Hope Mills News

Chef Glenn opens new location despite pandemic delays

10 02 diner Chef Glenn Garner had planned for an April opening of his new location of The Diner by Chef Glenn and Company on Camden Road.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed things down, mainly because of the restrictions in place that made the idea of rolling the restaurant out earlier impractical, since it would not be open to sit-down customers. But Garner promoted interest in the new business by parking his food truck out front while work continued on the new location, serving customers to-go meals from the truck.

Now that the state of North Carolina is gradually reopening and restrictions have been loosened on restaurants, Garner held his official opening of the new location last week. Of course, there will still be limits on how much he can do, the main one being occupancy is limited to half capacity, which in his case will be no more than a maximum of 113 customers inside at one time.

“It’s for a good reason and I understand that,’’ Garner said of the restrictions. "But I don’t think a lot of places are going to open until Phase 3 starts off.’’

Phase 3 is the next stage of reopening under the limits set down by Gov. Roy Cooper that will allow businesses like restaurants to return to more normal operations.

Although they aren’t required, Garner will promote the wearing of masks in his new business. He will also be required to sanitize the tables after each group of customers leave. To comply with social distancing, no customers will be seated at adjacent tables or booths, leaving unoccupied spaces as a buffer to allow proper spacing between everyone.

Garner admitted he’s concerned if he’ll be able to even reach 50% occupancy with any regularity. He has visited other restaurants in anticipation of opening his and said many of them are not half full. “I think they are shell-shocked,’’ he said of potential customers.

Garner has set his hours for Tuesday through Thursday from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday he’ll be open 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., closing on Sundays and Mondays. The diner offers a brunch on Sunday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 

His aim with the new restaurant is to give Hope Mills diners the most varied and upscale menu available anywhere in town, and he thinks it will rival or exceed offerings they can get from specialty restaurants along Fayetteville’s McPherson Church Road, the town’s unofficial restaurant row.

Just a sampling of what Garner will be serving includes seafood, steak, prime rib, chicken and oysters.

The decor and theme of The Diner is 50s and 60s. Both the inside and outside of the building are decorated with signs and displays highlighting that era.

In addition to the main seating area, Glenn will offer a private dining room for any group of 10 or more people that can seat up to 100.

It will be available for parties or any kind of group meeting. Anyone interested in using it needs to make a reservation at least 48 hours in advance.

As for Garner’s old location in downtown Hope Mills, it will close temporarily while he’s getting the new business open, with plans to reopen the downtown business sometime over the next quarter. The location on Main Street, formerly known as Becky's Cafe, will be renamed Just Breakfast by Chef Glenn and Company. It will open Monday, June 22 from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. The number is 910-929-2520. It will be open Monday through Saturday. 

For further information on either location, Garner can be contacted at 910-705-2664.

Remembering 'War of the Worlds' in these difficult times

09 radio broadcastAt this moment two of the deadliest words that can be uttered or typed are "I heard ..."

Eighty-two years ago, Orson Welles did a radio broadcast, a dramatization of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds," that had thousands convinced Martians had landed in New Jersey and the world was ending.

People took up arms and needlessly threatened each other and some almost committed suicide rather than be incinerated by a Martian ray gun.

And this was many years before social media, which has turned anyone with a smartphone and working fingers into a person with their own internet megaphone.

If you hear something or see something suspicious, check it out with the authorities.

If you must share with friends, do it by private message before stirring a wider panic. Resist the urge to go back in time to 1938 and tell folks the Martians have landed. Be cautious. Be vigilant. But most importantly, be responsible.

Hope Mills Parks and Rec makes summer, fall plans

10 01 gareydoveThere’s one major advantage to being involved in the recreation business at the time of something like the current pandemic.

At least that’s the opinion of Maxey Dove, assistant director of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department.

“It’s one of the bigger fields for leaning on your neighbor,’’ said Dove, who has been doing a lot of that lately. He’s reached out to fellow recreation personnel from programs around the area that Hope Mills competes against, feeling them out for ideas and suggestions on what they are doing during this situation.

“There’s a lot of networking, a lot of communication in parks and recreation that’s beneficial to everybody,’’ Dove said. The problem is there’s also one consistent thing he’s been hearing when talking to his counterparts.
“It’s certainly unprecedented times and unprecedented circumstances,’’ Dove said. “Everybody is kind of learning together.’’

10 02 browerparksignHope Mills has already been faced with one difficult decision, the cancellation of its entire spring sports program that normally would have stretched well into the summer months.

Sports wiped off the spring calendar include indoor soccer, baseball, softball and wrestling.

Dove and his staff are in the process of refunding registration fees that had already been paid and said it will take roughly three to four weeks to get checks written and returned to everyone who signed up.

The Dixie Youth organization, with which Hope Mills is affiliated, also canceled its annual World Series, but Dove said that was done with good intentions.

In a normal year, teams compete first in the regular season then select an all-star team from their local league to advance into state competition in hopes of reaching the Dixie Youth World Series.

By eliminating the World Series, the Dixie Youth officials hoped to encourage local leagues to play as long a regular season as they could, if they were playing, and not cram a short season together just so they could put an all-star team on the field for the World Series and only allow a handful of players the chance for extended competition.

“It wasn’t just about the select 12,’’ Dove said of the all-star teams.
While Hope Mills is shut down for the spring, Dove said other states are further ahead in opening up their recreation programs for play and some are already on the field for baseball.

However, in talking with officials from other states where baseball is taking place, he said they are observing strict safety precautions that are making the game a lot different from what we normally see.

For example, players aren’t allowed to sit in the dugouts when they’re not on the field. Yellow ribbons are placed along the fence six feet apart to indicate proper social distancing. Each team has its own baseballs and they are bleached every inning or half inning.

Dove said he and his staff at Hope Mills had also discussed some possible precautions they may take if baseball resumes in the fall league at Hope Mills this year.

The fall league is a noncompetitive league for players ages 7-12 designed as a developmental program that doesn’t focus on wins and losses but on getting the players ready for the following spring season.

Dove said some of the ideas discussed are having teams leave the field completely after practice before allowing another team on the field, and possibly having separate entrance and exit gates to the field.

They also discussed counting spectators, and possibly limiting each player to having only a single parent able to come and watch the game. Providing hand sanitizer and disinfecting the dugouts was also considered.

Dove said other states have been trying different things to keep the games as safe as possible. Among them are not allowing players to steal, no high fives between players and coaches and putting the home plate umpire behind the pitcher’s mound to call balls and strikes.

“At a certain point, it’s still a contact sport,’’ Dove said. “They’re doing everything they can to create distance.’’

The next sports season on the calendar is fall, and Hope Mills is trying to take a positive attitude toward being able to compete then and plans to launch fall sports registration in the near future.

The good news is the recreation department has been working toward doing registration online and that will be in place for the fall season, so people won’t have to physically come to the recreation center to sign their children up for competition.

In addition to getting ready for the fall season, the recreation department is making needed repairs and improvements to the Gary Dove Memorial Building at Brower Park. The multipurpose structure was named last April in memory of Maxey Dove’s father. Gary Dove was a long-time coach and leader in the Hope Mills youth sports program.

A new roof and gutters will be placed on the building, along with repairs to the building’s sheet rock. In addition, some of the upstairs space where the Hope Mills Youth Association used to meet will be converted to office space for Dove.

The two-story structure already has a concession stand, restrooms for men and women and a multipurpose activity room used for cheerleading and wrestling.

Sands enjoys role as educator and peer supporter

08 sandsThe stereotypical image of a librarian is someone who has a stern visage, repeatedly asks people to stay quiet while studying and chastising library patrons for failing to return books on time.

Pamela Sands is anything but the image of the stereotype, both in how she does her job and in the title itself, which has morphed from simple librarian to media coordinator. Whatever the title, Sands is obviously good at what she does.

For the second time in six years, Sands, who works at New Century International Middle School near Hope Mills, has been named by the Cumberland County Schools as its media coordinator of the year. She now competes for statewide recognition, an honor she previously won in 2014-15.

A native of Pennsylvania, Sands relocated to Cumberland County in 1998 to take a teaching job here. She taught at the high school and elementary school level in the county before becoming the media coordinator at New Century when it opened.

She said the job of media coordinator had always been her dream, even though landing it required her to return to school to get a masters degree in library science.

While some still refer to Sands’ job as librarian or in some cases media specialist, she said the position has changed a great deal from the stereotypical image of what a librarian does.

“It is a more diverse role, really the best of both worlds,’’ she said. In her job, she not only gets to teach children but also interacts with the staff members at her school, helping them in their teaching jobs.
She feels her top responsibility is to instill and inspire her students with a love of reading. But the advance of technology has expanded her role.

“It is also on our shoulders to teach them to be good digital citizens as we’ve moved into the world of being online,’’ she said. “There are a lot of things we teach the students about evaluating information, how to use the information you
find online.’’

Her work with her fellow teachers involves collaborating and sharing resources with them. She is involved in helping her cohorts with professional development, something
she enjoys.

When it comes to the task of encouraging students to read, Sands said she strives to be creative. “We do things out of the box,’’ she said.

She does what she calls book tastings, where she gets students to sample different books in hopes of finding something that inspires them. She also has her students do what she calls book snaps, where they create a snapshot of the book by interacting with the text and putting their personal feelings on what they are reading.

Every year, Sands tries to bring in an author, usually from North Carolina, to meet with her students and discuss the book or books they’ve written. “That sparks a personal connection with the kids,’’ she said. “I always see the kids reignited with their love for books, especially with a book written by a person they’ve gotten to meet.

“I try to keep current with what the kids are interested and involved in,’’ she said. “I’m also a big believer in sharing with staff. As I find cool tools they could use in the classroom or see things that go along with their curriculum I share it with them.’’

Unfortunately, with the growth of the internet, there are some in the business of cutting costs who argue brick-and-mortar libraries filled with books and magazines are things of the past and that we should turn to strictly digital sources of information as a way of saving money.

That kind of thinking saddens Sands, who argues that the printed word is still a critical piece of educating today’s students.

“Children aren’t reading online as much as we think they are,’’ she said. As proof, she notes the circulation of digital ebooks is far outstripped by how often students check out printed works.

“Kids still prefer the printed book,’’ she said. “Making sure we provide these resources is essential.

“The act of reading allows us to have shared experiences. The characters in the books we read, the information we find in books and magazines, helps us find a connection to the world.’’

Sands said that’s especially important now when many people are cut off from the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “For our own emotional health, these connections are vital,’’ she said. “I can’t imagine a world without libraries. Who’s going to teach them other than the librarian?’’

Hope Mills pedestrian bridge passes inspection

09 IMG 1441The town of Hope Mills got a piece of good news recently when it was announced the pedestrian bridge at Hope Mills Dam passed a first-ever safety inspection with flying colors.

Don Sisko, head of the Hope Mills Public Works department, said the pedestrian bridge, which is a little more than 10 years old, had never been inspected as far as he knows. Sisko added the bridge is actually not subject to any statutory requirement that it be inspected.

“We did it as a prudent measure to help ensure resident safety and make sure it is a sound structure,’’ Sisko said.The town hired the engineering firm of Vaughn and Melton out of New Bern to handle the inspection, which was conducted on April 8.

Sisko said Vaughn and Melton is a firm used by the Department of Transportation toconduct roadway bridge inspections around the state.

The Hope Mills pedestrian bridge is what’s known as a truss bridge and spans 126 feet, 3.5 inches across the creek bed below the dam.

Sisko said national bridge inspection criteria includes a variety of things like superstructure, substructure, the deck, the channel, waterway adequacy, approaches and alignments. 

The bridge is largely used by people who are visiting the Hope Mills Lake Park, Sisko said, and there’s no measure available of the number of people who walk across it during the course of a year. The bridge is meant to be used only by pedestrians, not by anyone on a wheeled vehicle like a bicycle.

The lifespan of the bridge is largely dictated by the weather and the maintenance that is performed on it, like fixing a broken weld on one of the trusses that help provide the bridge’s support.

Sisko said the engineering firm put a ladder in the creek bed below the bridge to examine it from underneath. 

All of the various aspects of the bridge Sisko listed earlier were examined by the inspectors and given a number grade from zero to nine. A nine is usually reserved for a new bridge in excellent condition. 

Sisko said the Hope Mills bridge got grades of seven and eight across the board.

Looking ahead, Sisko said the town will schedule inspections of the bridge biannually, meaning the next one will occur in 2022.

“It will help us keep on top of things,’’ Sisko said.

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