Hope Mills News

Pone’s dedication to youth honored with renaming of center

11RecGerald Pone said his late brother John Dove “J.D.” Pone wasn’t an exceptional athlete, but that it never stopped J.D. from being an avid promoter of opportunities for Cumberland County young people to take part in a variety of sports.

At a ceremony held Saturday, March 30, Cumberland County honored Pone for his years of work on behalf of the county’s youth. The county officially renamed the Gray’s Creek Recreation Center the John Dove “J.D.” Pone Recreation Center in his memory. The center is located at 2964 School Rd. in Hope Mills. In addition to having his name placed on the front of the building, a plaque was unveiled inside.

Delivering remarks during the ceremony were Dr. Jeannette Council, chair of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners; Helen Brockett of the Gray’s Creek Ruritan Club; and Dachia Pone Davis on behalf of the Pone family.

The ceremony was hosted by the Cumberland County Commissioners. The naming of the center was unanimously approved by the commissioners in memory of J.D. Pone, who passed away in April of 2016.

Pone worked as a volunteer with various youth organizations in Cumberland County, including the Gray’s Creek Youth Association, and served as chairman of the Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. He was also a member of the board of directors for Communities United for Youth Development.

In addition to his work with youth programs, Pone was deputy chief of the Gray’s Creek Fire Department Station 24 and chaplain for the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association.

Gerald Pone, J.D.’s brother, was a basketball player for Ron Miller at South View High School. He remembers 30 years ago when the Gray’s Creek community began to organize sports opportunities for young people.

He and J.D. both had sons who were old enough to play recreation sports, and J.D. became a coach.

“He just fell in love with it,’’ Gerald said of J.D. “They asked him to be on the advisory board for Cumberland County. He’s the kind of person who hated to say no to anything. He became involved in that as well.’’

Gerald said his brother showed no special allegiance to any particular sport.

“It didn’t matter if it was baseball, basketball, football soccer or whatever,’’ Gerald said. “As long as the children participated, he wanted them involved in something that  off the streets, keep them focused on athletics.’’

Gerald said the options to play sports that his brother helped promote were a large vehicle for young people in the Gray’s Creek community to take them other places in life.

He said his entire family was deeply honored by the ceremony put on by the county to rename the recreation center for his brother.

“It was overwhelming,’’ he said. “My family and I appreciate all the support, everyone who showed up, even those who didn’t show up but thought about us. It was fantastic.’’

Gerald added that it’s important that the name of someone like his brother will live on at the recreation center.

“Young people need to know there are people in the community that really care about them,’’ he said, “not only to see them in sports, but to see them involved in anything that’s going on to help them succeed in life.

“That’s where his heart was,  wanting to see the growth of young people.’’

Hope Mills Event Calendar


For details about all meetings and activities, including location where not listed, call Town Clerk Jane Starling at 910-426-4113. 

Citizens Academy Program Tuesday, April 9, 6 p.m., Town Hall 

Historic Preservation Commission Wednesday, April 10, 5 p.m., Parks and Recreation Building 

Mayor’s Youth Leadership Monday, April 15, 6 p.m., Parks and Recreation Building 

Board of Commissioners Monday, April 15, 7 p.m., Luther Meeting Room 

Citizens Academy Tuesday, April 16, 6 p.m., Parks and Recreation Building 

Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee Monday, April 22, 6:30 p.m., Parks and Recreation Building 

Citizens Academy Tuesday, April 23, 6 p.m., Town Hall 

Appearance Commission Tuesday, April 23, 6:30 p.m., Parks and Recreation Building 


Food Truck Rodeo Thursday, April 4, 5-8 p.m., Town Hall rear parking lot. Enjoy music, an assortment of food trucks, bouncy house and games for kids, and presentations by various public service vendors. 

Breakfast with the Easter Bunny/Easter egg hunt Saturday, April 6, 8:30 a.m-11 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., Hope Mills Recreation Center. Registration for the breakfast is now closed. The Easter egg hunt, however, is free and does not require registration. Call 910-426-4109 for more information. 

Hope Mills Area Kiwanis Club at Sammio’s, second Tuesdays at noon and fourth Tuesdays at 6 p.m. For details, call 910-237-1240. 

Promote yourself 

Email hopemills@upandcomingweekly.com. 

No typical day for Wade, county schools’ top social worker

13Vanessa WadeThe first thing Vanessa Wade says about her job as a social worker at Gray’s Creek High School is there’s no such thing as a typical day. 

“I can start at 8:30 and think I’ve got all day to get this done,’’ she said. “By noon, all of that has gone out of the window. Every day is completely different.’’ 

Yet in the face of that kind of challenge, Wade is apparently doing her job well. Evidence of that fact came last month when she was named the social worker of the year by Cumberland County Schools. 

It could be her early life as a self-described Army brat that helps her deal with the variety of situations she has to work with. She lived all over the world, she said, moving about 18 times before landing in Fayetteville in 1994 and spending 14 years with the Department of Social Services. 

In 2008, she got the call to come to work as the social worker at Gray’s Creek High School, and that’s where she’s been ever since. 

For those who don’t know exactly what a school social worker does, Wade described it as being like the parent a child doesn’t have. If they do have parents, then she’s the aunt or uncle. 

“You are there when things are falling apart,’’ Wade said. “You are there when things are great. As a school social worker, you get to deal with the whole realm, the rainbow of kids, high academic to low, high socioeconomic to low.’’ 

One of Wade’s biggest battles is trying to help students overcome the barriers that prevent them from regular school attendance. 

This includes a host of issues, such as making sure the students are getting food and have clean clothes to wear. 

Much of Wade’s job is done on school grounds so she can have regular contact with the students who are in the greatest need. But she also makes regular home visits to deliver food and check on the living conditions of the students under her charge. 

She said she sees barriers to students getting the education they need that are different from those faced 20 or 30 years ago. 

She finds many children are forced to become independent quickly because they lack needed support at home. “I think the teenagers need their parents more than ever,’’ Wade said. 

Despite facing a lot of challenging situations in her work, Wade said she tries to remain as positive as possible when working with young people. “Even though I’m having a rough day, they don’t need to know that,’’ she said. 

She feels she’s reached a level of peace and is able to provide better service to her students. 

Wade never went into social work for personal glory, but she calls the award from the county an incredible honor, and she’s proud to be part of a team that extends beyond the walls of Gray’s Creek High School to help the area’s youth. 

“We have an incredible faith-based community in Gray’s Creek that allows us to be more creative,’’ she said. 

She praised Rev. Scott McCosh, pastor at nearby Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, for helping with a variety of services and outreach for young people. 

Wade said if someone gave her control over the purse strings, she’d like to see the schools offer more hands-on training in skills for those young people who aren’t going to enter the military or enroll in college. “For some kids, it’s not in their family culture or mindset, but they will go on to be great kids doing hands-on skills,’’ she said. 

Wade thanked the staff and administration at Gray’s Creek, her husband, her parents and her son for helping her do the best job she can. 

“I tell my kids every day, I don’t have a job without you,’’ she said. “I tell them they are never bothering me, and they smile.’’ 

Photo: Vanessa Wade

ShineLight holds race to help fight autism

14RunShineLight, a Fayetteville-based organization that offers services for individuals with autism, will hold its 5K Shine Your Light run and one-mile fun run Saturday, April 27, at Town Hall in Hope Mills. The address is 5776 Rockfish Road. 

Nikki Creecy, chief executive officer of ShineLight, said the organization is 13 years old and was previously called Genesis, A New Beginning of Fayetteville. 

“We rebranded in 2014 and decided to specialize in autism,’’ she said. Creecy said the rebranding was done because the majority of people the organization was working with suffered from autism. 

The services provided to individuals with autism are of a behavioral nature, she said. The services deal with skill development that allows autistic individuals to replace maladaptive behaviors and function in society, the community, at home and in school. 

Recently, ShineLight has added applied behavior analysis to its services. 

The run is an annual event that was held in Fayetteville last year. Creecy said it’s held in April because that’s autism awareness month. 

“It’s all about shining the light on autism and ShineLight, as well, so people will know who we are for the purpose of educating the community,’’ Creecy said. 

All proceeds from the race will go toward funding the services ShineLight provides. 

The race is open to both serious runners and to those who just want to get out and support the cause. 

There will be official timing for those who want to compete. The first 300 finishers will get medals, Creecy said, but there will be separate prizes for the first-, second- and third-place overall finishers. There will also be awards presented in various age groups. 

In addition to the race, there will be a raffle for wireless ear buds, a Go Pro camera and a Fitbit. Raffle tickets are $1 each, and those buying tickets don’t have to be present to win. 

There are three entry fees. For the Shine Your Light 5K, the cost is $35. The one-mile Fun Run is $17. Teams of five runners can participate for $30 each. 

Registration for the race is day-of from 6 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. The 5K race starts at 8 a.m. and the Fun Run starts at 8:15 a.m. 

Sponsorship opportunities are also available. There are five levels of sponsorship, from $5,000 to $250. Each offers combinations of race entries, event T-shirts, logo recognition and vendor space. 

For those not interested in the sponsorship option, in-kind donations or direct contributions are available. 

Creecy said volunteers are also welcome to help out, and if any food trucks would like to set up at the race site, they are welcome to contact the ShineLight offices. In order to be assured recognition in printed race materials, sponsors must finalize their deals by April 12. 

Creecy can be reached at nikki@shine-light. org, 910-323-1335 or in person at the ShineLight office, 203 Rowan St. 

McMillan brings big dreams to Trade Street PR firm

13Aneisha McMillanIt was about 15 years ago when Aneisha McMillan had an idea for a product she wanted to launch and needed a public relations firm to give her plan a boost. The problem was, she couldn’t afford to hire someone. So, she did the next best thing. She taught herself how to do it. 

That self-training launched a new career for the Michigan-born McMillan, and now she’s bringing her business to a new storefront location on Trade Street in Hope Mills. 

Her business, Oink Agency, will share space with her husband, Shaun McMillan’s, Drama Lab, a video audition business geared toward aspiring actors. Shaun, a retired Army ranger, is an actor with multiple film and TV credits on his resume. 

Aneisha said her career in public relations snowballed after she was able to land products she was promoting on “Good Morning America” and other outlets. 

“I started getting calls from other entrepreneurs who said, ‘Hey, how did you do that?’ she said. “They started asking, ‘can you do it for me?’ It turned into an actual career.’’ 

The flying pig logo that adorns the door of her new location on Trade Street is a symbol of McMillan’s attitude toward life. 

“My entire family has an affinity for flying pigs,’’ she said. “For us, the meaning is anything imaginable is possible if you believe in yourself, believe in your dreams. The flying pig is the embodiment of that notion. Impossible things happen every day.’’ 

McMillan said her favorite clients are what she calls mom and pop shops. “They are fiercely driven and so passionate,’’ she said. 

Her biggest client for now is the Halloween and Costume Association, a group of merchants who specialize in Halloween-related products including costumes and candy. 

Last fall, McMillan collaborated with the HCA on a promotion with supermodel Heidi Klum, who was proclaimed the queen of Halloween. 

McMillan also helped promote a national push of a petition on change.org to get people to support a permanent move of the celebration of Halloween annually to the final Saturday in October. 

McMillan lives in the Gray’s Creek area and decided to open a storefront for her business in Hope Mills. “I love Hope Mills and love the lake,’’ she said. “I’m really excited it’s back in action. 

“This area is amazing, and Trade Street is very nostalgic. The history behind it is pretty rich. The building itself is a great building, over 100 years old.’’ 

Married with six children, the 44-year-old said she found solitude at home something tough to come by, so she came up with the idea of opening an office to get a little privacy. 

“It’s definitely hard to grow as a one-person show,’’ she said. “Here, I hope I can expand, bring on some more clients and some employees.’’ 

McMillan said the basic offerings of her business are public relations and marketing. “I’m the person to come to for big ideas,’’ she said. 

Even companies with in-house public relations staff have called on her, she said, looking for bigger ideas or things they’ve never thought of. 

“My kids say I make folks famous for a living,’’ she said. “I don’t know if that’s quite true, but it’s a pretty good explanation of what it is, marketing to put together multi-faceted campaigns to help people get the message out about their product via social media or direct to the media.’’ 

To find out specifics about what McMillan’s business has to offer, visit www.oinkagency.com. 

McMillan said while she will have an office open to the public at her new place of business, it won’t have 9-to-5 operating hours. 

“We’re not a traditional retail storefront,’’ she said. She will use the space as needed to meet clients in person, and her husband will also use it for videotaping auditions for his Drama Lab business. 

“Clients that want to talk should shoot me an email or call,’’ McMillan said. 

Her email address is aneisha@oinkagency.com. Her phone number is 910-849-9003. 

Photo: Aneisha McMillan

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