Hope Mills News

Gray's Creek poetry team places in national competition

Not even a global pandemic could stop the Poetic Pathos poetry team from Gray’s Creek High School enjoying its best-ever finish in a national poetry competition recently.

The team had to cope with a variety of challenges as it participated in the 23rd annual Brave New Voices competition, originally scheduled for Washington, D.C., but changed to a virtual format via Zoom because of the COVID-19

The Gray’s Creek poets advanced all the way to the final round the final full week of July and finished third among the 12 teams that were able to participate in the event.

Joel Mayo started the Poetic Pathos group at Gray’s Creek in 2014 with the goal of bringing the youth in the community together and giving them the opportunity to share their voice through the medium of spoken poetry.
The Brave New Voices competition is usually a much bigger deal with some 50 teams from around the United States as well as foreign countries.

But even with a smaller event, the Gray’s Creek group found a way to make history. According to Mayo, this was the first time a North Carolina team made the finals of the competition.

Nicole Rivers, another English teacher who has been at Gray’s Creek for 10 years, assisted Mayo with coaching the current team. She said the slam poetry style that the team uses offers many benefits.

“It allows them to assess who they are on the inside — and in the world around them — in a very honest way,’’ Rivers said. “That is why it is so positive. It makes them think critically about what’s going on inside them and around them.’’

Rivers said it also gives students a different perspective on poetry, stopping them from thinking that poetry is something created only by authors who are elderly or deceased. “It’s not about the past,’’ Rivers said. “It’s about the moment, and they get to express that. That’s what makes it relevant. It’s close to genres of music that they hear now.’’

Members of the team that competed in this year’s Brave New Voices included Isa Meachum, Miya Walters, Yasmine Saintjuste, Kine Clark and Natalie Blacker.

Meachum said one of the biggest challenges of this year’s competition was not being able to be face-to-face with team members or to have an audience in front of them since all of the competition was done on Zoom.

“When you have a crowd in front of you, it allows you to feed off the energy when you’re doing good,’’ Meachum said. “You can really build off what they give you.’’

Another challenge came from situations where the team did a group performance. In order to avoid exposing the team members to face-to-face contact because of the virus, they elected to prerecord all of their group performances for the competition on Zoom.

Meachum said that was a challenge, especially when it came to getting timing right. “On Zoom there could be a little lag if they are not there with you,’’ he said. “It’s hard to be in sync.’’

The virtual nature of the competition was actually a benefit to one team member, Miya Walters, who was vacationing with her family during the event and had to take part in Brave New Voices while away from home.

Still, Walters said it was difficult to coordinate. “We had to do a lot of video takes,’’ she said. “That was hard because we had different internet connections. We had to time our speech so we didn’t have overlap or have a pause because we were timed for our competition.’’

Walters felt the passion and the knowledge of the Gray’s Creek team were the keys to their best finish ever at this level of competition. But Walters didn’t think winning was the most important thing.

“We went there as a team and wanted to say what we had to say for ourselves,’’ she said.

She hoped the win helped the team show, as she put it, that poetry isn’t something about whining on a stage and complaining. “It’s starting a conversation that needs to be had,’’ she said. “It shows poetry is much deeper than that poem you had to write in your first year of English class.

“People may not realize the simple things they are writing in their diary every day may be something that needs to be said on stage. It (poetry) shows people they can really use their voice.’’

18 01 joel mayo

18 02 nicole rivers18 03 isa meachum18 04 miya walters

L-R: Joel Mayo, Nicole Rivers, Isa Meachum, Miya Walters.


Legacy Athletics opens for cheer/gymnastics

13 legacy insideThere’s something new to cheer about in Hope Mills, both in the literal and figurative sense.

Tammy Melvin-Carlile, Angela Fitzgerald and Jasmine Lyles have united to open Legacy Athletics at 2824 Legion Rd.

The trio took over the facility in May and after making some upgrades to the building, opened for regular hours effective Monday, July 6.

Melvin-Carlile said the goal of Legacy Athletics is to provide an affordable gym experience that will cater to cheerleading, dance, gymnastics and tumbling, along with programs designed for special needs people of all ages who would like to take part in the kind of activities the facility offers.

All three of the new owners have extensive backgrounds in the various disciplines the gym will offer. In addition to providing instruction in cheer and dance, they plan to include yoga as well as allow the gym to be rented out for birthday parties or by the hour for outside cheer groups and dancers who just need a place to practice their craft.

Fitzgerald said there will be no limits on the age groups that can utilize the facility. At the same time, they’ll accept people from all levels of experience — from newcomers to people who have been involved in any of the activities for years.

Fitzgerald said the inside of the building is every little girl’s dream, designed to leave them wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

The primary workout area features a spring floor with carpet-bonded foam. There is also a 30-foot tumble track along with various types of equipment, including training mats and materials for stretching.

The special-needs programs aren’t designed for competition but will allow the participants to take part in routines and exhibitions.
Current hours are Mondays from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
For those who want to use the gym just as a workout space or to practice with a team not being trained by one of the gym staffers, the gym can be rented on an hourly basis.

Lyles said the gym can also be used by home schoolers as a place to earn their physical education credit.

For further details on rentals, scheduling special events and finding out more about fees, call the gym at 910-229-2762.

Committees play key role in governing Hope Mills

While the Board of Commissioners and the staff at Town Hall do most of the heavy lifting of government for the town of Hope Mills, there’s another important group of volunteers that provide a lot of input to the decisions that are made about the town’s future.

That group is the people who serve on a variety of official town committees that delve a little deeper than the full board does into various town issues.

Jane Starling is the Town Clerk, and her job includes getting applications from people who are interested in serving on the various committees.

In addition to taking a closer look at issues before the town, Starling said the committees also provide valuable exposure to town citizens on how government actually works. She said it's often the beginning of a citizen becoming more active while at the same time getting an education.

Currently, the town has five committees and one commission. The committees include Parks and Recreation, Veterans Affairs, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Historic Preservation and Mayor’s Youth Leadership.

The lone commission is Appearance.

Nearly all the committees regularly meet at least once a month, unless the meeting date for a certain month falls on a major holiday.

The committees are constructed around the election cycle. The January after an election is held in November, the committees get new members who are each added for a two-year term.

The major exception to the rules is the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Its members serve a three-year term, and it only meets when a specific zoning issue is brought before it that requires action.

If someone steps down from one of the committees between election cycles, they can be replaced by someone with an application Starling keeps on file. All applications for committee positions are held for one year.

11 town hallOne of the reasons most of the Hope Mills bodies are committees and not commissions is the rules for filling the slots on a commission are more stringent.

Starling said commissions require members who have specific experience or professional training connected with the specific mission of the commission. “It’s really difficult in this small of a municipality to find people to fill those positions,’’ she said.

The Historic Preservation Commission was recently changed to a committee, and there has been talk of doing the same with the Appearance Commission.

Most of the committees are made up of seven members. One exception is the Veterans Affairs Committee, which has two additional members who represent local veterans organizations.

Each committee also has two liaison members, one from town staff and one from the Board of Commissioners.

To find a complete list of the town committees and a description of their duties, go to townofhopemills.com, click on the Government tab and look for the list of committees.
Most of the committees have resumed regular meetings in the community room at the Parks and Recreation Department building off Rockfish Road, where they can safely meet while observing social distancing.

Normally, the public is allowed to attend committee meetings, but under the current COVID-19 restrictions, only committee members are permitted at the meetings.

If anyone is interested in applying for a committee position for the 2021 election cycle or when an opening comes up, they can get a form from the town website, pick one up at Town Hall or request to have one mailed to them. The number at Town Hall is 910-424-4555.

Veterans Committee spruces up artillery piece

12 cannonIt was during preparations for last year’s Heroes Homecoming observance in Hope Mills that Jim Blevins of the town’s Veterans Affairs Committee made a troubling discovery.

While working with the flags behind the town’s veterans memorial on Rockfish Road, one of the nylon ropes snapped.

Blevins said committee members quickly realized they needed to perform regular maintenance and function checks on various aspects of the veterans memorial. As part of that process, one of the things they put on a to-do list was to spruce up the appearance of the 105mm howitzer that is part of the memorial.

The retired weapon was a staple of American field artillery from the time of World War II all the way through the conflict in Vietnam. According to army.mil, it was the primary field artillery weapon used by the Army during World War II and is still in use in some parts of the world today.
Blevins said another member of the Veterans Affairs Committee who helped paint the howitzer, Grilley Mitchell, estimated it’s been as long as 15 years since the gun had gotten a fresh coat of paint.

Blevins and other members of the committee first used sandpaper to remove the old paint that was badly oxidized and peeling.

They tried to get some traditional OD green Army paint from an official source but were unsuccessful. But another committee member, Bill Greene, was able to secure several spray cans of the official Army shade and it was used to put a new coat on the howitzer.

“As long as we stuck to OD green, that’s the main thing, just the painting for now,’’ Blevins said.

Other members of the Veterans Affairs Committee who helped refurbish the howitzer were Joanne Scarola and Jim Morris.

The next big project for the committee is going to take a little more effort, not to mention more money.

The monument at the veterans memorial has some cracks in it, and some of the seals are worn as well. Blevins estimates the repair project will run in the neighborhood of $13,000.

While there is some money in the town budget to pay for the repairs, Blevins said the Veterans Affairs Committee doesn’t want the town to have to foot the entire bill.

He said the committee hopes to work with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts to come up with a variety of fundraising projects to help cover the cost of repairing the monument and other projects the committee may promote in the future.

Ideas being considered are allowing people to purchase pavers that will be placed somewhere at the veterans memorial, along with building a fence at the memorial and letting people pay to have signs placed along it sponsoring sections of the fence.

Blevins said the most important thing is to keep the park alive and in good shape to properly honor the veterans from the community.

“That’s our military heritage to the people that came before us,’’ said Blevins, who is retired Air Force. “It’s to honor them and hopefully pass it on to the next generation.’’

 Photo credit: Elizabeth Blevins

Chief Acciardo expects few problems with mask requirement

10 joelA handful of law enforcement officials around the state of North Carolina have announced they have no plans to enforce the latest requirement of Gov. Roy Cooper that people wear masks in public the prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Hope Mills Police Chief Joel Acciardo isn’t among those who will ask his officers to ignore the provision. At the same time, he said the emphasis won’t be heavy-handed, and based on how the community has reacted to previous restrictions put in place to help curb the spread of the illness, he expects the citizens of Hope Mills to be supportive.
“The goal is not to go out and write people tickets,’’ Acciardo said. “The goal is to educate people and bring them into compliance. So far we haven’t had any issues in that area.’’

One of the most popular locations in town for regular large gatherings of people is Hope Mills Lake. While the initial job of getting people to observe the restrictions while at the lake falls on lake attendants, Acciardo said whenever the police have had to be called in so far, intervention and education have usually resolved the situation without complication.

If someone does refuse to abide by the requirement to wear a mask in public, Acciardo said a charge of criminal trespass could be assessed if the person refuses to wear a mask and won’t leave the premises.

“Dialogue goes a long way,’’ Acciardo said.

As long as people are on their own property and not having a gathering in excess of 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors, they are free to not wear a mask.
Acciardo said if the police do encounter someone without a mask, the police department currently isn’t able to provide people with them.

“Our supplies are so limited,’’ he said. “Most of the time we barely have enough to cover our staff.

“These facemasks are not meant to be used forever. There is a pretty quick turnover. Our supplies are pretty finite.’’

As long as the officers are inside their cars, Acciardo said they will not be required to wear a mask, only needing to put them on when they have to interact with the public.
As of this writing, Acciardo said the police department was still developing the policy and when masks would have to be worn inside police headquarters.

He strongly suggested that everyone familiarize themselves with the latest requirements set down by Gov. Cooper in his most recent official order regarding safety measures required in public.

Go to www.nc.gov/covid-19/covid-19-executive-orders and click on the link to the June 24 order for complete information.

If anyone has questions about the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions in Hope Mills, Acciardo can be reached at 910-425-4103.


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