More about Gaston Together
Gaston Together is this year celebrating 23 years of excellence and local operation.
Gaston Together was formed as an outgrowth of the Gaston Chamber of Commerce Quality Council and incorporated in 1997. In 1998, Gaston Together began operations as a 501(c)-three tax-exempt organization. The initial purpose of the organization was to promote the economic prosperity of Gaston County through facilitation and collaboration. The original Gaston Together council members were selected from people throughout Gaston County in an effort to truly make Gaston Together representative on a countywide level. The charter council members received facilitation training on the weekends.
The first executive director was Pam Youngblood, hired in 1998. Back then, the Gaston Together offices were located at Gaston College. Initial financial support was provided by Gaston County.
During 1999, numerous companies contributed to Gaston Together‘s programs. Funds were used to attract several national speakers to challenge Gaston County leaders to look into the future. Speakers included Wally Amos (of Famous Amos Cookies), Rudy Rudiger (of Notre Dame University), Anthony Compolla and the late Art Linkletter.
Also that year, the Gaston Clergy and Citizens Coalition, consisting of 20 local black and white and ministers, was formed to enhance race relations and to build community relations. The Martin Luther King Bridge memorial and plaza were results of planning by this group. Since 2004, the coalition has recognized local citizens with the MLK Unity Award. In 2009, the coalition began the “Breakfast of Champions” program with middle schools in an effort to connect ministers in a mentor setting with at-risk middle school students. The basic facilitation training of community members began in 1999 and continues to this day.
In 2000, Gaston Together began the Community Leadership Awards to encourage local organizational leadership. Operation Playground was the first winner, followed by the City of Gastonia All-American City Delegation. Others include the Gaston County Schools and their community partners, Connect Gaston, the Sisters of Mercy, the Run for the Money Campaign Committee, the Interfaith Hospitality Network, the Junior League’s Woodhill Elementary School Project, the Mount Holly Community Development Foundation, Gaston Family Health Services, the Alliance for Children and Youth, Gaston College and Hope for Gaston. The 2012 winner was Habitat for Humanity, followed by the Carrie E. and Lena V. Glenn Foundation in 2013.
Also recognized at the Community Leadership Awards is the Proudest Kid in Gaston County essay contest winner. The contest’s countywide winner is introduced to the North Carolina General Assembly each spring.
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