WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - In the midst of a violent streak in Wilmington, sports legend Lenny Simpson is quietly working day in and day out to give kids a chance for a better future.
His non-profit, One Love, will soon be headquartered in the historic Eaton House on Orange Street. In the last two weeks, police have launched investigations into eight shootings in Wilmington. Two of those shootings occurred within one block of the property.
“This block is everything. It is the foundation of everything that we’re doing with One Love. It is the foundation of who I am,” Simpson said.
He grew up in a house you can still see through the trees behind the historic Eaton house he now owns.
“I have kids and parents coming in that side gate every day. Kids on the court behind me every day. I am concerned about their safety... [about] a drive-by, they may be shooting for someone else. Unfortunately... and somebody here gets hurt,” he said.
Each afternoon, Simpson has kids between 12-18 years old playing tennis on his backyard court. His non-profit aims to teach kids the fundamentals of tennis while helping them with academics and life skills.
He says he wants to give back in the community where he received so much support.
“I was born in this neighborhood, I spent all my life in this neighborhood. To see what’s happening to our young kids that are dying on the street, that are getting killed everyday, that are killing each other, this has to stop. We can no longer stand by and let this continue to go on,” he said. "We’ve got to come together and figure out what the solutions and problems are."
Simpson feels it is his calling to carry on the legacy of Wilmington physician and civil rights activist Dr. Hubert Eaton, whose footsteps he follows as he restores Eaton’s home to its former glory.
“Sixty six years ago, Dr. Hubert Eaton stood right on this property, a huge civil rights activist. Watched bottles go through his window, bullets go through his window, phone calls of -- threatening phone calls -- and what he stood for, to change his community, its incredible what this one man and his family did for this community. Sixty six years ago he was talking about violence, crime, poverty, discrimination in this community. Oh there’s been changes, no question about it. But now is time to stop it and break the cycle,” Simpson said.
While Simpson does express concerns for the safety of the children who come to his property for tennis lessons, he says he and his wife feel safe.
“This whole program we have, One Love,its under the protection of God and when you have God protecting you, you don’t worry about those things,” he said.