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Service is flowering at Rock Hill camp

The yard in front of A Place for Hope in the impoverished Blackmon Road community used to be just a mass of overgrown vegetation.

But thanks to the 150 campers who were part of this year's Worthy Boys and Girls Camp, it is now a garden lined with bricks and home to a patch of Black-eyed Susans.

The Worthy Boys and Girls Camp began in 1949 when 48 acres of land was donated to the Rock Hill Pistol Club. One of the stipulations of the donation was that a camp for children be developed.

Now in its 63rd year, the week-long camp is operated by the Rock Hill Police Department and provides students with opportunities to fish, swim, learn about plants and animals and take trips.

But what they hope children learn the most is how to serve.

"We're trying to teach those who attend the camp what it means to serve and how to give back to the community," said Rock Hill Police Lt. Rod Stinson.

This year, they decided on a beautification project for A Place for Hope, a nonprofit that helps the Blackmon Road community located just southeast of Rock Hill's city limits.

Stinson said they explained the concept of community service to this year's campers, and they were "very excited" to help with the project.

"We hope it's instilled a sense of community spirit in them and helped make them more productive citizens," Stinson said.

Each week, groups of children helped clear grass, put down mulch and plant flowers.

On Thursday, the last batch of campers arrived to help finish the small brick wall around and throughout the garden.

"You'll leave your prints on all of this and become part of history," Sgt. Tim Marquez told the group. "You're improving somebody else's life."

Nicholas Sterling, 12, got the message.

"It feels good because these are less fortunate people," he said. "You can go out and help them and make them feel better about themselves."

Andrew Alejandro, 10, has enjoyed the camp, especially fishing, ice skating and going through the obstacle course. He even wants to be a police officer himself, and helping out in the community was a way for him to see what police officers do, he said.

"I feel good helping other people who need it," he said.

Mary Hoppman, executive director of A Place for Hope, described the experience as thrilling.

"It's just incredible," she said. "It's so important, just the fact that children did this, especially in the blazing heat.

"It's inspired the rest of the neighborhood to expand on the beautification."

Since the campers began work on the project this summer, she said residents have talked of putting in vegetable gardens.

"They've been an inspiration to all of us," she said.

Nicole E. Smith 803-329-4068