Local residents honored at NAACP event

"Everyone is an essential piece of the puzzle" was the theme for the South Iredell/Mooresville Branch NAACP's 75th annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet. Guests and members gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn May 1 to celebrate and recognize contributions of local citizens.

Franklin McCain, an icon of the civil rights movement, was the keynote speaker.

On Feb. 1, 1960, McCain and three other African-American freshmen at N.C. A&T State University were refused service when they sat at the white-only lunch counter at an F.W. Woolworth store in Greensboro. In response, additional students joined the young men, and the lunch counter was desegregated. The nonviolent sit-in movement grew and spread to campuses throughout the South.

McCain, a life member of the NAACP, did not talk about his experiences as a member of the Greensboro Four, but he challenged the audience to think about a few things. He discussed the Tea Party movement, differences between free speech and hate speech, revisionist history and financial reform.

He reminded listeners that the state legislature is wrestling with budget deficits and appropriations. Everything will be affected, and everyone should be aware of issues and vote.

As he smiled and shook hands with well-wishers, the affable speaker posed for pictures, answered questions and gave advice. He admonished one young man to complete his college degree.

McCain has high expectations for today's youth. He believes they should follow their consciences. "Just do the Nike thing: Just do it," he said.

"Kids with good hearts have the right instincts," he added.

Building on the theme of involvement, the Rev. William Conrad recognized Mooresville Graded Schools District Superintendent Mark Edwards, attorney Cliff Homesley and author Leon Pridgen.

The men were honored for their community service. Edwards has fostered a partnership between the school system and the NAACP. Homesley has provided legal advice to the organization, and Pridgen has provided service to the school system.

Branch President Vanessa Campbell described the design of paperweights shaped like puzzles presented to recipients. Each person selected for an award represents an invaluable asset to the community.

Other vital components are corporations who support the work of the organization. Calvin Adams, regional vice president of distribution for Lowe's Companies, announced a donation of $1,500 to support the local chapter. "Lowe's is proud to be a part of this community," he said.

In January, the company's Charitable and Educational Foundation awarded $30,000 to the NAACP's Project Save initiatives, and employees volunteered to mentor students.

Adams said the company donated $250,000 to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro in February.

In 2009, Lowe's awarded $250,000 to the United Negro College Fund and $150,000 to the Hispanic Scholarship fund to provide emergency scholarships for seniors who are on track to graduate but lack money to pay their tuition.

Kristen Talley, operations specialist for Food Lion, announced a donation of $1,000 to the local chapter. "We have a passion for serving communities and neighbors," she said. The company has been a sponsor of NAACP for 20 years.