By Konstantin Vengerowsky
Probably the most meaningful thing I’ve done in my life is work as a community journalist. I covered floods and hurricanes, major fires and interstate wrecks, high speed chases and drug busts, court cases and local government meetings. I visited dozens of schools for different events, gave a high five to hundreds of children, and attended the same community festivals and fishing tournaments over and over again.
I came back to the newsroom smelling like smoke after covering a fire, covered in cat hair after visiting a local animal shelter, and soaked from standing in the rain at a local festival.
I sat in dozens of living rooms as people struggling from different diseases and illnesses shared their life stories. I consoled people who cried right in front of me as they talked about the hardships they faced. I was inspired by their willpower and might to keep moving forward.
I attended many church services in which the preacher struck a chord with me with his message. I shed tears as children held hands and sang a loving song at a school event.
I interviewed a young lady who made personalized cards for patients she did not know at a local hospital. I felt the joy on those patients’ faces when they smiled. I listened to the life story of a retiree who volunteered 40 hour weeks at that same hospital, just because he enjoyed helping people.
I was left amazed by…. a janitor who served as a role model for young boys at an elementary school. By a sheriff’s office deputy who brightened special needs children’s day through his weekly visits with his therapy dog. By a former NFL cheerleader who conducted worldwide military tours and traveled to 30 countries, sharing her talents in hospitals, schools and various communities.
I was humbled by… firefighters, law enforcement officers and paramedics who did not sleep for days to make sure people were rescued from their vehicles and homes during a flood. By seeing people come together to help others after a natural disaster. By meeting complete strangers from all over the nation who came down to my hometown to help restore homes. By the donations of water, food and clothing that came pouring in from people from all over the community.
I was inspired by… local and state government leaders, many, who I believe, served the public not for power or fame, but because they genuinely wanted to make a difference in their communities. And some who made many positive changes. I kept government leaders in check, as is a reporter’s job, but there was mutual respect for one another.
I witnessed and wrote about so many things in four years as a community journalist in two different counties. I talked to hundreds of people and photographed their laughter and their joy, their sadness and their pain, their anger and their relief.
And for all of these things I am grateful. I am grateful for a moment in time to have been a conscious observer of the human race. That’s what I’ll call it.
Others may refer to it as simply, community journalist.
Thank you to the owners and staff of The Sumter Item and the former Clarendon Citizen. And thank you to the people of Sumter and Clarendon counties.