One year ago, Cabarrus News was born.
The goal: provide you with news about your local community and your neighbors.
We've enjoyed every minute of that first year, and we hope you have too.
Senior regional editor Tom Tozer launched the section as part of a growing commitment to local news.
In March and April, he moved on to start two sections for South Charlotte, and I came aboard, along with Sergio Tovar, preps writer and web expert, and Tracy Yochum, copy editor and designer. Staff writer Meghan Cooke was already on board.
We've had fun.
During the past year, our staffers and a great crew of freelance writers have covered all kinds of exclusive stories: stories about your neighbors, your children and your pets. Those stories often captured hope but occasionally reflected sadness.
Meghan helped Cabarrus County pay tribute in words and photos to its fallen soldiers, writing about Army Pfc. Christopher Barton, who died May 24, and then Pfc. James Fleet McClamrock, who died Sept. 7.
She interviewed World War II veterans like 86-year-old Eugene Medlin and 92-year-old James Eudy. When he was younger, Eudy couldn't talk about what he had seen. Now he can, and Meghan gave him a way to tell his story.
Meghan also told the story of the Train Man, James Russell, who sketches trains while hanging out at the old post office off Robinson Church Road. Russell, 46, has a developmental disability and has been drawing trains since December 1981. Meghan shared photos of his art with all of us.
She also dug into the history of the Cabarrus County Fair, interviewing former Concord Mayor Harold McEachern. She took photos of the fair midway and of the stars of the Doggies of the Wild West Variety Show.
Her subject matter has also included local food and local farms, missionaries from Concord Christian Church in Haiti after the earthquake and the county's struggle with too many stray animals.
About those stray animals: We're proud to do our part to try to give some of them homes, by running their photos every week, along with information about how you can adopt them. Almost all of the animals we feature in the paper find homes.
Freelancer Erica Batten has written about sardines for pregnant women, hang gliding, ice cream, home schooling, coupons and growing up on a tobacco farm, among other topics.
And many other freelancers - your neighbors - helped us cover the stories that matter in your communities.
As we enter our second year, we'll continue to look for your help telling your stories. We're always looking to talk with people interested in being freelancers. And The Charlotte Observer is seeking people who want to help shape coverage of their communities through the Public Insight Journalism project. Participants answer questions and contribute ideas that only will be shared with journalists, for journalism projects that affect you.
And this Saturday, The Observer is holding a community workshop to share information about how to publish local news online, through your own blog or website. The seminar is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at The Observer building, 600 S. Tryon St. Cost is $10 to help cover lunch. Register here: bit.ly/oregister and read more details here: bit.ly/hyperdetail.
Most of all, those of us on the community news team would like to take the occasion of our section's birthday to say thank you. Please keep reading, and e-mail or pick up the phone. We get better with your feedback.
In the county fair story, McEachern, the former Concord mayor, told Meghan that community involvement from local people, businesses and churches made the fair a success.
"If you take the community out of the fair, all you've got is a carnival," said McEachern.
Help us keep that community an integral part of Cabarrus News, too.