Will Community Answer Ministry’s Call to Action?

The future of the Country Club – and the shape of downtown Winnsboro – is now in the hands of the people of Fairfield County.

When the Fairfield County Club was on the block, Christ Central Ministries answered the call. When the ink had fully dried on the $150,000 deal that transferred ownership of the Country Club from the Mt. Zion Society to the outreach ministry, Christ Central then put the call out to the community – Come to the table and let’s get to work.

Last week, more than 100 people from every corner of the county jammed the Christ Central Community Center on N. Congress Street in downtown Winnsboro to answer that call and help guide the direction of the future of the Country Club and downtown.

“Tonight is about forming the transition teams,” Pastor Jimmy Jones, head of Christ Central Ministries, told the audience. “What would it look like if you were the artist? What would it look like if you were the architect? Let yourself dream for a little bit.”

Indeed, a transformative project along the lines of revitalizing an entire town is quite a dream in itself, but Jones’ ministry has gone a long way toward doing exactly that in communities like Wagener and Allendale, restoring crumbling buildings and injecting life into local economies with the ministry’s college and Mission Stations. Now, the ministry is looking to bring that spirit of recovery to Winnsboro; but what that will ultimately look like will not be up to Christ Central, but to the people of Fairfield County. And while local artist Dru Blair has made it clear that he would like to bring his art school, now located in Blair, downtown – beginning with the Country Club and eventually growing into the old Mt. Zion Institute – if and how that will take shape will be up to the transition teams.

“What does it take to bring people downtown?” Jones asked. “The whole idea is to make the town a better place and a prettier place while preserving its history and heritage. The Dru Blair School of Art has potential to bring new life to downtown, but it requires neighbors helping neighbors.”

Elfi Hacker, owner of the 145 Club on Congress Street, asked Jones if anything was in place to ensure this project moves forward. Jones said that would be up to the community, and noted there were obstacles that had to be overcome.

Referring to his ministry’s attempts two years ago to bring development to Western Fairfield County, Jones said certain less-savory spirits of the past have to be exorcized.

“There’s a prejudice here that has to be lost,” Jones said. “It’s not black. It’s not white. It’s both. We were told we didn’t want anything in this community, that we didn’t want any whites moving in here because it would change our vote.

“It doesn’t matter if you were a black slave in the cotton fields or a white slave in the cotton mills,” Jones said, “the poverty is the same. This won’t happen until the people on this end of town are as valuable as the people on the other end of town.”

Tim Wilkes, a former member of the State Legislature and a local businessman, said the community had reached a tipping point, and which way it would fall rested on everyone’s shoulders.

“This is about as bad as I’ve ever seen it here,” Wilkes said. “We’re on the verge of some very great things coming to keep us from disaster. I could have left Winnsboro years ago, but I stayed. And I’ve invested a lot of money and a considerable amount of time into downtown Winnsboro, and at my age that’s quite a big risk. Don’t give up hope. Be more hopeful than you’ve ever been.”

But there’s hope, and then there’s action, and as the meeting drew to a close, Jones asked for volunteers to sign up for the various advisory teams. Of the more than 100 people who turned out for the orientation, 85 put their names on one line or another.

Jones said those teams will be compiled and contacted in a matter of days, and then the real work will begin. As for the golf course, it is open and ready for business. On Thursdays, they are offering 18 holes for two people for $25, which includes cart rental.