HARTSVILLE, S.C. — It’s never too soon to learn the importance of giving a helping hand to others in need.
Kerlyn Deondre Mondesir Jr., a student at Coker University, has been giving back to his hometown of Hartsville since he was a student at Hartsville High School. At the encouragement of a friend and because of the impression firefighters made on him when fighting a fire at his home, he decided to become a junior firefighter with the Hartsville Fire Department in 2017 while in high school. In December 2018, he was chosen as the first Junior Firefighter of the Year.
Junior Firefighters is a program that provides mentorship and skills training for girls and boys ages 16 and 17 who are interested in becoming full-time firefighters or volunteer firefighters.
A sophomore at Coker, Mondesir joined the Hartsville Fire Department nine months ago as a volunteer firefighter.
Mondesir said he loves helping others and remembers how the firefighters helped him when his home caught on fire. Now it is time for him to give back.
During the holidays, Mondesir said, the fire department raises money to purchase toys for children in the community. Mondesir said he loves helping make Christmases a little brighter for area children.
“That is close to my heart,” he said. “I love knowing that a child is going to have a happier Christmas. I love buying the toys. Pre-COVID we collected money during Boots and Buckets (on Black Friday) and would go to Walmart, all of us, to buy toys.”
He said they would meet back at the fire station to separate the toys into age-appropriate groups and would call the families to come and pick up their children’s Christmas toys.
At Coker this year, Mondesir said, they have been collecting non-perishable food to fill “blessing boxes” to distribute for Thanksgiving. He said it feels good to be able to help someone have a happy Thanksgiving by providing a meal. He said he has so much to be thankful for.
Mondesir said he participated in a similar event in high school under coach Corey Lewis with Kappa League Junior Organization, part of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. He said they delivered meals on Thanksgiving that included turkeys and hams to families in the Hartsville area.
A project leader with the Coker College Enactus Team, Mondesir is in charge of Coker Rentals. He said the business rents dorm-size refrigerators and microwaves to students who might not be able to afford to purchase their own or not have the time to do so.
He also works with the Enactus Food Pantry project at Hartsville High School. The group collects nonperishable food for students to take home over the weekends and holidays, Mondesir said.
“We are running low on food now,” he said.
He said anyone wishing to make a donation can contact him by social media.
He is the SGA chief financial officer, baseball student manager and foster scholar.
He is a Coker tour guide for students already committed to Coker and for perspective students.
“I am big on downtown,” Mondesir said.
He has helped revitalization of neighborhoods near downtown.
“I love being in Hartsville and helping people,” he said. “Hartsville is a tight-knit community.”
Mondesir is also the executive director of the Community Foundation for a Better Hartsville, which keeps him involved in the community. He said this is a part-time position.
He said in high school he earned 300 service hours with JROTC by helping others.
He has also earned the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Medal for Leadership and the Freemasonry of S.C. Leadership Medal.
He was also an intern for the city of Hartsville at the age of 16.
He is a political science and marketing major at Coker College.
Mondesir said his involvement with school and the community keeps him busy, but he is committed to giving back.