anderson added. “They serve breakfast items and things like that. When I go in and get something, they tell me, ‘Hey good crowd. We saw a lot of them in here this weekend.’ I think it is doing more for the community. It is bringing revenue and business in. It does have an economic impact.”
Mike Anderson, right, embraced travel baseball when he took over as Greene County recreation director nine years ago,.
NETTING OPPORTUNITY Baseball isn’t the only sport in Greene County that has made an impact in the community. About five years ago, Bobby Taylor, owner of Greene Ridge Racquet Club and a Snow Hill commissioner, said he ran a calculation to determine how many people were entering the county to play tennis. “We determined over 15,000 people came to Snow Hill for tennis of some sort in a one-year time. I don’t think it has gone down since then,” Taylor said. “Tennis itself is probably bringing a couple hundred thousand dollars of spending just to this small town altogether. I’m not tooting my own horn; I’ve always said the recreation in Greene County is the biggest economic development that we have.” The rise of the tennis scene in Greene County began in the mid-80s when former
“Our fields are usually full every night of the week. The travel ball teams that are local are calling us for practice time. I know about nine or 10 travel teams are practicing here and out of those, six or seven of them aren’t even from our county. When those teams come once or twice a week to practice on our fields, they are driving from another county more than likely. Hopefully they stop and get gas and pick up something to eat before they go home after practice, so they are still helping our community out in some way or another.” Mike Anderson, Greene County Parks and Recreation director
Top-notch tennis clinics for kids and adults have helped grow the sport’s popularity in the county since the 1980s. (contributed photo)
Greene Central High School girl’s tennis coach Donald Clark began offering free clinics to adults and kids at the only four courts in Snow Hill. As interest began to grow, so did the talent. Clark took the girls varsity team to 20 straight conference titles and both varsity programs began making regular appearances in the state finals. “I do think tennis put Snow Hill on the map,” Clark said. “I remember the first time we ever went to the state tournament in boy’s tennis and people were coming up and asking where Snow Hill was and no one had heard of it. By the end of the 90s, there were very few people who didn’t know where Greene Central was at.” In 1999, Taylor and Clark helped form the Greene County Tennis Association (GCTA) to lobby the Greene County Board of Education to repair the courts at Greene Central High School. The GCTA achieved that goal and the facility at the high school expanded from four courts to 12 courts. The expansion allowed Greene Central to start a middle school team as well as a junior varsity girls program. Since then, the GCTA has continued to promote and teach tennis to children and adults across the county, hosting Quick Start tennis lessons for elementary-aged kids with the help of the varsity tennis players while Clark continued to coach his general practice. Cathy Williams, current director of the GTCA, did not know anything about tennis until she brought her two kids to Clark’s general practice in 2011. After watching her kids play and absorbing the sport and what it has done for the community, Williams now helps Clark run eight United States Tennis Association tournaments out of the Greene Central tennis facility. “It brings people into our small town and helps with businesses on those weekends when they come in,” Williams said. “(When) you go somewhere with a big tennis community like Cary or Raleigh, it is unusual to go and say I’m Greene Living Magazine 2020 |
from Snow Hill and have someone not know where that is. ‘Oh, Snow Hill, I’ve been there. That’s a great little town.’” Both of Williams’ children have helped Greene Central High continue its storied history. Her daughter Taylor Williams graduated in 2018 and helped extend the girls’ streak of conference titles to 26 straight seasons while son Tucker is now a senior and has become a top player on the boys’ varsity team that was ranked 10th in the state in 2020 before COVID-19 ended the season early. Taylor hosts five junior tournaments a year and three adult level tournaments at the Greene Ridge Racquet Club, including the largest adult tournament east of Raleigh, the Snow Hill-Lenoir Community College Tennis Classic. Despite COVID-19, 140 people from four different states played in what was the 38th annual tournament in 2020. “Lenoir Community College came on board in about 2003 or 2004, and we do it as a fundraiser now for the LCC Foundation for scholarships,” Taylor said. “All the money we raise goes straight to Greene County kids who want to go to LCC. This year was a slow year. We made about $11,000 or $12,000 and last year we made about $31,000, so we average $15 to $18,000.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD Taylor also hosts two North Carolina state team tournaments, one in May and one in October, that he says normally attracts around 2,000 participants total, not counting spouses, friends and children. With so many people coming into town for recreation events every weekend, bringing a hotel to Snow Hill has been a hot button issue, Taylor said. “Everybody wants a hotel in Snow Hill. Eight or nine years ago, I personally offered some land to Microtel to build a hotel,” he said. “We could fill the place up every weekend between the tennis tournaments and baseball
Greene Ridge Racquet Club, above, and the Greene Central High School courts host tournaments regularly. (contributed photo)
tournaments and even the local state prison when people come and visit loved ones on the weekend. The problem with a hotel in Snow Hill is what are we going to do Sunday night through Thursday night? The positive of Snow Hill is your 20 miles from everything. The negative of Snow Hill, as the hotel guy told me, is your 20 miles from everything.” While continuing to capitalize on visitors is an evolving issue, Cathy Williams and Greene Central High School face another issue that could jeopardize the draw of Snow Hill as a tennis community. The Greene Central tennis courts sit in a low-lying area with a lot of groundwater under the courts. “We have had trouble with our courts leaking,” Williams said. “If there is a lot of groundwater and then the sun comes out really strong, water will seep up through the court and it causes huge cracks. So, we are in a situation now where we are losing the ability to play on some of those courts and we need some resources to either build those courts in a new place or rebuild them where they are.” She said a new set of courts similar to what is currently being used would cost between $300,000 to $400,000. Two years ago, there was money set aside in the school budget that would have started the project, but the project stalled due to state budget issues. COVID-19 has also limited any fundraising opportunities that could have helped. “We are in a holding pattern. We can’t do fundraisers. (Because of COVID-19) You can’t have people out there, and we haven’t been able to do General Practice or Quick Start since last year. Our kids want to play. They want to play tennis. We do need some support from any local or outside place that will give to help us build new courts. We would love it for these children over here, because they need it and we don’t have the kind of resources here that would be able to fork over that much money.”
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At Your Service: Leaders Offer 2020 Perspective Greene County Is A Great Place To Call Home Welcome to Greene County — the “Hub of the Universe.” Why do I call us the hub of the universe? We are so centrally located that in order for one to travel from Goldsboro to Greenville, the direct travel path goes through the center of Greene County. If one wishes to travel from Kinston to Wilson or Farmville, one must travel through Greene County. Greene County simply stated is like the hub of a wagon wheel with the spokes reaching out to surrounding municipalities large and small. Many consider us a bedroom community. We were once considered for the capital of North Carolina in the very early days of statehood. However, we were narrowly defeated, and the capital moved from New Bern to Raleigh. If indeed we had been voted the state capital, think how differently we would look today. Frankly, I feel our people are our greatest assets. I like the fact that when one meets others on the street, on the road, in the local restaurant, in the country store, most of us know each other. Many of us have roots that go back several generations. You know your neighbors. You smile when you greet them. You know whose family has prospered and, more importantly, whose family has faced a hardship, and you have compassion for them. Generally speaking, Greene County people are truly good, honest, hard-working people, and it just doesn’t get any better than that. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my greatest loves of Greene County: Contentnea Creek. This largest tributary of the Neuse River runs through the middle of the county. It provided a lifeline during colonial trade and was a major shipping corridor for our area, including barges that delivered fertilizer to local farmers and the corridor for delivering pine tar and pitch to New Bern — a major source of commerce in colonial days. Contentnea Creek today is a source of great recreation. As far as local government, we have made so many accomplishments in recent years. We recently opened a satellite EMS facility in the north part of the county to provide necessary services in that area. We opened a new wellness center to further
is chairman of the Greene County Board of Commissioners.
provide an array of services, including recreation as well as providing a venue for cultural events and meetings. We have made many improvements for our citizens, including renovations to the recently acquired National Guard Armory building to repurpose that facility into much-needed space for the transportation department and an emergency operations center. Likewise, we are installing generators at four well sites for emergency backup as well as a generator at the Greene County Office Complex and at our satellite EMS facility. Similarly, we are bringing online a new website, we have just relocated our Cooperative Extension office to a new upgraded location, and have plans for complete Greene County Office Complex renovations. We have such a diverse county. Agriculture has been our mainstay for generations. We also have about 15 manufacturers who deliver specialty products for use in applications locally and outside the area and state. We have a great public school system with modern technology including laptop computers for all our students. We have an absolutely fabulous premier 18-hole golf course at Cutter Creek. I am particularly fond of our local Christian radio station WAGO at 88.7 on the FM dial. This year we all know has been perhaps the most unusual year in our lives with the COVID-19 pandemic. All counties — rural, metropolitan, large, small — are significantly impacted by this deadly disease. No one is exempt from its influences on daily lives. I applaud our employees for providing professional services for our citizens. Our administrative staff has stepped up to the plate to handle the needs of our citizens, and we appreciate the extra effort. I truly appreciate our citizens understanding that our mode of operation had to change. When it gets down to it, I have great value and compassion for people. I remain proud of our employees and our citizens. I fully know that our God, our divine creator, travels daily with us in our journeys. In summary, when you combine our people, our rural setting, our convenient location and our natural resources, it’s easy to strongly support that Greene County is a great place to live, and I am so proud to call it homes.
Park Improvements Will Benefit All
The Town of Hookerton is the proud recipient of a Parks Recreation and Trust Fund grant in the amount of $390,800. This funding enables the town to fulfill a longtime goal of installing playground equipment at the Hookerton Community Center located on Morris BBQ Road. The playground will provide a safe place for children to play and exercise. The walking trail provides a perfect place for parents and community members to walk in a safe environment. The town feels strongly in inclusion and desires for all children to feel welcome, which is why it was a strong desire to include an ADA compliant playground. The addition of playground equipment is just one use of the funding. The town also plans to revamp the bathroom facilities already located on site to be ADA compliant. The basketball and tennis courts will be refurbished, and we will add disc golf as another recreational amenity to the area.
The town is very thankful and excited to receive the grant funding, which has been many years in the making. The project is one that will surly enhance the town as it will serve many in our community. We appreciate the communityâ€™s efforts in the project as well. The community graciously completed surveys to show Hookertonâ€™s need for the project and contributed their input and ideas to enhance the facility. We could not have done this without you. Thank you. We are excited to get this project underway. The town is continuing to move forward with many of its goals, and the Board of Commissioners and town employees remain committed to serving the residents of the area. Our DMV office has brought many to the town and fills a need with quick and friendly service. We are continuing our economic development and are working to bring more businesses and eateries in town.
April Vinson in the town clerk of Hookerton.
At Your Service: Leaders Offer 2020 Perspective Snow Hill moves forward, even in 2020 2020 has been a productive year for the Town of Snow Hill. After the pandemic hit in March, the town obeyed federal and state quarantine orders. We closed and sanitized Town Hall for several weeks and purchased protective gear. Our top priority remains the health and safety of our employees and citizens. Municipal services continued. The town’s police officers provided 24/7 patrols. Peaceful protests took place without incident, and, thank God, our community came together while other towns fractured.
and loans from the state, will replace an aging line that has had numerous breaks. Using FEMA and N.C. Commerce funds, the town is upgrading its sewer pump station along U.S. 13, a $333,000 project. Using FEMA reimbursement monies, an emergency generator has been installed at Town Hall to help us stay open during the next storm event.
Trash was collected, water and sewer lines were repaired, grass and fields were mowed, and the cemetery was maintained without any interruptions in our daily lives. We even had a hurricane graze us, and the town was cleaned up soon afterward.
Over the next several months, the town will accept donations of large wetlands’ tracts along Contentnea Creek in order to create nature trails and a preserve. Also, although work has been delayed by the virus and weather, construction of an improved small boat launch facility is scheduled to happen before the year ends. These projects were funded by a combination of grants from the N.C. Attorney General’s Office, N.C. Wildlife and the Duke Power Foundation.
As this is being written, a new Walgreen’s Pharmacy is being constructed on Southeast Second Street. The town sold property it owned to Walgreen’s for $150,000. This money is to be used for capital expenditures deemed beneficial by the Town Board to enhance the quality of life for all citizens.
The town received CARES Act funding from the state and federal governments. The Town Board plans to use a portion of the funds for mini-grants to small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic. We also plan to help individuals pay their water and sewer bills.
One such capital expenditure will be the purchase of Christmas lighting to enhance our downtown and the Christmas Parade route. Thirty-eight, large snowflakes, representing Snow Hill of course, will be installed on light poles. A 14-foot exterior Christmas tree also will grace our downtown. Santa will be able to see our brightened and enlightened town as he passes overhead.
2020 has been difficult for individuals, families and small businesses for a variety of reasons. Through it all, the Town of Snow Hall has never wavered in providing the best municipal services without raising taxes or increasing fees.
We have other important infrastructure projects which are not as visible. The N.C. Local Government Commission just approved the replacement of a deteriorated water main along West Greene Street in the downtown. A $700,000 project, funded by grants
is the town manager of Snow Hill.
16 | Greene Living Magazine 2020
Mayor Dennis Liles, Mayor Pro-Tem Bobby Taylor, Dianne Andrews, Geraldine Shackleford, Lorrine Washington, and Rosa Wilkes proudly provide the leadership for Snow Hill as we enter a new decade. They are dedicated, as well as town employees, to serving all our citizens without exception as fairly as possible.
Just call the Germ Busters of Walstonburg
Kits to fight COVID-19 include hand sanitizer and masks.
Walstonburg’s Germ Busters will sanitize any home or building. Small town life is great and there are benefits to living in a small town. Brenda Haymond, mayor of Walstonburg, has been busy delivering gift bags filled with PPE and items to fight COVID-19 to the households within the city limits. If you have not gotten your bag, please drop by the town office to pick one up. This is just one example of the town’s commitment to the residents. The Walstonburg Board of Commissioners, along with the staff of the Town of Walstonburg, want the residents to remain healthy during the pandemic. Medical experts have suggested that this fall and winter will be especially harsh with both influenza and COVID-19 outbreaks. With a CARES Act grant from the federal government and a requirement from the state Legislature that the county must distribute 25 percent of their funds to the municipalities, the town received nearly $25,000 to be spent on COVID-19 prevention. Thank you to our elected officials that made this grant possible. Walstonburg purchased two disinfectant fogger machines. The chemical used in the fogger is on the EPA list for combatting COVID-19, is safe for use on food prep surfaces, and does not require a respirator to be worn by the operator. The Walstonburg Fire Department received one of the foggers for its use. The town has sprayed buildings with high traffic flow and also residents’ homes if they have contracted COVID-19. If someone in your family has contracted the virus, contact the Town Office Germ Busters at (252) 753-5667 to arrange for your home to be disinfected and stop the spread.
a trip to the store. Also included: a box of surgical masks, a UV sanitizing wand, a no-touch thermal thermometer, and a container of sanitizing wipes. Contact the town for more information. The town wants the residents to stay healthy and remain virus-free and has shared its CARE Act funds with the residents by promoting personal protection as one of the best methods to combat COVID-19. When this is all over, please stop by and visit our historic depot and plan on attending our annual Proud to be an American Celebration sponsored by the Walstonburg American Legion Post 332. In the meantime, support our small businesses: Get some BBQ Chicken fresh off the grill from Best Café, fill up the car from Walstonburg Service Center, or have an intimate wedding/reception at Murray Hall.
Bess Patton is the town clerk of Waltonburg.
The town purchased personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, face shields and Tyvek suits. These are used by employees when faced with possible exposure to the virus. Don’t be alarmed when we come to your house to disinfect. Yes, we will be dressed up in our germ-busting PPE finest when fogging your home. With over 200 residents, Walstonburg purchased the items for gift bags that were distributed to each household within the corporate limits. The gift bags contained a half-gallon of 80 percent alcohol hand sanitizer distilled by Mystic Farm Distillery of Durham. The hand sanitizer also can be placed into the mini-spray sanitizer, which is purse-size, for quick sanitizing of hands and keys following
Mayor Brenda Haymond shows off COVID-19 aid bags available to residents.
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Greene County Schools: Small in Size, Big on Innovations Technology, STEM & Spanish Immersion Programs Have Put School District Ahead Of The Curve BY KAREN ECKERT
Greene County may be small in size and population compared to other counties in North Carolina, but its school system is big on innovations.
Students can download content into an offline Google Drive folder or app on their iPad, which is helpful for students who do not have reliable internet access at home, he said.
A rural district with 2,766 students, Greene County Schools has led the way in bringing new and progressive programs to its classrooms, according to Superintendent Patrick Miller.
Students in kindergarten through second grades also have access to 1:1 technology in the form of Chromebooks that they use in their classrooms, but these students do not take these devices home, Miller said.
These forward-looking measures include the 1:1 Technology Initiative; Los Puentes, a two-way Spanish immersion program and STEM Education.
The school system has seen positive outcomes as a result of the 1:1 technology initiative, including an increase in test scores, he said.
1:1 TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE
There has also been a significant increase in the graduation rate and a big decrease in the dropout rate, he said.
Seventeen years ago, Greene County was among the first school districts in North Carolina to equip all students in grades 6-12 with their own Apple laptops that they could use in the classroom and take home with them, according to Miller. A lot of school districts now provide technology devices to their students, Miller said. â€œBut back in the day, we were by ourselves.â€? Miller, who became superintendent of GCS in 2008, said he does not take credit for introducing the 1:1 Technology Initiative, but the school system has been able to expand it and sustain it over the years. Just this academic year the program has grown to include students in grades 3, 4 and 5 through funding from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, Miller said. Today students use iPads instead of Apple laptops, Miller said, as the iPads are better for instructional purposes.
20 | Greene Living Magazine 2020
It costs in the neighborhood of $400,000 per year to supply each student with an individual device, he said, and the school board and county commissioners have been supportive of the technology initiative. The iPads are purchased through a lease-to-own system, and there is a procedure in place for acquiring new devices and rotating out the old ones. The fact that students have their own devices has been helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, Miller said. When schools closed early this past March, GCS was able to provide lessons to students within a day or two of the shut-down, Miller said. With the return to school this fall, 45 percent of GCS students are attending school remotely via the Greene County Virtual Academy, which was established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
TWO-WAY SPANISH IMMERSION PROGRAM Los Puentes Two-way Spanish Immersion Program for students in grades K-5 emerged around the same time as the 1:1 Technology Initiative, according to Miller. Coordinator Stephanie Cain said that it is the oldest two-way immersion program in a rural school district, and the thirdlongest running in the state. Only Charlotte and Chapel Hill were ahead of Greene County in implementing immersion programs, said Cain, who has been with Los Puentes since its beginning. The motivation for starting the program was twofold. Greene County had a growing population of Spanish-speaking families in the community, and research shows that two-way immersion is the best way to close the gap for students who are not native English speakers, she said. Also, the research shows that it’s good for the cognitive development of any student, and students in immersion programs typically outperform their peers that are in Englishonly programs, Cain said. The name “Los Puentes” means “The Bridges” in English and reflects the goals of the program, she said. “The program was really built to bridge the multicultural component of our community, bringing two languages (and) multiple cultures together, and the premise is for students to learn from one another in that environment.” Overall, there are 240 students per year in the program with the number fluctuating up to 260, she said. Only 42 students are accepted into the program each kindergarten year, Cain said.
Half the students in the program are native Spanish speakers and the other half are native English speakers, Cain said. The program runs on the campuses of Snow Hill Primary School, West Greene Elementary School and Greene County Intermediate School, Cain said. Each grade level has two classrooms, each one designated as a “Spanish world” or “English world,” Cain said. Students receive math and science instruction in their Spanish world classroom and English/language arts and social studies in their English world classroom. “We don’t translate. We immerse the kids in the language,” she said. The district employs native Spanish speakers, Miller said. They are from other countries, most often Columbia. Adjustments have been made to the immersion program this year because of COVID-19, Cain said. Some students are working remotely from home, using their iPads, while others are attending school in person. Those who attend in person remain in one classroom all day instead of moving back and forth between the two worlds. Instead, the teachers move around, Cain said. After 17 years, families continue to be interested in the program, she said. “I think for a rural district to see the value in bilingual and multicultural opportunities is significant,” she said. Greene Living Magazine 2020 |
vocational courses, such as biomedical, or even world languages, Garcia said. “We’re able to make sure that we include those four pillars … in all subject areas,” he said. GCS introduces STEM to all students in the district in grades K-5, Garcia said.
STEM EDUCATION The school system also promotes the value of learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math through its STEM programs. These are the main four sectors that drive any country’s economy, said Jose Garcia, STEM director for GCS. The district introduced STEM programming in 2011-12, he said, and it has grown since then. In fact, two schools, Greene Central High and Greene County Middle, are officially recognized as STEM Model Schools of Distinction by the State Board of Education, Miller said, and the district is applying this year for Snow Hill Primary to achieve that status. GCHS and GCMS are two of only 32 schools in the state that have received that recognition, Garcia said. Most schools with that distinction are in the Research Triangle Park area, he said. Garcia said that STEM education is “a mindset.” It focuses on project-based learning as opposed to more traditional methods of lectures, PowerPoint presentations and notetaking, Garcia said. Science, technology, engineering and math can be incorporated into any content area, whether it is English, social studies or even
Half of the school population at the middle school is in some type of STEM programming and about a third of the population at the high school level, Garcia said. Students have to apply to take STEM courses at the middle and high school levels because they are more rigorous than non-STEM courses, he said. It is important that students and their parents understand the expectations, Garcia said. Over the years as more STEM courses were added to the curriculum and more connection was developed between the middle school and high school, GCS established a “STEM Academy” in which students in grades 6-12 can take all STEM classes. A STEM course is not limited specifically to science, technology, engineering and math courses. In grades 9-12 there are at least 28 STEM courses that students can take, for example, STEM English and STEM social studies, Garcia said.
Teachers of these other courses are trained to incorporate STEM into their curriculum, he said. “Grand Challenges of Engineering” are hallmark projects for STEM students, according to Garcia. These are 14 challenges that have been identified by the National Academy of Engineering, Garcia said. A complete list of the challenges can be found at www.engineeringchallenges.org. Students, working in teams of four, seek solutions to regional or world problems, such as cybersecurity, Garcia said. Not only do the students work on problems and solutions, but they also study the cultures of the various regions involved, bringing a global flavor to the projects, Miller said. The students present their ideas to their peers and others, Garcia said, giving them real-world practice. The Grand Challenges help to develop students’ critical thinking and collaborative skills, Miller said. Garcia said that the Greene County community has been very supportive of STEM Education and he would like to see that response continue. Support can be given in the form of parent volunteers or contributions of materials, he said. The program accepts materials such as paper plates, recycled items and lumber that can be used for the hands-on learning projects. Garcia said anyone willing to help can contact him directly at email@example.com. For more information about any of GCS’ innovative programs visit www.gcsedu.org.
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GREENE COUNTY SCHOOLS Greene County Schools 301 Kingold Blvd., Snow Hill, NC (252)747-3425 • www.gcsedu.org Greene County Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability,. or age in its programs and activities.
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PICKING UP THE TORCH
LEADERS WHO RESTARTED CONTENTNEA DEVELOPMENT GROUP ARE FIRED UP ABOUT POTENTIAL FOR GROWTH STORY & PHOTOS BY DONNA MARIE WILLIAMS
Hoping to be a catalyst for economic development in Greene County, the community members who have restarted the Contentnea Development Partnership say their efforts already are having an impact. CDP originally formed in 2002 as a nonprofit to encourage economic development and support businesses. It helped to establish the Greene County Museum, Worth Products and Tide Tamers Industries in Snow Hill, all which remain in existence today. After a 10 year run, the organization’s torch began to flame out, while its nonprofit status remained intact. In January, Allison Thomas, Mat Stocks, Salvador Tinoco and April Vinson picked the torch back up. “We reignited with the purpose of working together with the members and also the businesses of Greene County and of course the government entities — counties, towns and municipalities,” Tinoco said.
“There is a definite need for growth, change and prosperity in this community. We wanted to use Contentnea Development Partnership as the engine to make that happen.” Vinson added, “Our goal is we want to be a mutual person that is a liaison to get you in the right direction. We’re neutral and being a nonprofit there are not monetary gains for us personally. We want to bring change that will benefit the entire county.” The organization remains committed to the Greene County community and aims to attract new businesses while providing support to established businesses.
“There is a definite need for growth, change and prosperity in this community. We wanted to use Contentnea Development Partnership as the engine to make that happen.”
The former Albritton Company building laid dormant for two years before new occupancy began thanks in part to efforts by Contentnea Development Partnership.
26 | Greene Living Magazine 2020
CDP board member Salvador Tinoco
“Our small businesses are our backbone,” Tinoco said. Providing support to already established businesses is essential, Stocks said. “It doesn’t do any good to just replace businesses. If your existing businesses are struggling you want to help them first. You want to maintain and have healthy businesses established and bring in new ones to improve the economic climate — especially with the new challenges of the shutdown and things that are a result from COVID-19,” Stocks said. Recruiting new businesses will create new jobs while strengthening the county’s tax base. “We don’t have much to tax. So we have to start recruiting to Greene County and let them know Greene County is for them,” Tinoco said. By creating additional jobs and revenue, young adults may be more inclined to return home after completing college. Since the county lacks employment opportunities for these young adults, they are
CDP hopes to help recruit new business to places like downtown Snow Hill. (contributed photo)
UNIFAB operation manager Clark Flowers talks about the process of making mechanical lifts with UNIFAB manager Kristi Tripp, CDP member Jason Miller and CDP president Allison Thomas. forced to look elsewhere for employment, Tinoco said. “We want to make that change. We do that by identifying and growing leaders in our county. That is what we are also trying to do,” Tinoco said. Thomas added, “We want to bring in sales tax revenue and locally create jobs. That way more people will be living in the county and buying houses … If you have good-paying jobs, it attracts individuals who are going to be doers and donate their talents in the community.”
GATHERING SUPPORT The brain drain is a trend that has to end in order for Greene County to be successful, Vinson said. “We all have children and we’re tired of seeing intelligent children leaving the county to go live and work somewhere else because there is nothing here for them,” Vinson said.
“It’s time local governments, municipalities and the private-public partnerships come together as one whole to make an impact in our community. Greene County has a lot of potential, Tinoco said. “Greene County is in the center of it all, and we need to take that advantage to seek opportunities that we so desperately need.” Thomas added, “It takes a concerted, collaborative effort. In economic development, we are going to have to have the support of the different entities.” Community assistance and involvement are crucial, Tinoco said. “This is a community-based partnership and it should look like the community itself. We are welcoming any visionary and go-doer,” Tinoco said.
“We want people who share the same passion, the same vision for our community. We have to work in a collaborative effort to make things happen in our community otherwise we are doomed to remain the same.” CDP members are hopeful others in the community will join the cause of promoting economic growth. “The personal goal is we lead by example. Hopefully our organization can touch the lives of local citizens to bring leadership. We want to wake up those leaders in our community and in the county,” Tinoco said. Derek Burress of Shine is one community member to join the group. “I got involved because, as a young person, when I look back on the things Greene
“We have some very talented people that have walked away from this county that are thriving in others counties. It’s sad.” Countywide rebranding efforts are underway to ensure the county is sending the correct message to attract new businesses and people to the area. “We have to make a change. It can be good for our community. We need Greene County to be run like a business. We need to promote it and highlight our strengths – our people are hard-working and have hardworking businesses,” Tinoco said. In order to accomplish its mission, CDP will need support from the local governments and the county, organizers said.
UNIFAB manager Kristi Tripp talks with CDP president Allison Thomas during a walkthrough of a new facility in Hookerton. Greene Living Magazine 2020 |
County had when I was growing up, I realized we had more growing up back in the early ’80s and ’90s than we have today. The floods and tobacco buyouts affected the community tremendously and we are still recovering from that,” Burress said. “We lost a lot of farms and I saw the CDP as a way to brainstorm with some like-minded individuals on how we can help businesses and individuals get back to where we once were as well as a way to provide opportunities for our future generations.” Burress is a graduate of Greene Central High School and has seen many of his classmates leave the county for employment. “Building strong communities and families starts with keeping these people home, but many can’t stay here because of the lack of jobs. Every job I have had and every job my parents have had has been outside the county,” he said. “We can’t keep sending our people outside of the county and expect them to stay.”
HAVING AN IMPACT Since reforming, CDP has hit the ground running. In May, the organization assisted Tide Tamers and UNIFAB owners bring life to the former Albritton Company building by helping the company apply for a Building Reuse Grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce. The Albritton building, located on Hookerton’s Main Street, lay vacant for approximately two years before it was purchased by the owner of Tide Tamers and UNIFAB for the purpose of business expansion. The former Albritton warehouse now houses UNIFAB and serves as its base for manufacturing of mechanical lifts for people and cargo, while Tide Tamers continues to manufacture boat lifts at its location in Snow Hill. The expansion created six new positions in the town of Hookerton and five more at Tide Tamers in Snow Hill with more jobs being added in the future. In order to receive the grant, contributions from the county and the local municipality were required, and the CDP worked with the town of Hookerton and Greene County Board of Commissioners to secure the needed grant funding. The former Albritton office building is also being sublet to other businesses since UNIFAB does not require all of the office space.
Working with the CDP, UNIFAB successfully attracted a lab company from Kinston to occupy a portion of the available office space. As small businesses in the county began to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CDP members offered their support by assisting with completing applications and navigating the processes for the Paycheck Protection Program through the Small Business Administration. The organization assisted four businesses in securing grants and monies needed during the pandemic. “There may be some small businesses that may not come back after (COVID-19). We need to be supportive of them,” Tinoco said. CDP consists of a seven-person board. Board members include Calvin Edwards of The Edwards Group, attorney Erika Churchill and Jason Miller of Lenoir Community College. The organization encourages community business owners and leaders to become involved. “My hopes for CDP is for it to be a strong engine to bring opportunities for those who are ready, willing and able to do business in our county. My hope is that it will be a motor to help people financially find the resources they need so they can start their businesses in the community. We do that by standing behind the people,” Tinoco said.
MEET THE PLAYERS Allison Thomas serves as the organization’s president and owns Scarborough Fare Catering of Snow Hill and The Martinsborough events center in downtown Greenville. Mat Stocks is a lifelong Greene County resident and serves as vice president. He is the owner of Greene Light Logistics, a transportation and trucking business located in the heart of downtown Snow Hill. April Vinson serves as CDP’s secretary/treasurer and has worked as Hookerton’s town clerk for 11 years. Vinson and her husband are in the process of securing the former Grants, Gas and Groceries of Snow Hill. Salvador Tinoco created The Square in downtown Snow Hill. The area consists of three of his businesses: La Flama Mexican Restaurant, Upper Crust Pizza & Burger Bar and La Monarca Ice Cream & Fruit Bar. He also owns Tinoco Construction. Tinoco serves as a board member.
the positive peer pressuresaid. make effort to get to a take-home craft. This special story time, sponsored “My first year High has been people. products they produce.” “TheanGreene County at Farmville Central race you are, They what learn your from by the Greene County Friends of the Library, will be that students unbelievable,” he said. each theycome help each believes apply that a oncommunity … is really School, and believes he “I McNeill sexuality is,other, they just entertaining and informative for children and adults Dr. Gahlot comes Memorial after recently one another and levelsupportive couldn’t ask to forLenoir athe better See BHM, Page 6 other and they time genuinely part of the reason thethe early of each other, has been thrust into here and have a good alike. more information, 252-747-3437. TheFor 2015 Quiz Bowl is at call 1 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Kincollege is so successful is and the teachers here truly perfect environment. and enjoy each other as completing a fellowship in Clinical Neurophysiology at ston Lenoir-County Public Library. the positive peer pressure make an effort to get to “My first year has been Legal Aid of NC is providing legal assistance for low people. They learn from General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Sheonis a graduthat students PA. apply he said. “I each other, theyAllegheny help each unbelievable,” income and elderly residents of Greene County at one another and the level couldn’t ask for a betterCollege, See BHM, Page 6 other and they genuinely ate of King George Medical Lucknow, India where The 2015 Quiz Bowl is at 1 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Kin- Center, 10 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Greene County Senior is now taking appointments for stonThe Lenoir-County Public Library. she received her medical degree. She completed an internKinston-Lenoir County Public Library presents
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This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number H80CS10607 Health Center Program, in the amount of $8,654,913 or 48% of total program costs with $8,956,453 or 50% financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov. GCHC is licensed by the state of North Carolina, led by an independent Board of Directors and is an FQHC Program grantee under 42 U.S.C. 254. GCHC receives HHS funding and has Public Health Service (PHS) deemed status with respect to certain health or health-related claims, including medical malpractice claims, for itself and its covered individuals.
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THE WORD ON INFINITYLINK HIG H-T EC H COMMU N IC AT ION COMPA NY REACHING OUT LOW-TEC H ST YL E BY MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ, PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ
Point of irony: With all the high-tech communication opportunities he has to offer the people of Greene County, the biggest marketing tool Jeremy Rich and his David-versus-Goliath company, InfinityLink Communications, might have in hand could be old-fashioned word of mouth. In our digital world, the word “virus” has historically conjured a vision of crashing software, aggravating and harmful time interruptions and expensive service costs. That all changed in 2020, when an entirely new and vastly more dreadful application of the word infected the American landscape. This year, one small Snow Hill-based company found itself in the rare position of having to be prepared to overcome both meanings of the word. It thus far has fared surprisingly well on both accounts. InfinityLink Communications, owned by entrepreneur Jeremy Rich, provides high-speed (up to one gigabyte) of internet, HDTV and phone service throughout Greene County. In 2014, Rich, who previously owned an IT consulting and structural cabling company in Kinston, purchased and reorganized the operations of another company in Snow Hill. With the establishment of InfinityLink, he and his 10 employees took on the challenges of starting a new business, including the cost to upgrade from satellite to fiber technology and incorporate new infrastructure. The company also had to break users away from their first impressions of the less reliable digital services they had been receiving.
Infinity Link owner Jeremy Rich, left, and technician Brandon Beverly check a cable connection leading from a communications pole on Oct. 12, 2020.
“The available technology we have now is far improved and more affordable, so we’ve been able to achieve a continuous growth cycle leading up to March of this year,” Rich says. He mentions March because that’s when the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic reached
deeply into the U.S., including Greene County. While the devastating economic consequences — especially for small businesses — of the prolific and potentially deadly virus would not be fully realized for a couple more months, its impact and challenges turned out to be curiously different for Rich and communications companies large and small like his.
ADVERSITY BREEDS OPPORTUNITY Despite the coronavirus pandemic, InfinityLink has been able to maintain its growth pattern, even increase it somewhat, Rich says. The company started out providing mostly cable TV access and a little bit of wireless internet service. Early in 2015, it started providing fiber connections to homes and has continued that upgrade during the last five years while doing away with all the legacy wireless internet it inherited, much to the satisfaction of its customers, he says. “Our customers rely on the increased internet speed and the product’s reliability,” Rich says. “Lack of reliability, in the form of frequent service outages, was a big thing for our customer base. The older (satellite) technology just didn’t provide those things. It required line-of-sight connectivity, and as trees grew, it interfered with that. So, we became the only internet company in Greene County that provides fiber connections and built-in redundancies to homes and businesses.” InfinityLink’s main competitor, CenturyLink, is part of a much larger international corporation whose structure is not as closely aimed at the needs of rural areas, Rich says. Operating a small communications company in a rural area is challenging, though. Businesses in Greene County are by and large smaller, fewer and further between than those in larger counties and surrounding cities that can more readily meet the wide variety of industrial support needs. “We want to do all we can to entice more businesses to Greene County for the opportunity to grow our business along with the county’s economy,” Rich says. “We’d love to see the infrastructure utilized that we’ve already put in place in some of our outlying areas.” To get moving, Rich relied on some business loans and the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office’s GREAT grant program, aimed at private providers of broadband services to help them deploy broadband service to
InfinityLink Communications staff at the corporate office on Oct. 12, 2020, include (front from left) Jennifer Jones, office manager; Rose Andrews, customer services; (rear from left): Lewis Blount, technician; Brandon Beverly, technician; Jeremy Rich, owner; Hunter Rouse, technician; (Not pictured: Gene Smith, producer.)
unserved and economically distressed areas of North Carolina as quickly as possible. Essentially through its own initiative, InfinityLink has managed to expand its services to about 30 percent of the county’s population. That’s different from the geographic footprint, though, because most of the county’s residents live in towns, Rich says. InfinityLink understands the urgency — and the associated challenges — of getting the county’s rural population connected to its services. The COVID-19 crisis has further isolated a population already separated from the main body through poverty, poor health, unemployment and a lack of several other resources. There’s little question that having a low-cost means of more closely connecting those in this group to all that the internet offers can have an uplifting effect. The state of North Carolina spells out at its GREAT website (ncbroadband.gov/digital divide) how the digital divide impacts people in the workforce and employers, health care providers and patients, state residents and school children alike. Those without broadband and computers lack access to low-cost and highly effective telehealth services, which have increased dramatically statewide nationally since the COVID-19 crisis. Schools and colleges that have adopted virtual classroom techniques to protect young people and families from exposure to the coronavirus demonstrate the modern reality that broadband digital technology now is as much of a necessity, rather than a luxury, as the telephone and television. Many businesses also have had to switch to at-home attendance for those employees whose work can be produced and communicated via the internet and modern communication services. The computer and internet also are having a positive impact on business efficiency and competitiveness, state officials say. “Many people have contacted us to say that the digital service they currently have is not sufficiently fast or reliable to meet the work-at-home demands that their employers are placing on them,” Rich says. “We’re working as fast as we can to increase our access so more people in the rural parts of the county can get there. The people who we have gotten to have been very pleased with the advanced technology and the improved service.”
REACHING FOR MORE In parts of the county where the population is only three to five people per mile, providing the service becomes an economic challenge for a company the size of InfinityLink, Rich said. He is hoping that a further GREAT grant application he is preparing will help bridge the gap. He’s also waiting for another state contract that will allow InfinityLink to expand to the northern Greene County area. “The state also has set aside money for a special “flash grant” round of funding, but we won’t know until December whether we’ll receive anything in that round,” Rich said. “It will allow us to expand our services to areas that have been begging for it the entire time we’ve been here.” Harold Thomas, who took over as Greene County’s Economic Development Commission director in July when the coronavirus first peaked nationally, says he is a strong advocate for the role that InfinityLink can play in the county’s economic growth efforts. “We’re trying to get the necessary infrastructure in place to help Greene County grow, including transportation (roads), creation of a local manufacturers’ association to pinpoint their needs and the revival of the county’s Committee of 100 (prominent business and industrial owners) to provide support for economic growth,” Thomas says. “We’ve got to work more closely with the new Chamber of Commerce leadership to see how they fit into this puzzle.” The coronavirus crisis “… kinda made a mess of everything,” the development director says. For one thing, meetings here and away from home with manufacturers and businesses looking for opportunities screeched to a halt when the virus invaded the U.S. and North Carolina. “They’re just holding on and waiting to see how this plays out, not wanting to make a big investment right now — even those we’re currently working with right now,” Thomas says. “They’re just not willing to lay the cash on the line yet.” The county does want to be ready when the time becomes right, so it is working with several companies to explore avenues to get some shell buildings up and ready to market, the director says. “We don’t have anywhere to put a new manufacturing client right now, but we do have an industrial park in the northern part of the county with a brewery in operation,” Thomas says. Greene Living Magazine 2020 |
Link2 Infinity Link Communications owner Jeremy Rich, left, technicians Hunter Rouse, center, and Brandon Beverly inspect a map to identify areas of Greene County where the company looks to install its fiber and cable lines for internet, TV and phone services as of Oct. 12, 2020.
The Committee of 100 also owns some property near Snow Hill that could offer an opportunity for shell-building construction, he says. Once the list of infrastructure needs is clearly identified, the county commissioners then will have to follow with the appropriate actions to meet those needs, including high-speed internet services. Thomas is well aware of InfinityLink’s work in the county and Rich’s efforts to grow its infrastructure. “In addition to the GREAT Grant process, we know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a community development block grant program that could potentially be a source of funding for him,” Thomas says. “We’ll certainly help him put the paperwork together if he needs our help.” Thomas believes that Rich could stand to improve his countywide marketing strategies, and Rich agrees he needs to place stronger attention to that detail, through phone contact and individual door-todoor contact. “I know he’s working hard to get the infrastructure in place; he has to let people know it’s there,” he says. “I’m also asking all our existing manufacturers what we can do to help them grow their businesses and bring our resources to bear, such as our great community college.”
Rhonda Miller, owner of Classic Cuts Salon and Nails in Snow Hill, talked on Oct. 12, 2020, about the beneficial impacts of subscribing to internet, phone and TV services for her business and home provided by locally owned and operated InfinityLink Communications.
CONNECTING WITH CUSTOMERS Company manager Jennifer Jacobs has close communication with existing customers and those they hope to bring on board. “I have a concern for the people of Greene County, so it’s very satisfying to us whenever we don’t have to say ‘no’ to people’s needs, or just knowing we’ll be expanding soon to reach them,” Jacobs says. “I get a lot of emails from people who don’t currently have the internet speed and reliability they need to meet their requirements. We poll the people who write and visit our website to look for the areas where our services are most in need, especially for their children in school who need Zoom for interactive classroom learning. It’s critical for them.” Rich and Jacobs want to make sure they communicate their company’s products and services to every corner of the county and every level of the population, so they are beginning to market more with door-hanger flyers and cold-calling practices. As the company works to expand, existing customers have been happy.
Some existing businesses have seen a flattening because of the coronavirus, while others have been continuing full-steam during the crisis, Thomas reports.
Rhonda Miller has been an InfinityLink business customer since she moved her home salon business to a commercial location in Snow Hill, and also subscribes to the company’s home TV and internet service. She books her appointments online, advertises on Facebook and Instagram and provides free wi-fi for her customers.
“They’re all appreciative that the county (Thomas actually is not a county government official, but a contracted development agent) is reaching out to help,” he says. “Some of them have told us they’re not used to someone from the county coming to them and asking what they can do to help.”
“Before InfinityLink, all my advertising was by word of mouth,” Miller says. “Now we can post pictures and book appointments without having to interrupt our work in the shop. I can also message with customers even when I’m not at the shop. It’s all led to a drastic increase in my business.”
Thomas says one business owner told him he just signed a two-year contract for (lower-speed) internet service with CenturyLink because he wasn’t aware that he could get a full gigabyte of service from InfinityLink.
Miller appreciates the quality of InfinityLink’s product, with few technical issues, but easily remedied if one does occur because her service provider is local and attentive to her individual needs.
“I’ve asked Jeremy to get a campaign put together to let people know what he’s got, and when people mention it to me, I point them to Jeremy’s office so he can get a roster together of those who want the service,” Thomas says. “They might think, ‘Well, he’s not hooked in my neighborhood yet,’ but he might not go there because he’s gonna go where the biggest concentration of customers are.” 34 | Greene Living Magazine 2020
“I haven’t had an outage at all at the shop, and the speed is great,” she says. “Because they’re locally owned and operated, the technical support and customer service are friendlier, faster and more reliable. The only problem, according to the shop conversations I have with my customers, is getting InfinityLink established more widely in the county. They all ask me, ‘When are they coming to my area?’”
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Church Is A Rock Of Unity In Greene County Homecoming Is In The Heart At Little Creek After 292 Years STORY BY DONNA MARIE WILLIAMS, PHOTOS BY DEBORAH GRIFFIN
Withstanding the test of time, Little Creek Original Free Will Baptist Church celebrated its 292nd Homecoming in October.
The church was host to the General Conference in 1815, which served as the denomination’s annual gathering, and has been resilient through historical events such as the flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
You read that correctly. The church is eight years shy of 300.
While floodwaters rose above the pews, the congregation’s spirits were not hampered. Instead, members took to rebuilding their church, replacing pews, floorboards, pianos, organs and whatever else was needed to return.
Located in Scuffleton, the church has been in existence since before the birth of the United States government, though the exact date of establishment is unknown due to a fire. The church is believed to have been founded between 1727 and 1748 and is recognized as the oldest Free Will Baptist church in the denomination, and possibly the oldest church in Greene County. Little Creek is one of six Free Will Baptist Churches founded by Joseph Parker. Of the six, three remain in existence today, with Little Creek and Grimsley Free Will Baptist Church the only two remaining in Greene County. Though a scenic chapel exists today, Little Creek’s congregation first gathered in a smaller 20 by 30foot log cabin located closer to the Contentnea Creek, where it was referred to as A Jones Meeting House on Little Contentnea. A smaller framed building was built later in the years and moved further from the creek. This building was donated to a neighboring African American church circa 1880 and eventually burned in a fire. The existing church was constructed in 1880 and has undergone many renovations and remodeling, which has resulted in the present-day church.
38 | Greene Living Magazine 2020
Services continued at Farmer’s Funeral Home in Ayden until April 1, 2020, when services were moved into the church’s annex until the sanctuary was completed. Today, the church and congregation stand proud of the church’s long time history. This history is celebrated annually in-conjunction with the church’s Homecoming Service — a service that welcomes all members to return to the home Jesus Christ has built in them, its faithful members said. Though the service attracts visitors from far and wide, homecoming itself is more than the physical location of worship, according to Little Creek minister Phil Wood. “Homecoming happens when you and I allow God to make his home in us. Homecoming is always there. It can’t be taken away from you. They can tear down all the buildings down and take away all the Bibles, but as long as you and I have God in common it will remain,” Wood said. “Homecoming, in one sense, you can have wherever you are. God gives us the vertical relationship. Then there is the horizontal. As much as it’s wonderful to have the vertical relationship with God, we’re not the Lone Ranger. We’re called to come together, and that’s where the horizontal comes in.” Coming together has been important for the congregation’s survival since it creates unity, friendship and community and allows congregation members to further their journeys with Christ. “Sin divides us. Christ brings us together,” Wood said. “If the church is what it is supposed to be, if it is doing what it is supposed to be doing, then we’re just in a different building, because a church is God’s people regardless of denomination or size.”
Little Creek Original Free Will Baptist Church celebrated its 292nd homecoming service on Oct. 4, 2020.
But the church’s long history is more than the building itself. It is the people in the congregation who have chosen to continue the legacy of the church. “It’s nice to talk about the building. It’s a nice place. I see churches for sale all the time. But the congregation is never for sale,” Wood said. “This is a special place for people. What makes this place special is the people who have been in this building.” Like the building itself, the congregation of Little Creek Church has deep roots in the county and is constructed on long limes of family history, with families continuing the tradition of raising their families at the home church for generations.
“Homecoming happens when you and I allow God to make his home in us. Homecoming is always there. It can’t be taken away from you. They can tear down all the buildings down and take away all the Bibles, but as long as you and I have God in common it will remain.” Little
“There are people here that raise their family. They are law-abiding. They are good citizens and they are people of God. It goes from generation to generation. It doesn’t stop here. They try to pass it on to their children. And as long as that happens there will be a gathering,” Wood said. Jackie McLawhorn of Scuffleton has been attending the church for more than 44 years. “I love our family atmosphere. It’s tradition more than anything else. This church was originated with families from the areas. These families continue to support the church all these years and has been considered home to so many people whether they stayed here or moved away,” McLawhorn said. Hagar Blanchard Jackson has been attending the church since
1956 and has never had a desire “to go anywhere else.” For her, Little Creek is home to her and will be forever. “The word of God is preached here. Being with the people they are so warm, friendly and Christianity,” Jackson said. “Maybe it’s just the Christian family unity we have. We don’t want to leave.” The feelings of community, family and unity are not exclusive to Little Creek Church, but live in many churches in Greene County, who like Little Creek have withstood the years with longevity.
Founded between the years of 1727 and the congregation of Grimsley Free Creek Pastor, 1752, Will Baptist church remains strong, as do Phil Wood the congregations of Calvary Memorial United Methodist Church, 1808; First Baptist Church, 1850; Fort Run Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, 1894; Hookerton Christian Church, 1830; Howell Swamp Original Free Will Baptist Church, 1769; Hull Road Original Free Will Baptist Church, 1871; and Rainbow United Methodist Church, 1787; and many others whose congregations have held as strong to their faith as their community chapels. And just as God doesn’t give up on his people, the congregations in Greene County will remain vested within their community churches, worshiping together and vested in within the communities that have raised them. “It’s a God thing. As long as people have God in their heart, that doesn’t mean perfect people either, they will continue to meet and serve him,” Wood said. Greene Living Magazine 2020 |
Pastor Phillip Wood preaches the homecoming service.
A Bible from 1886 sits in the foyer of the church.
Little Creek Original Free Will Baptist Church celebrated 292 years on Oct. 4. Church member Angela West sang “Midnight Cry.”
Little Creek Original Free Will Baptist Church celebrated its 292nd homecoming service years on Oct. 4, 2020. Mrs. Hagar, in blue, likes to say, “We may be small, but we are still here.”
Members are silhouetted against the one of the church’s stained glass windows. She likes to say, “We may be small, but we are still here.”
A photograph on the wall shows members gathered at an early homecoming.
GREENE COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE 2019-20 CHAMBER BOARD OF DIRECTORS Dianne Andrews, President Misty Chase,Vice President
Judy Darden, Treasurer Georgia O’Briant, Secretary
208 N. Greene Street • 252-747-8090 Snow Hill, NC 28580 • greenecountychamber.org Email: gcchamberNC@gmail.com Dianne Andrews, President
BOARD MEMBERS Susan Andrews Susan Blizzard Michael Fulcher
Lee Heath Steve Rouse Allison Thomas
2020-21 MEMBERSHIP DIRECTORY
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Greene Living Magazine 2020 |
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