Friday night fun
by The Press and Standard | February 7, 2019 5:00 pm
Last Updated: February 6, 2019 at 9:20 am
On any given Friday night, 200-300 youngsters flood the Walterboro Christian Center (WCC) to play basketball, pool, video games, skate, dance and leap in jump castles.
The huge play room occupies half of the old Kmart building on Robertson Boulevard, designed to entertain kids of all ages.
“We’ve been doing Friday Night Fun Night since we started the ministry,” said WCC Pastor JaDon Buckner. “They have access to skating, jumping castles, crazy carts, two basketball courts, pool tables, games like motorcycles, Pac-Man, PlayStation 4, Xboxes and computers. We have televisions set up, normally with basketball games but sometimes golf, because that’s something they’re probably not as familiar with and it’s a learning experience.”
On Friday nights from 7-10 p.m., the center is open to all children from toddlers on up. Children usually start appearing about 6:30, Buckner said. The WCC staff monitors activities in the playroom, the hallways and restrooms. That way parents can drop their children off for a few hours of fun and enjoy some “alone time” — or they can stay and watch the fun.
Basketball draws the most interest, Buckner said. One of the staff members, who is a Dorchester County principal and former school athletic department member, organizes teams for basketball competitions on one of the two courts, while on the other “they just kind of freelance.”
“We used to be on Washington Street in my mother’s store. We’d move the clothes racks and put out toys and let them play with them. Then when we went to 255 Washington St., we let them play in the back,” Buckner said.
The ministry started at his mother’s house, he said. “We used to do church services in her yard. Then we used her store, then Hampton Street Auditorium for a while, but it was hard having to set up and take down every week. So we moved into her store until we found 255 Washington St. We stayed there until we moved here on Aug. 5, 2005.”
They’d considered constructing a new building on just over 84 acres they owned on Cotttageville Highway, but “The Spirit of God gave me this building. I used to go past this building every morning on my way to 255 Washington St. And one morning someone asked if I’d ever considered this building,” he said. And he realized it just made more financial sense — a central location that already had a building, parking lot, water and sewer, 11 acres of land.
The expansive building offered not only room for the huge playroom, but also a banquet hall, a smaller meeting room, a religious bookstore and the church sanctuary. All of the rooms are available to rent to the public when they need to have a big meeting, a wedding, a birthday party or other event.
“We’re here for the community. That’s really what it’s all about,” Buckner said.
His biggest regret is the loss of the center’s buses in a financial crisis a few years back. They used to load up buses with children about once a month for trips to see what the world outside of Colleton County was like. Trips ranged from Disney World to Atlanta to North Carolina. All the trips were free. “We made sure they didn’t have to do anything other than just go on the trip,” he said.
The trips were important because children need “to see things and realize there’s more to life than just what’s here in Walterboro. Exposure to other things so that they can be better students, a little more respectful, by seeing other things in life and knowing that what they’re seeing here is not all that life has to offer,” Buckner said. “And another thing is knowing that somebody cares enough for them to do those types of things with them and to help them develop into young men and young women. That’s why I’d like to have at least one bus back. A lot of the children who come in don’t get to see those types of things.”
But he’s still working on helping through the playroom. “We welcome everybody. We have a multi-culture crowd. It has grown in the last year to be some pretty decent numbers. We’ve been doing a lot of things that haven’t been recognized (health fairs, boys’ retreats, Christmas giveaways for adults and children, back-to-school supplies.) We try to do everything possible we can do to allow the community in. But our reward won’t come from them, it will come from Him.” So that’s OK.