Building loving and supportive environments for families and young people is the role undertaken by Thornwell Home for Children since its founding as a Presbyterian ministry in 1875, according to Joy Messner, Capital Rotary’s guest speaker on May 8. Messner (at left in photo with Rotarian Ann Elliott) is mission advancement officer for the nonprofit organization that provides innovative and effective solutions for those in need. From its campus in Clinton, Thornwell operates in 20 South Carolina, Georgia and Florida locations. It offers family-style residential care, foster care and building families programs including parenting workshops and intensive in-home counseling. Messner said strengthening families is important given the number of youngsters suffering child abuse and neglect or living in poverty, homelessness and food-insecure households. South Carolina need more than 1,800 more foster homes statewide and has over 57,000 grandparent households with primary responsibility for their grandchildren. Messner is a former church youth director and lay ministry leader who joined Thornwell two years ago after doing volunteer management, donor relations and fundraising for a non-profit children’s ministry in Camden, NJ.
Goodwill Industries in South Carolina’s upstate and midlands is successful in putting people to work, true to the organization’s 1902 founding philosophy that it gives a “hand up” instead of a “handout” to potential members of the labor force. Mike Daniels (shown in photo with Rotarian Felicia Maloney) was Capital Rotary’s April 10 guest speaker, reporting that one out of every 200 workers in the nation has been helped by Goodwill services. Operating in 16 counties in the Palmetto State, Goodwill receives over 1.2 million “gently used” items at its donation centers. These are then sold – the tune of 3.5 million purchases in 35 Goodwill stores – with 93 cents of each dollar received going to programs that include training and certification, job assistance for veterans and persons with disabilities, and job placement. Daniels said Goodwill last year helped 12,152 people find jobs – and their first-year earnings could generate a potential economic impact of more than $149 million in the state. Daniels has over 27 years of experience in labor market and workforce development in state government and in the private sector. He’s now managing two grants for Goodwill’s Senior Community Service Employment Program aimed at refreshing job skills for more than 320 citizens aged 55 and above.
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.