Committee takes another step towards community center

The first steps in making the Williston-Elko Community Resource Center a reality took place at the Feb. 3 Barnwell County Council meeting.

Council gave a collective nod to clear a portion of land - capped at the cost of $10,000 - in mid-February and conduct a groundbreaking ceremony in March at the center's future site.

The Williston-Elko Community Resource Center will be located behind the Williston Library on Academy Street, said Barnwell County Councilman Freddie Houston.

The center will provide the area with a meeting place for community events and social activities, education programs and job training.

The center's showcase will be a multi-purpose room, said Houston.

"The room will have a stage where we can host the arts or theatrical presentations," he said. "People in the community will be able to have large gatherings under one roof - whatever needs the community has can be housed in the building."

The center will also feature a fitness center, a computer lab, a conference room with state-of-art video equipment, a kitchenette, a waiting room for small children and office space which could house state or local agencies, said Houston.

For the computer room, 15 computers have been donated by former Clemson extension agent Harry Crissy who got them through a grant, he said.

Houston heads up a non-profit committee to bring the $2.5 million building to Williston.

Houston is hoping to raise $1 million in donations and get another $1.5 million in grants to pay for the center.

"I think when people see something happening they may be more inclined to get enthused about it," said Houston.

The land-clearing and groundbreaking ceremony are just the latest in a series of steps Houston and the committee have taken.

The idea first came to light in Houston's church, St. Peter Baptist Church in Elko and it grew from there.

"Why limit it to the church when we could have it for the whole community?" asked Houston.

The church has committed $25,000 to the project, he said.

Both the Williston and Elko Town Councils as well as county agencies are supporting the center, he said.

The project has been granted 501(C)3 tax-exempt, nonprofit status by the state, has a state-approved tax identification number and is currently waiting for federal approval, said Houston.

Houston said he has been in touch with the Graniteville-based Barner Group, an organization that helps secure grants.
The Barner Group is currently doing a feasibility study on how to fund the resource center and how it would operate, he said.

Preliminary architect drawings for the building - rendered by the Graniteville-based Vista Design - are also complete, Houston said.

The resource center will be approximately 16,000 to 20,000 square feet and sit on about four acres of land that were Robert O. Collins, he said.

The center will house a number of rooms the community will find useful and beneficial, he said.

"We hope to get the Williston-Elko Resource Community Resource Center up and running one year from the groundbreaking ceremony," said Houston.

"I think it will bring people together and help the town grow - as well as provide the community with a sense of ownership," said Houston.