COVENTRY TWP. Their 5-2 start on the court has given the Coventry Comets boys basketball team reason to feel good about the start of the boys basketball season.
What they've done off the court has taken that good feeling an extended it to some of the area's homeless men, women and children.
Earlier this month, 32 players from Coventry's freshman, junior varsity and varsity boys basketball teams along with their coaches, spent a day volunteering at Haven of Rest, a homeless shelter located on Market Street in downtown Akron.
First-year head coach Devon McAfee organized the event, working with the shelter's volunteer coordinator, Jan Pluck, to set up the day.
"The boys made beds, folded laundry, organized bins with pajamas and bedding, cleaned the community room and boxed food items," McAfee said. "The best part of the day was knowing that we helped a group of people to ensure a good night's rest and a warm place for the night."
The Comets had two shifts of volunteer work that day and began at 9:30 a.m. Because the shelter includes three buildings – the main building with offices, chapel, dining hall and living quarters for men who are in Haven of Rest's long-term resident program, the building across the street where donations are received, processed, stored and distributed and the day room and where the dorms for men staying at the shelter short term are located, and the final building, which is the residence for women and children.
Making beds and folding laundry, while a fairly low-key task, is one that's hugely important at Haven of Rest. Dozens of men use the dorms each day and during winter, when temperatures plunge and the need for a safe, warm place to stay.
The process of organizing bins with pajamas and bedding and cleaning the community room, where men staying at the shelter short term can hang out during the day and stay out of the cold, was one of the bigger tasks on the schedule for the Comets. Being around people who were going through difficult periods in life and don't have a place to call home was an impactful moment for the players and coaches, McAfee said.
"Our guys learned that in life opportunities are given and to take advantage when they do come," McAfee said. "They learned to cherish moments with their family and each other and that life can bring adverse moments it's up to them to learn how to deal with life lessons."
One area of the shelter that most never seen is the expansive lower level of the building where donations come in and the community room is located.
The sprawling lower level of the building has rows and rows of shelves containing the food and personal care products that are donated daily to Haven of Rest. Boxes are labeled and organized to make sure they are quick and easy to find when they're needed to feed the hundreds who come to Haven of Rest daily for a warm meal.
There was also a memorable moment during the day when basketball and helping those in need collided in a tale involving someone very familiar to the Comets and any basketball fan.
"The amazing story that was shared by Jan (Pluck), the volunteer coordinator, who advised to the players that LeBron James came to volunteer his time (at) the Haven of Rest," McAfee said. "That story opened up their eyes, along with knowing that they helped someone have a warm night's rest."
The day of volunteering is one that's common at Haven of Rest, which counts on the efforts of volunteers across its mission on a daily basis. But for the Coventry coaches and players who took part, it was anything but an ordinary day and it enabled them to walk away knowing they'd been able to make a positive impact on people in their community in need of an assist.