story by Cindy Burbage photos by Shelia Scott
For more than four decades, the Effingham County Recreation Department has been serving its community. It is located at 808 highway 119 south, just tucked behind the Effingham County Health Department. An array of sports is offered throughout the year to include, but not limited to: basketball, soccer, kickball, volleyball, and football to name a few familiar ones. What many may not be acquainted with are the non-sports that are available, for example, line dancing, Zumba, baton twirling, and senior bingo where the players win canned goods. The Rec Department also offers special events for the community which include an Easter Egg Hunt and a Candy Cane Hunt.
The department has recently opened their new sports facility, Clarence E. Morgan Complex on Hwy 21, fondly named after the recreation department’s Director of Recreation and Parks for more than fifty years. They are not just sports- the recreation team caretakes to walking trails, fishing and at least five or six boat ramps.
Their information can be found on their website: http://www.effinghamcounty.
Jeffrey Lonon- Athletic Director
Long time Effingham resident, Jeffrey Lonon, has been involved with the Effingham County Recreation Department for a little more than eighteen years.
Jeffrey’s love of sports and niche for coaching began in high school. “Clarence [Rec Department Director] was a teacher when I was in school here in Effingham. I started working with kids in my 11th grade year because I got hurt playing football and couldn’t play anymore. I began coaching ninth and tenth graders when I was only in the 11th grade and just kept doing it. I got away from it for a little bit and started doing some other things. When Clarence became the director, he needed an athletic coordinator and I called him up. And I have been here ever since,” Jeffrey shared.
“I started coaching here when my kid started playing at 3 years old. We started a program called Smart Start. He came up through the rec department and I coached all the way. I even coached when he wasn’t participating here,” Jeffrey reminisced. He has coached many of the sports offered here, including a men’s basketball team that went to district and state. But over the years, football has proven to be his favorite sport. The rec department is not the only place he shares his experience; you can find him at Effingham County High School as a tight-end coach as well.
Jeffrey Lonon has lived in Effingham for 52 years and enjoys giving back to his community. “It’s all about the relationship you form with the kids,” the compassionate coach explains. His experience within recreation department has proven to be twofold, as he is now coaching children of the children he coached in the beginning. He also added, “I would like to thank my wife Vanessa, daughter Olivia, son Jeffery and two granddaughters Natalie and Naomi for their understanding because when you are in the profession that I have chosen, you miss some time with your family, but they have been very understanding and supportive.”
“One thing I can say that keeps the rec going is the director, Clarence Morgan. He has been here forever and continues to put this place above everything else. There is nothing he would rather do and he is one of the reasons I decide to stay. He is the straw that stirs the tea,” he respectively expressed.
Brenda Bruner- Administrative Assistant
Brenda Bruner has lived in Effingham for thirty-eight years and has been involved with the Effingham County Recreation Department for twenty years. She was introduced to the recreation department when her oldest daughter began participating in sports; cheerleading was her first coaching experience. “We moved here in 1980 and when our children began playing ball there were separate associations; it wasn’t just county ball- you had Springfield, Rincon, Guyton, etc. My children played through Springfield and I got affiliated with them and when the association came to the county, of course, I kept right in. I worked 5 years with Effingham Recreation Department prior to working in the school system when my son stated Kindergarten. I worked 11 years within the school system as a paraprofessional and data clerk. When Mrs. Brown died in 2009, I came in for the summer and worked until I decided to stay on full time,” Brenda shared.
“My three children played everything through here: softball, basketball, baseball and soccer. And now I’m coaching my grandchildren,” Brenda lovingly explained. Her daughter coaches one of the soccer teams, showing this to be a true family thing.
Over the years, there hasn’t been a sport that Brenda Bruner has not coached. “You name it, I coach it,” she said. “I’ve done it all. I even played as I was growing up and played volleyball and softball as an adult,” she continued. And truth be told, she admitted that soccer is her favorite sport to coach.
The people are what inspires Brenda to continue to work with her community. “The joy you see on their faces; the appreciation that comes back to you. You see the kids as they grow up and they remember everything that you have done for them, it’s overwhelming sometimes. You don’t realize how you touch a kid’s life.”
She would also like to add that Director, Clarence Morgan, is the backbone of the Recreation Department and everyone including the staff works together as a team to be great!