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Senior Morgan Lee has been to the Welcome Back Barton event every year she has been Barton College.
The nursing student from Henderson was one of hundreds who crowded into Kennedy Recreation and Intramural Center on Monday to meet members of the Wilson community and take home goodie bags and giveaways that will come in handy during the school year.
“You get to see all of the businesses that are local around Wilson and get lots of free stuff,” Lee said. “It makes me feel real welcomed just ‘cause everybody has so much love for Barton.”
Allison Gallup, a freshman from Niagara Falls, said the day is a good way to make new students feel comfortable.
“It’s very welcoming, which is very nice because it can be very overwhelming being far from family and just being in a new atmosphere,” said Gallup, who plans to study biology and exercise science. “It’s really great. Just knowing that everyone is in the same position as you, we are all coming in as freshmen and this is a new experience for us, it’s really nice being able make friends makes the transition a lot easier.”
Carletha Ward, of Legacy Life Purpose Coaching and Empowerment Training, wanted to welcome new and returning students to Wilson.
“We are here for them and we appreciate that they have chosen Wilson and Barton College to further their education and to let them know that we want to support them in whatever ways that we can,” Ward said. “I think every company that’s here has brought a little token of appreciation to give to them but to say to them that we hope that they will choose to stay in Wilson as they continue their education.”
For businesses, governmental organizations, churches and support groups that participated, getting heads to turn was in large part a matter of what was being given away.
Jeff Webb of Wilson Community Church knew he would get most students’ attention by giving them something to eat.
“We wanted to bring something that we thought the kids would enjoy,” Webb said. “We brought 500 Pop-Tarts.”
Eric Lippard, a co-owner at Parker’s Barbecue, brought enough chicken wings, iced tea and cornbread to feed about 400.
“It will be popular. We sell out every year,” Lippard said. “These kids are amazing. They come to our community and live in our community and we just want to introduce them to what everybody else in the world experienced, Parker’s Barbecue.”
Freshman Taylor Ann Cushenberry of Atlanta said she appreciated the hospitality.
“It’s great. Ever since I have been here, everybody has treated me like family,” Cushenberry said. “I already feel welcome. I live like seven hours away but I already feel at home when I am here. I love it. ”
Kathy Davis, executive director of the Wilson Family YMCA, said Barton is an integral part of the Wilson community.
“We do a lot of collaborating at Barton,” Davis said. “We actually teach a class at Barton, so we enjoy coming every opportunity that we have to share what the Y brings to Wilson and to interact with the students. We love having them as members. We love having them as interns. We love having them as volunteers, so I think it is extremely important for the entire community to embrace this wonderful college.”
Davis said anything her staff can do to make Barton students more comfortable, the YMCA is “all-in.”
“We are all in the same community, so I think it would be good for them to know all of the community services that we have in Wilson,” said Felicia Thigpin of the Wilson County Health Department.
Amber Denton, X-ray technician at Wilson Immediate Care, said her staff was handing out sticky notes, notebooks, pens and handouts about healthy living.
“Our doctors are the physicians that take care of the college students, so we come out and support the students,” Denton said.
Sophomore Isaiah Reddish, a Bulldogs basketball player, carried around a bag stuffed with goodies.
“It’s a great experience and a lot of fun,” Reddish said. “I did it last year and it was pretty cool.”
Freshman Andrew Gardner Thompson, who used to live in Wilson as a young teen, was returning to the city to attend Barton as a business major.
“My mom went here when I was in middle school,” Thompson said. “They have a great business program and that’s what I am coming here to do. It feels like I am home. It’s a welcome back, so I love it.”