Story By Jo Ann Mathews
Photography By Suzy King


The strength of two Davids comes together October 21. David Kesterson of First Bank and David Gooden of EZ Wireless, an authorized agent for U.S. Cellular, united their forces to be presenting sponsors for the Ninth Annual Benefit Gala for Children. The event benefits the programs of Communities In Schools (CIS) of Brunswick County, Inc.

Gooden enters his second three-year term on the CIS board of directors and was presenting sponsor for the 2008 gala. Kesterson finishes his first full year on the board and brings First Bank’s past support. The two have more in common than their first name and their service to CIS — both are North Carolina natives and both are adamant about being involved with community activities.


David Gooden

Gooden explains that he grew up on a tobacco farm in Elizabethtown. He was the oldest of four and planned to be part of the family business. At the same time, he believed it necessary to have a college education because he noticed how technology was changing the farming industry. Besides, “If I didn’t want to stay on the farm, I had an option,” Gooden says.

Gooden entered North Carolina State University and majored in agronomy. After graduation he returned home, but within six months he realized he wanted to pursue a different career. He went back to the university where he did on-farm research. After a year, he accepted a sales position with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a seed company. A brief 18 months later, he became the youngest district sales manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred. He was 27.

After five years, Gooden looked at other horizons. He decided to start his own business and created Board of Trade, an advertising agency, in Wilmington.

“I thought it was a good idea, and it took off,” Gooden says. “That led me to Myrtle Beach in 1989. That’s when wireless came into the area. Can you believe it’s been that long?”

Gooden envisioned the potential for the industry, accepted a generous offer for Board of Trade, and in 1992 opened EZ Wireless in Shallotte. He has been owner and president ever since and became an authorized agent for U.S. Cellular. He has expanded to include seven locations in four counties with his corporate office in Leland.

“As a company we like to be involved with the community,” Gooden says. “We do a lot of hands-on activities instead of just writing checks. CIS offered us an opportunity to get involved at the grassroots level.”

Gooden admires what CIS offers to children. He tells of how the organization interceded when one child in the district refused to go to school.

“CIS cared enough to investigate at the child’s home,” Gooden says. He explains that representatives learned the child was embarrassed because of the clothes he wore. “They got clothes for him and his attitude about school turned around,” Gooden says.

Gooden also praises the adults who volunteer. “They have a chance to get involved with students’ lives,” he says. “They can have a positive effect on a child’s life.”

Gooden, 54, is not new to volunteering. He is a 25-year member and past president of Sertoma, a community service organization focusing on speech and hearing health. He is a member of every chamber of commerce where his stores are located, sponsors chamber events and has served on several chamber boards.

“I value my customers and more importantly I appreciate that they perceive me as a person who makes the welfare of the community his business,” Gooden says. “People should take a moment and contribute in some way to help make CIS better.”

Gooden lives with his wife, BB, in Myrtle Beach. Their son, Zack, 25, and his wife, Corey, own and operate the Best Western Westgate Inn & Suites in Leland. Their daughter, Liz, Zack’s twin, works at EZ Wireless as part of the family business. Their son, John David, 12, attends Myrtle Beach Middle School.

“I do most of my golfing with John David,” Gooden says and explains that his son competes in the National Junior Golf Association. “I carry his bag,” he says.


David Kesterson

Kesterson, 34, grew up in Hickory, the youngest of three. His father worked in the printing industry and his mother was an elementary school teacher. He laughs when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. “It depended on the day,” he says. “A trash man, a weatherman…” He stops as if he’s remembering those days.

Ultimately, Kesterson knew he wanted to enter the business world. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After a brief stint selling plumbing supplies, he accepted a job at BB&T. He came to First Bank about five years ago and is City Executive in charge of the branches in Shallotte and Ocean Isle Beach. First Bank has branches in Leland and Southport and is adding another facility in Shallotte.

“Since we’re building a new branch and have a big presence, we’re making a big commitment to the county,” Kesterson says. Volunteerism has been part of Kesterson’s life for years. He helped raise funds for various organizations while a student at UNC and continued his interest when he graduated. He is on the CIS gala sponsorship committee and serves on the Brunswick Community College Foundation board.

“I am trying to do my part to give back to the area,” Kesterson says. “I love it so much. I have a vested interest in the system. I decided with children in school, I’d better get involved.”

He and his wife, Julie, a pharmacist at Rite-Aid in Shallotte, live in Ocean Isle Beach with their two children. Their daughter, Ava, is in kindergarten at Union Elementary School and son, Blake, 1, is “a future student,” Kesterson says.

Although his children don’t use the services CIS offers in the schools, Kesterson says he can participate in the Princess Ball with Ava and Big Toy Day with Blake.

Kesterson praises CIS for all the services it performs despite the shortfall of funds.

“It is a very valuable tool this county has, and it needs our support,” he says. “It’s great to have volunteers in the schools. They spend some time with these kids in need. They show interest in them. It means more than just giving money. There is nothing better than helping a kid.”

The weak economy has prevented many other businesses and individuals from stepping forward to provide the needed sponsorships, Kesterson adds. “Funding has been cut so much for CIS,” he says. “It was the right time for First Bank to step up and fill some of the holes.”

Both Gooden and Kesterson aim to assist CIS during this poor economy by providing funds to help the organization continue its programs.



9th Annual Benefit Gala for Children

The 9th Annual Benefit Gala for Children,featuring a taste of Brunswick County, will begin at 6 pm and continue to 10 pm on October 21, 2010, in the Palm Court Tent at Sea Trail Golf Resort and Convention Center. Tickets are $100 each. Black tie is optional for the 600 patrons, who will sample food from 18 local restaurants and may choose from wine, beer and soft drink sas beverages.

Golf packages, artwork and jewelry are among the 100 silent auction items, while a five-day Carnival Cruise, cooking lessons from Brentwood restaurant in little river,S.C., and a catered in-home dinner arechoices in the live auction.

“The CIS family is grateful to the community in coming forth to provide funds to support the needs of children and families,” says Cynthia Tart, executive director of CIS.“Through CIS programs, services are provided that address the risk factors that lead to children dropping out of school. The gala is our main annual fund-raiser. It’s been a community function that people enjoy and look forward to each year.”

Jon Evans of Wilmington’s WECT-TV/WSFX will emcee the event as he has in the past.The Pat Carpenter Band provides the entertainment.

For information on tickets or sponsorships,visit or contact Mark Koval, CIS resource development director at (910) 457-2929, (910) 448-0901