Our roots in Union County (the community where the facility will be) date back before 1855. The Coffeys has been instrumental in building up the community from that date and continues to build and serve the community now. My grandfather (James Pride Coffey) built the community’s first and only grocery store in the 60s. My father (Richard Allen Coffey) built houses and helped countless families become homeowners or helped save their homes from foreclosure for more than 60 years. He continues to help people in financial distress and become homeowners to this day, and he is in his late 80s. My mother (Estelle Reed Coffey) helped countless people in need of food, shelter, and resources for over 60 years.
As the years passed, the culture of the community changed. Drugs and violence found their way to our friendly, small, quiet neighborhood. A school that once opened its gym for free to all children in the community under Coach Javonzio “Joe” Coffey’s supervision stopped when a new administration took over. As a result, the community’s cohesiveness, love, respect, and support went down.
In 2005, Coach Joe started a coed recreation league in Union County. At that time, there were very few teams, and the competition was not good. As a result of the lack of competition, he started the first AAU Association in the county in 2006. This allowed him to branch out to higher competition in other areas. Under the leadership of Principal Reba Webb, she allowed Coach Joe to use the school’s gym (Western Union School) at no charge. She viewed this gesture as a win/win for the school because Coach Joe worked with all children, including those with behavioral issues. This union between Coach Joe and Principal Webb gave Coach Joe a place to practice and kept Principal Webb from suspending students and parents missing work as a result. When Principal Webb left Western Union School, so did the use of the gym and a place to keep the children off the streets and in the school.
In 2011, the Commissioner of the Waxhaw Athletic Association (WAA) in Waxhaw, North Carolina, noticed that female athletes lack the development of fundamental skills to succeed in basketball. As a result, her mission was to provide a safe environment for all students to learn the fundamental skills of basketball, team building, and personal development. Her goal was to help all girls become the best student-athletes possible.
In 2013, the Commissioner asked Coach Joe to join forces with her to move the mission forward. The program was very successful and gained a lot of publicity for two years. In the third year, it became difficult for WAA to keep up with the demand due to not having a gym to practice or the finances to pay for gym time; then, another organization seized the opportunity and squeezed WAA out of the marketplace.
This organization mimicked the Commissioner’s and Coach Joe’s business model, added their facility, and dominated the marketplace. The owners approached Coach Joe to join their organization because of his success with his teams and WAA. The plan was to put Coach Joe’s AAU organization under their brand and work for them without recognition of what he was bringing to the table. He respectfully declined. As of today, the owners approach Coach Joe from time to time to work for them.
Out of this heartbreaking discovery, I started thinking about ways to continue serving and restoring our community and serving the student-athletes. As a successful businesswoman specializing in clinical and sports psychology, I have always prioritized improving the world around me, and this was no different. After many years of thinking and planning, I developed the D. Coffey Foundation for Athletics & Education to help the underserved population live their best lives on and off the court and bring harmony back to the community.
The Foundation was conceived out of the need of the community and Coach Joe’s AAU teams. The community consisted of incredibly talented girls who could not meet the financial obligations to be on his team or any team in the area. Coach Joe and his assistant agreed to allow these girls to play on their team. When traveling, the two pulled their funds together and consistently paid the girls’ way with everything, including food. With this ongoing financial challenge, they allowed me the opportunity to sponsor the team. While I was watching these talented girls play, have fun, and get the chance to play college basketball was breathing taking, but what was more impressive to me was Coach Joe’s and his assistant’s willingness to help the girls blend in as equal parts of the team.
The feeling I felt when I was serving this team never went away. Partnering with Coach Joe to help these girls brought me the most joy in all my ventures. It allowed me the opportunity to help transform lives. As a result of my never-dying passion, the D. Coffey Foundation for Athletics & Education Foundation was born.
Our mission is to serve not only the girls we know in our community but all athletes we can help that want to break the chains of generational poverty and low-income living by using sport as the platform. We will sponsor them in showcase games so they can be seen by scouts and get college scholarships. However, we are more than hoops. We take a holistic approach to player development.