Overton encourages youngsters to pursue their dreams at Spirit of Giving Luncheon
● By Steven Hoffman
Doug Overton, a Philadelphia basketball legend and the coach of the Lincoln University men’s basketball team, encouraged youngsters to pursue their dreams and give back to their communities at the annual Spirit of Giving Luncheon at the Penn's Grove Middle School cafeteria in Oxford on Jan. 16. The Spirit of Giving Luncheon was started 27 years ago as a way to raise money for the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center, the Oxford non-profit organization that helps less fortunate families in southern Chester County.
Overton, an 11-year NBA veteran, spoke glowingly about the room full of volunteers who were there to support the activities of the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center. Overton talked about the importance of community and of volunteerism, and shared some of his own experiences giving back to the community.
Many local basketball fans will recall that Overton played alongside Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers on a Dobbins Technical High School team that won a city championship in Philadelphia. Overton went on to play guard at La Salle University, helping to lead the team to three NCAA Tournament appearances. He scored 1700 points while doing so. Overton was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1992. During his pro career with the Pistons, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers, Overton scored 2,253 points in 499 games.
“I'm a big Doug Overton, fan,” said Jim McLeod, an organizer of the Spirit of Giving Luncheon as he made his introductory speech. McLeod explained that he follows Atlantic Ten Conference basketball closely, and Overton is one of the memorable players.
Overton explained that before he became the head coach at Lincoln University, he had several relatives who graduated from there, so he knew the school and its campus from attending several graduation ceremonies. He said that he is excited for the opportunity to build up the basketball program, and he encouraged local residents to follow the team because Lincoln University is a part of this community.
When Overton was growing up, he dreamed of a career in the NBA, but people in his also cautioned him to have an alternate plan for his future if he didn't become a professional basketball player.
To the students in attendance, Overton said, “You should start thinking about what you want to do. You want to have a Plan A and a Plan B.”
Overton recalled wanting to be a teacher if he couldn't play in the NBA. Now, as a coach, he's really combining the basketball with the teaching, and he's very happy to be the head coach of Lincoln University.
“I've living proof that [dreams] can come true,” Overton said.
He also talked about how, when his daughter was younger, she came to him and said that she wanted to attend a science camp that summer. Overton was able to get her into a camp, and it set her on her course. Overton explained proudly that she is now a freshman at Yale University, and she's pursuing a degree related to science.
Overton said that he does everything he can to help youngsters. Last summer, before he coached his first game with Lincoln University, Overton organized a basketball camp that was open to children in the community. More than 75 people took part in the camp.
“We're all here to give back to the kids,” Overton explained. “Isn't it all about making kids' dreams come true?”
Overton observed that by helping so many families, the Neighborhood Services Center was helping youngsters in the community.
The Spirit of Giving Luncheon was started in 1990 by a group of community leaders and business people who wanted to raise funds for the Neighborhood Services Center. Initially, the luncheon took place right before Christmas, but in 2008, when the Oxford Area School District joined as a partner, the luncheon was moved to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, joining together the spirit of the event with the spirit of King's life and legacy. All the proceeds from the event will be used by the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center to provide nutritious food, financial assistance for housing, heating, utility services, and health care assistance for individuals and families in need. The Neighborhood Services Center has been serving the community since 1971.
“Today's luncheon is an effort to raise much-needed funds for the Neighborhood Services Center,” explained Jim McLeod, who was part of the group that started the Spirit of Giving Luncheon. “It's a vital organization, and we're fortunate to have it in the community.”
While the event raises funds for the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center, executive director Cheryl McConnell pointed out that, “This day is not about us. It's about community. We couldn't do what we do without all the volunteers.”
McConnell also paid tribute to two important supporters of the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center who passed away in the last year: Mary McLeod and Miriam “Mim” Herr. McLeod was, along with her husband, Jim, one of the founders of the Spirit of Giving Luncheon. Herr was a board member and a longtime supporter of the organization through the years.
Because of the efforts of people like McLeod and Herr, the Neighborhood Services Center has been serving people in the community for 46 years. The Neighborhood Services Center helps thousands of families each year by providing food and clothing or assistance with housing and utilities. The Neighborhood Services Center advocates on behalf of clients, and serves as a vital link to other resources. Most recently, the Neighborhood Services Center provided gifts to 256 children at Christmas and, through a partnership with the Oxford Presbyterian Church, delivered 124 Christmas food boxes to families in need in the area.
“This is a community effort,” McConnell said. “We thank you all for that.”
Attendees of the event included local business and community leaders. Connie Winchester, the longtime executive director of the Neighborhood Services Center who is now retired, was also recognized. State Rep. John Lawrence and County Commissioner Terence Farrell were also in attendance.
Farrell spoke briefly at the luncheon, talking about how he grew up in Oxford and went to school with some of the people in the room, and was taught by others at the luncheon. Noting the presence of a large contingent of high school students, Farrell said that it was good to have them at an event that honors the legacy of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Farrell noted that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be in 2018.
“It's great to see the students here for this,” Farrell said. “It's great that we are all here honoring Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy.”
The Spirit of Giving Luncheon is one of several events planned throughout the year to benefit the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center.
On Saturday, Feb. 4, the Oxford Empty Bowls luncheon will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Penn's Grove Middle School cafeteria. A $20 contribution entitles a person to a painting bowl and a ticket to the luncheon, where soup and bread will be served. All the proceeds from the event benefits the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center's food bank.
On Saturday, April 8, a 46th anniversary celebration and auction will take place at the Sacred Heart Church.
Then, on Friday, May 12, the second annual golf tournament is scheduled to begin with a 12:30 p.m. tee time at the Wyncote Golf Club.
The Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center can be contacted at 610-932-8557.