cyma shapiro

Providence Florist: Connecting the community through flowers

Working with generations to help give messages which touch their heart. We are the one to give them a message for life.
— Sara Kathrotia
Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

This year, on Valentine’s Day, Providence Florist (118 E. Charles St.) owner Sara Kathrotia will sell at least 1,000 roses (red, orange, yellow and hot pink), not to mention more than 125 other types of bouquets including tropical flowers from Hawaii, orchids, gingers, protea, combined with anthurium  (shape of a heart) and assorted bouquets with stargazer lilies and roses – which she says creates a “really romantic, beautiful smell.” 

Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

This year, as in previous years, it will be all hands on deck – they’ll hire temp delivery drivers to help them with the overflow. It will be the boyfriend of the store’s manager, some friends, a previous employee, possibly Sara’s son, and her husband.

While most orders will be for one dozen roses; many men will order two to three dozen. (Sara says it’s usually men doing the ordering – each year, she only receives a few orders from women sending them to men).  The record rose- ordering amount was five dozen white roses – which came from a man proposing to his lady.

Now in her 20th year of business, she, together with her husband, Rajesh, are well-established in the Charlotte-area florist community. Originally located in the Arboretum, and now two years after her move to Matthews, she says it was borne of loving the town center’s uniqueness and finding a reasonable location. Her “good customer base” did not hesitate to follow, she said.

Her love of flowers, owning their own business, and the birth of her first son 21 years ago (wanting to be near home or have him be with her) created the perfect symbiosis to enter floristry.

“It’s an interesting business,” she said. “Working with generations to help give messages which touch their heart. We are the one to give them a message for life,” she added, referencing those children who send flowers to the elderly or even critically ill relatives who live in the area.

“We feel good that we’re there for people. Making a connection and giving a good message from family to others,” Sara said.

Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

A cyclical business, the year of a florist typically begins on Valentine’s Day and moves on to proms, Mother’s Day, Teacher’s Appreciation week, graduations, back to school/fall, Thanksgiving and the December holidays. Interspersed are wedding requests.

However, Valentine’s Day remains their biggest and busiest holiday. “We do everything in two days,” she said. “It’s all about love and expressing that to others – including a girlfriend and wife. Kids send them to mothers; fathers send flowers to daughters and to wives. All to show them how much they appreciate how much they do for them,” she adds.

“When we deliver for Valentine’s Day, husbands like to impress their wives at work,” she said, chuckling, that they get to hear the “ooohs and ahhhhs” from the office staff gathering around.

On Valentine’s, more than most other occasions, she finds that “people call at last minute.” A few years ago, a man who had just returned from a trip walked in just as they were closing. He said that he had forgotten the holiday and that he couldn’t show up home without flowers. That was before he realized he’d forgotten his wallet, too.  

Sara recalls, “He said, ‘I can’t call my wife to get my credit card number!’ We felt his pain and said, 'we’d make whatever you’d like.’ ” With two dozen roses in hand, he left happy and called back the next day with his credit card info. She adds, “He said, ‘you made my day and my year! I would have had a terrible week, for sure, if I hadn’t given [flowers] to my wife!’ ”

Providence Florist
118 East Charles Street, Matthews

Monday - Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday: closed

Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

The People of Matthews: Resolution Edition

A few familiar faces from around Matthews shared their thoughts and hopes for 2019:

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"Less screen time. I do think it's addictive and distracting. More time to focus on who and what is important "

~Dr. Steven Dickens, Starr & Dickens Orthodontics


"I never have specific [resolutions] like weight loss, etc, because they don't seem to work out. I constantly strive to be a better person, though, aiming to be more tolerant and understanding of others.”

~Paulette Wilkes, Market Manager, Matthews Farmer's Market

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"This coming new year, I commit myself to making each moment count with the ones I love. I would also love to make at least one positive life changing decision in 2019."

~Mark Frye, manager, Trade Street Jewelers

What’s in a New Street Name?

This year, the Town of Matthews (in partnership with Mecklenburg County) built one new street – Sports Parkway between Tank Town and Matthews-Mint Hill Roads.

The number of new streets created in previous years are:  2017 – 3; 2016 – 2; 2015 – 2; 2014 – 0. These include Lake Harmony Drive off of Mount Harmony Church Road, Downton Court in the Eden Hall development on Fullwood Lane, and Margaret Ridge Drive in the Stevens Grove subdivision off of Highway 51. The most recently created streets are Talbot Court, Hamlet Court, and Kings Manor Court.

Photo by Renee Garner

Photo by Renee Garner

To create a street and name, developers must propose the names; the Town has code requirements to ensure that new street names are appropriate and not duplicated. Mecklenburg County ultimately approves the name and assigns the individual street addresses.

The Planning Department reviews street names when new subdivisions/developments are in plan review. The Zoning Administrator, Mary Jo Gollnitz, considers the proposed street names for the Town, as do Matthews Planning Department, Public Works, Police Department, and Fire & EMS Department before the name is submitted to Mecklenburg County for final approval. 

According to code, proper street names must consist of one to three words, plus a street type suffix. The name must not duplicate or too closely approximate phonetically the name of any other street within the Town or county. Street names cannot include a business name, punctuation, possibly offensive words, or directional suffixes. 

The first word of a street name can only be used in two other locations within the county. The only exception to this is the use of a generic label naming a topographic feature or a color.

According to the National League of Cities, the five top street names in the country are Second, Third, First, Fourth, and Park.

According to the US Census Bureau’s US Tiger/Shapefiles, 2014, the most common street name in North Carolina is Dogwood. The top 10 street names in this state are: Dogwood (328), Park (304), Oak (261), Pine (245), Ridge (234), Cedar (225), Maple (225), Sunset (220), Church (204), and 2nd/Second (193).

The naming of streets reflects the era in which it was created – 18th- and 19th-century streets often reflected English (UK) roots or defined the purpose of that road. Later 19th-century developers named streets after trees and flowers; 20th- and 21st-century streets often mirror developers’ family names. Most recently, following the rise in technology and modernization, roads are again reflecting the generic definition of the business located on that street.

The People of Downtown Matthews: Resolution Edition

A few familiar faces from Downtown Matthews shared their thoughts and hopes for 2019:

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"I don't really ever make New Year's resolutions. If I need to fix it, I do it then and there. I'm grateful and thankful, every day. Every year."

~David Blackley, Owner, Renfrow Hardware

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"To continue to serve the community of Matthews through celebration of local history."

~Barbara Taylor, Director, Matthews Heritage Museum

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"Mine is basically to spend more time with my kids (who live in Florida)."

~Derry Poulos, Server, Seaboard Brewing

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

Matthews Gives Back with Covenant Day School

Photos by Cyma Shapiro

Photos by Cyma Shapiro

On Monday, at 9 a.m., 68 students from Covenant Day School in Matthews, and a few of the school’s teachers went to Target with the sole purpose of purchasing items for those in need during this holiday season. As in previous years of the CDS/Matthews Police Department partnership, they were accompanied by School Resource Officer Don Warren, who previously handed out approximately 40 cards identifying the wish lists of unnamed local children in need of gifts this season.

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As part of the annual Matthews Gives Back program, the seventh graders were divided into small groups and assigned a child to buy gifts for. They eagerly scoured the isles with $100 in hand and the dictate to purchase appropriate gifts which will eventually be distributed by the Matthews Help Center. This fall, the class raised $3400 during the “Penny Wars,” a competition between homerooms, specifically for this event.

After shopping, the students are taken to the Crews Recreation Center to play games and eat lunch. They then wrap and deliver the gifts to the police department who, in turn, will deliver the final load to the Matthews Help Center.

“As teachers, we love watching the wheels turning in the students’ heads as they figure out how to stretch the money as far as possible,” said accompanying Covenant Day teacher Zach Turner. “We do not want them to just get one or two gifts - we want them to get as many as they are able to.  For the kids we are shopping for, this might be all they get under the tree, so we take that very seriously.”

This group is one of a number of local institutions, including Matthews United Methodist Church, the police department, and the Town of Matthews who will work toward a unified holiday support program.

“Each year, we’re just adding more community partners to [this],” said Matthews Help Center Director Sandra Conway. This year, the Help Center decided to “marshal our resources to make a bigger impact on the community,” she said.

To become a beneficiary of holiday gifts, families are screened by several local institutions before being chosen to visit Matthews Help Center’s “Holiday House,” where they can pick up toys for their children. Each family is given a budget for shopping and accompanying vouchers to do so, mirroring the experience they would have in a retail establishment. Last year, 374 children received presents.

Across town, students at Crestdale Middle School (among many others) are also doing their part by collecting toys and goods for local families in need. Officer Warren will pick up and transport those gifts to the Help Center as well.

“We’re just really excited to be a part of the Matthews community and give back in whatever way we can,” said Principal Jennifer Schroeder.

Secret Santa on Patrol

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

During this past Saturday’s monthly Matthews United Methodist Church Methodist Men’s breakfast, the group gifted “Secret Santa” money to the Matthews Police Department.

“This is a great event – donating money to the community,” said Police Chief Clark Pennington. “Those types of partnerships are what it’s all about and are important to us.”

The event was started four years ago when the group’s President, Marshall Edwards, saw a video on national news referencing another “Secret Santa,” event Kansas City. Thinking it was a great idea, Marshall called his friend, then Police Chief Rob Hunter, and asked permission to create this opportunity.

The first year, they raised $1600. This year, the group is donating $4000. “This is a gift of community, a gift to law enforcement and an opportunity to take away negative press” (about police-persons), said Pennington.

According to Patrol Captain Stason Tyrrell, Matthews is pushing ahead of most surrounding communities, who do not offer a community Secret Santa event.

This year, patrol officers will give $100 to 40 families – a small fraction of the recipients will be specifically identified prior to receiving the money; the remainder will be gifted on the street. All of this will be captured on officers’ body cams and a select few videos will be shared at another MUMC breakfast in early 2019.


“I see this as a positive image,” said Penington, “since (our) image has declined nationwide.” This is a positive sign of giving, a positive sign of a ministry and a great opportunity.”

According to Patrol Captain Stason Tyrrell, Matthews is pushing ahead of most surrounding communities, who do not offer this event. “This is great for the officers,” he said. “They want to help and to serve our community in the best way they can,” adding that officers keep tools and even gas cans in their patrol cars in an effort to help residents in need.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said the Chief.

Brakeman's Coffee: A Sharing Space

(L to R) Mark Moore, David Johnson, & Dave Braysden  Photo by Cyma Shapiro

(L to R) Mark Moore, David Johnson, & Dave Braysden Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Last winter, in an overture of friendship and community, the owners of Brakeman’s (David Johnson, Mark Moore, and Dave Baysden) placed an enormous menorah in the front of the building, loaned by the group at ZABS. “The foundation was friendship and trust,” said David.

“I was into the power(ful) story of Chanukah,” said Mark. “It was an opportunity for the Christian community to understand the power of the story.” They also hosted an opening lighting ceremony with ZABS folks providing narrative to the lighting.

We wanted a space that was life-giving...How do we make sure that this space is embraced by everybody?
— David Johnson
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“We wanted a place that was ecumenical in its approach,” said David, explaining the vision for Brakeman’s. “We wanted a space that was life-giving. We’re not rooted in making money. How do we make sure that this space is embraced by everybody?”

“This is a place where people can share their story, tell their stories – whether it’s religious, personal or otherwise,” he said. “Those are the things we (try to support).”

Aging Tree Canopy

If residents think they are noticing an increase in fallen trees around town this year, they are correct.

According to Ralph Ramsaur, Town of Matthews Landscape Manager and Town Arborist, the increase is due both to the recent hurricane and excessive wind and rain – “big storm events,” he termed it. “Trees in low-lying areas can fall after a lot of rain. Many times, there is a good percentage of decay and signs of old age in the fallen trees.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Recently, a decayed tree took down a pole and fence near the Fire Department. Other downed trees were found within a number of subdivisions and on Weddington Road.  Areas with older trees which are most susceptible include Stumptown and Squirrel Lake Parks.

According to Ramsaur, some recommendations for safety and maintenance include: having trees inspected professionally and having homeowners walk their property to take a closer look at their surrounding trees. Among the signs to watch out for: fungus, giant mushroom type-growth around the base of a tree, and an increase in black carpenter ants or termites. Also, if you look up at a tree and don’t see any leaves at the top, this may also signal decay.

Among the tools that arborists/tree professionals may use is a “resistograph” - a fine drill that goes into the tree to test resistance, providing a percentage of tree decay. If a tree shows more than 35-40%, that tree should be removed, according to Ramsaur.

Photo by Linda Edwards/White Rock Studio

Photo by Linda Edwards/White Rock Studio

The trees in Matthews are a part of its character. These are old Matthews trees that have been here since Matthews was founded.
— Linda Edwards

For Judi Bex, owner of property on West McDowell Street, and Linda and Joe Edwards of White Rock Studio on South Trade Street, more than a few trees have fallen between them; all had to be professionally removed.  These are beautiful old trees,” said Bex. “(This) is the price of owning a home.”

But, the downing of such trees is bittersweet for long-time residents such as the Edwards, who have watched their (same) surrounding foliage for more than 35 years. “The trees in Matthews are a part of its character. These are old Matthews trees that have been here since Matthews was founded,” said Linda. “We’re going to miss the shade so much. It’s almost like a part of Matthews history has gone away.”

However, while something familiar is now gone, it has been replaced by a something new. “I have sun coming through where I didn’t know there was sun!” exclaimed Linda.



Celebrating Diwali and Annakut in Matthews

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More than 1000 people celebrated the festivities of the annual Indian holiday, Diwali, from November 5- 9, at the BAPS Shree Swaminarayn Mandir at 4100 Margaret Wallace Road.

Known as the “Festival of Lights,” Diwali is the most widely celebrated Indian festival in the world. It signifies the victory of good over evil and is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. The festival usually falls between the middle of October and the middle of November, although this is decided by the Hindu lunar calendar.

For five days, adults and children come together wearing their finest clothing. During this time, families light lamps, and people gather to enjoy the beautiful candles that line the roads, illuminating the night. In India, people celebrate by cleaning and redecorating their homes; shopkeepers use it as the beginning of their fiscal year. It is also the start of India’s winter season.

While the lights are intended to signify a joyous celebration, lighting also has a spiritual meaning illustrating the importance of lighting the lamp within – celebrating the light of the soul.

During Diwali and the tandem celebration of Annakut - the New Year, families gather to feast on delectable vegetarian cuisine, and enjoy cultural programs and traditional entertainment in mandirs (temples) all around the world. Special Diwali celebrations are organized for children and youths to preserve the true spiritual importance of the festival.

A New Yoga: Combining Body Awareness and Healing

The origins for “Yoga for Addiction, Recovery, and Mental Health” involve serendipity - having taught other yoga classes at the Y, a mutual acquaintance put Liz Belser E-RYT 500 in touch with Dion Lovallo, owner of the new Carolina Center for Recovery. The two decided to join forces and offer a class for addiction recovery.

Yoga for Addiction, Recovery and Mental Health, Mondays from 7-8 PM. Brace YMCA, 3127 Weddington Rd, Matthews.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

With a new class, “Yoga for Addiction, Recovery, and Mental Health,” starting this month at the Brace Y (Mondays 7-8 p.m.), long-time yoga teacher and Matthews resident, Liz Belser will be doing what she does best in all her classes – bringing awareness to the body and helping accentuate the breath.

“I always weave into my classes the “tools,” (which are) anywhere from breathing – there’s all kinds of breathing that can (help) people (cope with) anxiety and stress – down to places of being present and aware,” said Belser.

A Matthews-based practitioner, Belser’s classes and workshops have primarily revolved around yoga for mental health – a topic she knows well, having suffered from depression and anxiety. She will bring to the mat her knowledge and understanding of the complexity these stressors trigger. “It’s always a work in progress,” she said. “Sometimes it will (be ok) and sometimes it will rear its ugly head… All the (same) tools worked for me and I just had to share it.”

The origins for this new class involve serendipity - having taught other yoga classes at the Y, a mutual acquaintance put her in touch with Dion Lovallo, owner of the new Carolina Center for Recovery, also in Matthews. The two decided to join forces and suggested this class to Y leadership. To both of them, this would be a win-win for all.

Lovallo’s clients are given Y privileges as a way of integrating mind and body. It is mandatory for those in the highest level of treatment to exercise and/or work out at the fitness center daily. For Belser, this would be a way to stretch her repertoire, connect with, and help a new group.

“(This will be) different than the mental health group, but, there’s always going to be a mental health piece. I’m still teaching the same tools, but there will absolutely be another layer of compassion - another layer of sensitivity,” she said.

I’m so excited to move forward and get this going. It’s funny how the universe works. As a community a few years ago, I don’t think we could have gotten this going. But the recovery center is now here and the Y is onboard.

“I’m so excited to move forward and get this going. It’s funny how the universe works. As a community a few years ago, I don’t think we could have gotten this going. But the recovery center is now here and the Y is onboard,” said Belser.

For Lovallo, this is a natural progression of the recovery and healing process. “We always wanted to incorporate yoga somehow but didn’t know how to do it. This just showed up and worked out perfectly,” he said. “For myself, since I’m (also) in recovery, being in fitness (is important)….anything to get people out of their comfort zone helps in many ways.”

Belser understands the complexity of these issues.

“What sets this class apart from other yoga classes is an extra level of mindfulness and compassion,” said Belser. “If people have been through a traumatic experience, and may just be fearful, they may worry about where to stand in the room or recognize there may be the possibility of triggers. That being said, I won’t hand out (exercise) straps... You never know what emotions or experiences someone is bringing to the class,” she said. “(I’ll be) bringing into it (the importance of) reconnecting with the body, rather than assuming that people already have that connection to the body and body awareness.”

“Addiction is a place to disconnect,” she said. “We want to help them connect to their body safely and feel resilient in that moment, feel strong in that moment - this is instrumental in cultivating self-belief. Just being in that moment and acknowledging your body is a step toward healing,” said Belser.

It’s not my place to understand what someone’s diagnosis is, what someone’s struggle is. I’m not a therapist; in yoga, it’s all about the body experience.

Will she ask information of the participants? “The only information I’ll ask is if there’s anything they want to share. It’s not my place to understand what someone’s diagnosis is, what someone’s struggle is. I’m not a therapist; in yoga, it’s all about the body experience,” she said.

To that aim, she’ll be available before and after class, for anyone in need of some help. She also plans to attend an AA or NAMI group – something she’s never done. “I’ve gone into this very humbly because I haven’t had an experience with addiction. (Regarding attending a meeting) I don’t mean to come into it with judgments, but with curiosity and compassion, so that I can teach with an open heart.”

Belser says she’s already been approached by people curious about the concept, but mindful of the stigma that taking the class may hold. “A student asked me if they will call (the class) that, but I feel strongly about (doing so). There are people who I know must be thinking, ‘If I walk through that door at that moment (class time), then I’ll be judged as an addict or in recovery, or dealing with some sort of mental health issue.’ ” However, Belser said she is happy that the subject (and the descriptive name of the class) aren’t being “sugar-coated.”

“We all have our own addictions; one person’s addiction may (or may not) be as serious. We are all struggling with something, whether it’s (serious) or you’re having a crappy day,” Belser said. “Hopefully I’ve presented it in a way that will allow people to come thru the door and just see what happens.”

I can only speak from personal experience. It’s invaluable to discover and use and see the efficiency and success from your own ability to find your strength and create change in your whole being. It may happen in baby steps, but you might, in a moment, say that you feel better now than an hour ago.

“I can only speak from personal experience. It’s invaluable to discover and use and see the efficiency and success from your own ability to find your strength and create change in your whole being,” she said. “It may happen in baby steps, but you might, in a moment, say that you feel better now than an hour ago.”

Ultimately, the healer becomes the individual. “Nothing major changed. I didn’t give you a box of pills. I didn’t say you were healed. YOU created that change,” said Belser. “That’s all I’m doing is guiding and (letting) you do the work. I don’t know what kind of price tag that you put on that. To be walking around as a human being who is healing and thriving. I just think that’s amazing.”

Thelma and Louise in a Golf Cart

When visitors to Charlotte want to tour the city, they have multiple tour companies to choose from. However, if they wish a tour by “Thelma & Louise,” they can choose Queen City Rides’ star duo, who, interestingly, are from Matthews and Mint Hill.

Dubbed the same names as the lead characters in the popular 1991 movie, Matthews resident Marie Ball (“Louise”),  76, and Mint Hill resident Lee McKenzie (“Thelma”), 74, say they are having the “time of our lives” doing this together. “We’re sisters by choice,” said Marie, “but some days (Lee) chooses not to be sisters,” she adds, laughing.

Photo courtesy Danny Jordan

Photo courtesy Danny Jordan

“We’ve been doing this for four months,” said Marie. “We’re ladies that like to ‘live on the edge,’” she says. That “edge” includes parasailing, swimming with the dolphins and zip lining. In previous years, they served as “Senior Cheerleaders” at the Levine Senior Center in Matthews.

Introduced to the tour owner by a mutual friend, the women decided this year to take on this new challenge. To gather information, they learned their route, notated everything important, and then made the tour their own. Their narrative is rife with jokes, stories and shtick.

We only go off the cliff on the day we aren’t taking people out...We only go off the cliff on Fridays.
— "Thelma & Louise"

Sitting briefly with these women, one notes that they can barely hide their excitement at the newest venture in their lives; and, of course, the quips keep flowing: “We only go off the cliff on the day we aren’t taking people out,” said Marie. “We only go off the cliff on Fridays,” said Lee.

“Kids tell us all the time, ‘When I get to be your age, I want to be just like you,’ “said Marie. “We’re having a wonderful time showing uptown Charlotte to customers.”

How long do they want to continue doing this? “As long as we can,” they both said. “At least to 2020….” (laughter).

Outdoor Bootcamp for Modern-Day Gladiators

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Driving past Stumptown Park, drivers may catch a glimpse of men and women working out in a variety of ways. Called “Camp Gladiator,” they’re seeing individuals participating in an outdoor-only fitness boot camp, which offers classes three times/week;  three times a day to nearly 60 clients.

Based on increasing interest, Stumptown Park is one of two workout locations for Camp Gladiator franchise owner and born and raised Matthews resident/personal trainer, Jeff Kelly, 27. He hopes to double that number by early next year.

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While average age is 25-45, this year-round camp is intended for “all fitness levels. It’s a go-at-your-pace boot camp,” said Kelly, adding that he’s “here to push you….(It’s for those who) want to maintain their health and fitness or they want to get back to where they (once) were.”

“Our campers can bring their kids – several bring babies in strollers and (their) children,” he said.  “One camper uses her child as a weight,” he added, laughing.

Gladiator offers 10 five-week camps each year;  themes are structured around endurance training, strength and agility, metabolic training, peak and a wrap-up week.

Kelly said he’s thrilled to be bringing a sport he loves to a town he loves even more.

The People of Matthews: Jaspal Singh and the Sikh Education Foundation of the Carolinas

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Jaspal Singh, one of the founding members of the Sikh Education Foundation of the Carolinas, leading his Current Events class during Sunday School. The group was discussing the recent synagogue tragedy, reading a related news article translated into Punjab. Singh also leads his class in Gatka - martial arts - during Sunday School. SEFC is currently leasing space from the Sangrock/Taekwondo Center on West John Street.

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