William Gaston Awards 2004

The 2004 recipients include:

Jim Belt

Mr. Jim Belt has a long history of working with senior citizens in a variety of ways, so he was a logical choice for the Senior Center Study Committee. It is also no surprise that he is serving as Chair of that Committee.

This Committee is conducting a study on the need for a Senior Center in Gaston County and will be making recommendations to the Board of Commissioners in early 2005. Mr. Belt comes to the committee a seasoned veteran, having served two years as chairman of the Kings Mountain Senior Citizens Advisory Board. In that role, he was instrumental in the planning and fundraising process that eventually built a $3.1 million dollar center.

Anyone who knows Mr. Belt has to be envious of his energy and enthusiasm. When he retired as owner of Sam's Food Mart in Gastonia, it seems as though he was just waiting for more time to devote to his other projects…including James Belt Ministries, which ministers to senior adults in the greater Gaston area. He has produced several gospel albums and is currently compiling a book of personal stories as told by the caregivers of Alzheimer's patients.

And it doesn't stop there. Mr. Belt has served on the Gaston County Adult Home Advisory Committee, the Kings Mountain Planning and Zoning Board as a Gaston County extra-territorial jurisdiction representative, and has been a Hospice volunteer.

There is no question that Jim has touched the lives of many seniors in our community and that his work on the Senior Center Study Committee is important work that will benefit the senior citizens of Gaston County.

Wilma Ratchford Craig

Anyone who has driven around Gaston County has probably seen the work of Mrs. Wilma Craig. As a member of the Historic Preservation Commission since its inception in 1979, Mrs. Craig has been instrumental in the preservation of many local buildings, including the Old Gaston County Courthouse, The First Baptist Church which is now Unity Place, The Hoyle Historic Homestead, and Mount Olivet Church.

Mrs. Craig has served as Secretary for Historic Preservation since 1979, during which time, a total of 27 Gaston County locations have been designated as historic sites. There's a story that goes with each one, which Mrs. Craig will be happy to share. While preserving the buildings is important, it is creating an awareness of the value of our history that Mrs. Craig finds most fulfilling.

In keeping with her love of history, Mrs. Craig is the Ratchford and Craig family historian, and has been editor of the Gaston County Historic Society Bulletin since 1959.

But her community involvement doesn't end with Historic Preservation. Mrs. Craig was a member of the Board of Directors of the Union Road Community Club, which deeded the land to the County for the Union Road Branch Library. She served as a member of Quality of Natural Resources from 1989-1993. She also served on the new Gaston County Courthouse Dedication Committee, is a member of the Major William Chronicle Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and has authored several books including 4 volumes of poetry.

It is no exaggeration to say that future generations will be able to get a glimpse at our past because of Mrs. Craig's dedication and tireless efforts to preserve our history.

Edna Will

When people talk about Mrs. Edna Will, they use words like sweet, unassuming and steadfast. She would probably prefer to stay out of the limelight, but after years of serving on the Gaston County and the Gaston / Lincoln Regional Library Boards, it's time to recognize her faithful dedication.

Mrs. Will has been a lifelong library user, and her love of books has made her a staunch supporter of the Library. Never one to make a fuss, she quietly goes about the business of making sure library services are available and accessible to the public. As a dedicated volunteer of the Friends of the Library, you'll also find her working at the annual book sale.

Mrs. Will has also volunteered her time at the Gaston County Museum of Art and History, she has led tours at the Dallas Courthouse Square, and is a member of the Dallas Women's Club. She is also a very active member of St. Michael's church.

But if one had to guess what she would consider to be her greatest accomplishment, it is probably that she raised 7 wonderful children. They remember their mother reading to them from The Winston Reader…a book that Mrs. Will got when she was in the 3rd grade.

It is truly volunteers like Mrs. Will who make Gaston County a better place for all citizens.