Big 7 Association ready to help: Scholarship Banquet set for Feb. 22

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David Purtell - Staff Writer

"So far to go, so little time ..."
So reads the creed of the Big Seven Association, which for 25 years has been working to make the community a better, stronger place. The non-profit organization started in 1989 when a group of softball coaches and players decided they wanted to improve the lives of people in Barnwell County.
When the original members decided to start taking action, the first thing they did was build a softball field in the Red Oak community for the area's children. They also hosted activities, like cookouts and parties, for children.
In the years since, the organization has touched people of all ages and cemented itself has a vital foundation of the area.
James Wallace, an original member of the Big Seven and the group's current president, said, "We cater to the community... We are shaping lives here in Barnwell County."
Whether they're delivering groceries to the elderly or recognizing a teacher for outstanding work, the Big Seven is always willing to lend a hand in support of a good cause. The group has even raised thousands of dollars for individuals injured in car accidents.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Carolina wouldn't be here if not for the efforts of the Big Seven. The after-school and summer program serves over 150 kids in Barnwell and Allendale counties - providing assistance to families and jobs for young people in the community.
Big Seven member Dewayne Eubanks said he is especially proud of the Boys and Girls Clubs. He said a lot of hard work went into bringing the organization to Barnwell. The process started in 2005, he said, and it took a lot of patience and endurance.
"I like to see something that has a positive effect," Eubanks said, "People doing positive things to bring the better out of others."
The Big Seven will be celebrating one of its longest and proudest traditions later this month at the annual Scholarship Banquet. This year's event will mark 20 years of the Big Seven helping local students with the cost of college. The group gives $1,000 to at least three high-school seniors each year - one from each public high school in the county. In all, the Big Seven has given away more than $63,000 in scholarships.
That money is raised through the annual banquet, car washes, raffles, doughnut sales, and donations from the community.
Students apply for the scholarship by writing a letter to the organization stating why they deserve the money. The Big Seven chooses winners based on need.
The Big Seven often gets requests for money from college students, and the group's members always try to give what they can to deserving students, Wallace said - and sometimes that means giving money from their own pockets.
The Big Seven doesn't just take care of the community, they take care of each other too.
"We're like brothers," Eubanks said. He is a cancer survivor and said the members took care of him while he was sick.
Wallace said he hopes the young people the group has touched will follow in their footsteps and possibly take their place in the future.
He said he'd like to see some of the children in the Boys and Girls Clubs become part of the Big Seven in the future.
The Big Seven has had as many as 16 members in the past; today there are eight. Those who want to join can write a letter describing why they want to be a part of the group. The members hold a vote on whether to accept a candidate.
Wallace, the last original member still active in the group, said, "If I can help somebody today ... that is my cause"
"I'm a servant of God," he said, "We all need to be part of that giving."
The Big Seven Association's annual Scholarship Banquet is Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at Barnwell Elementary School. The speaker will be Donna Moore Wesby of Shout 94.7 radio. She hosts the "Education Matters" program. Tickets are $15. Contact a Big Seven member. Visit www.big7association.org to learn how you can help the cause and donate.