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home : news : arts & culture February 24, 2020

1/13/2020 2:55:00 PM
MLK Unity Award Honorees Named
Mayor, veterinarian, former chaplain recognized
(L-R) Mayor Walker Reid, John Weisenhorn and Dr. Mark Epstein(Contributed Photos)

(L-R) Mayor Walker Reid,
John Weisenhorn and Dr. Mark Epstein

(Contributed Photos)

Lincoln Herald Staff

GASTONIA - The honorees of the annual Martin Luther King Unity Awards have been announced.

The awards will be presented by Gaston Together’s Gaston Clergy and Citizens Coalition, according to GT Executive Director Donna Lockett. The event is scheduled for Jan. 20 at 10:30 a.m. in the auditorium of the Gaston County Department of Social Services at 330 MLK Way in Gastonia.

This year, the MLK Unity Awards will go to Gastonia Mayor Walker Reid III, veterinarian Dr. Mark Epstein and former chaplain John Weisenhorn.

Established in 2004, the Unity Awards recognize current or former Gaston County citizens who have performed exemplary community service to help build bridges of unity across lines of class, race, gender, faith and/or municipalities within Gaston County.

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A native of Atlanta, Epstein came to Gaston County 35 years ago to begin his veterinary practice. He quickly became active in community service work and grew to become a bridge-builder among faith and political communities. He is a 15-year member of the Gaston Interfaith Trialogue, which builds understanding among members of various denominations of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Epstein serves on the steering committee and leads programs. In 2016, he wrote a letter condemning religious intolerance that was signed by 35 community leaders and published in The Gaston Gazette.

And he co-organized Gaston County’s Better Angels Program, which prepares people of all backgrounds to discuss their political views with good will. With warmth, humility and diplomacy, Epstein has worked for many years to help make Gaston County a better place for all.

Reid, a native of Gaston County, is well known to many through his years of service as a Gastonia city councilman and as the current mayor. But his MLK Unity Award honor does not come for his work as an elected official. Instead, it is for his work with music and the Hope for Gaston project.

Reid became involved with music at an early age. It was through opportunities to perform at venues that brought black and white youth together at a time when racial harmony was still in its infancy that he began to see how music could be a unifying factor. Working with Ron Ownbey, a former MLK Unity Award honoree, Reid was able to help foster racial unity by participating in local concerts featuring different races and cultures as a way to build relationships for youth. He has also been very instrumental in the work of Hope for Gaston. This also helped Gastonia earn the coveted All-American City award in 2010.

Although not from Gaston County, Weisenhorn has been a local fixture for many years. Through his work as a deacon and the former chaplain at Covenant Village, he has preached socio-economic and cultural unity.

Weisenhorn’s bridge-building has encompassed everything from promoting community worship services during Lent to promoting the work of the Interfaith Trialogue. Weisenhorn’s work in socio-economic bridge building includes work with the Salvation Army, Crisis Assistance Ministry and with prisoners in jail, just to name a few.

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