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Heart Health

September 24, 2015

runKernersville resident Bill Haps has undergone a drastic change over the past year resulting in a healthier lifestyle, thanks in no small part to a series of heart attacks he suffered last October.
Last week, Haps was recognized at the Bank of Oak Ridge as one of three winners of the American Heart Association’s Guilford Heart Ball Healthy Heart Challenge. The other two winners were Diana Lewis of High Point and Lee Schloss of Colfax.
Haps thought he was living a relatively healthy lifestyle. Even though he had been diagnosed with high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure, along with borderline type II diabetes, Haps managed his condition with medication. He was physically active, practiced good nutrition and balanced stress well.
An avid outdoorsman and active Scoutmaster for a local troop in Kernersville, Haps camped, hiked, backpacked, mountain biked and participated in other outdoor activities with his Scouts. He also participated in the same activities with his family and friends. He never considered that he was ever at risk for heart disease.
That all changed October 11, 2014 when Haps began experiencing shortness of breath on what should have been a simple walk from his house to his parents to wish his father a happy 75th birthday.
“On the walk up, I was a bit short of breath. It was a cold, damp night, so I thought I was just getting a cold or something insignificant,” Haps said.
Throughout the rest of the night, Haps said he woke up short of breath and feeling anxious with his blood pressure elevated. He told himself that he would go to an urgent care the next morning after church. What he didn’t know was that he was actually suffering from several small heart attacks.
In church waiting for mass to start, Haps said he had a “big” heart attack. Even then, he didn’t realize what it was. At Kernersville Medical Center, he was admitted to the ER and given aspirin and glycerin.
Things appeared to improve and Haps’ wife, Anne, sent the couple’s three children, ages 19, 17 and 14, home.
“The fifth and final heart attack came when I was in the ER,” Haps recalled.
He was rushed in an ambulance to Forsyth Medical Center.
In his essay to the Healthy Heart Challenge, Haps said for the first time in his life, he felt alone and truly scared.
“I was faced with my mortality which is a profoundly lonely experience. At that moment, in the ambulance, I let God know I can’t do this on my own,” Haps wrote.
Haps said he put it all in God’s hands and credits the peace and inner strength he received from that with his eventual recovery.
At Forsyth’s cardiac center, Haps was found to have blockages of 80 percent or worse in all four major arteries feeding his heart muscles. He was immediately scheduled for a quadruple bypass surgery the next morning.
The surgery went better than expected. Surgeons only had to do a triple bypass because they were able to open one artery with a catheter. The work of recovery started right there in the hospital, Haps said.
“I was told I had to do 10 laps around the cardiac wing before they would let me go home. By Thursday, I had completed 25 laps. At home, Haps walked in his neighborhood with the help of a walker. In December, he began a cardiac rehabilitation therapy at Forsyth.
The therapists there asked Haps what his goal was. Haps responded, “I want to run.”
That’s exactly what he was doing by February.
The success Haps had there spread out. He joined a beginner’s running class through the wellness program at his work.
“I haven’t run for exercise in over 20 years,” Haps said in his essay.
Last June, Haps ran his first 5K run, a culmination of the running class. He also signed up for a 5K mud run with his Scout Troop and works out two to three days a week at a local gym.
Haps’ family came on board, as well. They’ve all committed to living healthier lifestyles themselves, which includes cutting out processed foods like their father and motivating him to work out. Anne even attended Haps’ cardiac rehab therapy classes and learned just as much as her husband about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The lifestyle choices Haps is now making have made a difference. He has lost about 40 pounds and feels better overall.
“I noticed the changes right away. I have more energy – a lot more energy – and am getting better sleep. I am also a lot more aware of what’s going on with my body,” Haps said.
Haps’ transformation has been so impressive that he has begun to inspire others. His coworkers started asking questions when he would leave for lunch then return soaking wet. They’ve even started their own running teams, Haps said.
Ron Black, president and CEO of Bank of Oak Ridge, said the bank was proud to recognize Haps and his fellow 2015 Healthy Heart Challenge award winners.
“We are proud to recognize these three individuals who have made major changes in their lifestyles to prevent heart disease. Their stories are truly inspirational,” Black said.
The Healthy Heart Challenge was designed to recognize local men and women in the Triad who have made lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the No.1 killer of both men and women in the U.S., and stroke is a leading cause of death and permanent disability. However, 80 percent of heart disease and stroke incidents are preventable through heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
For more information on heart disease and stroke prevention, visit To become involved with the American Heart Association’s Guilford Heart Ball, visit or email

Community Mourns

September 24, 2015

mournThe Kernersville and East Forsyth High School communities were reeling Monday from separate tragedies involving two former students, Riley LaRue and Bobby Furmage, both of whom had been standout athletes at the local high school during their times there.
LaRue, 19, a 2014 graduate and the son of Wake Forest University basketball legend Rusty LaRue, died Saturday in a car accident in Richmond, Va. Throughout the weekend, former classmates, friends and family posted their shock, sadness and condolences through social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.
On Sunday, several of LaRue’s teammates and East Forsyth staff met men’s basketball coach Mike Muse at the school’s gym to talk about the loss and remember their friend. WFMY News 2 was there to film the gathering, which included a moment of silence in honor of LaRue. A makeshift memorial was set up nearby.
Coach Muse had to fight back tears as he talked to the area television station about LaRue and what he meant to the school family at East.
“He’s going to be one who is deeply missed in my life and in this community of East Forsyth basketball,” Muse said Sunday.
The tears and hugs flowed freely as Muse admitted how hard they were all struggling with the loss.
“Father, right now we’re struggling, each one in a different way. Father, we know there’s no sorrow on this earth that you can’t heal in Heaven,” Muse said with closed eyes as he led a group circle in prayer.
“On and off the court, that was my best friend and, you know, I’m going to miss him, and I just want him to know I love him,” said Avery Wood, a teammate of LaRue’s who drove 90 minutes from Boone to be at the impromptu memorial.
Muse was still shaken on Monday, his voice hesitant but sure as he talked about his former player.
“Riley was a coach’s dream. He was awesome in the classroom and always did well. He was a leader among leaders and the ultimate teammate. He made everyone around him better and was always positive and always looking to help someone else,” Muse said.
Muse said LaRue also supported the other sports programs at East, always in the student section of the stands for Friday night football and at soccer games cheering his fellow students on.
“In this profession, you want to impact kids, but Riley was the kid who impacts you. He was one of those special kids who leaves a mark on your heart,” Muse said.
Muse said it was a rough weekend for all those who knew and cared about LaRue. Although LaRue graduated in 2014, there were still several players on the men’s basketball team who played with LaRue. He’d also been in touch with members of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 teams.
“We’re consoling each other. That’s how we will get through this. We’re all family, and for them it’s like losing a brother. For me, it’s losing a son,” Muse said.
Muse said he will retire LaRue’s number 32 and locker for the remainder of this year’s basketball season.
A memorial service celebrating LaRue’s life will be held Wednesday evening, September 23 beginning at 7 p.m. in the East Forsyth High School gymnasium, located at 2500 West Mountain St. The family will hold a private graveside service at a different time, Muse said.
LaRue is survived by his parents, Rusty and Tammy LaRue; two brothers, Cooper and Maverick, and a sister, Clara; paternal grandparents Bob and Linda LaRue; and maternal grandparents, Ronnie and Cindy Watson.
The family asks that memorials in LaRue’s honor be made to Special Olympics of Forsyth County or to the East Forsyth Booster Club. Pierce-Jefferson Funeral Service is in charge of arrangements.
In an unrelated but equally devastating incident, Robert “Bobby” Giles Furmage, IV, 28, passed away while on an extended hiking trip on Saturday from an apparent heart attack. The cause of death has not been officially confirmed.
Both LaRue’s and Furmage’s deaths were especially difficult for the Main Street United Methodist Church (UMC) congregation, where the two had strong family ties.
“We had planned to start a five-part sermon on Sunday on human emotion,” stated Main Street UMC Pastor Claude Kaylor. “We had planned on the first part to be about joy. But I heard about Riley on Saturday, and on Sunday before church, we heard about Bobby. We explained what had happened and we changed the sermon to be about grief, what it means to grieve and how to help people who are grieving. A lot of people were appreciative that we were flexible. We thought it was the right thing to do because a lot of people were directly or indirectly affected.”
Kaylor knew Furmage mostly through association with his parents, Robert and Susan Furmage, although Bobby was still a registered member of the church. Susan has been the business manager at the church for several years. Kaylor has heard many stories about the kind of person Bobby was.
“Everyone said he had a big heart. I have heard those words many times during the past two days. One story that I can relate I heard from his mother. Bobby had a friend who was in a band, and someone broke into his apartment and stole all the band equipment,” Kaylor said. “Bobby organized some people together and they bought the band new equipment. That is the kind of person he was, and some, or at least one of the band members, will perform a song at his funeral.”
The passing of Furmage was also disconcerting to former East students and current teachers and coaches. Eagle head football coach Todd Willert had the privilege of coaching Furmage and will miss him.
“He was one of our team leaders and he played tackle for us. He played everywhere on the offensive line. He was a great kid. I saw him at church recently,” Willert said. “He looked good and he had lost a lot of weight. It is a tough time losing him and LaRue. It puts things in perspective as a coach and for everybody at East Forsyth.”
Furmage was a 2005 graduate of East Forsyth and a standout offensive lineman who received a football scholarship to Western Carolina University (WCU). He graduated from WCU in 2009 with a degree in biology. He started studying anthropology at N.C. State University in 2010, according to his Facebook page. Furmage’s parents said Bobby enjoyed theater and music, was one course away from graduating with his second degree and had plans to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant. He was currently working as a dispatcher, they said.
In addition to his parents, Furmage is survived by sisters Audrey Wells, Becca Bell and Hannah Meyer. Kaylor stated that according to Bobby’s mother, one of his favorite things was being an uncle.
“His mom told me he said he had been called a lot of things, but his favorite was Uncle Bobby,” Kaylor said.
A funeral service for Furmage will be held Friday, Sept. 25 at 3 p.m. at Main Street UMC, subject to any changes.

A Stint in Spain

September 24, 2015

spainKelsey Dickerson, a 2013 graduate of East Forsyth High School and a junior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC), spent three months in Spain through the UNC Study Abroad Program this past summer.
Dickerson said she decided to go on the study abroad because she loves traveling and wanted to experience a new culture. She noted that she has taken Spanish since she was in high school and added that students who went on the trip were required to have four levels of college Spanish.
“I chose Spain because I am minoring in Spanish and this unique program allowed me to complete my minor, while living in a Spanish-speaking country,” she said. “I stayed with a host family. My host mom was a child psychologist, and she had a 19-year old daughter, who was also in college.”
Dickerson said her host family was extremely friendly, but did not know English, which was helpful to her learning the language.
“I was forced to improve my comprehension and speaking skills,” she remarked.
Like everyone living in the city, Dickerson said the family lived in an apartment.
“We ate lunch together every day while watching the news. In Seville, there are many barrios (neighborhoods/areas) and I lived in Nervión, which is where the huge department store El Corte Inglés and the mall are located,” she explained. “The main thing I liked about Seville was that it is a big city (fourth largest in Spain), but it still has a small town feel compared to Madrid and Barcelona.”
Having traveled over 3,000 miles from N.C. to a foreign country, Dickerson naturally felt some cultural shock.
“The hardest thing to adapt to was the meal times. We would make our own breakfast (toast and coffee) before class. We would not eat lunch until 3 p.m., and dinner was around 10 p.m.,” she shared. “It was very unusual for anyone to eat dinner before 9 p.m.”
Even though she has many years of studying the Spanish language and culture under her belt, Dickerson still had a lot to learn, which she experienced while living in Spain.
“I learned a lot of the language that I was unfamiliar with, like common Spanish expressions and words/phrases that are different between Spain and Latin America. We also toured local businesses to learn about the business world in Spain,” she said, noting that she attended EUSA, which she said is part of the University of Seville. “It was very different because there was not a huge library and it was all in one building. There were also no dorms because it is customary for Spaniards to live at home during college.”
Dickerson also noted differences with restaurants in Spain compared to the U.S.
“In restaurants you do not tip, so the waiters are not there to wait on you hand and foot as in the U.S.,” she said. “I would occasionally struggle to communicate with people, not knowing the specific vocabulary, but I was always able to get the answers I needed with the words I did know.”
Although she was in Spain to study, Dickerson took advantage of her free time to travel throughout the country and throughout Europe, spending most of her time with her roommate and other students in the program.
“In Spain, I visited Granada, Cordoba, Valencia, Pamplona, Madrid and Barcelona. In Pamplona, we watched the running of the bulls from a balcony, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she shared. “In Europe, I traveled to Lagos (Portugal), Amsterdam, Prague, Paris and London. Most of the time we traveled by plane, but we went to Lagos by bus and Madrid and Pamplona by train.”
Dickerson said there is a stereotype for Americans, but she didn’t fit that stereotype.
“Americans carry the stereotype of being loud and obnoxious, but as long as you didn’t live up to the stereotype, the locals were pretty welcoming,” she said.
She shared some of the similarities and differences between Spain and the U.S. that she saw while studying abroad in Spain.
“They have different accents just like in the U.S. In southern Spain, they tend to cut off words, which is similar to the South here,” she said.
One of the main differences that she shared was what she called, “Spanish Time.”
“Everyone is late to everything,” she said, as she again talked about the difference in the times people eat and mentioned siestas. “Most stores and restaurants close between 3-5 p.m. for siesta because it is so hot in southern Spain.”
Even though it is so hot, Dickerson said in Spain, they conserve energy and rarely use air conditioning.
“Our host mom would only turn the air on if it was around 100 degrees outside,” she said. “The summer weather in Seville is hot and dry. It only rained once and there was no humidity, so it was very hot, around 90 most of May and around 100 degrees most of June and July. It had been in the 100s for weeks and there was finally a day when the high was 90 degrees and we were all so excited saying, ‘Maybe I’ll wear jeans or a sweater.’”
Dickerson said her trip was amazing.
“I enjoyed traveling the most because it was amazing to see all of the history and visit places I have dreamed of visiting my whole life,” she said. “I also really enjoyed talking with my host mom and her daughter because they would explain things to me that I didn’t understand while we watched the news, and they would always want to know how to say certain things in English.”
Dickerson, who is majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Spanish for the business profession, said she feels her study abroad experience will be helpful to her in the future.
“This experience taught me how to adapt to new situations and deal with change. It further taught me to be accepting of and embrace cultural differences,” she said. “This will help me in the future as I choose a career path and face obstacles that may put me out of my comfort zone.”

Future Success

August 25, 2015

cheerThe next time fans of the East Forsyth Eagles are sweating out a close game, they can thank Marlee Young for helping cooler heads prevail. Young, a rising senior at East Forsyth, with assistance from art coordinator Brittany Myrick, has designed a special “spirit towel” for use by the fans and cheerleaders of the Eagles. Based on the new evaporative cooling towels used by pro athletes such as Serena Williams and Dewayne Wade, Young’s new “spirit towels” come in two separate styles, proudly bear the school colors, and will be helping to raise spirits even as they are dropping temperatures starting this fall.
Young’s is just one of the many success stories coming out of East Forsyth High School these days. The school is preparing many of our young people for the business world of tomorrow through its lauded Finance Academy, a member of the National Academy Foundation (NAF). In fact, the East Forsyth High School Finance Academy has been recognized with the NAF’s highest honor, the designation of “Model Academy,” awarded to less than 20 percent of all participating academies nationwide. In order to achieve this designation, an academy undergoes a rigorous annual assessment designed to help an academy “gauge their progress and increase their alignment to NAF’s standards.” Only the highest scoring academies are designated as Model. This is the second time in three years that East Forsyth High School’s Finance Academy has received this honor.
According to Jennifer Haymes Schurman, the finance coordinator at East Forsyth High School, the school started the Finance Academy in 2005 with 15 students enrolled in the first class. Today, the school boasts an astounding 180 future business leaders enrolled between 10th and 12th grades. Students begin the process as incoming freshmen, having to apply to even be accepted into the Finance Academy. Successful applicants are then required to take courses such as Principles of Accounting and Applied Finance in addition to their regular course load.
“Any student who is interested in joining the academy has to apply at the end of their freshman year, just like they would for a real job out in the world, and they have to commit a full three years to the academy, in addition to completing at least 100 internship hours with a local business by their senior year.”
Jennifer went on to say, “Students have to fill out a job application, develop a resume, and sit through an interview in order to be considered.”
The East Forsyth High School Finance Academy is about much more than just a few extra classes. In addition to the extra course load, the entire academy is structured like its own Fortune 500 company, complete with an executive board. Positions ranging from chief executive officer and executive vice president all the way down through director of academy affairs are applied for and filled by academy students. Officers of the academy are expected to not only run the day-to-day affairs of the academy, but are also required to meet regularly with the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce.
As if the special courses, curriculum, and interactions geared towards academy students were not enough, possibly the greatest benefit of all is the internship program. Each and every student in the Finance Academy is required to work at least 100 hours for participating local businesses, but don’t get the wrong idea, these internships are not just handed out. These are paid positions, and the students of the academy are required to go through the same kind of hiring process that any other job applicant would be expected to. The 100 hour requirement, while at first glance is seemingly excessive, is in fact the heart of the program. It is designed to give academy students a real, valuable business experience. The hours need to be completed within a year’s time, but employers are more than fair when it comes to how the student reaches his or her goal, whether it be four weeks in the summer, four hours a night during school, or even one hour a day.
One of the most popular internships is with Truliant Federal Credit Union, which has been working closely with the Finance Academy from the very beginning. Students can apply to positions not only with the regular branch, but also with the on-campus East Forsyth High School Campus Credit Union, powered by Truliant. These positions give academy students a real hands-on business experience and a great feel for the day-to-day world of high finance.
Internships can take numerous forms; however, students who wish to pursue other avenues during their work experience can apply to positions with the Winston Salem/Forsyth County School system, the aforementioned Truliant Federal Credit Union, Austin-Ross Financial Inc., and many others.
Young did her internship with Pura Vida Promotions Inc., a local full service advertising specialty company. It was while working with Pura Vida that Young came up with the idea for and designed the specially branded towel that will be marketed to East Forsyth Eagles fans this coming fall.
When asked what valuable lesson she has learned from the Finance Academy, Young commented, “I have learned how to write a check and balance my checking account, and there are many people my age that don’t even know how to do these things.”

Garden of Love and Faith

August 25, 2015

gardenPraise Assembly Church Ministries (PACM) helps those in need by providing fresh fruits and vegetables from their community garden, Garden of Love and Faith.
Although PACM was founded 24 years ago, shortly after they moved to their current location along Kernersville Road, they decided to plant a community garden to help those in need in the area.
The garden, which is roughly 1/3 acre, is host to a large array of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Produce include beans, squash, okra, corn, tomatoes, Swiss chard, pumpkins, watermelon, beets, cabbage, collards, sweet potatoes, sunflowers, and more.
“We have a little bit of everything,” said Clement Little, PACM community garden committee member.
“We also have flowers in the garden to try to get the birds and bees to pollinate,” added Allen Keesee, master gardener, garden mentor and PACM community garden committee member, who noted that there are eight people on the garden committee.
Keesee explained that they started the garden three years ago.
“Last year, we had about 700 pounds of food. That was our total produce,” he said as he explained that when they pick the produce, they weigh it separately. “This year it has been harder for everyone because of the dry weather.”
Little explained that they started the garden to help people in the community.
“We started it because we knew it was needed for the church and for the community,” he said, noting that they offer both food and clothing in their campus food pantry.
Keesee said the church has a lot of young children and young adults who come out to help in the garden.
“This teaches them where their food comes from and the benefits of vegetables,” Keesee said. “We both (Keesee and Little) grew up on a farm, so we know the importance of vegetables and fruits and wanted to share that with others.”
“More people are taking part in helping in the garden,” added Little.
Keesee said while there have been many blessings from the garden, there have been a few challenges.
“Last year, we didn’t get any corn, and it’s a challenge to keep the deer out,” he said, as he pointed to the twine fence surrounding the large garden.
“We also have a problem with rabbits,” added Little. “They’re the type that you walk up to and they won’t run.”
Dr. Johnny York, pastor for PACM, said the Garden of Love and Faith has been a great thing for the church.
“It helps to further fulfill the outreach,” he said. “We not only provide the spiritual aspects of man, but the nutritional aspects as well.”
York added that they even have food pantry clients who enjoy giving back to the church.
“Sometimes the food pantry clients, on days the food pantry is open, will assist with harvesting,” he said.
He added that it’s not only the church’s obligation to share the Gospel, but also teach about living a healthy life.
“The long range impact is to maintain good health and lessen the incident of chronic illness,” he said. “The church has a responsibility to do that as well.”
York said the food pantry is open on the third Saturday of every month at the church and is available to those who qualify for assistance.
In July, the clothing ministry served 69 people, while the food pantry served 544 people.
PACM offers other ministries including a summer reading club for children ages 7-11; Women of Grace Ministry and Brotherhood Ministry; as well as ministries for both youth and younger children.
Little and Keesee said they enjoy being on the garden committee because of the camaraderie and giving back.
“I enjoy the fellowship among the guys and giving back to the community,” said Keesee.
For more information about the food pantry or PACM, visit

August 25, 2015

romaniaDuring a recent mission trip to Romania, youth from First Baptist Church spread the Gospel to Romani children and developed a deeper faith.
Ward Page, youth minister at First Baptist Church, said the mission team went to Romania to assist the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) with Ralph and Tammy Stocks from July 11-19. He noted that the youth were one of the first mission teams to connect with the CBF in that region.
“We wanted to get a foot in there to develop a long-term relationship with the pastors there,” he said.
While there, Page said they worked with the Romani people, often referred to as “gypsies.” The term is now considered derogatory. He noted that the Romani people migrated to Europe from India and Pakistan.
During the first two days, the mission team worked at the Ruth School in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, where they were asked to plan and direct a VBS (Vacation Bible School) type of ministry for the Romani children, which they called Kids Club. The school serves to educate children through the eighth grade and is funded solely on donations.
“After that, we traveled to a nearby town called, Br?ila. For the next three days, we visited eight villages for two hours at a time,” he said, noting that they conducted the same VBS ministry in the villages.
During the VBS, Page would teach a simplified version of Daniel, Chapter 3 so it was easy for the translators to relay and easy for the children to understand, which was then dramatized by the mission team.
After the teaching, the children were split up into groups for crafts and recreation. Then, they would participate in music and Bible study.
“We teach them that God is always going to be with them no matter what, and I think that is a much more positive message for them, rather than us telling these children who are very poor, don’t have any real possessions, and are considered to be undesirable and unwanted in their culture that God is going to bless them and take care of all their problems because that’s not what they know and that’s not real to them,” he said.
Along with leading a VBS, the mission team painted some of the classrooms at the Ruth School, sanded some of the chairs, removed some splintered areas on the chairs and removed graffiti.
What Page said impacted him the most was how hungry the children were for attention.
“They don’t usually get that because they lead a very tough life,” he said. “There was one teenager we met named, Emanuel. He asked when we were going to meet again, but I had to be honest with him that this was probably the only time we would see each other since we try to visit other villages. He said that even if we don’t see each other again, at least we will meet again in our next life in Heaven. From that point on, I changed the way I ended each day. That was very uplifting to all of us.”
Page said there were several challenges to the trip, including the language barrier when they only had two translators who were often pulled in many different directions.
“Sometimes, the challenges were responding to what we saw. Sometimes, we would see children who didn’t seem like they had had a bath in weeks; they had no shoes and cuts on their feet and legs,” he said. “The children lived in close proximity to farm animals that were very dirty sometimes. It could be a challenge to establish a connection with children because they were fearful of us too.”
Ward said one of the things he enjoyed most about the trip was seeing his students rise to every challenge and seeing the changes in them after the trip.
“That is really why I do what I do,” he said. “My students will probably refer back to this trip for the rest of their lives. I think a few of them are considering missions or ministry as a vocation, and I think this will change how they see the world and themselves for the rest of their lives.”
Several of the teens shared what they learned and enjoyed during the trip.
Chelsea Clemons said she enjoyed working with the Romani children, while spreading the word of God and growing closer to her church family.
“I feel like I became more aware of the world’s problems, especially poverty,” she said. “I realized that in America’s society, we struggle to give God any of our time, while (Romani) children were so excited to listen and learn about Him for hours at a time. Seeing their excitement made me realize that I need to be that excited about God all the time.”
Clemons shared one of her favorite memories from the trip.
“I made a bracelet for this little boy because he asked for one, and I was really impacted by his smile when I gave it to him,” she remarked. “I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such graciousness. It reminded me to be thankful for the things I have.”
Connor Sparrow enjoyed ministering to children who had never heard about Christianity.
“Being the ones that introduced them to the Gospel was very impactful,” he said. “I also enjoyed getting to spend a week with the people on our team. Experiencing this amazing trip with my friends made it that much more special.”
Sparrow shared that he learned to be thankful for what he has.
“No matter how little you think you have, it is most likely a lot more than these people in Romania. I also learned that just giving these kids attention made all the difference in their lives and created a lasting image they will cherish forever,” he said. “The whole experience made me realize how blessed we all are to live a privileged life here in America.”
One of Sparrow’s favorite memories from the trip was on his last day.
“We were teaching children in someone’s backyard and we passed out crayons to them, so they could color the craft we gave them. However, a few minutes went by and we noticed that some of the kids weren’t doing anything with the crayons. I then realized they didn’t know how to use crayons because they had never seen one before,” he explained. “This really hit me hard because we take something as simple as knowing how to color for granted, but they didn’t even know how to do that. The kids were overjoyed at their new knowledge of coloring and to find out that we were letting them keep the crayons. It was great to be able to make a direct impact in these people’s lives.”
For more information about the Ruth School, visit For more information about First Baptist Church, visit

Project Semicolon

August 25, 2015

cheyenneAfter struggling with depression for more than 15 years, Cheyenne May said she decided to take her life into her own hands in a positive way and raise awareness to help others and herself through the use of Project Semicolon.
According to their website, Project Semicolon is a faith-based, non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury. It exists to encourage, love and inspire.
May explained that she first heard about Project Semicolon when she was browsing through Pinterest, an application that shares photos and websites.
Amy Bleuel started it two years ago, May said.
“The idea behind it is that the (tattoo) can help start a conversation about suicide, mental illness and addiction,” May explained. “One reason I liked it is because it is faith based.”
May explained that Bleuel came up with the idea for Project Semicolon because she dealt with depression herself.
“She said she came up with it because her dad committed suicide when she was 18 and she suffered with depression too,” she said. “She said she struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for 20 years, which I could relate to.”
May explained that Bleuel used the semicolon because it represents both a stopping point and a continuation.
“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life,” May said as she read a pin from Project Semicolon that she found on Pinterest.
May said she feels that the semicolon body art allows her to be more open about her depression.
“You don’t want to tell anyone you have depression because you don’t want them to think you are crazy or have pity on you,” she said. “Depression runs in my family, and I wanted to be that one child that got out unscathed.”
May explained that while she dealt with depression for more than 15 years, it was around that time that she realized she was suffering from the dark unrelenting disorder.
“I was bullied in school and at home it was no better; my parents fought all the time, my dad was in and out of jail, and I was molested when I was little,” she said. “I go to a psychologist once a month. The psychologist found that I had repressed those memories.”
After dealing with these challenges for years, May said she started having suicidal thoughts around the age of 15.
Though she said this will likely be a lifelong struggle, May said she didn’t start fighting back until last year.
“I know this sounds crazy, but I was doing laundry when I heard a voice clear as day that said, ‘You are going to die by your own hand,’” she said. “That was when I chose to seek help. Tiffany Gibson at Kernersville Family Practice referred me to Psychiatrist Dr. Shaji Puthuvel.”
As to why she dealt with the burden on her own for so long, May said she didn’t want to “burden anyone else.”
“I think the reason I didn’t seek help was because I didn’t want to put the burden on my family, and I don’t think I truly wanted to admit I was depressed,” she shared.
May shared that she was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder and type II bipolar disorder.
“I still have manic episodes. It’s not something I can control. I’m on medication, but it only does so much,” she said. “It’s a daily struggle and a lifelong battle.”
May explained that before she was prescribed medication, her suicidal thoughts raced all day long, but since seeking help, she only has about one a day.
“It’s gotten better,” she remarked.
While some semicolon body art is just a semicolon standing alone, others chose to include it in art or with a quote, as May did. Her quote reads, “You are never too lost to be saved.”
“I wanted to get the semicolon tattoo because I wanted to raise awareness and create an open dialogue about mental illness because it’s not something people talk about; there’s a stigma attached to it,” she said. “When you tell someone you are depressed, they think, ‘What do you have to be depressed about? You have a great family and a great life,’ but they don’t know about your past or what is going on in your head. Even my husband still has trouble understanding what I am going through.”
May shared that the body art is also a reminder to herself to try to be positive.
For more information about Project Semicolon, visit
Editor’s Note: Project Semicolon is not a help line nor do they employ trained mental health professionals. Their purpose is solely to serve as an inspiration.
If you are in need of assistance or know someone that may be at risk for suicide, call (911), a mental health professional or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).

What’s your rate?

August 5, 2015

water-rateAs a group of residents question why they must pay such high water and sewer bills, Kernersville Community Development Director Jeff Hatling is putting the final touches on a year-long study of that very issue.
Hatling will present the results of the study and an overall master plan for future water and sewer expansion for Kernersville to the Board of Aldermen in September. There’s little doubt there will be plenty of people paying attention given the amount of interest in the subject generated recently.
In the course of asking why Kernersville sewer users pay more than double what Winston-Salem residents pay for their sewer usage, residents such as Brock Williams, Terry Templeton and Cindy Hardison have accumulated numerous documents dating back to a 1996 agreement in which the Town transferred its water and sewer system to the City County Utility Commission (CCUC). At the time, it was agreed that sewer users in Kernersville would pay a higher rate in order to compensate the CCUC for the transfer, but over time, the rate would decrease until reaching a 1.2 rate above the CCUC’s base rate.
In 2002, the Town asked that the CCUC freeze the sewer rate at its then current rate of 2.487 times the base rate, with the CCUC taking in the agreed upon 1.2 rate and Kernersville receiving the remainder each year in what Town officials call the Rate Differential Fund. Since then, anything collected by the CCUC above its 1.2 rate for sewer goes into that fund for the Town to use on utilities expansion.
According to CCUC officials, the account has accumulated as much as $20 million since it was first created and today holds a little over $13 million. In fiscal year 2015, the CCUC will deposit around $2 million into the account. The money isn’t part of the Town’s General Fund and cannot be used for anything other than water and sewer projects.
After reading two articles on the issue in the Tuesday News July 7 and July 14 editions, Town Manager Curtis Swisher said most of the information presented has been accurate, but said some was not. He began by going back to the original interlocal agreement that was first conceived in 1995 and formalized in 1996.
According to Swisher, the agreement stated that while the CCUC was taking over the Kernersville water and sewer system, the Town would be responsible for any expansion of the system beyond its current area at the time.
“At the time of the agreement in 1995, the rate multiplier for water was 1.2 times higher than the city rate for Winston-Salem and the rate multiplier for sewer was 3.439,” explained Swisher.
Swisher said the rate multiplier for water has remained consistent since 1996, never going above 1.2 and the sewer rate did decrease from the 3.439 multiplier and would have continued to decrease until it, too, reached a multiplier of 1.2 in fiscal year 2004-05. In January 2003, the Board froze the rate at 2.487, with the funds generated to be used for covering the cost associated with future expansion of the utility system.
Since then, those funds have been used to make annual payments toward $8 million the Town borrowed to expand utilities to the Abbotts Creek sewer basin, of which $5 million is still owed. The Abbotts Creek area includes what would have been the Caleb’s Creek development, the Carrollton mixed-use development that has since been renamed Welden, Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School, Cone Health MedCenter Kernersville, Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center and, more recently, the VA Kernersville Health Care Clinic.
Swisher and Hatling both agreed that when the Rate Differential Fund was created 19 years ago, Town leaders looked at it as a way to autonomously fund water and sewer expansion without having to borrow the money to do so and as a way to control the Town’s own destiny without being at the mercy of outside forces.
“If you can control your sewer, you can control your growth,” said Hatling.
When the state legislator did away with forced annexation, being able to offer water and sewer to areas municipalities hope to annex became an important tool for towns like Kernersville, said Hatling.
“It is the only tool a community has to attract voluntary annexation and Kernersville has been able to annex over 2,000 acres because of it,” Hatling continued.
Added Swisher, “It’s not cheap to do sewer projects, and it is important to have a revenue source that allows the Town to have growth in the future without having to roll over to city/county utilities.”
The relationship between the CCUC and the Town hasn’t been all smooth sailing. When Kernersville wanted to extend water and sewer to Triad Business Park, the CCUC responded that it didn’t have the capacity to conduct the project, but when Kernersville asked to use $650,000 to pay High Point to extend its lines to the site, the CCUC balked again, Swisher said.
That’s when the CCUC suggested a new agreement might be in order.
“We began negotiating a new agreement with CCUC in mid-2011 in order to address some changes to the original agreement,” Swisher explained. “In December 2011, the Board of Aldermen adopted an amendment to the 1996 interlocal agreement that stated the Town wanted to use $650,000 from the Rate Differential Fund to pay High Point. It also stated that the Town wanted to have a new agreement in place by June 30, 2012.”
Swisher said if a new agreement was not reached by June 30, 2012, the CCUC would distribute the funds in the Rate Differential Fund to the Town and lower the sewer rate to the 1.2 multiplier as originally agreed upon in 1996.
“We continued working on the agreement but realized one wouldn’t be reached by the deadline. At the June 2012 Board meeting, the aldermen granted a 180-day extension for negotiations to continue,” Swisher said.
It is at the end of this 180-day extension that Williams, Templeton and Hardison question, with Williams unable to find any documentation that a new agreement was reached. He contends that if no new agreement was put in place, then the Town’s sewer rate should have reverted to the 1.2 rate in January 2013.
However, Swisher said negotiations have never stopped and have been ongoing for the last two-and-a-half years. One of the areas where the Town and CCUC have failed to find middle ground is the CCUC’s contention that Kernersville would be responsible for approximately $20 to $30 million in upgrades to multiple treatment plants and pump stations under any new deal.
That’s where Kernersville and its Town officials balked.
“We briefed the Board of Aldermen on this and it was agreed that Kernersville was not responsible for this and we should continue negotiations,” Swisher said.

Those negotiations are still underway.
“Beginning in 2013, the CCUC started revising the future costs that it believes Kernersville will be responsible for and then in 2014, the Town commissioned a study to determine the future liabilities of the Town in regards to water and sewer,” Swisher said.
Those continuing negotiations are the reason the amended interlocal agreement adopted in December 2011 was never enacted, he continued, “causing the rate to remain at 2.487 and the Rate Differential Fund to remain open.”
Hatling and Swisher said it isn’t unusual for them to hear from citizens who have been told by the CCUC that their water and sewer bills keep increasing because of the rate multiplier Kernersville charges, but Swisher said that’s just not true.
“Increases have occurred because CCUC has raised the rates every year since 2000. Kernersville has not changed the rate multiplier since 1996 for water and since 2003 for sewer. Water is still 1.2 times the inside rate of Winston-Salem and sewer is 2.487 times the inside rate of Winston-Salem,” Swisher said.
Swisher said a Kernersville resident who used 1340 cubic feet of water in 2008 paid about $93.82. For the same amount of usage in 2015, their bill would be $165.08, almost double what they paid seven years ago.
“This increase is from the increase in rates put into effect by CCUC and has nothing to do with the rate multiplier Kernersville uses,” said Swisher.
The question becomes how much is enough when it comes to accumulating money in the Town’s Rate Differential Fund to pay for future utilities expansion. That’s what Hatling hopes the new study will shed some light on when it is presented in September.
Some of the subjects the study tackled included where the Town hopes to expand in the future, how much it will cost and if and when the sewer rate multiplier can be lowered as the Town reaches build out.
“Decisions have to be made on what liabilities exist as far as how much it will cost to continue to expand the system, paying off the loan and demolition of all our old water treatment facilities. We still don’t have sewer in areas to the north, east and south,” said Hatling. “We also have to look at what our revenues are going to be. We hope the multiplier will be able to come down.”
Swisher said estimates place the Town’s sewer liabilities, including growth outside its current area, at more than $25 million. If the Rate Differential Fund is eliminated altogether and the sewer rate dropped to 1.2, the cost of the projects would then be paid for using tax dollars.
That would mean a substantial tax increase.
“To pay for $25 million in projects using tax revenues, a tax increase of 12 cents or more would be required using today’s tax rate,” Swisher said. He hopes the upcoming study will shed more light on just how much a reduction in the rate the Town might be able to accomplish, but noted that any rate changes would have to be agreed to by the CCUC.
Kernersville Mayor Dawn Morgan is one Town official who supports eliminating the rate multiplier.
“I’m not sure there should be a multiplier given what is going on with water and sewer rates,” said Morgan.
Morgan also noted that as money has been taken from the Rate Differential Fund to fund expansion, those projects have also brought in revenues.

“The fund has gotten replenished through growth,” said Morgan. “Major companies have located here because we have a plan with our sewer system. It has allowed for great things. At the same time, the fund is growing at too fast a rate. I know the Town has been working on this study and it should go before the Board in August or September, but I would like to see the sewer rate reduced dramatically.”

Miss Mary’s Parade

June 23, 2015

In a parade all their own, Kernersville children six and under will have the chance to march around Town Hall to celebrate Fourth of July during the annual Miss Mary’s Children’s Parade, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.
The parade, which was started by Mary Mullinax, was first held in downtown Kernersville during the Farmers Market in 1983.
Mullinax, who was teaching preschool children at Main Street United Methodist Church at that time, said she was doing a project in which students painted flags for the holiday and finished off by having a parade in the church parking lot. Mullinax told the children they might be able to use their flag during the Kernersville Fourth of July Parade. However, the next day, one very unhappy little boy learned that he was too young to be in the parade, so Mullinax stuck to her word and invited children ages six and under to march around in their own parade at the Farmers Market’s former location in downtown Kernersville.
The parade, which was originally called the Children’s Parade, was changed to Miss Mary’s Children’s Parade in 1993 in honor of Mullinax, after the Kiwanis Club took over the event. Today, the parade averages anywhere from 40-75 children, depending on the weather.
Kiwanis Club member Bruce Boyer noted that as Kiwanis is a club that supports children, supporting Miss Mary’s Parade only seemed like the right thing to do.
“It really fits,” he said.
Since its inception, many Kernersville residents have enjoyed attending the parade, including David and Kristen Arnold and their youngest son, Justin, 3.
“Last year was our first year. We took our youngest son, Justin, who was two at the time,” David said. “He enjoyed getting to take home the flags and American flag beach ball.”
David shared that he personally enjoyed the size of the event.
“I enjoyed the closeness and smallness of it all. I also liked how the kids were made a part of the whole parade; they were the parade,” he stated. “It’s a great event because it focuses on the kids and teaches them what America is about. It helps our children learn to be proud.”
Boyer said he enjoys Miss Mary’s Parade for many reasons.
“I enjoy seeing the families come together and seeing children dressed in patriotic clothing and being pulled in a wagon by their mom and dad,” he said. “The children may not know much about patriotism, but they will remember it. Patriotism is learned and this reinforces at an early age how proud we are with the freedoms that we have.”
During Miss Mary’s Children’s Parade, the children march and ride around the Town Hall courtyard decorated with American flags.
During the event, children can see Uncle Sam and will receive a small American flag.
The parade will begin with a welcome from Mayor Pro Tem Joe Pinnix, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, Star Spangled Banner, and the crowning of the Kernersville Fourth of July queen, who will then lead the parade. This year’s Fourth of July Queen is Katie Lakey.
Children are encouraged to come dressed in red, white and blue to show off their patriotism and to ride in decorated wagons, strollers and tricycles.
Registration begins at 9 a.m. with the parade stating at 10 a.m. No pets and no motorized vehicles are allowed.
Editor’s note: To read the story about the Fourth of July Queen, see the Thursday, June 25 edition of the Kernersville News.

Special Olympics Competitor

June 23, 2015

Emma Wright recently competed at the state level in the Special Olympics, winning five gold medals.
Emma competes in the Special Olympics as a gymnast. She is a rising fourth grader at The North Carolina Leadership Academy.
“She started gymnastics when she was three-years-old as an outlet,” said her mom, Barbie Wright. “When she was little, she would grab onto things in the house and do pull ups, so we needed an outlet at a very early age.”
Emma started out attending Carolina Twisters, where Kernersville Parks and Recreation Department is located today, but now attends High Point Gymnastics Academy. She has been competing in the Special Olympics for the past three years, starting when she was eight-years-old.
“She did an exposition at the age of seven,” Barbie explained. “She went to all the meets and they scored her, but it was just more practice for her.”
Emma said she competes in four different events.
“I do beam, floor, bars and vault,” she shared. “My favorite is floor, but I also like bars a lot. I am happy when I am on bars.”
Emma practices one-and-a-half hours a week for gymnastics and another hour each week just for the Special Olympics.
“She trains with Coach Brittany Caroll at High Point Gymnastic Academy,” Barbie said. “They came to us and offered to train her at no cost to us.”
Emma mentioned that she enjoys training.
“I like practicing. It’s fun and it gets me in shape,” she said. “I like to do handstands and cartwheels.”
She noted that she had been learning and working on doing a round off back handspring and was successful at the move during the Special Olympics.
“During the Special Olympics, she did it perfectly for the first time,” Barbie shared.
Emma chimed in, “Nailed it!”
“It’s pretty rare for someone with Down syndrome to be able to do a round off back handspring, which makes it pretty awesome. She’s very flexible,” Barbie added, as Emma showed how she is double jointed by joining her hands and taking them from above her head, behind her back all the way down to her waist.
Emma discussed her routine for each event this year. On beam, she walked on the beam, turned around and stepped. Then turned around again, did an arabesque, bent over to touch the beam with one hand as she lifted one of her back legs in the air and then finished with a round off.
During the floor exercise, she performed to “Let It Go” from Frozen. She explained that she did a round off back hand spring, a cartwheel, handstand, front roll, jumped up, did a backwards roll, and did two back kick overs in a row.
“That’s when you go into a backbend and then kick your feet over,” Barbie explained. “That’s pretty impressive because it’s hard enough just doing one.”
On bars, Emma said she hung for a bit, then pushed away into a swing and then did a back hip circle on the low bar. On the high bar, she jumped up, swung, and dismounted.
“I think she got her highest score on the bars and the second highest in the floor exercise,” Barbie shared.
During vault, Emma said she ran and jumped onto the springboard and then did a handstand flat back off of the springboard.
Barbie said the scoring in Special Olympics is different than that of the Olympics.
“In the regular Olympics, they start at 10 and add points, but in the Special Olympics, it starts at 20 and they subtract points,” she shared. “They have both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics and hers is considered artistic.”
When she first started competing, Emma was competing at a level one, but soon rose to level three.
“She was in level one and her coaches suggested that she skip level two and go onto level three. In level three, she can use her own music and routine for the floor, but they give you elements you have to do,” she explained. “In her first year at level one, she won three gold medals and two silver medals.”
Barbie added that they had teams from Raleigh and Charlotte at the meet as well.
“We drove to Raleigh for the state meet,” Emma shared.
Barbie explained that on Friday night, they had a ceremony like in the actual Olympics, representing all of the sports and even lit a torch. The events were held on Saturday.
“This is her second year in a row that she got a gold medal in all of her events and one for all around, which is when they combine all of the scores,” Barbie explained. “The last two years she has done the best out of her age group.”
Although she won five gold medals, Barbie said she will not be heading to Nationals.
“For Nationals, you have to be invited so everyone gets a chance to participate,” she said.
Emma said she enjoyed competing in the Special Olympics.
“It made me feel happy to win. It was exciting,” she said, as she showed how she waved and gave a salute on the podium. “I want to keep doing it. It’s awesome.”
Barbie explained that next year, Emma will stay at level three and they will continue to add elements to each of her events to make them more advanced and to continue to challenge her.
“It will allow her to get extra points,” she said. “One thing we want to work on is to add a back tuck to the round off back hand spring.”