GARLAND — During community gatherings in this small southern Sampson town, everyone is always reminded that “Greatness Grows in Garland.”
For many years, residents and visitors have seen the growth through art, beautification, tasty cuisine and celebrations that bring everyone together.
Inside a local church, many sat shoulder to shoulder to honor Dr. Amos Neill Johnson and his assistant Henry Lee “Buddy” Treadwell. Known as medical trailblazers, the late medical professionals were responsible for the innovation of the Physician Assistant concept, which is used around the world. Anyone searching to see what they look like can take a visit to downtown Garland where a carefully crafted mural by Robert Hall depicts their images.
“The Greatness of Garland Mural belongs to all of us and hopefully each day we’ll look at it with pride and each day it will remind us to honor the past, celebrate today and embrace tomorrow,” Mayor Winifred Murphy said recently about the mural featuring the Brooks Brothers building, children and railroad tracks.
The colorful project across from Rotary Park, next to the Sampson County Sheriff’s Annex, was implemented by the town’s North Carolina Small Town’s Economic Prosperity (NC STEP) Program, which was developed to help towns facing economic hardships.
“”Unfortunately after the closing of the schools in 1985 and lack of oversight and financial accountability, Garland saw a significant decrease in population, businesses closing, decaying infrastructure, and a decrease in services for its citizens,” Murphy stated. “NC STEP and the opening of several new businesses since 2012, have brought a sense of pride, generated new interest and partnerships, and brought anticipated hope for Garland.”
But that’s not all NC STEP is doing to improve the quality of life in the area. Under the leadership of facilitator Mary Brown and with the assistance of Lowe’s Home Improvement, the planting of trees, flowers and shrubs on Front Street is adding to the growth.
The work of community volunteers and NC STEP members came just in time for one of the biggest events of the year — the annual Garland Community Day event, which features a parade, street dance and games and activities for people of all ages. Scheduled for Nov. 7, the theme for 2015 is “Honoring Yesterday, Celebrating Today, and Embracing Tomorrow!” The event took a hiatus after the local Rotary lost its charter in 2013, but it later returned. In addition, the facility was recently recognized as a Center of Excellence for their work in providing activities for senior citizens.
NC STEP members and other town officials are always working to put smiles on the faces of youths by arranging events and activities. But in the process, the elders are never forgotten.
Recently, Murphy presented a proclamation to Marie Faircloth, director of the Garland Senior Center. The purpose was to celebrate seniors by proclaiming September as Senior Center Month and Sept. 22 as Senior Center Day in Garland.
Along with providing things to do for its residents, Garland leaders are also working daily to improve the town’s infrastructure.
The town had a water meter replacement project completed in March 2015, which eliminated the need for someone traveling from house to house for readings. Office staff members can produce residential and commercial readings through computer technology. New technology will also benefit the populous by preventing water loss and detecting water leaks, which may lower the bills of residents.
The Garland Fire & Rescue Department is currently in the process of building a new fire station to provide better service, yet another effort made by the town toward embracing its tomorrow.
For Murphy and other members of the town, NC STEP is just the beginning of the revitalization process. It created renewed interest and a continued thirst for greatness and services.
“Leaders, citizens, and volunteers must continue to forge partnerships and generate interest in the town,” Murphy said. “A collective and shared vision for Garland’s continued growth must include priorities identified by citizen surveys.”
Some of the priorities included a pharmacy, fitness center, community center, more affordable housing, recreational services and street infrastructure.
“Collectively we must continue to move Garland forward,” Murphy said. “Garland’s rich history and legacy of greatness must continue for our present citizens and for future generations.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.