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What about the kids?

Posted: September 4, 2014 9:23 a.m.
Updated: September 5, 2014 6:00 a.m.

“There’s no place for the kids to hang out!” How many times have I listened to that plaintive cry? Some parents want the skating rink returned. Others want an indoor swimming pool. A third set of parents insists to the contrary, “My kids come home to do homework; don’t yours?” The good news: according to Joe Eason, director of the Kershaw County Recreation Department, we have more activities for kids than just about any other county in South Carolina. Sometimes, with all due respect, one just needs to look around.

When the previous recreation director, the popular James Davis, was called to serve as a magistrate, the community rightfully wondered who could replace him. With the new director, a second wave of good fortune has arrived. Mr. Eason, formerly of Florence, is working wonders. For starters, as you drive down DeKalb Street, look at the recreation department building itself, now smart white with improved parking and interior renovations underway. In concert with last year’s marketing and branding consultants, Arnott Muldrow, who stated plainly that now is not the time for bricks-and-mortar sports complexes, the county has pledged roughly $2 million dollars for the refurbishing of the fields, restrooms and concession buildings at the Larry Doby Complex, Woodward Park and Lugoff’s Wildwood Youth Complex.

In addition, for the past several months, as so many parents have requested, Eason has also been scheduling tournaments. As Tripp Muldrow advised, for obvious financial reasons Camden and Kershaw County will never be able to present the top tier tournaments that much larger cities offer -- and most parents cannot afford them anyway. Kershaw County can provide a solid, middle-class affordable niche for a majority of families. In August alone, under Eason’s direction, 64 softball teams came to play and compete here. Of note: the much-appreciated Mrs. Pearl Boswell has been serving hot dogs and snacks to sports fans in the concession stand at the Doby Complex.

Joe Eason also mentions that with its summer playground program the recreation department served a total of 330 kids a day at the City Rhame Arena, Jackson School, the old armory, Lugoff Elementary School, in Bethune and at St. Matthew’s Community Center. The summer camps, focusing on everything from volleyball, softball, basketballs and the main line sports to cheerleading, golf, creative art, soccer, horseback riding and etiquette, served a total of 640 kids. Two hundred and seventy-seven children took swimming lessons.

There is more: The Camden Country Club Sports Camp, nicknamed “Camp Camden,” offers summer programs of golf, tennis and swimming; you don't have to be a club member to participate. At Goodale State Park, the Kershaw County Soil and Water District sponsors a four-day summer Conservation Camp.

The Kershaw County Library (Camden, Elgin, and Bethune branches) offer almost daily events throughout the year that welcome children, from reading classes to lectures this month on bats and even how to build a bat house, for all ages.

The Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, 40 years old this year, in addition to financial aid for those on tight budgets, offers low-cost children’s classes in dance, music, theatre, design, painting, clay sculpture, needle craft and writing, Summertime activities include art and theatre camps (425-7676).

A related subject: Brian Mayes, the director of the new Boys & Girls Club’s Jackson Teen Club, has already signed up 150 boys and girls for after-school activities, including the Homework Power Hour, GPA Club, Teen Talk, Partner with JRT (Job Readiness for Teens), music, dance, stepping, flag football, basketball and more. Yearly membership fee: $5 (243-0732).

Joe DeLoach and Kevin Jackson (Camden Country Club) report that the junior tennis tournament at the end of May was a huge success. Their vision: a regional Southern junior tournament here.

From Jim Bradshaw: “Kids, are you up to the challenge of a lifetime: camping, hiking, swimming, sports, archery, shooting sports, team work and, most of all, having fun? If so, come join the greatest movement in the world: The Boys Scouts of America!” Contact Jim at: 713-9377 (h); 704-905-6586 (c).

As I have reported before, Jennifer Piasecki’s Wateree Gymnastics on Gordon St. offers gymnastics, tumbling, cheerleading, afterschool care, full and half-day summer camp and birthday parties (432-2609).

An ongoing thank-you to Catherine French and the Camden Garden Club. Under French’s direction with Liz Gilland, they bought and planted the hanging flower baskets on Broad Street, and over the summer installed black trash containers with vines and flowers. The point is not so much flowers, as the difference a few people with imagination can make in a community.

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