Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Month Worth Waiting For . . .

One of Ocracoke’s best-kept secrets is that October is the prettiest time of year. It’s the sweet payoff for all those hectic summer days. As the season is winding down and the relative humidity drops to a reasonable degree, Ocracokers find themselves really enjoying their island home – or at least they would if it wasn’t for those darn mosquitoes!

October brings cooler nights, sunny days and a chance to slow down a bit and smell the salty fresh air. October also brings quiet – fewer people, less traffic and a break from the drone of air conditioners. Ocracokers are having a bit of a much-deserved rest – and preparing themselves for later in the month when wild Halloween revelry takes over the island. (Mark your calendar for the Ocracoke School Halloween Carnival on October 24th and check back in two weeks for details on Halloween happenings.)

One way we celebrate fall is to dedicate a day to appreciate the island’s many and diverse artists during the annual Art Walk. This year’s Art Walk events started last Friday with a reception at the Ocracoke Community Center (which was looking quite spiffy with its new paint job!). Baby Dee and the Free Moustache Rides Again got the place rockin’, and there was free beer and munchies, too!

Baby Dee and the Free Moustache Rides Again Rock the Ocracoke Community Center

Baby Dee and the Free Moustache Rides Again also played at the Ocrafolk Festival in June, at several island fundraising events over the summer, and are regulars at Ocracoke’s Creekside Café.

Art Walk coordinators Nancy Leach, Ann Ehringhaus and Debbie Wells presented a check to Kitty Mitchell to support the Ocracoke School Arts Program. The $1300 donation will help pay for next spring’s Arts Week, in which visual and performing artists visit Ocracoke School to do hands-on projects and workshops with the students from Kindergarten through high school.

Local potter Sarah Fiore in her Bella Fiore pottery shop

Saturday’s Art Walk was a fun way to meet local artists and ask them about their work. Every picture tells a story, and Art Walk artists are willing to share their inspirations and insights.

Barbara Adams showcasing many of her wonderful paintings at her studio

William Nathan Spencer with a host of original decoys

Community Matters

Ocracoke is a small community, and our geographical isolation requires us to rely on each other when something needs to get done. The independent community spirit is alive and well, and the island supports several non-profit organizations. We have a day care center, and a volunteer fire department, and a civic association and a preservation society and a library and a youth center and several scout troops and a burial society and a fish house and two churches and a festival – and they all thrive on the dedication of countless volunteers along with generous donations from local businesses.

A new sampler quilt created by the Ocracoke quilters as a raffle fundraiser for the Ocracoke Working Waterman's Association

In this blogpost we’re highlighting two of those organizations and the ways they’re giving and receiving community support.

Ocracoke Child Care

Ocracoke Child Care is the island’s only day care center, and maintains a 4-star rating, while always striving for the highest score of five stars. The center is rated on compliance with state childcare center regulations, staff education and program standards. Many of the teachers are taking classes toward various certifications in early childhood education. The entire staff will be participating in upcoming workshops related to the new curriculum, The Creative Curriculum, to continue to enhance the quality of care at OCC.

“The staff works hard to provide high quality, loving care to all wonderful children,” says interim director Paige Bennett.

OCC also depends on community volunteers, from the board of directors to classroom helpers to playground clean-up crews.

“OCC is very thankful to be a part of such a supportive and nurturing community,” says Bennett. “Thank you everyone!”

The children at Ocracoke Child Care recently enjoyed a week’s worth of visits from the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, Ocracoke Emergency Medical Services and the Sheriff’s Department during Community Week.

Firemen Albert O’Neal and Ernest Doshier talked to the children about how the fire department serves the community, and then the kids got to climb all over the fire truck.

Missy Warren from Ocracoke EMS showed the children the inside of an ambulance.

The kids got to try on handcuffs with Deputy Jason Daniels and see his police vehicle.

"Now if the time out chair doesn't work. . ."

The Community Week activities are a good example of the fun and creative projects that go on at OCC.

OCC is holding its annual membership drive. All are welcome to become a member of OCC – you can drop off your membership donation at the center, or mail it to PO Box 284, Ocracoke, NC 27960.

Friends of the Library

A public library is a good measure of a community. Public libraries represent the best in our society: freedom of expression, democracy, equality, wisdom and knowledge. Ocracoke Library has been serving the island well since the days when it was contained within an 8x10 foot building and was open for six hours a week.

The new library building was completed in 1997 and it operates as both the school and community library, funded in part by Hyde County Schools and the Regional Library System for Beaufort, Hyde and Martin counties. Fall library hours are Monday through Friday 2– 6, and Saturdays 9 – 1.

Ocracoke Library may be small, but like all good libraries it provides a welcoming and comfortable space to browse, research, or check e-mail. There's a well-stocked children's room and a North Carolina Room that features writing about the island including wonderful old Ocracoke scrapbooks and newspapers. There’s s a well-used shelf of "honor system" books, videos and DVDs for visitors (young and old) to borrow. Internet access is available for everyone.

Founded in 1997, Ocracoke Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization that supports the Ocracoke School and Community Library and promotes literacy on the island. They purchase software programs, videos, magazine subscriptions and hundreds of books for our library. They even pay part of the librarians’ salaries during the summer months in order to keep the library open all year long. Over the past few years, FOL has provided funds for new bookshelves for the adult and children’s rooms in the library, purchased new carpet for the library, and paid for carpet cleaning and custodial services during the summer months.

This year, Ocracoke Friends of the Library is providing grants and matching funds to each classroom at Ocracoke School. Every teacher will receive an initial grant of $100 to spend on books for the classroom. The classrooms are also eligible to receive up to $100 more in matching funds if they hold a fundraiser for books.

Over the past few years, FOL has chosen an Ocracoke classroom to support with money for books. This year, they’ve decided to offer their help to all the school’s classrooms at once.

“We’ve had very successful used book sales the past few years,” said FOL president Scott Bradley. “Having donated to some of the younger grades, the group felt it was appropriate, now that we have the money, to put books in every classroom.”

FOL holds an annual used book sale during the week of July 4th – this year’s sale has taken in over $1500 so far. They also raise money through membership dues and donations. Membership forms are available at the library, and everyone is encouraged to join.

Ocracoke First Grades Raise Money for Classroom Books

The students in Mary Ellen Piland’s first grade class raised $108.87 for books by asking parents and friends to donate their spare change. They put out a donation jar with the sign: “Let us use your change for a change in our classroom.”

The students needed $100 in matching funds to receive a donation from Ocracoke Friends of the Library. At the beginning of the school year, FOL offered each Ocracoke School teacher a grant of $100 to purchase classroom books, and the opportunity to receive $100 more in matching funds if the teacher held a fundraiser. Their classroom was the first in the school to take advantage of the FOL offer, and they now have $308.87 to spend!

“In this political time we thought focusing on ‘change’ would be good for us, as it seems to be working for Democrats and Republicans alike,” said Piland.

It worked for the first graders, too, as the money came pouring in.

“Each day we counted what we collected and made a graph,” Piland said. “The money added up fast!”

They raised $27.35 on the day one, and surpassed their goal of $100 in just five days!

The children sorted and counted the coins and put them in piles to be rolled. Piland and classroom assistant Lou Ann Gaskins rolled the coins, and then it was time to take their loot to East Carolina Bank. The students turned in their rolled coins at the bank, and in exchange they received a very impressive hundred-dollar bill, and an extra eight dollars.

The students plan to send their money on science picture books, and will be ordering them from Books to Be Red.

Piland wishes to thank everyone who helped the first graders reach their goal, and adds that donations to the book fund are “still being accepted.”

Soundside Records performer highlights ~ John Golden

John Golden of Wilmington, NC is a frequent visitor to Ocracoke Island and also to Gary Mitchell's Soundside Studio. John's interest and knowledge of coastal Carolina history goes all the way back to the Lost Colony, the pirates Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard, up to the colonial times and the Civil War blockade runners and pilots. He has written songs about Virginia Dare, pirates, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and has published many recordings of folk songs and stories. Current Cds available include Shipwrecks & Sea Songs, Volume 1 & 2, A Home for your Heart, & Hatteras Memories.

He always has a new album in the works, and his Cds can be found throughout the gift shops on Ocracoke island and of course online at where you can listen to samples from the recordings.

John's wife Mary Ellen is a well known North Carolina watercolor artist.

Recently featured in “Our State” magazine, watercolorist Mary Ellen Golden lives in Wilmington, NC and operates a studio gallery downtown in The Cotton Exchange. Her work appears in numerous corporate collections, including General Electric, Boddie Noell, Bank of America, Japan Nuclear Fuel, IBM, First Citizens Bank, BB&T, DuPont, and Corning, and may be found in private collections throughout the world. At this year's Ocrafolk School Mary Ellen will demonstrate watercolor techniques and assist students as they paint their own Ocracoke watercolors.
There are just a few spaces left, so don't miss this opportunity to join her class October 26-31. For more information visit


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