MHA Newsletter: Issue 1

It was a very good year…

Well not really a year yet, but the Morganton Humanist Alliance has packed a lot into our eight months of existence. In March 2016, Isaac Crouch sent a shout out to Morgantonians who might be interested in forming a community group for nonbelievers. Twenty-odd (and I do mean odd) people showed up on March 19 at Rhonda Cook’s Breathe Yoga and Wellness studio to hear about humanism. Eleven days later we held our first Morganton Humanist Alliance meeting at Fonta Flora Brewery. We elected officers: Isaac Crouch, President, Jesse Meyers, Vice President, Jennifer Tuck, Secretary, and Rusty Harrison, Treasurer.

Meetings were subsequently held at Catawba Meadows Park until MHA member Sam Crouch generously offered the use of the Community Room at Food Matters Market (Sam also gave MHA members a 10% discount during meetings). As the MHA has grown, so has our need for space. Our most recent meeting was held downstairs at the Burke County Public Library. In May, Meredith Potter became the official PR representative for the MHA and Erica Schwarting became co-treasurer. Eliot Lytle and the Mesh Design Group created the official Morganton Humanist Alliance logo. Matthew Garrett joined the leadership team in July as our first Fundraising Chair. In August, Karla Busch joined the MHA leadership team and has since served as Newsletter Editor, Secretary, and currently as Treasurer.


Earth Day Tree Planting:

Early morning on April 23, the MHA arrived with shovels for our first official act, the Earth Day tree planting. Matthew Garrett generously donated two beautiful trees and Jesse Meyers donated a lovely plaque.

It quickly became apparent that none of us were horticulture experts, but we managed to get our trees in the ground without incident, have some fun, pose for a group photo, and begin a pattern of community involvement that has become our hallmark.



Adopt a Highway:

Jesse Meyers pushed through the process that allowed us to officially Adopt a Highway.

The MHA took on the responsibility for cleanup on a stretch of Sanford Drive.

Many members and friends (including Mayor Ronnie Thompson) joined in to pick up trash in June and September.

John Clark donated some handy “trash stickers” to help the effort!

First Annual Humanist Camping Trip:

In July, the Morganton Humanist Alliance, along with friends and family, packed up our gear and headed to Betsey’s Ole Country Store and Campground at Wilson’s Creek for a weekend of fun and fellowship. Rusty Harrison and Erica Schwarting spearheaded the planning and drew on the talents of some of our exceptional members.


Jennifer Tuck provided a wool-spinning workshop.
Rhonda Cook gave a morning yoga session.
Isaac Crouch amazed the kids with fun science activities.

Matthew Garrett lead a kayaking expedition.

Jesse Meyers hosted a mic-less open mic featuring music by the brilliant Brandon Holcomb.

John Clark read poetry.

Rusty Harrison led an Existential Psychology workshop.

Kurt Loveland cooked breakfast for anyone who was hungry and MHA philosophers of all stripes engaged in deep, heady discussions around the campfire. Among humanists and hipsters lending their gifts and energy to the event were Matt Rosebrock, Jo Alberts, David Sutherland, Dave Thumma, Karrie and Geoff Sweezy, Josh and Ezra Propst, Eliot and Ava Lytle, Nina Cline, Autumn Culvert, Lainey Harrison, Jana Pond, Rob Nelson, Zach Riddle, Jacob Darden, Courtney Christenbury, Andrew Magness, Paisley Holloway, Katie Pekman, Jason Tuck, and Ed Gildea.

Yard Sale:

In August, the MHA had a HUGE yard sale at the home of Meredith Potter and Josh Propst.

Items were donated by MHA members and friends. The community rallied to support our cause and kept MHA members busy all morning selling, selling, selling. Matthew Garrett grilled hamburgers and hotdogs donated by 400 Union Grill and John Clark brought homemade cookies.

Among the many humanists who made the event happen were Dave Thumma, Zach Riddle, Erica Schwarting, Rusty Harrison, Jason and Jennifer Tuck, Morgan Jeter, Rob Nelson, Isaac Crouch, Jesse Meyers, Courtney Christenbury, Rhonda Cook, Matt Rosebrock, Rob Nelson, and Karla Busch. The yard sale earned over $1200, two hundred of which was donated to LGBT Burke for the Burke Pride Fest.

Burke Pride Festival:

September was a busy month for the Morganton Humanist Alliance. On the third, we showed our support for the first-ever Burke Pride Festival, sponsored by LGBT Burke.

The MHA had an information booth manned by Isaac Crouch, Jesse Meyers, Ed Gildea, Meredith Potter, Jennifer Tuck, and Rhonda Cook.

Despite some nasty protesters, the festival was a huge success and demonstrated the class and dignity of LGBT Burke. The event also highlighted the many kind and accepting people from our community who joined in on this celebration of diversity and connection. LGBT Burke and the MHA are both fledgling groups and we have many shared purposes. Seth Loven, the founder of LGBT Burke, recently joined as an MHA member.

Historic Morganton Festival and Sunrise Run on the Greenway:

The MHA took it to the public at the Historic Morganton Festival on September 10. The Morganton Humanist Alliance information booth was open on Saturday from 9 am to 8 pm.

Isaac Crouch, Jesse Meyers, Jason Tuck, Rhonda Cook, John Clark, Rusty Harrison, Meredith Potter, Zach Riddle, Ed Gildea, and Michael Hefner all took turns manning the booth! We made lots of new connections in the community and acquired some excellent new members!

MHA members also helped out with the HMF Sunrise Run:

Leanna Lynch, Matthew Garrett, Andrew Magness, Paisley Holloway, Sage Bonfield, Erica Schwarting, and Rusty Harrison all showed up bright and early to volunteer their time.

Waffles for Humanity:

On September 24, Matthew Garrett pioneered another excellent fundraiser. “Waffles for Humanity” generated over $200 in donations for the MHA and provided another opportunity to connect with interested community members. Special thanks to the generous folks at 400 Union Grill for donating their time, excellent cuisine, and hard work. The MHA wait staff for the event included Jason Tuck, Jennifer Tuck, Meredith Potter, Matthew Garrett, Jesse Meyers, Erica Schwarting, and Rusty Harrison.

Pints for Peoples:

On October 19, thanks to Matthew Garrett and the good folks at Brown Mountain Bottleworks (Keith, Colin, and Kory Suttles), we had another successful fundraiser, this one to benefit a future MHA scholarship fund.

BMBW donated $1 for every pint of draft sold all day. The response was incredible! Much frivolity and merriment as we listened to the musical stylings of Michael Hefner.


Isaac Crouch: “Picking one memory out of the many we have made together is impossible. The camping trip stands out for sure, dragging the kayaks for hours and getting the worst sunburn I’ve ever had while spending time in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with the finest people I know. Finding the racist mix CD and the lurid Polaroid during our first highway cleanup still makes me laugh. Planting the two trees downtown for Earth Day is very special to me since it was our first project and a permanent, visible mark that we’ve made on the landscape of Morganton. And lastly, our very first interest meeting will always stand out for how many of you showed up to support an outlet for the secular, rational, critical, and freethinkers of Morganton (again – the finest people I know). This has gone farther and faster than I could’ve ever imagined. Life has been much more fulfilling since that day and I hope to make many more memories with all of you wonderful humans!”

Meredith Potter: “I think my favorite memory of any MHA event so far has been the Earth Day tree planting. First, I really love the idea of improving our environment and surroundings, but what really stood out to me was how everyone pulled together to make it happen. We really did not have much time to get that event together, but we had a great turnout, two beautiful trees to plant, and (thanks to our wonderful members) the blessing of the city. It was a very nice morning and the first time I felt like we accomplished something good for the community.”

Rusty Harrison: “I have some very special memories with this group and all are bathed in the wonder that such a group even exists (and  thrives) in Morganton, North Carolina! The numbers that showed for the interest meeting blew my mind. I immediately felt comforted that so many free thinkers were also interested in connecting. On the Wilson’s Creek kayak expedition, I remember Erica showing up periodically along the way to make sure everyone was ok and to ask if we needed anything. It was a sweet surprise everytime we rounded the bend and saw her smiling face. That night, I walked over to the campfire and there was a big circle of humanists having this fascinating conversation about how they came to believe what they believe. Learning the backstories of so many of our members was pretty great.”

Erica Schwarting: “My favorite memory is when Rusty and I arrived at Wilson’s Creek and found Matthew Garrett sitting on a picnic table with a huge smile on his face. He’d been exploring Wilson’s Creek for hours before we got there. Matthew shared his morning adventures with us. We walked down to the creek to see a crazy school of trout waiting for bugs to float their way. Matthew found some kind of interesting critter (a frog I believe), picked it up and held it in his palm for us to see. For me, the introvert, being amongst a large group of people for the weekend can seem extraordinarily overwhelming, yet in that moment I felt a sense of ease and release. Matthew’s contagious enthusiasm and zest for life set the stage for what was to become a spectacular adventure in the great outdoors.”

Ed Gildea: “Karla and I became aware of MHA when we passed the adopt-a-highway sign. As transplanted
Pennsylvanians, we were feeling like fish out of water in the predominantly Christian South. While we both were raised to believe in God, we have reached a point in our lives where we would rather believe in our fellow human beings, without the threat of eternal damnation motivating us to act in a manner that promotes communal good. We welcome the opportunity that the MHA gives us to interact with like-minded individuals in our efforts to have a positive impact on Morganton, North Carolina, and the planet.”

MHA Meetings and Information:

Regular meetings are held:

  • the second Sunday of every month at 1:00 pm
  • the last Wednesday of every month at 6:00 pm

Social gatherings are:

  • the second Thursday of every month

For more information about the Morganton Humanist Alliance:

For information about the American Humanist Association: