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Hope Afield offers help, healing in the great outdoors

There’s a tree located just off Old Stage Road near Greenville that tells a story. When you look at from one side, you see a hollowed-out shell where a sturdy trunk should be. This poor tree is obviously ready for the woodpile.

Or maybe not.

Look up, and you will see, hanging from that sad-looking tree’s abundant leafy branches, a gracious plenty of green pears.

“I always show this tree to people coming to visit us for the first time,” says Ken Kilpatrick, smiling as he looks up at tree’s bounty. “It teaches such a valuable lesson. You may feel burned out, hollowed out by your circumstances, but you still have the ability to turn things around and live a productive and happy life.”

Ken and his wife Jan are the co-founders of Hope Afield at Blessings Farm. Located at 2606 Old Stage Road, the non-profit organization is geared to helping disadvantaged youth in Butler and Lowndes counties experience “hope, healing and purpose” in a rural setting.

The program is celebrating its first anniversary in the area and has just wrapped up a summer day camp. It’s now gearing up for an after-school program to begin later in August once the students served get settled back into their school routine. They can also look forward to fishing days with fish fries to follow this fall.

Hope Afield offers year-round activities for the young people it serves.

“We’ve found that people who are hurting often benefit from being in the great outdoors. Nature truly has a healing effort on us. We offer the young people we serve a chance to go camping, fishing, horseback riding, go on hayrides, sit around a bonfire—things many of them have never experienced before,” explains Kilpatrick.

Hope Afield emphasizes three things in their program: work, play and life lessons.

“Work opportunities often also include life skills—caring for horses and livestock teaches respect and responsibility; gardening teaches them how ‘farm to table’ works and how you can use even a small garden area to help feed your family and building raised garden beds and tool racks teaches basic carpentry skills,” Kilpatrick explains.

Additional practical life lessons shared with the Hope Afield students include learning how to check the oil and tire pressure in a vehicle, learning basic first aid skills and lessons in manners (“when you meet an adult, look them in the eye and shake hands”).

On Tuesday afternoon, the youngsters could be spotted enjoying their play time, engaging in a lively game of kickball in the green grass.

“Our play time can involve anything from relay-style games, touch football and other outdoor games to camping and fishing,” Kilpatrick said. “Just being outdoors, surrounded by nature, really has a positive effort on us no matter what the activity.”

Hope Afield is always on the lookout for additional volunteers who can work with horses, share gardening skills, carpentry skills, mentor and serve as after-school volunteers. “We also need volunteer who enjoy fundraising and assisting with our big events, which include our Fall Festival, Easter Egg Hunt and Country Christmas Celebration,” said Kilpatrick.

In the past, 15 students have been involved in Hope Afield on a weekly basis, with over 50 children attending its specialty camp and over 100 students from Butler and Lowndes counties attending the three big events of the calendar year.

In conjunction with its first anniversary, Hope Afield also showed off its newest facility, the Hope Pavilion, constructed by local businessman and Hope Afield supporter Freddie Daughtry in memory of his late son, Reid.

“We are very excited about having this beautiful place to use with our students and so appreciative of the Daughtry family for doing this for us. In the future, we are also looking at renting out the pavilion to the public for special events,” Kilpatrick said.

In the meantime, plans are in place to hold an open house and informational fundraising dinner at the new Hope Pavilion on Thursday, Sept. 27.

“The community has been very supportive of us here . . . we work with local law enforcement, the school system and churches to get referrals as to who we can help in our program. We look forward to continuing to grow our program and offer hope and healing to more at-risk youth in these two counties.”