Lots of love at For the Love of the City

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What started as a way to give a couple of needy families in Wilson a better Christmas turned into what Jeremy Jeffers hopes is an annual tradition.

Jeffers, who along with longtime friend Dalton Ford, came up with the For the Love of the City benefit basketball games played Sunday at Fike High. The event pitted alumni from Beddingfield, Fike, Hunt and Greenfield boys basketball teams from the early 2000s through just a few years ago as well as a girls game that saw many of the players from Beddingfield’s unbeaten state 3-A championship team in 2006 reunited against a group of former players from Hunt, Fike and Greenfield.

To say that For the Love of the City was hit is probably a bit of an understatement. The Fike gym was packed with spectators watching these former high school stars, some now in their 30s, relive past glory for a good cause.

“I think everybody, even the crowd, was just so happy to come back and watch their old players that they felt like they were in high school again,” said Jeffers, a 2010 Greenfield graduate. “There were a lot of cheerleaders from back in the day that felt like they were going to their high school games all over again. So it brought out a fun feeling in everybody. It was a very warm and family-oriented environment.”

Jeffers said that once Ford, a former Beddingfield standout, approached him with the idea of organizing an alumni dribblefest as had been done in Rocky Mount, he went to work to make it happen through Team Power Foundation, a community-based organization that he started with former Greenfield teammate and current business partner Darian Cahill.

“I’m the action guy,” Jeffers said. “I put it into motion. I don’t like to waste time! When I really want to get something done, I like to get it done and I thought the foundation was the best way to go as far as reaching out to people and people donating and helping out because it is a nonprofit and for a purpose.”

Team Power was started by Cahill and Jeffers, who are proprietors of PowerPlex Athletic Center in Wilson, as a way of serving others who are less fortunate.

“The foundation is something that we would to outreach in the community and help others and help the youth is pretty much our mindset and purpose,” Jeffers said. “Our overall purpose is to help the community and help those that are in need.”

With the help of Wilson County Department of Social Services, Team Power identified two needy families in Wilson and conducted an online fundraiser that generated $2,000 to bring a little more Christmas joy.

The For the Love of the City was used to generate funds for future Team Power endeavors, such as the planned “Walk with the King” community walk here on MLK Day, Jan. 21.

“We’ll be giving out shoes to our community’s less-fortunate families,” said Jeffers, who got an assist from his mom and North Carolina Martin Luther King Jr. Commission member Jacquie Jeffers in planning the event.

Last month, Team Power teamed with Wilson County DSS, Ward’s Steak and Cheese and another nonprofit, SideKix, to provide a Thanksgiving potluck dinner for more than 125 people at St. John AME Zion Church in Wilson.

The For the Love of the City games just came together quickly, Jeffers said. He took responsibility for finding former Greenfield players while Ford gathered up Beddingfield alumni. Captains Jeremy Atkinson of Fike and Anthony Lewis of Hunt put together their respective teams. Ford handled making the calls for the girls game. 

Getting players together was no problem, Jeffers said.

“They were going to be home that weekend anyway for Christmas and just loved being able to come back out and play in front of a crowd again,” he said.

While some of the former players bore faint resemblance to that of their high school days, competitive games resulted.

“It was great being back in front of a crowd, in front of the people that I love in the city of Wilson,” said Jeffers, who played collegiately at NCAA Division I Drake and Div. II Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “It was an awesome feeling. I hadn’t played in front of a crowd like that since college, so it brought back a few butterflies but it was a great event and I enjoyed myself.”

Getting players together was no problem, Jeffers said.

“They were going to be home that weekend anyway for Christmas and just loved being able to come back out and play in front of a crowd again,” he said.

The rosters included Ty Batts, Errol Frails, T.J. Hinnant, Jarred Hinton, Jaime Johnson, Aaron Suggs, Sam Hughes, Brian Richardson and Brian McNair of Greenfield; Rod Bridgers, Dante Bullock Jeremy Hill, Kaden Lebray, James Hinnant, LeeLee Pender, Lavell Shipman, Bobby White, Hilal Oatman, Devrine Barnes, Demarcus Sutton, Spencer Hinton, Alton Vinson and Kelvin Sutton of Hunt; Brandon Barnes, James Cox, R.J. Branch, Anthony Barham, King Farmer, A.J. Hines, Josh King, Marcus Johnson, Jermaine Crowder, Jonathan Foster, Jerrel Williams and Monquel Pegues of Fike and Alfred Artis, Terry Davis, Jamaal Dickens, Darius Hall, Tony Harper, Daquan Langston, Mike Jay, X-keem Jones, Da’quan Holden, Ken Spells, De’Aaron Ward and Ajay Williams of Beddingfield.

The women’s alumni game rosters included Beddingfield’s Jacobia Lucas, October Harris, Monique Spry, Jean Best, Courtney Pittman, Vielka Givens, Jacquia Winstead, Tiara Taylor, Ansia Dial and Shavoni Hooks; Hunt’s Krystal Smith; Greenfield’s Ashley Hughes; Fike’s Alisha Baines, Jameka Thompson, Tramicka James, Briana Virgil, Mikasa Williams, Ciara Perry and Jaleesa Harper.

But the For the Love of the City games struck a chord that resulted in one of the more feel-good events in recent memory. For players who were once rivals on the court, the sense of unity was palpable in the Fike gym. 

“It was huge,” Jeffers said. “I was overwhelmed at the amount of people that was there and the support and the vibe for the atmosphere there. Everybody had a sense of love. Everybody had a good time and there was no animosity, nobody acting up. It just seems like that with the kids being there, they just knew it wasn’t a place for anything negative.”

Jeffers hopes to bring back For the Love of the City next year and make it even bigger as well as a springboard for other Team Power community endeavors.

“I would love, through the foundation, to try to do high school parties and give these high school kids somewhere to go on the weekends to stay out of trouble,” he said. “That’s my end goal — to have different events to keep these kids off the streets and staying positive. I think Sunday was the benchmark for that. Maybe we’ve gained respect so now they know that when Team Power does something, there won’t be any animosity but just a lot of love for everybody to have a good time.”