2810[high]5:Continuing Education Classes You Should Take at the Levine CPCC Campus this Fall

Plumbing 1-2-3 - Understanding the intricacies of your commode and how it works is probably the best party trick you could pull out of your pocket this fall-especially in the case of a flushing emergency. In 3 extended Saturday sessions, this class will teach you basic plumbing methods as well as the tools and materials you will need to install plumbing pipe work and fixtures. No book is required. Class is held on Saturdays 10/5-10/19 from 8 am to 5 pm.

Sewing I, II, & III -  Can’t quite find the perfect blouse to go with your outfit? Or have a vision of some throw pillows for your living room, but can’t find a match at Target? Sewing I & II at CPCC has you covered. Sewing I will teach you the basics of fabrics, patterns, and tools and is offered 9/3-10/1 on Tuesdays from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm or 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Once you’ve mastered the basics, Sewing II will help you master your proficiency and take your needle and thread artistry to the next level. Picking up where Sewing I left off, Sewing II is offered 10/2-10/30 on Wednesdays at the same times as its predecessor. Finally, round out the series with Sewing III, on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm during 11/6-12/11, where you where you will learn to create professional results by learning to understand and make adjustments to your patterns. 

The Art of Decluttering: Clutter Intervention - Are you a fan of the Art of Tidying Up and Marie Kondo, but just don’t know where to get started. CPCC’s the Art of Decluttering can help. Learn the basics of organization in class, then travel to your fellow student’s home and help organize as a group. Class goes from 10/1 to 10/29 and will meet on Tuesdays from 6:30 pm to 8:30 am and on two Saturdays from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Microsoft Office Boot Camp - Are your Excel skills far from excellent? Powerpoint presentations less than powerful? Microsoft Office Boot Camp can help your brush up on your Word, Excel, and Powerpoint skills in this two week intensive training from 9/17-9/26. Class meets on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm.

Retirement Planning Today - You know that it’s never too early to start thinking about funding your retirement. But has anyone told you the same goes for thinking about how you will be livin? In Retirement Planning Today, you will begin to create a plan for that chapter of your life. The class is appropriate for all ages and career levels - whether you are just starting out or considering retirement in the near future. Two sessions will be offered this fall, one from 9/26-10/3 and the other 10/1-10/8. Both sessions meet on Tuesdays from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

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2810[high]5: Volunteerism Builds Community

One of the many things that makes Matthews great is the community spirit, the space where volunteerism thrives. We today we give a High[5] to five volunteer opportunities.

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Brace YMCA: The Y needs volunteers for all sorts of things, from administration duties to helping at Camp Boomerang, giving your time helps others thrive.

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Greater Matthews Habitat for Humanity: With Habitat the volunteeer needs abound. Work on the build sites, in the ReStore, or with the administrative team. If you feel more comfortable working from home, sometimes there are opportunities to provide meals for the builders.

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Matthews Community Farmer’s Market: Show up early and buy your weekly groceries, then fill in a volunteer slot. The Market needs help with the Community House, morning set up, noontime take down, and more.

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Matthews Fire Department: Certainly more demanding than the other volunteer roles, but volunteers for the fire department are essential for the safety of Matthews.

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Matthews Police Department: Another essential role for the safety of Matthews, Citizen Volunteers for the police department are trained for directing traffic, security patrols, and resource support to officers. If that’s too much action, you can help at the front desk or data entry.

2810[high]5: Places to Practice Yoga

Matthews may not have a dedicated yoga studio, but there are plenty of opportunities to get your Savasana fix. We’ve rounded up a few, but if you know of more, share them in the comments!

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Matthews Community Center: Fit a work out in over your lunch break with Chris Robertson on Mondays from noon to 1 p.m. 100 E McDowell St, Matthews

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Lifetime Fitness: Join Mandi Murrow Brown on Tuesday evening at 7:15 p.m. for heated Vinyasa yoga. Email Mandi for more info. 9915 E Independence Blvd, Matthews


Stumptown Park: Elinor Edvi Miller will guide you through Vinyasa and deep stretch yoga Fridays at 9:30 a.m. on the stage in the park. 120 S Trade St, Matthews

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Brace YMCA: With classes for every skill level every single day, there’s bound to be a class for everyone. You’ll have to have a monthly Y membership, though. 3127 Weddington Rd, Matthews

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McDowell Arts Center: Practice yoga while surrounded in art, Katrina Whelchel leads slow flow yoga in the arts center on Thursdays from 6 to 7:15 p.m. 123 E McDowell St, Matthews

Meet Your Neighbors: The Milledges

Photo courtesy Sarah Milledge

Photo courtesy Sarah Milledge

In 2011, when Sarah Milledge (née McAuliffe), now 37, met Jermaine Milledge, now 34, the disparity in their lives couldn’t be greater. She came from a small town. He came from a big city. Sarah is Caucasian and petite and loves to talk. Jermaine is 6’7”, was working on a Master’s Degree (she had her BA), is African-American and doesn’t love to talk. He is also a few years her junior.

“It was like ‘yin and yang,’ “said Jermaine.

What they did share was a common employer (State of Michigan); the fact that both had lost their fathers at an early age and, most importantly, that both are blind. Sarah suddenly lost her vision from Type I diabetes at the age of 23. Jermaine has been visually impaired since birth.

What they found, together, was love, commonality, a life dedicated to promoting awareness of the possibilities for those experiencing vision loss (and other disabilities) and the importance of community, diversity, and inclusion.

Together, they have a handful of degrees, certifications, sit on several state boards and have significant job experiences to their credit. (They both also sit on the town’s Diversity Council). Moving to Matthews four years ago for work has been a blessing. They recently purchased a new home in town which they share with Sarah’s Yellow Labrador, Echo, 12.

“Community is huge,” said Sarah. “We get a lot of help from a lot of people in Matthews. We love Matthews.”

Today, the pair knows they are role models for others with challenging disabilities. “It’s not something I tried to be,” said Jermaine, “but you just become that by having certain successes. You kind of become a trailblazer in a way. To show people that you can succeed despite barriers.”

“We advocate every day for ourselves and our clients who are also visually impaired,” said Sarah. “Living in a world with disability – that won’t stop. We’re always setting goals; I think we have empathy. We know what it’s like to be misrepresented; to overcome barriers.”

In the end, it is their love and connection that will remain. “I absolutely love my husband,” said Sarah. “We work so well together as a team…. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. We have climbed the mountain. We feel like we have an army around us with family and friends.”

Meet Your Neighbors: Caren Carr and Tony DiRamio

We had to make a decision. I didn’t know how much time we’ve got. People say, ‘Why did you get married, you could go so soon!’ But, it doesn’t matter. We can have happiness.
— Tony DiRamio
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Approximately, five years ago and within a one-year span, Caren Carr’s spouse of 16 years and Tony DiRamio’s spouse of 42 years passed on after struggling with terminal illnesses.

As a Catholic and a Jew, respectively, neither Tony, now 77, nor Caren, now 67, knew the other except in passing at the monthly Hospice and Pallative Care Charlotte Region Support (HPCCR) Group meetings. With family in various places across the country, neither had local relatives to count on. More importantly, both had just experienced the grief of losing long-time loves, and both already had long-established full lives in Matthews.

So, when the support group ended, in early 2015, Tony attempted to continue getting the group together – this time, at a local restaurant. Only Caren showed up. The meal lasted a full two hours with much discussion, reminiscences, and reflections on loss and grief.

Six weeks later, they went on a joint transatlantic cruise ship together. Six months later, after dating exclusively, Tony asked for Caren’s hand in marriage.  “I was very surprised,” said Caren of the proposal. “I said, ‘you don’t have to tell me tonight,’ ” said Tony. “I didn’t [answer] him right away,” reflected Caren.

“After being married for 42 years, it was kind of lonely living in the house,” said Tony. “I didn’t [just] want to live with someone. I wanted a long-term commitment. I’d been married my whole life and I had a lot of life ahead of me,” said Tony.

“We weren’t looking for this, but we had something in common because we’d had loss,” Caren said. “I started being his friend; he started being my friend.”

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While they considered an elaborate wedding, a suggestion at the county clerk’s office to keep their names made them consider an easier path – finding a judge or magistrate available immediately and determined by day. “I said, ‘let’s get married tomorrow,’ ” said Tony. The pair went to a jewelry store that afternoon to pick out rings and asked a neighbor and her husband to stand as witnesses for them.

The next day, they visited the magistrate (working) in the local jail. They brought $20 in cash to pay for the ceremony. The neighbor brought a cake from Publix. They were married on October 28, 2015.

When asked later about the event, Tony joked to friends that they “had about six hundred people [in attendance], but most of them were wearing orange suits!”

And, in answer to people’s judgment about their marrying again so soon, or even at all, after the loss of spouses, Tony is clear: “The grief is still there. Just because we got married doesn’t mean that we don’t have feelings [about our previous lives],” he said, noting that they both had good marriages. “We go thru a process; we talk about it sometimes. There are still certain things you have to get over.”

We weren’t looking for this, but we had something in common because we’d had loss.
— Caren Carr

Having lived for a few years in Caren’s old home, last January, they moved into their new home, together. Now, they share a love of travel, of going out to restaurants, and of living in Florida for a few months/year each winter. They also share religious traditions and visits to their respective houses of worship.

“In older age, it’s different than when you are younger,” said Tony.  “We had to make a decision. I didn’t know how much time we’ve got. People say, ‘Why did you get married, you could go so soon!’ But, it doesn’t matter. We can have happiness.”

“We’ve been married four years. I’m happy,” he said. “It’s very difficult to change a lot of habits. She has her [ways]; I have mine,” said Tony, stating that in the end, they “work it out.”

“But, it’s a really happy story,” added Caren.

At their passing, the couple will bequeath money to HPCCR. “We’re so grateful for meeting and for the care our spouses got,” said Caren.

Morning Minute: Friday, February 1, 2019

News About Town: The Environmental Advisory Board presented at Monday's Board of Commissioners meeting. EAB Board Chair Gordon Miller provided several updates to Commissioners, including the introduction of an EAB created a pamphlet for builders and landowners with suggestions for more environmentally friendly development. Some examples include strategically planted trees, re-use of rainwater, and on-site composting.


News Around Town:  One of my favorite events of the year is coming up tomorrow - Mecklenburg County Soil and Water Conservation District's annual Tree and Seedling sale.  The 48th annual event will be held  on Saturday, February 2nd from 9-12 at 1418 Armory Drive in Charlotte. These are all native (bare-rooted) plants, and the costs range from $2 to $5 each.   It's past the deadline to pre-order plants, but at this time they have quantities of each.  Since the event benefits the entire county, show up early to get first dibs on your favorites!  
Need a rain barrel?   It's your lucky day since they'll have 60 and 80 gallon rain barrels for sale.
For more information and species list, please visit   (Submitted by Debbie LeBlanc Foster)

One Good Thing: On January 22 we posted how to have road signs replaced or potholes fixed. As someone who lives on a state-owned road and had noticed a missing speed limit sign, I took the opportunity to use the NCDOT website to report the need for a replacement. I reported the issue online (January 21). I found the form was straightforward and easy to use. After submitting, I received an email with a tracking number. Occasionally I wondered when the sign would be replaced but gave the system time to work. As of yesterday the new sign was up. The process worked smoothly and efficiently.

Morning Minute: Thursday, January 31, 2019

News About Town: At the Council meeting this past Monday, Chief Clark Pennington asked the Board of Commissioners to approve the Police Department’s pursuit of additional funding through the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) grant program. In recent years the growth of the department hasn’t kept up with the growth of the town, and valuable police resources are being allocated to crash response rather than crime prevention. Currently, the department has 61 full-time police officers and two reserve officers (one school resource officer serves full-time at Carmel Christian School and is budget neutral). The grant would provide significant budget relief for the addition of three patrol officers and one corporal. The Board of Commissioners approved applying for the GHSP Grant.  

News Around Town: Property tax valuations are a hot topic all over the county. If you’re still in sticker shock, you’re in good company: the median rate increase for residential property is 43 percent while commercial property owners saw a median increase of 77 percent. Yesterday Norah explained the who, what, and when of the new numbers. County Manager Dena Diorio posted a video to explain what the new values mean.

One Good Thing: Miss the days of placing a birth, graduation, engagement, or wedding announcement in the paper? We do too! Here at the Beacon, we're launching a new Community section where Matthews residents can share their good news. Announcements are free to people who live or work in Matthews and can include a picture. Head on over to our submission page and send us the things you’re excited about!

Mumukshu Brahmbhatt: Giving Back Through Service

In the joy of others lies our own.
— Pramukh Swami Maharaj

To hear Mumukshu “MB” Brahmbhatt, 45, of Waxhaw, tell it, his life has been a whirlwind.

Moving from India to study business and finance in Australia 23 years ago, to working at the UPS Store (2217 Matthews Township Pkwy), MB has always squarely placed his faith in God, his religion, and his core values. In doing so, he has been on a rollercoaster ride—of life.  The last stop has been Matthews; he’s now celebrating his 10th year as owner of that store.  

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

But this story begins 20 years ago when on a trip (from Australia) to visit relatives in New Jersey, he had a half-hour face-to-face with a potential new wife in Jacksonville, FL. Before leaving to go back to Australia, he requested a second brief meeting but was turned down.  

Unbeknownst to him, and shortly thereafter, his now-wife’s father flew her family to MB’s parent’s house in India to meet his family. His wife’s family was so thrilled with what they saw that they asked him to immediately fly to India to get engaged. At that point, he could not remember what his future bride looked like. More importantly, he was unsure what to do.

Conferring with his spiritual leader in India, he requested permission to delay his final exams, and off he flew to Mumbai to meet her parents.  

They requested that he get engaged and then travel 300 miles to his parents’ house to marry. He requested time to finish his studies, graduate, land a job, and then marry before moving with his future wife. They requested a local court marriage. And so he was engaged and then marriedwithin 10 days.

They had a one-day honeymoon.

She went back to Florida; he went back to Australia to complete his studies. He was, as he says, “in shock.”

It would be one year after their whirlwind meeting that he would finish his schooling, obtain his visa, and move to Florida to discuss the specifics of their life.

He laid out his intentions: he wanted to move to New York to live in the financial capital of the world. She didn’t want to go north. He opened up a map and asked her to tell him where they might move. They found a “happy medium.” In 1999, they moved to the Charlotte area. He is now the father of two children.

For MB, all of the stories—the stuff of life in between birth and death—has been but a mere journey to an afterlife, one that is ordained and divined by God. Until that happens, this devotee of Hinduism says he is experiencing his life as intended—as a life of joy, service, giving back to the community, and serving for the greater good of family, friends, and customers.

“This is a temporary life,” said MB. “He designed this for me. I’m happy, and I’m here to serve,” he said.

He is proud of his guru, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, 5th spiritual Guru of BAPS Organization following in the footsteps of Shastriji Maharaj and Bhagwan (God) Swaminarayan, with their emphasis on a life dedicated to the betterment of others. Following their dictates, he is alive and on earth to “serve others” without “attachments to things, as we all have to leave [those] behind one day.”

First arriving in Charlotte, MB sought the advice of others to help him find a good path and an applicable business. Investigation led to the purchase of a UPS store in Pineville. He purchased a second store in Indian Trail, and then finally the store in Matthews. The first two have been sold.  The Matthews store he calls his “home.”

Those values keep me content, on the ground. I’ve had all the big American dreams so far … I have been blessed by all that. I have gotten more than I deserve.
— MB Brahmbhatt
Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

His story, he says, is the American dream. He built up “sweat equity”; he extended himself to the community, joined local business groups, walked door-to-door to introduce himself to people, and attended every community event he could find. He is proud of his success, but quick to state that riches are not important in this lifetime. “Those values keep me content, on the ground. I’ve had all the big American dreams so far … I have been blessed by all that. I have gotten more than I deserve.”

The extra touches he brings include holding the door open for his customers, driving to get the packages himself, offering a discount while providing superior service. “We do small, small things that people don’t expect us to do,” he said, including calling customers when their sent packages have been delivered, and dropping off packages when they arrive.  

Honesty and integrity remain at the heart of his values, as do his religious tenets.  “What you preach, you have to practice,” he says. MB prays and meditates each morning and each evening. He also fasts every 15 days and attends his temple (mandir) every Sunday. He remains one of the pre-eminent members of his Indian temple (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Matthews) and is PR Lead of its community outreach program.

In the future, he hopes to double his volume and, perhaps, own other businesses – more chances to give back to the community that he has grown to love and that he feels accepts and appreciates him. “Ten years later, I’m learning that all I’ve done is a byproduct of [my hard work],” he said. “I don’t expect [anything]. When you have no expectations and you do your work, sometimes you get the fruit.”

The UPS Store 2729, 2217 Matthews Township Pkwy, Ste D, Matthews, North Carolina

Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.; Saturday: 9;00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Sunday: Closed

Caroline Kramb: The Hidden Strength of a Snowflake

Photo credit: Ally Henning

Photo credit: Ally Henning

When the curtain goes up for the “Nutcracker,” danced by the Matthews Ballet and Dance, at the McDowell Community Center, one dancer in the group will be happy to be alive, well, and again dancing in this year’s production.

Matthews resident, Caroline Kramb, has been dancing with this group since she was four years old.  She is now 15 and has taken on such roles as Angel, the lead – Clara, Chinese, Ginger Child, Waltz of the Flowers, Candy Cane, Spanish, Gold Angels, Party Girl and Soldier.

This year, as in previous years, she will exude the joy and passion that dancing invokes in many. “Caroline is a dedicated student with a passion for dance,” said dance studio Program Director Amanda Sheppard. “She loves performing onstage, and is always a joy to watch.” This year, she will dance the part of “Snowflake.”

Also, as she has in previous years, Caroline will be grateful for this opportunity. However when she performs, many in the audience will be unaware of her ongoing serious medical struggles, her courageous approach to her illness, and her willingness to share her story in an effort to fundamentally help others.

Approximately 2 1/2 years ago, at the age of 12, Caroline developed a severe rash and became extremely tired. What her family thought would be a common trip to the doctor turned out to much more serious. Her bloodwork showed that she had a rare blood disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).  Systems include low platelets and chronic bleeding. “We were in utter shock,” said her mother, Brooke.

Upon diagnosis, Caroline was rushed to Levine’s Children’s Hospital for a short stay and subsequent 18 months of treatments including infusions and heavy doses of steroids – protocols that left her feeling weak, tired and sick.

“It was hard for me with dancing, just going to school and just living my normal life,” said Caroline. “I had to push myself much harder than the other girls. (Although I knew) I am just as healthy and strong as the other girls… (I had an) autoimmune disorder. I looked good, but you couldn’t tell I had to work harder.”

At points, she missed days of school after eight-hour treatments needed every six to eight weeks – “all of that was very emotional,”  she said. She was also banned from (her) competitive swimming and all activities for which there might be a propensity for getting hurt (should she fall, hurt or bruise herself, it could cause internal bleeding). Both she and her mother, Brooke, said she felt “embarrassed” to not be able to do things that other kids could do, and longed to just “be like others.”

With that in mind, she ardently chose to continue her weekly dance lessons and maintain her participation in the annual Nutcracker productions.

“I just get really excited for the Nutcracker,” said Caroline. “I’ve had dance in my life longer than anything else I’ve ever done. Being able to (dance in) the Nutcracker every year (gives me) a sense of assurance. When I was a lot sicker, a lot weaker, I still had that event to look forward to, to participate in.”

To her dance teachers and fellow dancers, keeping this routine was paramount to keeping her spirits up. “I know that dance is (Caroline’s) “happy place” and her way to escape her illness,” said Sheppard. “She shows such amazing resilience for someone so young. I think dance has given her the strength to never give up but to always remain determined and focused.” 

Photo courtesy Michael Strauss Studio

Photo courtesy Michael Strauss Studio

According to Brooke, the Nutcracker and Caroline’s continued participation in dance lessons (two hours/week for dance classes; up to five hours a week during Nutcracker rehearsals), as well as her family, friends and faith all “helped her cope as well as thrive.”

During her second stay in the hospital, in the chemo-bays, she saw young kids playing but realized that older children had nothing to do with themselves during this stressful and difficult time. The “lightbulb” went off. Caroline said to her mother, “For my birthday, I want to invite my friends, but I want them to give donations so we can make our ‘bags.’ ”

The “activity bags,” as they were called, were intended to be filled with “things to do.” To date, she has made and delivered close to 100 bags and also made several hundred bracelets to pay for the bags, all of which are donated to children/teens also undergoing treatment at Levine Children’s Hospital.  

Caroline has also become an ITP activist.  Two years ago, she started her own Instagram page called “World Free of ITP,” which she created to “express my feelings…I would talk about when I had to go to the hospital and my thoughts about the journey - to (help others) understand how real this disorder is.”

Photos by Brooke Kramb

Photos by Brooke Kramb

Last summer, she applied for and received a scholarship to attend an ITP conference in Cleveland, Ohio, where she met with other teens struggling with the same issue, and those hematologists who care for them.

“Before I was sick, I was the wimpiest and weakest person out there,” said Caroline. “I’d cry when I got shots. I wouldn’t take pills. But, after going through all that, I honestly didn’t have a choice. I had to push myself to get stronger and get over my fears. I honestly think it happened for a reason…Coming out of being sick, I just knew, ‘I just want to help other people….so they don’t have to go through this.’ ”

Caroline now wants to be hematologist. When she turns 16, she has been invited to shadow her lead hematologist at the children’s hospital.

Today, Caroline’s platelets are stable and she is considered in remission (there is no cure for ITP). She remains fixated on the goal of learning more and helping others. “Definitely the way she has reached out to others – she has done this entirely on her own,” said Brooke.

Photos by (L) Brooke Kramb, (R) Ally Henning

Photos by (L) Brooke Kramb, (R) Ally Henning

“Because I have ITP, it is like an obligation to know everything; to be informed and understand the doctors because I want to help others,” said Caroline. “I want to help understand even other blood disorders because I want to know how to give back and find other ways to help.”

For more information, contact the Platelets Disorder Support Association.


The Matthews Ballet and Dance Center’s production of “The Nutcracker” will be performed Nov. 24, 25, Dec. 1 & 2 at Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell Street.  

For tickets, contact or call 704-321-7275.

Morning Minute: October 31, 2018

News About Town: News about the Butler shooting has been unfolding. As the Matthews community searches for answers, there are still few. What has become known is that the gun was stolen from a vehicle in Gaston County in August. According to Jatwan Cuffie, the 16 year old shooter, he hid the gun in the woods outside the high school and retrieved it before school Monday. Cuffie was involved in a fight this past weekend with several other boys outside a Matthews Harris Teeter. Bobby McKeithen, the vicitim, was not involved in the fight. According to Cuffie, McKeithen punched him in the face Monday morning.

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News Around Town: Happy Halloween! Trick or treaters are sure to be out around dusk filling their bags with candy. Look for the growing-in-popularity Teal Pumpkin, where kids with allergies can find allergy-friendly treats. For adults, several of the establishments around town are offering spooky specials. However you celebrate (or don’t), exercise caution when driving around town tonight.


One Good Thing: The coast of North Carolina is still in need of support from the inland community after Hurricane Florence. Some schools have lost their entire library collections and many classroom collections have been destroyed by flooding, mold and contamination. Joanna Schimizzi, Matthews resident and teacher, has started a book drive with the goal of collecting one new and like-new book per child (600,000!) living in the 28 majorly affected counties.
If you would like to give or host a book drive click here. For questions or to volunteer, please email Joanna:

Red Brick Partnership Under Scrutiny by Matthews Residents

Updated 10/9/2018 with corrections

Red Brick Partnership (RBP), a coalition of downtown Matthews businesses, was formed in 2015 by the Town of Matthews and its Economic Development Advisory Committee, and is currently co-chaired by John Urban* (Matthews Commissioner, owner of Urban Architectural Group) and Rob Jacik (owner, Carolina Beer Temple, Temple Mojo, and Seaboard). RBP’s stated mission has been to “promote the awareness of Downtown Matthews, the businesses and citizens that comprise the downtown area as a destination for residents and tourists.” There is presently no public list of Red Brick Partnership members.

Photo by Norah Burke

Photo by Norah Burke

The initial funding for Red Brick Partnership included donations from private businesses and a grant of $20,000 from the Town of Matthews, which was approved by the Town Commission, headed by then mayor Jim Taylor, and including current commissioners Chris Melton, John Higdon, Kress Query, and Jeff Miller. Town Staff provided information regarding actual town expenditures during this period.

In its first year of existence (2014/15), RBP received $10,600 in external donations and/or revenue, submitted directly to the Town of Matthews. With $12,515 in expenditures, the Town used $1,915 of the $20,000 approved by council to cover the difference. In its second year RBP received $7,925 in donations/revenue, and with $17,732 in expenditures the Town covered $9,807 of that amount. The RBP was administered as a town entity from its creation in fiscal year 2014/2015 until it incorporated during fiscal year 2016/2017. During this period Town staff managed and approved all funds going into and out of RBP.

Red Brick Partnership filed as a separate entity in 2016, prior to the separation they received $250 in donations. That year there were $20,040 in expenditures, including $18,393.10 provided directly to Red Brick post incorporation. The Town covered $19,790 in expenditures for fiscal year 2016/17. In RBP’s first full year as an independent organization (2017/18) the town provided $20,000. Total investment of town tax dollars has been $50,115 thus far, with RBP managing $38,393.10 without oversight from Town staff.In July 2018, the Board of Commissioners approved an additional contribution to RBP of $20,000 to be disbursed later this year.

The Town does not have a process to determine whether donations to RBP have resulted in a positive return on investment – through higher spending at local establishments or an increase in visitors to downtown businesses. The town has relied instead on the Town Council representative on the RBP board – currently Mr. Urban – and the representative from town staff – currently Assistant Town Manager Becky Hawke – to ensure town funds are being used appropriately.

Matthews’ continued investment of money and personnel has been provided with the assumption that RBP is a nonprofit organization. RBP’s domain extension (.org), further contributed to the presumption of nonprofit status. However, research performed by Matthews resident Gordon Clemmons uncovered that Red Brick Partnership filed for incorporation with the NC Secretary of State but never applied for nonprofit status with the IRS. As such, RBP has yet to file a 990, if annual donations and in-kind contributions exceeded $50,000 or a 990-N for nonprofits with less income. It is unclear if RBP has filed annual taxes as a business with income.

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At the Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night, Mr. Urban addressed concerns. He maintains that the missed IRS filing was a simple error and was brought to his attention a few months ago. The organization is working to complete their nonprofit filing now. Mayor Paul Bailey expressed support of Mr. Urban and stated the funds approved in 2018 would be disbursed to the organization as soon as they have their paperwork in order.

Mr. Clemmons spoke during the public comment period. He brought up concerns about mismanagement of taxpayer money, potential conflicts of interest, and whether the organization is necessary given the existence of the Matthews Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Advisory Committee. He called for the return of funds given to RBP by the town, for an independent investigation of RBP’s finances, and for Mr. Urban’s resignation.

Mr. Urban did not respond to Mr. Clemmons public comment directly.

*Urban’s own documents and Facebook page denote himself as co-founder of RBP.

Matthews Morning Minute: September 27, 2018

News About Town: If you’re already making plans for the weekend, make time to meet the Matthews Board of Commissioners for coffee and conversation this Saturday (September 29) at 9:00 a.m. at Bruegger's Bagels (1905 Matthews Township Parkway). These gatherings are a great way to bend an ear of our local leaders and get the firsthand scoop on things going on with the Town of Matthews.

Native asters to brighten a humid day.

Native asters to brighten a humid day.

News Above Town: The Weather Channel says there’s a 90% chance of rain so grab the closest umbrella.

News Around Town: While we’re on the subject of the weekend, this Friday is the last Food Truck Friday of the season. You can’t go wrong with any of the trucks, but our friend Lynn sings high praise for Yummi Banh Mi. The Entertainers will get you dancing after you’ve filled up your belly. If you’re a drinker and plan on visiting the beer tent, bring your ID, they card. Trucks start serving at 5 and event goers will already be in line.

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One Good Thing: Matthews is a town with a giving heart, as evidenced by the incredible nonprofits based in our town. Thompson Child and Family Focus is one such nonprofit. Founded in 1886 as an orphanage, Thompson now serves at-risk children and families from four campuses. Using therapy, education and prevention-based care, in 2017 Thompson served 12,811 clients and provided 225 full-time jobs.

The People of Matthews: Justin Coco

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Justin Coco, 36, formerly from Lake Peekskill, NY - now living in Charlotte (28 years). Working on the Johnson (the two-story white) house, which was recently moved to the corner of Talbot Ct. and Fullwood Rd.

How do you like it here? "It's cool, the people are cool, the weather is decent."

What do you think about Matthews? "There are a bunch of good restaurants here; the Farmer's Market is really cool."

(Brother, Joshua, off-camera): “There's so much to do here!” (Naming all the best places......…. and reminding his brother of where they've been) "It's getting (to be) like Charlotte!"

Little Free Libraries

The Chopas Family’s Blessing Box. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The Chopas Family’s Blessing Box. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Dotted throughout Matthews, you can find about ½ dozen small house-style boxes on stilts proudly displaying free books for the taking.  Called “Little Free Library” boxes or little book boxes, owners report many reasons for building and displaying their boxes - some love books and reading, others find commonality with other readers and still others feel they are contributing to a greater sense of community in and around their neighborhood.

Among the Matthews boxes we found include:

  • 1718 Privette Road

  • 2140 Greenbrook Pkwy

  • 125 Edgeland (empty)

  • 1042 Kensrowe Lane

  • 232 North Trade Street

For the Chopas Family (Privette Road), their book box was a way to share with the neighbors, promote literacy and give back to the cul de sac which had embraced them when they first arrived in Matthews three years ago. “This was a ‘Hallmark’ neighborhood,” said Debbie Chopas.  “They embraced us when our baby was born…..this was (intended) to keep the thread of meeting moving forward.”

Passionate about literacy, Debbie added that they also wanted to compliment the local library by encouraging reading throughout the summer. “Reading is the most valuable tool we can foster with this generation,” she said. “It’s a lost art. I wanted to help instill it in (children).”

To sweeten the goodies inside and continue paying it forward, the Chopas have combined purposes, by also calling it a “Blessing Box” –  and have chosen to add magazines, puzzles and other surprises for the takers.

Julie Tippett’s Little Free Library was a Christmas gift. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Julie Tippett’s Little Free Library was a Christmas gift. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The Little Free Library box was a 2016 Christmas present for Julie Tippett (Lightwood Road).  “I wanted it because I love my neighborhood,” she said noting that in neighborhoods like hers, with large lots and space between houses, she “wanted to do something so that we would have some form of community.”

I wanted it because I love my neighborhood,” she said noting that in neighborhoods like hers, with large lots and space between houses, (I) wanted to do something so that we would have some form of community.

“I love to read and loved reading out loud to my children (as they grew up),” said Julie. “(So) I love the fact that kids come by and get books….If I can put a book in the hands of a mom to read to her children,” Julie said, she will feel like the box and her endeavor has “served a purpose.”

And, what will she do when she moves away? “When I buy my next house at the beach, I will be sure to put a box up there, too!”  

Tina Marlowe’s library has been a labor of love. Photo by Tina Marlowe

Tina Marlowe’s library has been a labor of love. Photo by Tina Marlowe

To Tina Marlowe (Kensrowe Lane), her Little Free Library box of four years has been a “labor of love.”  “Literacy is our passion,” said Tina, “so sharing the joy of reading is so much fun!”A former volunteer tutor for elementary age children, her box combines purpose and intent. Tina purchases adult/children/teen books from Goodwill, The Book Rack, and book consignment shops around the area.  “Children’s books are my priority (and) the reason for our Little Free Library journey,” said Tina. “This has truly been a labor of love.”

Children’s books are my priority (and) the reason for our Little Free Library journey. This has truly been a labor of love.

The most public of Matthews’ book boxes is firmly visible and ensconced in front of Matthews Heritage Museum (232 N. Trade Street) – a joint effort between townspeople and the museum, it was built to “serve Matthews citizens in different ways when (the museum) wasn’t open to the public,” said museum Director Barbara Taylor. Originally intended to offer historical fiction/nonfiction, the box is well stocked with books of all types, now.  “(The box has allowed us to) have (another) successful interaction with the public,” she said.

The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 by Todd Bol of Hudson, WI. He mounted a wooden container designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse (hence, the design) and filled it with books as a tribute to his mother, who was a book lover and school teacher. In 2012, the Little Free Library became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The original goal was to create 2,150 Little Libraries, a number which would surpass the number of libraries founded (and funded) by Scottish businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. As of November 2016, there were 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries worldwide, with a significant amount located in the United States.

Like other public bookcases, anyone passing by a box can take a book to read or leave one for someone else to find. The organization relies on volunteers to construct, install, and maintain book exchange boxes. For a book exchange box to be registered and legally use the Little Free Library brand name, volunteers must purchase a Library box kit or a charter sign which reads, “Little Free Library” and displays an official charter number.

At present, there are several hundred Little Free Libraries in North Carolina; six are shown as registered in Matthews. There are countless additional boxes which have not been registered.


Little Free Library Stats

3 out of 4 people report they’ve read a book they normally would not have read because of a Little Free Library

73% of people say they’ve met new neighbors because of a Little Free Library

92% of people say their neighborhood feels like a friendlier place because of a Little Free Library

The Lives Behind Matthews Alive


When the carnival at Matthews Alive opens on Friday afternoon, excited adults and children will bear witness to an exciting array of rides (13) and some very tasty food (5 in Stumptown Park and countless more in the near vicinity).

What they won’t see is the passionate dedication of the owners behind the rides, the number of their employees (18) who dedicated themselves to setting up the event and the many hours (30+) and days (4) it took to do so.

They also won’t see the day-long process of safety checks – inspection done by the North Carolina Department of Labor the day before the carnival opens nor the safety meeting also held with all the

employees prior to the opening day (an elaborate sheet of checks and the requirement to run all rides for three cycles).

To Bob and Bess Brinkley, of Brinkley Entertainment, Inc. (Walnut Cove, NC), this will be an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, a chance to show off their wares and will be another stop on the road to setting up and taking down the nearly 35 carnivals they present in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. each year.

For us this is taking something everyone thinks they might know about and have childhood memories of, and then (try to) do it better or different(ly),” says 60-year-old fourth-generation “carnie,” Bess. “The passion is to keep it as original and as better-than new,” echoes her husband, Bob.

Bess Brinkley of Brinkley Entertainment, Inc.

Bess Brinkley of Brinkley Entertainment, Inc.

For us this is taking something everyone thinks they might know about and have childhood memories of, and then (try to) do it better or different(ly),” says 60-year-old fourth-generation “carnie,” Bess. “The passion is to keep it as original and as better-than new,” echoes her husband, Bob.
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“My father said, ‘never put anything on a plate that you wouldn’t eat yourself,’ ” Bess says echoing his words of long ago, “If you won’t eat it, then don’t sell it.”

As their concessions are run as a separate arm of the company, the Brinkleys will offer homemade (and secret) family recipes: fresh lemonade, funnel cakes, caramel popcorn, corn dogs and deep fried Oreos. Missing will be other goodies they’ve pioneered and sell at other carnivals such as pumpkin pie shake and candied apples with raspberries and sugar coating. (Years, ago, Bess was the first person to offer turkey legs at any carnival in North Carolina). “My father said, ‘never put anything on a plate that you wouldn’t eat yourself,’ ” Bess says echoing his words of long ago, “If you won’t eat it, then don’t sell it.”

On the ride-side, they will offer the unique Hog Drop ride (formerly Roll-a-Plane) and proudly present their refurbished vintage Ferris Wheel, the second of the trailer-mounted Wheels ever built by the pre-eminent company, Eli Bridge.

Bobbie’s touch and nod to present day? The LED lights surrounding it.

Behind the scenes remain dedicated employees, many of whom have been with them for up to 25 years – their “family,” as Bess calls them, while recounting stories of traveling with numerous members of extended families year after year. (A childless couple, the Brinkleys have taken dozens of employees and their families under their wing.)

“My people do this (work) because they want to,” she says, adding that she works hard to present a quality carnival experience devoid of the oft-known criticism of “carnie” employees as being the underbelly of society. “Carnival-goers are surprised at how well they are treated and how respectful to people they are.”

The hard working crew that makes sure the Matthews Alive carnival rides are safe and fun

The hard working crew that makes sure the Matthews Alive carnival rides are safe and fun

The recipients of numerous national awards (including Vendor of the Year Award), the Brinkleys say they pride themselves on a stringent work ethic, dedication to excellence and pride in presentation. (Bobbie is past president of the NC Association of Fairs and Events and a certified ride inspector through the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials.)

“We are in the entertainment business - the outdoor amusement business, says Bess. “Yes, we’re a “carnie” business, but not as in a cuss word. My people work really hard. This is a business and we are trying to do the best thing for our people. We’ve tried to take what’s been handed down to me and make it better for (both) our employees and for people who come to the event.”

“We are in the entertainment business - the outdoor amusement business, says Bess. “Yes, we’re a “carnie” business, but not as in a cuss word. My people work really hard. This is a business and we are trying to do the best thing for our people. We’ve tried to take what’s been handed down to me and make it better for (both) our employees and for people who come to the event.”