The University of South Carolina’s Educational Foundation and Development Foundation provide key, non-profit support for the state’s flagship institution, according to Jason Caskey, a 1990 accounting graduate who oversees fund operations. Caskey (center in photo with Rotarian Matthew Pollard at right and assistant Hunter Lambert on left) was Capital Rotary’s Sept. 18 guest speaker. He said the two foundations’ assets total approximately $800 million. The Educational Foundation’s primary purpose is to accept donor gifts in the form of cash, real estate, life insurance and other valuables. It has assets of $565 million, including investments worth $478 million whose earnings are applied to scholarships, faculty/staff salary supplements, development staff support, the USC Children’s Center and foundation operations. The Development Foundation’s goal is to handle the purchase of real estate – some for operations, some held for possible future use and some to be put up for sale. Its total assets are approximately $225 million. Caskey received the 2008 Distinguished Young Alumnus award from USC’s Moore School of Business. He was a financial services practice leader and managing shareholder for Elliott Davis in Columbia before becoming the foundations’ president and CEO.
Columbia’s East Point Academy merges cultures, inspires minds and expands horizons for students by teaching them Mandarin Chinese, the world’s most spoken language. In the process, East Point earned an “A” ranking as the state’s 2nd best public charter school, according to Mark Bounds (at left in photo with Rotarian Matthew Pollard). Bounds was Capital Rotary’s Sept. 4 guest speaker, tracing the school’s growth to 740 students since its 2011 founding. East Point practices language immersion – meaning that Mandarin Chinese is used extensively in academic classes schoolwide. Mandarin is spoken by over a million people and is the second-fastest growing language globally. South Carolina has an important China connection – Bounds said the country ranks 1st among the state’s export markets while Chinese companies employ over 3,500 of our residents. East Point has classes from 4th grade kindergarten to 8th grade middle school and hopes to add high school instruction. It offers extracurricular activities ranging from clubs to performing arts and sports. As the first school of its kind in the Carolinas, East Point has inspired two more Chinese language immersion institutions. “Together, our students, teachers, staff and parents make East Point Academy a great place to learn and grow,” Bounds said. Before becoming East Point’s head of school, Bounds worked for Lexington-Richland School District Five and for the SC State Department of Education. He served 20 years in the military prior to his education career.
Organ, eye and tissue donations from a deceased loved one not only improve and save lives, but also offer hope and healing for donors’ grieving families. That’s the message Capital Rotarians heard Aug. 28 from We Are Sharing Hope SC, the state’s only organ procurement organization. Guest speakers Pamela Eyring (left in photo) and Kristine Neal came to talk about “donor heroes” who make possible the success of transplant recipients. Eyring – whose son was a tissue donor after an untimely death – said his legacy lives on in more than 300 people whose lives were touched by his gift. Neal is communications director for We Are Sharing Hope SC. She said 472 lives were saved in the state in 2018 by 181 organ donors and 292 tissue donors; a total of 550 organs were transplanted. But she noted that over 113,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list – more than 1,100 in the Palmetto State – and 22 people die daily while waiting. Any person of any age or with any medical history can register as an organ donor at no cost. All major religions support organ donation, Neal said, adding that although 95% of people say they support the idea, only about half are registered donors. We Are Sharing Hope SC focuses on educating the public about the importance that a “yes” to organ donation can make.
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.
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.
Over the past 20 years, technology has spawned widespread changes in real estate buying, selling and closings, according to lawyer and broker Gary Pickren, guest speaker at Capital Rotary’s Aug. 14 meeting. Pickren (in photo with Rotarian Gloria Saeed) detailed changing roles for agents and attorneys in today’s electronic-driven marketplace. Agents – once seen as advisors, counselors and advocates for their clients – now chiefly provide emotional support and keep a transaction’s progress on schedule. In the future, Pickren sees agent compensation moving to a sliding scale instead of percentage commissions, or becoming an ala carte system based on flat fees plus extra “menu options.” He said real estate attorneys’ offices today function more professionally because of consumer protection laws, while lending a marketing and social experience touch for closing transactions. Technology will continue making inroads, leading to more online documents and electronic closings. In short, Pickren said, “it’s not your grandfather’s law firm anymore.” Pickren grew up in Spartanburg and graduated from Wofford College. Since 1995 he has performed real estate closings, taught agents and advocated for all South Carolinians in changing the state’s real estate laws.
Sophia Bertrand (right), new leader of the University of South Carolina’s Rotaract Club, is welcomed to a Capital Rotary meeting by president Abby Naas (left) and Neda Beal, liaison to the USC group. Bertrand, a senior studying experimental psychology with minors in Spanish and neuroscience, plans a career in occupational therapy. She’s involved Mind and Brain Institute research and takes part in the Capstone Scholars Program, Capstone Connectors Mentoring Program and Peace Corps Prep Program, plus Off Off Broadway Amateur Theater. She’s a Freshman Seminar Class peer leader and is active in church groups. 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. USC Rotaract was formed in 2010-2011 under the sponsorship of Spring Valley Rotary; Capital Rotary assumed sponsorship in the past year.
Navigating the Dept. of Veterans Affairs paperwork maze is daunting, but it can pay off for those willing to stake a claim for benefits due as a result of military service. That’s according to Cristy Bradley of Elgin, Capital Rotary’s Aug. 7 guest speaker, who is a paralegal accredited as a claims agent by the federal agency to assist vets in need. Bradley (shown in photo with Rotarian and Navy veteran Bob Davis) said only 90 days of service are needed to qualify for VA benefits that range from compensation to guaranteed home loans and from medical treatment to life insurance and burial assistance. She noted that vets judged to be 30% or more disabled may be entitled to additional compensation for a spouse, dependent parents, unmarried children or a child incapable of self-support. She said about half of VA disability claims involved posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Vets seeking benefits must have (1) a diagnosis of PTSD; (2) symptoms must be tied to a traumatic event, or “stressor,” that occurred during service; and (3) there must be documented medical evidence from a medical professional that the in-service stressor is what caused the individual’s PTSD.
Staff member Kaytee Watson (in blue shirt, center of picture) led Capital Rotary club members on a July 31 tour of LRADAC’s Colonial Drive campus. The agency – formerly known as the Lexington/Richland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council – has provided alcohol and drug abuse prevention, intervention and treatment in the Midlands for 40 years. Services include drug screening, individual/group counseling, behavioral therapy and life skills training. In the 2019 fiscal year, LRADAC admitted almost 8,500 clients; 50% successfully completed treatment and 95% reported satisfaction with services. Nearly 2,500 clients were served in community-based programs. Watson said LRADAC takes a proactive approach to fighting addiction and drug abuse in local schools, businesses and neighborhoods. Capital Rotary’s “fifth Wednesday” tour was part of the club’s community outreach, substituting field trips to local sites in place of a regular club meeting.
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.