Jenkins has been blessed throughout career
ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Adorning the walls of Jenkins Sporting Goods in the heart of downtown St. Clairsville are a bevy of photos, plaques and other mementoes.
Each has a special place in the heart of John Jenkins, who’s been involved in sports in the Belmont County seat in some form or fashion for nearly six decades.
Simply put, if there was a Mount Rushmore for sports in the community, Jenkins’ friendly face would have to be chiseled on it
Now, Jenkins, a 1958 graduate of St. Clairsville High School, isn’t looking for publicity or adulation for anything he does. He’s simply doing what comes naturally, which is helping others.
”I’ve been totally blessed by how people have treated me and how many good things have happened in my life because of the people I’ve been involved with,” he said, while sitting in the office of his 41-year-old business.
”I can honestly say, the more you give, the more you get.”
Jenkins is a people person. Folks who come into his store are like family.
”I’ll have former athletes that went through the school system stop in and see me after 20, 30, 40 years,” he said. ”It’s just so nice to see them come back.”
Jenkins, whom the basketball court at his alma mater is named after, is committed to the youth of the community, along with it’s overall well being. That’s why he’s been so active in so many civic-minded ventures during the years.
”It keeps me busy,” he said smiling. ”As they say, a body in motion, stays in motion.”
An all-Ohio pitcher in high school, Jenkins turned down a scholarship offer from Arizona State to stay home and take care of his parents.
Not long after graduation, Jenkins started working at Valley Machine in Martins Ferry. During that time he played baseball for Maynard until his work schedule no longer allowed it.
Jenkins also married his wife, Marlene, and started a family during tha time. Along the way, he started playing tennis and bowled.
As a bowler, Jenkins traveled all over the eastern half of the country and on the weekends to places like Columbus, Dayton, Charleston, Morgantown and Huntington.
Now, while he didn’t attend college, his work at Valley Machine was sort of a business training in disguise. He was availed to all parts of the business.
”I was pushed through every opportunity,” Jenkins said. ”I got a great education in almost every phase of the business.”
So, when he learned Valley Machine was closing its local location he had a choice – stay home or transfer to Mentor, Ohio. He chose to stay.
”I needed something to do in the area,” Jenkins remembered. ”There was no sports shop around and that fell in line with what I liked to do.”
Jenkins started the business before Valley Machine closed. He’d have items shipped there then he’d deliver them to customers throughout the community. Soon, he moved into his current location on Main Street, where he’s been since 1973.
”It’s grown and it’s been fantastic,” Jenkins said.
Since then, Jenkins has been involved in many ventures.
As a member of The Saints Club he’s been instrumental in many projects, most recently as the co-chair of the committee to renovate Red Devil Stadium.
”That was a very rewarding and challenging project,” he said. ”To see so many people using it for so many things is great.
”We’re getting ready for the Relay for Life (June 13-14). My wife died of cancer, so that’s very close to my heart.”
Jenkins said he and other committee members have received many compliments about the facility, which benefits both young and old.
”Our whole concept was, we’re building this with no tax money, no school money, this was all being done with donations. It was being done by the people and we wanted to have it for the people. Walk on it, enjoy it.”
Adjacent to Red Devil Stadium are facilities used by the St. Clairsville Recreation Department. Jenkins was instrumental in getting a recreation program off the ground in the community.
”I was fortunate enough to get involved in that in the very beginning,” he said.
Jenkins also served on the park board and was active in a former tennis complex, which was located where the Reisbeck’s store is now.
”Mike Young was coaching tennis at St. Clairsville then and he was my manager out there in the summer,” Jenkins said. ”We had an opportunity to get the kids a lot of playing time out there.”
Outside of sports, Jenkins is an active member at Thoburn United Methodist Church. He was an instrumental part in helping with the construction of the new church, which opened nearly 10 years ago.
But for Jenkins, it all starts with his store. It’s the hub of everything in his life and a place where years of memories live on.
”I can honestly say, I’ve really enjoyed having this place and doing this for 41 years,” he said.
”It’s really been a fun time.”
If you know of someone in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at RickThorp1