Many people hope and pray the spirit of Christmas will remain with them throughout the year. Even Santa comes but once a year. Yet Cheraw’s 2013 Citizen of the Year, John K. Melton, delivers that spirit every day of the week, all year long.
If you think that sounds a little cliche, consider stopping by Pathfinders United After School Program, at 317 Front St., during the after school hours of the day. Pathfinders is the non-profit organization Melton founded seven years ago, to assist parents who are struggling financially with proper after school care for their children.
What you’ll find on a daily basis, at the old Robert Smalls school building, are more than 60 children who are treated with snacks, given help with their school work, allowed play time, and shown lessons in manners and behavior; all at no cost to their parents.
Although Melton said his entire life has been about service, he was completely surprised by the Chamber’s distinctive honor this year. He has served in the United States National Guard of Cheraw for 27 years and has been a member of Cheraw Town Council for the past 10 years. He has also been faithful and active in his church.
“I didn’t even know I could win, being an elected official. I’ve just been doing my job.”
But Melton has done more than his job. He’s created a real change in the lives of the families Pathfinders serves, and a real difference in the community. He sort of had to, he said, because his daughter, Kimberly, who died several years ago, once told him that as an elected official if he wasn’t part of the solution, he was “part of the problem.”
Melton and his wife, Cherryl, who also volunteers with Pathfinders, have lost two children. Their daughter, Ashlee, also passed away a few years ago.
The Meltons say they have found the best way to deal with their grief and loss is to give back.
“The community was good to us then. And the Lord has blessed us to be able to give back,” said Melton.
Not only has Melton initiated the Pathfinders program, he and his wife also give an annual nursing scholarship to Richmond Community College in Rockingham, in honor of their daughter.
The Pathfinders program has grown rapidly and now employs four part-time employees. But Melton and his wife are there nearly every afternoon making sure there are plenty of snacks, even if the money has to come from their own pockets.
Caring for the children is more than an obligation or service to the community, said Melton. “It’s a labor of love.”
Melton has also made his love of basketball part of Pathfinders activities. Along with similar organizations, they have formed a basketball league of 32 teams throughout North and South Carolina.
Hopefully, all of these activities combined, will help guide young people down the right paths in life, said Melton.
“I like to think I’m part of the solution anyway.”
Melton was born and raised in Cheraw. His parents were Margaret and Ernest Melton Sr.
Melton said he is grateful to be an active part of the community.
If you would like more information about Pathfinders call 843-337-5475.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.