Hope Mills News

County swimmers seek home after Hope Mills cancels indoor pool plans

17BubbleDomeNo one is more disappointed than Vernon Aldridge that the town of Hope Mills recently dropped its pursuit of building an indoor swimming facility at the old town golf course property. Aldridge was a member of the town’s recently-disbanded aquatics committee that was exploring a possible cooperation between the town, Hope Mills YMCA and other entities to bring an indoor pool to the community.

As student activities director for Cumberland County Schools, Aldridge knows there’s a definite need for a public indoor swimming facility in Cumberland County to help continue the growth of high school swimming at the county’s senior high schools.

“Swimming is probably the largest growing sport in Cumberland County right now,’’ he said. In just the past two years, he estimates the number of swimming participants in the county school system has doubled.

He said there are currently about 250 high school swimmers in the county, representing every senior high school that has athletic teams. While some schools have small teams of just a few swimmers, he said there are multiple teams at the high school level with 20 or more swimmers. The sport has risen from minimal participation when it first started a little over a decade ago in the county, Aldridge said.

The growth of the sport is more impressive when the burdens local swimmers have to endure to both practice and compete are factored in. Fayetteville State University has the only local indoor swimming facility that swimmers and their coaches can access for practice and competition. It is typically only available for practice sessions from 5:30-7:30 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.

The Christmas break has been a major problem for swimmers and coaches for years as the Fayetteville State pool completely shuts down for a three- to four-week period, meaning the athletes can’t practice at all there.

One thing that has helped the local swimming program recently is the addition of so-called bubble domes, or coverings, at outdoor recreation department pools at Westover High School and College Lakes Recreation Center. Aldridge said a third outdoor bubble-domed pool is in the works at Lake Rim.

An indoor swimming facility would not only benefit Cumberland County swimmers but would likely attract swimmers from neighboring counties, Aldridge said. Robeson County Schools swim at the pool at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, while schools in the Sandhills Athletic Conference that includes Seventy-First and Jack Britt hold their meets at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg.

Aldridge appreciates the cost of an indoor pool, which is why he was glad the Hope Mills YMCA wanted to partner with the town to pursue an indoor pool there.

While Aldridge could not make any promises the county schools would be willing to get involved financially in the project, he said they more than likely would be a regular customer if an indoor pool is constructed locally.

“We have a growing need for aquatic space,’’ Aldridge said. “We have a number of kids who are just swimmers, but we have a huge number of our teams with kids who are athletes in other sports. I think it’s a great way for those kids to stay in shape.’’

He said the Johnston County Schools have partnered with Smithfield Parks and Recreation and are opening a pool on land owned by Smithfield-Selma High School. He’s also heard Harnett County is working on an indoor pool at the former Wayside Furniture building.

“Whether (local) parks and recreation or Hope Mills or anyone is interested in opening that type of center (in Cumberland County), we’d definitely be interested in listening to what they have to offer,’’ Aldridge said.

ALMSHOUSE needs donations for summer bag lunch program

14almshouseAnother school year ended for Cumberland County this past Friday, and that was cause for concern for Delores Schiebe and the folks at the ALMSHOUSE in Hope Mills. “We have no contact with the children after that,’’ said Schiebe, referring to the regular ALMSHOUSE house program of providing free meals to those in the community in need while school is open.

Just three days after school closed this year, the ALMSHOUSE began a new program that will help solve the problem of making sure hungry people, especially children, can get a meal at lunchtime while school is out. The ALMSHOUSE will provide free bag lunches Monday through Friday during the summer months for anyone in need. People just need to come by the ALMSHOUSE headquarters on Ellison Street off Trade Street in downtown Hope Mills to pick up the lunch.

Plans for the bag lunches aren’t final, but what Schiebe said the ALMSHOUSE hopes to provide is something basic, including a bottle of water, a sandwich, a bag of chips and a piece of fruit.

“There was a time in the past when we had been able to do a lunchtime meal every day of the week, but we had to eliminate that,’’ Schiebe said. “We are very concerned because there are people needing meals at lunchtime and we’re very concerned about the children when they are going to be out of school.’’

Once the summer bag lunch program is ready to begin, Schiebe said a notice will be posted on the door of the ALMSHOUSE building on Ellison Street. “Anyone who needs a meal can come by and get that meal from us,’’ she said.

It’s possible the lunches could begin before mid-June if the details get worked out, but for now Schiebe said that will remain the target date for starting.

One thing that will keep the program running during the summer months will be regular donations from the public of sandwich items like bread and various types of meat and cheese, as well as fresh fruit like apples, bananas, oranges and tangerines.

Schiebe said the sandwiches will be prepared in advance as much as possible, and they can store them for a time in refrigerators and freezers at ALMSHOUSE. “We’ll do the sandwiches in advance so we can put them in sealed containers, Ziploc bags,’’ she said. “We won’t put mayonnaise or mustard on them. They’ll receive little packs of that.’’

If anyone would like to inquire about specific donations needed to help with the summer bag lunches program, they can call the ALMSHOUSE at 910-425-0902, or contact Grilley Mitchell via email at grillmitch@gmail.com.

“One of our main concerns is the children,’’ Schiebe said. “We want to take care of adults as well. But we’re unable to get to children now that school is out, and we want to be able to do that.’’

Bath Snob caters to specific customer needs

10bathsnobsConnie Rushing makes no apologies for being a bath snob. That should be obvious because it’s the name of the business she just opened in Hope Mills with her mother, Mary Thompson, and her sister, Tammie Melvin Carlile. Bath Snob specializes in homemade candles and bath products. It is located in a former orthodontist’s office in the Hope Mills Plaza Shopping Center.

Long before Rushing had an interest in making soap and other bath products, she said she was picky when it came to bath and body products. One day, her husband went to purchase her a gift and made the mistake of getting a standard bubble bath product from a chain pharmacy.

“He knows I love bubble baths,’’ she said. “That’s like my zen moment. That’s the moment I can be by myself. Everyone knows, don’t disturb mommy, it’s bubble bath time.’’

When she saw what her husband had purchased, she was less than pleased and made it known. “He was like, ‘You are such a snob,’” she said of her husband. “So when we were coming here to start a bath and body company and (thought) what do we name it, he said, ‘you’ve got to name it Bath Snob because that is what you are.’’’

Rushing and her mother and sister didn’t decide to open the store on a whim. Their mother, a native of Elizabethtown, decided to retire in Hope Mills. That led to Rushing moving here from California and her sister relocating from Virginia.

Both sisters had operated their own bed and bath businesses before moving to Hope Mills.

The sisters decided to join forces with their mother and start one here.

“We did a couple of fairs to test what kind of products people like out here,’’ Rushing said.

Last November, they opened a kiosk at Cross Creek Mall to do more test marketing. They continued there through January, where they developed a good following for their products.

Three weeks ago they held a soft opening of the new business in Hope Mills, then did the grand opening the second weekend in May.

The new business offers two basic product lines.

One is candles. In addition to traditional candles, the store also sells something called scoopables, which are a softer wax you can put into a warmer to release the scent. The scoopables come in a Mason jar.

They also sell cookie tarts. They look like cookies, but they’re actually pieces of scented wax that can be broken up and put into a warmer.

Bath Snob also offers what are called drink candles, like the martini, as well as banana pudding and pie candles.

The rear part of the business contains the bath and body line. “That’s where we have our lotions, our soaps, sugar scrubs and bath bombs,’’ Rushing said.

Rushing stressed that everything in the shop is made on-site. Special orders can be made, too. She recently had a customer who needed a soap with a higher olive oil base. Rushing let her try samples she had already made of an 80% and a 50% olive oil.

“I said if that doesn’t work out, I’ll go 100 percent,’’ Rushing said.

She also has customers who are allergic to things like coconut oil and shea butter. “That’s the good thing about having (the making process) in shop,’’ Rushing said. “You can cater to what they need. It’s going to make you make a better product for that customer base that needs that type of thing. They can’t get that at the regular bath and body shop.’’

But it doesn’t stop there, and part of that is because of the unique equipment already installed in the business when the sisters and their mother took the location over.

The orthodontist who previously occupied the space left a double sink area where the dental office chairs were located. The chairs have been removed, but the sink remains so that customers can sample various products on the premises.

The business is also set up to allow time to take trial runs.

They have an area where visitors can sit down, relax, get on the phone or use Wi-Fi while those shopping can take time to try out products. “We are so confident once you try the product, use that body scrub, use that lotion, use that soap and see how it does for your skin, you’re going to walk out with the product,’’ Rushing said.

The business is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. To learn more, visit the Facebook page at Bath Snob, or the website, www.bathsnob.com.  

Photo: Left to right: Hope Mills Chamber of Commerce President Jan Davis Spell; Bath Snob owners Tammie Melvin Carlile, Mary Thompson and Connie Rushing; Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner; and Hope Mills Commissioner Pat Edwards.

Texas group reaches out to Hope Mills hurricane victims

13hurricaneWhen Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner first got the phone call some 18 months ago, she admitted she was skeptical.

It was a woman from Cypress, Texas, named Virginia Valentine, who said she represented an organization called Angels Serving With A Purpose. Valentine had seen news reports on television about how Hope Mills was struggling from the after-effects of back-to-back hurricanes in the fall of 2017. She wanted to offer her organization’s help.

It took more than a year and a half, but when Valentine and her volunteers arrived in Hope Mills just over a week ago, they found local residents who were still in need of help long after the storms had passed.

Valentine and her group have been in operation for four years. They travel to any area of the United States that has suffered a disaster or an emergency or where there are simply people with no resources who need help.

“I have a heart and a love for this,’’ said Valentine, who is originally from Arkansas and grew up picking cotton. “We have started doing this with my foundation, and I want to continue doing this.’’

She watches news reports on local and national television to find out the places that might be in need of her charity. Then she reaches out to the officials of those cities, starting with the mayor, and finds local organizations she can partner with to distribute what she has to offer.

She recently arrived in Hope Mills with two rented trucks and two vans filled with her and her team of eight volunteers.

They brought along furniture, clothing, toiletries, cleaning products, brooms and mops. Some of the items were donated to Valentine; others she purchased with her own money.

She doesn’t screen anyone who comes to one of her giveaways. “We just bless them,’’ she said. “We try not to discriminate or hurt. I do this generously, willingly and lovingly. Everything is free. I don’t charge anybody for anything.’’

Valentine’s giveaway set up shop at the Hope Mills Shrine Club. Warner put Valentine in contact with the Shriners because she felt their site provided enough parking and space for Valentine to spread out all the things she planned to give to people.

News of the giveaway was quickly spread by word of mouth and social media the day before the event was held.

Warner said even before Valentine’s volunteers had completed setting up, people were already lining up to take advantage of the event. 

Expecting a mad rush for the various free items, Warner said the atmosphere was calm and orderly. “They let them come in five at a time,’’ she said. “Gradually, people would take what they wanted, then the next wave came in. Nobody was grabbing. Nobody was fussing over anything.’’

On many occasions, Warner said, Valentine would meet with people, talk with them and ask them what their specific needs were. In some cases, where families wanted the same item, Valentine would talk with them and try to determine who had the greatest need in an attempt to make sure the item went to the most deserving family.

Warner said she saw a young soldier, who had a wife and baby and no furniture, pick up a sofa, chair and some baby items. An elderly gentleman who lost everything in the 2017 floods got a recliner and a chair.

When the giveaway ended and there were a few items left, Valentine and her group didn’t want to take anything back to Texas with them, so Warner arranged for it to be donated to a local charity that agreed to take it.

Valentine and her volunteers stayed in Hope Mills through the weekend, worshipping at a local church on Sunday and returning to Texas the following Monday.

“The people that needed stuff got the message and they came,’’ Warner said. “It was very calm and orderly. It was a good thing.’

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