GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A Pitt County non-profit created an unconventional town hall in Greenville to answer the question: What happens if there is a community space for folks who don’t feel comfortable in a formal, institutional space?
Artists old and new expressed the most pressing issues in their neighborhoods through song, dance, and canvas.
“This is our experience as women, as black people,” said Jnyah Corbett, the evening’s youngest performer. “It’s very comforting and it makes me feel patriotic in myself.”
Through painting, photography, poetry, song, and dance... folks were invited to come as they are and discuss the things that matter most to them in a comfortable setting.
For organizer Jermain Mcnair, the concept was simple. Create a space where people feel welcome and soon enough, they will share what is on their mind.
“We’ll get the leaders here. We’ll get the local decisions makers here. We’ll collect the data and information and make sure that you are heard,” said Mcnair.
NC CIVIL is the non-profit behind the idea of Wednesday’s art expo. Mcnair serves as the organization’s director.
At the historic Roxy Theatre in West Greenville, there was a common ground to be found.
“Even though we are different people, even though we might not have been in the same neighborhood, we still can relate to things that we see and hear,” said Corbett.
Lala Robinson performed for the first time at the expo.
“For me,” Robinson said, “to be able to sing this song, to express my voice, and others’ voices... it just meant so much to come here and sing that piece for the crowd.”
It was the first of what is hoped to be many community outreach events for people to feel more comfortable showing up and speaking out.
“A part of a growing community is developing more tools for everyone to be heard. Not that everyone has to reach up to some level in order to be heard, but we can meet you where you are and continue to all be connected as partners in this process,” said Mcnair.
The theme of the expo was “We do see color.” Mcnair says the reason behind that has come from a restructuring of how the community should identify equity.
When discussing issues of racial inequity, he explains, you have to see color to understand the weight of these issues.
Beyond the art gallery, performance pieces, and panel discussion, NC CIVIL took surveys of the attendees to learn more about the immediate issues they see firsthand in their neighborhoods.
The organization plans to bring these issues to local leaders on the community’s behalf.
WASHINGTON, N.C. (WITN) - More than a century and a half ago, thousands of enslaved African Americans journeyed through the secret trails of the Underground Railroad, many passing through Eastern Carolina in their pursuit of freedom.
One of the most prominent roadways in North Carolina ran through the coastal area of Washington, as the Tar-Pamlico River was a heavily trafficked mode of transportation to northern areas.
James Jones was inspired by the stories of the brave men, women, and children that sought their freedom in the 1800s.
Jones directed the film Freedom of NC, which tells those stories in the historic spaces they would have occurred in throughout the East.
“It’s all about creativity,” Jones said.
The process of creating the film was no easy feat for Jones, especially as the COVID pandemic restricted all filming schedules.
“As the whole world was shut down, it just gave me a chance to be able to review what I had and go over my script and make changes... leading on to the new plantation that we were going to be able to shoot on,”
said James Jones, Freedom of NC director.
The “new plantation” he refers to is the Historic Hope Plantation, located less than five miles west of Windsor.
“We wanted to do something to give back to the people that are here as well,” Jones said in reference to locals of Washington.
This caused him to scout the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum as his opening scene location.
To fill in the gaps of his plotline, Jones needed an expert in Beaufort County history.
“The history we document here is how freedom seekers got from those plantations with the help of abolitionists who were white, Black, Native American, people from all walks of life,” Leesa Jones, Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum executive director and historian said.
Motifs of history were interwoven with the plotline. Leesa Jones’s favorite is inspired by flowers with a secret meaning.
“I could have just a handful of sunflowers and that big brown spot was called an eye,” Leesa Jones said. "That could simply indicate that there were too many eyes watching and so the movie accurately portrays that.”
In Washington, people will see the showing of Freedom of NC at the Historic Turnage Theatre on Feb. 26th, as part of their Black History Month celebrations.
“I’m very proud of doing it and bringing it back here because this is where it started and you can really see what was transpiring during that time,” James Jones said.
This month, in his celebration of Black history, James Jones wants to focus on more than just the adversities of his ancestors.
He honors the stories of Washington-based ancestors, and he hopes his work inspires other young Black creators to achieve what he calls “Black excellence.”
That starts, James Jones says, by putting himself out there, efforting to reach his dreams.
When the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum is not the backdrop of Jones’s filmmaking, it serves as an educational tool for area students and visitors.
There, they have the opportunity to see primary documents from Beaufort County in the 1800s, when thousands of enslaved people sought their freedom.
Due to a volunteer shortage from the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum is working on an abbreviated schedule.
The museum is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for tours of its collection.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - January is Blood Donor Awareness month, but the American Red Cross says blood supply is dangerously low, causing hospitals to delay critical care until more units can become available.
Every two seconds, someone in the country is in need of a blood or platelet donation, according to the Red Cross.
This year, the Red Cross has a suggestion for any New Year’s resolutions.
“Give one more time in 2022 than you have in the past,” said regional CEO Barry Porter.
Every eight weeks, up to six times a month, you can roll up your sleeve to help save lives.
“You are in the donor bed 15 to 20 minutes after arriving,” said Porter. “You’re only in the donor bed 10 to 15 minutes because that [donation] process only take about 8 to 10 minutes.”
Once your blood donation is collected in the East, the unit and a test tube vial, both labeled with matching barcodes, journey west.
The unit kept cold in Durham and the test tube is sent to Charlotte to be processed. After undergoing a series of tests, the donation is cleared for distribution about 24 to 48 hours after submission.
“Say we donated at 8:00 in the morning,” explained Porter. “The unit of blood probably won’t be available until about 4:00 tomorrow afternoon. When that happens, we can’t wait until an emergency happens and then ask for blood.”
Banks like to keep a few days of supply, but recently, they are experiencing the lowest donations volumes in years.
While blood units are used often in trauma situations such as surgeries, wrecks, or acts of violence, the majority of blood donations go to cancer patients.
“About 1 in every 5 units of blood, actually goes to cancer patients,” said Porter. “If you think about it in your life, you probably know more people who have cancer, who have battled cancer, than you know who have been in a car accident or have been in a traumatic situation.”
One donation goes a long way, saving up to three adult lives.
To be eligible to donate, you must be 16 years-old with parental consent or 17 years-old and up. You are to be in good general health, hydrated, and fed.
After your donation, you’ll want to avoid heavy lifting and stop for a treat at the Red Cross’ canteens on your way out the door.
In honor of National Blood Donor Month, the Red Cross has partnered with the NFL, automatically entering anyone who donated in January 2022 to win a trip to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The first babies of 2022 born at Vidant Medical Center made their debuts at 12:25 and 12:35 a.m.
The twins are the children of Lakeisha Peterson and Canaan Fleming, Jr. of Winterville.
“The babies are doing awesome,” said Peterson. “They’re not on breathing tubes, but they are going to be in the NICU for a while.”
Camira weighs 1 pound, 9 ounces and is 12.9 inches long. Cayman weighs 2 pounds, 3 ounces and is 14.5 inches long.
While it is expected for premature babies to spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Peterson did not expect to test positive for COVID during her delivery.
“I didn’t know it. I didn’t have no symptoms or anything,” said Peterson. “It’s very important for people to follow the guidelines even if you don’t want to. You never know who’s sick.”
Vidant announced visitor restrictions at the end of December, but the allotted visitors for the Women’s Center and Children’s Hospital were not affected by this.
Peterson says she is now focused on resting, healing, and preparing for the twins’ grand arrival into a new home.
“They’ll be in a bigger house. It’ll be furnished for them, so I’m looking forward to doing all of that while they are still here being taken care of so when they get out,” Peterson said, “they can go into their new house.”
The twins have become the first babies to start the new delivery count for Vidant. In 2021, Vidant Health and Women’s Services at Maynard Children’s Hospital delivered more than 3,700 babies.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Millions of people around the world stayed awake late Friday night to countdown to the New Year, but a group of Pitt County residents set their alarms early to usher in the New Year with a 5K Fun Run.
Hosted by Fleet Feet in Greenville, the run’s focus is to encourage obtainable fitness goals in the community and to support a local cause.
“One of the things we like to do is start this year with a goal. The goal is to be active-- a runner or walker,” said Fleet Feet owner Chris Loignon. “We’re happy to be the hub for the community when it comes to that.”
Loignon knows how it feels to look ahead at a daunting fitness goal. So, this year’s free Fun Run came without a timer clock.
“I’ve been running for 11 years, but I remember the first time I ran I didn’t run the whole time. I started as a walker, then a run-walker, then got into running,” said Loignon.
By following their motto of “small steps,” the Fleet Feet team wants to set examples of integrating healthy activities into daily life.
“That’s the beauty about being a runner or a walker,” explained Loignon. “You don’t have to pay for a membership. The gym is outside. Just pick up a beautiful day and head on out the door. And then you just go from there.”
The Fleet Feet team has some advice to start strong and keep up with your goals.
“Have accountability with your fellow runners,” said Fleet Feet general manager Rachel Craft. “It’s hard to get out when it’s cold, when it’s dark. But if you know your friends are there counting on you to show up, it makes it a little bit easier to show up.”
The 5K runners showed up on Saturday to support a local cause.
Fleet Feet has partnered with Pet Food Pantry and will be collecting donations throughout January.
“Each month throughout the year we always have a community partner that we choose to donate a portion of our sales to, raise money for, what have you,” said Loignon. “We already have this year planned out.”
This year, Loignon and his team hope to surpass their 2021 donation total of $30,000 given to the community.
Into the New Year, Fleet Feet will be announcing new changes and training programs for individuals setting marathon running goals.
You can find more information on their offerings here.
NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - Helping the community one cookie at a time is the motto of the Christ Episcopal Church’s annual Cookie Walk.
After being canceled last year due to the pandemic, cookie lovers lined up early on Saturday to get their favorite homemade treats and all they needed was a glass of milk.
“I bake a lot,” said parish baker Tony Embrey. “It’s a stress reliever!”
Alongside Embry, members of the congregation secured their aprons and got to work making treat for the bake sale.
The money earned for their efforts is put back into the community through a local non-profit grant program.
“It’s not just an effort for us to keep the lights on in the parish,” said event organizer Pam Miller. “Every cent that comes in here goes out in these community grants.”
Word got out about the cookies, and business was booming before the doors were even open.
“Before 10 o’clock, we had people lining up,” said Miller. “We had volunteers that were out there with a sample tray to show people some of the things we had to sell.”
The 22nd annual occurrence of the event needed a larger space to fill.
“It has started sort of as a cottage industry in the parish hall and has moved to our bigger space here in the Harrison Center,” said Miller. “We hope that this year was a good winner for us because of COVID we were not able to host this last fall.”
Organizers made changes to the protocol of this year’s sale including requiring masks and individually wrapping each treat, but the traditions are still alive.
“I’m known for the rum cakes every year in the parish,” said Embrey. “Last year because of COVID I made 20 rum cakes and took prepaid orders for the church. This year I said I would do 30.”
The rum cakes sold like hot cakes, as did the cookie trays.
“What’s not to like about a cookie?” exclaimed Miller. “Helping out the community one cookie at a time, we say, is out motto. It really comes to life when we open the doors.”
Submissions to be considered as a recipient for the church’s grant money open next year.
Any local charity in need of funds is encouraged to apply to the Christ Episcopal Church.
KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - The Children’s Village Academy held a drive-up vaccination clinic on Saturday for people ages 5 and up in Kinston.
The clinic offered full doses of the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson, and pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine. No appointment was necessary.
Douglas Dunn waited in line to register his kids for their first dose.
“It took a little time but it’s worth it,” Dunn said. “The doctors know what they are talking about so, stick with the doctors and you’ll live longer.”
After the Dunn siblings got their pediatric doses, the clinic was open for business.
School nurse Deborah Johnson spent most of her time holding the hands of the kids getting their shots, but when there was a lull in the crowd, she rolled up her own sleeve for a booster.
Johnson contacted the Lenoir County Health Department to organize the drive. Vaccines were administered by Charlotte-based StarMed Healthcare.
“I just think its important for our kids to get vaccinated,” Johnson said. “This is not going to guarantee that they are not going to get sick but it will probably make their symptoms much lighter and not get as sick and not end up in the hospital.”
With the holidays approaching, Johnson said the clinic could not have come at a better time for students.
“Hopefully, there will be a lot of kids vaccinated as well as adults getting their boosters, especially before the holidays because it does take two weeks for it to kick in,” Johnson said. “I hope it will protect our kids during the holiday season and they can enjoy their family time.”
Matilda Burks said she is happy to be vaccinated, bringing her one step closer to a visit with her aunt in New York.
“You should get your vaccine so you can stay alive,” Burks said.
She joins the over 120,000 kids between 5 and 11-years old to have received at least one vaccine dose in the state
WINTERVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - As local businesses compete against national chain stores this Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a business in Winterville hoped to tackle issues, such as the supply-chain crisis, by fully stocking their shelves.
“When it’s just coming from down the road it’s a lot easier than being shipped from far away,” said Justin Lawrence, whose parents own The Village Market on Winterville Parkway. “It’s straight to the source, you get to support your neighbors, and be a part of the community.”
The Lawrence family said supporting neighbors is something they prioritize when running a business, with all of their items sourced from North Carolina.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have business owners bring their products right in here to us,” said Sarah Lawrence after stocking the shelves with fresh peanut brittle from Jamesville. “It’s basically from the business directly to the store. So, we’re not facing those supply shortages that a big box store may face.”
Customers browsed chocolate covered nuts from Goldsboro, barbeque sauce from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and handmade soap from Winterville on Friday.
Elizabeth Coghill came to The Village Market as a repeat customer. She wanted a holiday gift for her neighbors today.
“You can buy so much online now,” said Coghill. “This is something you can’t buy online.”
The pandemic has changed the priorities of some Eastern Carolina shoppers on Black Friday.
“We used to go out really early in the morning, like 6am,” said Coghill. “It’s just no fun when you’re fighting crowds.”
The Lawrence family opened the doors of the village market in March 2021. After seeing the pandemic’s effect on area vendors, Justin Lawrence said he decided now was the time to make a change.
“I saw a lot of the small businesses and local shops didn’t have the avenues to get their products out there and be seen as much as they were before,” he said. “So, that was the spur that we needed to make the dream come true.”
The Village Market will host a free-to-enter vendor market each Saturday this holiday season, featuring food trucks, music, Christmas trees, and local suppliers of crafts, meat, treats, and more.
The Saturday event will begin Nov. 27 at 9 a.m.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Beau’s Buddies sponsored Turkey Trot for Tots had a record turnout this year for their annual 5K race and one mile fun run.
Nearly 700 people gathered along Greenville Blvd on Thursday to lace up their shoes, bare the cold, and raise money for families with children battling cancer.
“We started the first year, we were thinking if we had 75 to 100 people, we’d be ecstatic,” said Beau’s Buddies executive board member Jeff Gaddis. “This year we are at somewhere between 650 and 700, which is probably 250 more than last year.”
Each November, the Stanley family is reminded of the hardest time of their lives. Their 18-month-old son, Beau, was diagnosed with High Risk Stage III Neuroblastoma in 2006. One year later, he passed away on November 29.
“November is a difficult time, but this race kind of helps us,” said Beau’s mother, Jennifer Stanley. “It’s something to look forward to get us through this time of the year.”
Stanley recalls leaning on her community to make it through the dark times of Beau’s illness. Her family, through the work of the Beau’s Buddies Cancer Fund, brings people together to support families just like them.
“We named the organization after my son; we started this race in 2012,” said Stanley. “This is our tenth year, our biggest race yet.”
Not only did the Turkey Trot runners show their support for the sport, but also for the cancer foundation.
“All of our money stays in Eastern North Carolina and we do a multitude of things,” said Stanley.
The cancer fund as paid for gas cards, flights, and lodging for families, chemotherapy chairs and wagons for area hospitals, and even household bills.
“We’re able to get creative and think outside the box of ways to help families and partner with the case workers at the hospital and cancer center to do so,” said Gaddis.
Looking around at how many people woke up early to run in the chilly weather in her son’s name, Stanley remembered why they do this every year.
“I don’t know how we would have done it if we didn’t have support,” she said. “That’s kind of what our organization is for-- to give other families that.”
The 5K race was run by Landon Williams, a 16-year-old student at D H Conley High School. He was awarded a medal, a $150 Fleet Feet gift card, and a pie for his winning time of 16 minutes.
Williams’ entry fee, along with that of the hundreds of other runners, will continue Beau’s legacy in helping Eastern Carolina families in need.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Supply chain shortages are affecting industries nationwide, and that includes food banks that work to help those in need.
Food banks in the east have seen an 11 percent since the start of the pandemic and that need is expected to grow during the holidays.
Thursday, volunteers packaged sweet potatoes at the Greenville branch of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. While this item was plentiful, others are running low or completely gone.
“We have had a real drop in our food drives and food donations that normally come from the public so the food bank is now in a position where we are going to have to purchase more food,” said branch director George Young.
As the US Labor Department reported this month, the Consumer Price Index has risen 6.2 percent, the most since December 1990.
Food banks rely on many different avenues for their goods: food drives, grocery chains, farmers, and food manufactures. “But right now, the food is not getting turned over as quickly because it’s taking so long to get the food to our distribution points and then back out to our food pantries,” said Young.
Dr. Jon Kirchoff of ECU’s School of Business is an expert in supply chain management.
“Suddenly, as consumers and customers are trying to get all of the things that we like to buy, they’re finding themselves in a pinch,” he said.
It’s a pinch that is squeezing the holiday season, especially for those who use community donated resources.
“There’s multiple factors challenging us presently,” said Young. “When the consumers are having the same issue, they ask themselves, ‘Am I going to provide for my family or am I going to donate some food to the food bank?’”
With perishable goods, it is hard to expect companies to have the full stock after the past year of uncertainty.
“It’s not like companies can stock up a lot on perishable products in anticipation of something that’s going to happen,” said Kirchoff. “They can stock up on canned goods, dried goods, and things like that which last longer, but even those have a shelf life.”
Some supply chain experts estimate that the scales of supply and demand will even themselves out in 2023, but Dr. Kirchoff is more optimistic that things can return to normal at the start of 2022.
Regardless of the prediction, this year’s holiday season will be upset by supply chain woes.
Consumers are urged to buy early, if they can, consider alternatives for their specific favorite items, and to lend a hand to the less fortunate as they are able to.
Every story you see here is written, filmed, edited, fronted, and day-turned by Maddie. As an MMJ with WITN, she really does it all!