By Collin Cunningham
(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Hey there, Charlotte! It is Thursday, Feb. 10, and more relief is on the way for Mecklenburg County renters. The county is planning on reopening applications to its emergency home payment assistance program after a pause, and we'll tell you when residents can apply.
LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets will serve as relief for an injured Kevin Durant when he steps in as a replacement at the Feb. 20 NBA All-Star Game. We also have news of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher who died and fundraising efforts to help relieve her family. Coming in for more relief is the Roundup, which offers Valentine's Day gift ideas for Queen City romantics.
1. CMS news: Community mourns high school teacher, school board doubles bonuses for most staff
Community mourns high school teacher: North Mecklenburg High School families and friends of Lauren Talton are contributing money to a GoFundMe campaign after the 39-year-old Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher died on Feb. 6. As of Thursday morning, community members had contributed over $29,000 to the online campaign, en route to a $50,000 goal to aid Talton's husband and two daughters.
A digital obituary remembers the University of North Carolina at Charlotte graduate:
Words cannot adequately express the intensity of loss felt by her family and friends who love her so deeply. Lauren cherishes her children and is so proud of them. She brings joy and light to so many and is sorely missed.
Most staff to receive board-doubled bonuses: In response to staff shortages and employee exodus, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education voted at their Tuesday meeting to double the $2,500 staff retention bonuses. First approved in December, the bonuses will now dole $5,000 out to full-time staff and $2,500 to part-timers, but not everyone is eligible for the full amount.
WCNC reports that employees who started with the district after Oct. 31, 2021, will receive lower incentive payments. CMS employs roughly 19,000 individuals, but 1,577 employees left the district between Aug. 1 and Dec. 8 of last year. Learn more about recent CMS rumblings in yesterday's Roundup.
Hornets guard LaMelo Ball is set to become the fourth-youngest NBA All-Star at the age of 20. It's yet to be seen whether the Hornets guard will lace up his two-tone "Rick & Morty" sneakers for the Feb. 20 exhibition match in Cleveland, but whatever shoes he does wear will be filling those of Kevin Durant.
The league announced on Monday that Ball would serve as an injury replacement for the 12-time All-Star, who is recovering from a left knee injury. The NBA's 2020-21 Rookie of the Year has averaged 19.8 points for the Hornets over the course of 49 games this season.
Readers can tune in to Ball's inaugural All-Star Game appearance via TNT at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20.
The Roundup reported last month that dwindling funds caused Mecklenburg County's emergency COVID-19 rent assistance program to stop accepting applications, but $22 million from North Carolina, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County will see the application portal reopen on March 1.
DreamKey Partners, a Charlotte-based affordable housing 501(c)(3), told county commissioners on Tuesday that the program will change names, from RAMPCLT to RAMPCharMeck.
How to apply: Once it does, readers can apply for payment help through on this page, though the website is down in the meantime. Renters must be able to prove some sort of pandemic-related illness or other hardship and make less than 80% of Charlotte's area median income to qualify.
Program's success: According to WBTV, RAMP has helped over 18,000 Metrolina residents remain in their homes through help with utilities and rent since February of 2021, using about $700,000 per business day.
4. Valentine's Day in the Queen City: Where to buy gifts for cherished Charlotteans
Valentine's Day is coming up on Monday, but don't fret: Charlotte has plenty of boutiques to benefit your boo and chocolatiers to prove how much you cherish them. And, since there's nothing lovelier than supporting local businesses, all our picks can be found in Charlotteans' backyards.
Another good option is to source Valentine's Day gifts from some of the Queen City's Black-owned businesses during Black History Month.
- Midwood Flower Shop — 2415 Central Ave., open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Readers can purchase flower bundles for their paramour or curated bouquets that accompany petals with chocolates and candles.
- The Blossom Shop — 2242 Park Rd., open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
In case you're wondering if this family-owned flower shop carries a sense of humor, the business' website features a large banner reading "DON'T DROP THE BALL."
Chocolates and other candy
- The Secret Chocolatier — 2935 Providence Rd. Unit 104, open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday
Keep your sweet treat to your lover hush-hush at this incognito candy shop, which offers arrangments of milk chocolate, bourbon pecan pie bites and decorating kits allowing Charlotteans to adorn their own brownie pops at home.
- Collier Candy Company — 1115 N. Brevard St.
This Optimist Hall stall sells specialty candy crafted throughout the Charlotte area in addition to less commonplace confectionaries that might be hard to find on a national scale. What better way to say "I love you" than with pecan pie-flavored kernels from Asheville's Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn?