Well here we are! After months of speculation and anticipation, The Richmond Observer is finally here. I am grateful for your support up to this point, and hope you will enjoy our latest edition and stories Monday through Saturday of every week.
I grew up in Northampton County, NC, a county where the largest town is no bigger than Ellerbe, so when I moved to Richmond County I thought I had landed in “the big city”. I am fully aware, nonetheless, that Rockingham nor any town in Richmond County is “the big city”, and I am so thankful for it.
I moved here just seven months ago to serve as agency manager at Farm Bureau Insurance (I’ve been with the company since 2012). From the beginning, I learned quite a bit about the people in this community. Tony Anderson, who served as agency manager years before my arrival and as my immediate predecessor, was set to retire December 31 after a long career in the industry. In an effort to gain an understanding of the office and what I was about to set out to do in my first management role at Farm Bureau, Tony spent a few days with me to help me transition. None of his superiors asked him to do this, and he was not required to help me, he simply chose to do so. He spent his final days on the job preparing me for something in which he had nothing to gain. Tony Anderson epitomizes Richmond County and the community I have come to love.
I was dining at Patton’s one evening with my wife and family, and in walks the mayor of Rockingham, Steve Morris. Sarah Beth and I had met him the night before at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual celebration, and he immediately recognized us, even calling us by name (I have to admit I cannot hear all too well and did not recall his name until we saw him again at Patton’s). He introduced himself to my family, then left the building after picking up his takeout order.
When I went to pay for the meal, I was told “it has already been taken care of.” It is no secret who paid for our meal. Steve Morris is a good, caring person, and his generosity and care for others exemplifies what Richmond County is all about.
Blake Altman is the owner of Evolution Health Club located in downtown Rockingham. I am already a member of another fitness center in the county (FirstHealth Fitness, to be exact), but I wanted to support his new gym as well. From the first day I walked inside Evolution Health Club, I was blown away by the look and feel of his new gym; it proved to be state-of-the-art and a gym for truly anybody to start being healthier and more active. I had an extensive conversation with him on that Tuesday, just two days before his grand opening; we shook hands and I left. Two days later, Evolution Health Club had its grand opening and ribbon cutting. Blake delivered a heart-felt speech about how he had come to realize his dream, and when he concluded we all began walking out to the front of the building to take pictures of the actual ribbon cutting. Blake spotted me, and made a point to come shake my hand and thank me for being there. It was almost as if I had known him his whole life, or as if I had been a part of this journey the entire time. The reality, though, is that I had only met him just two days prior, and signed up just like anyone else. Now, Blake and Evolution Health Club has over 500 members in just a few short months, and business is booming. If you are reading this and have not joined, you should, because Blake and Evolution Health Club exemplify the good that I associate with Richmond County.
I could go on forever about people who have been good to me since I arrived. My entire team at Farm Bureau Insurance (Deborah, Dickey, Elizabeth, Kenny, Tracey, and now Christian), Chris Yaklin, Donnie Richardson, and the entire board at Richmond County Farm Bureau, Kenneth Robinette and Tri City Inc. for their overwhelming and gracious support of the Richmond Observer, Kenny Melvin for being one of the best friends and partners I could ask for; I could truly go on forever. People have been so good to me here, and in very quick fashion, Richmond County has become home for me and I am grateful to be a part of a project that I truly believe is going to give back to Richmond County and help us realize just how great this place really is.
I hear so many people here, just like where I grew up, say “there is nothing to do here” or “things aren’t good here, life is better elsewhere” or “I want to be/live somewhere else”. I have lived in four different places in my life, and the rhetoric is the same everywhere: people naturally think the “grass is greener on the other side”, but often times life is best right where we are and we do not even realize it. So join me, and our team at The Richmond Observer, in enjoying what we have: a place where life is simple and where people are good. Because that is why Richmond County is exactly where I want to be.