Hope Mills News

Family events added to annual chili cookoff

15 01 Dirtbag AlesThe annual Hope Mills Chili Cookoff is expanding this year to include a fall festival that will offer a variety of events for the entire family. The event is scheduled Saturday, Nov. 9, from 1-5 p.m. at Dirtbag Ales.

For the second straight year, the chili cookoff will be held at Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom at 5435 Corporation Drive just off Interstate 95.

The chili cookoff used to be held in conjunction with Ole Mills Days. This is the second year it’s been hosted by Dirtbag Ales and the first since the relatively new Hope Mills business has completed construction at its new location.

Kelly Spell of the Hope Mills Area Chamber of Commerce said the chamber decided to make the event more family-friendly by adding a variety of carnival-style activities to the agenda.

There will be face paining, cornhole boards, potato sack races and music from a live band.

Other activities include a hula hoop contest, a candy apple station and a hot chocolate bar.

Some of the event sponsors will also offer other games.

But the centerpiece of the activities will be the chili cookoff itself.

15 02 ChiliSpell said entries are still being sought for the competition. The fee is $20 per entry, and each entrant needs to bring a prepared crockpot of chili containing at least five quarts.

To enter into the competition, go to hopemillsareachamber.com and click on the menu option for Event Ticket.

The cookoff also welcomes vendors who would like to purchase a table to promote their business for $100 per table.

There are two categories of chili cookoff competition — mild and spicy. Three cash prizes will be awarded in each category.

There will also be a people’s choice award presented.

All those entered in the chili cookoff need to arrive no later than 12:30 p.m. to allow time to set up all the tables for the entries.

Both the judges and public involved in the people’s choice award will taste-test each chili without knowing who made which batch.

The deadline for submitting an entry in the chili cookoff is Friday, Nov. 8, to allow chamber officials time to determine how many tables will be needed for the competition.

All contestants need to make sure to label their chili mild or spicy so it is entered in the correct competition.

For further information, call Kelly Spell at the chamber office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The phone number is 910-423-4314. You can also email her at hmacc@hopemillschamber.org.

Golden Knights highlight Hope Mills Heroes Homecoming

14 veterans memorialA special appearance by the United States Army’s Golden Knights parachute team highlights this year’s observance of Heroes Homecoming in Hope Mills.

Scheduled on Monday, Nov. 11, the Hope Mills observance will be held at and in the vicinity of the Hope Mills Town Hall complex on Rockfish Road.

Jim Morris, secretary for the Veterans Affairs Committee of the town of Hope Mills, said the ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the bell tower near Town Hall.

The end of World War I will be remembered there with a ringing of the bell.

From there, events will move to the Veterans Memorial Park nearby, where various members of the Veterans Affairs Committee will mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy on June 6, 1944, by reading the names of North Carolina residents who took part in the landings in France.

Morris said committee members will take turns reading the names.

Small American flags will be planted around the memorial park as part of the ceremony.

Following the ceremonies at the 11 a.m. hour, there will be a break until 3 p.m. when the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10630 holds its annual Veterans Day ceremony.

Weather permitting, the Golden Knights will jump in at the Brower Park baseball field across the street from the Town Hall Complex.

They will bring with them a wreath that will be used during the VFW ceremony.

Morris said the jump will recall major airborne operations of World War II, including the jumps at Normandy and later in the war in Operation Market Garden.

Morris said that now more than ever, it is important for Americans to pause on Veterans Day and appreciate the sacrifices the military has made on behalf of the average citizen during this country’s long history.

“We are involved in some of the longest wars America has ever been involved in,’’ he said, noting the extended conflict in Afghanistan as part of the war on global terror.

Morris noted that since the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, there have been some tremendous sacrifices by America’s active duty military.

“Some of these guys have done seven, eight, nine year-long rotations,’’ he said. “They are just flat worn out, their families are worn out, the caregivers that take care of them are worn out.’’

Morris said with the rise of suicides by some in the military, the psychological effects of all those years of strain are becoming evident.

“I believe it’s important to thank them and have a separate day of remembrance when we just look at all the blood, sweat and tears they’ve given for our country,’’ he said.

Moody wary of rush to open Hope Mills Greenway

17 01 Ribbon CuttingSusan Moody strongly supports anything that can improve the quality of life in her adopted town of Hope Mills. Since she moved there in 1986 she’s embraced any positive changes to the community, including last Monday’s ribbon-cutting that officially opened the new Golfview Greenway Walking Trail to the public.

But with some projects, and the Greenway probably tops Moody’s list, she wonders if the town’s Board of Commissioners hasn’t gotten ahead of itself in making the venue open without doing everything it could to make it fully ready.
Moody is a regular at Board of Commissioners meetings. When she’s not able to attend in person, she scours the minutes that are provided after the fact to see what business has been transacted.

She started having reservations about the haste involved with the Greenway when town director of public works Don Sisko discussed at length changes that would be needed to made to the greenway.

“He started sharing what it was going to take to bring it up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance,’’ Moody said. “He was talking about the grades of different paths. He was talking about the width of the path, what they were going to have to do.’’

Moody said Sisko also discussed areas of the trail that were washed out and other issues.

“My concern has been all along that it’s not ADA compliant,’’ Moody said. “The town has already been sued once.’’

Moody is correct. In 2013, the town settled a lawsuit with Tim Wallen over handicapped access to the Parks and Recreation Building and facilities at Municipal Park and Brower park.

17 02 Greenway signThe town agreed to pay for a variety of changes and was also assessed $6,000 in attorney’s fees for the lawsuit.

But at its Aug. 20 meeting in 2018 when the Board of Commissioners scheduled tours of the golf course, Heritage Park and Hope Mills Lake bed No. 2, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mitchell expressed no concern for taking its time in opening the new greenway at the golf course to the public.

“All this property belongs to our citizens,’’ Mitchell was quoted as saying in The Fayetteville Observer. “They should be able to make use of it. As for liability, everywhere we look we have liability. It’s what insurance is for.’’

Most people don’t purchase insurance with a goal of having to test its limits. They do it to be cautious. Pushing the envelope on what insurance covers would be risky in a case of someone who suffered a serious injury on the walking trail that would affect them and their families for the rest of their lives.

Opening the park so soon could be compared to opening a big box store to consumers when construction is still in progress, hard hats are needed in some departments and others aren’t fully stocked.

“We have a large senior population,’’ Moody said. “We have people that are wheelchair-bound. We have people that are in walkers. We have people that just can’t walk that far.’’

Moody is concerned nothing has been done to address most of the issues that Sisko first raised with the board months ago.

“It’s another rabbit hole that this board goes down,’’ she said. “They see something, the rabbit goes down the hole and they chase it.

“Where are the plans? There have been no plans presented to the board.’’

There was one plan presented that the board took no action on. At an earlier meeting a suggestion was made to construct an ADA compliant walking track at the new greenway. The board considered it, but took no action.

“This wasn’t in the (recreation) master plan that cost how many thousands of dollars?,’’ Moody said. “They are going at this piecemeal. Where is the strategic plan to do any of this? That’s my concern.’’

In a recent town manager’s report from Melissa Adams, a consultant for the town listed some minimum notices the town should post at the greenway.

The list included signage describing the length, surface and slope of the trail. The signs are currently on order but as of the ribbon cutting on Monday had not been put into place at the greenway.

Some who attended the ribbon cutting said a few modifications not related to handicapped access had been made and pine straw had been removed from the trail.

Moody said she definitely wants the greenway open for all the people of Hope Mills but not in a hit-and-miss manner where it’s going to be put a band-aid on this or a temporary thing on that.

That belief by Moody seemed to be confirmed by a Facebook post from town commissioner Meg Huse Larson. Responding to a post from someone saying that the greenway was in need of water stations along the trail, Larson said the town was putting in two watering stations and more “as finances permit.’’

The town is also leasing the greenway’s only existing parking lot at a cost of $4,800 for one year.

“What’s going to happen a year from now when this lease is out and these people have gone through and decided they are going to develop it or do something else with it,’’ Moody said.

The total bill for the greenway so far is $11,769, with much of the signage that has been ordered still not in place when the ribbon cutting took place last week.

“It should have been in place before they took down the no trespassing signs,’’ Moody said.

The good news, if you can call it that, is the insurance is in place, ready for one bad incident on unfinished walking trail to test its limits.

Picture 1: Jackie Warner went to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Hope Mills Greenway.

Picture 2: Moody said she definitely wants the greenway open for all the people of Hope Mills, but not in a hit and miss manner.

More space, equipment coming to Hope Mills fitness room

13 fitness roomThe fitness room at the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Center is getting a complete makeover and should be ready for use again when the new year rolls around in 2020.

Kasey Ivey, who has been with the parks and recreation department for six years, said the existing facilities date back roughly a dozen years and the time has come to upgrade them.

Ivey said conversations about both upgrading the equipment and relocating the workout room to a different part of the parks and recreation building have been going on for about two years.

The discussion was partly prompted by the age of some of the equipment. “Just like anything, things run their cycle, new models come out, things become more difficult to repair and replace parts,’’ Ivey said.

There had been some minor modifications made to the room in recent years, Ivey said. The existing space was long and narrow and had no windows, so mirrors were installed to add the illusion of more space and openness.

The available equipment in the room included two treadmills, two elliptical machines, two recumbent bicycles, four pieces of circuit equipment for weight training, a biceps and triceps machine, a leg extension machine and a lat pull down and chest press.

Soon after the parks and recreation center reopened after repairs to damage caused by Hurricane Florence were completed, Ivey began to get estimates on what it would cost to replace equipment in the room and expand it elsewhere in the building.

The new fitness room will move to an area formerly used as a game room where a foosball table, pool table and some other game equipment was housed.

Most recently the new room had been used for meeting space and as a conference room.

Starting Oct. 12, the current workout room was closed to begin work on relocating everything to the new space in the building, or in some cases permanently moving it out.

The new equipment for the upgraded room will not arrive until sometime in December. The current fitness room will transition into a multipurpose room and meeting space.

The upgraded fitness room will have mirrored walls along with two smart televisions.

In addition to a new location in the building, the new room will include some new equipment.

One of the new pieces will be a seated elliptical machine. There will also be a section for free-weight training with medicine balls, dumbbells and kettle bells. There will be no plated free weights, Ivey said, just dumbbells.
There will also be a TRX machine that allows a variety of workouts for the user.

Mats will also be available for people to do various types of floor and stretching exercises.

A small bench will be provided for people to sit and do bicep curls or whatever they like. There won’t be a bench press, but there will be a circuit piece that offers a chest press.

Ivey estimates the new fitness room will be at least twice as big as the current one. Another benefit, she said, is it’s located on a corner of the building that has windows and will allow natural light into the room.
People will still access the fitness room via the main lobby at the parks and recreation room. It will be available during normal hours of operation, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays from
9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

To use the equipment, people will still have to fill out the parks and recreation department’s registration form required of anyone who uses the building’s services.

Ivey is also working on a set of fitness room guidelines.

“A lot of it is no-brainer stuff about wearing the proper footwear, no food or drinks other than water, things you see in most workout and fitness room facilities,’’ she said.

Ivey said the guidelines will be posted in the room once it opens and also on the town website.

“Part of our goal and purpose is to be the hub of wellness for the community,’’ Ivey said, “not just physical fitness, but all the different things collectively that we offer.’’

Once the room is ready for use, Ivey said plans are developing to hold an orientation to help people get acquainted with the new equipment to make sure that it’s being used safely and properly.
If the equipment arrives early enough, Ivey said the room could be ready to use before Dec. 31. People can check on the progress of the room at the recreation department’s Facebook page or on the town’s website.

“We want a place that gives everyone an opportunity to workout inside,’’ Ivey said.

SwampDogs exit huge loss for super volunteer Sam Eaton

16 01 eatonOf all the people who will be hit hardest by the departure of the Fayetteville SwampDogs from the community, few will be more affected than Sam Eaton.

Eaton is a 16-year-old special needs student at Gray’s Creek High School. For the past 12 years, the SwampDogs provided him with a place of joy that also gave his life a genuine purpose.

The team embraced Eaton and Eaton embraced the team, and finding something that will fill the void of what used to be busy summers for Eaton will be difficult.

It all started one day back in 2007 when Eaton’s mother Robin, a teacher in the Fort Bragg schools, was looking for a way to entertain her son and wound up taking him to a SwampDogs game.

“He became very immersed in the rhythm of the onfield promotion of what was going on between innings,’’ she said. “The game was secondary to the fanfare.’’

Despite an assortment of ailments that impaired his speech and also made it difficult for him to walk, Sam and the SwampDogs baseball team grew to be inseparable. He became close to the characters who wore the team’s Fungo mascot costume.

Sam became an official unofficial member of the SwampDogs staff, and as time passed his responsibilities with the team grew.
16 02 SN class
He became friends with the guys in the Fungo costume, on and off the field. He’d advise them to drink water and stay hydrated on hot days at the ballpark, even making sure they went into the walk-in cooler on especially warm days.
But he wasn’t just a sidekick to Fungo. “He knows the ins and outs of that whole place,’’ Mrs. Eaton said. “He knows when to turn on the lights, what inning to get the postgame meal prepped, what sequence of events is for the onfield promotions.’’

In the real world, young Sam is just beginning to read, hasn’t mastered writing, and can’t drive a car or ride a bicycle.

But in the SwampDogs world, he’s an asset. “He’s fully successful, depended on, relied on and treated as one of the staff and one of the team,’’ Mrs. Eaton said.

Sam isn’t the only special needs person that the SwampDogs have offered a hand to. “They did the whole Special Olympics intern program,’’ Mrs. Eaton said.

Sam is searching for something to occupy his time in place of the SwampDogs. He’s found some help at Gray’s Creek High School, where various members of the Bears coaching staff have welcomed Sam into their programs, including the baseball and football teams.

But summers are still looking like a problem now that the SwampDogs are gone and Sam’s older sister has left for college.

“I think he’ll be bored,’’ Mrs. Eaton said. “It will be a big change for our family and for Sam.’’

Sam won’t be able to fit in just anywhere, because he doesn’t consider himself a fan. “He’s a worker,’’ Mrs. Eaton said. “He was in the right time at the right place and we’re sad it’s come to an end.’’

But even in a time of sadness, Sam thought enough of his friends to make them recipients of charity from the SwampDogs.

His grandmother, Peggy Jennings, helps keep the books for the SwampDogs, and she had the idea of putting together swag bags of team souvenirs that were no longer going to be needed. Sam immediately thought of his friends.
“What came to mind were his classmates, Special Olympics athletes and Buddy Baseball athletes,’’ Ms. Eaton said. “Those are his peers. He knows they have a place with the SwampDogs.’’

One of the groups that benefitted was the special needs classes at Gray’s Creek High School where Earl Horan is a special education teacher.

He came into his classroom recently over a two-day period and saw bags filled with souvenirs, shirts and caps for his class and members of the faculty.

"Sam’s a neat little character,’’ Horan said. “He has an infectious smile and everyone likes having Sam around.’’

Horan also praised the SwampDogs for the work they’ve done with young men like Sam. “It gives the kids such a feeling of acceptance and self-worth,’’ he said. “It touches the whole family, makes them feel a part of the team and the community.’’

Picture 1: Sam Eaton posing with and SwampDogs mascot, Fungo

Picture 2: Students with Earl Horan’s special needs class show off SwampDogs swag shared by their fellow student Sam Eaton.


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