Peach Jam staff, volunteers move into high gear

·3 min read

Jul. 17—NORTH AUGUSTA — Peaches, peanut butter, parking places and the occasional Porsche are parts of the Nike Peach Jam puzzle this week, with hundreds of workers in gear at Riverview Park Activities Center, including hundreds of volunteers.

First Baptist Church of North Augusta, in keeping with tradition, is a major provider of volunteer support, as is TrueNorth Church, and both congregations had dozens of helpers in action Saturday afternoon, slicing and chilling a truckload of peaches provided by Titan Farms. The massive agricultural operation in Ridge Spring is another major booster of the blue-chip basketball tournament.

Mike Chavous, the hospitality coordinator, estimated that he and his wife, Terri, start the daily process this week at about 7:30 a.m., arriving at Riverview Park Activities Center, and they are on duty in a variety of capacities until about 11 p.m. (unless a game goes into overtime). His corps of volunteers numbers about 225, he said.

The Rev. Zach Williams, a pastor with TrueNorth, said his own background as a Peach Jam helper probably includes eight to 10 years, including time in valet parking. Riverview Park Activities Center is "definitely a familiar environment," he said. "We always have a great team of volunteers who step up and head the whole thing."

He said TrueNorth crew is largely led by Verne Rushton and Mary Spivey, and will number 116 this week, "not counting how many people bring desserts to the church," offering such bonus items as brownies and cookies for players and coaches to enjoy.

One result of serving at the top-tier tournament for so many years, he said, is the fact that he frequently sees familiar faces — those of former Peach Jam players — when watching basketball on TV, whether collegiate or professional. Dozens of collegiate and professional coaches and scouts are also part of the scenery at various points in the week.

Among the most experienced workers is Richard Bush, known to many for his roles as an athlete, coach and teacher around Aiken and Barnwell counties. This week Bush is leading a crew of 19 workers providing valet parking for basketball teams taking part in the blue-chip tournament.

"I've been working at the Peach Jam in some form or fashion for almost 20 years, probably," he said, in the midst of his duty Saturday afternoon, with SUVS and 15-passenger vans heading his way. "We have the big tents and we're able to go in and out, in the air-conditioning, and rotate guys in and out."

His clients, so far, have been from as far afield as Maine and California — "all over the U.S.," he said. "For the most part, we see the same faces over and over."

Several North Augusta High School football players have also been a part of the volunteer corps, assisting in situations where extra muscle came in handy. They helped unloaded bushels of Titan Farms peaches and also helped move tables and chairs into their new places for the week and also relocated weights, from the weight room, to help accommodate the flow of hospitality traffic.

Mike Chavous noted that one of the basketball players' favorite dishes, over the years, proved to be a creation of his mother, Muriel Chavous, who led the hospitality effort for years and is now in a local retirement home. Her approach to blending peanut butter and jelly, he said, was hugely popular among players seeking a sandwich as part of a Peach Jam meal. "They're always asking for it," he said.

"We usually average somewhere around 1,000 to 1,200 meals two times a day for six days, and ... everybody gets fed."