2018 was a very good year for Camden’s James Leroy Belk American Legion Post No. 17, and Kershaw County Council wanted to make sure the community knows that.
During its meeting Tuesday night, council unanimously (minus Councilman Tom Gardner, who was absent) voted to issue a proclamation recognizing the post for being the only one in South Carolina to earn a Post Excellence Award for 2018.
In the proclamation, portions of which were read by Chairman Julian Burns, a retired major general, council notes that the post won the award for its involvement in youth activities, community service, and service to current troops and veterans.
Burns read that youth activities in which the post is involved include Boys State, American Legion baseball, sponsorship of a Camden youth baseball team, its annual oratorical contest, the Boy Scouts and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).
Much of the accolades in both the community service and service to troops/veterans categories focused on Post 17’s involvement in bringing The Wall That Heals -- a half-scale replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. -- to Camden and Kershaw County. According to the proclamation, Post 17 spent more than 15 months in partnership with the city and county, along with Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site to bring The Wall That Heals to the community. Historic Camden served as the site for the four-day event, which attracted an estimated 14,000 people from the Midlands, other parts of South Carolina and the nation to Kershaw County.
Other community service activities mentioned in the proclamation included:
• recognizing members of law enforcement, firefighters and teachers;
• having its honor guard participate in the funerals of post members and other veterans;
• donating $500 to the Boys and Girls Club of Kershaw County;
• participating in and providing flags for school Veterans Day programs;
• donating funds to the Thiel-Meyer Pet Adoption Center, Kershaw County Library and other organizations;
• offering its facilities to various other organizations for events, including the recreation department each week during the summer for a senior exercise group; and
• offering the post as a voting precinct at no cost to the county.
Other service to troops and veterans Post 17 provided during 2018 included:
• operating a van to take Kershaw County veterans to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Columbia one day each week;
• using $2,000 from its endowment fund to assist three post members;
• distributing left-over food from post meetings to shut-in veterans and/or Food for the Soul;
• attending send-off or welcome home events at McEntire Joint National Guard Base;
• spending nearly $4,600 to produce a monthly newsletter for 400 members and widows of members;
• conducting, along with other veterans groups, the annual commemoration service for the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s mass drop exercise over Lugoff in 1943; and
• hosting its annual Veterans Day program.
Burns concluded by saying that the proclamation recognizes “the merits of American Legion Post 17 and commends them for their contributions to Kershaw County and its veterans.”
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, council received a presentation from Ryan Bean, the new Kershaw County coordinator for the Clemson Extension Service. During the presentation, Bean outlined various activities the service conducted in 2018 and what it has planned for the rest of 2019 and associated costs, which came to a total of $5,900. He said Clemson Extension is grateful for help council has provided in the past -- and noted it has not asked for an increase in two years -- but asked that the county consider increasing it this year to cover the costs of remaining activities.
Bean said one of the planned activities include a shooting sports program.
“This would be a large endeavor, including the cost,” he said, “and we would rather not put that on the shoulders of our youth.
Other plans include continuation of a poultry program that Bean said he expects to grow in participation, as well as a tree identification and herbicide education program.
In answering questions from members of council, Bean confirmed he is on the board of the Kershaw County Farmers Market and would appreciate suggestions on how the extension service can be more involved there. He also said that the service also does or could participate in community beautification programs.
Burns noted one reason the Clemson Extension Service is so important in Kershaw County.
“We are the No. 1 most profitable agricultural county in the state, and the 17th in the country,” Burns declared, later explaining that he was citing information from a 2014 Clemson Extension Service The Newsstand article used as the basis for some of the county’s KershawVision 2030 planning document.
In other business Tuesday, council:
• passed second reading of an ordinance that will, if passed on third and final reading, authorize the rezoning of property on Youngs Bend Road and U.S. 521 North across from the Carolina Motorsports Park in order for it to be developed as an RV park with cabins;
• passed second reading of an ordinance that will, if passed on third and final reading, authorize a 10-year extension of the base lease agreement with the S.C. Equine Promotion Foundation to operate the S.C. Equine Park near I-20 Exit 101;
• passed first reading of an ordinance that will, if passed on second and third readings, authorize the rezoning of a property on Precipice Road so that it can be used as a wedding venue; and
• voted down, 2-4, a motion from Councilman Jimmy Jones to extend the public comment time period from 30 minutes to 45 minutes in cases where 15 or more people sign up to speak.
Also, Councilman Al Bozard reported that plans to bring the Sparkleberry Fair to Kershaw County have fallen through. Bozard said fair organizers recently decided that they could no longer operate in Richland County but decided that if they could not, they would shut down rather than move it to Kershaw County.
“They took in $100,000 in two days,” Bozard reported of the 2018 fair. “That would’ve helped a lot of schools wherever it was, Richland or Kershaw County.”