DOBBINS HEIGHTS — One of Hamlet’s daughters has returned to the area to put her basketball talent and passion for young people to good use: teaching discipline, physical health and faith.
Chellia Nelson, 42, grew up in poverty in south Hamlet. After playing basketball at Richmond Senior High School, she went on to play at Winston-Salem State University — where her No. 35 jersey was later retired in 2003.
Nelson spent 25 years in Winston-Salem, and after moving back to Richmond County three years ago, she asked God what she could do to make a difference.
“What could be better than doing what I’m used to doing? Basketball and helping others,” Nelson said.
Now a teacher’s assistant at L.J. Bell Elementary School and a missionary with Prayer and Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, her passion is young people. In April, Nelson put that calling into action and started a Facebook page for her C.H.U.R.C.H. program, an acronym that stands for “Crossover, Hardwork, Unique, Reachable, Character, Heat.”
The “crossover” point is key, Nelson said, because it refers to the basketball skill, the holy cross and making the transition from “sin to salvation.” She points to 2 Timothy 2:5 — “Follow the Lord’s rules for doing his work, just as an athlete follows the rules” — as a founding principal for her program.
Nelson began giving lessons on June 4, and has since garnered 12 clients which include friends and Richmond County residents. She teaches her students basketball fundamentals like good footwork, layups with both hands, shooting form, free throws and conditioning, all supported by a focus on faith.
Last Saturday, Nelson was out at the blacktop in Dobbins Heights Community Park — during the peak of the day’s heat while wearing a weighted vest — training the children of one of her former basketball teammates, Temika Allen, 39, who drove down from Durham for Nelson’s expertise.
“She’s doing something good for the community and I wanted to support her,” Allen said.
Nelson said she wants the program to continue throughout basketball season and has plans for cookouts with her trainees and their families.
Noah Allen, 8, and Myles Hightower, 10, were working on their off-the-dribble jump shots and conditioning on Saturday. During a down moment, Allen, unprompted, ran back over the cone course to get in extra work on his dribbling. He said even though he plays small forward and power forward, his favorite player is Stephan Curry.
Allen said he joined Nelson’s program to “get better.” The benefits are mutual — Nelson runs much of the drills alongside her trainees.
“I’m trying to get in shape, too,” Nelson said. “They’re doing me a favor helping me get healthier.”
At the end of the training, the kids — including Nelson’s daughter — and Allen put their hands in for a huddle and said a prayer. Nelson told them, “Your future holds great things.”
“I want the kids to be better than me,” she said.
For more information, contact Chellia Nelson at 910-206-0048.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]