HARTSVILLE, S.C. — Donors and other VIPs, including kids, got an early look Thursday at Hartsville’s new EdVenture Hartsville Children’s Museum.

The new satellite museum will open its doors to the public at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Based in Columbia, EdVenture is the largest children’s museum in the Southeast.

The museum came to select Hartsville as a location for a satellite museum through a serendipitous way, said Karen Coltrane, president and chief executive officer of EdVenture.

She said she and other EdVenture personnel heard a presentation by celebrity chef and motivational speaker Jeff Henderson a couple of years ago. Henderson went from being a convicted felon serving nearly 10 years in prison for drugs to becoming the first African-American executive chef de cuisine at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and later at Café Bellagio in Las Vegas as well as a New York Times bestselling author.

“It was so inspirational. We wanted to find some way to tell his story in South Carolina,” Coltrane said. They began reaching out to sources around the state, including Hartsville High School, she said. “Well, Hartsville High School returned our call,” Coltrane said.

Discussions began with sources in Hartsville about what services EdVenture could offer the Hartsville community, and somewhere along the way the term “satellite museum” came up, Coltrane said.

That got everyone’s attention, she said. As the conversation advanced, EdVenture began approaching potential donors about the possibility of supporting a satellite museum in Hartsville. “Everybody was so open to it. Nobody said no,” she said.

EdVenture announced last year that it would open a satellite museum in Hartsville.

The new museum is at 146 W. Carolina Ave. in the heart of downtown Hartsville.

The 5,000-square-foot building in which it is housed has served many purposes in years past, including an auto parts store, a private gym and a collectibles store.

The city secured the building for the museum, and the structure underwent extensive renovations. The city pledged support for a portion of the museum’s operating costs. A number of public and private entities have also committed financial support for the museum project.

“The opening of the EdVenture Hartsville Children’s Museum shows our commitment to develop partnerships and opportunities to showcase our vibrant community,” said Hartsville City Manager Natalie Zeigler. “I hear story after story of people choosing to return to Hartsville to raise their young families and stories of people with no previous connections to our city choosing to move here because it is an attractive place to raise a family. We are committed to continuing our progressive approach to community revitalization. We are appreciative that EdVenture believes in Hartsville and also to the generous donors that helped make this a reality.”

Founding supporters for the project include the city of Hartsville, the Byerly Foundation, the Charles W. Coker and Elizabeth H. Coker Foundation, Duke Energy Foundation, Sonoco, Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center, West Oil Co., SPC Credit Union, First Citizens Bank Hartsville, Suzanne B. McLeod, the Joan S. and Charles W. Coker Foundation, Mary Kendall Bittle, McDonald Brothers LLC, Mary J. Ketchin McDonald Trust, Rotary Club of Hartsville and Darlington County.

“This is nice,” Coltrane said as guests mingled among the exhibits. The museum is set up as a sort of “mini Main Street.” Exhibits highlight many of the museum’s sponsors.

EdVenture Hartsville focuses on serving families with children age 8 and under with exhibits and programs that promote literacy, art, math and science.

The museum is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Closing dates are Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the four days after Labor Day.

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