Catching the Community's Heart
June 2019 Issue
Story by Jacie Elizabeth Millen
Photography by Christian Lee & Champagne Jacie Photography
Hilton Head Island is known for its beautiful beaches, great restaurants and of course, the famous red and white lighthouse in Harbour Town, but when pulling back the outer layer, Hilton Head is so much more. It’s filled with rich, rooted culture, gorgeous, pristinely preserved nature, and a strong, close-knit community. With the island only being around 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, you can imagine how having a tight community is a must for many locals.
Ben Green, HHI born resident, can be described as a man filled from head to toe with the essence of locality. He understands the importance of community and bringing people together for a greater purpose than themselves. Five years ago, Ben decided to dedicate every Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to families of the Island by holding free fishing and crabbing lessons, if weather permits. Even though his vison was originally geared towards children, parents come and learn, too. Heather Rath, one of Ben’s regular moms, brings her children almost every Saturday. They beg to go.
The opportunity Mr. Green offers children and parents is priceless. It not only gives them a fun reason to get out of the house and off their video game console, but provides them an opportunity to feel like a true local and learn a new skill. When asked what gave him the urge to start this, he quickly responded with a huge grin on his face, “I love being with the kids. I love teaching them how to cast a line or drop the crab cage. To see them catch their first fish, it brings me so much joy. Their faces say it all.” It seems like Ben isn’t the only one who claims the kids’ reactions are a favorite part.
Ben’s right hand is Ms. Annie Mae. He looked over at me and laughed, “She’s the boss.”
“I’m not the boss, I’m just bossy sometimes,” she chuckled back.
Annie Mae, along with many others, helps Ben out every Saturday. On every fourth Saturday, along with the fishing and crabbing lessons, a huge potluck is held. “We grill chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob; we fry up fish and boil donated crabs,” said Ben.
We also have plenty of desserts and fixings to go with it,” added Annie Mae. Annie Mae can be described as Ben’s biggest fan. She is behind the scenes, helping him cook and clean, making sure every Saturday runs smoothly.
There are others who help these Saturdays breeze by, including The Island Rec Center, which provides storage for all of the fishing rods and gear, Galen and Gina Miller, a local family who help publicize all the fun, and Nathaniel Canfall, a local pro golfer. These friends truly stand behind Ben and his mission to teach kids about community through fishing and crabbing. Not only are these helpers his friends, but also represent various local churches.
Born on Hilton Head, Ben has great love for this area. His family, the Green name, own multiple acres of land on the north end of the island, making roots both strong and deep. As a young adult, Ben joined the United States Army and laughed about how he and his buddies stayed in trouble. Fast forward to today, he said one of the reasons he holds these lessons is to keep kids out of trouble, truly learning from one’s mistakes.
This grassroots program is truly a slice of Lowcountry life. Ben has such a great love for the kids. Annie Mae believes this is how community should work. She reminded me she was 7 years old when the bridge to Bluffton was built, and that it was a time when people looked after one another. “There was no separation on this Island, there were only a few hundred of us, and we all took care of each other,” said Annie Mae.
What she and Ben do each Saturday reminds her of days gone by and how special they were to her. For the short period of time I spent with Ben, Annie Mae and the crew, I could tell these Saturdays are extra special for all involved.These kids are catching way more than fish and blue crabs. The catch of the day also includes a healthy dose of accomplishment, wonder and happiness. Smiles abound when you’re fishing with Mr. Green. He and his crew are making a lifelong difference in people’s lives, and that’s what really matters.