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FBC-W on Qcitymetro

feeding pic

By Sarafina Wright

July 13, 2021

When the pandemic hit last March, upending lives across the country, neighbors, community organizations and churches stepped in to fill critical needs — including, in some cases, a need for food. 

At Charlotte Community Services Association, a nonprofit extension of First Baptist Church-West, the focus was on ensuring that aging adults in the city’s West End community — a designated food desert by Mecklenburg County — didn’t go hungry. 

For two months, the organization served roughly 200 meals, four days a week, with “little resources” said Patsy Burkins, executive director of CSA. But by July, funds to run the program were almost depleted. 

As CSA prepared to shut down its feeding program, a call came from a Mecklenburg County official offering financial support. Now a year later, the program has served an estimated 41,000 grab-and-go meals. 

“It was God,” Burkins said of the last-minute intervention.

“When stuff like that happens, that’s when you know you’re on the right track and you’re doing what you’re supposed to.”

Kajal Patel, program manager for the county’s Senior Citizens Nutrition Program, said that when the county closed its 18 nutrition sites due to the pandemic, the agency turned to the community.

“We (county) just didn’t have enough manpower to fill the need on a larger scale,” Patel said.

Patel said the county initiated a partnership with CSA — one of several partnerships formed with community organizations — because the church is located in a high-priority area and was already demonstrating that it could make a difference by “feeding hundreds of seniors daily.”

Why it matters

Nearly 15% of Mecklenburg County’s households are considered food insecure, which means they have reduced access to fresh meats and vegetables. 

The bulk of those food-insecure individuals live in six zip codes — 28205, 28206, 28208, 28212, 28216 and 28217 — identified by the health department as priority areas. 

For seniors in these areas, many living on low or fixed incomes, the pandemic only exacerbated food insecurity, said Rev. Ricky A. Woods, senior minister of First Baptist Church-West and CSA board chair. 

Prior to the pandemic, he said, many of the seniors CSA serves daily would normally get meals and socialization at one of the county’s nutrition sites. But when the sites closed, those individuals no longer had convenient access to free meals, which created an opening for CSA said Woods.A look inside

CSA workers prepare grab-and-go meals for seniors on Thursday, July 8. Photo: Sarafina Wright

The days begin early for the staff at CSA, which serves almost a thousand meals a week. 

By 10 a.m., a line of cars begins to form. 

“As you can see, this is a full-scale operation,” Burkins said one day as she also greeted a county food inspector who showed up for a surprise visit. 

Burkins oversees a food staff of about 12 people, some who are volunteers; others work as cooks and food handlers. 

Everyday Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the workers feed about 220 seniors daily with meals that may include spaghetti, tuna salad, fruit salad, desserts or the fan-favorite chicken salad. 

Macaroni and cheese, smoked turkey, black-eyed peas, yellow rice, collard greens and candied yams also make appearances on the menu.

Burkins said that what sets CSA apart from other food programs in the county is its healthy cuisine that “seniors want to eat.”

“It’s truly from their culture,” said. “Not being poured from a can or frozen food. We taste the food and make sure it’s good. You don’t generally expect that from a mass program that’s serving the community.”

What also makes this program unique is the “neighbors-helping-neighbors” component, she said, noting that some seniors take meals to others who can’t leave home for various reasons. Some who are fed by the program are upwards of 90 and 100 years old, Burkins said. 

One of the regulars, Diane Wyche, picks up seven meals daily, including one for herself. 

She delivers the food to her neighbors in the West End who don’t have transportation or are dealing with health ailments.

“They enjoy the meals, and they look forward to it every day,” said Wyche. “I think it’s a great program for any side of Charlotte and any senior, but I like it being in my neighborhood, and my neighbors are quite happy it’s here too.”

Future uncertain

Rev. Ricky A Woods, senior minister, First Baptist Church-West. Photo: Sarafina Wright

With the CSA feeding program funded through December, it’s unclear whether the county will renew funding. 

Woods said CSA’s current grab-and-go service “is the kind of program that needs to continue,” since it’s unknown how comfortable seniors will feel about going back to mass gatherings at nutritional sites post-covid. 

In fact, he said, such programs should be layered to include “health education and (other) information that impacts seniors.”

Patel said that while CSA’s feeding program has made a positive impact, the county must examine several factors to determine future funding. 

Post-covid, the county plans to reopen all of its nutritional sites, including those at West Charlotte Recreation Center and the McCrorey YMCA, both within a two-mile radius of First Baptist Church-West. 

Patel said the county wants to avoid duplication of services. Also, she said, the county is analyzing what the need might be for grab-and-go meals in a post-pandemic environment.

“We definitely feel like we could use the support from community agencies to leverage the services we provide, but we also have to recognize the fact that drive-thru meals are not the complete solution,” she said.

Patel said the more than 1,600 seniors who are registered at nutritional sites across the county also find value in the fellowship and socialization they with their meals. 

The county-run sites also provide various amenities, including computer labs, day trips, and diabetes self-management classes, Patel said. 

Patel says the issue is less about funding and more about what makes sense for the community and its partners. 

The county alone cannot put solutions in place,” she said. “We definitely need the support of the community and organizations. If it is justified, I think the county will do its best to fund that gap in service.

“What we don’t want to do,” she said, “is drop it without a plan in place.”

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This article was published as part of our West End Journalism Project, which is funded by a grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Barringer Renamed for Charles H. Parker

Board votes to rename Barringer Academic Center

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has voted unanimously to rename Barringer Academic Center as Charles H. Parker Academic Center.

The renaming passed with an unanimous 8-0 vote. The new name will be in effect, starting in the 2021-2022 school year.

Charles H. Parker (1844-1939), was born in slavery, and went on to become a visionary leader of the African-American community along West Boulevard.

Parker helped found Moore’s Sanctuary A.M.E. Zion Church and Plato Price High School, and his children helped build affordable housing on Parker’s 19th-century homestead.

The options for the new name had previously been narrowed down to three choices. The other two options were Samuel Banks Pride and Charles Sifford.

It is the second vote this year to change schools named for people with racist connections or backgrounds.

“We are proud to rename this school for Mr. Parker, who was born into slavery and who went on to build schools, establish churches and provide affordable housing in the African-American community,” said Elyse Dashew, Board chair. “His legacy in public education in Charlotte, as well as his visionary civic activism, will serve as an inspiration to students and the school and our district as a whole.”

Barringer Academic Center was built in the 1950s on land purchased by local businessman Osmond L. Barringer, who developed much of the West Boulevard corridor in the 1920s. Barringer specified that the school be named to honor his father, a Confederate general, and his brother, an advocate of so-called “scientific racism.”

Renaming is part of a deliberate process initiated by current Superintendent Earnest Winston to identify and rename schools named after individuals who owned slaves or promoted slavery, expressed racist or bigoted views, or actively opposed equality.

“We do not want our schools to intentionally or unintentionally demonstrate values that our district does not support,” Winston said. “As our nation continues the journey toward full equality for all citizens, we think these names and symbols are important.”

The school is a nationally certified magnet school. Located near the intersection of West Boulevard and Clanton Road, it sits on the site of an 18th-century gold mine.

In a nod to that unusual history, the school’s entrance features two large round stones that were used to pulverize rock in order to extract gold ore.

Barringer is the second CMS school to be renamed because of links to a racist past. The Board voted earlier this year to change the name of Zebulon Vance High to Julius L. Chambers High. Vance was a North Carolina governor and slave owner who fought for the Confederacy. Chambers was a Charlotte civil rights lawyer who fought for desegregation of schools, including a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that resulted in busing to integrate CMS.

The renaming will take effect at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

Copyright 2021 WBTV. All rights reserved.


Families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 last year will soon be able to apply for reimbursement of their funeral costs through a new federal assistance program.

spring cemetery

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has said it will provide up to $9,000 per funeral, with people who lost multiple family members to COVID-19 eligible to apply for up to $35,000.

The funds can help cover funeral services, including interment and cremation, that occurred between Jan. 20, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020. Program applications are expected to become available in early April.

Who is Eligible?

To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions:

  • The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
  • The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
  • There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

How to Apply

In April, FEMA will begin accepting applications. If you had COVID-19 funeral expenses, we encourage you to keep and gather documentation. Types of information should include:

  • An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.
  • Funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened.
  • Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. We are not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.

How are Funds Received

If you are eligible for funeral assistance you will receive a check by mail, or funds by direct deposit, depending on which option you choose when you apply for assistance.



What This Week’s Impossibly Rare ‘Christmas Star’ On The Solstice Tells Us About The ‘Star Of Bethlehem’

By Jamie Carter
Forbes Magazine

Each December, planetariums and astronomers across the globe pontificate on the origin of the “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem.”

As the story in the Gospel of Matthew goes, a bright star rose after the birth of Jesus Christ that the wise men then followed to find him. 

Was it a comet? A supernova? Could it have been a conjunction of two planets? Or was it just a throwaway fictional detail that shouldn’t be taken so seriously. 

Either way, this week there will be a “great conjunction.” That’s the term used to by astronomers to describe a situation in the Solar System when Jupiter and Saturn appear to pass each other very closely (a conjunction is an apparent passing of two or more celestial bodies while a great conjunction refers only to Jupiter and Saturn). 

Jupiter and Saturn tangle in a great conjunction—as seen from Earth—every 19.85 Earth years. It’s a natural symptom of Jupiter taking 11.86 years to orbit the Sun and Saturn 29.4 years, which naturally means they will sometimes appear to pass each other in our night sky from our point of view (despite being many millions of miles distant from each other).

This week’s events occur seven weeks after the two planets’ heliocentric conjunction, when they aligned with each other and the Sun in the Solar System. 

It’s been known for thousands of years that Jupiter and Saturn conjunct every 20 years and even that the event occurs in the same part of the sky every 800 years or so. 

Their next great conjunction will happen on December 21, 2020—on the date of the December Solstice and just four days before Christmas Day—when they will appear to be a mere 0.1º from each other. That’s about the width of a toothpick held at arm's length according to Sky & Telescope magazine. 

It will be the closest great conjunction since July 16, 1623 and the first to be easily observable since March 4, 1226. Could it be the source of the “Star of Bethlehem” story? 

Great conjunctions—and all conjunctions—are entirely predictable events. Though they don’t always get as close as they will appear this week—that happens only about every 300 years—there have been calculations made about previous great conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn around the same time as the suggested birth of Jesus Christ. 

One of the longest-running theories goes all the way back to Johannes Kepler, a key figure of the scientific revolution in the 17th century and the first to correctly explain the motion of the planets. 

One of the longest-running theories goes all the way back to Johannes Kepler, a key figure of the scientific revolution 

“Kepler thought that star of Bethlehem was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn,” said Nigel Henbest, author of Philip's 2021 Stargazing Month-by-Month Guide to the Night Sky in Britain & Ireland. “Here we are two millennia later and a similar conjunction is about to happen within four days of Christmas Day … maybe a new Messiah is about to be born!” 

According to Kepler’s calculations made in 1603 (during a year he observed a great conjunction), a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 BC. Why “triple?” As Jupiter laps Saturn in the Solar System the two planets align with the Sun for a moment, but from our faster-moving planet’s point of view the planets actually appear to go backwards for some weeks. It’s purely about perspective, but this retrograde motion can cause two or, in the case of the year 7 BC, three conjunctions in the same year. The last triple great conjunction occurred in 1980 and the next one is in 2239. 

Were Jupiter and Saturn mistaken for a single star? Perhaps great conjunctions were considered omens, like comets. Either way, this week’s closest approach of Jupiter and Saturn in the telescopic age is a historic event that you must take a look at. All this week and next—but particularly on the evening of December 21, 2020—cast your eyes to the southwestern skies 45 minutes after sunset where you are and you’ll see two distant worlds become one. 

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes. 

Walk/Run for Ahmaud!



Walk/Run for Justice for Ahmaud!
2:23 Miles for Ahmaud Arbery

Monday, May 25, 2020

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