ReStore partners with JAG

Members of the JAG program at Darlington High School with Darlington County Habitat for Humanity ReStore Manager Ben Schmeltz and Assistant Manager Shannon and JAG Coordinator Noreen Wingate.  Photo by Jana E. Pye

Members of the JAG program at Darlington High School with Darlington County Habitat for Humanity ReStore Manager Ben Schmeltz and Assistant Manager Shannon and JAG Coordinator Noreen Wingate.
Photo by Jana E. Pye

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

The Darlington County Habitat for Humanity ReStore had a lot of help this summer thanks to eight students from the JAG program from Darlington High School.
“We are really going to miss them,” said ReStore manager Ben Schmeltz. “These kids are hard workers!”

According to Noreen Wingate, JAG Coordinator at Darlington High School, the program started in 2005-2006 school year. This is the first year they tried a partnership with the ReStore. “The summer program was sponsored by Colon Abraham, owner of CMA Services, Inc. of Hartsville. He adopted our program through the whole school year,” said Wingate. “He said he wanted to give back to the community, since people helped him when he was in high school.”

JAG, “Jobs for America’s Graduates” is a school-to-career transitional leadership/drop out prevention program that focuses on helping students achieve academic success, graduate from high school, and improve career readiness.

The curriculum focuses on cultivating skills identified by businesses as essential to successful employment. At Darlington High School, the multi year program is made up from 9th – 12th grade, and this year had a total of 45 students.

For this summer program, Abraham sponsored the crew of eight students, four in the morning and four in the afternoon.

“The kids gain some work experience, and from that, we can create a resume,” said Wingate. “Colon also made weekly visits to our program through the school year, came out to give students a business perspective. He also hosts a cookout for the JAG teachers and students.”

Orlando Hudson, local professional baseball standout and founder of the C.A.T.C.H. Foundation, sponsored one of the students, Melquan Depugh, and will be following his college baseball program in the fall.

If the students complete the entire summer, they will complete their first resume, and receive payment, and Ashton Truett, rising sophomore at DHS: “I worked the floor with Shannon,” said Truett. “I used a cash register for the first time, and putting up displays in the store.” Her favorite part of the job was ringing up customers.
Kadajah Walker, rising senior at DHS: “It was fun, and pretty easy,” said Walker. “My favorite thing was working the floor with Ashton.” In addition to working on the floor, she also sorted through the clothing donations in the back. She had never worked in a store before, and this was her first job experience.

Alyceana Wilson, rising junior at DHS: “I cleaned and priced all the items that are out,” said Wilson. “We estimated prices, and looked at the item and came up with the conclusion if it was worth spending money on or not. Then, we priced the item in our own budget, like how much you would spend on it. We Googled some of the stuff that were worth more, things that would get a better price.” She never heard of Habitat before this experience. “The fact that I’m putting hours in here, I feel like I’m changing somebody’s life by getting new stuff. Habitat gives back.”

Tyler Bruton, rising junior this year at DHS: “I just started yesterday, and it was my first experience sorting all the clothes and making sure they go where they need to go.” She worked in the back, and saw where they were supposed to go on the racks. This was her second job experience; she worked last year at the school for a part time job. “I am very excited about working here this summer.”

Melquan Depugh, 2015 Graduate of DHS, and will be playing baseball this year as a freshman at USC Sumter: Depugh, a former football and baseball athlete and recent graduate of Darlington High School has been helping with the electronics at Habitat this summer, under the direction of ReStore manager Ben Schmeltz. “When we came in, Ben helped us with the electronics- like how to clean them up and stuff. I learned a lot of life skills from him. He taught us a lot.” He didn’t know much about Habitat before this summer job experience. “Miss Wingate called me over the summer, and asked if I was working anywhere, and would like to do this… I’m glad I did. You work with a lot of nice people, and it helps a lot of people.”

He asked that friends follow him this year on his Twitter feed, @_MellyD_

Anthony Fullard, 2015 Gradutate of DHS, and will be on the wrestling team at Allen Universty in Columbia this year: “Melquan had the morning shift on electronics, and I had the afternoon,” said Fullard. “We also helped load and unload the truck, and basically did all ‘round things here, I did all I could do for the Habitat. “ The heat doesn’t bother him, as an athlete “I’ve been working out in the heat, so it doesn’t bother me as much,” He starts freshman year at Allen on August 2, and begins wrestling practice the same day. Speaking of Habitat, Fullard said, “I heard of it, but I really didn’t know what it was all about until I started working here and got an indepth view of what they do.” he said. “It’s good for people that want to get rid of their stuff, and for those that are starting in new homes – they can get furniture for cheap so they can start off slowly as they build up I learned how to price, to organize, and make deals on things. We also learned how to do maintenance on the truck, how to keep oil in it and do the mileage.

A’Reeonna Self rising junior at DHS: “I liked setting up the clothing racks,” said Self. “I had never worked in a store before. I really liked meeting people that came in to shop, and to donate. This was a really fun thing to do this summer.”

“We’ve actually seen out best month yet here in Darlington, and I attribute a lot of it to the good help,” said Ben Schmeltz, ReStore manager. “Good help is hard to find, especially in young students, they have done an exceptional job. I have been working with Habitat for three years, and as a manager for a year and a half, and I can tell you that good help is hard to find,” he continued. “These kids worked really hard, and they come in ready and willing to work. That’s not usually the case with young kids. Our stock got moved in daily, rather than just once a week, and we had tremendous sales because of that.”

In addition to the heavy lifting, the young men in the program also assisted by driving the truck, something that Ben will miss greatly.

“We have a lot of kids from groups around the country that come to help on building Habitat houses, too,” continued Schmeltz. “I hope that we can get some students involved with this, too. Then, they really see the good that the sales from the ReStore actually do for themselves.”

Shannon Maddox , assistant manager, said she’ll miss the students, too. “These kids have been a real blessing to us,” she said. “They are getting good experience, and we definitely needed the boys help. We have some good spirited people here, sometimes I have to tell them to take a break. They have been really good team. I think God has blessed us with them coming and help. I look forward to our future with Miss Wingate, and future helpers to come in and help. It’s a great thing for them to get experience and get their foot in the door.”

Ms. Wingate said that she hopes to get volunteers from the program to help out on Saturdays through the school year. “I will help, too,” she said. “I wouldn’t ask them to do anything that I would not do myself.”

Usually Coker College or out of state groups build our clothing bins,” said Schmelzer. I hope we can organize a build for those things, too.”

To learn more about Darlington County Habitat for Humanity, visit them at:, Office: 843-383-8500 To arrange for a donation pick up, contact:
Darlington ReStore: 843-944-0314 or Hartsville ReStore: 843-383-8517.

Author: Duane Childers

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