Downtown facility plans will get a look
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 25, 2013 1:46 PM
Downtown groups, along with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee, gave away three downtown gift baskets to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base airmen and their families. On the front row, from left, are Sarah Merritt, director of the Arts Council of Wayne County; recipient Katlyn Miller and her 16-month-old son, Xander; Cynthia Aldridge, SJAFB commercial sponsorship coordinator; and Meg Gernaat, Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. promotions coordinator. On the back row, are Chris Bell, News-Argus circulation director (the newspaper was one of the sponsors of the project); Sherry Archibald, Paramount Theatre director; and Mike Gooden, MAC steering committee member.
Community officials who gave away three downtown Goldsboro gift packages to Seymour Johnston Air Force Base airmen Wednesday afternoon had two motivations. The first, they said, was to thank the airmen and their families for all they do and to let them know the community supports them. The second, they said, was to help airmen become more familiar with downtown and what it has to offer.
Paramount Theatre Director Sherry Archibald, who organized the effort, along with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee, explained that it grew out of a desire to do more for the airmen as part of the theater's Military Appreciation Night celebration, which is May 3 for the performance of comedy troupe The Water Coolers.
"It's for all of us to just say 'Thank you,'" Mrs. Archibald said. "They're pretty excited. From what I heard, none of them have ever been to the Paramount."
She noted, though, that many members of the base have, whether for a show in the Performing Arts Series or to watch a fellow airman perform with Center Stage or a child with StageStruck.
"For this, we were trying to promote our Performing Arts Series. The Water Coolers is actually our last show in the series this season. But we're bringing artists from all over the world and I want to make sure the airmen are aware that we have the best of both worlds -- local theater as well as world-class professionals," Mrs. Archibald said. "We just want to add to their quality of life."
Included in the gift basket were two tickets to The Water Coolers, $100 in Downtown Dollars, a $20 gift certificate to the Arts Council and information about all the happenings downtown. All total, each basket was worth about $175.
The winners were chosen through a series of drawings held at various events on base.
The base and downtown have a good relationship, explained Meg Gernaat, promotions coordinator for the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp., but there are always new airmen coming to town who need to be introduced to everything it has to offer.
"We are fortunate our downtown businesses are supported by people who work on base. If you come downtown for lunch, you always see somebody in uniform dining," she said. "It's a focus of ours to introduce people to downtown when they arrive."
And the use of the Downtown Dollars is one way to do that. The dollars, which come in $25 increments, can be used at 18 downtown businesses, including Central Lunch, All About Flowers and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
"It's a good portion of our downtown businesses," she said.
The dollars can also be spent at the Arts Council of Wayne County's Art Market. The Arts Council also provided a gift certificate that can be used in the Art Market - where Director Sarah Merritt said there are a number of items available for under $20 - or for the various classes the organization offers.
"My husband was in the Air Force for 24 years and just retired in the last year and a half," Mrs. Merritt said. "So I've always been interested, and the leadership of the Arts Council has always been interested in reaching out to the base personnel and their families. They're such a big and important part of our community."
In return, she said, the Arts Council gets a lot of support and help from the base in the form of volunteers. And over the years, she said, there have actually been a number of artists, both active duty and retired, who have worked with the Arts Council, most notably through the Afghanistan exhibit in 2011.
She also noted that since 2007, she has helped to teach art classes on base to children, ranging in ages from 5 to 11, and that she plans to introduce two new programs this summer on base - a summer arts camp that encompasses music, drama and visual arts, as well as a national program called Shakespeare on Base.
"This has always been a fun, great collaboration," Mrs. Merritt said. "We're always looking for ways to enhance their quality of life."
And enhancing the quality of life and supporting their airmen is the mission of the MAC, said steering committee member Mike Gooden.
"The steering committee felt it could partner with these groups and bring some of our airmen downtown and show them a good time and show them what a great community Goldsboro is," he said. "This is just one way for us to show how much we appreciate them."
And that appreciation was reciprocated Wednesday by Katlyn Miller, who, along with her 16-month-old son, Xander, came to collect her prize. Her husband, Christopher Miller, has been in the Air Force for eight years -- three of them at Seymour -- and is a member of the Security Forces.
"We're so excited," Mrs. Miller said. "I've driven by it many times, but have never been inside. You certainly can't go wrong with free tickets."
Also winning were Anthony Verde and Kimberly Bedoya.