As many of you know, Kenny and I grew up in Hartford, CT. Kenny grew up around Albany Avenue in various single and multi-family homes and I grew up in what was Bowles Park, a middle income housing project. Neither of us had a silver spoon. We did have strong mothers who raised us to want more. We both as adults have a strong desire to make an Impact Without Limits on as many lives as possible. We work hard to give back and change our community for the betterment of our people and our children.
I left Hartford in 2008 for good. It isn't that I don't have love for my hometown. I just knew it wasn't where belonged or where I could make the most difference. Kenny left for good in 2013. He too realized it wasn't where he belonged or where he could make the biggest difference. Kenny tried for years, spending an amazing amount of money and time. The average household income in Hartford, CT as of 2017 was $33,841 . 74% of people in Hartford have a high school diploma .In 2016, we moved to South Carolina which was the best thing we could have done. Although we left our hometown, we still give back. We have donated school supplies, hygiene products, sponsored teams, purchased trophies, and organized several basketball tournaments, etc. So we haven't given up on Hartford however there are so many programs and organizations doing the same work in the city yet competing for the same funding and in the same donor pool. I am amazed how many are able to sustain from year to year.
Today we journeyed as we have several times over the past several months to Saluda, South Carolina. Saluda is a small town located less than 50 miles west of Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina. It is comprised of about 3500 residents in town. The county has about 25,000 residents. the average household income in 2017 was $26, 802 for a family of 4. 79.2% of people have a high school diploma . Saluda is the hometown of Mr. James Holloway. We met Mr. Holloway by chance. We happened upon this small town a little over two years ago following up on a basketball opportunity. That opportunity never panned out but Kenny and Mr. Holloway stayed in touch off and on. Mr. Holloway shared his vision that day two years ago for his hometown. His goal was to revitalize the land where he graduated from high school which served as only Black school for K-12 in Saluda during the Jim Crow era and before schools were forced to desegregate. The more we learned about the plans for Saluda the more we realized we had to be a part of it. We didn't realize how much a part we would commit to at the time but we knew this was something special.
The Future Home of the Riverside Community Center
Saluda is a 3 1/2 hour car ride one way. We take that ride as often as we can to assist Mr. Holloway. We live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We had another commitment today when we arrived back to the Beach. We went to see a local outdoor basketball tournament to support one of Kenny's co-workers who was guest speaking at the tournament. We live in Carolina Forest, one of the most desirable communities in Myrtle Beach. I don't say that to brag but rather to show the contrast. When Kenny was the assistant coach at Ten Oaks Middle School, one of two middle schools in the Carolina Forest neighborhood, these children had the luxury of playing in a brand new gymnasium with college padded seats, beautiful floors, locker rooms, and every amenity you could possibly think of. When these children are not a school, they can play on outdoor courts in their complexes like the basketball courts at the Farm where we live with its glass backboards.
Ten Oaks Gymnasium
Basketball Courts at the Farm
We arrived in the neighborhood of Racepath Park which is in the poorest community in Myrtle Beach. The park sits at the end of dirt road. This is the Keney Park of Hartford, the Rucker of the Bronx. This is the where the best of the best play in the city. It not only sits at the end of a dirt road. It's a dirt road at the end of a trailer park. It has been described by visitors as the "red light neighborhood where who knows who or what you can leave with". Yet, this is the mecca of ball in a city that raked in roughly 10 billion dollars, yes that is BILLION, in tourist revenue from sports tourism, hotels, restaurants, etc. Incidentally, most of the folks living in the "red light" neighborhood work one, two, and sometimes three jobs related to tourism just to pay their expenses and provide for their families. The average household income in 2017 was $39,006. This number is skewed though by snowbirds who have retired here with their up North pensions and people like us who brought our up North incomes here working from home. The poverty rate in Myrtle Beach is 23.8%. Those people tend to live in the southern part of the city where Racepath Park is located. Here only 16.3% have a high school diploma. I cried as we left the park. While I realized people lived this way, it is something else to see it up close and personal. I told Kenny I had nothing to compare it to. I grew up in the PJs, worked in some of the roughest PJs in Queens, and have seen more than my fair share of poverty .Nothing like this though. I wasn't prepared after having a wonderful day in Saluda meeting with Mr. Holloway to talk its future and how he decided to make this his life's work.
Magnolia Lane leading to Racepath Park
Night ball at Racepath Park (Photo Credit: Karl Mroch)
As I mentioned, we have made a commitment to the Saluda community. We are forging ahead with major plans to revitalize and change the entire landscape of this community. When things are completed, the Riverside Community Development Corporation and Impact Without Limits will institute changes to the town that will leave a legacy for our people and our children. Our impact will not only affect the town but the region surrounding. Kenny and I chose here because as I mentioned before we knew our hometown has more competition than collaboration. We didn't choose Myrtle Beach because we haven't seen any leaders in the city that look like us nor do we have faith in a place where you can make 10 billion dollars and have dirt roads still within your city leading to your poorest resident who do look like us.
We all have to make to choices. Sometimes, you choose or are chosen. We believe we were chosen for Saluda. The goals, dreams, and vision for the town was so in line with our own we were drawn to the project like a moth to a flame. What choices are you making to have an Impact Without Limits or has something chosen you?