Korey Stringer always made appearances at the community center.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
WARREN -- There will be many tributes to Korey Stringer over the next few weeks, but maybe none so touching as a poster hanging in the Rebecca Williams Community Center.
In the hallway of the building where the Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman spent time and money, children of the summer recreation and after-school programs signed a poster.
Written in crayon are the words, "In Loving Memory of Korey Stringer."
It's plastered with signatures of children who attend the programs and it includes two pictures of them with Stringer during his last appearance at the center.
David Jenkins is assistant to the executive director at the Rebecca Williams Center. He's been at RWCC for 12 years.
Basketball opponents: Jenkins didn't actually supervise Stringer, but he did play basketball against Stringer during open gym.
"When the opportunity was available for adults or older teen-agers to come in and play, Korey was a part of that. Oftentimes, he told me that 'I whooped him up,' but I told him not to take it personally because I do that to everybody," said Jenkins, who played on very successful Warren Western Reserve High teams under John Lawhorn.
Jenkins, who previously worked in the Trumbull Juvenile Justice Center for almost 13 years, graduated from Warren Reserve in 1980. During his senior year, Reserve's basketball team went 20-3. He remembers that the Raiders were looking forward to a showdown with Akron Central-Hower, but got upset by Austintown Fitch in the Class AAA tournament.
Appearances: Jenkins said that Stringer made several appearances at RWCC, some scheduled and some unannounced.
"A few years ago, as we were leaving the building, he told me that the gym needed something better than wooden backboards. I told him that the budget didn't allow it at the time. He asked me to look up the price for new glass backboards. When I told him the price [about $20,000], he wrote out a check and gave it to me."
Jenkins said it was exclusive of other contributions and support Stringer made to Rebecca Williams.
"He said that this place was here for him, so he wanted to make sure it stayed here for others. That's where his heart was."
Jenkins' last meeting with Stringer was about a year ago when the NFL standout spoke to children at RWCC.
Character: Jenkins made the analogy between Stringer's position as offensive lineman and his character.
"He was always blocking to open up holes for running backs. That's what he did in life. He also opened up opportunities for people. He took care of kids here with his contributions and also with his presence."
Jenkins finished by saying that the world knew Stringer as a football player for the Vikings, but that those around Warren knew him as Korey.
"That's the unique thing. They never got the chance to see the person we knew. Usually, once you leave your environment at home, the mold is broken and you become something else. He was very humble and willing to help others. Even when he didn't have his big-money contract, Korey was there to help. He was a bear, but a gentle bear."
Like Paul Warfield and the Browner brothers who brought recognition to Warren, Stringer did likewise.
"As far as I know, anybody who played professional sports never did what Korey did for us. He came back and invested in his community. Korey would never ask for a dollar. This was his life. This was his home."