Capital Rotarians heard the story of a unique boutique that helps cancer survivors feel whole again from the business founders – Sherry Norris (standing in photo) and Kim Neel (seated) – guest speakers at the club’s Oct. 10 meeting. The pair opened Alala LLC in 2006 to serve women who’ve had all types of reproductive cancers. The company specializes mainly in mastectomy prosthetics and bras, as well as compression pumps for cancer survivors. Alala also offers compression garments and wig refurbishing, shampooing, conditioning, setting and styling. In addition to their retail operation, Norris and Neel started a nonprofit organization in 2008 – the Alala Cancer Society – that helps provide women with donated mastectomy bras and wigs that would otherwise be unaffordable. The enterprising pair met while working with the local Girl Scouts and remain active community and church volunteers. Norris received business administration training at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University, while Neel earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, NC.
The Alzheimer’s Association-South Carolina Chapter’s vision for the future is a world without the dreaded disease of dementia. Taylor Wilson (shown with Rotarian Tony Thompson), chapter director of communications and advocacy, was Capital Rotary’s guest speaker on Sept. 12. She detailed the statewide group’s work to educate, support and advance critical research for treating, preventing and, ultimately, curing Alzheimer’s. The chapter also promotes the needs and rights of patients and caregivers. Wilson said 89,000 South Carolinians have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; there are 309,000 caregivers in the state. South Carolina’s death rate from Alzheimer’s is the nation’s highest and went up by 180% in the past year. Wilson lauded Rotary for its support of CART – the Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust – a project started in 1996 to provide funds for cutting edge research to cure Alzheimer’s disease. Wilson joined the Alzheimer’s Association staff three years ago and has spent the last 10 years working with non-profits around the Midlands area. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.
Blake Dubose (left in photo), immediate past president of Capital Rotary, receives a plaque from current president Philip Flynn in recognition of service to the Columbia-area club. During DuBose’s 2017-18 tenure, Capital Rotary received a “Public Image Award” and a leadership citation from Rotary District 7770, among other honors. Professionally, DuBose is president of DuBose Web Group, a website design and development firm founded in 2007. He is a graduate of Newbery College.
The City of Columbia’s Office of Business Opportunities director has joined Capital Rotary. Melissa L. Lindler (shown at center in photo with sponsor Gloria Saeed and club president Philip Flynn) took her city post after more than 20 years of experience in government and non-profit work. Most recently she was district planning and outreach director for Congressmen Jim Clyburn. Previously she was a staff member at the SC Department of Education and at South Carolina State University. She received her BA in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina, and earned graduate certification in public management from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. Lindler’s volunteer activities include board service for the International African American Museum, the Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics, the Columbia Chapter of the Society, Inc., Jack and Jill of America Foundation, Inc. and the Total Care for the Homeless Coalition.
Capital Rotary Club members recall the spirit of “Service Above Self” exemplified by former treasurer and 2017 Rotarian of the Year Craig Lemrow (shown in photo), who passed away Friday, July 6, 2018 at the age of 71. A memorial observance was held July 14 at Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church in Lexington. Lemrow, a former member and past president of Lexington Rotary, joined the Capital club in 2014. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, he was a former military aviator and a retired Naval Reserve officer. Most recently he worked as a senior business systems analyst in information technology for the Aflac Group in Columbia. Lemrow had been recognized numerous times for multiple contributions to The Rotary Foundation, an international charitable fund that supports programs for world understanding and peace.
Paul Gillam (left in photo), a member of Capital Rotary’s scholarship selection committee, welcomes College of Charleston graduate Victoria Bailey to the June 13 weekly meeting. Bailey, recipient of a four-year scholarship from the club, graduated from Dreher High in 2015 and majored in biology/molecular biology. She plans to attend medical school and is eyeing a career as a surgeon, anesthesiologist or obstetrics/gynecology practitioner. Capital Rotary has been supporting higher-education opportunities for local high school students for more than 20 years. The club’s scholarships are based on a combination of academic performance, extracurricular activities and economic need.
Capital Rotarian Abby Naas was in costume and armed with a light saber for “Star Wars Night” at the Columbia Fireflies baseball game on Friday, May 4. She was among a host of District 7770 club members enjoying a Rotary Night celebration, too, at Spirit Communications Park. The evening of baseball, hot dogs and good sportsmanship combines fellowship and fund-raising, with additional proceeds going to the Rotary Foundation. The hosting Fireflies are a minor league affiliate of the New York Mets. Naas joined the Fireflies staff in January 2015 as marketing and public relations vice president.
Capital Rotary is awarding scholarships to two college-bound Midlands students following 19 applicant interviews in late March. Club members on the selection committee included (from left in photo) Paul Gillam, Allyson Way Hank and Darren Foy, plus Pete Pillow (not pictured). A $20,000 scholarship – $5,000 annually for four years – is going to C.A. Johnson High School senior Amariyah Ayee, while Ben Lippen School senior Claire Davis is getting a $10,000 scholarship – $5,000 annually for two years. Ayee, second-ranked in her class, plans to attend Claflin University and hopes to become a pediatric surgeon. Davis will seek to major in engineering and plans to use that knowledge to solve clean water problems in third-world countries. Capital Rotary has been supporting higher-education opportunities for local high school students for more than 20 years. The club’s scholarships are based on a combination of academic performance, extracurricular activities and economic need.
Sponsor Allyson Way Hank and president Blake DuBose (right) introduce Alex Serkes as Capital Rotary Club’s newest member. Serkes practices commercial real estate and corporate law in Nexsen Pruet’s Columbia office and graduated cum laude from the University of South Carolina Law School. At USC he was research editor for the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal, and was an executive board member of the Constitutional Scholar’s Pipeline, a program to mentor middle schoolers interested in attending college and law school. Serkes has a communications degree from East Carolina University, where he was a member of the Student Government Association, the Inter-Fraternity Council and a sportswriter for the campus newspaper. The Salisbury, MD native is a member of the American and Carolina Bar associations and has previous community service with the Metro Charlotte YMCA.
Addressing South Carolina’s information technology “talent gap” is the mission of IT-ology, a Columbia-based nonprofit working to attract, retain and educate citizens about the IT profession. Capital Rotarians were briefed on those efforts during a fifth Wednesday meeting with IT-ology staffers (from left in photo Lauren Wells, Kristy McLean and Bonnie Kelly). The Palmetto State has (1) a limited pool of trained, experienced potential IT employees; (2) an insufficient number of students in IT classes; (3) women and minorities underrepresented in the profession; (4) a high demand for more cybersecurity professionals; (5) a need for a statewide culture that encourages innovators and entrepreneurs; and (6) a need for workers with more “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and negotiation. IT-ology says the key to answering these needs includes more pre-K-12th grade programs, expanded technical college outreach, teacher professional development and IT career development seminars. Capital Rotary’s Fifth Wednesday program substitutes local field trips to sites like IT-ology in place of a regular club meeting.