Francis Marion University to host 21st Annual MLK Celebration

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — Francis Marion University’s annual remembrance Martin Luther King celebration will be Jan. 17 in Chapman Auditorium on the FMU campus. The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce is co-sponsor of the event.

The event, which brings together both the region and the FMU family to celebrate King his legacy in the field of civil and human rights, will begin at 6:15 p.m. with a candlelight march. The march begins on the front lawn of the Wallace House and processes to the McNair Science Building and the Chapman Auditorium.

The 21st Annual MLK Jr. Celebration Program will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Chapman Auditorium, with performances by Young, Gifted and Blessed Gospel Choir and others. South Carolina Rep. Carl Anderson of Georgetown will provide the event’s keynote address.

Dr. Daphne Carter-McCants, FMU’s assistant president for student affairs and one of the event’s organizers, says the importance of the event cannot be overstated as it provides a valuable forum for the campus and surrounding community as a whole to learn of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

McCants says the event is a great way to educate FMU’s students and the community as a whole on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Florence One Schools superintendent says contractor to be picked soon for McClenaghan renovations

By: Joshua Lloyd

FLORENCE, S.C. – Superintendent Richard O’Malley told the Florence One Schools board Thursday that a contractor is expected to be selected by the end of the month to renovate the McClenaghan building.

At Thursday’s meeting, the school district welcomed two new school board members and three returning school board members, as well as elected a chairman, vice chairwoman and secretary.

The district will renovate the McClenaghan building and move the Poynor Adult Education to McClenaghan. Then, the district plans to move forward with the creation of a magnet high school in the Poynor building.

Currently, the district has sent a request for proposals and received responses to the request for hiring a contractor for the renovations, which will be selected by the end of the month, O’Malley said.

The district has also written to the mayor and the Florence City Council to receive the $12 million from the agreement with the city that was made in 2016 to move forward with the renovations.

Chairman Barry Townsend said for the money to be transferred from the city to Florence One Schools, there had to have been expenditures made on the project. He also said the district requested the money be transferred by the end of January.

The McClenaghan building was formerly a school in Florence, but has been empty.

“It’s a beautiful building with a ton of history, and we’ve got a lot of city leaders who did go to school there and would love to see it as a part of the downtown revitalization,” Townsend said. “The great thing about it is with Poynor right here beside us and McClenaghan just a block away, you combine that with the Florence Little Theatre and the library, it’s really going to help further the renovations up Dargan Street.”

Several board members expressed their excitement about the McClenaghan building finally being renovated.

“I am glad to see you do it,” said school board member Trisha Caulder. “I think we need to do it.”

During the board of trustees meeting, Artie Buxton and Davy Gregg took oath on the school board for the first time. E.J. McIver, Trisha Caulder and Bryan Chapman took their oath for another term on the school board.

The board also re-elected Townsend as chairman of the board. Caulder is vice chairwoman and Porter Stewart is secretary of the board.

Sweet Frog cuts ribbon for second Florence store

By: Matthew Christian

FLORENCE, S.C. – A Sweet Frog hopped into the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Sweet Frog manager Raketta Johnson cut the ribbon to mark the occasion just after noon at the Sweet Frog at 2417-C David McLeod Blvd.

She said the business joined the chamber as a way of getting more business and publicity. Johnson added that the ownership group also owns the 960 Pamplico Highway Sweet Frog, which she also manages.

Johnson has served as a manager of the Florence Sweet Frogs for about a month and a half.

She said she previously served as a manager of the Hartsville Sweet Frog. She said that she had been working for Sweet Frog for three years and that she enjoyed watching children come in and pick out their favorite combination of favor and add-ons.

“I have a good staff,” Johnson added.

Sweet Frog is a frozen yogurt franchise. The first location was opened in Richmond, Va., in 2009 by a Korean immigrant who founded the company based upon Christian principles. It has been reported by other media outlets that the Frog part of the name is an abbreviation for “fully relying on God.” There are now over 300 Sweet Frog locations.

The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce has around 600 business members. Its mission is to “Promote and enhance a favorable business climate and improve the quality of life to make Florence the best community in which to live and operate a business.”

The David McLeod Sweet Frog is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily. The Pamplico Highway Sweet Frog is open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

For more information about Sweet Frog, visit

For more information about the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, visit or call 843-665-0515.

Doctor opens Florence office to offer treatment of pain

By: Staff Reports

FLORENCE, S.C. — Pee Dee residents with pain problems have another option with the opening of Atlantic Coast Pain Specialists in Florence.

Located at 491 W Cheves St., Suite B, is the Florence branch of the Conway office of Dr. Blake Kline, who is no stranger to Florence. He is the former chief of anesthesiology at Carolinas Hospital System.

The purpose of the Florence office is to evaluate patients to see if they can be helped at the main office or if their pain can be managed locally by a nurse practitioner who will be stationed at the Florence office, Kline said.

A ribbon cutting was held at the Florence office on Wednesday, attended by ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Kline first located to Florence in 2002 with the position at Carolinas Hospital System. After serving in that role for 10 years he practiced with Florence Neurosurgery and Spine for three years before he went out on his own with Atlantic Coast Pain Specialists.

He still has patients from his time in Florence who travel to Conway who will now be able to use the Florence location, he said.

Kline said his practice offers such pain treatments and interventional techniques as epidural steroid injections, nerve root injections, spinal cord stimulators, minimally invasive lumbar decompression, minimally invasive coracoplasty for broken backbones and radio frequency ablation to burn nerves — a treatment that can relieve pain for up to two years at a time.

Currently, surgical procedures take place in Conway, but Kline said he is working on being able to conduct them at Carolinas Hospital System in Florence.

With the nation working through an opioid crisis, Kline said, his practice offers solutions to either reduce, or eliminate, the need for the drug.

If it is required, though, Kline said, his office was qualified to manage patients’ pain with opioids.

A member of the American Society of Anesthesiology, Pain Society of the Carolinas, Kline earned his undergraduate degree from Coastal Carolina University and his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina. He did his pain training at the Medical College of Georgia as well as in Augusta, Ga., he said.

 The Florence office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to noon Friday. The office phone number is 843-407-4532.

Negotiations still on for $65 million downtown Florence project

By: Tonya Brown

Negotiations are still taking place for a project that could result in a $65 million investment for downtown Florence, according to City of Florence Downtown Manager Ray Reich.

“Because it still in the negotiation stage of it, we can’t talk about it. But it’s going to be a multi-use. It will create more housing, I can tell you that. Which right now, all of the housing and downtown is at 100 percent occupancy. So, we know that we have more people that want to live downtown so when you talk about a $65 million investment, that’s a lot of money. And that’s private sector money, so we are excited about it. And we hope will be able to announce it hopefully by mid year,” said Ray Reich, Florence downtown manager.

Reich said in addition to that project, the new 103 bed hotel opens next month in the downtown district along with three new restaurants.

“We are excited that the new Hyatt Place hotel will be opening up in February. So that’s just around the corner that will add another 103 rooms to downtown and there’s new people coming in every night which can spend money in restaurants,” said Reich.

Florence City Mayor Stephen Wukela envisioned new growth for the downtown district some 10 years ago.

Wukela and city council members worked hard to spur change. There are restaurants, retail shops, museums, a performing arts center, bank and much more in downtown Florence.

“Florence really does not have an iconic tourist destination, like some cities have, but Florence can’t be much like Greenville. We aren’t Greenville; when you think Greenville, you think downtown. That is their tourist destination and we want to do the same thing with Downtown Florence. And we think we’re well on our way to accomplishing that,” added Reich.

Many people across Florence said they love what the downtown has transformed into over the years.

“I’m a big fan of the changes. Growing up, been here for the past 10 years or so. It’s just been fun to kind of see downtown become something bigger than it was, you know, become something better than it was. Something new and fresh and just a cultural hub for all sorts of people,” said Charles Jeffcoat.

Any new developments with the potential $65 million downtown project will be reported here on