Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another deer hunt, another opportunity to help

We told you earlier this month about a Charlotte woman, Rachel Humphries, who helped bring Charlotte's Montagnard refugee community a taste of home by providing them deer killed by hunters at a Mecklenburg County sponsored deer hunt. Humphries supplied five deer from the hunt to Montagnards, who were persecuted in Vietnam before being placed in the U.S. by the United Nations.

The county is holding another hunt at three Mecklenburg parks on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 to help thin a troublesome deer overpopulation. For more information on the hunt, contact Mecklenburg's Ronny Roberts at 704-583-1176. To help Humphries and the Montagnards, call her at 704-458-3245 or visit

- Peter St. Onge

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Auto show opening with generous pledge

In a city so dependant on the automobile, here's a chance to look at a few hundred new cars and do some good.

The people behind next week's 17th annual Charlotte International Auto Show are holding its first ever Charity Preview Night on Wednesday, on the eve of the show's opening day at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Buy a $75 ticket ($30 is tax deductible) and you'll get to see all the show's 2010 models -- 400 of them -- and hear about a significant financial contribution Charlotte area auto dealers are making to the Charlotte Rescue Mission.

The first 500 people to buy tickets will get a tour of the nearby NASCAR Hall of Fame, not scheduled to open until May. The event also includes music from The Embers, a variety of heavy hors d'oeuvres and all the new cars you care to eyeball.

But the night's main event: A $100,000 commitment by the show's producer, the Greater Charlotte Automobile Dealers Association, to the rescue mission's Dove's Nest program that will go to building its planned shelter for homeless women struggling with substance abuse in west Charlotte.

On top of that pledge, proceeds from tickets sales -- above expenses for the preview party -- and a live and silent auction will go to the rescue mission.

The 35,000-square-foot women's shelter planned at West Boulevard and Old Steele Creek Road will allow Dove's Nest to expand from 12 beds at its current Dilworth location to 90 beds.

Construction could begin in 2010, with move-ins possible in 2011.

"The dealers association supports many charities, but this is a favorite of ours," said Dick Lewis, director of the auto show. "We know what great work the Charlotte Rescue Mission does and they don't take any government or United Way money."

Many auto shows across the country include a charitable event. This is the first for Charlotte, designed to cut the ribbon on the show -- and the 2010 model year. Winston Kelly, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will deliver opening remarks.

"The auto industry needs support and some excitement again," Lewis said. "The auto show felt this was the best way to do it -- have an energetic preview night benefiting a charity."

The auto show will take up 240,000 square feet of the convention center, nearly five football fields. The 400 vehicles will come from 30 manufacturers, domestic and foreign.

There will also be an exhibit of classic Mustangs and Corvettes, and the Hornets Nest chapter of the Antique Auto Club of America is bringing in two dozen vintage cars including: A 1928 Auburn, 1928 LaSalle, a 1951 Hudson convertible and 1966 Shelby Mustang.

There will also be a "green room," with 25 new hybrids and low carbon-emission vehicles.

Lewis said the show hopes to sell 1,000 tickets to the preview event, though sales have been slow.

"We understand money is tight these days," Lewis said. "But this is going to be a fun evening to open what we believe will be our most exciting auto show. And it's for a very good cause."

Want to go? Wednesday's inaugural preview night starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St., and ends at 9 p.m. Tickets are available at, or call 704-364-1078.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A scholarship to honor an only child

If all had gone as planned, Alex Ervin would be awaiting a decision on his application to Appalachian State University and preparing to graduate from Myer Park High School in June.

But late on June 10, 2007, Alex was a front-seat passenger in a car with three friends that police estimated was traveling 92 mph on Colony Road, a stretch near SouthPark where the speed limit is 35 mph. The driver hit a curb, and the car lost control and flew into a tree.

Alex was two months shy of his 16th birthday when he died.

He'd talked longingly of enrolling at Appalachian State University in Boone. He found peace there, said his mother, Tricia Hodge of Charlotte.

"There wasn't the hustle-bustle up there; it was calm," she said. "He and I used to go up there as often as we could."

So now Hodge is trying to raise $40,000 for the "Alex Ervin Memorial Scholarship" to send a student from his Myers Park class of 2010 to Boone for four years. It's a way to honor her son and keep his memory alive. It also dulls the pain of her loss.

The scholarship would pay tuition and lodging for four years. She'd like to turn the scholarship fund into an endowment, so more students could go in her son's name.

"It gives me great comfort to talk about Alex and to do things for him or in his honor," Hodge said. "It's about the only thing that keeps me going. And it's a win-win situation. It's good for my heart, but it also helps another child."

After their son was killed, she and Alex's father, Paul Ervin, started a campaign to get teenagers to slow down. They took remnants of the car to high schools to show students what speed can do. They talked to students and printed up bumper stickers with the urgent message: "Slow Down for Alex."

They implore students to wear seatbelts. On that terrible night, all four teenagers were wearing belts. Alex was the only one killed. Belts, his parents say, saved the other three.

By his sophomore year at Myers Park, Alex had grown to 6 feet 2, an outgoing, fun-loving teenager. His father said he "lived life out loud." Yet his parents were particularly proud that he'd worked hard to get his grades up.

He loved the outdoors, especially the mountains -- thus the draw of Boone and App State.

Hodge has sent fliers about the scholarship to 1,500 corporations and individuals. Donations are slow in coming. The deadline to donate: Jan. 10.

She wants the scholarship to go to one of Alex's classmates who otherwise couldn't afford to go. She'll have no say in the matter. The scholarship will be administered by the ASU admissions office, with consultation from Myers Park guidance counselors, she said.

"My main mission and focus is to do it this year, Alex's graduating year," she said. "If I had the money, I'd just pay for the whole thing. I don't. But just doing this does me a world of good.

"It keeps me connected to Alex."

Want to help? Send donations to: Appalachian State University Foundation, Inc.
ASU BOX 32064, attn: Alex Ervin Memorial Scholarship, Boone, NC 28608. Any questions, call Laura Crandall at the ASU foundation at 828-262-2341, or e-mail her at