Orangeburg, SC
United States
681 Broughton St. Victory Tabernacle Church's Serenity Garden since 10 May 2007
152 names
Blessed peace
First living AIDS memorial garden dedicated at Orangeburg church
The impact of HIV/AIDS is felt across all racial, gender and socio-economic lines, but there is a common peace that everyone will be able to find at one Orangeburg church. Members of Victory Tabernacle Church on 681 Broughton St. and other supporters gathered behind the sanctuary on a four-acre tract of land Thursday afternoon to dedicate a "Serenity Garden" for anyone touched by HIV/AIDS.
Survivors or relatives of HIV/AIDS victims are invited to come to the garden for prayerful meditation and healing. With flowers, hanging baskets and benches, the garden is centered by a beautiful array of memorial bricks which are displayed in the shape of a red ribbon, the national symbol promoting HIV/AIDS awareness. Orangeburg Mayor Paul Miller, Orangeburg City Councilwoman Sandra Knotts and Orangeburg Area Development Center Director Horace Britton were among the city officials who joined others from the Orangeburg County Department of Health and Environmental Control and other supporting agencies at the dedication.
"This is a great day for Orangeburg County, Victory Tabernacle, all our visitors and the HIV/AIDS ministry here at the church. Our ministry … serves those individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS. This mission is … a way to help our community," said Suffragan Bishop Michael C. Butler, pastor of Victory Tabernacle Church. "The Serenity Garden is a place for family, friends and visitors to come so that they can say to their loved ones, 'You are gone, but you're not forgotten.' When a person is stricken with HIV/AIDS … the whole family goes through that process. With the Serenity Garden, it's saying to families, 'You have a place to come where you can receive tranquility. God can minister to you, and you can be close to your loved ones,' " Butler said.
A slew of dedicated volunteers helped support the garden's development, which grew out of a collaboration of the church, the Orangeburg-based Minority AIDS Council and the church's "A Family Affair" group for those with HIV/AIDS and their families. Quasheema R. Antley, whose own mother and sister were touched by HIV/AIDS, shared her story of how her family tried for years to hide the fact that her mother was dying of AIDS. "Even so today … the family is still very secretive … . I do this work because I want to educate as many people as I can because, at that particular time, she needed that support. There are people right now that need that same support, so that's why I do what I do," Antley said.
Others shared their stories of lost siblings and other loved ones and friends to the disease. A Family Affair President Pat Kelly, who has been living with HIV since 1985, said, "This event recognizes that the struggle is not over … . The Serenity Garden got its name from Quasheema … . She got the idea from the Serenity Prayer. "We need to be educated about this disease. It is 100 percent preventable. As an individual living with this disease for 22 years, I thank God I'm still here. I know that I am blessed. Because of that … I know that God has anointed this garden and anybody that comes in here to find peace and tranquility," Kelly said.
There are 152 memorial bricks with the names of individuals who have lost of their lives to HIV/AIDS placed out in the garden. Kelly said more will be added upon the garden's future expansion. "We're trying to get people committed to the upkeep, people that want to come by and just water it, clean, add different flowers," she said, noting that individuals were welcome to make donations to the church's wishing well, with proceeds to be used toward the further development of the garden. "I'm glad it's here and the work is done," Kelly said.
Photo © Dionne Gleaton The Times and Democrat

10 May 2007
Dionne Gleaton, Orangeburg, SC