Despite where we may travel and where we may end up, our roots often stay firmly planted in the land we call home…even if that land is not our hometown.
Growing up, Kenzie Cox Miller spent her summers in the land and river around Wagram. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, her family returned to Scotland County where the Lumber River became her swimming pool and cousins and friends became roommates and inseperatable playmates. As she describes it, “the older kids looked out after us younger ones, all as one family. All together, all the time.”
While the childhood memories may be of simpler times, the bond they formed have not faded overtime. In fact, one could argue they have actually strengthened. “I still come back, often (including this past weekend), we all do. Some never left. For years I came back most every weekend in the summer. It is where I grew up. It is where I will retire.” From creating a local farmer’s market to spearheading fundraisers, Kenzie’s focus always has been Scotland County.
Given her roots, it is no surprise that when one of her summer “older brothers” reached out to her and others a few years ago with thoughts of giving back – she was all in.
In 2012, at a Labor Day gathering along the banks of the Lumber River, the late Roy McMillan, suggested the old “summer clan” endow a scholarship to Scotland High School for a graduate to further pursue their education. “Roy had such an appreciation for education and how we could help others,” says Kenzie. “Scotland County had given us so much. Not just a great place to grow up, but a sense family, a sense of belonging, and even self-worth. He, and we, wanted to pass that on to others.”
Mr. McMillan and the group set off on a series of fund-raisers. As they gathered multiple times each year during the summer and holidays, the endowment was always top of mind; the giving was always front and center. After just a few years, the “summer family” had reached their initial goal. They decided to name the scholarship the “Catharine Campbell & Daniel White” Scholarship. A testament to early settlers in the area. “They came with such hope and drive, as well as an appreciation for community – traits, we want the scholarship to reflect as well.” The scholarship is now awarded to a graduate of Scotland High School and may be applied to either a two or four year program. The scholarship continues with the recipient for up to four years, as long as the student stays in good academic standing.
Unfortunately, after seeing his thoughts of a scholarship take hold, Mr. McMillan passed a few years ago. Before doing so, he asked Kenzie Cox Miller to carry on the program…to champion the effort. “This scholarship is such a part of Roy, I was honored that he looked to me, and others to carry on,” she says. “His intent was to give back and to help provide hope and helium to others in Scotland County – to help further the community.”
So the clan has carried on – led by Kenzie. They still gather…often. They still raise funds. In fact, their latest fund-raiser is the raffling off of a plaque celebrating the poem “Sunburnt Boys” by Poet Laureate John Charles McNeill. The poem is a celebration of the Lumber River – the swimming pool they grew up with. The plaque, created and donated by Beacham McDougald and designed by Dora Sharber, is currently on display at Jerry’s Deli in Laurinburg (and will be there until June 29). Raffle tickets are $10 and all proceeds will go to the scholarship fund.
It is because of efforts of folks like Kenzie Cox Miller (and Roy McMillan) that Laurinburg and Scotland County continues to be the home and special place to so many. Therefore, we would like to recognize Ms. Miller (and in memoriam, Roy McMillan) with the presentation of the “The Honour of the Long Leaf Pine for Distinguished Service.” This award is in recognition of the efforts you provide, but also the love you have for the community. It is this bond to the community that makes Laurinburg/Scotland County a better place to live, work, and play.
Cory Huges, executive director of the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority, wrote this week’s Focus on Scotland, an effort by community leaders on making Laurinburg/Scotland County a better place to work, live, and play.