Pee Dee Healthy Start Joins the Florence Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. held a ribbon-cutting on Wednesday with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce signifying its new membership in the chamber. Chamber ambassadors joined Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc, staff and guests for the occasion.

When it began in 1991, the focus of Pee Dee Healthy Start was helping reduce the infant mortality rate and other negative birth outcomes for women and children in the Pee Dee.

Pee Dee Healthy Start was one of 15 federally funded demonstration sites created in 1991. It was administered through the United Way of South Carolina. At that time, the organization served six counties in the Pee Dee, which did not include Florence.

In 1997, Healthy Start transitioned from the United Way to Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. and was granted 501-C3 status.

Pee Dee Healthy Start now serves seven counties — Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg — and provides assistance in several areas to help strengthen families.

It provides health education, fatherhood involvement, mentoring and support, child development counseling and other services.

Madie Robinson, executive director and chief executive, said one of the primary goals is to strengthen the African-American family unit by improving the effectiveness of adult relationships through its Relationship and Education Program.

The Dannon Project offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives, she said. It provides training, job development skills, GED preparation and certifications for certain jobs. This program is geared toward adults between the ages of 18-24. Its purpose is to help educate, train and reintroduce them to the workforce.

The re-entry program helps people become whole, Robinson said. It helps them get a job, she said. She said these are people who need a “help up, not a handout.”

“That is where I see our relationship with the chamber,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that when the organization started it established a relationship with the businesses in the area.

“We had an economic development specialist,” she said.

She said women’s issues were discussed with businesses, especially those relating to pregnancy.

Decreasing the incidence of infant mortality is still one of the main purposes of Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. Through health education, the organization hopes to increase the knowledge and awareness related to infant mortality and poor birth outcomes, Robinson said.

Chairman of the board Billy Williams said the people that Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. helps need a lot of help.

Williams said space is an issue at the Pine Street location. He said his dream is to find more space within the next five years to operate.

Robinson said they are always looking for non-federal donations.

Pee Dee Healthy Start Inc. is at 314 W. Pine St. in Florence.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Burris and Pressley Opens Office in Florence

by Ardie Arvidson

Burris and Pressley Realty celebrated the opening of its Florence office at 155 N. Dargan St. and its membership in the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon-cutting Thursday. Chamber ambassadors joined in the celebration.

Damian Burris and Cody Pressley are owners of the brokerage company. The two joined forces in February in Columbia. The Florence office opened Nov. 1. Burris is broker in charge.

Burris and Pressley specializes in residential and commercial real estate and serves South Carolina in new home sales, resales and construction, property investments and property management.

“We are glad to be a part of a vibrant downtown,” Pressley said.

“Florence is growing,” Burris said. “I love what downtown is doing. We wanted to drop our roots here.”

There will be four agents at the Florence office. Burris said he will be in Florence every Wednesday and Thursday.

He said they have been working with clients in the Florence area for a while and saw a need to offer “elite service” in the area.

“We are unconventional with tradition,” Burris said.

He said they try to appeal to the millennials who are now purchasing homes.

“We cater to the customer,” he said. “We care about how our customers approach homebuying.”

Both men are from the Pee Dee. Burris is originally from Marlboro County, and Pressley is from Mullins.

Burris is a retired police officer, who worked in homicide and narcotics for 12 years. He retired from the Camden Police Department in 2016. He is married to Valerie Moore Burris and lives in Kershaw County.

Burris said they founded the company on their faith.

“We attribute our success to God,” he said.

Pressley is married to Avarie Pressley and has four children. He is retired military, having served eight years in the Army. He is a member of the Richland County Zoning Board in Columbia.

“We are one of the largest independent minority real estate companies in the state of South Carolina,” Burris said.

“We look forward to serving the community and want to educate students about literacy, real estate and being business owners,” Pressley said.

They both travel the country speaking on national platforms.

Burris said they are looking forward to becoming more involved in the community and with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

“We want to help build the city of Florence, not just houses,” he said.

They both agreed it was important to them to locate their business in the thriving downtown.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

McLeod Occupational Health Hosts Open House

by Ardie Arvidson

McLeod Occupational Health celebrated the opening of its new location in McLeod Medical Park East on Thursday, November 7 with an open house and ribbon-cutting. The ribbon-cutting was part of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours with Chamber ambassadors taking part.

The new location of McLeod Occupational Health is 101 S. William H. Johnson St., Suite 150.

Dr. Stuart Sandler, Medical Director of McLeod Health Occupational Health Services, greeted guests to the Business After Hours event. He said McLeod Occupational Health provides “treatment, services and health care to area businesses and industries at several locations throughout the 18 counties McLeod Health serves.”

“The locations include McLeod Occupational Health Cheraw, McLeod Occupational Health Sumter, McLeod Occupational Health Commerce Park located off I-95 and this new location at McLeod Regional Medical Center.”

Sandler said the new location allows them to offer a full range of occupational medicine services. They include DOT-certified exams, physicals, primary care services, treatment for work-related injury and illnesses, on-site X-ray and EKG services, labs, firefighter physicals, and employee health services for McLeod Health staff.

Occupational Health moved from across the McLeod campus where it had been for nearly 30 years. Occupational Health kept outgrowing its space.

Oct. 14 was the first day at the new location.

Nurse Kim McCracken, business relations manager, said occupational health is all about medical health for people who work. It is on-the-job health care and covers things like immunizations, she said.

There are two full-time physicians, Sandler and Dr. Valarian Bruce. Dr. Peter Hyman is associate vice president. Shelly Morris is the director of occupational employee health.

Sandler said he has been with McLeod Health Occupational Health for about two years but has worked in the field for 25 years.

“We take care of the working family,” he said. “Anything that happens at work.”

He said a lot of times people who come to them don’t have a primary doctor.

“This is really a step up for us,” Sandler said.

Hyman said the new site has allowed them to expand their services.

“We are very happy to have this new location,” he said.

Sandler said they have 26 employees in the new building and about 55-60 overall, and 15 on-site locations in industries throughout the McLeod coverage area.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

New Chamber Member, Comfort Inn & Suites, Celebrates Open House with Ribbon Cutting

by Ardie Arvidson

New Chamber member, Comfort Inn & Suites of Florence, at 527 Woody Jones Boulevard in Florence, held its grand opening Wednesday, November 6. There were tours, food, entertainment and ribbon cutting.

The new Choice Hotels Comfort Inn and Suites is managed by Raines Hospitality, Inc.

Grey Raines, president of Raines Hospitality Inc., welcomed guests to the event.

“We are really excited to bring Comfort Inn & Suites here,” he said.

Patrick Pacious, president and chief executive officer for Choice Hotels, said he is excited for the Florence Comfort Inn to join its 2,100 other Comfort Inns. He said they have 250 new hotels under construction and will be opening 60 hotels, one a week to the end of 2020.

Raines said this Comfort Inn is Raines Hospitality’s 17th hotel.

“It is our first Comfort Inn,” he said.

Raines said they started in the business with upscale hotels before getting into the upper midscale segment of the hotel market.

The Comfort Inn, near the Florence Center, opened at the end of June.

“It has been very good for us,” Raines said. “The Florence market continues to be a good hotel market.”

He said the company is already working on more hotels but isn’t ready to talk about them yet.

Pacious said Choice Hotels represents 12 brands. He said they have 7,000 hotels overall with 6,000 of them in the United States, mostly in the Southeast. He said they have five in the Florence market with two of those Comfort Inn hotels.

He said they started in Florence five years ago with Hotel Florence in its Boutique Collection in partnership with Raines Hospitality. They have a Cambria Hotel in Mount Pleasant with Raines and two more Cambria’s in the works, he said.

Pacious said Comfort Inn & Suites has been around since the 1980s, but the hotels recently have undergone a complete renovation, which represents a $2½ billion investment. He said the hotel has been rebranded.

The Florence hotel was one of the first in the rebranding with open and elegant lobbies, spacious breakfast areas and larger rooms with warm tones and soothing textures, local artwork and inviting designs.

“We are mostly known for three things,” Pacious said. “That is free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and free parking.”

The hotel in Florence has 89 rooms and suites.

Comfort Inn & Suites is a family-oriented hotel.

Investors and staff of Raines properties were on hand for the celebration, which included a ribbon cutting with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and its ambassadors.

Sparkle Cotton is the general manager of the Florence hotel. Taylor Gray is sales manager.

Prettier Than Matt duo entertained.

School of Dance Arts Joins Florence Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

School of Dance Arts celebrated joining the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon. Owner Devin Jennings cut the ribbon as staff and chamber ambassadors joined her.

School of Dance Arts was founded in 1972 by Barbara Howell Counts who later sold it to Cecilia Sprawls, Jennings said. Jennings purchased the studio in July.

Jennings said she taught at the school last year and has been a guest instructor. She has been teaching dance since high school. She has taught in Hartsville, Bennettsville, Florence and Camden.

Originally from Virginia, Jennings is a graduate of Coker College, where she studied dance. She now teaches dance at Coker University.

Jennings is certified through the American Ballet Theatre in their national training curriculum to teach ballet. She most recently became certified by Acrobatic Arts to teach Acro dance. In addition, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip hop are taught at the studio by her 25-member staff, which includes assistant teachers.

Jennings said she had added adult Yoga classes this year.

In her brochure, Jennings says School of Dance Arts provides conservative costuming, music choices and choreography for students.

She said their slogan is “Where excellence in dance begins.”

Jennings said she will be starting several new classes in January. Sign up will begin soon.

The dance studio, located at 1001 S. Cashua Drive in Florence, is open Monday through Thursday in the evenings.

For more information, visit: www.florenceschoolofdancearts.com or call 843-665-0606.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Square Meal Market Joins Florence Chamber

by Ardie Arvidson

The Square Meal Market celebrated its joining of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Thursday with a ribbon-cutting. Chamber ambassadors joined in the celebration. The Square Meal Market is at 163 W. Evans St. in downtown Florence.

The establishment is owned by three women: Shaelyn Williamson, Gennine Williamson and her sister, Rosalee Williamson, who is the operations manager.

The store opened in July.

Rosalee said her co-owners started out as a catering business. They were looking for a building for to do their catering, she said.

“When they pitched the idea for me to be the operations manager two years ago, I quit my job and came on board,” Rosalee said.

They recently invited her to be a co-owner.

“Shaelyn is the cook,” Rosalee said. “Gennine has the business mind, and I do the day-to-day operations.”

Rosalee said they offer healthier fast-food choices.

She said, “Our mission is to transform our communities’ palate one eclectic dish at a time.”

She said they are a restaurant and a market in one. In the front of the store they sell everything from jams to olive oil. Plans are to continue to provide fresh produce in season.

The menu includes sandwiches, soups and salads.

The most popular sandwich is the Italiano panini with choice of bacon or tomato jam, Rosalee said.

“The shrimp corn bisque is the favorite soup,” she added. “And the detox salad is very popular.”

She said the restaurant offers vegan choices and plans to offer breakfast in addition to its coffee, tea and muffins already on the menu.

Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Williams said they will be extending the hours to the weekend.

At the present, they have one additional employee, Lloyd Hailey.

The Square Meal Market stands where the Boxcar Market was previously located.

“We look forward to being a part of the downtown,” Rosalee said. “We can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

She said they joined the chamber for the networking opportunities and because they are part of downtown.

“We are super excited to be downtown and share our ideas with people and to show diversity in our cooking.

For more information, visit thesquaremealmarket.com.

To read the full article on SC Now, click here.

Chamber and PRISM Held Economic Equity and Inclusion Roundtable

More than 30 people were in attendance as The Florence Chamber held an Economic Equity and Inclusion Roundtable event at the MUSC Floyd Cconference Center in Florence on Tuesday, October 29.

Keynote speaker, Rhonda Midgette presented “Diversity and Inclusion in the Right Doses – Choosing the Appropriate Measures and Strategies for Your Company”. A panel of business leaders included Dwayne Brockington, Scotty Davis, Tryon Jones and Candace Shiver.

Attendees learned about progress, shared opportunities for making a difference in their organizations and networked with others who share a common interest in promoting inclusive practices across all sectors of business and community.

Thank you to MUSC and all speakers and panelists that made this program possible.

Junior Leadership Holds Arts & History Day in Lake City

The Junior Leadership of Florence County enjoyed a beautiful day in Lake City for their annual Art & History Day! Thanks to Sharon Brown with Lake City Creative Alliance, Kelli Meeker at Moore Farms Botanical Gardens, and all of the other Lake City businesses and organizations for the experience!