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Tour of Mont Blanc

August 25, 2016

hikeAfter getting married in May, Dr. Darian Smith and his wife, Nicole, chose to spend their honeymoon doing something out of the ordinary, hiking one of the world’s most beautiful long distance trails, passing through France, Italy, and Switzerland.
While many people are lured to the beauty of the Alps, but only wanting to enjoy them from small European towns, Darian and Nicole, who both enjoy the great outdoors, were not only drawn to their beauty, but also the challenge that the majestic mountains offer.
“We wanted something that would be authentic, something challenging we could grow from and something that would give us memories we could share with our future children,” said Nicole.
“It’s also one of the top hiking destinations in the world for backpackers,” Darian added.
What also drew the couple to the area was that Darian had an interest in running the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (ULMB), an ultra marathon. After hiking and running additional mileage along the route each day, Darian’s interest has only grown.
Previous to the trip, Darian and Nicole trained by hiking with packs around Pilot Mountain, running and getting in any cardio they could.
After training and purchasing a topographic map and a guide book, “The Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guide” by Kev Reynolds, they set out for their trip on July 19. After traveling to their starting point in Italy, Darian and Nicole averaged 11 miles over the course of eight days, and finished on the ninth day by pushing their limits and hiking 18 ½ miles.
While hiking, Darian and Nicole carried packs weighing roughly 25 pounds, which held their sleeping bags, tent, food and cooking supplies, first aid kit, rain gear, extra layers for warmth, and sunscreen. To save weight, they opted to not carry sleeping pads.
“Extra layers were very important because of the elevation changes and because it got cold at night,” Darian said. “We also hiked through snow, but we were there when they had the least amount of snow, which is in mid-July and August.”
Darian and Nicole met many other people, including seasoned hikers who had hiked the trail multiple times.
“We met a British couple and another British guy who had hiked the trail four times. He was retired from the British Army,” Nicole said. “We also met a family from the Netherlands and a young couple from Canada.”
“We averaged seeing 20-30 people daily and would see the same people because we would do accordion style hiking and pass each other,” Darian said.
With over 100 miles to cover, there were many different options for bedding down each night, from sleeping in a tent to staying in a warm bed in a hostel.
“We stayed in two high-altitude hostels (refuge), and we stayed in one hotel. The rest of the time, we camped in our tent at a campground,” Nicole said.
Darian added, “They discourage you from setting up camp on the trail, but we came real close to camping on the side of the trail in Switzerland because it was pouring rain. There was one tent set up and it was flooded. Luckily, we ended up getting into one of the high altitude hostels, where they feed you breakfast and dinner. Everyone was happy to be there.”
Nicole explained that the first one they stayed in had 20 beds in one room.
“They had a coin shower that gave you two minutes of water and only a minute of it is warm water,” she said. “The other refuge was the complete opposite. We had our own room with our own bed and we shared the shower on the hall, but it had warm water the whole time. That’s the one we stayed in after the rainstorm.”
Nicole and Darian also faced challenges with steep climbs along Mont Blanc.
“One of the most difficult parts was Fenetre d’Arpette, which was a true mountain pass, where you’re gaining 3,000 feet over boulder and ice fields with really steep places where you’d have had to have three points of contact,” Darian shared.
Nicole said the hardest part for her was when they reached the top of the pass and were going back down the boulder field, essentially climbing down what they had just climbed up, but on the opposite side.
“It was challenging physically, but I liked it,” she said, adding that there was a rewarding view from the pass. “To the left as you are going down, you have a view of this massive glacier, called Glacier du Trient. It was so beautiful. It was an alternate route we took. I was really nervous about doing it in the beginning, but I’m so glad we did.”
Nicole said there were several alternate routes they could choose from that were more challenging.
Darian stated that the most difficult part of hiking Mont Blanc was staying the course.
“I think the most difficult thing was just making sure we were going in the right direction the whole time. The trails were marked really well, except in France. Sometimes the distances and times were off, but their signs were the prettiest. In Switzerland, everything was so pretty and perfect; and Italy over did their signs,” he said.
Darian and Nicole encountered a few high altitude storms with sleet. On their first day, Nicole said after taking an alternate route, they ran into a lot of scree (loose stones), causing their feet to slide more than usual.
Nicole said at the end of difficult days she was usually really sore, but because they were well fed and rested, when she got up in the morning, it was like starting fresh.
As for the food, they really enjoyed the cheese, sausage and chocolate they found along the Tour of Mont Blanc.
“Most days you pass through a town and every two or three days we would re-supply at a town market, and sometimes the campgrounds would have beer. When we stopped, we would stock up on cheese, sausage, chocolate,” Darian said. “We started with dehydrated American food and ended up eating sausage, cheese, chocolate, and peanut butter. The peanut butter saved our lives in calories. We put it on everything.”
Although there were some challenges along the Tour of Mont Blanc, the beauty and memories made it all worthwhile.
“I liked when we hiked up the Col de Tricot. It was just a really long hike; we were looking forward to eating lunch,” Darian said. “There was a herd of sheep that kept trying to nibble on our packs. We had to kind of push them away.”
Nicole and Darian also saw marmots, falcons, cows grazing on high altitude pastures, donkeys, horses, and miniature donkeys and horses.
Nicole said her favorite moment was at Refuge d’ Elisabetta in Italy.
“This was my favorite because we were going to have a tough trek, so we treated ourselves to lunch. We ended up running into this interesting hiker who recommended that we go to (Refuge d’ Elisabetta) to eat,” she explained. “They served fresh pasta and gnocchi. They also have amazing espresso, which kept us going. It was freezing at the peak, where we ate. I ate the lasagna and Darian got the gnocchi.”
Another great moment for Darian and Nicole was when they were presented with a bottle of champagne at their campground, called La Fouly, in Switzerland.
“They gave us a bottle of champagne because they knew we were on our honeymoon,” Nicole stated.
In reminiscing about the beauty along the Tour of Mont Blanc, they said the entire trail was beautiful; however, their most beautiful memory was on the Italian side.
“You had 8,000 feet of rock, ice and glacier in front of you and you are already at 7,000 feet. The Alps just rise up so steeply. They aren’t as high as other mountain ranges, but they rise up so steeply so the valleys are very narrow because of it,” Darian said, adding that one of his favorite photographs he took along the trail was an outline of Nicole leaning against a tree in the shadows with a view of the snowy white capped peaks behind her.
After completing the challenging trail, Nicole and Darian are looking forward to doing more memorable adventures in the future.

Kernersville Street Church

August 23, 2016

copesLuke and Anna Cope will kick off the opening of Kernersville Street Church on September 4 during a block party at Interactive Resource Center (IRC) to serve the homeless community.
Luke and Anna both grew up in Kernersville, graduating from East Forsyth and Glenn high schools.
While Anna works with youth at Tumblebee’s in Greensboro as a gymnastics coach, Luke transitioned from working at The Summit to working on opening their church, which is located at 310 Smith Edwards Road.
Luke explained that the idea for the church grew out of his interest in offering a church that focuses more outwardly on local missions.
“When I was 17, I started working on staff at The Summit Church, but I was also in a Christian band with Chris Barrans, called Vital Cadence, and we had dreams of doing church a little different than it has ever been done,” he said. “Church has been more about bringing people in than serving the community. I love corporate church and what they’re doing, I just have a desire to do it differently.”
Luke left The Summit in January and in March, he, Anna and five other families have been discussing their ideas for Kernersville Street Church. He said the goal for Kernersville Street Church is to be a place for people to come together, but also to serve, first.
“There are also a lot of people our age who want to feel a calling to something and that’s what we want to provide. We want to provide an opportunity for people in the Triad to get out of their comfort zone and serve,” he said. “There is only so much you can get out of sitting in a seat at a church. We want to be hands-on and create a church to serve other people, but also provide an opportunity for people to serve others.”
Luke said he wants to serve locally because of the large need in the area.
“Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point are ranked nationally as a place where people cannot put food on the table. I believe there is good in doing (international) missions, but there’s a lot we need to do locally,” he said.
Luke noted that Kernersville Street Church meets in an old race garage on Smith Edwards Road; therefore, they have no overhead.
“We have no overhead, so I feel that the other stuff will fall into place,” he said.
Luke explained that their main targets will be to serve the homeless community through IRC in Greensboro and Naaman’s Recovery Village in High Point.
“Our first serve project will be on September 4. We are doing a Labor Day block party, where we will be grilling out and doing corn hole and things like that. We want to give them something fun and love on the staff there,” he said, noting that they want to help the homeless and the people who are in danger of becoming homeless. “The reality is that being homeless or becoming homeless can happen to anyone.”
Luke explained that Naaman’s Recovery Village is a Christ-centered rehabilitation facility for men in High Point.
“Because the guys are trying to get clean, they are having to start from the bottom, which makes it easier to fall back into their addiction because it’s stressful,” he said. “Mark, the owner, has provided a place for them and opened a thrift store at the end of the street so they can earn some money. We’ve helped them with groceries and plan to continue to help them so they don’t fall back into their addiction.”
Luke shared that they held a block party for Naaman’s Recovery Village, as well.
“It’s an opportunity for them to get their mind off of things,” he said. “God cares as much about you as anybody else. He doesn’t care who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. We don’t want to be a church that just says that, but models it.”
Kernersville Street Church will meet every Sunday for worship at 10 a.m., and will serve every other week, following the service, using Naaman’s Recovery Village and IRC as their two main ministries.
“September 4 will be a mini church opportunity for us to grow spiritually, and in March or April of next year, we will do a hard launch. We will be building it up until then,” he said.
Kernersville Street Church is located at 310 Smith Edwards Road. For more information, visit them on Facebook, info@kernersvillestreetchurch.net, or call 336-908-2619.

New Executive Director

August 18, 2016

erinAs Rosemary Seuss left the YMCA’s Kernersville branch to help at another location, Erin Craver is being welcomed in as the Kernersville YMCA’s new executive director with her passion for working with children.
Craver grew up in Winston-Salem and graduated from Reynolds High School in 1997. After high school, she attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she double majored in psychology and human development and family relations.
Craver started out with an interest in pre-law, but soon realized she wanted to work with children.
After college, Craver worked at SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) before she took a position at the William G. White, Jr. Family YMCA in Winston-Salem.
“I enjoyed working at SCAN, but it was a very trying position,” she said. “At the Y, I still got to fulfill my passion for kids.”
Craver said she started out at William G. White, Jr. Family YMCA as the family life director, overseeing camps and childcare, as well as special events such as birthday parties and Healthy Kids Day.
Craver said her biggest passion and priority is to help equip families and their kids with what they need in order to develop confidence.
“I think a lot of times, you have to help build character and confidence, whether it’s a child or adult. The Y has very intentional programs to help do that and that’s what I fell in love with at the Y and that is why I have stayed with them for 10 years,” she explained. “What intrigues me about youth and their family is that it does take a village to raise a kid and the Y is perfectly situated to reach both the community and families.”
Having the experience she gained in her previous position, Craver is confident in continuing the growth of the Kernersville Y and is looking forward to building programs.
“I am looking forward to getting to know the community better, meeting new faces and reconnecting with people from when I was younger,” she said. “I look forward to my stretched goal to grow the membership and programming, and inviting the community in and getting to know the YMCA. I think there is a lot of untapped potential here in the community.”
In getting to know the community, Craver has also joined the Kernersville Rotary Club.
“I am finding different ways to get embedded in the community,” she said. “I like to meet new people and I am thrilled.”
Craver shared that in building on the programs at the Kernersville YMCA, they have recently hired a new full-time staff person to oversee their exercise programs.
“My immediate goals are to provide more group exercise programs. We are more than just a gym and swimming. I think it’s important to help people reach their potential,” she said.
Craver said in the near future they will be redesigning the wellness room, where the cardio equipment is located.
“We want to get some color on the walls,” she remarked.
Craver is glad she had the opportunity to come in during the Bright Beginnings Program.
“I’m very excited to have been here when Bright Beginnings was going on. At the YMCA I came from, they didn’t have that. Seeing this program, it touched my heart,” she said. “We served 124 kids that day and that was just the kids we took shopping. I am very thankful to all the donors who helped us.”
Craver noted that they have backpacks with supplies left over that they will drop off for children in Kernersville schools who are in need who may not have been able to go shopping through the Bright Beginnings Program.
Craver and her husband, Jon, have two children, Elijah, 16, and Charlie, 20 months.

Summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro

August 11, 2016

kilimanjaroIn July, local teacher Lyn Irving completed a summit hike up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.
Irving started the actual hike on July 12 with roughly 30 miles to tackle.
“The route down was shorter,” she said. “There are five different trails to the top. I did the Lemosho route. You are required to have a guide.”
Irving noted that there are over 300 guides in Tanzania and the lengths of the treks are 5-10 days up the mountain.
“We chose a trip that took us eight days because it’s less traveled and more successful,” she said. “You don’t do much mileage on an eight-day trip, but there is a 90 percent success rate.”
Irving said there are a lot of people in Tanzania who speak English, but most don’t.
“There are 120 tribes there and each one has their own individual language. Swahili is the main language. Even if they do speak English, you have a hard time understanding them,” she shared.
On the route Irving took, she went through every single climate zone, including tropical rainforest the first day, followed by heath, moorland, alpine, desert, and ended with an arctic climate at the summit.
“It’s really cold at the top,” she remarked. “We were told to wear seven to eight layers on top and four layers on bottom, and we could remove layers if we needed. I ended up removing two layers on top. I am sure that is the most I have ever had on at one time.”
Contrary to the summit, on the second day on the mountain, Irving said it was really, really hot.
“You had to pack everything,” she said. “You had to have shorts, tank tops and arctic coats.”
With taking the trail that had a 90 percent success rate, Irving said all five people in her group made it to the top and back down.
“We had a 22-year-old boy from Pittsburgh, two women, 43 and 44, from Las Vegas, and me and my friend,” she said. “To get us up the mountain, we had 23 people including 20 porters, one guide and two assistants. The porters carried a big tent, a cooking tent, and a toilet that they put in a tent.”
Irving said the cost to summit the mountain ranges anywhere from $1,800 – $7,000. It ended up costing her around $2,200.
“The low-end group didn’t carry any medical stuff. I think you would have gotten much fancier food with the more pricey ones,” she said. “That is probably the most expensive trip I have ever taken, especially since we did a safari afterwards.”
Out of the eight days Irving was on Mount Kilimanjaro, she said they spent six-and-a-half days working their way to the top, and one-and-a-half days to get down.
“On day five, we went up the Barranco Wall, which was the hardest day up to that point because it was a lot of rock scrambling,” she said. “I enjoyed the rock scrambling but my friend did not.”
Irving explained that the porters hike ahead of the hikers so they don’t see them. Then when the hikers get to their stopping point at the end of the day, everything is already set up.
“You carry a daypack with water and the porters carry all your extra gear,” she shared. “We would stop at about 2:00 everyday, but would hike through lunch, then around 4:00, we would go out for an acclimation hike for about two hours, which was an out and back hike. Being so close to the equator, it’s pretty much 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.”
Irving said every morning and evening the porters would sing in their native language.
“When you would come into camp they would come out and sing. Each morning they would do repetition and put our names in. The song meant iron pipe and that we were strong,” she recalled.
Irving said what she enjoyed the most about her trip was making it to the top.
“It gives you the feeling of achievement, but I enjoyed the whole trip,” she said, sharing more about “summit day.” “On summit day, they start at midnight. That day we did not do an acclimation hike the night before. Instead we ate dinner early and slept from 6 – 11 p.m. Then they got us up. Normally, we only had three guides, but on this day they added three more porters to carry additional things like oxygen and hot tea.”
She continued.
“We started at midnight and that was by far the hardest day. For me personally, long, continuous uphills are a lot harder than rock scrambles. I got to the summit at 7 a.m. and I was worn out. I am not sure what the mileage was to the top,” she said.
Irving said to start the descent, they hiked back to their tents, took a two hour nap, ate lunch and then descended further.
“From that point, we took a different trail,” she said.
Although Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain at 19,341 feet at the summit, Irving said she never felt like there was too much exposure or that she feared for her life.
“I would recommend this trip to other people. I think any hiker could do it. You don’t need to be a backpacker because you don’t need to carry anymore than you would in a daypack,” she said. “You never know who is going to have altitude sickness, and it’s not a real technical hike.”
Irving said she was among one of the oldest hikers on the mountain while she was there.
“At each camp, there is a station that has a big book that you have to put your name, country, outfitter, guide’s name, where you stayed the night before and your age. After about the third night, I said, ‘I am the only person in my 60s. Most people out there are fairly young. My friend, Shari Altman, did find someone that was 66,” she said.
Along with hiking the John Muir Trail, featured in the Saturday-Sunday, August 6 & 7 edition, and Mt. Kilimanjaro, Irving has also hiked the Wind River Range in Wyoming, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, and Longs Peak in Colorado, to name a few.

Thanking Kernersville Police

July 14, 2016

policeLast Thursday night, the nation watched in horror as five Dallas police officers were gunned down by a deranged killer. Nine others, including two civilians, were wounded in an attack that has been described as the worst loss of law enforcement life since 9/11.
On Friday, the local community came out to show its support for the men and women of the Kernersville Police Department who go out every day to protect and serve the town’s citizens, to tell them thank you and that not everyone hates police officers.
From sweet treats, drinks, flowers, cards and balloons, the officers were inundated with gifts, and visitors offered them kind words and supportive hugs to let them know they are appreciated.
One of those was an African American family, and Officer Blake Jones, the KPD’s crime prevention officer, described their visit in a post to the Town’s Facebook page.
“This afternoon an African American family came to the PD and gave us gifts. They told us ‘all black people are not bad!’ Officer Kearns smiled and hugged them and told them, ‘We already knew that, but thanks for showing it to us.’”
That officer is Officer Melissa Kearns, a relatively new member of the KPD who was sworn to duty in January.
“It was something I’ve never felt before. It gave me goosebumps every time I hugged someone,” said Kearns after the experience.
Kearns took the time to visit the family at their home and she and other officers went to Fourth of July Park on Saturday where they shot hoops and had fun with the kids there.
Someone posted on the Town’s Facebook page that she saw the interaction between officers and kids at the park on Saturday, writing: “We actually got the pleasure of watching from a distance yesterday as these great folks enjoyed the afternoon in the park. Watching one of the officers learning to skateboard was priceless! Many thanks for your service to our community and hats off for the many ways you strive to become a genuine part of the people living here.”
The support didn’t stop there. On Monday, Jenny Fulton, of Miss Jenny’s Pickles, stopped by the KPD to drop off several jars of her pickles to show her care and concern for Kernersville’s police officers.
Fulton said she dropped off the pickles because she wanted to remind the officers they are “truly appreciated here in Kernersville.”
“It was the least I could do given the recent tragedies in our country,” said Fulton.
Later Monday evening, two officers who went out to eat received a different type of show of support. When they got their bill, it had a note written on the back that said, “Thank you for protecting us. We really appreciate your wonderful service to the community. We all love you guys. God bless you.”
In posting the note online, Officer Jones responded, “Thanks to whomever blessed us with this note and we greatly appreciate it! God is watching over all of us!!! Thanks.”
Jones offered his thanks and the gratitude of the entire KPD in responding to the outpouring the department received over the weekend and beyond.
“Over the past few days the Kernersville Police Department has received a magnitude of gifts in the form of treats, drinks, flowers, cards, and offers for monetary donations. This country is going through hard times. Some cities have it harder than others. In Kernersville we have been very blessed with the people in the community, the emergency services we have, and most of all blessed to have God watching over us,” Jones said. “On behalf of the Town Of Kernersville and the police department, we want to say thank you to the people for taking care of us. It’s easy to get sucked into the hate. It’s easy to start to believe that what happens in some communities must exist everywhere. It’s hard to make a stand and show that we support each other. It takes work.”
He continued.
“As officers, we know that there are people who produce negativity and people who produce positivity. They come in all shapes and sizes and quite often people have a tendency to produce both in a lifetime. As we continue to grow, there are always growing pains. Some pains are worse than others. Let us all continue to produce positivity in our community and continue to set the example. Thanks to all who have prayed for police and other emergency personnel and please continue your support. We will always need it.
Thank you and God bless!”

Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship

July 11, 2016

mcalexanderMatthew McAlexander, a young Kernersville man who died after a boating accident in Nebraska five years ago, was a selfless and giving person to friends, family and the community, and it is that spirit of kindness and generosity those close to him want people to remember.
As the five-year anniversary of McAlexander’s death approached last week, his cousin, Lauren McAlexander, kicked off a CrowdRise fundraising campaign in the hopes of raising $10,000 toward the Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship that was established in his memory in 2012.
“When tossing around ideas of how we could honor Matthew following his death, plenty of ideas were passed around, but we eventually settled on a scholarship fund. Matthew by no means lived a lavish lifestyle and worked very hard to get where he was. We wanted to help other kids who, like him, had a passion to do something but maybe not the monetary means,” said McAlexander. “This is the best way we felt we could help the community to further their education and follow their dreams.”
McAlexander grew up in Kernersville and served as a firefighter and EMT at Piney Grove Fire and Rescue Department. He and his younger brother, Joshua Rowley, 12, were in Nebraska in July 2011 visiting family when the accident occurred. The two were being pulled by a boat on Sherman Lake on July 3 when they were struck by a pontoon boat. Rowley died at the scene and McAlexander succumbed to his injuries two days later without ever regaining consciousness.
The driver of the pontoon boat, a 39-year-old Nebraska man, was charged with boating under the influence (BUI) and sentenced to 18-months of probation for the accident. The initial charges against the man included two counts of manslaughter, but those were dropped after he agreed to plea no contest to the BUI charge.
Lauren McAlexander said Thursday that her cousin was a big part of not only her life, but in the lives of most everyone who knew and loved him. And he grew up always wanting to help others.
“Matthew was my older cousin but served more as the older brother I never had. He was a huge family man and would do anything in his power to protect us,” McAlexander shared. “Ever since I can remember, he wanted to be in some sort of public service. From a young age, he would talk to my dad, a retired cop from Charlotte Metro Police Department, about how to make the world a better place. Up until the day he passed away, he worked diligently to better the world around him.”
Since the Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship was set up, two have been awarded totaling $1,100, and then one of those was renewed this year for $500, McAlexander said.
“The scholarship was created in the beginning of 2012 by the McAlexander family, but there was not enough money to begin awarding significant scholarships until 2014,” explained McAlexander.
She continued.
“We want to do so much more. We want to make a significant difference in the lives of these students, which is why donations from friends, family members and strangers alike are integral,” McAlexander said.
According to McAlexander, the scholarship was set up through the Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC), which helps to maintain and manage the scholarship fund without the concern of where the money is actually going. She added that it is an endowed scholarship and permanent legacy fund, with its assets held irrevocably and in perpetuity by the FFTC.
In kicking off the fundraising campaign for the scholarship fund, McAlexander issued a challenge to the friends and family of her cousin. On the page site, she wrote the following:
“Matthew McAlexander was a young man we all loved, valued and enjoyed. As a Firefighter/EMT at Piney Grove Fire Department in Kernersville, North Carolina, Matt was selfless and truly giving to his community. Matt was a trusted friend, confidant, musician and the type of person who would go out of his way to make someone feel better about any situation they found themselves in.
“On July 5, 2011, Matt was tragically taken from us before the magnitude of his influence could be fully realized. Today, we have the opportunity to honor Matthew and all the good he stood for. We are asking his friends, family and brothers and sisters in Public Safety to assist us in honoring this young man who gave so much to his community.
“We have partnered with the Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC) to maintain and manage the Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship. To date, we have awarded three scholarships to deserving students who like Matt, make a difference in the world around them on a day-to-day basis.
“On this 5 year anniversary, we are challenging the people who knew and loved Matthew to raise $100 in his honor. In doing so, this will allow the scholarship to sustain itself and assist individuals in the community to follow their dreams.
“This is for the 100 phone calls Matthew made to check in on people. The 100 text messages he sent to remind you he was thinking of you. The 100’s of miles he drove to spend time with his loved ones. The 100’s of hugs and smiles he blessed us with every time we were in his presence. This is for Matthew.”
In addition to the CrowdRise site, there are other ways donors can support the scholarship fund.
“The best and most preferred way for people to donate is to visit the foundation’s website and donate directly there. They can do this by going to ‘Foundation For The Carolinas – FFTC’ and click on ‘donate online’ and select the Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship and follow the directions to donate,” explained McAlexander.
What is it that McAlexander most wants people to know about Matt?
“I think the most important thing for people to know about Matt if they didn’t have the opportunity to is that he loved people and his community more than himself. He was a loyal family member and friend and always put others first. He was a dedicated fireman to Piney Grove Fire Department where he would work as much as he could and help as many people as he could. He was a truly wonderful young man and we are still, to this day, devastated by the loss. Our lives have not been the same since that day, but we look forward to helping others in his name,” she said.

Spreading the Gospel in Malawi

July 7, 2016

malawiHaving started serving in Malawi, Africa in 2008, Glenn View Baptist Church members returned recently to serve once again.
Glenn View Baptist Pastor Brad Wright explained that 11 people went on the trip this year, including two children, one high school student, four college graduates, three adult ladies, and himself.
Wright said they choose to go in spring here, which is fall in Malawi.
“We go right after their rainy season because during the rainy season the roads wash out, so you aren’t able to travel as much,” he said. “After the rainy season, the roads are still bad but you can travel.”
Wright explained that Malawi was colonized by the British, so there are many things that have British influence, including driving on the opposite side of the road, which can be nerve wracking for an American in a foreign country with rugged roads.
“It throws people off the first time they are there, and driving at night is especially dangerous,” he remarked.
While the summertime temperatures can soar into triple digits of 120 most days while also humid and rainy, Wright said the fall temperatures range in the mid-70s.
“This time of year they are harvesting corn, which is their main food staple for every meal and has zero nutritional value,” he said. “They are able to grow some vegetables and some families might be able to slaughter a goat once a month for some meat, but they rely mainly on corn.”
Wright said one food you can find in Malawi is Malawian sausage, which is roasted field mice on a stick like a kabob.
Wright explained that when they go to Malawi, they meet with missionaries Steve and Nora Braselton, who have built a training center in the village of Chorwe.
“Their ministry is Ruth’s Shawl, which was started for widows, but it has shifted over the years and a bulk of it is now training pastors and church leaders and teaching English,” he shared. “The goal of the training center is to teach Malawians to reach Malawians. They house them there, feed them there and send them back to their villages to train other people, so in the future when we go, we would just go to the training center to do pastoral training.”
When in Malawi, Glenn View Baptist mainly focuses on spreading the Gospel.
“I train pastors when I am there. This time we were able to take two ladies and they did training for the women and did everything from Bible training to every day practical things, such as basic hygiene,” he shared. “A lot of them complain about having headaches, but they are dehydrated. It’s hot there and they don’t drink enough water. They also teach them what to look for in their kids, such as what to do when they have a fever.”
Wright said his niece, Brooke, 9, and son, Drew, 11, had the chance to go to Malawi this year, which was a treat for the kids in villages in Malawi as they rarely, if ever, get the chance to see white children who are their age.
“They had the chance to hang out with the kids and teach them,” he stated.
Wright said they like to spend time and work with the women and children as the society is very male dominated, so women and children are pushed to the side in seating arrangements, financial, health care, etc.
Wright said while they were there, they visited five villages.
“It is very much like a VBS mentality. One day we did two villages, but other days we went to one village a day,” he said. “We spent over 100 hours traveling.”
Along with sharing the Gospel to the people they came in contact with, Wright was able to record two Bible studies that will be broadcast in two major cities in Malawi.
One place Wright said they were able to make an impact with was Grace of God Orphanage, just outside of Lilongwe.
“Right now, there are 20 kids in the orphanage. These kids have parents who have died from AIDS, malaria or parents who can’t afford to raise them. Kids are at risk because they are close enough to a city that if someone realizes they don’t have parents, they could be turned into slaves,” he explained.
Wright noted that they were able to spend two afternoons there.
“We were able to see their situation and identify some of their needs,” he said. “There is intermittent electricity in the city, but they have no lights. The sun comes up at 5:30 a.m. and goes down at the same time at night, and there are no street lights, so it’s pitch black.”
Wright said when they return, they hope to take solar panels to help give the people in Malawi lights, which will cost about $3,000.
“We would either take them when we go next time or send money over there,” he shared. “But, they have to build a wall first so it doesn’t get stolen.”
Wright said Malawi is the poorest nation in the world, so crime is extremely high.
“Their currency is the Kwacha, which is $700 to one Kwacha. The average person makes $266.50 in a year,” he said.
During their time there, one challenge they faced was seeing the children’s need for attention.
“Because it’s a culture where the strong rule the weak, we hit a day when we were trying to do something for the children and it became so chaotic,” he said. “There were so many kids outside, and some of the weaker ones were getting pushed out of the way, so we had to shut it down.”
One thing Wright enjoyed about the mission trip was reliving the experience through the first timers on the trip.
“I enjoyed the wonder, and soaking it all in, of the people whose first time it was and walking through that experience with them. I also enjoyed leading people to Christ,” he said. “We train church leaders, but even in those meetings, people just show up because white people are there. Just because we are there, we draw a crowd and because some of them don’t know Jesus, we share that with them. That is the main reason I go.”
Drew shared his reactions to the trip.
“When I arrived in Malawi, I was really tired. We were traveling so long to get there, and I just wanted to go to bed,” he said. “It wasn’t as nice as I expected. There is trash and stuff everywhere.”
After the initial shock of travel and seeing a new place, Drew did enjoy meeting people from a different culture.
“What I enjoyed about the mission trip was playing with kids in the village and teaching them some games we play here, and I really liked the animal safari,” he said, noting that the mission team went on several safaris after spending a week teaching the Gospel. “From this experience, I learned that kids and people can be joyful, while most people here in America aren’t very joyful. Over there, they are joyful even though they don’t have a lot of stuff.”

The Search for Martin

June 30, 2016

missingThe Boone Police Department (BPD) continues its search for missing Kernersville teenager, James “Martin” Roberts, 19, who was last seen near Appalachian State University on April 21.
According to the most recent update on Roberts’ case provided by the BPD, a letter that was found in Roberts’ apartment indicated that he was leaving everyone behind, but made no specific mention that Roberts intended to harm himself. Both police and Martin’s family said they know from the content of the letter that Roberts was experiencing some challenges in life and may have wanted to escape from his circumstances.
BPD Chief Dana Crawford said that since the beginning of the department’s investigation into Roberts’ disappearance, the BPD has poured all its available resources in finding the Kernersville teen.
“We have looked for signs of life such as financial transactions, social media use and an extensive list of other investigative steps. We have also focused attention on the fact that he could be deceased,” Crawford said. “We have searched area lakes and many acres of wooded areas around where Martin lived and in areas that he was known to have visited. After two months, we still do not have any positive indicators as to his whereabouts.”
Roberts is the son of John and Abbie Roberts, of Kernersville. His father said Friday that the family is at a loss as to what happened to their son, but he wants to expand the search to include coastal areas.
“We decided to try to put some attention on the coastal areas because Martin loves the beach. For the last 55 years, our family has had a tradition of vacationing in Ocean Isle Beach,” John Roberts said.
It’s where the family is now. They have been active in providing updates on the case through the “Help Find Martin Roberts” page on Facebook and John Roberts posted there on Wednesday.
“Fast approaching 70 days since this all began. And we’re ½ way through our annual summer family gathering. Still no word from our boy. We are still hopeful that today will be the day we hear from or, even better yet, see our boy. There are 32 of us here waiting and hoping for that moment!” he wrote.
Earlier this month, the BPD employed the assistance of search dogs from the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to cover wooded areas surrounding specific locations in downtown Boone, near where Roberts lived. According to the BPD, the area had been searched on foot, but had not been covered with the help of trained search dogs.
At the time, detectives with the BPD said no concrete information led them to that area, but they wanted to rule out the location as a possibility as they continued looking for Martin.
Previously, SBI cadaver dogs were used to search Trout Lake in Blowing Rock and the Boone town reservoir after investigators received unconfirmed sightings of Roberts not long after his disappearance.
Additionally, the BPD issued an alert to property owners on June 15, asking any who have vacant homes or buildings to check their property or allow their local law enforcement agency to check for signs of inhabitation.
“In the interests of being thorough, we would like to know that we have covered areas that an individual could have taken up residence in the absence of the property owner and remain otherwise unnoticed,” said a red alert issued by the BPD. They asked that anyone who noticed any signs of unauthorized entry or occupation to contact the BPD or CrimeStoppers.
Roberts graduated from East Forsyth High School and was enrolled in classes at Catawba Community College. He was last seen at an intersection near the ASU Convocation Center at approximately 12:30 p.m. on April 21 and was wearing a black, short sleeve ASU windbreaker, khaki shorts, gray New Balance shoes and a white golf visor hat. Roberts is 5’10” and weighs approximately 145 pounds and has brown hair and blue eyes.
The BPD is asking anyone with information concerning Roberts’ favorite hangouts, recent whereabouts leading up to his disappearance or people he might have been with to contact authorities. They also asked that anyone who might come in contact with Martin to ask him to contact his family.
“If you come in contact with Martin, please tell him to contact his family; they love him and want him back. Investigators and the Roberts family are appealing for anyone with information about Martin’s whereabouts to contact us immediately,” police said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the BPD at (828) 268-6900 or High Country CrimeStoppers at (828) 268-6959 / 828-737-0125. You may also submit a CrimeStoppers tip via its website at www.tipsubmit.com/webtips.aspx?AgencyID=1251 or Text “NCTIP plus your tip” to 274637 (CRIMES). A CrimeStoppers reward up to $1,000 has been offered for information that leads to Roberts’ whereabouts and safe return.

Prayers for Sophie

May 19, 2016

sophie1After thinking she had a typical childhood virus, Sophie Carter, 7 ½, woke up on a Saturday morning in February paralyzed from the waist down and has since received great support from the community, including a GoFundMe account, to help pay for medical bills.
Sophie’s parents, Josh and April Carter, explained that Sophie originally became sick in February.
“She had a few bad infections,” said April, as she recalled Sophie having a stomach virus and fevers. “The doctors treated her for pneumonia, though they couldn’t tell if it was bacterial or viral.
April explained that she picked Sophie up from The North Carolina Leadership Academy (NCLA), where Sophie attends school, and felt that she still had a fever, after she had already finished a round of antibiotics.
“I picked her up from school and she had a fever of 103. The next morning was Good Friday, so I had to take her to Urgent Care, where they checked her for the flu. They said they just thought she had a virus and sent her home,” she said. “She walked in and walked out. Then, on Saturday morning, she was paralyzed from the waist down. My husband picked her up to take her to Brenner (Children’s Hospital) and her legs just dangled in the air.”
April explained that once at Brenner Children’s Hospital, doctors examined Sophie, conducted an MRI of her spine, did a spinal tap and drew blood.
“They told us they were trying to stop whatever was happening,” she said.
“They told us that they were trying rule out Gillham Barre Syndrome verse Transverse Myelitis. However, after doing an MRI of her brain, they noticed lesions on her brain, which noted she had Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM). The ADEM caused her body to fight against its own immune system, which caused severe swelling all the way up to her spine and caused the lesions on her brain,” she said.
From there, Sophie underwent 10 days of steroid and plasma therapy, before being transferred to Levine Children’s Hospital, where she has been undergoing weeks of intensive rehabilitation.
One month after starting her treatments, Sophie’s lesions are almost gone.
“The lesions are mild and most of the swelling in her spine is gone, but because of the swelling on her Myelin Sheath, her brain can’t send the signals to tell her legs to move,” April explained. “Only time will tell after her body heals what she will be able to do.”
Although she is still unable to walk, April said Sophie has some movement in her lower legs.
“I don’t think she can feel temperatures yet, but she is starting to get feeling back. She cannot walk yet. She just actually just started moving her toes about two weeks ago in her right foot. She can move the bottom part of her lower leg if we take away gravity,” she said, noting that started on Thursday. “But, that’s how it all begins, so she is making progress. It’s just going to take time.”
As part of her therapy, Sophie has to do various exercises every day including stretching, core strengthening four times each day, aquatics therapy, outpatient physical and occupational therapy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, as well as using functional electrical stimulation, which is done through something called a MOTOmed, with one of the closest locations offering it in Mooresville.
April said Sophie has to wear stints on her feet at night, and they also have a Stander at their home that keeps her weight bearing around her hips to ensure that her muscles continue to develop.
“We are doing all of the physical therapy we can, and you have to keep on top of it. If we don’t she won’t move forward,” April said. “This is the best chance we have to maximize her chances to get back to her previous function.”
For having gone through as much as she has, April said Sophie is doing really well.
“It’s an adjustment because she was very active. She was an ice skater and had just started playing soccer. We belong to a community pool and we love swimming and going to the park. We are a very outdoor family and are always on the go,” she said. “I think she is handling it really well. There are days that she gets down, but we have faith and we pray. That helps us get through it.”
While insurance has helped to cover much of Sophie’s medical bills, it doesn’t cover everything, such as physical or aquatic therapy.
Thankfully, Sophie and her family have had help from family and friends at Sedge Garden United Methodist Church and preschool, where Sophie attended and where her brother, Brodie, currently attends, as well as The NCLA.
“I don’t think we could make it without them. All the prayers and support from everybody, I think has gotten us through it,” she said.
In honor of Sophie, Sedge Garden UMC Preschool is raising money through a school walk.
“Ever since Sophie was at the school, they have had the Walk for Life. They do a 30-minute walk around their parking lot and cemetery and dedicate it to different people,” she said, noting that one of the preschool teachers contacted her and said they wanted to do the walk this year in honor of Sophie and raise money. This year’s walk is entitled, “Sophie’s Super Hero Walk.”
Also, Sophie’s fellow students at The NCLA are working hard to let her know they are thinking of her. The school’s Girl Scout Troop 02817 sent her a care package and fourth grader Shaun Kawalec created a coloring book featuring various animals and bugs, which is being sold for $5 at the front office at The NCLA to support Sophie.
To contact The NCLA, call 336-992-2710. The school is located at 4353 High Point Rd.
There has also been a GoFundMe account set up for Sophie to help pay for medical bills. To help support Sophie, visit www.gofundme.com/vhxxwzvs.
“We want to thank everyone for all of their prayers and support. We can never express how much that has meant to our family,” April said.

Settlement Reached

April 21, 2016

policeTown settles federal lawsuit filed by Surry County couple

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the March 19 & 20, 2016 edition of the Kernersville News. On Tuesday, April 19, monetary details of the settlement were made public, including that the Town of Kernersville agreed to pay the plaintiffs $30,000 and another $80,000 in the plaintiffs’ attorney fees.

The Town has settled a federal lawsuit filed in 2014 in which a Surry County couple alleged that Kernersville police officers illegally seized $20,000 in cash and assaulted one of them.
The exact amount of the settlement has not been made public.
“The (Town) has agreed to settle the case and although we have settled on a monetary amount, not all the terms have been settled and we still have paperwork to do,” said Clarke Dummit, one of the attorneys who represents plaintiffs Teresa Blackburn and Adrian Martinez-Perez.
Dummit said a request to dismiss the lawsuit will be filed in the next few weeks. He also said the couple is happy with the result.
Last month, a federal judge ruled that the lawsuit could move forward in a case where Blackburn and Martinez-Perez accused several officers and the Town with violating their civil rights.
The incident occurred on May 22, 2014 after several Kernersville Police Department (KPD) officers responded to Chalarka Tax on South Main Street following a report of a man with a gun.
In addition to the Town, five officers were named in the lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs denied a request by the officers for a summary judgment in their favor. She also ruled that claims against the Town had not been substantiated and that a search of the couple’s vehicle was legal.
On the day in question, the couple said they were at Chalarka Tax to set up two businesses. For that purpose, court papers say Blackburn had $16,000 in her purse and Martinez-Perez had $4,000 in his pocket. Another man, Leonardo Lopez Garcia, was reportedly with the couple.
At some point, the lawsuit says a Chalarka Tax employee called the KPD for what was described in court papers as a situation in which Garcia allegedly had a gun and threatened one or more of the businesses’ employees.
Upon arrival, the lawsuit says the KPD officers spoke with the employee and Garcia, but when Martinez-Perez offered to translate for Garcia, the lawsuit claims the officers ordered him to “put his hands in the air.” Martinez-Perez says he complied with the order, but after saying he had a pocketknife in his pocket ,Martinez-Perez claimed the officers rushed him, “took him to the ground, shoved a foot in his face, twisted his arm behind his back, and arrested him.”
After searching Martinez-Perez, the lawsuit says the officers reported finding cocaine on a five dollar bill that had fallen from his pocket. It was also reported that a subsequent search of Blackburn’s vehicle did not produce any drugs or weapons.
Martinez-Perez was reportedly taken to the Forsyth County Detention Center, charged with resisting and delaying an officer and possession of a schedule II controlled substance. Blackburn was not charged with any crime. A state court entered an order returning the seized money to the plaintiffs and charges against Martinez-Perez were later dropped.
In the lawsuit, Martinez-Perez asserted a claim for false arrest and excessive force, and both he and Blackburn claimed unreasonable search and unreasonable seizure. They also each claimed intentional infliction of emotional distress and slander, as well as discrimination against the Town.
The KPD and the Town filed a motion for dismissal of the lawsuit, but a judge denied that motion in December 2014.
In Biggs’ ruling last month, she concluded that officers had no probable cause to arrest Martinez-Perez and that the search of his person was unconstitutional. She also ruled that the seizure of the couple’s money was illegal and that, on those findings, the case could move forward in the courts.
In looking at the plaintiffs’ argument that they were racially discriminated against because they are Hispanic and that the Town of Kernersville has a policy of targeting minorities, Biggs found no evidence to support the claim or that officers violated their federal equal protection claim. She also did not find that officers slandered the couple.