S.P. Seals Sister City Agreement With Town in Ireland
As an artist, teacher and advocate for her community, Denise Baker often finds herself in a position to laud the positives about Southern Pines to others.
It was a impromptu speech Baker gave at a council meeting in Ireland several years ago that planted the seeds for a sister city relationship between Southern Pines and Newry and Mourne in Ireland.
"I was a bit stunned, unprepared," she said. "I don't remember what I said, but I spoke from the heart."
Baker, an art instructor at Sandhills Community College, was in Ireland in 2006 as part of an exchange program. She had swapped homes, jobs and cars with Jasper McKinney from Southern Regional College in Northern Ireland as part of a year-long project, "Crossing the Atlantic, An Invitation to Communicate."
While attending a Newry and Mourne Council meeting with a local resident, the council asked Baker to describe Southern Pines. HeR response made an impression and kick-started a process that can normally take many years.
In 2007, members of the Newry and Mourne Council visited Southern Pines, and in March 2009, the council selected Southern Pines as its sister city. This relationship was developed through the arts and will expand well beyond that, according to Baker.
"This community is what made them take a second look at us and put us on a short list," Baker said.
Following an extensive period of fact-finding, research and discussion, the Newry and Mourne District Council signed a Sister City Partnership with Southern Pines at the International Sister Cities Conference held last August in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Sister Cities International (SCI) is a nonprofit citizens diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities, according to the organization's Web site.
The Sister City agreement between the two towns aims to promote international good will and expand business relations through the exchange of people, ideas and information in a wide variety of economic, tourism, social, cultural, environmental, sporting, youth and other endeavors.
Southern Pines has formed a Sister Cities Committee, and residents are being encouraged to become involved in the process. The next meeting will be April 13.
Anyone interest in becoming involved with the committee can contact Baker at (910) 695-3879 or by e-mail at email@example.com
"We are in the infant stage," said Linda Parsons, a committee member and executive director for the Moore County Chamber of Commerce. "We want to develop something that people with be proud of and be engaged in."
Parsons called the collaboration a great partnership between the two cities. She said both areas have much in common, but the most important thing that helped draw the areas together s the passion of the residents of each community.
"I extend appreciation and gratitude to the citizens of Newry and Mourne, its mayor and council for this honor," Southern Pines Mayor Mike Haney said. "We view this new Sister City relationship as a wonderful opportunity for both of our communities and look forward to the endless possibilities that await us all."
The first formal program as part of the initiative is an art exhibit during the inaugural Palustris Festival, March 25-28.
More than 60 images reflecting Newry and Mourne and Southern Pines will be presented at Sandhills Community College during the festival. The exhibit will then be featured in Newry and Mourne this summer.
The exhibit will remain on display through March 31 at the Hastings Gallery at Sandhills Community College. A closing reception will be held there from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, March 25.
"This project provides a great opportunity to showcase the Newry and Mourne area and the diversity of our people, places and landscape," said John Feehan, the mayor of Newry and Mourne. "We realize we have wonderful resources across the district, and this provides an opportunity to provide a photographic image of what our area has to offer."
Baker hopes that this exhibit is the first of many collaborations between the cities that will be mutually beneficial for everyone.
"I couldn't be more thrilled," Baker said. "All good things can come from opening yourself to global opportunities."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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