Jefferson Hardin was given a generous gift one day before Christmas. It's something he hopes all of Columbia County will benefit from.
Christina Rice, Columbia County Library System manager, and library board member Jeff Harden accepted a $500,000 donation for the library's expansion.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
On Dec. 24, a wire transfer of $500,000 reached a Regions Bank account. The sender was Columbia County native Jabez S. Hardin, the founder of Hardin's-Sysco Food Services Inc.
The money will be used to expand the new Columbia County main library, which will be off North Belair near the government center. The donation will be added on to the $8.3 million already earmarked by the county for the design and construction of the library.
Jabez Hardin pledged the money to during a trip Jeff Hardin made to Jabez Hardin's Memphis, Tenn., home in February. The two men are not related.
"We were just awestruck," Jeff Hardin said. "He just said that he was giving that amount to see if it would help."
Once the shock wore off, Hardin and the rest of the library board of trustees had to decide how to use the money and how to thank Jabez Hardin for his donation. After much consideration, it was decided that the money will be used to enhance the community arts center, which will be inside of the library.
To ensure that his generosity is not forgotten, the board decided to name the center the Jabez Sanford Hardin Community Arts Center.
"There will also be a plaque on a wall outside the performing arts center," Hardin said.
This was not the first time Jabez Hardin has donated to the county. He created a scholarship in 1986. Every year since, the number of students helped has increased. According to Chuck Hardin, Jabez's nephew and chairman of the scholarship committee, $236,667 has been given to county students.
To put the donation to the library into perspective, Jeff Hardin said the board routinely writes grant proposals for $5,000 or $10,000.
"We think this is the biggest donation ever made to a Columbia County institution," he said. After several years of adjusting and planning, Hardin says the board will be signing off on final modifications to the original building plan this month.
"I hope we will be digging some dirt by spring," Hardin said. "I'd love to say March."
The project was originally to have been completed in October or November 2003, Hardin said. That has been pushed back to early spring 2004.
"I think people will agree that we have been pretty good stewards of this project," he said. "There is just more to this stuff than met the eye."
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