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Feb 19, 2018
Three Selected as Inaugural Community Bridge Builders at HCC
WELDON, N.C. – On Feb. 15, Halifax Community College (HCC) held its inaugural Community Bridge Builders celebration as part of the annual Saluting Our Local African American Heroes event. Special honors were bestowed on three community leaders during the ceremony held at The Dr. Ervin V. Griffin, Sr. Centre.

HCCís Bridge Builders award honors individuals who have developed and fostered partnerships across social, racial or demographic lines for the betterment of the Roanoke Valley. Through these connections, these individuals have pioneered initiatives that stand as important examples of what can be accomplished when differences are put aside to achieve a common goal.

"The inspiration for this award came to me as I looked around our community," said Dr. Michael Elam, president of HCC. " It is important to me that we recognize those individuals and organizations who remain committed to unifying us, rather than allowing obstacles to continue to divide us."

About the Honorees

Sheriff Jack Smith
Sheriff of Northampton County
Sheriff Smith is a shining example of a community bridge builder. His work with establishing relationships in the community as well as with grass root organizations, state, county, and elected officials, businesses, state and federal agencies, faith based organizations, schools, judges, and individuals is evident in his daily work and community projects. He is well known by most throughout Northampton community and is `a role model for law enforcement and other correction groups.

When asked about the mission of the sheriff department, Sheriff Smith believes it is to maintain a high quality of life for all residents and visitors of Northampton County. He promotes a philosophy of Community Oriented Law Enforcement working in partnership with citizens to develop policing services to meet the unique needs of the community, while assuring fairness, equal treatment, and protection to all. Sheriff Smithís vision for the future includes becoming a leader in law enforcement through partnerships with the citizens he serves that promote crime prevention, mutual trust, and strategies that ensure a high standard of life. His vision of Community Oriented Policing is anchored by the idea of establishing and maintaining a partnership with the community he serves.

Gilbert Portella
Founder of Angelís Closet
Gilbert embodies everything the Community Bridge Builder is about. Angelís Closet was founded thirteen years ago in the basement of Belmont Elementary. Over the years, and under his leadership, Angelís Closet has grown into a 20,000 square foot complex with no paid employees.

One of Gilberts main desires starting Angelís Closet was to make sure children were fed before and after school and had a comfortable bed to sleep in. This fellowship flourishes from donations, which offer clothing, food, furniture for fire victims, small appliances, books, toys, etc. These services have spread helping seven surrounding counties, seeing six families an hour, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Around the Christmas season, the families seen roughly doubles. Angelís Closet serves all people of various nationality and background.

Gilbert has made life a whole lot easier for a number of families and children over the last thirteen years. In 2017 alone, Angelís Closet helped 2,271 families and 2,259 children. Other benefits experienced from his leadership with Angelís Closet are providing sixteen scholarships to every high school and private school in Halifax, Northampton and Warren County.

Gilbertís goal and main focus has always been the community, building those up that need it, and providing people with comfort in time of despair.

United Steelworkers Women of Steel
The United Steelworkers Women of Steel (USW WOS) impact the homes of children, during Christmas, who may not otherwise be blessed with anything. These ladies volunteer their time yearly in Christmas shopping for clothes, toys and needed items for families from Halifax & Northampton County Child Protection Services suggested list. USW WOS have been adopting Christmas families with this project since 2010. Also, the USW WOS serve meals during Thanksgiving at Roanoke Rapids Union Mission to local county people who would not have a meal to eat for Thanksgiving.

They provide local schools & school children with yearly school supplies. This is a huge impact for our teachers; our local teachers will not have to use their monies to have a successful class room.

USW WOS has a tremendous impact on being a NC Guardian ad Litem-children in our court system; the children in our court systems (Halifax, Northampton & Bertie Counties) would not have a voice to our judges if USW WOS did not volunteer as an NC Guardian ad Litem.

Lastly, the USW WOS also volunteer each year with the Gregory B. Davis Foundation; they are instrumental in supporting the GBDF annual gala and the GBDF Motorcycle Ride Benefit. The goal of the USW WOS is to have continued collaboration with the GBDF in their purpose of offering an incentive award to high school students who have a middle academic range GPA and who is seeking excellence. GBDF offers its Annual Incentive Award to deserving Northampton County senior students; as well as to support GBDFís annual proceeds to benefit a local, regional or national health-service organization such as diabetes, juvenile delinquency prevention, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, domestic violence, prostate cancer, youth leadership, and heart disease.

"The work and accomplishments of each of the individuals honored today is truly admirable," Elam said, "And, it is part of a long history of individuals who have consistently strived to make the world a better place. We have a long history of heroes in this country, and it is important that we still gain inspiration from their efforts."

The three selected individuals were chosen from a pool of six nominees. The other nominees were Bishop Shelton Daniel, Audrey Hardy and Patricia Peele.
Halifax Community College's Mission
Halifax Community College strives to meet the diverse needs of our community by providing high-quality, accessible and affordable education and services for a rapidly changing and globally competitive marketplace.
Media Contact: Molly Wallace, Director of Public Relations & Marketing, mwallace786@halifaxcc.edu, 252-538-4319