Thumbs up, thumbs down: Wilson Area Habitat deserves support for ambitious new builds

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THUMBS UP to the Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity, which has kicked its fundraising efforts into high gear to make the dream of homeownership come true for more struggling Wilson County families.

The local Habitat affiliate announced two homebuilding projects last week. The partner families are Christina McMillion and her two children, including 6-year-old son Travis, who has epilepsy and autism, and Tenesha Artis and her two children.

“Both women have overcome serious obstacles in life and are doing all they can to provide a better life for their children,” Times reporter Brie Handgraaf wrote in the first installment of “A Place To Call Home,” a series that will follow these families through the Habitat homeownership process.

Habitat for Humanity uses donations and volunteer labor to build affordable homes for qualifying partner families, who put in 300-500 hours of “sweat equity” to assist with construction. Homeowners receive a low-interest mortgage and money management classes that allow them to put down roots and gain financial freedom.

Executive Director Elisabeth Farnsworth has ramped up the agency’s fundraising efforts, roughly doubling sales at the Habitat ReStore — a 626 Ward Blvd. thrift store packed with appliances, furniture and housewares — since beginning her tenure.

Habitat is a worthy nonprofit for Wilsonians to support. Donations are always needed, and so are volunteers to swing hammers, saw beams, smooth concrete, seed lawns and serve meals.

To find out how you can help, call 252-291-0816 or visit www.wilsonhabitat.org.

THUMBS DOWN to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is picking the taxpayers’ pockets to fight a court battle against the public’s right to know who it’s disciplined for sexual misconduct.

UNC has appealed a state Court of Appeals order to disclose the names of students and faculty members who have been found responsible for sexual assault and sexual harassment through the university’s Title IX hearings. The N.C. Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear the case.

A media coalition led by The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s independent student newspaper, sued to obtain the information. The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the alleged perpetrators’ identities are public record and federal education privacy laws do not prevent their disclosure.

UNC argues that naming those found responsible could inadvertently identify accusers. We don’t find that theory convincing, and neither did a three-judge appellate panel. Instead, we believe the university knows its records will reveal that accused rapists have been let off with a slap on the wrist and that people who are most likely innocent have been deprived of due process and railroaded through campus kangaroo courts.

“Generally, this whole Title IX apparatus is predominantly conducted in secret, which in my view makes it all more important that we find out who has been punished as a result of these proceedings,” plaintiffs’ attorney Hugh Stevens told the appeals court.

Colleges lack the expertise to mete out justice for high-grade felonies that are better handled in the criminal justice system. Title IX administrative hearings are a farce that deprive both accusers and the accused of fundamental legal rights.

The state’s high court can shed some sunlight on these secretive sham trials by forcing UNC to name names.

THUMBS UP to everyone who participated in the Wilson Education Partnership’s 14th annual Adult Spelling Bee last Tuesday. It’s a fun community event that makes a difference in children’s lives, and this year’s spell-off hauled in more than $11,000 for the WEP’s classroom mini-grants and other school support programs.

Team Breen — a quartet composed of local attorney and District 7 school board candidate Rhyan Breen, Paula Michalek, Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Beneck — took top honors in the spelling bee, with Bridgestone earning runner-up honors and Wilson Medical Center finishing third.

The real winners, though, are the teachers and students who will benefit from the Wilson Education Partnership’s resources in the coming year.

“We need everybody to support our school system so we can have the strongest one there is,” WEP Executive Director Robin Williams told Times reporter Drew C. Wilson. “I just encourage people to support your teachers and support your schools. Let’s support them and give them everything they need.”

The Wilson Times is proud to echo that message. And while there’s still a laundry list of unmet needs in our school system, the hundreds who gathered in the Hunt High gym last week helped make that list shorter. They’ve earned a pat on the back.