After being badly injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005, Steven Diaz (in photo) was left with scars including post-traumatic stress, partial blindness, traumatic brain injury and a seizure disorder. The former Marine told Capital Rotarians on Jan. 15 that the battle to survive led him to become a founding member of Hidden Wounds, a volunteer organization aiding others with emotional and psychological challenges. Diaz said Hidden Wounds works to provide immediate and emergency psychological treatment for active-duty, veteran and retired military service members regardless of discharge status. In many cases, he said, Hidden Wounds is a safety net until the Department of Veterans Affairs is able to deliver long-term treatment through government-funded programs. Diaz believes that sharing his story promotes better understanding of post-war ailments affecting many veterans and their family members, thus helping to “ease and heal the hidden wounds of the people we love.”
Capital Rotary members toured the City of Columbia’s Busby Street Community Center on Oct. 30 as part of the club’s 5th Wednesday program that features local field trips instead of a regular breakfast meeting. The complex off Farrow Road opened in November 2018 as a local engagement and resource center for the Burton Heights/Standish Acres neighborhood. It has two buildings – a nearly 7,000-quare-foot community center run by City Parks & Recreation and a 1,400 square-foot City Police substation. The center includes bathrooms, multi-purpose offices, a kitchen, a conference room and a large presentation space with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. Outside there’s a fitness walking trail and children’s playground. Tour participants included (left to right in photo) Katherine Anderson, Gloria Saeed, Felicia Maloney, Officer Ron Felder, recreation coordinator Jalesa McKelvey, Christina Myers, Ione Cockrell, City Parks & Recreation director Randy Davis, Ann Elliott, Bob Davis and Rowland Alston.
Entrepreneurs looking to start or build a business can find help (and a cup of coffee) at weekly meetings in Columbia and four other communities across South Carolina. That’s the idea behind 1 Million Cups – a Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation initiative to strengthen education and entrepreneurship. Columbia’s 1 Million Cups sessions take place at 9 a.m. each Wednesday in the Richland County Library’s main branch and are part of a network of 190 such events nationally. Capital Rotary members were briefed on the program Oct. 2 by Sergio Aparicio and Tim Bradford (shown at right and at left in photo with Rotarian Abby Naas), local 1 Million Cups organizers. They said 1 Million Cups is not a sales or investor pitch, but a chance for entrepreneurs to explain what they do and what kinds of challenges they’ve faced. Each hour-long session includes networking, coaching, mentoring and encouragement. Aparicio works in the city’s Economic Development Office and is currently pursuing International Economic Development Council certification. Bradford has over 25 years of business management, consulting and marketing experience. He’s president of The Bradford Group of Companies, LLC with offices locally and in Pittsburgh. South Carolina’s other 1 Million Cups groups meet in Anderson, Charleston, Greenville and Spartanburg.
University of South Carolina senior Grace Cooney (shown with Mark Bokesch of Capital Rotary Club) has been awarded a Rotary International Global Grant scholarship to pursue a Master’s of Science Degree in Migration, Culture and Global Health from Queen Mary University in London next year. Cooney’s career goal is to become a physician practicing internationally, working with underserved and vulnerable populations abroad. The Greenville native’s scholarship application was sponsored by Capital Rotary, with Bokesch serving as advisor. Global Grants support graduate-level study in one of six areas of focus: peace, disease prevention, water and sanitation, maternal/child health, education and economic/community development. The minimum Global Grant scholarship award is $30,000 to fund coursework or research for one to four academic years.
Assistant District Governor Eric Davis explained how Rotary International’s 2019-2020 theme – “Rotary Connects the World” – will be put into action when he spoke to Capital Rotarians on July 17. Davis (in photo with club president Abby Naas) said adapting to a new generation of potential members might include more flexible meeting schedules, more family-friendly activities, more networking opportunities and continued emphasis on service projects. A local “Discovery Rotary Day” aims to increase community awareness and raise the organization’s profile, while an August summit offers training in membership growth. Community service projects include a “Together We Read” literacy program for elementary students, plus fund-raising to benefit “Key Changes Therapy” for childhood behavior problems. Local clubs are sponsoring an Interact Club at St. Peter’s Catholic School, developing leadership skills and service activities for young people. Davis said District 7770 will continue to raise money for the CART (Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust) Fund supporting medical research grants and for World Polio Day – an international campaign to eradicate the crippling disease. District Rotarians also plan to pack 1 million meals for Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization coordinating the packaging and distribution of food and other life-changing aid to people in developing nations.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil – the non-intoxicating marijuana extract that’s become a hot new “medicinal product” – may have a role to play in maintaining good health and treating disease. But University of South Carolina research vice president Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti also had some words of caution when he addressed Capital Rotary Club members June 19. Dr. Nagarkatti (at left in photo with Rotarian Bud Foy) said CBD is useful for easing chronic inflammation that underlies “major clinical disorders” like cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, PTSD, cancer, obesity and some aspects of aging. His patent on the use of CBD to treat autoimmune hepatitis has been approved by the FDA. But Dr. Nagrkatti warned that (1) CBD does not cure everything, (2) it can have adverse interactions with other medicines, (3) a doctor’s consultation is important before using CBD and (4) take care that CBD comes from a reliable source with a certificate of analysis. He noted that CBD being marketed as a “health or nutrition supplement” is not subject to FDA regulation. Dr. Nagrkatti has undergraduate and graduate degrees in botany, chemistry and microbiology and a doctorate in immunology. He was named USC’s Vice President for Research in October 2011.
Capital Rotarians have given a helping hand to a local family and to a local charity as part of the club’s commitment to community service, according to president Philip Flynn. The family assistance helped Tameika and Jerome Smith and their six children relocate after being displaced from Allen Benedict Court in January due to dangerous gas leaks. The Smiths had to leave their possessions behind and were in temporary housing until moving into a new apartment in May. Club members donated time, money and household items – including furniture, kitchenware, bedding and clothing – so the Smiths could get back on their feet and set up house again. Flynn said Mrs. Smith (at new home’s door in photo) wanted to convey how much the family appreciates Capital Rotary’s support and contributions. He told the club that Mrs. Smith said: “Everything you did is a blessing!” Help for the local charity came as a result of the club’s touring Columbia’s Ronald McDonald House on May 29. The facility needs new signage to better mark its location. Capital Rotarians have raised over $1,000 toward a goal of $1,200 for this purchase. Flynn said he’s confident the goal will be met. “We know the Ronald McDonald House provides a tremendous resource for families needing lodging, food and fellowship while their children receive the healthcare they need,” Flynn added.
Rapid adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is changing society and culture around the world, according to technology consultant Eric Davis, Capital Rotary’s May 22 guest speaker. Davis (shown with Rotarian Ione Cockrell) said merging AI, robotics and supercomputing leads to machines that are smarter, better and faster than humans. Automation is keeping a lid on wages, with fewer high-salary jobs being created, most requiring very high education levels. Wall Street’s volatility will increase as the labor structure changes. Companies must respond to rapidly changing consumer income and habits. Globally, various nations will adjust to digital economic change at different rates. In smart offices, AI assistants will control a wide range of functions and devices, the same as in smart stores. Personal robots will become commonplace at home. AI also is changing job recruitment via candidate screening, resume analysis and video interviews. An Ohio native and Ohio State graduate, Davis has worked as a programmer, systems analyst, systems administrator and consultant in industries such as engineering, light manufacturing, local government and nuclear power. He’s currently a professional services director for Respect Technology, Inc.
Capital Rotary member Melissa Lindler and club president Philip Flynn display a patch received for taking part in a World Polio Day Rally to End Polio Now. The event was held at the SC State House last October to raise awareness about the continuing effort to end polio – a vaccine preventable disease that still threatens children in parts of the world. Since Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative 30 years ago, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 per cent. Rotary has committed to raising $50 million a year in support of global eradication and has contributed more than $1.8 billion towards that end since 1985.
For safety’s sake, it’s important to know the signs of sex trafficking and for parents – especially – to ensure that children take charge of their own security. That’s what investigator Chandra Cleveland-Jennings told the Capital Rotary Club at its April 17 breakfast meeting. Cleveland-Jennings (shown in photo with Rotarian Frank Rutkowski) heads Columbia Private Investigations & Consultants. She’s also an ambassador for Shared Hope International, helping to improve sex trafficking laws and to train community, business and law enforcement personnel on combatting this type of crime. She noted that Richland and Lexington counties rank first and third, respectively, for sex trafficking in the state. Victims are lured into commercial sexual exploitation by traffickers using force, fraud or coercion. The trauma can be so great that many of those exploited don’t see themselves as victims or won’t ask for help. Cleveland-Jennings began her law enforcement career at the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and was the first female to be named “Deputy of the Year” in South Carolina. She’s a graduate of Benedict College and of the SC Criminal Justice Academy.