Community Builder: Community resource officer gives back to children in need

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Our latest Community Builder award recipient in partnership with Mungo Homes has been a Community Resource Officer for the City of Columbia for 12 years.

Those who know Officer Tamara Kelly say she goes above and beyond her call of duty to serve her designated community.

Kelly works year round in Columbia's Hammond Village, which is considered an at-risk neighborhood. She also helps coordinate a nine-week summer camp for the children who live there. It kicked off again this past Monday.

"We do exercise, we go swimming," said 11-year-old Corey Corley.

Kelly is in charge of the fun and has been for years.

"It's pretty much to keep the kids busy, just doing something in the summer," Kelly said.

But without the program, Columbia Police officers say many of the kids may not have anywhere else to go.

"The camp itself is located in Hammond Village and a lot of these families are extremely at risk," said police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons. "They're needy, the things we take for granted, and they would long to have."

Timmons said Officer Kelly treats each child like her own.

The nine-week camp is just $5 per child, but Kelly doesn't want to turn any child away.

"Just like you want to see your own thrive, I want to see them thrive and become productive citizens and do better," Kelly said.

CPD says grant money to support the camp ran out 3 years ago, but Kelly has been finding donors and paying out of pocket to keep it going.

"Just warms my heart and makes me so emotional thinking that this was such a hidden treasure here, Tamara Kelly is such a hidden treasure," Timmons said.

Which is why Timmons nominated her as a Community Builder.

Matt Mungo surprised her with the news Monday and presented her with a Community Builder hard hat.

A surprised and grateful Kelly also received a $1,000 donation to a charity of her choice.

And she's not the only one that's grateful. Corey is too.

"We're all family in here," Corey said.

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