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 Greer's community elf spreads his magic in ways that help those who need it:

Saturday, September 21, 2002 Charleston Post and Courier
BY NAN LUNDEEN
The Greenville News


GREER, S. C.-In the fairy tale of old, a shoemaker goes to bed at night and awakens in the morning to find beautiful new shoes in his workshop. The work was done overnight by elves. Buddy Waters is Greer's elf. "He's one of those hidden resources that makes everything move smoothly," said Beth Allen, who co-led Greer's two Kids Planet projects. Waters uses his construction business not only to earn a living, but also to serve the community, said Bob Osbon, a friend of 25 years. "He gives in terms of substance and time and effort."

The Kids Planet playgrounds, Greer's soup kitchen, local churches needing repairs, the Christian Learning Center, Greer Lions Club, First Baptist Church of Greer, Greer Community Ministries, the J. Harley Bonds Resource Center and the people of Greenville County all have benefited from Waters' giving nature. They don't realize it, but when up to 170 hungry people sit down to enjoy a meat and three vegetables everyday at Greer's soup kitchen, they have an unseen elf to thank. "This place would not have been built if it hadn't been for Buddy Waters," said Norman West, soup kitchen board chairman. "Buddy coordinated and was over this entire project." Waters laughingly said he used up all his favors on the soup kitchen. "We ended up paying about $242,000 for a $550,000 project because of Buddy. He saved us that much money," West said. "He made not one dime on this project."

Across town, toddlers and their moms enjoy mornings out at Kids Planet. Parents bring their children to the community-built playground, valued at $750,000 if it had been purchased. A new section serves children with special needs. Waters donated two wheelchair-accessible picnic shelters. On a recent August morning, seven moms and their 12 children, who are in a play group, came from Spartanburg, Simpsonville, Inman and Greenville. While their children do not have special needs, they find the new section safe and convenient. "It's more accessible for toddlers," Tracee Clapper of Inman said as she pushed 3-year-old Philip on a swing. Even the swing chains that the kids hang onto are covered with plastic. A raised sandbox, designed for children in wheelchairs, is handy for moms to stand at, she said. Waters "oversaw the construction on both builds," working on donated time, Allen said.

Waters' father taught him it's good business to give back to the community. "We try to operate this business on Christian principles. I believe that's one of the things that's made us successful," he said. The paying part of his business has largely come from textile mills and other commercial work. Waters also enjoys restoring historic properties. At cost, he lifted the covered Campbell bridge in northwestern Greenville County off its foundations, which he repaired, and restored the bridge, using as many authentic materials as possible "to try to preserve a treasure," he said. His firm restored Taylors First Baptist's original sanctuary, now used as a chapel. Waters joked that he grew up in the second pew at Greer First Baptist. Pastor Wilson Nelson characterizes Waters as "one of the most generous, giving people I have ever known. He loves his church and serves his church without being asked."

 (posted 22 September 2002)

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