The Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative works with businesses, civic and faith-based organizations, schools, government entities, social and health services, law enforcement, Chambers of Commerce and the media to develop ways of strengthening character.
The idea to implement the program came in the fall of 1999, when Bernice Tribble and Laura Hibbits attended a breakout session led by Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh at the annual conference of the South Carolina Downtown Development Association in Charleston. The session was based on a program started in the elementary schools of Aiken to build strong character in students. The name selected for the initiative in Aiken was Community of Character.
Tribble and Hibbits brought the concept back to local leaders, and a grassroots effort began. Aiken’s mayor and human resource director made several trips to Orangeburg, outlining steps for setting up a program. In 2000, the decision was made to go countywide with the character initiative, and all 17 of Orangeburg County’s municipalities signed resolutions of support.
The program operated without paid staff until 2006, when an executive director was hired to coordinate the efforts of the many volunteers who had worked diligently to make the program a success.
The Orangeburg County Community of Character inspires individuals, families and organizations within the county to take responsibility for their choices and decisions. By publicly displaying positive character traits and hosting various workshops yearly, OCCoC provides avenues of support to enhance the overall welfare of citizens. The program motivates citizens within the county to make a difference in the world around them.
Each month, a character trait is highlighted throughout the county for all entities. Students in the schools can be chosen as Character Students of the Month and teachers can be chosen as Character Teachers of the Month.
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Every fifth grader in the county comes together at Claflin University each January to have a Celebration of Character with awards, music, entertainment and a keynote speaker.
Outstanding eighth graders, chosen by fellows students and teachers throughout the county, enjoy a field trip in Orangeburg to learn about area businesses and possible careers, but they also learn how having excellent character plays a part in the success of a business and its employees.
A countywide Citizen of the Month is nominated by fellow community members and voted on to receive this honor, along with an article in The Times and Democrat.
"The character initiative looks to promote character understanding and education throughout the communities that comprise Orangeburg County," said John Holbrook, president of the OCCoC Board of Directors. "It was Henry David Thoreau who said you cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself into one. We see ourselves as part of this forging process, recognizing good character is the foundation for growing strong communities."
To find out how to become involved with the Orangeburg County Community of Character, call the organization’s office at 803-534-6821, visit the website at www.orangeburgcharacter.com, or visit the office located in the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce building.