Gaston & Catawba

2 to receive MLK Unity Award

Unity Award: James Converse Biggers Jr., and Judge Jesse B. Caldwell III will be presented with the 2015 Gaston County MLK Unity Award during a ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 19 at the MLK Plaza on the corner of Marietta Street and Long Avenue in downtown Gastonia.

The Gaston County MLK Unity Award recognizes current or former Gaston County residents who have performed exemplary community service to help build bridges of unity across lines of race, class, gender, faith and municipalities within the county.

Biggers is a native of Gaston County, longtime educator and visual artist, whose work reflects his African heritage and is featured in museums across the United States. Now retired, Biggers has held teaching positions in public schools, colleges and museums during the past 30 years and currently serves as an adjunct professor at Gaston College.

Caldwell also grew up in Gaston County. With a degree from UNC Law School, he has practiced law for more than 20 years in the public defender’s office and as a North Carolina Superior Court Judge since 1993.

Caldwell is a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church in Gastonia, where he has been active as a Sunday school teacher, certified lay speaker and member of outreach and ministry programs.

Awards are being presented by the Gaston Clergy and Citizens Coalition (GC3), an initiative of Gaston Together. The GC3 meets at 9 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at CaroMont Regional Hospital, 2525 Court Drive, Gastonia. To learn more, call Gaston Together at 704-867-9869.

Emergency care center opens: A ribbon-cutting was held recently to celebrate the opening of CaroMont Regional Medical Center – Mount Holly. The facility, which officially opened to the public on Jan. 13, provides hospital-level emergency care 24-hours a day to residents in eastern Gaston, southern Lincoln and western Mecklenburg counties.

To learn more, visit

American history program: Sparky and Rhonda Rucker perform fingerpicking and bottleneck blues guitar, harmonica, old-time banjo, spoons and bones during Heroes and Hard Times: American History through Story and Song, 2 p.m. Jan. 31 at Gaston County Public Library Auditorium, 1555 East Garrison Blvd., Gastonia.

The event features American music and stories spanning three centuries of history, including eras of slavery, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, the birth of blues music and the civil rights movement.

Heroes and Hard Times is presented by Gaston County Public Library, in partnership with Friends of Gaston County Public Library, as part of the 2014-15 Live @ Your Library family arts series. Admission is free and appropriate for all ages.

Advanced reservations are suggested for organized groups to ensure seating. For information, call 704-868-2164, ext. 4, or visit

Art and orchids: Experience the fantasy drawings of W. Gary Smith on display against a backdrop of colorful orchids during the exhibition Art & Orchids through March 18 at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont.

Exhibit goers can learn how Smith’s art inspired Lost Hollow, the new children’s garden, discover the beauty of orchids and explore their own creativity with hands-on classes and events.

As part of the exhibit, the garden will host an Art, Orchid and Wine Tour opening reception from 3-5 p.m. Jan. 18. Tickets are $50 per person and reservations can be made at or by calling 704-829-1294.

An orchid sale, featuring Woodland Orchids, will take place 9 a.m.-3 p.m. today. Children’s Art Weekend, featuring special crafts to foster the creativity of children will be held Feb. 14-15.

Art & Orchid is included in garden admission, which is free of members, $12 for adults, $11 for seniors 60 and older, and $6 for children ages 4-12. For information, call 704-825-4490.

Citizens Police Academy: Applications are being accepted for the spring semester of Gastonia Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy, scheduled to begin March 10. The Citizens Police Academy focuses on Gastonia Police operations and allows residents to experience conditions similar to those police go through in their training and on the job.

Academy participants must be at least 18 and are subject to a background check. There is no fee for the academy, just a commitment to attend all classes, which are held 6-8:30 p.m. one night a week for 11 weeks. Training topics include segments on the department’s K-9 unit, SWAT Team, crime prevention programs and more.

Applications are available at the Gastonia Police Department, 200 E. Long Ave., Gastonia, and at Deadline for applications is Feb. 20. For information, call officer Amy Hawkins at 704-842-5117.

Classes at the garden: Learn about orchid pollination, yoga, papercrafting and photography at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont. Upcoming classes include:

Digital SLRI: The Basics: 1:30-4 p.m. Jan. 18

Wellness and Rejuvenation Yoga Series: 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Jan. 24, Feb. 7, Feb. 21 and March 7

Orchid Pollination: 1-3 p.m. Jan. 24

Papercrafting: All Occasions: 1:15-3:15 p.m. Jan. 25

Papercrafting with Kids: Valentines: 10 a.m.-noon Jan. 31

For information or to register for a class, visit or call 704-829-1294.

Senior Bingo Nights: The Gaston County Senior Center in Dallas offers monthly senior bingo nights for adults ages 55 and older. Bingo nights are free and include prizes. For information on this and other upcoming events, call Gaston County Parks and Recreation Center at 704-922-2170 or visit

Annual reports available: The Partnership for Children of Lincoln and Gaston Counties Fiscal Year 2014 annual reports are now available.

Pickup locations include The Partnership for Children of Lincoln and Gaston Counties office, 120 Roechiling St., Dallas, The Gaston County Chamber of Commerce, 601 W. Franklin Blvd, Gastonia, The Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, 101 E. Main St., Lincolnton, and The Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce, 100 N. Main St., Suite 100, Belmont.

For information, call Amy Wadsworth, public information officer, at 704-922-0900.

Call for artists: The Art Crawl Downtown Lincolnton Committee invites local artists to participate in the upcoming art crawl March 13. Area merchants will host Lincoln County artists and craftspeople, showcasing a variety of fine art and craft mediums, including painting, drawing, photography, pottery, fiber arts, jewelry, metal smith, wood turning and more.

The art crawl is a free event for artists and the public. Deadline for artist registration is March 6. For information, or to register as an artist, email the Arts Council of Lincoln County at or call 704-732-9044.

Compiled by Mary Katherine Creel