Capital Rotary Club members on March 20 heard how Columbia’s Ronald McDonald House works to comfort families that have to be away from home while dealing with a child’s medical crisis. The compassionate story came from guest speakers Liz Atkinson (left in photo) and Beth Lowrie (at right in photo), who serve as the charity’s operations manager and executive director, respectively. They said the 16,000-square-foot, 16-bedroom Ronald McDonald House provides a comfortable environment where families can rest, enjoy home-cooked meals, relax in spacious living areas, use laundry facilities and most importantly, experience a network of support among other families facing similar worries and fears. The stability of this “home away from home” not only relieves emotional and financial stress, but also allows families to focus on being there for their child when it matters most. The local Ronald McDonald house is one of 368 similar facilities located in 48 countries. Columbia’s house opened 35 years ago; its occupancy rate averages 87 per cent. Atkinson and Lowrie said there is a constant need for volunteers and fund-raising to support the charity’s programs. The Ronald McDonald House is open to serve families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
Members of the University of South Carolina’s Rotaract Club got hands-on community service experience Feb. 13 when they joined other volunteers from Capital Rotary at Harvest Hope Food Bank for an hour of packing groceries for distribution to the hungry. Taking part were (from left in photo) Kara Owens, sophomore in marketing; Tina Sorensen, freshman in nursing; Alex Stevens, sophomore in biomedical engineering; Gioia Chakravorti, sophomore in international business/supply chain and operations management; and Rotaract president Joel Welch, a senior in accounting/finance. Also present but not pictured were Angie Church, freshman in international business/accounting and Mandy Spiegel, freshman in international business/finance. Rotaract clubs are open to adults ages 18-30 interested in community service, in developing leadership and professional skills, and who enjoy networking and social activities.
In their Jan. 23 meeting Capital Rotarians were urged to help educate, inspire and encourage South Carolinians to participate in the nation’s 2020 census. Guest speaker Doris Greene (at left in photo with club member Daniel Moses) said the decennial population count data is used to determine federal funds for the state and in legislative and school redistricting. The 2010 numbers resulted in federal monies averaging $1,499 per year for each South Carolina resident for 10 years. Census Day is coming April 1, 2020, with results due by Dec. 31 of that year. Greene said the goal is “to count everybody residing in South Carolina whether they are a citizen or not.” She said “complete count committees” are being formed for community outreach to boost participation. The state’s 2010 response averaged 75 per cent, with every county reporting higher numbers. The 2020 census will offer and encourage people to respond via the internet so that the count can be accurate, secure and convenient. Greene is serving as a census leader for the third time. The Columbia native has been a CA Johnson High School teacher, a Midlands Tech faculty member, an adjunct professor at Benedict College and worked at the SC Department of Education. She is a magna cum laude Benedict College graduate with a master’s degree in adult education from the University of South Carolina and has been on the Habitat for Humanity International board.
The United States trails its peer developed countries in life expectancy and other health outcomes, despite spending more on healthcare. Some of this difference is due to genetics and behavior, but social factors are contributors, too, according to Dr. Sarah Gehlert, Dean of the University of South Carolina’s College of Social Work and Capital Rotary’s Dec. 5 guest speaker. Dr. Gehlert (at left in photo with Rotarian Katherine Anderson) said research shows genetics and behavior help determine about 70% of a person’s health risks and outcomes. The “social factors of health” – things like lifestyle and social stressors – can have an effect up to 15%. Dr. Gehlert said social factors helping men live longer include being married, participating in religious activities and being affiliated with clubs or similar organizations. For women, longevity social factors include being married, frequent social contact and taking part in religious activities. Dr. Gehlert in November received the Insley-Evans Public Health Social Worker of the Year award for her leadership, advocacy and commitment in focusing on social environmental influences on health. The award was presented in San Diego by the American Public Health Association.
South Carolina’s Department of Commerce is laying groundwork for participation in a new community development program – Opportunity Zones – established by Congress as part of 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The program was detailed for Capital Rotary by Commerce research director Ben Johnson (pictured), the club’s Oct. 24 guest speaker. Designed to encourage long-term private investment in low-income communities, Opportunity Zones aims to jump-start economic activity in parts of the state that have not prospered over the past few years. Investors are offered federal tax incentives for putting existing capital gains into the program and keeping these monies invested for five, seven or 10 years or more. Opportunity Zones projects could include workforce development, affordable housing, new infrastructure, startup for new businesses and capital improvements. Johnson, who has experience in commercial real estate research and data, is a board member of the SC Logistics Council, the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator and Eau Claire Development Corporation. He also authored the most recent South Carolina Innovation Plan.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster told Capital Rotarians that the state is “on the edge of great prosperity” and must not miss the “window of opportunity for economic expansion and growth that will take care of our problems.” McMaster – a Republican running for re-election in November against Democrat James Smith – was Sept. 26’s guest speaker for the Columbia area club. He said the state’s competitive advantages in attracting new industry include (1) “three great research universities – the Medical University, University of South Carolina and Clemson University”; (2) “the best technical college system in the country” to train the needed workforce; (3) the Port of Charleston, which is being deepened to accommodate the world’s largest container ships; (4) inland ports at Greer and Dillon, making South Carolina the only state in the nation with two inland ports located on major highways like I-85 and I-95; and (5) a “unique population” made up of residents who are “friendly, hardworking and proud of what we’ve accomplished.” McMaster became the state’s chief executive in January 2017 after serving two years as lieutenant governor, eight years as attorney general and four years as United States attorney. McMaster received his AB degree in history in 1969 from the University of South Carolina and his JD degree in 1973 from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Capital Rotary Club visited the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (photo one) on Aug. 29 for a slide show and briefing by Deputy Amanda Jordan (photo two) on the agency’s mission, values, organization and programs. With its population of more than 400,000 spread over 756 square miles, the county presents a policing challenge for the sheriff’s force of 700 uniformed officers and 140 support personnel. Jordan said Sheriff Leon Lott stresses core values of service, integrity, accountability and professionalism for all employees and works to develop a sense of family throughout the organization’s various divisions and offices. She encouraged Rotarians to spread the word about the Citizens Police Academy – a 14-week program of classes designed to give participants an overview of the Sheriff’s Department structure, services and personnel. Jordan (shown with Rotarian Rowland Alston in photo three) is a University of South Carolina gradate who’s been a deputy for 15 years and now is a sergeant in the Office of Public Information and Media Relations. Capital Rotary’s Aug. 29 briefing was part of the club’s Fifth Wednesday program substituting local field trips in place of a regular meeting.
Pawmetto Lifeline’s work on behalf of animal rescue and welfare in the Midlands paid dividends for more than 45,000 companion pets in the Midlands last year, according Jack Sloan, director of development for the non-profit and Capital Rotary’s Aug. 8th guest speaker. Sloan (at right in photo with club president Philip Flynn) said the ultimate goal is to have a no-kill community here, so that no healthy, adoptable dog or cat is euthanized in a municipal shelter or dies because it is homeless. Pawmetto Lifeline’s 80 employees and 200 volunteers treat pet overpopulation with adoption, medical care, rescue and education programs. Sloan said there’s special emphasis on spay/neuter services as the most cost-effective and humane way to reduce the number of unwanted pets. Sloan, a graduate of The Citadel with an MBA from the University of Tennessee, joined Pawmetto Lifeline after a long career at national and state chambers of commerce. He’s also been a board member for several clubs and organizations including Columbia Rotary.
Columbia’s Capital Rotary Club held its annual summer blood drive on Wednesday, July 25. Scheduled donations and walk-ins were welcome, and the drive resulted in 66 pints of blood collected. Red Cross staff member Libby Wright (at center in photo with president Philip Flynn and drive chairman Paul Gillam at left) said the club over the past 10 years has collected 582 units of blood, helping to save the lives of more than 1,700 people. Because of high demand and lagging blood donations in summertime, Wright said the Capital club’s effort helps to answer the “emergency appeal” for prospective donors.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s Project Lifesaver team aims to “bring loved ones home” safely when electronic tracking is needed to find at-risk wanderers – clients with Alzheimer’s, autism, Downs Syndrome or traumatic brain injury. Deputy Amanda Jordan (shown at left in photo with Rotarian Daniel Moses) briefed Capital Rotary on June 13, noting that 44 local clients and their families are enrolled in the program founded in Virginia nearly 20 years ago. Project Lifesaver began in Richland County in 2006 with only eight deputies and three clients. Today 80 deputies are trained, certified specialists in locating missing persons via electronic searching – a process that usually takes less than 30 minutes as compared to a normal physical search lasting up to nine hours and sometimes involving hundreds of officers and volunteers. Jordan said Project Lifesaver is cost effective for law enforcement and provides better protection for lost individuals. Richland County does not charge its residents or their at-risk loved ones for receiving a transmitter and joining the program. Jordan, a University of South Carolina graduate, has served with the Sheriff’s Department for 14 years. She coordinates Project Lifesaver for the State of South Carolina, where 18 counties have signed on. There are 1,300 participating agencies across the US, Canada and Australia. To date more than 3,400 client rescues have been reported.