Hope Mills News

Warner expands membership in Youth Coalition

15 01 Candace WilliamsonThe health of members in our community is important. Due to the spread of the coronavirus, as a precaution, several events have been cancelled throughout the community. Please call to confirm events.

It’s been four years since Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner created the Hope Mills Mayor’s Youth Coalition. It is composed of students from Gray’s Creek, South View and Jack Britt high schools and seeks to better inform the community’s young people on the business of the town.Since it was started, Warner has been impressed with the talents of the young people who have served on the coalition and how involved they were with their schools.

Initially, she recruited students who were active in the Student Government Association at each of the three schools. But as time passed, she learned there was a problem with that.

The SGA students as a group were extremely busy at their respective schools and often involved in multiple projects. So this year, Warner 15 02 jackie warner copyincreased the pool of students involved in the coalition. She sent an email to the principals of each of the three schools. She asked them to nominate two members from their SGA as usual, but also extended an invitation to members of the Key Club and students involved in JROTC.

“We’ve found that Key Club members volunteer a lot,’’ Warner said. “I’ve also been really impressed with the JROTC programs.’’

The result this year is the largest group of coalition students the town has ever had, and they are tackling a project called Hope Mills Beautiful as they work together to coordinate a litter sweep of the town on April 18.

“It’s neat the way all three high schools have worked together,’’ Warner said of the current group. “I think the benefit is building unity among the youth (and) how they relate to each other. Bringing them to the table, it’s interesting to watch them work well together.

“We hope to get the majority of them involved in our Citizens Academy.’’

The chairman of this year’s coalition is Candace Williamson from South View. She is a member of the JROTC at her school.

Vice-chairs are Christopher Vanderpool of the South View Key Club and Melissa Medina of the Jack Britt Key Club. The secretaries are Hunter Stewart of Gray’s Creek SGA and Briana Jackson of the South View SGA.

In addition to their work on the litter sweep, this year’s coalition has composed a letter endorsing the town’s work on Heritage Park. Down the road, they may be looking at finding ways to improve conditions in Hope Mills for people with disabilities.

Williamson, who is a senior at South View, initially didn’t want to be involved in JROTC but decided to join in order to carry on a family tradition.

“I realized we are all a big family and we all have different stories,’’ she said. “We all came together. It taught me leadership skills and stuff I can carry on after high school.’’

Williamson’s JROTC advisor at South View, Sgt. Maj. Ruby Murray, said Williamson reminds her of a butterfly. “She didn’t let her light shine,’’ Murray said. “She’d sit in class and keep quiet, but she’s always gotten her work done.’’

As years passed, Murray said Williamson displayed more and more leadership ability, eventually rising to the role of battalion commander at South View.

“She started showing more leadership ability, taking charge,’’ Murray said. “She became the eyes and ears her second year. When the mayor sent out that email (requesting nominations for the Mayor’s Youth Coalition), I knew I had to put the right person in charge.’’

Williamson said being a member of the coalition is helping her learn how to better herself and hopefully avoid repeating some of the mistakes her elders have made.

She said being part of the coalition has helped her understand everyone has their own voice. She feels she and her fellow members of the coalition are trying to use their various voices in harmony so they can come to agreement on decisions. 

She feels the mission of this year’s coalition, as shown by their involvement in the Hope Mills Beautiful project, is to make the town better.

She said the students from the three different high schools bring a variety of perspectives to the table. “I think that’s a good idea,’’ Williamson said, “sitting at the table with different leaders.’’

Pictured from top to bottom: Candace Williamson, Jackie Warner

Gray’s Creek’s Schwamm National Merit finalist

14 Theodore SchwammGray’s Creek High School senior Theodore Schwamm recently joined an elite group of high school students in the United States. He’s one of  15,000 national finalists for the elite National Merit scholarship.

Shana Matthews, who counsels the academically and intellectually gifted students at the schools, said Schwamm is the first National Merit finalist from Gray’s Creek in her four years at the school.

“The scholarship is a nice incentive, a nice bonus, for someone like Theodore who has put in a lot of effort and devoted a lot of time,’’ Matthews said.

A Fayetteville native, Schwamm said his primary interests are vocal music and theater. He plays the piano and is also a handbell player in his church choir.

Even if he’s not ultimately named a winner in the National Merit competition, just being a finalist makes him a potential candidate for other college scholarship offers.

Schwamm said a number of colleges have already offered him full scholarships, but he’s currently not considering those because they are from schools he doesn’t consider a good fit for his interests.

He’s officially applied to four colleges. They include his top two picks, Williams in Massachusetts and Kenyon in Ohio. Others he has applied to are Roanoke in Virginia and the University of Chicago.

Of the four, he’s already been accepted at Roanoke and is expecting word back soon from the other three.

Schwamm said the main draw for him at all four schools was their liberal arts atmosphere and the flexibility and interdisciplinary approach they take to education.

As far as what he plans to study is concerned, Schwamm isn’t sure if he’ll continue with music and theater or turn his attention to physics and mathematics. “I may combine them in some way,’’ he said.

He’s interested in the connection between the arts and sciences and why they have so much in common. “Einstein would often say he’d play the violin while working through physics problems,’’ Schwamm said. “A lot of scientists say if they were not professional scientists, they would be artists.’’

Schwamm is currently involved with the Gray’s Creek High School production of the Broadway musical "Newsies." Performances are scheduled March 20-21 at 7 p.m., with a matinee on March 22 at 4 p.m. Admission is $10.

In recent years, Schwamm has changed his philosophy about his education and realizes balance is an important part of the process.

“Certainly I could spend time endlessly looking at calculus problems,’’ he said. “There comes a time you need to recognize moving away from it and doing something else will ultimately be more valuable.’’

Toward that end, he plans to spend his final summer before college at home with family.

“I plan to sleep without an alarm many days and do a lot of reading,’’ he said.

Hope Mills police prepare for tricky move of headquarters

12 Hope Mills Police DepartmentMoving consistently ranks as one of the most traumatizing experiences people have to negotiate. But if relocating to a new residence is a giant headache, imagine the challenges of going from one location to another while temporarily keeping both open for business.

That is the chore Hope Mills police chief Joel Acciardo and his staff will be tackling in the weeks ahead as they vacate their home of some 30 years on Rockfish Road and relocate to temporary headquarters on South Main Street.

This is part of the process to build the new public safety building on the current Rockfish Road property, which will eventually house both the police and fire departments when it’s done.

The new building was going to be placed in front of the existing police and fire departments during the early planning  stages, but when Rockfish Road was expanded, that idea was ruled out as it had to be moved further back from the widened road.

The fire department will lose some of its parking area but will still be able to function at its current location. The police department is headed for the former Ace Hardware building, where it expects to be located for as long as 24 months while the new building is under construction.

Acciardo said the challenge for him and his staff is to complete the move in an orderly manner while still providing services to the town of Hope Mills without any gaps.
Work on the interior of the temporary police headquarters is progressing, and the goal is for the entire department to be fully relocated by the end of March.

“It’s going to be a phased move,’’ Acciardo said. “The first thing we are going to be shutting down is the front of the police department, where reception and records and all that stuff is.

“That way, we can officially close this building and still have a location where the public can come, get reports and meet with officers.’’

After that move is done, the most complicated part of the move will take place, transporting evidence to the new location. “You have to maintain complete control and a chain of custody,’’ Acciardo said.

Because of security concerns, there will be no publicity as to when the actual evidence is being moved. Armed officers will accompany the evidence when it is moved. “It’s a little bit more complicated than having a moving company come in and load up some desks and filing cabinets,’’ Acciardo said. “It has to stay with the officers.’’

Once the evidence is moved, the next stage will be to move the investigative division, followed by the administrative offices.

Acciardo stressed the public will see no disruption in field services since those officers were hired to work outside the building in police cars.

A moving company has been contracted to help with large items like desks and file cabinets, but all of the smaller things will be taken care of by Acciardo and his staff.
The plan is to shut down the police headquarters as usual one Friday afternoon and conduct the initial move of the front office area over the course of the weekend, opening the portion of the temporary building where staff interacts with the public the following Monday.

It’s during the process when the department is between buildings that problems are most likely to arise. Acciardo said it won’t be much different from moving to a new house and realizing when you arrive that something you need is still in a box at your former residence. “As with any move, there will be tweaking during the process to make it work right,’’ he said. Acciardo said measures are in place to address glitches.

Just prior to the start of the move, Acciardo said a ceremony will be held to officially close the current police headquarters. “This facility served the public in Hope Mills for 30 years,’’ he said. “I think everyone got their money’s worth out of it.’’

The current building is actually sitting in what will become the construction zone for the new building, so it will have to be demolished.

“It’s a complicated move but it’s one we will get done,’’ Acciardo said. “The goal is not to disrupt any service the citizens are currently enjoying. That’s what we are all striving for.’’

McCray recognizes Civil Rights history in Selma

13 McCrayDr. Kenjuana McCray made history when she became the first African-American woman elected to the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners last November.

But it was a page from national history that helped inspire her to run for office, and make a promise to herself to keep that history alive in her own memories.

Recently McCray made her second consecutive trip to Selma, Alabama, to revisit some of the most prominent sites connected with the American Civil Rights movement and the passage of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

The event McCray participated in is called the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. It marked the 55th anniversary of Civil Rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge during a march in support of voting rights in 1965. During that crossing, now referred to as “Bloody Sunday," many of the marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers.
McCray not only visited the bridge, but also museums and other historic sites in the Selma, Tuskegee and Montgomery, Alabama, areas during her visit.

She was most moved by the personal accounts of people who were invited back to speak who took part in the marches 55 years ago. “They bring in people that were foot soldiers in the movement,’’ McCray said. “You get to hear one-on-one stories about actual events that happened, things you don’t read in the history books.’’

She also attended a special event at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma, the site of a famous meeting held by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to conduct a planning session for the 1965 march.

McCray said that after she attended the conference for the first time in 2019, she made up her mind to again run for public office in Hope Mills. “It was one of the things that helped me make my decision I was going to run again,’’ she said. She noted that people of different races were involved in that march 55 years ago, and that people of different races lost their lives in the struggle for civil rights in this country.

“I have to continue to advocate for people to exercise their right to vote and how powerful that vote is,’’ McCray said. “It’s something I will continue to advocate while I’m in office and when I’m not in office. This trip helps remind me and puts everything into perspective.’’

One important lesson she has learned from her visits to the Selma area is the power of people working together for a common cause. She noted names like King and Congressman John Lewis, along with many others who were at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement.

“It was a collective group of people who helped do this,’’ she said. “It’s that whole idea of the power of what you can do if you work together and do things together.
“There were a lot of people who worked together to make this thing happen.’’

Teen CERT graduates first class of participants

14 01 teen cert gradsIt’s taken Melode Dickerson nearly 14 months to get a Teen Community Emergency Response Team going in Cumberland County, but once things fell into place, the idea took off like a ballistic missile.

Dickerson, who has been active for years in the Cumberland Emergency Response Teamm program locally in Hope Mills, first trotted out the idea of involving teenagers in their own CERT program around December of 2018. For whatever reason, response was slow to the idea and Dickerson was never able to get it launched successfully.
Undaunted, she continued to promote the overall mission of CERT, which is devoted to training citizen volunteers in disaster preparedness and helping people in crisis situations. She continued her dream of introducing teenagers to the program. “We go everywhere,’’ she said of her mission to educate Cumberland County on what CERT is all about.

14 02 Fire StationThe Teen CERT idea got a huge boost when Dickerson was contacted by Moisbiell Alvarez, deputy chief of community preparedness for the Fayetteville Fire Department. Like Dickerson, Alvarez was interested in getting a Teen CERT program  organized.

“We had done a lot of stuff with them and they wanted to be involved,’’ Dickerson said of the Fayetteville Fire Department.

Dickerson was glad to welcome the assistance. “Cumberland County Emergency Management is still our sponsor,’’ Dickerson said, “but we are supported by the Fayetteville Fire Department.’’

This past weekend, the first class of teen volunteers for the CERT program underwent training during a weekendlong series of classes held at Fayetteville Fire Station 12 at 307 Hope Mills Road.

Only 24 people can attend a class because of space limitations at the station. Originally, Dickerson had a full complement of 24 students, but only 21 were able to attend the initial weekend of classes. The class sessions were from 6-10 p.m. on Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Dickerson said the basic message of the classes is how to be prepared and how to help lend assistance to victims in a variety of disaster situations.

“They learn basic medical and how to put out a small fire,’’ Dickerson said. They got hands-on training in the firefighting role by putting out small controlled fires set in the fire station parking lot.

The training goes far behind first aid and firefighting, Dickerson said. There are sections on dealing with basic terrorism. A new session includes how to react to reports of an active shooter. There is also basic search and rescue training.

In addition to getting valuable training that they can use as a life skill, Dickerson said taking part in Teen CERT training can help the students earn volunteer hours for any number of projects that may be required by various school-related clubs and other organizations.

Once they complete the training, students receive a certificate recognizing what they’ve accomplished. The state of North Carolina keeps a record of the number of volunteers trained, Dickerson said.

Marc Baker Jr., a freshman at Pine Forest High School, was one of the participants in the first Teen CERT graduating class.

A member of the band at Pine Forest, Baker said he decided to get involved with Teen CERT because he wanted to do something to benefit the community.
“First aid is something I want to get into,’’ Baker said. “I feel it’s important because we need future doctors, future first responders.

“I feel like this class could really put us on the course for that.’’

Currently, Dickerson said she’s recruiting students in grades 9-12 for work with Teen CERT. She already has a class scheduled for a group of Girl Scouts.

The next open training session for Teen CERT is scheduled for June 12-14. There is already a waiting list for that class. Dickerson suggests any teens that are interested should apply as quickly as possible to capefearcert@gmail.com.

Students themselves can submit the application but parents are also invited to make applications for their children if they are interested in
the program.

The email should include the applicant’s name, address and phone number, so they can be registered.

For people who can’t commit to coming to training sessions on a Saturday and Sunday, Dickerson said she could work with interested groups of teen volunteers and work out an alternate date for the class if there is a large enough group interested in attending. Contact Dickerson at the same email address if interested.

Dickerson said she welcomes contact from churches or adults as well as teens to hold special class sessions for CERT or Teen CERT if enough people are interested.
She also does presentations on the basic mission of CERT, but since the Teen CERT program has taken off her time has been monopolized in coordinating the sessions associated with that program.

“We do have a presentation we can show that we have put together,’’ she said. “Maybe after this class, things will be a little slower.’’

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