Olliver works to upgrade Nelson Street Park

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The conversation was short. And one Michael Olliver won’t soon forget.

The former collegiate standout and high school basketball coach scheduled a training session at Nelson Street Park. He had never before visited the facility, which has a playground, a picnic area and six basketball goals.

Rusted in places and backboards aged by weather, just one goal appeared usable when he came to the park.

“That’s not what got me,” Olliver said.

There were a group of kids playing at the lone goal.

Olliver walked over.

“I had to ask ‘listen, can you let me train at this goal’ and that kind of broke my heart because I’m asking children to go play on goals that shouldn’t be played on,” he said.

Something needed to be done.

The founder of Alkebulan Community Reform, Olliver and Jessica Simpson, administrative director, planned an initiative to get new goals with glass backboards installed at the park.

They spoke with Josh Phillips, director of the Mount Olive Parks and Recreation Department. Olliver asked about a budget and Phillips said there was no money available.

“(I said,) ‘I’m going to raise the money myself and get it done,’ but he didn’t believe me,” Olliver said.

Once he met with town officials and ironed out details, Olliver went to work. He talked with representatives from Mt. Olive Pickle Co., Jackson & Sons and other possible donors to help cover the $20,000 project.

“They were all for it,” Olliver said. “I had no negative feedback whatsoever. They’ve all been on board trying to help and do something for the community. It’s been very positive. [The support] has been overwhelming.”

Olliver plans to purchase six Bison basketball systems from Bolt Athletics in Baltimore, Maryland. The company will handle installation of the goals.

The year-long project is less than a month from completion.

But the outspoken Olliver says his goal is more than just basketball. He wants to provide a vehicle to children and hopefully keep them off of the streets.

“A lot of times there’s not an engine to drive the train and people need to have leadership,” Olliver said. “You have to lead with your heart. When you see a need, you have to go fill it. There’s a lot of people in this community that want to see things happen.”

Nelson Street Park is just the beginning.

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