Athletes serve community, too

As swimmers for Concord's Jay M. Robinson High, Sydney Kopelic and Kathryn Lambertsen understand the plight of many warm-hearted high school athletes.

They want to give of their time, Kopelic and Lambertsen said, but many can't squeeze in the time to participate in traditional community service clubs because of commitments to their practice and game schedules.

Last month, the Robinson juniors founded Teams for Tomorrow, a club they want to use to coordinate a community service project among all of Cabarrus County's high school athletes each sports season.

For this winter season, Kopelic and Lambert coordinated a toy drive for the CVAN battered women's shelter in Cabarrus County.

Two weeks ago, they delivered more than 400 items they had collected from their teammates and the swim teams from Concord, Northwest Cabarrus and Cox Mill high schools.

Emphasizing the importance of all contributions, regardless of size or content, CVAN Assistant Director Rebecca Moffett said, "Over 400 items is a big chunk and makes a big dent in our Christmas program."

CVAN says it provides "safety, shelter and support" to women and their children who may have been victims of domestic abuse. Among its services are shelter, transitional housing, counseling and court advocacy.

Moffett said CVAN houses up to five families in its shelter and receives an average of 125 phone calls a month from those seeking some form of assistance.

Encouraged by Kopelic's mother, Beverly (who is also Robinson's swim coach), the two swimmers started the project in early November. Their objective for Teams for Tomorrow was to organize high school athletic teams around the county to conduct one massive community service project per sports season.

With the blessing of Robinson High's administration, Sydney Kopelic and Kathryn Lambertsen contacted the coaches of all the Bulldogs' winter sports teams and the coaches of Cabarrus County's other high school swim teams. Kopelic and Lambertsen got positive responses from Robinson's cheerleaders (of whom Sydney Kopelic is one) and the swim teams at Concord, Northwest Cabarrus and Cox Mill high schools.

"We wanted to do something to get the athletes involved," said Kopelic, whose family has collected goods for CVAN before. "This is our starting point. We picked an organization that needed help this season."

Kopelic and Lambertsen set the project's goal at 300 items. While they and their teammates donated the most of the 406 items they gathered, Concord High's swimmers also turned in a valiant effort.

Senior Olivia Armstrong, junior Brianna Clark and sophomore Joey North volunteered to lead Concord's movement. Nothing was turned in during the project's first week in mid-November, Armstrong said, but by December, teammates were turning in bags of toys.

"I think it's great," said Armstrong. "Even though there's a rivalry and lots of competition between the two schools, it brings back the feeling that we're all equal. It's important to help people out in a time of need and around the holidays."

Lambertsen's home doubled as Santa's Workshop, housing the toys until the girls loaded them up and delivered them to CVAN on Dec. 12.

"We started unloading all the boxes into the rooms (at CVAN)," said Lambertsen. "We looked around and saw they had a lot of canned goods already. It really touched me how much in need these women and children are. It felt good to make a difference."

Kopelic and Lambertsen said they plan to organize a project in the spring through Teams for Tomorrow. It will probably be another drive to collect items for the needy, Kopelic said, or to volunteer with a nonprofit organization.