Hope Mills News

No typical day for Wade, county schools’ top social worker

13Vanessa WadeThe first thing Vanessa Wade says about her job as a social worker at Gray’s Creek High School is there’s no such thing as a typical day. 

“I can start at 8:30 and think I’ve got all day to get this done,’’ she said. “By noon, all of that has gone out of the window. Every day is completely different.’’ 

Yet in the face of that kind of challenge, Wade is apparently doing her job well. Evidence of that fact came last month when she was named the social worker of the year by Cumberland County Schools. 

It could be her early life as a self-described Army brat that helps her deal with the variety of situations she has to work with. She lived all over the world, she said, moving about 18 times before landing in Fayetteville in 1994 and spending 14 years with the Department of Social Services. 

In 2008, she got the call to come to work as the social worker at Gray’s Creek High School, and that’s where she’s been ever since. 

For those who don’t know exactly what a school social worker does, Wade described it as being like the parent a child doesn’t have. If they do have parents, then she’s the aunt or uncle. 

“You are there when things are falling apart,’’ Wade said. “You are there when things are great. As a school social worker, you get to deal with the whole realm, the rainbow of kids, high academic to low, high socioeconomic to low.’’ 

One of Wade’s biggest battles is trying to help students overcome the barriers that prevent them from regular school attendance. 

This includes a host of issues, such as making sure the students are getting food and have clean clothes to wear. 

Much of Wade’s job is done on school grounds so she can have regular contact with the students who are in the greatest need. But she also makes regular home visits to deliver food and check on the living conditions of the students under her charge. 

She said she sees barriers to students getting the education they need that are different from those faced 20 or 30 years ago. 

She finds many children are forced to become independent quickly because they lack needed support at home. “I think the teenagers need their parents more than ever,’’ Wade said. 

Despite facing a lot of challenging situations in her work, Wade said she tries to remain as positive as possible when working with young people. “Even though I’m having a rough day, they don’t need to know that,’’ she said. 

She feels she’s reached a level of peace and is able to provide better service to her students. 

Wade never went into social work for personal glory, but she calls the award from the county an incredible honor, and she’s proud to be part of a team that extends beyond the walls of Gray’s Creek High School to help the area’s youth. 

“We have an incredible faith-based community in Gray’s Creek that allows us to be more creative,’’ she said. 

She praised Rev. Scott McCosh, pastor at nearby Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, for helping with a variety of services and outreach for young people. 

Wade said if someone gave her control over the purse strings, she’d like to see the schools offer more hands-on training in skills for those young people who aren’t going to enter the military or enroll in college. “For some kids, it’s not in their family culture or mindset, but they will go on to be great kids doing hands-on skills,’’ she said. 

Wade thanked the staff and administration at Gray’s Creek, her husband, her parents and her son for helping her do the best job she can. 

“I tell my kids every day, I don’t have a job without you,’’ she said. “I tell them they are never bothering me, and they smile.’’ 

Photo: Vanessa Wade

McMillan brings big dreams to Trade Street PR firm

13Aneisha McMillanIt was about 15 years ago when Aneisha McMillan had an idea for a product she wanted to launch and needed a public relations firm to give her plan a boost. The problem was, she couldn’t afford to hire someone. So, she did the next best thing. She taught herself how to do it. 

That self-training launched a new career for the Michigan-born McMillan, and now she’s bringing her business to a new storefront location on Trade Street in Hope Mills. 

Her business, Oink Agency, will share space with her husband, Shaun McMillan’s, Drama Lab, a video audition business geared toward aspiring actors. Shaun, a retired Army ranger, is an actor with multiple film and TV credits on his resume. 

Aneisha said her career in public relations snowballed after she was able to land products she was promoting on “Good Morning America” and other outlets. 

“I started getting calls from other entrepreneurs who said, ‘Hey, how did you do that?’ she said. “They started asking, ‘can you do it for me?’ It turned into an actual career.’’ 

The flying pig logo that adorns the door of her new location on Trade Street is a symbol of McMillan’s attitude toward life. 

“My entire family has an affinity for flying pigs,’’ she said. “For us, the meaning is anything imaginable is possible if you believe in yourself, believe in your dreams. The flying pig is the embodiment of that notion. Impossible things happen every day.’’ 

McMillan said her favorite clients are what she calls mom and pop shops. “They are fiercely driven and so passionate,’’ she said. 

Her biggest client for now is the Halloween and Costume Association, a group of merchants who specialize in Halloween-related products including costumes and candy. 

Last fall, McMillan collaborated with the HCA on a promotion with supermodel Heidi Klum, who was proclaimed the queen of Halloween. 

McMillan also helped promote a national push of a petition on change.org to get people to support a permanent move of the celebration of Halloween annually to the final Saturday in October. 

McMillan lives in the Gray’s Creek area and decided to open a storefront for her business in Hope Mills. “I love Hope Mills and love the lake,’’ she said. “I’m really excited it’s back in action. 

“This area is amazing, and Trade Street is very nostalgic. The history behind it is pretty rich. The building itself is a great building, over 100 years old.’’ 

Married with six children, the 44-year-old said she found solitude at home something tough to come by, so she came up with the idea of opening an office to get a little privacy. 

“It’s definitely hard to grow as a one-person show,’’ she said. “Here, I hope I can expand, bring on some more clients and some employees.’’ 

McMillan said the basic offerings of her business are public relations and marketing. “I’m the person to come to for big ideas,’’ she said. 

Even companies with in-house public relations staff have called on her, she said, looking for bigger ideas or things they’ve never thought of. 

“My kids say I make folks famous for a living,’’ she said. “I don’t know if that’s quite true, but it’s a pretty good explanation of what it is, marketing to put together multi-faceted campaigns to help people get the message out about their product via social media or direct to the media.’’ 

To find out specifics about what McMillan’s business has to offer, visit www.oinkagency.com. 

McMillan said while she will have an office open to the public at her new place of business, it won’t have 9-to-5 operating hours. 

“We’re not a traditional retail storefront,’’ she said. She will use the space as needed to meet clients in person, and her husband will also use it for videotaping auditions for his Drama Lab business. 

“Clients that want to talk should shoot me an email or call,’’ McMillan said. 

Her email address is aneisha@oinkagency.com. Her phone number is 910-849-9003. 

Photo: Aneisha McMillan

Farmers market coming to town of Hope Mills

12FarmersThe town of Hope Mills is preparing to roll out its first farmers market in hopes of uniting consumers and area and regional farmers for the benefit of both. 

Town manager Melissa Adams said that about a year ago she established a staff committee to see if the town could expand its successful venture with the food truck rodeo. The initial plan was to look into various areas where the town could branch out into the fields of art and culture. One of the ideas that sprung from those committee meetings was a farmers market. 

Adams said the intent was not to compete with any existing enterprise of that nature in the Hope Mills area, but to bring an added value to the town. 

The plan is to hold the farmers market in the areas near the municipal ball fields at the Town Hall and Parks and Recreation building complex. 

“We’ve got the grounds we can use and we’ve got the parking,’’ Adams said. “We can try to get something off the ground and see if it can be successful.’’ 

The initial plan is to start the farmers market the first Saturday of the month, beginning in May and running through October. 

“If it grows and is wildly successful and our vendors say, ‘I want to come every Saturday or every other Saturday,’ we’ll look at that,” Adams said. “We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. If it grows, great.’’ 

Tiffany Gillstedt, deputy town clerk, has been researching farmers markets operated by other municipalities to get a better understanding of rules and regulations in place that have made them successful. 

Adams said the Hope Mills farmers market will be governed by a mixture of rules that the town decided to adopt, along with good practices borrowed from other communities doing the same kind of thing. These rules and regulations will be posted on the town of Hope Mills website, www.townofhopemills.com, and also shared via social media, Gillstedt said. 

Initially, all vendors will be invited from within a 100-mile radius of Hope Mills, with the additional requirement they live in North Carolina. 

More information about how to apply to be a vendor is listed on the town website. At some point, Adams said, the town may screen vendors from outside the area and allow them to take part in the farmers market. 

The guidelines for vendors include a detailed list of the items that can be sold at the farmers market; that list is dominated by homegrown and homemade items. All items vendors plan to sell must be submitted to the town’s Art and Culture Committee for approval. 

No animals can be sold or given away at the market. 

Each vendor will pay a fee of $50 that will allow that vendor to sell items at all six of the scheduled farmers markets. For a fee of $20, a vendor can attend a single farmers market and can specify on the application which month they’d like to take part. 

Adams said the town is starting out modestly with the fee it will charge in hopes of increasing participation over time. 

The town is also considering linking participation in the farmers market with participation at the town’s annual Ole Mill Days celebration. 

Adams said she has been working with staff to increase the number of handmade items available at Ole Mill Days and become less dependent on manufactured items, while still allowing those types of goods to be sold. 

The tentative plan is to give vendors who come to the farmers market a discounted fee to be a vendor at Ole Mill Days. “I would really like to see it become more of an arts and crafts festival,’’ Adams said of Ole Mill Days. “I think it would draw in a whole other group of people hungry for that type of event, something different for our citizens that brings more value to living here in Hope Mills.’’ 

The initial farmers market will coincide with the annual Hope Mills spring cleanup and shredding event in the Town Hall area. Adams is hoping that will draw additional foot and vehicle traffic to the first farmers market. 

The June farmers market will be held in conjunction with the town’s annual Pet Fest, which will also hopefully boost attendance. 

Initially, the farmers market will be under the leadership of Chancer McLaughlin, the town’s development and planning administrator. 

The hours for each farmers market will be from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

Adams stressed that the farmers market program will be a work in progress and subject to any changes that the town feels will make it work better. 

Anyone with questions about the first farmers market, what to bring or how to apply can check www.townofhopemills.com or contact McLaughlin at cmclaughlin@townofhopemills.com. 

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