Will Brown is happy to have a safe place to relax and play.
The 13-year-old said the volunteers and supporters of a local Christian housing ministry did something good not only for him, but for his community, by making a new children’s park possible.
Edisto Habitat for Humanity officials, along with city and county government officials, converged upon 1071 Kings Road in Orangeburg recently for the dedication of the Orangeburg County Community Park.
It has been named in honor of Michael G. Salley Jr.
Salley co-founded Edisto Habitat for Humanity in 1989. He is known as the “Edisto Habitat Father” and has donated more construction hours over the last 30 years than any other volunteer in the local organization.
Salley has helped build more than 82 homes for families since 1991, when the first home was completed.
"I'm so glad you are here and in the park built for the children in this area. I have worked with Habitat since it was started. This a wonderful honor, and I am so appreciative to all who've made this happen," Salley said.
The park is a result of a collaborative effort between Orangeburg County and Habitat for Humanity, and funded by a grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation.
Habitat Executive Director Jessica Burgoyne hopes the park will enhance the Kings Road neighborhood, where several Habitat homes have already been built.
"It's an absolutely amazing day to see all of this community support in honor of Mr. Salley and the work. We're just really trying to be a part of our community, and I think it's great that we celebrate our community," she said.
Burgoyne added, "We have the most dedicated volunteers. This is what it's about."
She noted that the park could not have been completed without the support of every business and individual who donated to the project.
A dome climber, fun tube, teeter-totter, musical panel, fun pods and a double-seat airplane are among the items that have been ordered for Phase 2 of the park project and should be delivered soon, Burgoyne said.
Orangeburg County will manage the park.
Central Carolina Community Foundation President and CEO JoAnn Turnquist said the laughter of the children who are already enjoying the park is a wonderful testament to all the work Salley has done to improve his community.
She said the park development was just an extension of the foundation’s mission to build "connected communities."
"When you think about this incredible development that all of you have built together, you have these wonderful neighbors who, with your help, have built homes that they and their families can enjoy," Turnquist said.
"And now look at this incredible park and the children and all of us coming together. The entire community came together to do it. I, along with Erin Johnson, who's our vice president for community investment, are so grateful that we got to be part of your journey and invest $75,000 in this park," she said.
Brown, a Howard Middle School student, was among the children who gathered at the park to play and enjoy refreshments.
What were his plans for the rest of the afternoon?
"Have a good time," he said
Brown’s was thankful for those who made the park a reality.
"They did good," Brown said.
County Planning Director Richard Hall said he first met Salley 15 years ago when he was working as a building inspector for the City of Orangeburg.
"I was always impressed with him and his whole group of older gentlemen that were willing to bring their knowledge and their time to build houses like you see behind us and create homes for people in our community," Hall said.
Habitat's continued efforts to provide affordable housing and enhance communities is commendable, he said.
"They're taking this area and turning it into a neighborhood instead of just a pass-through street. ... The county is happy to continue the work of Habitat," Hall said.
Former Habitat Executive Director Jamie Wood got emotional talking about the support of the organization’s volunteers over the years, particularly Salley.
"Before I entered the Habitat world, I knew of him and he was a friend of the family. From day one, his kind, gentle spirit has been the thing that stood out to me always. ... By the grace of God, he sent this man and put a vision in his heart. And because of that, we've all be blessed by being touched by his life," Wood said.
Salley's wife, Penny, was on hand at the dedication, along with Salley's brothers, their families and his daughter, Sara.
"He's looked forward to this day for a long time and just very interested in getting out and helping work as much as he can. It's been real exciting. He loves to watch the children and enjoys pushing them in the swings, too," Penny said, smiling.
Sara said, "I think it is a wonderful park. It's culminating with all the houses, and having this for the kids is just a great resource for this community."
Orangeburg County Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith, whose district includes the Kings Road community, was also on hand, along with County Councilman Johnny Ravenell, County Chamber of Commerce President Reyne Moore and Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler.
Cooper-Smith thanked Salley for his many years of community service work.
"You have done so much to help families. ... The work you have done is speaking for you today," the councilwoman said.
Moore, who presented Habitat with a framed certificate of recognition, said, "What a wonderful place this is. I think you've heard it a million times, and I'm sure you'll hear it a million more. This is a fantastic addition to our community."
Charles Madison was among the Habitat volunteers on hand for the park dedication.
"I think it's fantastic. We built all these houses right here in this area and most of the families have kids. So they’ve got a playground right here. This is very nice."