NBA power forward David West was home in Raleigh on Monday when he made national news for taking a pay cut to play with the San Antonio Spurs.
West coaches a team of 17-year-olds at the J.D. Lewis Multi-Purpose Center on Garner Road, and he was preparing the young players for a championship basketball tournament in Atlanta.
Later Monday evening, West was at Sitti, a downtown restaurant, to kick off Building a Stronger Raleigh Together. The five-month campaign aims to break the cycle of poverty in Southeast Raleigh.
It’s a partnership between Passage Home, the J.D. Lewis Multi-Purpose Center and its nonprofit education and community service arm, The B.A.G.S. Foundation.
It makes sense.
Together, the J.D. Lewis Center and Passage Home reach nearly 12,000 residents each year with a range of services and opportunities that help children thrive and help families pull themselves out of unemployment, addiction and homelessness, and other generational cycles of poverty.
Through The B.A.G.S. Foundation – Boys and Girls Succeeding – the J.D. Lewis Center provides community-wide programs that mentor, tutor, feed, nurture and teach, said Dwayne West, the center’s executive director and David West’s older brother.
The partners of Building a Stronger Raleigh Together will host three events to unite the city to raise $250,000 to help an additional 775 neighbors in need – and merge all of Raleigh into its folds of greatness.
“The city of Raleigh is growing like blockbusters,” said Jeanne Tedrow, Passage Home co-founder and CEO. “But there is a pocket of people in our city who are not part of that story.”
Statistics from the Building a Stronger Raleigh Together campaign tell the story of 70,000 residents who live in poverty, mostly in Southeast Raleigh, where:
▪ 20 percent are unemployed
▪ 40 percent didn’t graduate high school
▪ 50 percent live below the poverty line
▪ The crime rate is 38 percent higher than the national average.
“We believe by working together, we will be able to break that cycle,” Tedrow said. “But the J.D. Lewis Center, The B.A.G.S. Foundation and Passage Home will not be doing it together alone.”
The campaign will host a free Family Festival Fun Day from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at Broughton High School.
An All-Star Exhibition Basketball Game will follow from 7 to 9 p.m. The roster includes David West and T.J. Warren, also a product of Garner Road, and others with Raleigh ties. Tickets are $20.
From 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 3, a VIP Celebration Affair at Wine and Design invites community leaders to join the campaign’s team of ambassadors. Tickets are $100 or $175 for two.
Other donations also are welcome. A donation of $125 per month will help 130 people find jobs or 246 families find housing, provide mentors for 6,300 kids, help 63 people increase their income, and serve 5,160 meals.
A native of New Jersey, David West enrolled as a junior at Garner High School in 1997. His parents moved to Garner because it was midway between their aging parents in Orangeburg, S.C., and New Bern.
Soon after, West found a second family with the Garner Road Basketball Club, founded 25 years ago this year.
It’s also where he improved his game, and developed as a man.
“I haven’t been able to leave,” West said. “When I’m here, I’m there.”
West said a negative encounter with “my first basketball hero” determined how he’d carry himself as a pro and sealed his commitment to youth he nurtured while at Xavier University.
“I told myself, ‘If I ever get in his spot, I will never do to a child what he’d done to me,’” West said, stopping short of giving details or naming names. “I’m just not built that way.
“I try to meet them where they are.”
As for his decision to take a pay cut of tens of millions of dollars to play for the Spurs, West said it has everything to do with his dream of winning an NBA championship and learning from others lessons he can pass on to young players.
There’s also this message that applies not only to youth, but also to us all:
“If you really want something, you have to sacrifice,” he said. “We’ll get it back.”