Birdie, by United Way of Moore County, for its selection of lifelong Southern Pines resident Mike Fields to receive its annual prestigious Cornerstone Award.

The Cornerstone Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment, creativity, leadership, inspiration, sustained service and broad scope of impact on the quality of life in the community.

Fields has been a businessman and investor in his community over the years, putting his money to work on projects that have helped Southern Pines be successful.

In addition, he has stepped forward over time, leading not just local nonprofit and service organizations, but also serving on the Town Council. He was first elected in 1989 and served four years as mayor, from 1993–1997. He went back on the council in 2009, filling a vacancy, and served seven more years before stepping down.

“We are the beneficiaries of Mike’s commitment and service to Southern Pines over these past four decades,” said former Mayor David McNeill.

Birdie, by Mariah Morris, the West Pine Elementary teacher named several months ago as the state’s Teacher of the Year. She has spent the last several months traveling the state and participating in a series of high-profile issues.

Morris is the first Moore County teacher to ever win the Teacher of the Year honor in its more than 40-year history. She has always been driven to teach as a way to help students lead better lives in the long run, but now she’s doing it from a statewide platform, in the process helping increase Moore County’s profile.

In the second half of her N.C. Teacher of the Year tenure, Morris will be going national. She’s one of 55 representatives to the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year program, which will put her in California for a week at Google discussing education policy and advocacy with her counterparts from around the United States. March will find her in Washington, D.C., with the Education Policy Fellowship Program, and she’ll advise the state Board of Education until mid-2021.

Birdie, by Earl Wright and his many helpers who once again carried out a successful Christmas Day giveaway of hundreds of bicycles and other gifts to children in need of a little extra joy.

Wright for the past 24 years has spent most of the year collecting and reconditioning used bicycles — and gathering donations for new bicycles — that he and others hand out Christmas morning in Southern Pines.

A crowd of more than 100 awaited Wright and his team in the parking lot of the former IGA grocery store on South Broad Street. Altogether, 1078 bicycles awaited their owners. Leftovers were taken to children in Robbins.

“This puts things in perspective,” said Pete Kallgren, of Pinehurst, who brought his wife and teenage children to help hand out bicycles. “This is what the Christmas spirit is all about.”

Birdie, by the makeshift group of guys who spend their Saturdays in a small patch of woods in Whispering Pines cutting wood for sale. Using word-of-mouth and other piecemeal marketing strategies, they then sell the wood locally and donate their proceeds to Gethsemane Garden Christian Center in Africa, a boarding school founded in 2003 for children orphaned in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The center is located on Mfangano Island on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria in East Africa. Gethsemane Garden Christian Center now shelters and educates more than 700 children, and has sent 100 on to universities.

“It’s like a club in a way, and nobody out there probably goes to the same church. Some go to church, some don’t,” said Tom Lineberger, the Aberdeen doctor who got this effort rolling several years ago. “It’s a motley crew, but kind of a boy thing. Everybody likes it because they’re forgetting about themselves and helping somebody else, even though they don’t live here.”

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