By Pamela Brownstein
A large crowd gathered on a beautiful autumn morning on St. Helena Island for the ground breaking of a new library and to turn a new page in the history of Beaufort County. The ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 13, included school choirs and many speakers who praised the importance of the project.
During his invocation, Rep. Kenneth Hodges said that even though books were burned during the Civil War, this awful act could not quench the thirst for knowledge in the community.
Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton thanked the many people who made this library happen — the county employees, the library board and staff members, Penn Center and the countless volunteers — and described how the project began in 2006 and through hard work and many forms of funding became a reality today. He said through collaboration we can celebrate the building of the $11 million library facility “because we locked arms to move ahead.”
“We stand prepared to turn over the soil to further education in northern Beaufort County,” he said.
Vernita Dore, the South Carolina director of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, described the USDA’s role in providing grants with the help of President Obama’s U.S. Recovery Act. She also said the library project is an investment in children that will help bring education equity to St. Helena.
Beaufort County School Board Chairman Fred Washington saw the library as an opportunity for the community to have access to resources to continue to learn and grow with knowledge. He said now “high school students can access what they need to be better citizens.”
County Councilman William McBride, who has been at the heart of the library effort for a long time, said, “This is the most important community project on St. Helena in many years.”
McBride said no location is more appropriate for a library than at Penn Center, where it can complement the good work already being done at the historic and educational site.
“When I look at the young people in the audience today, I am enheartened by the contribution we are making to their future with this library … I am proud of this day,” said McBride.
Perhaps Theresa Dunn, chairperson of the Beaufort County Library System Board of Trustees, best captured the significance of the entire event when she said “we are now able to write a new story in the life of our library system.”