• Pamela StorySchool students in transition or experiencing homelessness have social workers on their side to help with transportation, food, emotional needs and more, according to local school officials. Cumberland County Schools has a nationally recognized homeless liaison leading the Social Work Services Department. Pamela Story, CCS Social Work Coordinator and Homeless Liaison is North Carolina’s Homeless Liaison of the Year. The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth announced at its annual conference on Nov. 14, that Story was chosen as the 2022 National Homeless Liaison of the Year. 
    Story graduated from E.E. Smith High School and is an alumna of North Carolina Central University. She earned her master's degree in social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
    “We must ensure that we provide every opportunity for our students in transition to be successful and to soar above their circumstances,” Story said. “Homelessness in many situations is temporary, and any one of us could be homeless in the blink of an eye." 
    She has worked with the Cumberland County School System for 23 years. Story likes to tell children that “Life throws us many curveballs, and we are here to help you.” She encourages parents and students to maintain hope and integrity and seek assistance to rise above life's circumstances. 
  • Fayetteville PoliceThe Community Police Advisory Board is closer to being finalized and should start in the new year. The board's mission is to provide recommendations to the City Council, City Manager and Police Chief to improve the quality of policing in Fayetteville in a cooperative effort between the community and the police. 

    They will be reviewing and recommending policy enhancements to better meet the needs of the community, provide and support a training curriculum that allows for police and community experiences to be shared and understood with greater context and analyze existing public records. 
    Ideally, this will result in improved perception of procedural justice, and enhance trust in the police. 
    To have applied for a spot on the board, applicants must be 18 years old or older, live within the City of Fayetteville for at least the last six months, and they will be required to complete the Citizen Police Academy, complete one ride-along and participate in other group learning opportunities.
    Ten people will be appointed to the board by City Council. Nine will be regular board members and one person will be an alternate member. 23 people have applied. Out of all the applications, a majority had either worked for a police department or worked/volunteered with a police/corrections department at some time. Ten of the applicants stated that they currently reside in Districts 2 and 8. 
    The only district that is not represented among the applicants is District 6.
    The applications were also diverse. Out of all 23 applicants it included six females, eight caucasian applicants, two Hispanic applicants and 13 African-American applicants. They varied in professions but many were either retired military, retired police or working military. 
    A handful have previously served on a Fayetteville City Board or commission. 
    In the questionnaire for each applicant, two questions ask what is one thing civilians and police officers can do to promote healthy relationships. 
    Almost every person replied that officers need to develop relationships within the communities they serve — specifically in areas they are assigned to. Many of the applicants stated that citizens should become more familiar with what police do day-to-day and participate in police-community events.
    The Appointment Committee will review all 23 applications and forward their top picks for finalists. 
    City Council will then interview each finalist one-on-one. The nine interview questions, which have already been written out, include the candidate’s involvement with the city, how they perceive the role of the police department and why they want to join the board.
    According to the charter, City Council members should be looking for candidates who work well with people of opposing viewpoints, can provide constructive criticism, are able to communicate effectively, can recognize conflicts of interest and have a commitment to civilian oversight. 
    After the interview process is over, the top ten candidates will be voted on during a City Council regular meeting.
  • Annual Christmas Tree Lighting
    The annual Christmas Tree Lighting will help kick off the Christmas season on Fort Bragg.

    In addition to the Christmas tree lighting, the Family of the Year will be announced at the new Family of the Year celebration. Fort Bragg will be kicking off the Christmas Tree Lighting and all of the activities that come with it after the Family of The Year celebration.

    Each year, Fort Bragg’s Army Community Service accepts applications for the Family of the Year which honors soldiers and families that have provided exceptional service throughout the year. This year 21 applications were received.

    The tree lighting will have an aerial demonstration by the Golden Knights, a visit from Santa, holiday entertainment by the 82nd Airborne Division Band and Chorus and of course holiday lights and inflatable displays. Cookie decorating and a trackless train are two of many activities that will be available to the children attending the event.
    The Christmas tree for this year’s Christmas Tree Lighting celebration arrived at the Main Post Parade Field last week. The tree came from Mistletoe Meadows Farm, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The tree is a 24-foot Fraser Fir.

    “We are very excited to see everyone for this year’s in-person event,” Theresa Smith, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said. “The holidays are such a special time for everyone and we love being able to kick off the season with
    this event.”

    The Christmas Tree Lighting and Family of the Year celebration will take place on Dec. 3 from 4 to 8 p.m. Santa will make his appearance around 5:30 p.m. Food and drinks will be available for sale as well. The event will take place at the Main Post Parade Field.

    Trees for Troops
    Service members can get a real and free Christmas tree this year at the annual Trees for Troops event.

    The program is for Active Duty families who are E-6 and below, and for Reservists on Active Orders.

    450 trees are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

    In order to get a tree, a voucher will need to be picked up at the Fort Bragg Leisure Travel Services. They will be available through Dec. 3 or until they are all gone.

    Pick-up will be on Dec. 3 from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Smith Lake Recreation Area. To pick up the tree, the recipient needs to bring both the voucher and their DoD ID Card.

    Those who did not get a chance to pick up a voucher can try and pick up a tree. If there are any trees leftover, they will be given out first-come, first-serve to service members who are E-6 and below.

    “Not only are service members receiving a free, real tree for the holidays; it’s a chance to bring cheer to those who may not be able to go home for the holidays,” said Staff Sgt. Jakoby Mallory, President of the Fort Bragg Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. “The abundance of support from volunteers from around the community also shows service members the family they have here, at
    Fort Bragg.”

    Over the past 16 years, the Christmas Spirit Foundation has delivered a total of 262,265 real Christmas trees throughout the country for service members and their families.

    Trees for Troops is a nationwide program that delivers trees to 75 different military bases and installations.

  • PWC graphicFayetteville City Council members finally voted to select a new commissioner for the Fayetteville Public Works Commission.

    Last Monday night, City Council selected Retired Col. Don Porter to serve as the new PWC commissioner. He was supported by Councilmembers Johnny Dawkins, Larry Wright, D.J. Haire, and Christopher Davis. Mayor Mitch Colvin also voted in Porter’s favor.

    Porter is a retired Military Logistics Specialist and served 20 years as an Executive Director of Economic Development in Hoke County and the City of Raeford. In his application, he says that he believes that city-owned water and sewer is good not just for citizens but also for business recruitment.

    Porter was initially recommended to the position by the city’s Appointment Committee last month. City Council was split on the decision and kept delaying the vote. Porter's term is expected to end on Sept. 30, 2025.

  • Charlotte Blume NutcrackerOnly a few weeks until showtime, the main room at Charlotte Blume School of Dance is packed and abuzz with energy. More than forty dancers stand, in fifth position, the floor a mixture of soft and pointe shoes, legs extended, and arms outstretched with delicate fingers pointing toward the ceiling.

    The room is small but warm, a far cry from the thirty-degree weather outside. Upon each call from one of their instructors David Alan Cook, the dancers shifted positions in unison — a dance so precise it looks as if they are pulled by strings. Along the walls of the room are nutcrackers, candy canes, tin solider hats and pictures of Christmas lore — all relics of Clara’s fantastical dream, and fifty-one years of tradition. In the back sits the head of the mouse king, crown and all, awaiting his on-stage debut.

    At Charlotte Blume School of Dance and throughout Fayetteville, it’s time for “The Nutcracker.”

    Just beyond the dancers plays a video of Pepta's “The Nutcracker.” The dancers strive for precision. They match their movements against Pepta's dancers. In the studio, the only sound that can be heard is the soft, shallow pattering of feet on laminate floor. The dancers lightly glide to the tape on the floor that marks particular fractions of the stage. Their bodies remain angled out toward the audience. They check their position, readjust and do it again and again. This will continue dozens of times.

    “We’ll run the same two minutes for an hour to get it right,” Dina Lewis, the school’s executive director, says as she watches her dancers’ arms and feet. Lewis says they’ll tell the girls to pretend they are holding pennies between their knees for their bourrée.

    “We say it because quarters are too big.”

    Technique, according to Lewis, is why students come to this dance group.

    The music stops, and just like that, the current dancers run “off stage” and others run on to take their place.

    “Dancers, you have to pay attention while you are working on the stage,” Cook says, his shoulders held back and feet held in position. Like an orchestra leader, he brings his attention to different areas of the room, tightening the dance and congratulating dancers on their hard work. In the other corner, Emalee Smith, another instructor, is perfecting the dance of some of the older dancers.

    The dream continues.

    In many ways, so does the dream of Charlotte Blume. Blume passed away in 2016. “The Nutcracker Ballet” is a legacy of sorts for the North Carolina State Ballet and for Charlotte Blume School of Dance. Blume started “The Nutcracker” in 1959 and it has run every year since, with the exception of last year. It is a legacy that is now kept alive by Lewis, the executive director for the school and the President of North Carolina State Ballet.

    Lewis talks of Blume fondly and reverently like a maternal figure whose ghost is welcomed to haunt the school. Each part of this play, for Lewis and other dancers who knew Blume well, keeps her alive.

    “Each set has a piece of her in it … we have pieces of her that we make sure is [on] that stage.”

    In 2020, like much of the world, this version of “The Nutcracker” did not go on.

    “We sat home last year watching 'Nutcracker' on TV like everyone else did,” Lewis said.

    But in December 2020, around Lewis’s birthday, she received a card from a little girl who played a mouse in “The Nutcracker” just the year before. The note, which wished Lewis a happy birthday, also said, “all I want for Christmas is for "Nutcracker" to come back.”

    When February came around, Lewis said the company was short of funding for the play due to all the closures during COVID-19. She and the board decided that regardless of the funds, 2021 needed

    “The Nutcracker.” The community needed “The Nutcracker.”

    “There’s a little mouse that we all need to thank … one I just couldn’t say no to.”

    The little girl's note is now posted on Lewis’s mirror at home. The little girl has since moved with her family due to the military. Lewis says a lot of what she learned and embodies now comes from Charlotte Blume. It’s all about giving back, she says. While a mouse helped her bring back the beloved play, Blume has always been at the heart of it.

    “You just feel like you owe it to Charlotte to continue this.”

    Charlotte Blume School of Dance will hit the stages Dec. 11 at the Crown Theatre. There are 69 dancers in this year's production, from ages 5 and up. Each year, Lewis says, the choreography changes slightly to keep students and the audience engaged. This year, she tried to keep unification at the center of the play.

    At the end of the day, Lewis sits back and looks at the pictures of “her kids,” handwritten notes from students and pictures of Charlotte and smiles when she speaks about this year’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

    “When the picture comes together … [it’s] magical. It’s the coolest thing. I get chills thinking about it. I think Charlotte is going to be proud of us. She’s going to be pretty happy.”
    Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for military and $10 kids ages 3-16. Kids under 2 are free.

    DANCE THEATERAcross town, in the top portion of Countryside Gymnastics is Leslie’s Dance Academy. Leslie Dumas, owner and executive director, sits among plastic storage containers of all shapes and sizes that house different costumes and props for her production of “The Nutcracker.” She sits, waiting on dancers to arrive. Her dancers, too, are preparing to go on stage and perform “The Nutcracker.”
    Dumas has been running this version of “The Nutcracker” since 2000 when she took it over from Ann Clark, who owned another studio in town. Both Clark and Dumas trained with Charlotte Blume. Dumas trained with Charlotte Blume from a young age until 18.

    For “The Nutcracker,” she collaborates with other studios in town, through The Dance Theatre of Fayetteville, to bring all their dancers together to perform the play. Last year, much like Charlotte Blume School of Dance, her company didn’t perform “The Nutcracker.”

    This year, Dumas wasn’t told they could have their traditional stage at Methodist University until the end of September. This gave Dumas and the other studios two months to prepare the show.
    She said this year they’ve had to make some changes in how they traditionally run it due to all the changes from COVID-19.

    “We didn’t do an audition. I usually do most of the choreography, but I let other studios pick what they want to choreograph.”

    On Nov. 21, the collective group had their second full group rehearsal, just a week and a half before the performance. For Dumas and others, this is about the collective and anyone who wants to be a part of the play can “come in.”

    “It’s supposed to be fun.” Dumas relates the overall experience to the fun and chaos of the party scene at the beginning of the play.

    As she talks, young dancers arrive and come to greet her. She smiles, asks about something personal to each and then they run off to get into dance clothes.

    Dumas is set on getting the show to stage and bringing the dancers together.

    “It’s going to be what it is after a COVID year of nothing,” Dumas says. “Everyone has to understand that perspective. The world stopped in March of last year. There was no dance, no gym, no nothing.”

    The Dance Theatre of Fayetteville will perform the Nutcracker December 3-5 at Methodist’s University’s Huff Concert Hall. Tickets will be $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Kids ages 5-17 will be $5 and kids ages 4 and under will be free.

  • Hay Street Prop 1The City of Fayetteville will be requesting $20,000 to repair the property at 242 Hay St. They would like to use the money to power wash and repaint the exterior of the property. They would also like to rebuild the balcony structure using composite decking, install composite handrails, replace the rotted door and door frame to the balcony, repair rotted wood on the window frame closest to the balcony door and repair cracked tile at the front.

    Since the location is part of a historically protected area, they will only be fixing what is rotted or broken and repainting the building in the original colors.

    Members of the public have until Dec. 13 to submit written comments to the Economic and Community Development Department at City Hall about the

    Diane’s Vintage Market was previously located at the site but closed in October of 2019.

  • Many folks ask me about the correct spelling of the holiday. Confusion comes because the holiday’s name is in Hebrew, which uses an entirely different alphabet that includes sounds not found in English. The first letter has a guttural sound like the German achtung, so some people use CH while others opt for the closest sound in English, the letter H, to avoid people mistakenly thinking it has the English CH sound.

    Additionally, depending on where you’re from, some Jews pronounce the final vowel as AH while others say OH. Also, when transcribing the name into English some do it based solely on sound while others try to parallel Hebrew spelling. In Hebrew, it ends with the equivalent of a silent H (like in Sarah), so some spell it in English ending with an H and some without. This all results in many legitimate renderings of the name into English.

    Chanukah (my preference) means dedication or rededication and refers to the rededication of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem following its purification upon recapture from the Syrian army 2186 years ago. It celebrates the miracle of the successful revolt of a rag-tag force of faithful Jews, hiding in caves and frequently using guerilla tactics against their powerful overlords, who had prohibited the practice of Judaism and introduced pagan sacrifice into the holy Temple.

    Because the Jews celebrated the rededication of the Temple by belatedly observing the eight-day biblical festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), Chanukah was established as an annual eight day celebration of this miraculous preservation of Judaism. A legend, told hundreds of years after these events, relates that reluctant to delay the rededication of the Temple for the eight days necessary to acquire the special olive oil required for the sanctuary’s Menorah (a seven-branched, continually burning candelabrum), they lit the only pure oil they had found – a single day’s worth. Miraculously the Menorah burned for eight days until new oil arrived.

    The main observance of Chanukah is the home lighting of an eight-branched Menorah each evening to publicize the ancient miracle of Judaism’s survival. A single light is kindled on the first night, adding one more each night, until eight are burning at the end.

    Honoring the legend of the oil it is customary to eat fried foods during Chanukah, such as potato pancakes and jelly donuts. Chanukah gift-giving mostly originated in America so Jewish kids wouldn’t feel jealous of their classmates’ Christmas gifts. There is no requirement to give any, much less, eight gifts.

    Chanukah shifts on our calendar because for religious purposes Jews follow a lunar calendar (although the periodic addition of leap months keeps the Jewish holidays aligned to the same season).
    Finally, Chanukah is considered a minor Jewish holiday, because it does not originate in the Hebrew Bible, but in the later books of First and Second Maccabees. That makes it comparatively less significant than the biblical festivals like Passover. It receives oversized attention in America because of its proximity to Christmas.

    Editor's Note: Chanukah runs this year from the evening of Sunday, Nov. 28 through the evening of Monday, Dec. 6.

  • Jingle JogThe Green Beret Jingle Jog is an annual 5K walk/run and 10K road race. This year Jingle Jog is turning a decade old. Last year, 2020, would have been the event's tenth anniversary, but COVID-19 halted the event. In connection with changes made in the wake of the pandemic, participants can register and participate virtually this year.

    The annual run benefits Special Forces Association, Chapter 100, a non-profit organization. The proceeds support Green Berets and their families within the local community, predominantly those associated with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). Most recently, Special Forces Association Chapter 100 awarded local Special Forces families ten $2,000 scholarships for grade school and college tuitions. Special Forces Association, Chapter 100 supports Green Berets in times of need.

    "If they are gone or away and something is needed, we are the first people they [families can] call," explained Jason Orello, treasurer, Special Forces Association Chapter 100.

    This year Jingle Jog, which began as a downtown Fayetteville event, is joining forces with the Jordan Soccer Complex at 445 Treetop Drive. There will be a selection of vendors on-site that include, but are not limited to, the Vagabond coffee truck and Fizzy Friendz Bath Bombs.

    Two young sisters run Fizzy Friendz Bath Bombs, Cali Rai Campos, aged 13 and Elizabeth Campos, aged 15. The shop carries a selection of bath products. The proceeds from the sales of this business support a community-driven mission. That mission is realized through a charity formed by the five Campos family children, Giving Back Warm Hugs Nonprofit Corporation, helping children in need.

    Orello is hoping for even more vendors to join the event. Last-minute vendors are welcome at no cost. They can reach out to Orello by phone, 910-797-3957 or by email,

    "If it helps somebody and it promotes their business, then come on out," Orello said.

    In Jingle Jog's early days, Julio Ramirez, a retired Green Beret, was a big part of the planning of Jingle Jogs of the past and also planned a host of other local charity runs. Ramirez passed away three years ago from leukemia at the age of 54. In his honor, his wife, Coco Ramirez, has taken up the gauntlet and has been working with Special Forces Association, Chapter 100 to plan the Jingle Jog this year in his stead. Some of the older Jingle Jog t-shirt designs bare his name. The Jingle Jog t-shirt given to registered participants has changed over the years.

    "The shirt is a thank you for coming out and recognition for the sponsors," Orello said.

    In addition to the change of venue, there is also a new shirt design this year. The design features a reindeer with a green beret. The event is on Dec. 4, and the race will start at 9 a.m. Jingle Jog is a family-friendly event and is suitable for the whole household. Jingle Jog is a festive event, and participants, human and canine alike, have been known to dress up in all manner of holiday costumes.

    This year will be no different; costumes, strollers and pets will be welcome at the Jingle Jog.

    There are currently 165 participants registered. Registrants include local high schoolers who are to participate and compete. The high school cadet team with the best overall run will walk away with an 18A Special Forces Trophy. There is a registration discount for high schoolers wishing to compete on the website.

    To register for the Jingle Jog, visit

  • FAST busFour red, white and blue coaches have been placed in service. Four more are on the way, according to Fayetteville Transit director Randy Hume. He said the change was made to bring the transit system in line with the city’s new color palette.

    The City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, plus nine businesses and civic partners, have launched an intensive project to develop a community-wide branding campaign to create an updated and unified approach to make known the area’s strengths, assets, diversity, vision and potential.

    Another eight new buses are expected to be delivered after the first of the year. The cost of FAST buses is provided primarily by the Federal Transit Administration. 18 citywide bus routes are operational.

  • MessiahThe Cumberland Choral Arts began in 1991 and are now celebrating their 30th anniversary. Sandy Cage, the President of the Board of Directors for the CCA, says they are still the best-kept secret in Fayetteville.

    They are a community group that welcomes anyone to join. They don’t do formal auditions, rather they do voice placements. They hold several performances in a non-COVID year.

    One of their annual traditions is to perform the Messiah, a classical work by George Frideric Handel that is best known for its “Hallelujah” chorus. The CCA will be partnering up with the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra for the second performance in a row to present the piece to the community, just in time for Christmas.

    “I think there are people in the community who look forward to this every year,” Cage said. “There are some who say that it's not Christmas yet until they come and hear the Messiah.”

    The annual tradition started at Fort Bragg but grew and is now performed for the majority of the Fayetteville community.

    While COVID-19 did shut down CCA performances for close to two years, some positives did come out of it.

    The CCA continued to post virtual performances on their social media pages and one of their videos went viral.

    “We are extremely excited because last year when we couldn't do our normal concerts, we ended up doing virtual pieces, and our artistic director, Michael Martin, worked to put those together and one of them was noticed online and we received an invitation to sing at Carnegie Hall in May,” Cage told Up & Coming Weekly.

    Cage explained that the composer of the piece is having a musical festival at Carnegie Hall, and because the composer noticed their cover of the piece online, the CCA has been invited to participate. There will be 32 performers going to New York to participate in May.

    "We never dreamed anything like that could ever happen, so that invitation was quite a shock but a wonderful one. We are really looking forward to it,” Cage said.

    The future of the CCA is looking bright as more people attend and join the choral group.

    “We are looking forward to growth in our group, more people singing, more people attending our concerts and possibly sponsoring our own music festival,” Cage said.

    She also tells Up & Coming Weekly that there are plans to possibly hold a European tour in the next couple of years.

    The upcoming concert, Messiah, is free to attend and no reservations are required. However, they are asking audience members to wear masks during the event.

    The concert will feature four soloists, one being a local school teacher - Leigh Montague.

    Montague is a Fayetteville native and attended Pine Forest High School. She graduated in 2008 and attended UNC Pembroke. She currently teaches at Cumberland County Schools and has done so for the past nine years.

    The community concert will take place at Cedar Falls Baptist Church. Doors will open at 2 p.m. and the concert will start at 3 p.m. on Dec. 5.

  • Charles EvansCumberland County Commission Chairman Charles Evans has set his sights on higher public office. He says he will run for the U.S. House of Representatives in North Carolina’s revised 4th District. The 4th Congressional District is newly drawn with no incumbent. The district includes all of Cumberland, Sampson, Johnston Counties, most of Harnett County and a small fragment of Wayne County.

    “This district is home to Fort Bragg and the county that's home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base,” Evans noted. “As a veteran, I understand what military families and personnel need and will be their number one ally in Congress."

    Evans has served on the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners for the past 11 years and previously served on the Fayetteville City Council from 2005-2009. He is affiliated with the Democratic party.

    Sen. Ben Clark and Rep. John Szoka have also announced that they will be running for the seat. Szoka will be running against former Fayetteville mayor Nat Robertson and former police officer Christine Villaverde for the Republican primary. Clark and Evans will run against each for the Democratic primary.

  • Holiday LightsThe holidays are upon us and the Cape Fear Botanical Garden will be bringing in crowds with Holiday Lights in the Garden. This is the eleventh year that the event has been held.

    “We started preparing in July … staff members have been working out in the Garden one to two days a week to prepare for BOO-tanical and Holiday Lights,” said Meghan Woolbright, marketing coordinator, Cape Fear Botanical Garden.

    Holiday Lights in the Garden include more than one million lights displayed throughout the botanical gardens. More than simply walking through the lights, there are activities for everyone. Cape Fear Botanical Garden’s glowing light maze is constructed with cool white lights.

    “Our team hit the ground running with the light maze construction and it was a huge hit for BOO-tanical [event] this year and we're sure it will be for Holiday Lights as well. It'll be like your own winter wonderland,” Woolbright said.

    Santa will also be on the scene ready to hear requests from children. Joining Santa, the Grinch will also be found among the lights.

    Visitors may purchase photos with Santa, but selfies with the Grinch are free.

    Visitors are invited to enjoy dinner and snacks from local food trucks to include Howell N' Dawgs, Hollywood Java, Household 6 Catering, and Gloria's.

    Visitors can also warm themselves with hot cocoa and s’mores.

    Entertainment will be scheduled on select evenings and free crafts for children will be provided.

    There will be live entertainment including the Fayetteville Technical Community College Jazz-Orchestra Ensemble, Highland Brass Players from Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, Fayetteville Jazz Orchestra, Gilbert Theater GLEE, Berean Baptist Choir, and Champion Davis Saint – Amand.

    If visitors have last-minute Christmas shopping they can check items off their list in the Garden Gift Shop, which will be open each evening.

    Parking will be free but it is limited. On Dec. 17 and 18, Holiday Lights visitors can park downtown and ride the Can-Do Coldwell Banker Trolley to the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens; tickets to ride will be $5 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

    The trolley will be picking up and dropping off between Cool Springs Downtown District office and Cape Fear Botanical Garden every 20 minutes.

    A Member Preview Night is scheduled for Dec. 2, which will be free to all Cape Fear Botanical Garden members and they can welcome one guest at normal admission price. Members can pay for guest tickets at the Garden Gift Shop.

    For more information or to purchase tickets visit

  • PotatoesWhat can you say about a 17-pound potato named Doug? That he was beautiful? That Doug loved Mozart and Bach? That he would make a lot of vodka? Who knows if a Big Potato loves music? To find out the truth, Mr. Science went all the way to New Zealand to investigate the strange case of the world’s largest potato. An excellent article in The Guardian by Eva Corlett brought Doug to the attention of the world.

    Once upon a time, Colin & Donna Brown lived a quiet life in Hamilton, New Zealand puttering their days away in their garden. The greatest problem they faced was keeping Peter Rabbit away from their carrots in the manner of Mr. McGregor. Unbeknownst to them, Colin was about to make a discovery that would bring them to the attention of the world. Colin was weeding his garden when his hoe hit something large and solid underground. Colin had struck Doug. Ms. Corlett’s article reports Colin said: “Donna this must be one of those white sweet potatoes that we grew because some of them grow massive out here.” After giving the object the old taste test, Collin realized he had unearthed a giant white potato.

    What do you do with a giant potato? You give him a name that suits his personality. Thus, Doug the Giant Potato was christened. Colin said: “We put a hat on him. We put him on Facebook, taking him for a walk, giving him some sunshine. It’s all a bit of fun. It’s amazing what entertains people. It’s fair to say our veggie garden can get a bit feral. There are some parts of the garden you need to pack a lunch and advise your next of kin before heading to.”

    Colin reports they had not planted potatoes for two or three years deepening the mystery of Doug’s origin. Could Doug have been seeded by aliens like the pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Was Doug part of an interstellar plot to take over the Earth one French Fry at the time? The potato soup thickens. Might Doug be the vanguard of an army of giant intelligent tubers bent on seeking revenge against humanity for the transmogrification of millions of their Earthly relatives into potato chips, hash browns, mashed potatoes, twice-baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, potato casserole, baked gnocchi, tater tots, Shepherd’s pie, or potatoes au gratin?

    Ponder the facts about potato consumption and beware. If there are intelligent Space Alien Potatoes across the universe it’s easy to see why they would consider the Earth to be the archenemy of potatoes. Mr. Google reports that the average person eats about 110 pounds of potatoes a year. The National Potato Council reports that in 2020 about 42.7 billion pounds of potatoes were produced and eaten each year. That is no small potatoes. If Intelligent Space Potatoes are able to get those potatoes to unite and throw off their chains, no human is safe. We are all doomed to fall to an attack of Killer Potatoes.

    But there is hope. The Guinness Book of World Records reports that the largest Pre-Doug potato was found in England in 2011 weighing about 10 pounds. Doug is clearly the King of Potatoes. Fortunately, Doug at this point seems content to amuse New Zealanders and not take over the world. Humanity’s best bet to stave off Killer Potatoes is appeasement by recognizing their accomplishments to show we can be their friends. Consider some of the great potatoes of history: Mr. Potato Head reigned supreme as a toy in the 1950s. The most famous dog in beer ad history was the late great Spuds MacKenzie. Every August 19th is National Potato Day. Great days in Potato History include 2000 BC when the Incas first planted potatoes as a crop. In 1536 the Spanish Conquistadores invaded Peru and took back the first potatoes to Europe. Thomas Jefferson first served French fried potatoes in the White House in 1802. In 1885 Van Gogh painted his famous picture The Potato Eaters immortalizing the role that potatoes play in nutrition. In 1995 NASA launched potatoes into orbit making them the first veggies grown in space. The list goes on and on.

    The greatest episode of the Andy Griffith show combines Aunt Bea’s pickles, kindness, and potatoes. Clara has won the best pickles at the county fair for eleven years. It’s a big deal for Clara. Barney and Andy make a fuss over Aunt Bea’s pickles even though her pickles are terrible. The guys switch out her pickles for store-bought dills not knowing Aunt Bea has decided to enter them in the county fair. At first, they think it would be funny for Aunt Bea to win with store-bought pickles. Then Clara talks about how much winning the best pickles means to her since her husband passed away. Andy and Barney then have to eat all store-bought pickles so Aunt Bea will enter her own terrible pickles and lose to Clara. Clara wins the contest. Andy closes by saying: “What’s small potatoes to some folks can be mighty important to others.”

    But if flattering potatoes doesn’t work, Doug and Donna have saved the Earth. They wrapped Doug in plastic to preserve him and plan on making him into vodka.

  • 04Cumberland County school bus drivers will share in additional system-wide bonuses being provided by the board of education. The school board decided on Nov. 17 to give the school district’s 6,000 full-time employees $1,000 bonuses in December and again in May. Local bus drivers have been demanding better pay and have staged protests recently. More than 100 buses were idled two weeks ago because of a "sick-out" staged by drivers.

    Starting pay for bus drivers in the school district is $12.21 an hour. A new state budget proposal includes a provision that the minimum hourly wage for non-certified school employees be raised to $13 this year and to $15 in the 2022-23 fiscal year. The state sets the baseline for pay in public schools, and some counties “supplement” those wages.
    The Cumberland County school district used to have a competitive supplemental package, but education officials say they are falling behind.

    "Determining the full cost (local, state and federal) of adjusting our minimum hourly salary to $13 or $15... is extremely complicated and if conducted internally could take an inordinate amount of time that we do not have given the state of the labor market," a memorandum released by the board said.

    Drivers say they are frustrated over a stalemate between the Cumberland County Board of Education and the county commissioners. The Board of Education develops the budget, but county commissioners provide the funding.

    "If you raise the pay for just one group, then you have many other groups within the district that did not get that same consideration," said Clyde Locklear, associate superintendent of business

    Many North Carolina school districts are struggling to hire and retain workers because of low wages and working conditions many complain about. More than a third of Cumberland County Schools, 50,000 students, depend on bus services to get to school.

  • 10In the tradition of Charles Dickens’ classic short story, “A Christmas Carol”, the annual A Dickens Holiday is a Victorian-era holiday shopping and entertainment celebration held in historic Downtown Fayetteville. A Dickens Holiday is intended to encourage the community to shop and support local businesses during the holiday shopping season.

    This is the twenty-second year that the Arts Council of Fayetteville, through support from the City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, and the North Carolina Arts Council has planned the event. Vendors line both sides of Hay Street selling a diverse range of goods from hand-knit scarves to metal sculptures, local honey to flavored popcorn — the artisans offer unique products. Shoppers can grab one-of-a-kind gifts to put under the tree.

    Vickie Toledo used to be a patron, now she is a vendor, The Crafty Rooster. She has been a patron for 16 years and a vendor for four years.

    “I love the theme and the people who dress up. It makes it so much more fun than a holiday craft fair,” said Toledo. “It's a craft fair in the era of Dickens, with all the characters from A Christmas Carol, carriage rides and cider, a beautiful candle-lit march down Hay Street and more. It’s a blast.”

    A Dickens Holiday is considered the kickoff event for the holiday season bringing together the best that Fayetteville has to offer. Each year, thousands of onlookers join in the Hay Street festivities.
    Following guidance from the Cumberland County Health Department and in light of COVID-19, the Arts Council’s Board of Trustees has taken a cautious approach to this year’s celebration by encouraging social distancing and offering a lower density of crafters, artists and vendors for the event. Also due to COVID-19, the Dickens candlelight procession to the Market House and firework display will not take place this year.

    There will be street performances by Michael Daughtry, David Nikkel, Coventry Carolers, Highland Brass Ensemble and others. In addition, there will be festive holiday performances by the English Country Line Dancers, a solo violinist, Gilbert Glee, a magician, Highland Brass Ensemble, a stilt walker, Oakwood Waits Double Ensemble, Anthony Sutton and Friends, Fayetteville Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the Alpha Omega Dance Academy’s ballet excerpts of "The Nutcracker."

    Characters from “A Christmas Carol” including Father Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge, the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Future, Jacob Marley, London Bobbies and the Cratchit family with Tiny Tim will be ambling around downtown, mingling with the spectators. This is Eric Hoisington’s fourth year participating in A Dickens Holiday by playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
    “I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens and have read all of his novels, so it’s amazing to see Fayetteville town’s people once again exposed to the quaintness of Victorian times and the drama inherent in 'A Christmas Carol' while played out by various town-thespians,” said Hoisington. “I walk up and down Hay Street in a bad mood, trying to terrorize the crowd with the depravity that is Ebenezer Scrooge.”

    There are memories to be made at the event including Victorian horse-drawn carriage rides on Hay Street, and Dickens photo cut-outs and a holiday selfie station. The event is free and dog-friendly, though owners should check if animals are allowed inside establishments. A Dickens Holiday event will be held on Nov. 26, from 1 – 8 p.m.

  • 07In the next few weeks, Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West will hold informational sessions for people who think they may qualify to be lawfully expunged. An expungement clinic will be held in the Spring of 2022 where local attorneys, the public defender’s office, and Legal Aid of NC will assist individuals in having their records expunged. So, what in the world is expungement? To “expunge” is to “erase or remove completely.” In the law, “expungement” is the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal records.

    An expungement order directs the court to treat a criminal conviction as if it had never occurred, essentially removing it from a defendant’s criminal record as well as, ideally, the public record. It is important to clarify that expungement is not “forgiveness” for committing a crime — that is a legal pardon. Likewise, pardons are not expungements and do not require removal of a conviction from a criminal record. When a criminal record is expunged, the public record of the arrest, charge, or conviction is deleted.

    Notice is also sent to a range of government entities, such as the sheriff’s office or police department that made the arrest and the division of motor vehicles. These agencies are directed to purge their records relating to the arrest, charge, or conviction. For most purposes, it’s like the legal proceeding never happened. However, confidential records are retained after expungement. These records are available under very limited circumstances, such as when a judge considering an expungement application wants to know whether the applicant has been granted an expungement in the past.

    Who should be expunged?

    "It's someone whose license has been suspended for at least 5 years due to unpaid fees on a minor traffic offense that has already been adjudicated such as a stop sign offense, speeding ticket, expired registration," West said.

    Fayetteville criminal justice activist Demetria Murphy said the economic treadmill is exactly what stops people from getting their licenses again.

    "Someone who goes from making $8 or $9 who now can go and work for a distribution center and have their regular driver's license back...puts them in a position to actually win," Murphy said.

    Under North Carolina law, a person whose record has been expunged generally does not have to disclose the arrest, charge or conviction on job applications, applications for housing, and in other settings where a criminal conviction may have a negative impact. Prospective employers and educational institutions can’t require applicants to disclose expunged entries. In fact, North Carolina law specifically protects people with expunged criminal records from perjury and similar charges relating to failure to disclose an expunged record. Employers who violate this law can be fined.

    North Carolina law provides for expungement of a wide variety of arrests, charges and convictions. In some cases, expungement is available only to people who were under a certain age at the time of the crime. Other expungements are available regardless of age. The best source of information about whether your arrest, charge, or conviction may be eligible for expungement is an experienced Fayetteville criminal defense attorney. For more information, contact the District Attorney’s Office at (910) 475-3010 or at

  • 11Military Giving Tuesday is set for its third year of observance on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which falls on Nov. 30. Its inception began in May of 2019 when three of the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awardees came together with a shared vision.

    Jessica Manfre, 2019 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year, Maria Reed, 2019 Army Spouse of the Year, and Samantha Gomolka, 2019 National Guard Spouse of the Year “wanted to create something special that would unite all the branches of service in a collective effort to serve with purpose and in kindness.” The #GivingTuesdayMilitary movement was born.
    In its inaugural year, 2019, the campaign utilized hashtags to record over 2.5 million acts of kindness. When Stacy Bilodeau, 2018 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year joined the team in 2020 the movement produced Inspire Up, a 501c3 whose mission is to “Inspire Up a kinder and more giving world by uniting the military and civilian communities through empowerment, education, community building and a commitment to serve,” according to

    “It’s not about money, it’s about kindness,” explained Director of Community Engagement and Director of GMT, Brittany Raines, who is a Fort Drum military spouse.
    Local Fort Bragg spouse Tawni Dixon, a member of Fort Bragg’s 2020 Family of the Year, connected to the movement via Raines and with her counterpart Shauna Johnson, together as GMT Ambassadors they are bringing the movement to Fort Bragg.

    They have created a Facebook group (GivingMilitaryTuesday – Fort Bragg) and they are spreading the word via personal networks.

    “We have a really amazing volunteer pool here at Fort Bragg. I think Fort Bragg just has a lot of rock-star-volunteers here and so once you talk about it word just travels really fast,” Dixon said. “We know that Fort Bragg is such a family it has been easy to get the word out.” It’s all about improving the community and bringing smiles to people’s faces.

    “Our motto is dropping kindness all over the center of the military universe. It doesn’t matter how, it can be so simple,” said Dixon

    One example Dixon shared is when, at her place of work, someone placed googly eyes on a debit card payment system and in a few other select places and it made people smile.

    “It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture we just want people to spread kindness.”

    The group has several events planned to further their cause. They will be supporting the Armed Services YMCA’s Operation Holiday Hooah to give out gifts to military families in need, and they will be participating in a packing party and helping to distribute food at the ASYMCA Food Pantry on Nov. 30 in observance of GMT.

    If you are interested in participating and want to get involved, the group can be contacted at

    It is open to anyone who wants to volunteer, although events on post may require a DOD ID or entry through All-American Access Control Point.

    “Giving Tuesday is not about being grand… it's really just about being kind in the world,” said Dixon.

  • 06The Council on Criminal Justice issued a report earlier this year that shows the number of homicides in the U.S. during the first half of 2021 increased by 16% compared to the same period last year. The number of homicides in 2020 compared to 2019 rose by 25%, according to an FBI preliminary report. It was the largest increase since the FBI began releasing annual homicide figures in the 1960s. The spike in violent crime came as the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the country.

    This year’s murder rate in Fayetteville is unprecedented. As of Nov. 17, 43 people were killed by others. Arrests have been made in 33 of the cases. That exceeds the highest annual homicide number by 12.

    “There is no one answer to what’s going on,” Police Chief Gina Hawkins told Up & Coming Weekly. “There are so many guns in our community.”

    She says that people are impatient having been locked away in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hawkins said that unlike previous years, homicides here are city-wide.

    “In Fayetteville, the number one reason for murder was drug-related robberies,” Hawkins said, noting that murder is almost impossible to prevent.

  • 09Light Up the City: A Holiday Decoration Celebration is coming to the Cool Springs Downtown District. The event is free for all who wish to attend or participate and encourages shop owners to decorate their windows for the holidays.

    The idea is to bring residents downtown to view the lights and decorations. The decorations turn downtown Fayetteville into a decoratively lit winter wonderland. It is ideal for taking photos and making memories.

    Last year, 35 businesses, restaurants and downtown museums took part in the event.

    It is a great way to fill downtown Fayetteville with holiday spirit. Some locations are decked out with Christmas trees, others strung up lights and lots of places put up garland.

    People can take a self-guided tour downtown. A map will be available on the Light Up the City: A Holiday Decoration Celebration Facebook event page ( highlighting the establishments that are taking part in the event.

    Maps of businesses taking part in the Light Up the City will also be available at 222 Hay St. beginning Dec. 1. The event will take place from Dec. 1 – 31.

    Letters to Santa will also return with this event and there will be a giant five-foot red mailbox in which children can send their Christmas lists and Santa letters to the North Pole. The “Direct to the North Pole" mailbox will be located outside of the Cool Spring Downtown District's office at 222 Hay Street.

    Just next door downtown visitors will also find the Holiday Alley, a photographic urban holiday oasis designed to spark joy and filled with holiday lights and decorations.
    Families can visit and take photos in the alley.

    “Last year, we saw hundreds of families come, enjoy the holiday decorations and take photos of their children at the photo stations,” said Lauren Falls, director of marketing and events for the Cool Spring Downtown District.

    This is the third year Light Up the City: A Holiday Decoration Celebration will be held and it is the second year patrons can mail a letter to Santa and visit the
    Holiday Alley.

    Businesses are invited to sign up for the event by visiting this link, They must have decorations up by Dec. 1. They may decorate their storefront or inside their business to qualify and share the event link on their social media pages.

    Pedestrians checking out the many lights can vote for the Viewer’s Choice Award, the best display in participating businesses.

    The window voted best dressed wins $250.

    “Last year, we had around 500 people vote for the Light Up the City Viewer's Choice Award poll and the winner for last year was the United Way of Cumberland County,” said Falls.

    In addition to the businesses that have decorated, there will be a 14-foot tree decked out in holiday finery. The community tree will be located at 301 Hay St., in front of the Arts Council of Fayetteville and Cumberland County building and will likely be a prime spot for visitors to take photos.

  • Editor's Note: Small Business Saturday is a national initiative started in 2010 by American Express. It is observed on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and is designed to highlight small businesses. This shopping guide is not exhaustive, so, be sure to venture out and check in with all of your local favorites to see if they are offering specials. All offers listed are subject to change without notice and are subject to supply availability. For any additional details please reach out to the individual businesses.
    A Bit of Carolina
    A Bit of Carolina will be offering 20% off all Simply Southern items, a free gift with every $50 purchase and free gift wrapping. They will also be featuring two local jewelry vendors and be giving out refreshments, Saturday only. A Bit of Carolina is a specialty gift shop carrying everything North Carolina-themed. They are located in Downtown Fayetteville at 306 Hay St. They are open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Apple Crate Natural Market
    Apple Crate Natural Market will be offering $20 off of every $100 spent at their store, Saturday only. They focus on nutrition supplements, vitamins and specialty and organic foods. They have two locations, 2711 Raeford Road which is open on Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The other location, located off 5430 Camden Road Suite #103 is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Bragg Unique Boutique
    The Bragg Unique Boutique Gift Shop will be offering 25% off all wholesale for the entire month of November, as well as a chance to win a $10 gift card for every $30 you spend. The BUB is part of the Association of Bragg Spouses and is supported by ABS Volunteers. They sell gifts, handmade items and specialty items. All profits go directly to the ABS Scholarship and Welfare Funds. They are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Their website, is also available 24/7. They are located on Fort Bragg at Bldg 2-2211 Woodruff St.
    The Pickin Coop Antique Mall
    This shopping center will be offering 10% – 25% off on certain dealers on Friday and Saturday. Their vendors sell antiques, primitives, farmhouse items, painted furniture and unique gifts. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. They are located at 708 Ramsey St.
    City Center Gallery & Books
    This vintage and used book shop will be offering a 25% discount on their vintage and rare collectibles. Everything from Truman Capote’s "A Christmas Memory" in a slip-cover ($20) to a first-edition of Willa Cather’s "My Antonia" ($375). They offer a wide selection of quality used books, vintage black and white pictures and local art. They are located in Downtown Fayetteville at 112 Hay St. and are open daily from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 1 – 6 p.m. on Sunday.
    The Downtown Market of Fayetteville
    Shoppers who spend $50 or more will be gifted a box of truffles from the Carolina Chocolate Lady while supplies last. A small local-centric grocery and gift shop, The Downtown Market of Fayetteville works directly with farmers, producers, artisans, bakers, anglers, ranchers and others to offer locally sourced healthy products to the Fayetteville community. In addition, The Downtown Market of Fayetteville is home to an award-winning florist. They offer weekly delivery on all items stocked on their website to Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, Raeford and Hope Mills. 
    Dragon's Lair Comics
    This local comic book store will be offering  50% – 90% off select comic books, Saturday only. Dragon’s Lair Comics has been a part of the Fayetteville community for over 40 years. This store is open Monday through Sunday, typically from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is located at 6243 
    Yadkin Road.
    The Fayetteville Doulas
    The Fayetteville Doulas boutique will be offering 10% off all online orders on Saturday. The Fayetteville Doulas is a doula agency focused on families in the surrounding Fayetteville area. They offer classes and services to expectant and new moms. They are located at 2018 Fort Bragg Road and their boutique website is
    Heritage Jewelers
    Heritage Jewelers will be offering sales on all items, including gold, pearls and diamonds on Friday and Saturday. Military and custom repairs will be excluded from the sale. Heritage Jewelers is a veteran-owned business. They are known for military custom jewelry, like the Special Forces Ring. They are open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and are open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturdays. They are located at 114 Westwood Shopping Center.
    Leclair's General Store
    Leclair's General Store will be offering store visitors 15% off of three or more bottles of wine/packs of beer, 10% off Leclair's apparel, and for every $25 spent customers will be given a raffle ticket that enters them into a raffle for a gift basket of curated goods from Leclair's General Store. Leclair's is located in the heart of Haymount at 1212 Fort Bragg Road. They offer a unique selection of coffee, wine, craft beers, specialty groceries, vintage decor, antiques, art, jewelry and local goods. They are open Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    Pressed - A Creative Space
    For the whole weekend, Pressed will have sales in their shop and online. T-shirts will be buy one, get one half off; crystal bracelets will be buy two, get one free; all crystals will be 30% off. On Monday, their website will be 30% off as well. Pressed sells clothing, crystals and other items of interest for those who see things differently. They are a veteran-owned business in Downtown Fayetteville. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and are located at 120 Hay St.
    Renaissance Day Spa
    Renaissance Day Spa will be offering a 10% discount off all retail in their recently opened holiday boutique, Saturday only. Their little store is filled with gifts and stocking stuffers to give to loved ones. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. They are located at 1534 Purdue Drive.
    The Rock Guns & Accessories
    The Rock will be having several sales including 30% off all Kydex gun holders, 10% off all Cerakote, 50% off knife sharpening and they will have 50% off select merchandise such as t-shirts. The Rock Guns is a Special Forces veteran-owned business. Their aim is to provide the best products and services to customers in order to meet their firearms needs and build a community around the advancement of firearms knowledge. They are located at 6113 Yadkin Road and are open this Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Rude Awakening Coffee
    Rude Awakening Coffee will be giving out a free keychain with every gift card purchase as well as donating all coffee bean sales to Connections of Cumberland County, an organization that focuses on giving resources to women and women with children who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. Rude Awakening will also be featuring their Mexican Spice Mocha for the weekend. They are located at 227 Hay St. and are open from 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    Sweet Tea Shakespeare 
    Sweet Tea Shakespeare, a theater company, will be offering special deals on brand new merchandise on their website, as well as an exclusive buy one, get one free discount on upcoming shows. This sale will only be available on Saturday. This non-profit company focuses on gathering a diverse community around a common table to delight in the magic of story, song and stagecraft. Their website is
    Guiding Wellness Institute
    Guiding Wellness Institute is launching a new Live Well Lifestyle Boutique on Saturday. At 9 a.m. there will be a Warm Flow class and shopping in the boutique will be open after. The Guiding Wellness Institute is offering 21% off of purchases over $21 and giving free tickets to their Live Well Day Retreat being held Jan. 2, 2022, with boutique purchases over $210. The boutique offers athleisure wear, yoga mats, journals, natural skincare, candles, teas and more. The Institute is located at 143 Skateway Drive.
    White Trash & Colorful Accessories 

    White Trash will be offering buy-one-get-one 50% off, Mantra Scarves and free "bah humbug" wine glass for anyone who spends $30 or more. For anyone who spends $50 or more they are offering a tote bag that says "rose all day" and anyone who spends $100 or more will get a free tote bag that says “underestimate me, that’ll be fun.” The sale is on Saturday only. White Trash & Colorful Accessories sells a collection of items from greeting cards to artist jewelry. They are located at 223 Franklin St. and are open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m, Monday through Saturday.

  • 02It has been two years since the virus we now know as COVID-19 began as a stealth incubation in Wuhan, China before exploding onto the world stage. It has since taken 5.1 million lives, almost 800,000 of them in the United States and nearly 19,000 of those in North Carolina. None of us remain untouched by the pandemic, whether we have lost someone near and dear or whether we feel merely inconvenienced by COVID-19 restrictions.

    The second year of holiday celebrations affected by the virus is now upon us. Experts and regular folks alike are realizing COVID-19 will be with us for the long haul and thinking about how we are going to live with it. The Dicksons, all thoroughly vaccinated and feeling fortunate to be so, will gather for Thanksgiving with a handful of family and friends in a way we did not last year. We will take precautions — knowing that everyone except a 2-year-old is vaccinated, and we will stay outdoors as much as we can, both cooking and eating. While we and millions of other Americans are indeed choosing to gather, we are also thinking about how to go about our lives knowing that COVID-19 is not the raging pandemic it once was but it remains a very real threat. We are going to learn to live with COVID risk. We will learn to accept it the same way we accept the risk of riding in vehicles of all sorts, participating in sports and engaging in other once-routine activities. So, what will that look like in our daily lives?

    People in Asian counties have long worn face masks in public, because of both various illnesses and air pollution. Many medical experts expect Americans to do so for the foreseeable future in public places such as grocery stores, cabs, buses, planes and in gatherings of people we do not know.

    People will likely continue working remotely at least some of the time and communicating electronically, in part because of health concerns and because we have discovered its convenience.
    We are now able to ponder our lives ahead because while the United States remains less vaccinated than other developed nations, about 65% of us have had at least one shot and 60% have had more than one. That means that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is going down, especially in more vaccinated communities.

    In addition, COVID-19 treatments are becoming more effective, meaning that this virus may eventually be just another illness and not one that takes over our lives.

    Increasingly, experts are saying COVID-19 could become like seasonal flu, an illness no one wants and can be successfully vaccinated against.

    All of which is to say that we are not going to wake up one morning to headlines screaming, “COVID-19 eradicated forever,” that is a dream not likely to come true.

    The poet T.S. Eliot wrote that the world would end “not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

    Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo has the same thoughts about COVID-19. As Nuzzo told the Washington Post recently, “It doesn’t end. We just stop caring. Or we care a lot less... I think for most people, it just fades into the background of their lives.”

    I look forward to that day, even if it means I mask up from time to time.

  • 01Elected officials and staff of Fayetteville and Cumberland County could learn a great deal about cooperation and teamwork from our present Cumberland County delegation. Congratulations are due to our Cumberland County Legislative Delegation Chairman, Rep. Billy Richardson, Sen. Kirk deViere, Sen. Ben Clark, Rep. John Szoka, Rep. Diane Wheatley, and Rep. Marvin Lucas for the passing of North Carolina's first budget since 2018. For months they worked together diligently for one primary purpose, to do the right things to better the quality of life for the residents of Cumberland County. Serving the citizens of Fayetteville and the other eight municipalities was, and should always be, the highest of all priorities. Today, we are fortunate to have dedicated local leadership representing us in Raleigh, and they have done just that. As a result, last week, Gov. Roy Cooper signed off on a state budget and infrastructure bill that has been long over overdue. Anytime you can bring home over $402 million to your community, one must give credit where credit is due. It was only through hard work, compromise and cooperation that they accomplished this. The projects and programs funded by the new budget will impact the Cumberland County community for decades. The teamwork demonstrated by our bipartisan leadership resulted in the passage of a budget that will significantly impact Carolinians from the mountains to the coast. It targets the state's infrastructure needs in health care, K-12 education, broadband water restoration, community colleges, universities, medical research and much more. The tax policy portion of the budget is pro-growth, lowering the personal income tax and lowering the corporate income tax rates.

    In addition, military pensions for North Carolina Veterans will no longer be taxed thanks to Rep. John Szoka, the primary sponsor of HB 83 and signed on to by Rep. Diane Wheatley. According to Szoka, this will make North Carolina more attractive to military retirees from all over the country. Specifically, it will aid in attracting and retaining retirees here in Cumberland County. Another budget highlight and a huge win for our local community was the allocation of $59.6 million for the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center. Another example of fantastic teamwork, cooperation and perseverance by project Chairman Mac Healy, Mary Lynn Bryan, and members of the Center's board of directors who pursued an endeavor that is good and beneficial for the entire community. This state-run venue will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors and guests and millions of dollars into our community annually. What's not to like about that?

    This bipartisan leadership is the kind of leadership that needs to be replicated locally in Fayetteville and Cumberland County. We have an election coming up soon after the first of the year. We should be looking for and voting for candidates who want to cooperate to better the circumstances of the city and county citizens. We need honest and trustworthy leaders who understand the detriment that municipal and community silos have on the progress of a growing community. Sure, we are moving forward in our development but not at the pace we should be because the cooperation and teamwork amongst our city, county and influential community organizations are only evident in fruitless sound bites. We now have a herculean opportunity to negotiate the $402 million earmarked for Cumberland County into a formidable "can do" community. Our Raleigh delegation has set the near-perfect example of what is accomplishable through teamwork and cooperation. We must encourage and demand that our local city and county leaders do the same. We need action, not empty words. We need to keep those traits in mind when we vote for our future leaders.

    Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

  • 13The holiday season is always an odd time for me. I love to give gifts, but I don't really care to add to the collection of unwanted gifts. In my home, we often talk about trusting God to meet our needs. That doesn't mean we stand on the shore and watch for our ship to come in. We work hard to make sure we've done all we can to provide for our family and others, but still, we trust God.

    Sometimes I'll pray and ask for specific things — you know, a particular amount of money, favorable diagnosis of a car problem — and I suspect you do too. Nothing wrong with that, but there's truly more to having your needs met than having stuff go your way. It may be as simple as being content with where you are and what you have.

    My wife and I must be on the same wavelength concerning contentment. We have a little chalkboard in our kitchen where we'll write a recipe or date night idea, but recently I walked into the kitchen and saw these words: “What if God has already provided?” That stopped me. And the thought has haunted me for weeks. What if, in my quest for more and better, I've overlooked what I already have? It's caused me to take stock of my time, talents and resources. It's even changed the way I pray, and how I look at pretty much everything.

    Discontentment runs rampant in our culture, and today I want to offer you three choices you can make in your life that can lead you to genuine, biblical, lasting contentment.

    First, seek contentment as a lifestyle. Choose it. Acknowledge that you would not be happier if you had more. You wouldn’t be — you’d likely be more miserable. God’s Word contains clear warnings for us: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25.)

    Second, learn to say, “I have enough.” Let those words reign in your home. Push back from the table and say, “I’ve had enough.” When money comes your way — a surprise bonus from work, an inheritance from your great uncle, even finding $50 in your coat pocket — resist the cravings for more.

    Lastly, settle it. Here’s a challenge — choose a lifestyle; don’t let your income dictate your lifestyle. Choose a comfortable level of living that meets your needs, and don't compromise that with more spending when more income arrives. If you don’t choose a lifestyle, this culture will choose one for you, and by default, it will be the lifestyle of living beyond your means. Be counter-cultural. Be radical.

    Be others oriented. Let enough be enough. Learn from the examples of those around you (both the contented and the covetous.) You'll save yourself some heartache and know the joy of a truly contented attitude.

    More does not equal happier. I promise. And remember this from Philippians 4:19 — “My God will supply every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

  • 12When I made the decision to become a group fitness instructor the style of teaching that most caught my attention was barre. When we hear the word barre visuals may come to mind of floating ballet dancers in tutus and pirouettes. My husbands’ male friends had another connotation of the word bar. When he told them I was taking a class to teach barre they asked him if we were going to open a nightclub! You do not have to be a ballet dancer or have previous dance experience to take a barre class, barre is not about dance it is about movement. It is low to moderate exercise that infuses ballet, yoga and strength training for a wide variety of fitness levels. The exercises can increase flexibility, strengthen the core, improve posture and balance. You can take barre classes at private studios specifically for that purpose or fitness centers and gyms. The styles and concepts may vary but the bottom line is that they are designed towards a full-body minimal impact endurance workout.

    Barre targets specific muscle groups with movements at a slower pace. You might hear the words “feel the burn” or “shake” which means that you have worked the muscles to the peak that you feel your muscles shake and know that you have worked a muscle group to its entirety.

    A typical barre class will include a warmup, the body of the class and a cool down.

    After the warmup participants may move to the barre for exercises that target muscle groups such as hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps and calves.

    An exercise example would be a set of pliés that include static holds, pulses and engage the calves with a compound

    A set of exercises could include a set on one side and a repeat on the other side or facing the barre. A benefit in taking a class is a facility will have barres installed. The aid of a barre helps with stability, form and is a terrific addition for more complex moves and stretching. When a barre is not available facilities might use the aid of a chair for support. Classes may also include floor work on the mat with exercises for abdominals and core. The incorporation of light weights, stretch bands, Bender Balls and gliding discs are tools that can be used to further work the muscle groups. The end of class includes a cooldown and stretching. Mobility is a huge reason to take a barre class, especially for the hip flexors that tend to get tight from sitting. It improves postural alignment, flexibility and functional fitness for everyday life. It can improve the way we bend, reach for something on the shelf, turn to look at something or squat to pick up an object.

    By attending regularly, you will be able to see and feel improvements with your strength and flexibility. If you are interested in attending a class meet the instructor before beginning the class to familiarize yourself with the format and address any concerns that you may have with class participation.

    Begin with fewer repetitions or modifications and rest when needed. You will see participants with flexibility and strength levels of all ages in class. The benefits of barre are obvious in the participants that have consistently attended. Wear activewear such as leggings, t-shirt, flexible shoes, barre socks or bare feet.

    Bring your mat, water bottle and a hand towel to wipe that brow because you will sweat! Attend a class, have fun and live, love, life at the barre!

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