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No one was hurt in last summer's drive-by shooting that took place directly across the street from dozens of children at an outdoor public pool.
But the incident July 19, 2011, was a warning shot to the community near the Charles "Lind" Brown Community Center: People had to do more to give youngsters a safe place to spend their free time.The Circle of Hope Coalition formed shortly thereafter in the home of Anita Singleton-Prather, where participants brainstormed ways to get children and teenagers off the streets. A year later, public use of the Charles "Lind" Brown Community Center -- a facility on the corner of Hamar and Greene streets with a gym, art room, kitchen, dance studio and several multi-purpose rooms -- is the product of their efforts.
The Circle of Hope has invited the public to a celebration Saturday of the center's re-opening. It will include games, food, inflatable bounce houses and . It starts at noon.
For years, the center has been used for youth sports, karate and quilting classes, Christmas events, and a polling place.
But coalition members believe the facility can be used for even more.
In April, Beaufort County Council unanimously passed a motion allowing the coalition to host activities from 6 to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The contract took effect July 1 and can be renewed if the council agrees it was beneficial. The contract stipulates the county will pay the utility bill to keep the center open 15 additional hours each week if the coalition provides volunteers and activites to host.
The coalition intends to use it for basketball, art classes, tutoring, boxing lessons, a playing chess and cooking classes. The ideas for other activities will come from coalition members and area teenagers. The program is run by volunteers and the group is accepting supplies for activities. Monetary donations will be accepted once their non-profit status is approved by the S.C. Secretary of State. Unlike the county's more remote Burton Wells Recreation Center, the Charles "Lind" Brown center is a short walk or bike ride for many living in the city of Beaufort. Coalition members hope the free use of the facility in the evenings will stave off boredom and keep children from getting into mischief.
"We want to show them how to use the gifts they have in more positive ways," Singleton-Prather said.
Volunteers will run all programs and will have to go through a background check required by PALS. Fifteen have committed to help so far, and the group seeks more volunteers. Those interested can contact Singleton-Prather at 843-263-5229 or coalition secretary Carol Smalls-Jenkins at 843-379-1002.
Coalition member Larry Holman was at the center when last year's drive-by took place. It was the day of a special election and Holman was running to fill the remainder of a term on Beaufort City Council after a previous member died. He was holding a sign encouraging residents to vote across the street from the center when the shooting happened.
Though frightening at the time, Holman was able to laugh Wednesday as he recalled hiding behind a tree when the shooting started.
Singleton-Prather, who lived near where the shooting occurred, smiled as Holman told his story.
"Whatever Satan made for evil, God can make for good," she said.
Follow staff writer Anne Christnovich at twitter.com/IPBG_CrimeNOB.