May 2003 – Tony Izzy avoids publicity and shies away from the spotlight. The Shelby, North Carolina, businessman impresses others with his quiet nature, his sense of conviction and his humility. By man’s standards, one might not judge him a leader. Not aggressive enough. Not “a mover and a shaker.”
However, the truth of Scripture is exemplified in Tony Izzy: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). When Tony read in the AFA Journal about a campaign to post the national motto in classrooms across the country, he liked the idea. He thought it was a project he could get behind. As usual, he didn’t set out to lead a new campaign. That part just happened.
When he first read about the “In God We Trust” poster project, he was busy with other community projects, so he put the poster idea aside. But it stayed in the back of his mind. It wasn’t long before he began making plans for action.
First, Tony considered the scope of the project and concluded it wouldn’t be too much to take on all the schools in Cleveland County – the county school system plus Shelby and King’s Mountain city systems. The second concern was how to get permission from schools. Tony compiled packets including articles from the AFA Journal and other information about the “In God We Trust” project. He secured appointments with the proper authorities, presented the project, and left each with an information packet.
“We got permission from those three school districts to start with,” says Tony. Once the project was underway, he found logical extensions into other institutions in the county. Izzy continues: “Then we worked with a community college to get permission there and with Gardner Webb University to get permission there.” Cleveland Community College is in Shelby and Gardner Webb, a Southern Baptist school, is in Boiling Springs.
But Tony didn’t stop there. He saw one more logical extension of the county-wide project. “We started working with municipalities in Cleveland County, and got permission from them.” The total count – schools plus county and city offices – required more than 1,600 “In God We Trust” posters.
Early on, Tony made the decision not to seek media coverage. Not only is that his personal style, but he didn’t want the project to become a contentious matter in the community. With permissions granted, Tony began purchasing posters and getting them framed. Once the posters were in hand, a church group and other volunteers joined the project.
“The Lafayette Street United Methodist Church got them framed in one afternoon,” Tony says. Other individuals and groups such as the Shelby and King’s Mountain Rotary Clubs made contributions. Tony took care of delivering posters to schools and offices where they would be displayed.
“As far as I know,” he says, “we’ve got them in all the classrooms in Cleveland County. I know the teachers appreciate it, because the superintendent’s gotten a lot of calls and E-mails and things like that. I’ve had people who knew I was involved tell me how much it meant to them.”
The next step
Response has been so positive that Tony hopes to be a catalyst for the project in neighboring counties. Right next door, between Shelby and Charlotte, is Gaston County, one of the state’s larger school districts.
“I’m [hoping to] meet with the superintendent there and see if we can get the same thing done. I noticed in the Journal that a group of ladies had put up 77 over there already.” Those posters were to be displayed in schools, but not provided for every classroom. Tony estimates he would need twice the number of posters he used in Cleveland County.
“Our future goal is to get the state of North Carolina to pass a law requiring the posters in each classroom,” Tony says. He has already begun contacts with state legislators and other civic leaders, to seek support. Quietly, of course. Low-key. That’s Tony Izzy’s style.