Gaston & Catawba

Library offers science, tech, math, arts classes for children

STEAM learning programs: The Catawba County Library System has planned free STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning sessions this month for children kindergarten through fourth grade.

The programs include:

Let It Snow: 5 p.m. Jan. 20, Main Library, 115 W. C St., Newton. Learn about the elements of snow and snowflakes, perform a science experiment and make snow. Registration not required.

Stone Soup: 5 p.m. Jan. 27, Main Library, 115 W. C St., Newton. Celebrating National Soup Month, kids will read the book “Stone Soup” and make their own pot of soup.

Astronomy: 4 p.m. Jan. 15, Southwest Branch, 2944 N.C. 127 S., Hickory. Registration required. Register in person or call 828-466-6818.

Astronomy II: 4 p.m. Jan. 22, Southwest Branch, 2944 N.C. 127 S., Hickory. Registration required. Register in person or call 828-466-6818.

Spanish for kids: Free basic Spanish classes for school-aged children 10-11 a.m. Saturdays through mid-March at the Sherrills Ford-Terrell Branch Library, 9154 Sherrills Ford Road, Terrell. Victoria Jones is the instructor. Registration is not required. For details, call 828-466-6827.

Cyberkids Robotics: All seven locations of the Catawba County Library have recently offered free Cyberkids Robotics learning labs through a grant administered by the State Library of North Carolina.

A total of 52 local students in fifth to 12th grades are about to complete the course using Lego Mindstorm EV3 robots. The exercise stimulated learning in math, physics, computer skills and problem solving and encouraged leadership and teamwork skills. Teams will mentor others who wish to learn robotics, and all teams will compete with their robots on a model course for countywide honors on Feb. 21.

Siobhan Loendorf, assistant library director, coordinated the robotics project for the library system. Cyberkids classes normally cost about $300 per child. Cyberkids Robotics is a nonprofit organization in Lenoir.

Youth auditions: The Green Room Community Theatre will hold auditions for its all-youth productions, “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and “The Clockmaker’s Child,” at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 and Jan. 12, both at the Old Post Office Playhouse, 10 S. Main Ave., Newton. Entrance is through the lower rear door on South Ashe Avenue.

The auditions are open to youth in first to 12th grades. Performance dates for “The Adventures of Robin Hood” are March 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 with school shows scheduled for March 12 and 13. “The Clockmaker’s Child” performance dates are March 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29 with school shows scheduled for March 26 and 27.

Those wishing to audition should wear comfortable clothes for movement and be prepared to read from the script. Actors should be available for all scheduled performances. For details, call the Green Room office at 828-464-6583 or visit

Yoga for Seniors: The Newton Parks and Recreation Department and the Catawba County Council on Aging will offer Yoga for Seniors to ages 55 and older 10-11 a.m. Thursdays in January at the Newton Recreation Center, 23 S. Brady Ave., Newton.

Instructor Marjorie Blubaugh, a certified yoga teacher with more than 20 years of experience practicing and teaching yoga, will lead the class. She will provide individual attention, assist participants with physical limitations and offer alternative movements to prevent discomfort.

No registration is required. For details, call the Newton Parks and Recreation Department at 828-695-4317 or visit


New CEO: Mark Benz became the new chief executive officer at Frye Regional Medical effective Jan. 5. Most recently, Benz served as regional vice president at CRC Health in Philadelphia, where he was responsible for the company’s eastern region of health care systems.

Previously, Benz served as division project chief executive officer at Community Health Systems in Franklin, Tenn.; president and CEO of Community Health System’s Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, Pa., and Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite City, Ill.

Benz earned his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Arizona State University in Tempe. Additionally, he is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

New chief information officer: Catawba County recently named Michael “Rick” Pilato as the new chief information officer for the county. Pilato has been serving as the interim chief information officer since September.

He has been employed by Catawba County for 17 years, beginning as a business manager at Catawba County Social Services in 1998.

As chief information officer, Pilato will serve as department director for Information Technology and Geographic Information Systems, supervising 27 employees. He will oversee development of new technologies and work to improve access to information and service efficiency for Catawba County residents.

Pilato will also manage several existing technology-related partnerships between the county and municipalities within the county, with plans to strengthen the county’s Web presence through an enhanced mobile app.

Pilato lives in Granite Falls with his family. He served on the Corporate Board of the YMCA of Catawba Valley 2011-2014 and serves with the Leadership Catawba program of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, including a year as Leadership Catawba chairman in 2010. He is a member of First Citizen's Robert Carlisle Foundation Trust board of directors.

Retirement: Fire apparatus operator Phillip Burns recently retired from the Hickory Fire Department. Burns began his employment with the city of Hickory on April 16, 1984, as a firefighter. He worked through the ranks and on Feb. 16, 1989, he was promoted to fire apparatus operator.

Compiled by Gina Smith