U. S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) returned to her native county Feb. 21 for a "Conversation with Kay" session with local constituents. Greeting her and her constituent staff warmly at the Life Enrichment Center in Shelby was a roomful of local folks, taking advantage of her invitation to come and chat about what's on their minds. "I'm here to listen," she said, making her way from table to table and engaging with everyone from senior citizens to high schoolers, local elected officials and the voters who select them.
This group of Shelby High School Young Democrats put their interest in government and politics in practice by engaging with Sen. Hagan in a discussion about current policy issues in the state and nation. Sen. Hagan, shown here talking with constituents in Cleveland County, regularly holds "Conversations with Kay" across the state to hear directly from local people what's going on in their communities and how they feel about current issues. At the same time, her constituent staff is on hand to provide help and guidance for any with individual matters relating to federal agencies such as Social Security and the Veterans Administration. Doug Sharp, third from left, shares the most recent good news about the remarkable Cleveland County Potato Project with Sen. Hagan, left, Freddie Harrill, the senator's western North Carolina regional liaison, and others attending the Feb 21 Shelby "conversation" event. Over the past two years, volunteers from local churches, businesses, civic organizations, schools, youth groups and others have planted, harvested and donated 84,000 pounds of white and sweet potatoes to help feed the needy, using 22 donated plots across the county. In 2012, the goal is to bring the total to at least 100,000 pounds--the equivalent of 20,000 five pound bags at the supermarket!. The project demonstrates what can be accomplished when people are given an opportunity to work together, Sharp says. He and Sen. Hagan talked about possibilities that other counties across the state (and nation, for that matter) can replicate the project to help the poor. If 10 groups in each of North Carolina's 100 counties each raised 5,000 pounds of potatoes, five million pounds could be provided each year as nutritous supplement to 15 million meals. Sen. Hagan's visit also provided a face-to-face opportunity for contact with Cleveland County elected officials, whose work often interacts with federal programs. Among those attending her event were some local county commissioners, mayors, law enforcement leaders, and county elected officials including Cleveland County Register of Deeds Bonnie Reece, at right in this photo with Sen. Hagan.