Moving day for Mint Hill Town Hall

The Mint Hill Town Hall made its official move last weekend to 4430 Mint Hill Village Lane.  Movers worked through the weekend to deliver newly ordered office furniture and boxes of files and supplies.  The town posted the moving plan on its website, stating the phone system could go down, but it made efforts to continue providing a high level of customer service to Mint Hill residents.  Monday was the first full operating day in the new building.  Staff will unpack this week and settle in.  Town Hall meetings will continue to take place at the old building.  The order for the new chairs for the assembly room is delayed and may not be ready until October or even as late as November.

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Aqua N.C. president talks with local customers

Private water service customers gathered in the Mint Hill Town Hall last Friday to hear from Aqua North Carolina president Tom Roberts regarding water quality.  Residents of Ashe Plantation have recently become vocal about a problem they say is decades old.

Meeting organizers invited Jeff Tarte, recently elected to the N.C. State Senate, N.C. Representative Bill Brawley from Mecklenburg County and member of the Public Utilities Committee in the House, and N.C. Public Utilities staff member David Furr, and Roberts had with him two Aqua North Carolina representatives with knowledge of the problems.

Tarte mediated the conversation and explained the focus of the conversation was on water quality, although he acknowledged that local customers were also upset about customer service and rates.  He allowed Aqua to explain what they are doing with Ashe Plantation’s wells, and followed that with some questions from residents.

“We already know what the problems are, so what we’re hoping to hear is what Aqua North Carolina is doing to remedy the situation,” said Tarte.

“One of the primary things that I do is meet with customers.  If I’m invited I will come.  Mrs. Decker and I have had a number of conversations, and I’m happy to be here tonight to have you hear from us,” said Roberts.  “We realize we’ll have to talk about some history, but what we’d like to do is look forward and talk about the future and where we think we’re going from our point of view.”

The Aqua representatives explained that an Ashe Plantation well experienced a malfunction earlier this summer, which caused a disruption in filter performance.  After the well was back in service, problems continued due to accumulated mineral deposits.  Aqua cleaned, flushed, and tested the water storage tank and flushed the distribution system.

To avoid future water quality problems, the company is monitoring water color leaving the filters by having installed sensors that will send an alarm and shut down the well.

The water company also ensured its customers that water is routinely tested and meets state and federal drinking water standards.

Aqua representative Michael Melton offered specific numbers regarding water quality and contaminates, though the customers said the numbers had no context or meaning to them.

A reoccurring topic during the conversation was the affect of bad press on the neighborhood.  Homeowners said realtors are avoiding the neighborhood, which is an “economic opportunity cost.”  Roberts responded saying he doesn’t “have that power over the press,” and recommended real estate agents call Aqua.  He also said he would like to talk with them.

“What is it going to take to get our water system up to a Charlotte quality water system so that it will attract new homeowners into the community and displace everything that we’ve seen in the news already about the water quality?  They’ve gone on the news already and said how poor the water quality was.  I think that the water needs to be fixed correctly today and then go back on the news and say how it was fixed and put together these bottles with clean water.  But if you can’t produce bottles with clean water then everything you say tonight is not going to mean anything,” said a customer.

“We love to do success stories, too,” said Roberts.  He suggested having the media cover the solution to the problem.

“We need a success story,” the customer responded.

Another customer said he has lived in Ashe Plantation for 24 years and has never had clean water.

“You’re not going to fix that well.  You either need to drill another well or let us have city water.  I know that’s your call,” he said.

“The technology exists for us to fix that well,” said Roberts.

Ashe Plantation homeowners’ association president Sharon Decker said she would like to have another meeting with Aqua to address other issues like rates.  She knows Aqua is willing to meet with them again.

“We appreciate everything the town of Mint Hill has done for us,” said Decker.  She was happy to hear about the resolution the town passed to ensure good water quality and service, and she appreciated being able to meet at the town hall.

“This is an inconvenience; it’s a health issue,” said Ashe Plantation homeowner Janis Barnett.  “They’ve done a good job of giving us more information than they had before, they told us what they’re doing to get that well back.”  She said she’s feeling hopeful about the situation.

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Therapy dogs help early readers at library

 

Teresa Faucette is a Therapy Dogs International volunteer and an experienced dog trainer.  She believes dogs provide health and emotional benefits for humans, and she wants to spread those benefits to as many people as she can.  Her sheltie, Max, is a disaster stress relief dog who has helped people after the 2011 Alabama tornado outbreak as well as local hospitals.

“There has been so much scientific proof that dogs can help with stressed and troubled people.  Max, my dog, participated in a program for CMC where they took the vital signs of people before and after dogs visited – these were repertory and cardiac patients – and found that the dogs made a remarkable difference in blood pressure and things like that.”

Faucette created a program in the library system to help early readers become confident readers.  She and other volunteers bring their dogs to the Mint Hill library for Paws to Read every month.

Max and other highly trained dogs will hold the page down for children as they read.  Some can read flashcards, and since no one is perfect, children can be more forgiving of themselves when they miss a word because even their four-legged reading partner misses words once in a while.  Faucette says the aim of the program, which she created, is to help children feel good about themselves and about reading.

“Reading is so important, and if we can give the child encouragement, that’s what it’s about,” she said.  “You want children to always think of the library and books as a fun thing to do.  This is a good place.  That’s what we try to do.  It’s a different atmosphere for the kids.  It’s relaxed.  If you get a word wrong, oh well, the dog’s not going to say anything.”

Early readers often find themselves frustrated while reading.  Reading to dogs allows them to feel free of judgment, and they can take a time-out to pet the dog and try again.

Faucette is a resident of Mint Hill and has been training dogs for 18 years.  She and Max offer many other programs for children and adults.  At the school level, Max can help teach children about fire safety, nutrition, and, of course, the reading program.  For more information about Therapy Dogs International and Faucette’s volunteer program, contact her at teresafaucette@bellsouth.net.

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Local Levine Scholars explored Alaskan wilderness

Take yourself out of the green hills of the North Carolina piedmont and into the isolated, daunting boulder fields of wild Alaska.  Enormous rocks are between you and your destination: the campsite up and over the hill.  A freezing rain numbs your body and makes every climbing step that much more dangerous.  Would you be able to step up to the challenge?

Seventeen incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte were faced with this scene this summer.  They weren’t expert hikers or campers – just scholars with a great opportunity.  The relatively new Levine Scholars Program at UNCC provides extraordinary graduating high school students a full scholarship that includes a summer course with the National Outdoor Leadership School.  This year’s students traveled to Alaska to hike and camp for 23 days in the remote wilderness.

Among those traveling were Dr. Mike Richardson, physician at Carolinas Medial Center in Mint Hill, director of the Leon Levine Foundation, and contributor to the Mint Hill Times, and two local students, Jackie Chan and Isabel Fee.

Leon Levine Foundation

Leon Levine is a North Carolina native and the founder of Family Dollar.  He has recently retired and dedicated his time to the Leon Levine Foundation, created in 1980.  The foundation focuses on four main areas: healthcare, education, Jewish values, and human services.

The Levine name is found throughout the Charlotte area: Levine Cancer Institute,

Levine Children’s Hospital, Levine Center for Wellness and Recreation at Queens University, Central Piedmont Community College Levine Campus, Levine Jewish Community Center, Levine Center for the Arts, Levine Museum of the New South.

UNCC Levine Scholars Program

Five years ago Richardson and Levine were talking about building a scholarship program for a Charlotte school.  Richardson was a Morehead Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill, and through that program he had the opportunity to hike through Wyoming in a NOLS course.  Levine wanted to offer a prestigious scholarship similar to Richardson’s experience.  They approached UNC Charlotte with their ideas, and the first class of Levine Scholars began their academic careers in the fall of 2010.

The Levine Scholarship is a full scholarship covering tuition, fees, and housing.  It also includes extra programs.  Entering freshmen attend the NOLS course.  The first class hiked in Wyoming, and the next two classes have traveled through Alaska.  The second summer focuses on non-profit work in Charlotte.  Students not only dedicate time and energy to a non-profit, they also learn how a non-profit organization functions.  They meet the board of directors, learn the financial side, and look for needs.  The third summer requires an internship, and the fourth year is a study abroad experience.  Students are also given a grant of up to $8,000 for a non-profit project that they design.

The Levine Scholars Program aims to attract top students with a passion for making a difference to the Charlotte area.  This scholarship draws students to UNC Charlotte when they might have chosen schools like Duke University or Chapel Hill.  Chan and Fee both stated the scholarship was a determining factor in their attendance at UNCC.

Alaskan Adventure

Chan and Fee recently began their first semester of college classes.  Within their first week they’ve faced the challenges of advanced learning and dedication to schoolwork.  Chan is a pre-biology major and a recent graduate from Bulter High School.  She has an interest in cancer research, and has spoke with faculty about exploring that interest within her department.  Fee graduated from Rocky River High School as salutatorian and is an architecture student.  She understands she will basically be living in the studio for four years.

They know they will persevere through the next four years.  If they learned anything during their Alaskan adventure, it was perseverance.  They hiked for 23 days in isolated wilderness with a group of people they had never met before.  They didn’t shower.  They carried 35-45 pounds on their backs. They set up and disassembled camp every day.

Richardson said it was the coldest and wettest July in Alaska in the last 100 years.  Chan saw her shadow only a couple times, and no one saw true night.  They were so far north that the darkest times were from 1:30-4 am, and even then it was just twilight.  After hiking six miles a day carrying everything to keep them alive, they were still able to sleep without the darkness.

Chan said the most terrifying moment was crossing the boulder field.  Mother Nature creates dangerous terrain.  Not only did the group need to climb the boulders up and across a hill, but the freezing rain created an extra challenge.

“It was really frightening because it’s one of those things where if you stepped on a wrong rock you could roll down the side of a mountain,” she said.  “I thought, ‘I have to keep going.’  I’ve always had that safety net.  Being out there and having no safety net was so scary, but it was also the most rewarding experience.”

Fee enjoyed being able to appreciate the natural setting.  She said each mountain was different and beautiful.  They offered a variety of flowers, animals, and waterways.  They spotted porcupines, moose, hundreds of caribou, and a bald eagle.  The water was crystal clear and delicious.

The students were equipped with various jackets, tents, cooking gear, compasses, and a topographical map.  In all, they hiked 75 miles.  No one starved, froze, or injured themselves.

“My goal was to get through it,” laughed Chan.

The focus of the NOLS trip was leadership.  Every day a student led the group.  Leadership involved mapping routes and setting up camp.  They learned about their leadership styles; relationship builders, those who don’t yield to others.  Richardson said one of the biggest challenges the students may not have recognized was learning to follow when they may have been leaders throughout their lives.  In a group of peers with similar abilities, it’s difficult to let go of control.

Apart from learning leadership skills, the students also learned about themselves.

“It’s one of those things you can say you’ve only done once in your life,” said Chan.  “It taught me a lot about how I deal with frustration.  There were days when I had to push through it.  If I could do that I can do anything.”

“I learned how to deal with emotional stress.  It will help me a lot in college,” said Fee.

The group left Alaska and entered Witherspoon Hall on the UNCC campus.  They will continue to work together and live together, providing support for each other and future Levine Scholars.

“We really had to come together and form a camaraderie,” said Fee.

Richardson, the Leon Levine Foundation, and UNC Charlotte are excited to see the future success of these and future adventurer-scholars.

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Library offers something for everyone

Mint Hill library manager, Mark Engelbrecht, called the library’s webpage their “best kept secret.”  The website offers information about the library’s catalog, services, classes, and events.  Classes and events provide residents of all ages with story times, arts and crafts, computer assistance, and educational support.

“We don’t want it to be a secret,” said Engelbrecht.  “We want self sufficiency for people who want to look things up themselves.”

To find a class or event, visit www.cmlibrary.org.  Click on Classes/Events from the series of tabs across the top of the homepage.  There are a number of ways to find an event.  The calendar allows for a search on a specific date, and searches can be made by event type, location, and age range.

Upcoming technology classes include Internet Basics, PowerPoint Basics, and Excel Basics.  Classes are open to any residents, but homeschooled children and adults reentering the workforce often attend these.  Since the economic downturn, many adults are turning to the library for support.

“A lot of what we help people with on a day-to-day basis is job search related,” said Engelbrect.

An upcoming class designed specifically for teens is Intro to Stop-Motion Photography.  Teens ages 12 to 18 are invited to register to create their own stop-motion animation using ReadyANIMATOR equipement.  The class is September 19 at 4:30 pm, and registration begins September 5.

The library offers numerous afterschool events for elementary school students.  Children can create a collage with local artist, Romare Bearden, learn about Johnny Appleseed with author Brooke Kramb, learn about historical periods in the American Girl Book Club, discover electricity in Let’s Get Charged Up, and celebrate the author of Curious George.

A popular reoccurring event is Paws for Reading, held the second and fourth Saturday of every month.  Trained therapy dogs come to the library to sit with early readers while they read aloud.

“It helps encourage a new reader to get comfortable reading out loud.  They’re not getting corrected, they’re not getting judged.  It’s just way for children to get comfortable reading,” said Engelbrecht.

Babies, toddlers, and pre-school children are invited to attend weekly morning storytelling.

“I’m glad that we’re able to offer as much as we are, considering we’re still half the staff that we were two or three years ago,” said Engelbrecht.  “We offer a great deal of classes and events for our community.  I know the community appreciates us, and I appreciate their support.”

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