Past District 7770 governor Gary Bradham told Capital Rotarians on Jan. 22 how recent projects spearheaded by the international service club improved life in Ghana’s impoverished communities. Bradham (in photo with Capital president Abby Naas) also celebrated the local club’s $1,000 contribution toward construction of a new elementary school. In addition to schools, Bradham said district projects included deep wells for clean water and installation of microflush toilets in place of pit latrines that smell bad and pollute water and soil. Over half of Ghana’s population lives in rural areas, and only 10% have access to basic sanitation. Two-thirds can obtain safe drinking water only after making a 30-minute round trip. Bradham said Rotary’s public works employed 300 people and totaled $1.6 million in donated and matching funds. Last year Capital Rotary was a contributor and lead club for building a new Nkrankrom Elementary School in the African nation. Bradham is a retired Air Force officer who’s been a Myrtle Beach Rotary member since 2005. He’s held numerous local and District 7770 leadership positions since that time.
Joey Von Nessen (right in photo with Rotarian Stephen West), a research economist at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, shared the state’s 2019 market overview as Capital Rotary’s guest speaker Nov. 13. He said this year has been an economic roller coaster due to tariff and trade disputes, slowing global markets, fluctuating interest rates and waning of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 stimulus. Auto tariffs affect the Palmetto State via increased costs in the short run and potential changes in global production strategies in the long run. After peaking in 2015, our employment growth began to fall and is at 2% so far this year. But Von Nessen noted that every county has had employment gains at or above the state average since 2018. Labor costs, lumber costs and higher interest rates have negatively impacted the state’s construction industry, but the latter two are more positive recently. Although South Carolina is well-positioned for 2019, Von Nessen said the bottom line is that a “decaf” economy (lacking stimulus) combined with higher uncertainty worldwide means slower growth. Von Nessen serves on the advisory committee of the SC Board of Economic Advisors and is responsible for preparation and presentation of USC’s annual statewide economic forecast. He’s regularly invited to brief the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond on the state’s market conditions.
For 37 years The Cooperative Ministry has been working hard for the “working poor” of the Midlands – those with low-wage jobs who are sometimes unable to meet basic living expenses. Scott Vaughan, the non-profit’s community awareness director (pictured with Rotarian Neda Beal), was Capital Rotary’s Oct. 9 guest speaker. He said local churches founded and still support the mission of focusing on short-term crisis assistance while build long-term self-sufficiency. The Cooperative Ministry helped 12,380 people in 2018 including rent or utility assistance for 531 households. Vaughan said the ministry’s “hand up but not handout” aid also was comprised of (1) food assistance – 6,025 people served; (2) free clothing for 6,259 clients; (3) free tax return preparation – 8,362 people served; (4) insurance counseling for 807 people; (5) car donations – six clients got vehicles for work transportation; and (6) working with five local firms for job placement. The ministry provides Christian counseling and financial education classes as well. Nearly 500 volunteers donated over 11,000 hours of time last year, along with support from more than 1,300 individual donors. Vaughan is a University of Georgia graduate who completed a three-year executive program at Emory University. He joined The Cooperative Ministry in 2017 after careers in journalism, marketing and in faith-based consulting for 5,000 congregations throughout North America.
Freeing families from fears of domestic violence is the mission of Sistercare, a non-profit agency serving Richland, Lexington, Fairfield, Newberry and Kershaw counties, according to Cherisse Branch, guest speaker for Capital Rotary’s Aug. 21 meeting. Branch (shown with club president Abby Naas at right and member Mike Montgomery) noted that South Carolina ranks 6th nationally in domestic violence homicides and that 15 million children across the country live in homes affected by violence. Sistercare’s services include (1) individual and group counseling; (2) community support groups; (3) career development; (4) teen outreach and youth development; (5) community education and training about domestic violence; (6) advocacy in court; (7) emergency shelter for victims and transitional housing; and (8) a 24-hour crisis hotline. Branch said that in the past year, 354 adults and 196 children were served in shelters, 3,713 crisis line calls were received and 8,384 individuals took part in community-based programs. Branch is a native of Brooklyn, NY, and a 1998 graduate of Benedict College.
Stephen West takes part in Capital Rotary’s summer blood drive held July 24 in downtown Columbia. The drive collected 42 units of blood from 38 donors, including six first-time donors. Red Cross officials said the effort potentially saved 126 lives, and its success is especially welcome because of high blood demand and lagging donations in the summer. Over the past dozen years Capital Rotary’s annual drive has collected 624 units of blood, helping to save the lives of more than 1,800 people.
Capital Rotary president Philip Flynn recognizes at-large director and service chair Neda Beal for continuing Rotary Foundation donations that support world understanding and peace programs. Beal is now a Paul Harris Fellow Plus-Five giver (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with five additional gifts at the same amount). In 2016 Beal was named the club’s Rotarian of the Year for her guidance of local community service, literacy and volunteer projects.
University of South Carolina professor Dr. David Shields brought a tasty message as Capital Rotary’s June 5 guest speaker. Shields (flanked in photo by Rotarians Chris Myers at left and Ann Elliott) tries to revive the best-tasting produce and grains from Southern history and bring them back to the dinner table. He said these essential ingredients of delicious and distinctive foods have become nearly extinct, giving way to crops that are more economical to grow, ship and prepare but not as mouth-watering. A revival of Lowcountry farming and interest from chefs has created a demand for heirloom grains and vegetables. Shields has published more than 80 articles and a dozen books based on research into the antebellum South’s crops, meals and the cooks who prepared them. He also chairs the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation board and the Slow Food: Ark of Taste for the South project, called “a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction.” A native of Maryland, Dr. Shields received his undergraduate degree from William and Mary and his PhD from the University of Chicago. He was appointed a Carolina Distinguished Professor in 2014.
Patricia F. Dempster (at center in photo) was welcomed into Capital Rotary’s ranks on May 15 by sponsor Ione Cockrell and club president Philip Flynn. A Columbia native, Dempster is an insurance and financial services advisor who grew up in St. Andrews’ Whitehall area, graduated from Irmo High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Limestone College in Gaffney. For 12 years she held various positions in Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina and its subsidiaries, working in claims processing, records management and systems support/programing. Since 2011 she’s been a financial planner for individuals, professionals and small business owners. Dempster is a designated Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow and a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors of the Midlands. She is a sponsor for Cancer of Many Colors, a Lexington-based non-profit that helps local cancer survivors with daily living expenses and emergency needs.
Capital Rotary member Mike Montgomery (left in photo) is congratulated by club president Philip Flynn for continuing contributions to The Rotary Foundation in support of international programs that promote peace, human development and world understanding. Montgomery now has earned Paul Harris Fellow plus-eight honors (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with eight additional gifts in the same amount). Montgomery was an 11-year Spring Valley Rotarian before joining the Capital club in 2015. The University of South Carolina graduate has been a private practice lawyer since 1985 and formerly served on Richland District Two’s school board and on Richland County Council.
Columbia’s Capital Rotary has been named “Club of the Year” in District 7770, which is comprised of 80 clubs and about 5,000 Rotarians in 25 eastern counties of the state. Proudly displaying the new “Club of the Year” banner on Aug. 3 are (from left to right in photo) sergeant-at-arms Jack Williamson, president Philip Flynn, Assistant District Gov. Eric Davis and Blake DuBose, immediate past president. Chartered over 30 years ago, Capital Rotary presently has about 60 members and holds weekly breakfast meetings at the Palmetto Club downtown. Club service activities include (1) awarding continuing four-year college scholarships to local high school graduates; (2) donating paperback dictionaries to third-graders in Richland County District One elementary schools; (3) taking part in the Meals on Wheels program to deliver hot dinners to home-bound clients in Richland County; (4) volunteering at Harvest Hope Food Bank’s Columbia site; (5) sponsoring a Red Cross blood drive each summer; and (6) providing holiday gifts for a local family as part of the Midlands Families Helping Families Christmas program. Club members also financially support district and Rotary International projects that promote peace, human development and world understanding.