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If you find yourself in a shopping panic today, take time to think about Martha Fiddie. As the community involvement coordinator for Asheboro's Wal-Mart, Fiddie plans all projects that involve the community, churches, schools and the general public.

For 11 years, Fiddie has made sure that the Asheboro Wal-Mart shared its success with Randolph County. This past Thanksgiving, Fiddie coordinated a local food drive which donated 3,465 cans of food and four boxes of toys to the Christian United Outreach Center, Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and the Salvation Army.Wal-Mart honored Fiddie for her many charitable works with the Randolph County community in Dallas in 1998. She was one of the nation's 12 Wal-Mart employees who were bestowed the annual honor of Sam Walton Hero. More important to Martha is the plaque and party given to her by her friends and associates at the Asheboro Wal-Mart.

``I get a lot of credit, but if it weren't for all these associates, I couldn't do my job,' Fiddie said.

Fiddie is quick to share credit with many who helped with this fall's charity drive. Four county schools collected food: Grays Chapel Elementary, Level Cross Elementary, Seagrove Elementary and Southwestern Middle. Members of the Eastern Randolph High School football team helped with the sorting and loading. Local agencies and businesses donated, including Girl Scout Cadette Troop 50, Kim's Blackbelt Academy, Luck's Bean Plant and Randolph Electric Members.

Capt. Ken Oakes of Asheboro's Salvation Army plans to honor Fiddie sometime after the holidays, thanking her for her hard work.

Fiddie showed me the center of her operations, an office hidden in the bowels of Wal-Mart. Just as in any backstage area, her office is the storage space for costumes, props and all sorts of mementos of past fund-raisers and charity affairs. She has souvenirs from pig-kissing games, baby bottle contests, and there are even pictures of her ``Make an Ice Cream Sundae Out of Our Manager' contest.

Fiddie admits that most of her fund-raising ideas, which have become so popular with Wal-Mart shoppers, come to her at night. She brings the ideas from these sleepless nights to work with her.

``If we couldn't (have fun) I wouldn't have a job,' she said, laughing about the children from a local day care center who had just sung Christmas carols for shoppers earlier that day. Kindergartners were scheduled later to have milk and cookies with Santa.

Fiddie also values the closeness of her fellow employees. When fellow Wal-Mart worker Darrell Bailey received a bone marrow transplant from a Colorado college student, it was only natural for Fiddie to organize the Wal-Mart family. Last fall, she called Bailey's Colorado donor, Eugene DeVito, offering to fly him to Asheboro to meet the now healthy Bailey.

With the help of many local donations, including Days Inn's contribution of a meeting room, Bailey welcomed DeVito to Asheboro. Wal-Mart workers were there to greet the man who had saved the life of their friend. A very grateful Bailey told me about the bond he has with this very generous young man. ``We're brothers. We have the same blood and bone marrow,' he said.

Fiddie says that her twin granddaughters are the only reason she would ever leave her Asheboro Wal-Mart family. After waiting 7 years for grandchildren, she and her husband, Sam Fiddie of the North Carolina Zoo, are the grandparents to 3-month old twin girls. Their daughter, Rhonda Hardin, the babies' mother, lives in Laurel, Md.

Fiddie saw that Hardin and her brother, Michael Smith, were involved at an early age with Wal-Mart's charities. They both worked at Wal-Mart, and Fiddie proudly says their first cars were bought with these earnings. Smith is now an assistant manager at the Wal-Mart in Cary.

Wal-Mart's plan for helping Randolph County in the future includes the Association of Girls' and Boys' Clubs, which has been a national project of Wal-Mart for many years. The Asheboro group will also be joining the Petty family in its plans for developing Victory Junction Camp.

The American Legion Post 81 celebrated its 55th Christmas Ladies Night on Saturday, Dec. 9, at its Legion Hut in Liberty. More than 100 Legion members and their guests enjoyed a buffet dinner, catered by Carol's Catering of Siler City. This was followed by award presentations and special speakers.

The Liberty Legion Hut is truly a piece of history for this small town, having housed many high school proms, receptions and dinners. On its walls are 45 framed pictures of former Legion commanders, starting with Lester Moffitt in 1945 and ending with Mickey Teter in 1998.

Current Commander Charlie Martin welcomed the group and former commander, Elbridge Smith. Smith introduced special guests who presented the annual awards.

The Liberty Fire Department was represented by its chief, J.R. Beard, who presented Steve E. Bigham with the Fireman of the Year Award. The Staley Fire Department's award was presented to Randy D. Davis by Fire Chief Ronnie Williams.

Liberty Police Chief Benson Smith presented the Policeman of the Year Award to Brad Hampton Pike. Pike joined the Liberty Police Department in 1997 and has been serving night duty for the past year.

Randolph County Sheriff Litchard Hurley thanked the Legion Post for its help throughout the county as he honored Capt. Raymond Mark Brady for his outstanding service this past year.

A Life Membership to Post 81 was given to Legionnaire and former Liberty Police Chief Paul Shepherd. ``Liberty has a special place in my heart. I'll always cherish the people,' said Shepherd, who served 24 years with the Liberty Police Department.

Two former prisoners of war, Boyd and James Allred, were honored with a standing ovation at the dinner. Jim Allred, released from a Korean POW camp 13 days after his brother, served 33 months in captivity. His brother, Boyd, was a prisoner for 31 months. The two brothers, Life Members of Post 81, fondly remembered the welcome they received by their home town of Liberty in 1953.

The banquet welcoming these heroes is one of the first meals served in this building on Greensboro Street. Both brothers shared memories of that dinner and the parade which honored their return.

``We were warmly welcomed by the people of Liberty ... I am proud to be from Liberty,' said Jim Allred. He also thanked all the attending veterans for all they had done for their country.

Jerry Hedrick of Post 8 in Lexington was the featured speaker for the evening. The remarks of Hedrick, a representative to national American Legion meetings, centered around our country's freedoms and his own personal pride as a U.S. veteran. News of the groundbreaking for a WWII Memorial and the American Legion's $2.7 million contribution to this project was a highlight of his speech.

Hedrick's closing comments were centered around the Flag Protection Amendment. He was happy to report that the American Legion has spent $19 million on this bill, and he thanked Congressman Howard Coble for his support. In closing, Hedrick asked for everyone's respect and protection of the national flag.

As Jerry Hedrick praised the courage and valor of all U.S. servicemen, these same veterans praised similar qualities of their friend Leigh Wright.

Leigh Thompson Wright was an honored guest who spoke at this gathering. Wright, a 1990 Legion scholarship recipient, now lives in Pinehurst with her husband, who serves as a police officer. She is battling takayasu-arthritis, a rare heart condition which usually attacks Asians.

Wright was first involved with Liberty's American Legion Post 81 in 1990 as a high school senior in Mount Gilead. As a niece of a Liberty Legionnaire, Robert Gardner (now deceased), she applied for one of their nursing scholarships, a program this group has sponsored for the past 28 years.

As a 1994 UNC-Wilmington nursing graduate, Leigh began her career at Moore County Regional Hospital. After her first year of nursing, she underwent heart surgery for a valve replacement, and aorta damage was discovered. Later, the chronic inflammation of her arteries was diagnosed.

Attending the dinner with her parents, Ellen and Larry Thompson, Wright again thanked the American Legion for its initial scholarship help and for members' encouragement during her illness. She thanked them for their faith in her.

Legionnaire L.T. Smith presented Wright with a gift and wished her well in her fight against this disease. It was obvious that, though her scholarship was given a full decade ago, Leigh Wright and Post 81 will always be close friends.

\ Want Dee Pence to visit your event or civic or social club? Send her an e-mail at or call the News & Record at 625-8452.


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