Marlboro Musings: Lend a hand. Make a difference.

How many times have you heard it? Boy, this town blows. There’s nothing to do in this county. This place is dying a slow death. I don’t know why anyone would stay here, much less move to Marlboro County. Pretty often, probably.

Now, you wanna know the basic reason why? Then look in the mirror because it is OUR fault. This is OUR home and, if we’ve let it go down, then it is up to US to make things better. No one is going to rush in and save us from ourselves. Columbia probably wishes we’d secede to North Carolina, but they don’t want us, and every day we allow to pass without making something better is another straw on the camel’s creaking back, another bullet in the gun that the naysayers get to fire.

Because the fact is they aren’t all wrong. We have taken a few body shots over the past couple years, mostly concerning things beyond our control. Nobody I know was pleased to see Marlboro Park Hospital lock its doors. And I’m unaware of anyone who was happy to see other local businesses closing. Losing Piggly Wiggly and Bi-Lo hurt, as did the loss of Fred’s, and a few others, not just in job losses but also in alternative shopping options, be it due to product or service availability, price, or simple proximity to your home area.

Yeah, after years of thinking we wanted one, we finally got a Wal-Mart. But it did have a negative impact on local businesses; a behemoth such as a new Wally World always will. That kind of rock makes a pretty big splash in any pond; no community is exempt from that kind of economic effect. Be careful what you wish for.

The bottom line is we’ve absorbed some body shots—we really had no choice, and now we have to look for ways to make our home special. And things are happening that could set the stage for Marlboro to once again be a beacon in the Pee Dee region.

Yes, our hospital closed, but we now have a virtual medical corridor established on Cheraw Street with CareSouth and Scotland Health operating brand-new busy primary care medical facilities, joining existing healthcare businesses and just down the road from three pharmacies. Plus, we have an outstanding EMS service available 24/7 for emergency care and transport to the appropriate facility via road or, if deemed necessary, by air.

Additionally, there are other interests such as the new Cook Out on the by-pass, either close to opening or strongly considering locating here, primarily because of our location. And therein lies the key to our future; we may be well positioned for progress thanks to a couple of things: low prices and a pleasant rural environment, and beach traffic. I firmly believe that low land and property values and the slower paced quality of life here is making Marlboro a more and more attractive option to those seeking to relocate, either for jobs or retirement. I have a neighbor, an accomplished anesthesiologist, formerly from southern California, who chose to relocate his family to Bennettsville, South Carolina over many other possibilities. And I also believe that half the state of Ohio stops in at our McDonalds each summer while enroute to the Grand Strand–that’s kinda why they stay open 24 hours—and I know of a couple former Ohioan families who have retired to a rural and quiet life in Marlboro County after passing thru it a few times.

Beautiful new schools are now operating in both Wallace and Blenheim, both visible along important thruways that clearly indicate to passersby that this community is serious about its future and our young people.

Likewise, county council is moving forward on a well thought out plan to improve and expand recreation opportunities for our citizens, and the Lake Paul Wallace Authority has formulated an ambitious strategy to once again make that a jewel in our crown. I don’t suppose my friends out at U’Totem or Nick’s in McColl would mind seeing North Carolina boaters streaming in to top off gas tanks with cheap SC petrol, pack coolers and grab a couple packs of smokes and some snacks on their way to a fun day at our lake, or for businesses in Wallace and Clio to get a little more of that beach bound money.

It’s actually quite simple: The future lies in our hands. Literally. We have to make people say “What a quaint little town.” when they pass thru Wallace, Bennettsville, Blenheim, Clio, or McColl, or pass along a compliment someday, not berate us because of something as simple as litter. We need to give them a reason to stop; we have to present a welcoming appearance, appealing and attractive.

To that end, a group of citizens have decided to do what they can to help those already battling on our behalf as this Saturday they will gather at Smith Park on Cottingham Boulevard in Bennettsville at 7:30 to gang up and, with the assistance of SCDOT, spend a couple hours tackling unsightly roadside trash in Bennettsville, the first of many such planned events that will target primary thoroughfares throughout Marlboro. I challenge you to show that you care and be among them, and hope to see you there as we seek to make a difference.

Perception sometimes is reality, folks. Let’s polish ours up.

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