The City of Orangeburg has remained beautiful and functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic through the efforts of the men and women of the city's parks and recreation, gardens, administrative and finance departments.
These departments and their employees continued to handle the day-to-day needs of the city and did not miss a beat in the effort to ensure residents’ needs are met.
"I face the risk every day coming in here with the virus going on," City of Orangeburg maintenance man Jerome Franklin said while working at the Edisto Memorial Gardens Friday morning. "I try to keep a mask on, my gloves on and sanitize my truck and sanitize my hands all the time."
With masks on and temperatures rising into the 80s, he, along with Anthony Bryant, spent a portion of the morning spraying the Gardens to control insects.
"My job requires a lot," Franklin said. "Whatever my boss tells me to do, I go and get the job done. I do the whole nine yards. Whatever will make City of Orangeburg better, I do it."
Franklin starts work around 7 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. and says each minute and each hour is valuable. He continued to work every day during the last three months.
"I think my job is important because the city of Orangeburg, we represent it as a whole and not just one," he said.
"It is a blessing for some of us to be home and it is a blessing for some of us to still be at work," Franklin continued. "Jobs are hard to find. If you have to come here to work, just be safe. You can't worry about the next person but just cover yourself."
Franklin says he believes he is a hero.
"If I can do anything to help someone else, I will," he said.
Superintendent of Recreation and Marketing Shawn Taylor also continued to work throughout COVID-19.
He and other staff members have been working on the city's Parks and Recreation Department's “Rec on the Go” program, a virtual online program keeping residents engaged with the department’s activities virtually.
"We believe in getting our community engaged and active," Taylor said. "I truly believe an active community is a healthy community and a healthy community is a prosperous community."
"It is very, very important for us to continue to find outlets for our community to engage in the great outdoors or what we call 'It starts in parks,'" he said.
"Investment in our future is very, very important for us as we continue to look at post-COVID and how we can engage citizens in recreational league activities," he said.
Taylor said he looks at the work done during the coronavirus pandemic as a service.
"I am a public servant and I signed up to be a public servant and serving our community brings us great joy," he said. "We appreciate being called unsung heroes, but being a public servant on a day-to-day basis is what we come out to do to enrich our community to be better and to grow our future."
During the height of the coronavirus, the city's Parks and Recreation department closed all playgrounds, parks, outdoor restrooms, ball fields and community centers.
On the recreational side, the city's baseball, softball, summer basketball and summer camps have all been cancelled. Officials hope to reopen the spray park by the end of June or early July.
"We are looking at how we can keep first our staff safe as well as the public," Parks and Recreation Director Shaniqua Simmons said. "We have started planning for what we call mini-camp days where we can have special programs where we can limit the amount of participants in those programs."
The Gardens are open, as well as the North Road Orangeburg Recreation Complex's walking trails and open areas, playgrounds, boat ramps and the Edisto Gardens boardwalk.
"We ask the public to still social distance and to be safe and wash your hands and wear a mask when you are out," she said.
Throughout COVID-19, the department has been functioning with a full staff.
Superintendent of Parks Jay Hiers said the city has kept the Edisto Gardens open to the public during COVID due to the ability to social distance in the space.
"Maintenance and upkeep were pretty much done on a regular basis," Hiers said. "They were operational even with COVID-19 going on. The city employees were working five days a week and eight hours a day making sure everything was maintained and opened for the public that was accessible to the public."
Hiers said employees were asked to wear masks and to practice social distancing.
The City of Orangeburg has continued to operate, not missing a beat throughout the pandemic.
The city's administration and finance department staff were in each and every day serving residents’ needs.
Linda McDaniel, executive administrative assistant for both the city's administrator and mayor, continued to come in during regular office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"We answer all the calls coming in," McDaniel said. "We are the first line. There is always a live, friendly voice."
McDaniel says she was honored to be able to serve citizens during such a difficult time.
"There are people, especially during COVID-19, that didn't know where to call and didn't actually get places open," she said. "We were always open. We were able to direct people with phone numbers and agencies."
Jennifer Lisby, city finance clerk, said bills still needed to be paid during COVID-19.
"I think it is important that we are here and that we are available to the public as we also do a public service," Lisby said. "We are here to help out in any way."
McDaniel and Lisby praised the city for keeping them safe and helping to reduce risks.
"The doors to our direct office were locked, so we actually served people through the door," McDaniel said.
McDaniel said office staff did wear masks throughout the pandemic when dealing with the public or walking through city hall.
"In our office we all stay six feet apart," she said.
"We never came in direct contact with anyone, so they (city) have done a great job in keeping us safe" Lisby said.
Lisby said, “I am not a hero. I am just doing my job. I am just thankful that I have a job and that city has worked with all of its employees the way that it has."
McDaniel echoed Lisby.
"I don't feel like I am an unsung hero," she said. "I am proud of the city for finding a way to stay open with all departments being open to serve the city, especially as a citizen of the city."