The Folk Stars of Matthews: Willow Grove Jam

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Willow Grove residents are treated to sounds they might not otherwise hear on the radio played by a revolving group of people who find joy and comfort in making music together.

On the second Saturday of each month, from 2- 4 p.m. in the Activities Room at the Willow Grove Retirement Center, can be heard the melodious and soaring sounds of gospel, bluegrass, old-time or Celtic music emanating from violins, cellos, banjos and a variety of other string instruments  typically found in folk music.

Dubbed the Willow Grove Jam, the music is played by individuals from surrounding communities and from members of the Charlotte Folk Society.  The “play-around” or “song circle” involves a tune or song amplified and ad-libbed by the various musicians. In turn, the residents and the public are treated to sounds they might not otherwise hear on the radio played by a revolving group of people who find joy and comfort in making music together.

“I do it mostly for the social aspect,” said current organizer, Alan Davis. “It’s a chance to play in a relaxed atmosphere…with a close personal relationship between the musician and the audience.”  

On this day, Davis was joined by old-timer, guitarist, Charles Hill, 82, of Mint Hill, and guitarist Mark Lees, 69 of Charlotte. “This gives you a chance to keep your music up,” said Hill. “It helps people who can’t get to places like this.” To help him pick the next melody, Hill consults his ever-ready book of nearly 180 tunes complete with song names and music key.

And, while dexterity and excellence in musicianship are not a requirement, the occasional off-note or off-tuned instrument doesn’t matter in this venue. This is a jam for the ages – a chance to reflect on folk music - how it touches the soul and often heals both the listener and the musician all in one moment.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Willow Jam was first created by Bill Williams in 2009 – a lifelong folk music aficionado who would play with others, including Alan. Near the end of his life, his family moved him into Willow Grove; hence, the jam was born.

Although many members have passed on during the past ten years, in the end, it remains the shared love of folk music that keeps new members coming.

“For me, it gives me [the opportunity to try] different ideas for some songs or tunes I might want to try out on somebody,” Alan said.

For more information, contact Alan Davis: 704-499-3918 or

Veterans Day in Matthews

Sunday, November 11 the Town of Matthews, NCAmerican Legion Post #235 Matthews, NC, and Marine Corps League Charlotte 750 partnered for a Veterans Day Celebration. High school students from Independence kicked the service off in Stumptown Park with patriotic songs. Phil Mowry, Commander of American Legion Post 235, and Mayor Paul Bailey both spoke of the sacrifice by those who’ve served. At noon the celebration moved to the Historic Matthews Cemetery (Pleasant Hill Drive) where two of Matthews’ own fallen World War I soldiers were remembered on the 100th anniversary of the war. The Marine Corps League performed a rifle salute and wreaths were placed at the graves.

Veterans Day in Matthews was truly a day of remembrance and respect honoring the servicemen and women of our community.

Local Leaves: A Growing Collection

We have four more leaves to add to your collection: sassafrass, dogwood, chestnut (variety unknown), and elm. Print out these leaf rubbings to make flash cards, color them in (go crazy on the color or stick to our notes on their typical fall colors) and see if you can match them in to the trees around you. Right click the image to save and print or click here to print.
The first page of leaves can be found here.

fall leaves 2.jpg

Outdoor Bootcamp for Modern-Day Gladiators

Fitness Camp I.jpg

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.

Fitness Camp.jpg

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.

Art for Veterans Creates Comrades-in-Art

Art for Veterans, a non-profit serving military veterans, offers an open studio, free materials, guidance, and a safe space to create art at McDowell Arts Center by the Community Center in Matthews. Classes and studio time are offered September to June on Wednesdays from noon to 3 PM and Fridays from 1 to 4 PM .

On 9/11, the tragic time struck artist Eileen Schwartz particularly hard. Living in San Diego, she was “so upset by the events of the day” that she felt the need to immediately do something. “There was patriotism all around, flags everywhere, cars painted with flags, faces painted with flags,” she said. Schwartz wanted to capture the images of the moment.

With the work and help of others, her intentions and photographs turned into what became approximately 400 snapshots and the basis of an art gallery show. Creating a nonprofit organization called “Flags Across the Nation,” which also added the display of children’s pictures and then quilts soon followed. The work forever linked her to vets and their families across the country. To date, she’s curated/created 65 shows or events from San Diego to Charlotte; she continues to receive letters from military personnel across the country, currently or previously deployed.

Five years ago (now living in Charlotte), she and her nonprofit group wanted to branch out in other directions - the art class for military personnel, “Art for Veterans,” was born. Offered weekly from September to June, anyone who has served in the military can come to the McDowell Arts Center in Matthews for (up to) three hours each Wednesday (noon to 3 p.m.). The classes and materials are free. At least 10-20 men and women (currently ages 25-94) come to quietly work on (a variety of) artwork and paintings.

“I wanted to make a safe space for veterans who wanted to come to paint,” said Schwartz, explaining that some people need to de-stress, some people are there to learn techniques and some people want to be around other veterans. “Everyone is here for a different reason,” she said.

cyma veterans 1.jpg

“I wanted to be directly involved with veterans and give them the opportunity to explore art,” said Schwartz. “I’m a supporter for individuals for what they want in their life. I give them the opportunities to explore.”

We have a lot in common with those who are in the different branches of the military. The lessons are a way to meet new people, make a connection and express ourselves through our art.
— Felicia LaGrant

To Diana Rahe, 58, US Army/NC National Guard/Desert Storm/former Gastonia police officer – driving one hour each week to attend the class has been the best thing she could hope for. After years in the military, suffering from severe PTSD and chronic ongoing and significant nightmares, her therapist urged her to “find a purpose.” An online search for Veterans Art Therapy led her to the class and the mistaken idea that she would be asked to only express her military experiences through art. “I never had a hobby before,” she said, adding that she couldn’t paint until she tried the class. “It’s so much fun to paint - it’s a great experience and (is) such a (great) experience to sit with veterans….who have served in all sorts of conflicts.”

“We have a lot in common with those who are in the different branches of the military,” said Felicia LaGrant, 59, US Army – one of the newest members of the group. “The lessons are a way to meet new people, make a connection and express ourselves through our art.”

cyma veterans 3.jpg

Dom Spedicato, 86, US Army/Korean War, said the class has helped “reveal (your) inner self and feelings,” adding that the experience has helped him ”feel what others” in the class have experienced - both physical and emotional pain. “I feel compassion for (many of) them,” he said.

“It’s a good time to spend with comrades-in-arms,” said John Prestbo, 77, US Air Force/Vietnam. “and lets me pursue my art,” said John Prestbo. “It’s a good, comfortable time. I look forward to coming here each week.”

While many classes often involve a revolving group of participants, many of the students in this class have stuck with the program, finding comfort, joy, and fulfillment in a safe space. “This is a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of for as long as I can,” said Rahe. “It’s just enjoyable to learn different techniques – it’s relaxing… It’s helped me heal. Sometimes you see things or experience things you don’t have words for and you don’t want to explore. We’re lucky to have this class. I wish more (veterans) would do this.”

Matthews Morning Minute: September 26, 2018

News About Town: During their November 27, 2017 meeting the Board of Commissioners approved a preliminary design for a pedestrian crossing at North Trade Street between Matthews Station and Brakeman’s/105 Cigar. Town staff estimated hiring a consultant for the preliminary design work would come in around $10,000.

When proposals came back Alta Design, the best qualified firm estimated $81,221 for the preliminary design work. No decision was made and the Board has asked town staff for more information.


News Above Town: If humid and sticky is your thing then you’re in luck this week. The last couple times the Weather Channel has called for storms the forecast changed, but right now they say we can expect afternoon storms and a high around 87.

News Around Town: For more than three decades ArtFest, now Artwalk and MusicFest, has been bringing art to the forefront in downtown Matthews. Beyond the usual Juried Fine Art Show and High School Art Exhibit, and live music, the Matthews Chamber of Commerce has expanded the kids art area as well as  craft beer & wine. Get some extra culture this Saturday, September 29, on the green in front of Town Hall from 10 AM until 6 PM.


One Good Thing: We have a giveaway on our Facebook page! We’re so proud of our Matthews-centric postcards (plus who doesn’t love receiving mail?) that we have 2 sets to giveaway. There are three easy peasy ways to win and you can do any or all for three chances to win!
**Find your favorite post here, then tell us which is your favorite over in the comments on the giveaway post on Facebook.
**While your there, tag a friend in the comments on the giveaway post
**follow us on Instagram

Crestdale Heritage Signs

cyma crestdale 2.jpg

The two Crestdale Heritage signs, recently constructed at the (approximate) beginning and end of the perimeters of Crestdale (one on East Charles St. and one on Crestdale Road), were paid for through the town's Tourism Fund. Total cost was $7,754. They are intended to promote awareness of this historical area and were designed in keeping with the town's branding (both colors and signage shape).

Historical Crestdale is a neighborhood with a history dating back to the 1870s as a settlement for freed slaves and their families. It comprises approximately 112 acres.

cyma crestdale.jpg

Matthews Morning Minute, September 12, 2018

News About Town: All eyes are on Florence. FEMA has a thorough list for preparations. has information regarding all of North Carolina. Locally, stay updated with CharMeck Alerts.

ReadyNC has an app where you can follow developments of Hurricane Florence.

ReadyNC has an app where you can follow developments of Hurricane Florence.

News Above Town: They keep saying thunderstorms, but we’ve only had a few rumbles. What will tomorrow bring? Humidity for sure, and maybe scattered thunderstorms.  Temps will reach the upper 80s. The big question is, what will Thursday bring?

News Around Town: The forecast has us avoiding the worst of the storm, but that hasn’t stopped residents from rushing for supplies. It’s breaking news when a lucky few find bread, water, or gasoline.


One Good Thing: Tickets are available for Blues & BBQ, an annual fundraiser for COS Kids, October 5. COS Kids fills a niche in Matthews by offering affordable full day childcare. Blues & BBQ supports the efforts to provide safe, accessible child care for single parents through an evening of lively music and delicious fare.

Allen Tate's Tina Whitley, A Matthews Staple

I have another #PreserveMatthewsLocalBizInterview for you today! This one is with Tina Breese Whitley, a realtor with Allen Tate Matthews. I've known Tina since I was a teenager and we recently reconnected at a Town Hall event. To say she's a Matthews staple would be an understatement.

Tina Whitey, Realtor, NC & SC
Allen Tate Co.
101 E Matthews St, Ste 100, Matthews, NC 28105

Tina Whitley, Allen Tate Rookie of the Year. Photo via    Facebook   .

Tina Whitley, Allen Tate Rookie of the Year. Photo via Facebook.

Share a little background/introduction about you: I have been in Matthews for over 30 years, owning my own business, working at BB&T and the Director of the Matthews Chamber of Commerce for over 13 years while raising 3 children and being active in the local community. I am at the Matthews office with Allen Tate but can help buyers and sellers all over the region in NC and SC. My goal is to help as many people as I can and Real Estate allows me to do that daily! I am also involved in Kiwanis, Matthews Executive Group and the Chamber of Commerce. And since Tina is too modest to include this, I'll brag on her a bit: she was recently named the Allen Tate Rookie of the Year Award for the Charlotte Region.

What brought you to establish a business in Matthews? The good schools, lifestyle and great people. The business community is thriving and supportive of local businesses.

What do you believe makes Matthews special? What does the phrase “Preserve Matthews” mean to you? Matthews is fortunate to have leaders and residents who care about the town and want to see it maintain it's small town character. I have been working with the Town and businesses for 30 years and know that the people will work together to help keep the quality of life that we treasure.


What attracts people to the neighborhoods close to downtown Matthews? People who enjoy and want to live in Matthews want to be within walking distance of downtown! It is a very popular town and the amenities for adults and families are wonderful! Parks, greenways, playgrounds, concerts in the park, movies, restaurants, bars, breweries, history, and more!

What’s another business in Matthews you love to support? The non-profits I support 100% are the Matthews Help Center, The Free Medical Clinic and COS Kids. They have formed an alliance and are doing great work!!

Do you have any promos or specials you'd like to offer to Preserve Matthews Community Members? Please call me for any Real Estate or town questions!! I can offer you a free Market Analysis for your home!

This interview was originally posted on Preserve Matthews' Facebook page. Images courtesy Tina’s real estate Facebook page.

Welcome to the Beacon!

Norah Burke, Co-Founder and Business Manager

Norah Burke, Co-Founder and Business Manager

Six months ago we sat down and talked about our experiences in Matthews. After Norah's campaign for Town Council last year and Renee's foray into community activism, we knew there was a need for better communication. We decided to launch The Matthews Beacon as an online "paper" with contributing Matthews writers and photographers and a Matthews-specific focus. Why so hyper-local? There is a specific brand of pride that goes with living in Matthews. It's not just another suburb, and we're not the cookie cutter suburbanites of the '50s. Matthews is a diverse town with a rich history, one locals work diligently to maintain amidst modern pressure for growth and development.

We asked ourselves: "What is Matthews' identity?" Is it the agrarian history, the meandering neighborhoods, could it even be the traffic? How has Matthews remained

We asked ourselves, “What is Matthews’ identity?” How has Matthews remained Matthews, snuggled right up against the largest city in North Carolina? Most importantly, where can you find the amazing stories and individual voices of the people who make up the Matthews community?

Matthews, snuggled right up against the largest city in North Carolina?  What is the structure of our town government and how can we share what we've learned about the complexities that keep things running? Where can you go for in depth, unbiased information about local issues? Most importantly, where can you find the amazing stories and individual voices of the people who make up the Matthews community?

We'll publish unique posts daily.  Expect to start the day with a few small bites about what's going on in our Matthews Morning Minute series. Throughout the day we'll publish short segments, pieces that will introduce you to your neighbors. We'll present feature stories and town news, cover local events, and provide an examination of important issues of Matthews in one central place.

renee selfie.JPG

Between Norah's experience in business management and Renee's creative talent and 10+ years of blogging for self-promotion, we hope to provide an interesting, quality alternative newspaper focusing solely on Matthews.