On the second floor of the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center, there are names carved into the paneled wood walls that line the entrance to the basketball court. The names of Asheville city community members date back to the 1940s. Decades of hand-carved fonts are just one of the many visual representations of the long standing tradition that Stephens-Lee Recreation Center has as a place of community gathering, wellness, and education.
The UNCA Basketball Clinic, co-hosted by United Way, Asheville City Parks & Rec, The City of Asheville, and The Mecca of Beacons, took part in the Recreation Center’s tradition on Saturday, September 1 7, 2022, by hosting a free community basketball clinic. Over 40 Asheville and Buncombe County youth, ranging from ages 5-12 years old, signed up to learn and practice their basketball skills. Their teachers, the University of North Carolina Asheville men's basketball team.
Although the college basketball players were the key proponents in making this event possible Reggie Richardson, a consultant with the City of Asheville and Mecca Beacons LLC, played a large role in organizing the event which brought young community members, UNCA basketball players, United Way, and the Asheville Police Department together. During the organization of the UNCA Basketball Clinic, Richardson placed a high level of importance on the coming together of different organizations within Asheville and particularly inviting the Asheville Police Department. Although the police department may not be the first group some would think to invite to a basketball clinic, this decision came out of Richardson’s own background. “I was an officer in Charlotte for ten years,” said Richardson, “and we were able to do community service there. So to bring out officers here, well I know they want to do it.”
“If you're human, if you breathe, then you are part of my community and you know, I’m a part of yours,” said Richardson. The crowd that filled the Stephens-Lee Recreation center reflected Richardson’s broad definition of community. From five-year-olds to older adults and all ages in between, everyone was taking part in the activities the UNCA Basketball Team had planned for the morning.
When asked why he was such a proponent of bringing the young men of the UNCA basketball team to volunteer with young kids, Richardson responded, “Children are our future, but right now these young men at UNCA are going to be our community leaders and sometimes we try to lead in directions on how it was for us. But it's a new time. And in order to guide the future you have to hear from the future and at the same time if you are going to be a great leader you have to be a great follower first.” The symbiotic relationship, between both attendees and volunteers, having an opportunity to learn from one another transcends beyond this singular event. All volunteers have the ability to learn from the people who they work to serve and be in the community with. Richardson noted that there is particular importance to be placed on community events as our community continues to adjust to life after the COVID-19 global pandemic. “We just have to be thankful that we have been able to see this,” said Richardson,
“COVID has been rough on a lot of people but here we are bouncing right back and the goal is to put on for the city and right now Asheville is where we are putting on.”