The sound of basketballs thumping on wooden floors and of children's eager shouts for snow cones filled the Charles Lind Brown Community Center on Saturday as residents celebrated the grand re-opening of the facility for public use.
For years, the center, located at the corner of Greene and Hamar streets, had been used by reservation only for a quilting class, karate lessons, an annual Christmas exhibit and various PALS programs. The Circle of Hope Coalition, formed about a year ago in reaction to a shooting in the area, recently signed a contract with Beaufort County Council to open the facility on weeknights and Saturdays for uses such as open-gym basketball, tutoring, chess and arts and crafts. The coalition is run by volunteers, according to program coordinator Anita Singleton-Prather. The goal is to make the center a place where area residents -- particularly children and teenagers -- can go to have fun and find positive role models, she said.
Two volunteers, Sue and Michael Bilbyof Lady's Island, spent Saturday making hot dogs and handing out pizza to visitors but plan to help kids in karate, art, reading and applying for grants to go to college. They moved from West Virginia about a year ago and originally came to the center to use the swimming pool. They soon began volunteering after they fell in love with the kids and the coalition.
"The only way to keep a community strong is to participate," Sue said.
"(The coalition) is trying to do something great here," Michael said in reference to its focus on kids. "We wanted to help."
David Jenkins, a 46-year-old native of Beaufort, high-fived and waved to many of the basketball players shooting hoops. He plans to use his own life experience to help troubled teenagers to the center to find healthier activities and postive role models. Jenkins has been to prison six times and has a troubled past involving drugs and various types of crime. His own poor decisions, he said, give him the ability to connect with those facing similar problems.
"Whatever they're going through, chances are I've been through it," he said. "I try to stress to them the importance of choices."
The coalition holds an open gym and runs programs in the building from 6 to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Those interested in volunteering can contact Singleton-Prather at 843-263-5229 or coalition secretary Carol Smalls-Jenkins at 843-379-1002.