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Cricket, Golden Lions aid center

by I.C. Murrell | March 25, 2021 at 3:04 a.m.
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington (second from left) speaks with UAPB athletics and Cricket Wireless officials after a check presentation at the Pine Bluff Community Center on Wednesday. Also pictured: UAPB director of community outreach Cameo Stokes (from left), UAPB interim Athletic Director Chris Robinson, Cricket marketing manager Hayley Schaberg, Cricket indirect sales executive Beth Burgess, Cricket Olive Street store manager Meia Hellums and assistant to the mayor Cynthia Anderson. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

On and off the playing surface, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff athletic department is finding ways to connect with young folks in Pine Bluff.

The department's partnership with Cricket Wireless led to the communications company donating $2,500 to the city Parks and Recreation Department toward learning supplies at the newly renovated Pine Bluff Community Center, formerly the Merrill Center. Cricket and UAPB athletic officials, as well as members of the university's softball, women's soccer, volleyball and men's basketball teams, were on hand for the check presentation Wednesday.

"The thing is the vision of our athletic director, Chris Robinson. One of the visions was how to get engaged with the community of Pine Bluff, and it stuck with me," said Cameo Stokes, director of community outreach and assistant director of strategic communication for UAPB athletics. "We don't want to be just involved with the community on game day. We want to be involved 24-7."

Stokes credited marketing executive Damon Webber with helping UAPB establish a partnership with Cricket, a primary sponsor of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Student-athletes and coaches at UAPB will help the community center by reading to young children and other acts of volunteerism.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO4ik-fdsa4]

"Cricket came, and he said that was our opportunity, and we took advantage of it," Stokes said. "The thing is, we want to give to our students in Pine Bluff to give them a better future. We want this to continue to grow. We're excited for the city of Pine Bluff. This is just the beginning."

Hayley Schaberg, Cricket marketing manager, said the company was thrilled to give back to the community center at 1000 S. Ash St. The center will hold a grand opening ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday, six hours before the UAPB Golden Lions football team hosts the Alabama State Hornets at Simmons Bank Field.

"It means everything because, again, this is what it's about: The youth are our future," Robinson said. "We know that and we take that to heart. Mr. Cameo Stokes has a deep passion for his community. He's from Pine Bluff. I know he's going to try to do everything he can to invest in the community. I'm not from Pine Bluff; however, having been here, I feel like I'm from here. I've been embraced by the community that's done so much for me to keep me on the path, and we want to do the same thing to give back and give kids exposure to athletes. We want them to know we want them to be a part of who we are. I remember kids from the community, Brian Davis, Dante Wesley, those guys being a part of us when I was part of the team out here on campus. We don't have a choice but to do it. We have to do it. It's a must."

Parks Director Samuel Glover said the donation will allow his department to purchase Leapfrog reading supplies to help early readers, as well as books for gender-based reading clubs. But the new partnership with UAPB runs much deeper, in his mind.

"One of the missing elements now as opposed to when I grew up was that we were connected to the university in a very meaningful way," said Glover, a former track and field standout at Pine Bluff High School and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. "When we played football out in the park and things, we thought we were Ivory Lee Brown, Chris Robinson, you know what I mean? Yes, we watched other games and stuff, but we thought we were the Golden Lion players, and we have to get back to that. Connecting UAPB with our children here is going to provide that, and they can go to the game and say, 'Look at Omar! I know Omar Allen [running back from Pine Bluff].' And then when they play hot-ball, they can meet [basketball Coach George] Ivory, and they can look and see the history in that, and they can make the connection.'"

Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Director Samuel Glover speaks with UAPB student-athletes during a check presentation inside the Pine Bluff Community Center on Wednesday. 
(Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Director Samuel Glover speaks with UAPB student-athletes during a check presentation inside the Pine Bluff Community Center on Wednesday. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
From left, Cricket Wireless marketing manager Hayley Schaberg, UAPB assistant director of student-athlete academic services Juwan Parker, Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Director Samuel Glover, UAPB interim Athletic Director Chris Robinson, Cricket indirect sales executive Beth Burgess and UAPB director of community outreach Cameo Stokes pose with a display check representing Cricket's donation to the Parks and Recreation Department at the Pine Bluff Community Center on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
From left, Cricket Wireless marketing manager Hayley Schaberg, UAPB assistant director of student-athlete academic services Juwan Parker, Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Director Samuel Glover, UAPB interim Athletic Director Chris Robinson, Cricket indirect sales executive Beth Burgess and UAPB director of community outreach Cameo Stokes pose with a display check representing Cricket's donation to the Parks and Recreation Department at the Pine Bluff Community Center on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
Samuel Glover, right, Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation director, gives a tour of the remodeled Pine Bluff Community Center to Cricket Wireless marketing manager Hayley Schaberg, left, and indirect sales executive Beth Burgess on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
Samuel Glover, right, Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation director, gives a tour of the remodeled Pine Bluff Community Center to Cricket Wireless marketing manager Hayley Schaberg, left, and indirect sales executive Beth Burgess on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
From left, UAPB men's basketball assistant coach Richard Cannon, assistant athletic director for academics Kyle Hartsfield and men's basketball head Coach George Ivory talk outside the Pine Bluff Community Center on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
From left, UAPB men's basketball assistant coach Richard Cannon, assistant athletic director for academics Kyle Hartsfield and men's basketball head Coach George Ivory talk outside the Pine Bluff Community Center on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
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