Revitalizing Opportunities in Paradise, Fort Mill

By Jennifer Dawkins, Upper Palmetto YMCA, ESMMYC Leadership Team

Aug. 14, 2020 (York County, SC) If you have lived in the Fort Mill area for awhile, you likely have heard of the Paradise community. It has called Fort Mill home since 1895. Lore states the community was named Paradise because neighbors claimed the beautiful melodic singing voices of the women who lived there “sounded like paradise.”

As Fort Mill continues to grow, Paradise, the once-thriving community of Black homeowners, is in need of revitalization.  The Historic Paradise Foundation (HPF) led by Danielle Watts Redmond, Dave Paukovitz, and their colleagues are passionate about restoring and revitalizing Paradise to help residents and the community overall.  At the August 11 Eat Smart Move More York County (ESMMYC) general membership meeting, HPF shared the exciting work this nonprofit organization and its volunteers are doing to preserve the Paradise community.  Through collaboration and community partnerships, the HPF is spearheading many initiatives to improve this area of Fort Mill.  They hope that this model can be replicated in other communities in the future.

With many efforts underway, the Foundation identified several areas in which ESMMYC and our community partners could assist.  Some challenges the community is facing include the need for nutrition education and access to healthy foods which might include feeding events, food distribution, and a community garden. To support the Paradise community farm development request, ESMMYC members offered ideas and assistance. Marilyn Hakim offered her wealth of experience in this area and mentioned the PAR community garden (“Plant a Row for the Hungry”) as a possible option for support. Others suggested connecting with the Rock Hill Educational Community Garden and Paukovitz noted he already is in touch with the Master Gardeners of York County.

 Another area HPF is looking to improve is around education such as training for adults around health and wellness, personal finances, and technology. Dr. David F. Keely from ESMMYC will provide the Foundation Healthy Together 5-2-1-0 literature to share with the kids of the community.  This will help to reinforce the messaging of the Healthy Together 5-2-1-0 program in support of healthy eating and active living that they receive in the Fort Mill School District elementary schools (through ESMMYC’s partnership with Atrium Health).

 Bicycle and pedestrian safety are a concern as students in the area live close enough to walk/bike to school but unfortunately do not have safe access.  ESMMYC and the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County (BPCYC) can offer assistance in this area.  Meeting attendees identified the opportunity to work with the Anne Springs Close Greenway (ASCG) to evaluate a safe route to local schools potentially leveraging ASCG property.  In addition, BPCYC co-chair, Ben Ullman, offered to connect HPF with local bicyclists who would be willing to teach bike safety.

 We were greatly inspired by our guest speakers from the Historic Paradise Foundation and appreciate that they shared their message with ESMMYC! Meeting participants eagerly recognized many ways to get involved. Several committed to following up to help, while others will make necessary connections. We want to thank all who attended this Eat Smart Move More York County general membership meeting and would look forward to seeing you at our next one on October 13 at noon. 

About the author: Jennie Dawkins is the Director of Community Health and Support for the Upper Palmetto YMCA Association. She is both a certified health coach and a lifestyle coach. She teaches and coordinates a number national evidence based health intervention programs including Diabetes Prevention, Healthy Weight and Your Child, LiveSTRONG at the YMCA and Blood Pressure Self-monitoring.