Hope Mills News

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.

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

McCray, Edwards weary of Parish House criticism

15 parish volvo Editor's note: When the following article was written, the Parish House had not yet been torn down. The house was demolished on Jan. 28.

Hope Mills Mayor pro tem Kenjuana McCray and commissioner Pat Edwards are both weary of a group of town citizens who continue to point fingers and complain about plans to demolish the Parish House donated to the town by the former Christ Episcopal Church.

Both agree that now that the current board has twice voted to have the building torn down, it’s long past time for the town to move forward on multiple projects that will preserve the true history of the mill village.

McCray noted that many of those who support saving the Parish House were members of the Hope Mills Historical Preservation Commission. Multiple members of that organization either resigned or did not re-apply to remain on the commission after the last election when McCray was elected and both Edwards and Mayor Jackie Warner were reelected.

“This is the same group of people that said they wanted nothing to do with the town,’’ McCray said.

She also noted some members of the commission who have stepped down are in possession of property that was donated to the town for use in the proposed town museum. “I have not heard any follow-through about them returning any of those items,’’ McCray said.

McCray said if she had been a member of the commission, she would not have stepped down simply because of one point of disagreement with elected town officials.
“There is a whole lot of historical preservation we can do,’’ McCray said.

McCray added she does not understand the full reasons why committee members stepped down or didn’t re-apply, but she does read a lot into the conduct of the former members of the commission and the way they have treated her and other members of the current Board of Commissioners since the election last November.

“I’m going off their behavior, the things they have done since I was elected,’’ McCray said. “As far as being cyber bullied or harassed for a decision I made, it does not make me listen to you anymore.’’

McCray noted she was initially receptive to overtures made by former commission members to the board when a representative of Preservation North Carolina was invited to Hope Mills to tour the Parish House and speak to the board about possible options for saving it.
“We do preserve history,’’ McCray said. “We are saving the (Christ Episcopal) church. We have a town museum. We are investing in our history.’’
McCray thinks many people in Hope Mills are misinformed about what those who support saving it repeatedly refer to as the historic Parish House, citing that it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
In fact, the building itself is not on the list of historic buildings that are located in the downtown historic district. McCray has researched the subject and found the building’s real history to be suspect.
“I challenge the historical value of the building,’’ McCray said. “It was rebuilt in 1985. It has burned multiple times. Most people don’t know there’s termite damage. There’s mold. All these things have to be repaired.’’
McCray noted that the church, which will be saved and is next door to the Parish House, and the proposed Heritage Park on the adjacent property are in desperate need of parking. The land where the Parish House is presently located  provides that space once it is demolished.
“You’re going to have this beautiful church and Heritage Park and you’re not going to have proper parking,’’ she said, if the Parish House was allowed to remain.
As for those who argue to save the building, McCray said she has not heard any concrete plans from them on what they want to do with the building if it was restored or how they plan to raise the money that would be needed to restore it. Base figures suggest it could cost at least six figures to make the building stable. Hope Mills commissioner Bryan Marley, a veteran firefighter, said if a thorough inspection of the building was ever done, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest the figure to fully restore the building could reach $500,000.
McCray said this is the third Board of Commissioners that’s wrestled with the Parish House dilemma. She feels it’s time to move forward. “There are a lot of other projects we can work on,’’ she said. “I think if the community rallies around to make those projects successful, that’s the best way to move forward.’’
Commissioner Edwards said the heart of the debate over the Parish House has nothing to do with history. She thinks it all stems from personal animosity many of the members who stepped down from the preservation commission have toward Mayor Warner.
“If our mayor was not Jackie Warner and did the very same things she’s doing now, they wouldn’t be going through all of this,’’ Edwards said.
“She wants what’s best for the town and they can’t see that,’’ Edwards said, noting that the previous board which frequently voted 4-1 against anything Warner supported had two years and a consistent voting majority on the board to deal with the Parish House and did nothing.
“Now they are coming back at us because we want to demolish it, and we had planned to do that back in 2016,’’ Edwards said.
Edwards said the current board has made its plans for a positive future for Hope Mills clear, and hopes the citizens will be supportive. “There are so many possibilities, if we could get turned loose and start on it,’’ she said.

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.

Hope Mills Creative Arts Council to host meet and greet event

14 arts councilThe Hope Mills Creative Arts Council will hold a meet and greet on Saturday, Feb. 8, from noon until 2 p.m., at Marci’s Cakes and Bakes at 5474 Trade Street in downtown Hope Mills.

Elizabeth Blevins, executive director of the council, said the purpose of the meeting is to try and grow the organization’s membership and to reach out to artists of every genre possible to involve them in the council’s projects.

The goal of the event is also to connect with possible volunteers and contributors who can help the council jump start its efforts to share art throughout the Hope Mills community.

The group will soon be holding a photography workshop, scheduled to run from February through May, for teenagers. The goal is to hold other teaching workshops in different fields of art.

Blevins said the council has created a dozen different committees dealing with an assortment of planned projects but needs more people on board to make them happen.
“We are trying to increase the visibility of Hope Mills as a destination,’’ Blevins said, “not only by incorporating art into the landscape as often as possible, but by providing opportunities for the community and visitors to participate in art in some form or another: concert performances, theater, art workshops, art shows.’’

Blevins said art is somewhat of a foreign ground for Hope Mills and the council is testing the waters to see what really resonates with the local population and what types of art they’d like to see more of.

She said the group would like to explore things like poetry slams, dance, basic writing workshops, anything and everything they could possibly create and introduce art to the community.

“That’s another reason for the meet and greet,’’ she said. “You don’t have to be an artist or interested in volunteering. If you want to come in and talk to us, I would really love to see this happen in the Hope Mills community.’’

One topic the council has been discussing is the creation of a Hope Mills choir. “We’d like to have our own group of musicians that would come and perform at various events,’’ Blevins said. “Maybe just as background music, ambience.’’

Blevins said one reason the group needs more volunteers is it wants the council to establish a visible presence in town parades.

“We’ll need volunteers to be in the parade as part of the float, create the float and the costumes,’’ she said. “We are hoping to connect with art lovers, art enthusiasts, volunteers. Anyone that has an idea is welcome to talk to us. We want to share with them the ideas we have put on the table and the goals we’ve set for this year, hopefully get them excited about it and be a part of it.’’

Blevins said the group has had a pretty good response from local artists so far, but added the ones they have connected with to this point are all non-Hope Mills residents.
“That is something we are hoping to change,’’ she said. While the group is open to all artists from Cumberland County, they especially want to promote those with a direct Hope Mills connection.

“If you’re an artist from any genre, we want to talk with you,’’ Blevins said. “We would be very interested in doing artist showcases where we secure a venue for artists and put their work on display.’’

Blevins stressed the council is not limited to promoting any one genre of art. “We’re always open to artists, musicians, actors, anyone from any area in Cumberland County,’’ she said.

The council has discussed big projects like murals in public areas around town, but for now those are a bit too expensive to pursue. “Because we are working on nonprofit status and are a startup, we don’t have that kind of money right now,’’ Blevins said.

They are applying for grant money, and if that comes through, they will hopefully be able to get aggressive on installing the town’s first mural sometime in the near future.
If anyone has questions about the council’s goals or the meet and greet, the email address is hopemillscac@gmail.com.

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