Town of North Topsail Beach

Mayor Joann McDermon

“North Topsail Beach also known as Nature’s Tranquil Beauty is living up to its name! We are ready for this year’s residents and vacationers!” as Mayor McDermon announced to the Club this past Tuesday.

Mayor McDermon introduced Alice Derian, Town Manager, who joined N. Topsail Beach last October. Manager Derian has had a lot on her plate with overseeing the final stages of the restoration of Town Hall, several FEMA projects, and hiring new staff. Mayor McDermon then asked Manager Derian to say a few words about other challenges the Town faces.

Manager Derian noted that like other communities on and off the island, the Town has been overwhelmed with new residential construction noting that 62 current permits are in place for new homes. She mentioned that the Town has switched to a new software program that has streamlined permitting, and she just recently hired a new Building Inspector who will be replacing Jimmy Canady, long-time building inspector who retired in December.

Mayor McDermon described other activities in Town over the past year including a FEMA dune restoration project that started at the SeaView Fishing Pier and worked north to the St. Regis until it was paused in December so that additional funds could be procured. She noted that the FEMA Cat. G project in Phase 5 (southern 4 miles of town) started yesterday with truck-hauled sand to build up the beach throughout Phase 5. A project that will take two seasons to complete due to the large volume of sand being placed.

She noted that the Town rolled out a paid parking ordinance in 2021 to provide a source of income for beach projects from beach goers who are not residents of N. Topsail Beach but who enjoy the use of town-leased parking lots. However, the Mayor noted that county residents and others still have a free parking option at the Onslow County parking and beach access areas in N. Topsail Beach. Property owners in N. Topsail Beach can register their vehicle at no charge so they can use beach access parking as needed. The success of the paid parking program has helped the Town avoid raising property taxes.

Mayor McDermon described a new Parks & Recreation Committee initiative that Alderman Connie Pletl is leading to promote on-beach and off-beach activities for vacation guests as well as residents.

A capital improvement initiative is under way to replace the South Fire station that initially served as Town Hall back in 1990 when the town was incorporated. Mayor McDermon noted a new LEED-certified fire station is in the initial planning stages to be paid for through our new capital improvement budget.

Mayor McDermon was pleased to announce that the Ocean City section of Town was recently honored for its historic role in North Carolina’s civil rights history. A marker will be placed on the state’s Civil Rights Trail during an upcoming ceremony at Ocean City. Also, the Ocean City Jazz Festival is back in 2022 after an absence due to COVID.

Mayor McDermon then asked Mike Benson, chair of the new Beach, Inlet, and Sound Advisory Committee to describe the formation and need for this committee. Mike said it had been over 10 years, since the Town last had a beach committee which meant that the Board of Aldermen were the de facto beach committee since then. The new BISAC is modeled after the Beach, Inlet, and Sound Committee in Topsail Beach. The BISAC is composed of a property owner for each of the five shoreline phases in N. Topsail Beach, two aldermen, a coastal engineer, the town manager, and a liaison from Onslow County – currently open. As an advisory committee to the Board of Aldermen the committee will discuss and make recommendations on short-term as well as long-term needs for the shoreline in N. Topsail Beach. With sea level rise a continuing issue for coastal committees, the BISAC will consider short-term mitigation approaches like living shorelines, as well as long-term climate change predictions and the need to develop a strategic plan to mitigate its effects.

Finally, Mayor McDermon invited club members to stop by Town Hall to see how the renovations turned out, along with the improvements to the IT system.

Onslow Pregnancy Resource Center

Daniel Flynn

Daniel Flynn, from the Onslow Pregnancy Resource Center of Jacksonville, NC, brought his ministry for pregnant women to our club this week. As Daniel explained the vision of the center is ‘a community where every life is protected – physically, spiritually, and emotionally.’ Daniel went on to describe the mission of the center where ‘we are a Christ-centered ministry empowering individuals to make life-affirming choices.’ Onslow PRC is a non-profit with seven staff that includes a registered nurse and 45 volunteers who work to change a ‘dark place’ to a ‘place of light’ for pregnant women.

Daniel noted that the Onslow PRC served over 1,200 clients last year, but in the Jacksonville city limits alone there were over 2,000 Google searches for ‘abortion.’ However, ninety-two percent of the Onslow PRC clients gave birth last year an accomplishment that is noteworthy!

The Onslow PRC offers many ways to help pregnant women. One such support is the father program where volunteers talk with the father while the mother is visiting the center. Oftentimes, a women’s first visit to the Onslow PRC is one of not knowing if they are pregnant. Services are available that support women through pregnancy testing, ultrasound, abortion pill reversal, STI/STD information, and education classes where women also earn credits towards baby supplies provided by the Onslow PRC all at NO COST to our clients.

Click Here to Visit the Onslow Pregnancy Resource Center to learn more about their support and education programs for pregnant women

Surf City Elementary

Principal Brian Allen

Principal Brian Allen joined us this past Tuesday morning to talk about happenings at Surf City Elementary. This relatively new school serves the fast growing area of Pender County. The school designed for 750 students and sharing the campus with Surf City Middle has already grown to 745 students with a staff of 70 that includes 34 classroom teachers, and five encore teachers. Even though the school is near capacity, Principal Allen described alterations that will allow for even more students as the area continues a fast rate of growth with military families moving more and more into the community as the US Marine Corps realign their forces to Camp Lejeune.

The motto at Surf City Elementary home of the Sea Turtles is SURF! SURF stands for the positive behavior traits we teach each day at Surf City Elementary. SURF stands for S (Self-Control), U (Understanding), R (Responsibility), and F (Fairness).

As with all schools, the COVID pandemic has changed the way Surf City Elementary operates day to day. There have been long periods of remote learning with teachers trying to keep their students on track at grade level. When in-person learning resumed COVID guidelines had to be follow. One thing that Principal Allen did was keep students in pods, so that each pod of students stayed together during their daily activities, thus minimizing the chance of exposure to the virus.

As mentioned above there has been an influx of military families into the community and this can present issues for kids when one parent is deployed in addition to concerns over COVID. To help with military family life, the Surf City Elementary has a full-time Military Family Life Counselor to work one-on-one with military students.

Principal Allen and his staff continue to develop their strategic plan for the Surf City Elementary land footprint with ideas such as an outdoor area that goes beyond their current courtyard patio where students can plant and maintain the patio garden to a walking track and other facilities to promote physical health and exercise.

Principal Allen made a request to our Club for volunteers to help with the Pender County tutoring and mentoring program at his school to extend the reach of teachers and give individual help in reading and especially math that seems to be a difficult subject for elementary students to master.

Visit the Surf City School website to learn about the Sea Turtles at https://sites.google.com/pender.k12.nc.us/sce/home?authuser=0

Surf City Middle School

Principal Heather Bridgers

Our speaker this Tuesday was Principal Heather Bridgers from Surf City Middle School. Principal Bridgers has almost 20-years in education, first as a teacher, and then moving through administrative positions until becoming principle. One of the first things she said to us was that “Kiwanis empowers our school through your contributions in volunteer hours and grant funds to our teachers.”

This school year has been a real challenge for teachers, students, staff, parents and others due to the effects of the Global Pandemic known as COVID-19. Many students had difficulties adjusting to Pender County’s Remote Learning program when the school buildings had to be closed to in-school learning. For these students, a “gap” in learning developed that has been difficult for their teachers to overcome when students returned to in-school learning this year. As the pandemic continues and with in-school learning back, Principal Bridgers said that the first she had to do each day was to find which teachers would be out due to following the school system’s COVID policies for a safe school environment. Some days that number of teachers out approached 13 leaving Principal Bridgers scrambling to find enough subs!

Principal Bridgers described the emotional effects that COVID has had on both students and teachers. The school system does have an in-school program for students to talk about their feelings with the school social worker. When students are away from their circle of school friends each day, this can lead to a disconnect from their environment an issue that the school is trying to address. When students return to the classroom, some have lost the social skill of ‘being polite’ to their teachers and each other. Likewise teachers also can feel ‘stressed’ because they know their students have developed the “gap” in their learning curve – a frustrating situation that really will take more than the current school year to overcome.

Now that Surf City Middle is back in the classroom, Principle Bridgers mentioned some special programs that had really become popular with the students including an art program, and band. Again the financial support that Kiwanis provides helps to alleviate this pressure on the teachers. The Kiwanis funds this year will go towards a band project, school counselor project, and new picnic tables for our courtyard. The ‘courtyard’ is a multi-year project with the aim of providing an outdoor learning environment for the students.

Principal Bridgers, her teachers and staff have plans for the further growth of facilities at the school, such as a walking path around the school grounds including the adjoining Surf City Elementary. In addition, she strives to continue meeting requirements to make Surf City Middle a ‘Green School’ that promotes wellness of students, staff, and teachers as well as minimizing the impact on the environment.

Visit the Surf City Middle School website “Home of the Sharks!” to learn more about the school and happenings – click here

Roots of Recovery

Catherine McDowell

Catherine McDowell spoke to us today about ‘Roots of Recovery’ a nonprofit organization that she founded to create a supportive community in the Hampstead and Holly Ridge area for women in recovery from addiction, and their children. Participants can receive housing, education, job training, and a 12-step peer-support program to continue their recovery journey. Oftentimes women in a bad domestic situation have no place to go. Roots of Recovery can provide a safe haven for these women and their children.

Catherine described the long and winding process to provide such a facility for these women. Fortunately, she was able to secure two grants (both awards came in on her birthday!) that allowed for purchase of a property in the Hampstead area with an old house trailer and about 12 tractor-trailer loads of stuff that needed to be hauled away. After refurbishing the house trailer with the help of the Hampstead Rotary Club, Roots of Recovery accepted their first woman and her child who is well on her way to recovery.

One recovered addict wrote “Today, I celebrate 13 years of recovery. My private law practice is thriving, my daughter is in college, and my life is amazing! Those women are still my friends, they helped me find my Roots, and I love when I get a call to go out and help another woman find recovery.”

Another property adjacent to Dixon High School became available at a reasonable price and again Catherine was able to purchase the property that contained two well-worn cinderblock homes and some dilapidated house trailers. Again volunteers stepped up to refurbish the houses and trailers and haul away the years of collected trash. Catherine explained that Roots of Recovery has a variety of volunteers including community club members, high school students and even DWI offenders who work off their community service hours at the facility.

In addition, there was plenty of room at the Dixon property to have a small garden to raise vegetables to help feed the recovering women and their children living in the renovated homes. The Growing Roots Organic Garden Program aims to improve the health of the Roots of Recovery residents, to alleviate food insecurity for community residents, and to create jobs/work opportunities for the residents of our tiny home community. The property needs an over-all landscape plan and Catherine is looking for volunteers with experience in this field. However, she wants the focus to remain on the community garden as tool to help recovering women experience activity and accomplishment in an out-of-door activity that they many have lacked with their addiction.

To donate and/or volunteer at Roots of Recovery follow this link

NC Boys and Girls Home

Mason Smith

Dr. Mason Fuller Smith, Director of Community Engagement for Boys and Girls Homes of NC gave a very inspiring presentation on how the Boys and Girls Home at Lake Waccamaw has undergone a major refurbishment in both physical facilities and in the way kids are cared for at the home. Everyone the kids have contact with is now undergone therapy training, even those working in the stables and in the cafeteria. Mason also described physical changes to the facility because they now receive mostly kids who need a high level of care to overcome the scars they carry.

Mason was appreciative of the Club’s work at the Kiwanis Girls Cottage and noted that visits by club members is still sometime away as the new therapy protocols are put in place and the remodeling of the cottage is completed.

Mason described “The Waccamaw Way is a model of care based in the mission, vision, and values of Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina.”

Mason noted “The key aims of The Waccamaw Way are:

  • Providing a safe environment for trying new things, learning “cause and effect” thinking, and practicing prosocial skills.
  • Providing opportunities for clients to align their values with their actions and create pathways for value-driven decision-making.
  • Applying Growth Mindset principles to functional skill-building and the promotion of behavioral change.
  • Assisting clients discover and leverage their strengths, talents, skills, abilities, and passions to promote a muscle memory for success.
  • Counteracting the negative impacts of sensory and social deprivation.
  • Reducing reactivity to stress and anxiety.
  • Encouraging the development of skills related to executive functioning.”

Through out his presentation Mason used examples of kids with extreme emotional scars and how they grew day by day in their new surroundings at Lake Waccamaw. For “Chris” it was horse therapy that got him through his initial time at the Home. Chris progressed through the various phases of the “nurturing therapeutic experience” until he himself became a leader for the ‘new kids’ coming to the Home.

Click on logo to visit the Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina

CPR Refresher

Nicholas Tripp

Our speaker Tuesday morning was Nick Tripp from Coastal Carolina CPR. His message was simple “What do you do when someone collapses and their heart stops?” Call 911, move the person’s head back to check for blockage, move head back to normal position and start CPR chest compressions at the rate of 200 compressions per minute. Continue compressions until EMS technicians arrive, if person remains unconscious. If an automatic defibrillator with self-guiding instructions is available, someone should set it up and follow the automated verbal directions.

Several members were called up front to practice chest compressions. Here Roger does his best to keep 200 compressions per minute going steady.

Nick also demonstrated the Heimlich maneuver where Roger was choking on an object lodged in his windpipe and Mike practiced the Heimlich maneuver to remove that object. No one was injured during this exercise,.

Next the group went through a simulated CPR emergency in which Nick assigned two Kiwanis members to alternate applying chest compressions, one member to man the defibrillator and one member to take notes on the timeline when CPR was started, when defibrillation was applied, when CPR resumed so that the EMS responders would know the treatment the patient had received prior to their arrival.

Nicholas has had a passion for fire and EMS since he was 14. He started out as a cadet and rose through the ranks to Assistant Fire Chief. Nick has been an EMT since 2014 and an AHA Instructor for over 5 years. In his strive to always be learning, he has found a talent to pass that knowledge on to others via teaching.

To learn more about Coastal Carolina CPR training visit their website at https://coastalcprtraining.com/

True Justice International

Brittany Meade, Outreach Coordinator

Brittany told us that ‘True Justice International’ is a non-profit fighting to eradicate sex trafficking through ‘Reaching, Raising Up and Restoring’ the lives of survivors. Their goal is to fight human trafficking in our local and global communities through Christ-centered strategic initiatives with the goal to reach, raise up, and restore. Brittany noted that human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will. Brittany said that it is a difficult subject to discuss. Her presentation was very heartfelt and difficult to hear as we do not think about this kind of thing unless we have a loved one who has been taken from us and forced into ‘modern day slavery.’

​Brittany noted several factoids about human trafficking.

  • It is estimated more than 40 million people world wide are trapped in modern day slavery.
  • Every year more than 300,000 children in the United States are trafficked.
  • North Carolina consistently ranks in the top 10 states of reported cases of human trafficking.

One of the worst cases of human trafficking occurred right here in Onslow County by a man who over the course of 20 years or so, sold over 200 kids into the sex trade. He must have been very convincing to the kids offering something they did not feel they were getting from their families, but at what cost. Finally, he was arrested and is serving a 30-yr-term in prison, but he just one of many.

Today, social media has become an important tool for traffickers to make kids feel wanted, then only to find out that drugs and sex are now their constant daily life with little hope of escape. But True Justice International is making a difference. Their volunteers scour bars and other places sex traffickers use to ‘sell’ the trafficker’s product = kids, and try to make connections with these kids to show them there is another way. Once a kid wants help, True Justice has counseling and a network to help kids escape their horrible situation.


Brittany talked about several initiatives at True Justice including ‘Wlliforce,’ the ‘Pearl Ministry’ and the ‘Grace Project’ that includes Anna’s house an all-inclusive, bed, comprehensive healing home for adult female survivors of sexual and labor exploitation located in Eastern N.C. (Brittany Meade photo courtesy of True Justice International)

Sex trafficking is only one aspect of True Justice as fighting human trafficking for the menial labor sector of commerce off results in young men and women being drawn into this vicious cycle of ‘work for no pay.’ Brittany described that yes housing and food are provided but no pay for the work performed. People willing try to cross our borders to find a better life for themselves and their families, but when individuals are coerced into working for no pay and deprived the liberty to live life as human beings then every effort must be made to stop this kind of trafficking.

To volunteer, to donate, to report a missing kid or to learn more information on True Justice International please visit their website https://www.truejustice.global/

Locally they have offices in Jacksonville (910) 939-5928 and New Bern (252) 631-5111.

National Human Trafficking Hotline

1 (888) 373-7888

Footnote: some of this story is reported from the True Justice International website

Pender County Schools

Dr. Steven Hill

Dr. Steven Hill, Superintendent of Pender County Schools, updated the club on the status of Pender County Schools and some of the challenges the school system faces with COVID-19 and burgeoning enrollments. The school system is under ever increasing scrutiny with the restrictions and threat of COVID-19 as the governor, state health department and state legislature try to manage school protocols that seem to change daily, along with parent and teacher concerns. Oftentimes directives from different state and county sources are at odds with one another. It becomes a real dilemma for the Superintendent to try to keep kids safe, parents and teachers happy and yet oversee the educational institution of learning.

By way of introduction to the Pender County Schools , Dr. Hill explained the geographical make up of the county. The entire county is increasing in population. The east side of the county with the Highway 17 corridor through the Hampstead area continues to grow as more and more people desire a ‘country’ life-style but the convenience of nearby medical and commercial businesses. Thus, a large school population lives in this area and it is difficult to keep up with the need for more classroom space and the new teachers to fill them. The housing boom nationwide often means that new teachers cannot afford housing in the county. With COVID -19 the teacher shortage is even more critical even with teacher supplements. On the west side of Pender along the I-40 corridor, agricultural use is predominant with mostly rural areas. But even in this rural area the population boom continues as people look for a better place to live and raise their kids.

Another dilemma facing Dr. Hill and the school system is the contrast in state school funding and student performance. As a school system, Pender student performance is 11th on standard measures of learning, yet the school system ranks 98 to 99th in state funding out of the 115 NC school districts. This puts tremendous pressure on the supportive county government leaders to weigh in on local tax increases but maintain responsible fiscal budgets. The result is the flat level of funding for pencils, paper, and other classroom supplies even though more and more kids are attending school in the county. State-funded Charter Schools also mean reduced funding and teacher allotments for public schools. Another caveat, state-mandated classroom size at the elementary level means fewer teachers in middle and high schools.

Another aspect of flat funding and COVID-19 is the need to offer alternative choices for learning in addition to the traditional classroom. Once the county school system in person learning was stopped on March 16, 2020, due to COVID-19, the school system had to quickly switch to online learning which was foreign to most school systems across the US. Now that in-person learning has resumed under strict health proactive standards, the school system still offers online learning at added expense.

Dr. Hill expressed great gratitude to the Pender Education Partnership for public support of Pender schools and to our Kiwanis Club for providing scholarships to graduating Seniors.

Officer Installation


Governor Joe Crostic (far lf) assisted by District 18 Lt. Governor Steve Stevens (lf) installed each of the new officers for 2021-2022 who are lt to rt, Carrie Hewitt, President; Nicki Swafford, President-designate, Kim Patrizi, Treasurer; Ed Broadhurst, Board Director; and Pat Brennan, Board Director. Not pictured, Eva Kreiger, Vice-President; Cathi Litcher, Secretary.