Members of the New Brookland and Nix-Stilton communities gathered at the former Nix Elementary School on Friday afternoon to celebrate its long-awaited transformation into a community center.

Located at 770 Stilton Road in Orangeburg, the former elementary school is set to become the Nix-Stilton Center, a multi-service complex including a senior citizens center, a daycare center and space for small business incubator programs.

“We’re going to have after-school programs for children … (and) an athletic director that not only will have activities for children to do, but teach them skills in football (and) basketball,” said Tyrone Dash, who serves as the Nix-Stilton CIO’s strategic planner.

“Please look forward to great things that are going to happen here. This is just the beginning. I am grateful that God has given me an opportunity to be able to participate,” Dash said.

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The Orangeburg County School District board voted last year to donate the former school to Orangeburg County for community use.

The transfer of the property followed discussions about the use of school buildings closed as part of the district’s $190 million building plan. The plan was approved by voters in November 2022.

OCSD Board Chairman Ruby Edwards said, “Today we are here because our community came together to do what is best for children. … The elected representatives and the community leaders worked this project like it was a full-time job.”

“When we all work together, there is nothing we can’t do in Orangeburg to make sure our children are prepared for whatever endeavor they want to do,” she said.

District 5 OCSD Board member Idella Carson, whose district includes the community, said, “It’s a great day in Orangeburg County. It’s also a great day in the Nix community. When we work together as a team … we can get things done.”

Former state Rep. Jerry Govan, who grew up in the New Brookland community, and Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, were among the government officials on hand, along with, but not limited to, Orangeburg County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright and Orangeburg County Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith, whose district includes the New Brookland and Nix-Stilton areas.

Cooper-Smith secured $780,000 for the community center in 2016 with the passage of the county’s capital project sales tax.

“That was eight years ago. It has to be put on the agenda in November, the fifth continuation of the penny. If it passes, funds will be provided for this facility. It’s already written in if the citizens vote on it,” Cooper-Smith said.

“I feel good. It shows what teamwork can do. If you work together, goals will be accomplished. This is another step in that direction,” she said.

“This is not the first time that I have worked hard to better the quality of life for citizens of this community. In 2010, with the passage of the third penny sales tax, I provided funds for sewer to many homes and paved many dirt roads,” Cooper-Smith said.

She said she also worked to rid the community of dilapidated housing.

As a longtime state representative, Govan, who is now running to succeed Ott for the House District 93 seat, also worked to secure money for the project.

“The bulk of the money comes from the earmark that I secured from the state. So we have the first installment to get the project off the ground, which was $50,000. Then after that, the second year, we were able to procure a million dollars,” Govan said.

He continued, “We redirected those funds to the county for this particular project to build a senior center in the New Brookland area. That encompasses also Nix-Stilton. So after they had redrawn the lines and we were drawn out of the district, we looked very closely at where we could move this money because we didn’t want to lose it, or have the state take the funds back.”

Govan said the project was not going to be abandoned, “looking at the time and work and effort that we had invested here and after collaborating with Ms. Cooper.”

“We basically combined her money with the $1.1 million that I had, and that’s what’s funding this project. It’s enough. It’s not everything we wanted, but, of course, it’s enough to get the renovations started and build the senior center, which will occupy the space between where the corridors currently exist and The Clyburn Center,” the former state legislator said.

Govan said he is looking forward to “a state-of-the-art senior citizens center and a family center that can do multiple things.”

“Hopefully down the road in phase two we’ll add a gymnasium, a substation and other pieces of the puzzle that will serve this community. We’re real excited. This is just the beginning. A lot of people deserve credit,” he said, including the school district.

“This is truly a public-private partnership in collaboration across multiple state agencies. So what you see here today is a culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of people, but none more important than those visionaries who years and years ago would not back down. That is the visionaries that lived in this community,” Govan said.

Nix-Stilton CIO President Harry Govan was among them.

“I could not have done it by myself,” he said. He recognized other members of the Nix-Stilton CIO and its foundation members.

“They are the ones that started the dream back in the ‘50s for the park out there on Stilton Road. We thank everyone for coming out that have supported us,” he said.

Ott said, “We were in a lot of meetings together. … Some of them were a little tenser than others, but we had a budget. But what these guys behind me continued to say over and over was that they wanted to honor the past.”

He continued, “They wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, that there was a facility here that people could remember what it was when they lived here and when they went to school here.

“They wanted a facility that can help facilitate the community today. … I think we have a great plan in place that’s going to ultimately get us there.”

Ott said additional resources would be sought for the project.

“This is not the end. This is really just the beginning. There is a promise to make sure that we continue to go after additional resources to make this project the very best.”

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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