2016 Unity Award

NEWTON, NC (May 25, 2016) – The Newton Human Relations Council presented the Rev. Robert C. Silber with the Unity Award for his contributions to the community during the council’s annual Unity Day Celebration on May 22. The award recognizes people and organizations that contribute to racial and cultural harmony in Newton.

Unity Award recipient Rev  Robert C  SilberSilber is executive director of Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry. ECCCM provides emergency financial assistance for mortgage and rent payments, assistance with utility bills, fuel oil and kerosene purchases, and life-necessary pharmaceuticals. In addition, ECCCM provides emergency food and clothing to those in need.

“Rev. Silber is always willing to help where there’s a need, and his nomination is truly a worthy one,” Newton Mayor Anne P. Stedman said during the award presentation. “We’re blessed to have you as a part of this community.”

Silber’s association with ECCCM began in 2001 when he was appointed to serve at a Catawba County church and began volunteering at ECCCM with his youth group. He served as a board member and as president of the board before he was named executive director of the ministry in 2010.

Since Silber’s appointment as executive director of ECCCM, the ministry’s financial crisis services have extended to fully help families in need, thereby maintaining the organization’s commitment to serve all in need and never turn away a qualifying family. Under his leadership, the Crisis Assistance Coaching Program was developed to equip families with financial literacy and goal setting as a means to provide a hand up. He has also worked with leaders at Newton-Conover City Schools and Catawba County Schools to establish a student hunger prevention program that meets the needs of vulnerable children from kindergarten through high school.

“I look at our community, and I see people,” Silber said as he accepted the Unity Award. “I don’t worry about the distinctions of ethnicities or race; I just see people. I feel a deep conviction when God said, ‘Take care of the least of these.’ That’s what we try to do. Anybody that will partner with me, any collaboration that we can have together, and any way that we can unify our community is good for all.”

Silber said he is particularly proud of the work ECCCM does to provide hunger relief. Last year, the ministry distributed 1.4 million pounds of food to families experiencing food insecurity.

“We serve a community in need, and we’re supported by a community who cares about this community in need,” Silber said. “My goal and job is to serve everyone without distinction, without discrimination, and with the love that God has filled each of us with.”

Silber is an ordained United Methodist pastor and a member of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. He has served congregations in Catawba, Iredell and Cabarrus counties. He is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College with Bachelor of Science in psychology. He obtained a Master of Divinity from Hood Theological Seminary and completed postgraduate work at Duke Divinity School. Born and raised in Chicago, Silber and his wife, Karen, have called Catawba County home for 26 years.

Silber serves as president-elect of the Newton-Conover Rotary Club and chair of the Food Policy Council of Catawba County. He is a member of the North Carolina Homeless Management Information Service Governance Committee, Catawba County Christmas Bureau, Continuum of Care of Catawba County, Catawba County Inter-Agency Council, Congregations and Community of Catawba County, Catawba County Citizens Corps, and Catawba County DSS Planning Committee.

The presentation of the Unity Award is only one highlight of the annual Unity Day Celebration. The mission of Unity Day is to bring the communities of Newton together in unity and love; to promote positive multicultural relations and harmony throughout the city; to bring everyone together by raising the public’s vision above barriers of color, culture and creed; and to celebrate the value of diversity through music, dance and food.

This year’s celebration included musical performances by Pandemic Steel Drum Ensemble, Mariachi Mexico 2000, and Word of Life Choir. Dance performances were given by the Azteca Dancers and Rikud Charlotte Israeli Folk Dancers. Michael Reno Harrell, an award winning songwriter, as well as a veteran storyteller and entertainer, also performed. Displays from the New Art School, Downtown Newton Development Association, Historical Association of Catawba County, and Catawba County Library were included as part of the celebration.

To view photos from the Unity Day Celebration, click here.

If you are interested in serving on the Newton Human Relations Council, please call 828-695-4265.