Hope Mills News

Hope Mills notebook

17 Brower ParkHere are some Hope Mills news odds and ends taken from recent reports compiled by Town Manager Melissa Adams:

Work is getting close to completion on the temporary headquarters for the Hope Mills Police Department located in the former Ace Hardware Building on
Main Street.

It is estimated the construction will be completed by early to midMarch. Moving from the current police station on Rockfish Road to the new location will begin as soon as construction has ended and is expected to be finished by the end of March.

The temporary police headquarters will be known as Main Street Police Station. The temporary location will be used during construction of the new public safety building for the fire and police departments at the current location on Rockfish Road.

The town has again been notified by the Department of the Army that it will be conducting training exercises in Hope Mills. The Army held similar training events in the town last year.

The Special Warfare 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) will be holding exercises March 2-27, June 1-26 and Aug. 10-Sept. 4. All Army personnel involved will be in civilian clothes and display military ID. The training should not draw any attention from the public.

Registration for spring sports with the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department continues through Saturday, Feb. 29.
Available sports include baseball for ages 5-14, softball for ages 7-15 and indoor soccer for ages 5-12. Registration for wrestling has already concluded because that sport opens its season in March.

Youth baseball and softball will conduct drafts the first two weeks of March. The opening day for baseball and softball is Saturday, April 4, at 9 a.m. at Brower Park on Rockfish Road.

Hope Mills will host district baseball and softball tournaments during the upcoming season.

The tournaments include District 6 Dixie Softball, ages 7-15, six divisions, June 19-21 and District 11 Dixie Youth Baseball, 10U and 12U, June 26-30.

Beginning this fall, the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department will add girls’ volleyball for ages 9-17 to the sports program.

The staff is working with the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Parks and Recreation Department and Freedom Christian Academy to coordinate scheduling. Registration for the first season of girls’ volleyball will be held in June.

Because of possible safety issues at the vacant lot where the former Christ Episcopal Church Parish House stood, the Hope Mills Public Works Department has been seeking quotes to install a fence along the parking lot side of the property as well as the rear of the vacant lot.

Prior to the Monday, Feb. 17, meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Adams reported three quotes had been received. After all the quotes have been studied, a decision on who will build the fence is expected soon, with work to install the fence to follow quickly.

In addition to the plans for the fence, the Public Works staff will be grading and seeding the lot when the planting season arrives in the spring.

Parks and Recreation director Lamarco Morrison and Planning and Executive Development Director Chancer McLaughlin will be involved in the process as both have prior experience with landscaping architecture.

Morrison and McLaughlin will work with the town’s Appearance Commission to come up with a basic landscaping design for the vacant lot. The plan is to eventually include the lot in the Heritage Park Master Plan.


The Hope Mills Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., will hold a Black History Month Oratorical Contest on Saturday, Feb. 29, in the large activity room at Hope Mills Recreation Center.

The competition will be held from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., and high school students from grades 9-12 will be competing. Prizes of $150 for first, $75 for second and $50 for third place will be awarded.

The Special Events and Programs Division of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department recently conducted training for the staff in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. As a result, the entire full-time staff of the Parks and Recreation Department is certified in CPR.

If you’ve got an important event coming up in Hope Mills or know of a story you’d like us to pursue, we’d love to hear about it. Please share your Hope Mills news with us via email at hopemills@upandcomingweekly.com.

Books N’ Bops program seeks to put fun in learning

13 01 Sharifa Johnson Sharifa Johnson thinks the direction modern education has taken is putting the instruction of children in an unpleasant place.

“We are taking all the fun out of learning,’’ she said. “We are really trying to focus on test-taking and not creating thinkers.’’

That’s why she’s created a program called Books N’ Bops, which she feels will put more fun in the learning process but not overlook the importance of  educating young people at the same time. 

Johnson has scheduled a series of Books N’ Bops sessions at the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Center on Rockfish Road.

The next session will be Saturday, Feb. 22, with another session scheduled Saturday, March 21.

13 02 bnb logoThere will be sessions for two different age groups. The first, at 9:30 a.m., will be for children ages 3-5. The second, for children ages 6-8, will be at 10:30 a.m. Each session will last 45 minutes and the cost is $10 per student.

To sign up, parents should come to the recreation center office during normal business hours.

A minimum of five students and a maximum of 15 will be allowed to take part in each class, so parents are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible to assure the class can be held.Johnson started Books N’ Bops eight months ago, drawing on her many years of experience as both an educator and a dancer.She’s been a teacher at all levels of education, from pre-kindergarten through the college years, for a total of 15 years in that role.

Her dancing career is even longer. Now 37, she got her first taste of dance when her mother took her to see "The Nutcracker" at age five. “I fell in love, so she took me to dance class,’’ Johnson said.

In the 32 years she’s been a dancer, Johnson said she’s tried just about every discipline there is. “I’ve done ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop and African,’’ she said.

She attended North Carolina A&T in Greensboro before graduating in 2005 with degrees in English and secondary education. She returned to earn a masters degree in English and African-American literature.

Johnson sees Books N’ Bops as a way of educating the whole child, but using a simple method to do it. The lesson starts with Johnson reading the children a short book.

13 01 Sharifa Johnson She and the children discuss different aspects of literature. “If it’s fiction, we talk about things that kid will still be tested on, but we do it in a really fun way,’’ she said.

After the reading and discussion are over, Johnson teaches the children an originally choreographed dance that is connected to the story they just finished.

The dance is also a way of instilling confidence in the children as they are given the opportunity to perform. Johnson said connecting the reading element with dance movements creates a long-lasting learning impression. 

“You’ll remember that dance,’’ she said. “If you hear a song, you’ll remember you did that dance to that. You’ll have a connection to the book and you’ll remember what you were talking about.Because it was a fun activity and something you actually enjoyed doing, the movement helps to put it through the whole body, so the whole body understands the story.’’

One of the real strengths of Books N’ Bops, Johnson said, is she can adjust it to work with all kinds of age groups, even age groups that might be a little far apart.

“If you tell me you have a group the ages of five to 12, I can find a book that will engage everyone,’’ Johnson said.

“I’ll make the dance where it’s easy enough for the younger ones, but the older ones can enjoy it as well.’’

Johnson said she’s also working on a writing and dance program for older children.

As for deciding what book to read from, Johnson said she tries to gear it with whatever the popular curriculum is with local teachers in that age group.

“I’ve done a lot of day cares,’’ she said. “If you’re talking about dinosaurs that week, I’m going to go out and find a dinosaur book.’’

Johnson said she typically visits local libraries to choose her books, which can vary from the preferred topics of the day to classic books available for children.

“I have to think about what age group I’m talking to,’’ she said. “That also determines the length of the book I get because their attention span is different.’’

Johnson said her program is flexible and can be adapted to any setting outside of the traditional school environment that is child friendly. “I can make it come together,’’ she said. “I can be everywhere in the community.’’

In addition to doing traditional teaching settings, Johnson recently held a Books N’ Bops birthday party. She said she is also able to do church events.

To find out more about what Books N’ Bops is about, visit Johnson on her Books N’ Bops Facebook and Instagram accounts.

She can be contacted via email at booksnbops@gmail.com or 919-869-0210.

“I love teaching and I love dance and I get to share my joy,’’ Johnson said. “Whether it be a kid who finally performs or they actually get literacy concepts, the lights are going off.

“I just want everyone to love to learn and to love to read and love literacy.’’

Hope Mills barber living dream in Atlanta

19 01 nelly victorIt’s barely been three years since Victor Fontanez was a South View High School senior with a dream.

Today he’s a barber to celebrities based in Atlanta and looking to continue growing his brand at the still youthful age of 20.

His story starts like the story of a lot of young people from his generation. As he approached his final days at South View, his plan was to follow the path of many of his classmates and enroll in college.

All his fees were paid at UNC-Pembroke and he was about to enroll when he started thinking of ways to make some money on the side to fund his college dreams.
He was working at a restaurant in Hope Mills, washing dishes and waiting tables, but he didn’t plan to continue that job in college, so sitting in the chair at his barber’s one day, he asked the barber for advice.

“He told me if I learned to cut hair, I could make money the rest of my life,’’ Fontanez said.

19 02 trae young So in his senior year, he started giving haircuts in his mother’s garage and planned to continue doing the same thing during his college days to serve as a way to make a few dollars on the side.

But something happened. Cutting and styling hair became more than a way to make money. Fontanez found himself falling in love with what he was doing.

“By the time I was ready to graduate, I knew this was the path I wanted to take,’’ he said. “God definitely put me on that path.”

At the last second before enrolling at UNC-Pembroke, he got all of his money for his college tuition refunded. He went to Fayetteville Technical Community College, enrolled in barber school, and as he put it, never looked back.

Upon graduation from FTCC, he took a job at a small shop in Hope Mills and continued to hone his skills.

After about eight months there, he realized if he wanted to continue to grow his brand, Hope Mills wasn’t going to be a large enough arena for him to compete in.
“You’ve got to feed the beast,’’ he said. As much as he loved home, he felt the need to pursue wider opportunities for himself.

He saw Atlanta as a perfect fit. “It was close to home and still a Southern state,’’ he said, “plus all the opportunity for celebrity clientele and athletes.’’

He moved there cold turkey, as he put it, with no family or friends to turn to for assistance, save one important contact.

One day while he was still working at the restaurant in Hope Mills, a young man who had recently been chosen in the NBA draft happened to stop by the restaurant to eat. It was Dennis Smith Jr., who currently plays for the New York Knicks.

When Smith went to the restroom, Fontanez waited outside to introduce himself.

He told Smith that he was a barber, and that if Smith ever needed to have his hair styled to look him up. Fontanez reached in his wallet and pulled out the last business card he had and handed it to Smith.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about building relationships,’’ Fontanez said. Since that meeting, Smith has been a friend and supporter of Fontanez and his business. While Smith was with the Dallas Mavericks, Fontanez flew to Dallas and cut hair for the team prior to one of its media day events.

He’s got a long list of celebrity clients, including stars like the rapper Nelly, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks and the body guard of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, among others.

Fontanez said as far as what kind of stylist he is, you can’t limit it to a single cut or type of client. “Every haircut is individually designed for that person,’’ he said. “There isn’t one style for everybody.’’

If he has a preferred style, Fontanez said he leans toward clean, shaped lines. But his real concern, beyond making sure each customer has the right look, is continuing to build his brand in Atlanta and beyond.

“I believe in God’s pace,’’ he said. “I can’t really tell where I’m going to be next. As soon as I finish accomplishing what I need to accomplish in Atlanta, another door will open for me. For right now, I’m focused on what I need to get done in Atlanta.’’

In addition to his job as a hair stylist, Fontanez continues to grow his name in his role as an ambassador for BaByliss PRO, a line of hairstyling tools affiliated with Conair.
Looking to the near future, Fontanez wants to set up a foundation to hold workshops in Fayetteville and other cities to show other young people like himself how to become entrepreneurs and turn their craft into a brand like he has.

“It started out with just being able to give somebody a haircut,’’ Fontanez said. “I made them look good and feel good. Now I want to share that message across the world and affect other people in different parts of the world.

“I enjoy the impact. I feel I’ve been given a lot.’’

Picture 1: Rapper Nelly (left) with Victor Fontanez (right)

Picture 2: Atlanta Hawks basketball player Trae Young

Hoke County-Hope Mills basketball showdown continues

12 Hope Mills recreationWhen Stephen Kessinger worked at the Hoke County Parks and Recreation Department, he collaborated with Maxey Dove of the Hope Mills Recreation and Parks Department to hold a season-ending basketball showcase pitting the top youth recreation teams from each county against each other. 

After joining the Hope Mills staff less than two years ago, Kessinger said he and Dove agreed the basketball event was something they needed to keep going.

Next month, for the fifth year in a row, the Hoke vs. Hope Mills basketball showdown will continue.

This year’s event will be held March 3-4, a Tuesday and Wednesday, with four games scheduled in the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department gymnasium on Rockfish Road.

Play begins the first night at 6 p.m. with the 8U Junior Pee Wee game, followed at 7 p.m. by the 10U Pee Wee game.

The following night at 6 p.m. will be the 12U Midget game. The final game at 7 p.m. will feature the 15U juniors.

Kessinger said the idea for having the basketball showdown came from the tradition in recreation baseball and softball where all-star teams that advance into regional and state play are chosen at the end of the season.

There is no playoff format like that for basketball, so Kessinger said the idea was to give the basketball teams a chance to compete beyond the regular season. Unlike the all-star concept in baseball and softball, the teams that take part in the Hoke-Hope Mills games are teams that competed during the year. In the baseball and softball all-star competition, the coaches of the all-star team picFk their squad from players who competed on various league teams during the regular season.

The league champion from four different age brackets in each county advances to the one-game showdown, which has always been held in Hope Mills since the Hoke County recreation department doesn’t have its own gymnasium, Kessinger said.

Both counties follow the same general basketball rules, with a minor difference in the rules involving how players are substituted into the game. For the one-game showdown, those rules are waived and coaches can substitute however they like.

All teams are required to make sure that every player on the team gets to participate in a portion of each quarter of the game, Kessinger said. No admission is charged and all the games are open to the public. Kessinger said the Hope Mills gym seats about 300 people and noted that there’s usually a packed house by the time the second game begins each evening.

When some people have to stand in order to see the game, Kessinger said the recreation department staff encourages them to make sure and not stand too close to the court in order to make sure the teams and the officials have enough room to move safely up and down the court.

The Hope Mills recreation staff provides all the basketballs. All competing players are urged not to bring their own basketballs to the game.

Parking will be available in front of the recreation center and in the various lots close to the Hope Mills Town Hall complex.

Kessinger said the recreation staff was careful to schedule the games on days when there were no other events taking place at Town Hall or the recreation center.

“A lot of parking spaces should be available Tuesday and Wednesday,’’ he said. 

All the games will have referees paid for by the Hope Mills recreation department. The recreation department has also purchased individual medallions that will be presented after each game to the members of the victorious team.

Kessinger said the Hoke-Hope Mills games have been enjoyable for players and coaches. “I think they enjoy the competition, getting to play a team they don’t play all year long,’’ he said.

 For any questions about the Hoke-Hope Mills basketball showdown, contact the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department during normal business hours, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. or Sunday from 1 p.m. until 9 p.m.

The telephone number is 910-426-4109.

Building Business Rally boosts Hope Mills business ties

18 Building business rally graphicThe town of Hope Mills is open for business and moving forward with new energy.

That was the message Chancer McLaughlin and other representatives from the town had to share recently when they attended the Building Business Rally at the Ramada Plaza in Fayetteville.

The purpose of the rally was to connect contractors and vendors with organizations that have projects in planning and money to spend on them.

McLaughlin, who is the planning and economic development director for the town, said Hope Mills currently has about $37 million worth of projects scheduled over the next five years.

The Building Business Rally gave contractors in Fayetteville and the surrounding area a chance to connect with the Hope Mills town staff at the rally.

McLaughlin said the town receives bid from companies located around the state and from states like South Carolina or even Florida. While the town is looking for the best bid, McLaughlin said it wants to make sure some of those bids are coming from area businesses.

“We would like to engage the local businesses and local contractors to come take advantage of these opportunities,’’ McLaughlin said. “We are saying these projects are here.’’

The rally wasn’t just about big construction projects, like the estimated $16.5 million public safety building for the police and fire departments that the town plans to begin work on this year.
Smaller projects are also involved. At last year’s rally, Hope Mills connected with a company that installed water coolers in town offices.

“We realized we didn’t have any (coolers) in the offices at the governmental complex,’’ McLaughlin said. “That ended up being a contract for the police station, fire station, town hall, parks and recreation and public works.’’

McLaughlin said smaller contracts can cover everything from janitorial services to landscaping to catering to providing security at construction sites.
The people at the event who were officially representing Hope Mills were McLaughlin, public works director Don Sisko and deputy public works director Bruce Clark.
Also attending to support the town staff who were on hand but not involved in direct negotiations with any of the contractors at the event were Mayor Jackie Warner and Commissioner Jessie Bellflowers.
McLaughlin said he’s already seeing positive results from attending the rally.

“I’m getting emails right now,’’ he said. Those sending the emails include businesses that want to get on the Hope Mills list of vendors along with organizations that want to learn more about business opportunities available in Hope Mills.

The pending public safety building alone made the Hope Mills table at the rally a popular stop for many of the businesses attending. Among the interested businesses asking about the public safety building were firms involved with landscaping, general contractors and janitorial services, McLaughlin said.

In addition to the public safety building, McLaughlin said the town has a number of other significant  projects that attracted attention. The list of big ticket items that the town will be looking at in the coming years includes the long-proposed development of Heritage Park, which after the public safety building is the most expensive endeavor under consideration. There are also smaller projects involving the public works department as well as the stormwater department.

McLaughlin said the public safety building and the development of Heritage Park appear to be the two items on the list that are closest to having work actually start as soon as this year. Also on the drawing board is completion of a new town museum.

The town remains open to engaging local contractors anyway it can, McLaughlin said. “We want to increase our bidding opportunity with local contractors,’’ he said. “We do think that’s important. That helps to stimulate the economy, growing the local businesses.’’

He thanked the various organizers of the Building Business Rally, including PWC and NCWorks. Other sponsors were the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, the Fayetteville State University Construction Resource Office and the Small Business Development and Technology Center.
McLaughlin said he’s always anxious to hear from any local businesses that want to do business with the town.
He welcomes phone calls from all interested parties. He can be reached during regular business hours at 910-426-4103. McLaughlin’s email address is cmclaughlin@townofhopemills.com.

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