Fellows in Education gives local leaders a close look at school operations

By: Staff Reports

FLORENCE, S.C. – Through a three-way partnership among Florence One Schools, The School Foundation and the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, a program designed for business and community leaders to spend time getting a unique, behind-the-scenes look into schools in Florence One continues in its fourth year.

For 28 participants, the program that is known as Fellows in Education began Tuesday with a visit to Wallace-Gregg Elementary School.

Through May, participants will get firsthand looks at some of the successes and daily challenges that educators face in the classroom.

There also will be an opportunity for interested participants to take part in a “Principal for a Day” exercise where the local leader will spend a portion of a day with a school principal as he or she conducts the duties of running the school.

“We are extremely excited about having members of our business community visiting our schools again this year,” said Richard O’Malley, the superintendent of Florence One Schools. “The commitment on the part of each of these individuals is greatly appreciated. During these visitations, the Fellows in Education will gain knowledge of the many outstanding school initiatives, as well as the needs and the resources in our schools.

“Through their in-depth understanding of these outstanding programs, the needs and resources, we believe that they will be better able to serve as advocates for students in Florence One Schools.”

Organizers say the ultimate goal of the program is to create a cadre of local leaders who will be able to collaborate with policymakers and community members in developing better education policies in the local community.

Seven more sessions will be held on the first or second Tuesday of each month through the month of May at different Florence One schools.



Empowered to Heal joins Florence Chamber, holds ribbon cutting

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — Empowered To Heal joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday to celebrate its new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting.

Empowered To Heal, at 525 S. Dargan St., is a nonprofit organization that provides recovery care and counseling referrals for adult survivors of child abuse and sexual assault.

Jennifer Robinson, executive director of the organization, said the main focus is to provide resources to those survivors.

“My experience is that I am a survivor,” Robinson said. “I wanted to make sure that people knew that there is life after sexual trauma. I used to work for an agency that provided services for sexual abuse, but what happened was that I didn’t see a lot of follow-up.”

“What happens to a survivor after the meetings, courthouse or the hospital?” Robinson said. “What people don’t realize is that survivorship is a lifetime thing. So, if survivorship is a lifetime thing, then support is lifetime. I wanted to make sure that they received that support.”

Robinson said that after much counsel and talking with her husband, she decided to open the organization in 2014. Since its inception, she said, Empowered To Heal has helped about 25 people and has met with hundreds.

Robinson said the organization offers several programs, including journey planning, helping clients reach their goals through mentoring and support sessions, as well as education and training. The organization is partnered with Stewart Behavioral Health.

“What I tell survivors is that it’s hard to walk this journey alone,” Robinson said. “We try to strongly recommend counseling and finding that someone who can help you with the journey. We want to provide the resources that we can, and the people that we can through volunteers and different businesses, to help anyway possible.”

For more information, visit empoweredtoheal.org or contact it at 843-779-5638. The organization also has social media pages for the public to follow.

Robinson said all information received is completely confidential.

“We want to focus on the recovery,” Robinson said. “We want people to know that you have someone to come to that won’t judge, that won’t push you aside and that will always spend their time encouraging you. Our tagline is ‘healing is a journey that begins with you.’ We want people to know that it begins with you, but we are along for the ride.”


SC’s rural-urban divide draws questions in Grassroots Tour in Florence

By: Matthew Christian, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – The divide between urban and rural South Carolina took center stage at the Florence stop of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Grassroots Tour.

During the question-and-answer portion of the tour, Darlington County Economic Development Partnership’s executive director, Frank Willis, had a question for the Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.

“Rural South Carolina is hurting,” Willis said. “It has been hurting for a long time. Does the chamber have any kind of a position?”

Pitts said in response that there were two South Carolinas and that the chamber’s foundation had talked about looking at the issue.

“There is a South Carolina that’s doing pretty well,” Pitts said. “And there’s a South Carolina that’s not doing so well. We do need to look at – the chamber needs to be in the lead in this I think.”

Pitts said the attractiveness of the workforce is the reason that Boeing has a plant in North Charleston next to Charleston International Airport, and Volvo has a plant in Berkeley County. Earlier in that presentation, Pitts said that Dorchester County, which borders Berkeley and Charleston Counties, was the fastest-growing county per capita in the state. He also said that Charleston had surpassed Columbia as the largest city in the state.

“There’s less people obviously in rural South Carolina but there are opportunities that we continue to focus on,” Pitts continued.

Pitts said the state had to do a better job of attracting a different mix of business types. The state, he added, had done a very good job as a plant in the system of an international manufacturer, but wasn’t doing as well at attracting corporate headquarters or research and development facilities.

“The council of state chambers meets twice a year; the rural issue is one we talk about a lot,” Pitts said. “It amazes me that states we don’t think of like New York that say, ‘We’ve got problems in rural New York state.’ ”

Pitts said the rural-urban divide ran across the Midwest of the country and included the Northeast and the South.

“I don’t know the solution but I think we’re looking at how you would bring resources or assets in – expertise in— to help figure out what a solution could be,” Pitts said. “That’s a good question. It’s something that gets talked about. The General Assembly talks about it.”

“We call it lip service,” Willis said in response.

Pitts said the state chamber had also identified the difference in education funding in rural vs. urban South Carolina.

Although many of the poorer, rural counties receive more in per student funding, much of the money is provided by the federal government. The federal government is fairly restrictive in what the money in provides can be used for. The urban counties, however, rely on local taxes, which provide more flexibility in the use of funds.

Pitts also discussed the need for continued infrastructure improvement and tax reform to keep the state competitive in the Southeast.

The grassroots tour stop was sponsored by the Greater Florence and Hartsville Chambers of Commerce and was held Friday morning at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology on the campus of Florence-Darlington Technical College.


Community Foundation joins Florence Chamber, cuts ribbon

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — The Eastern Carolina Community Foundation joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Thursday to celebrate the foundation’s new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting.

Sarah Shelley, executive director for the foundation, said the decision to join the chamber will help the organization gain more exposure.

“We felt like we were underexposed in the corporate market,” Shelley said. “Mike Miller, the chamber president, is on our board, and it was just time for us to join the chamber now that we’re 10 years old.”

The Eastern Carolina Community Foundation, at 154 W. Evans St., is the newest community foundation in South Carolina. Shelley said the foundation is a philanthropic organization that works with all seven counties in the Pee Dee.

“We help people, organizations, churches and corporations carry out their philanthropic intent,” Shelley said. “We love to speak to groups, clubs and organizations. That’s a great way to get to know us if you’re interested, as well.”

According to its website, the foundation began to take shape in 2005, when a representative from the Coastal Community Foundation of Charleston was invited to speak to the Florence Rotary Club. Her presentation included a map revealing that nearly all of South Carolina was served by a community foundation — except for the Pee Dee area.

The first audience question was, “Why don’t we have a community foundation in the Pee Dee?” Her response was, “I was going to ask you the same thing. Why don’t you have a community foundation in the Pee Dee?” In 2006, the Eastern Carolina Community Foundation (ECCF) was formed.

Currently, the ECCF is working toward Hurricane Florence relief efforts with the Pee Dee Disaster Relief Fund.

“We would welcome contributions to that fund,” Shelley said. “Four of the seven counties we serve have been declared a federal disaster area, so it is important for us to help them rebuild their quality of life.”

The ECCF is part of a national network of more than 750 community foundations that collectively pump billions into their local economies across the United States. Many of those assets have gone back into the community to help citizens of Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marlboro, Marion, and Williamsburg counties.

For more information or to get involved, follow ECCF on Facebook, visit it at easterncarolinacf.org or contact it at 843-667-1131.


Brand-design studio holds ribbon cutting in Florence

By: Andrew Boardwine

FLORENCE, S.C. — Townsend TM joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the business’s new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting Wednesday morning.

Townsend TM, a business started by Florence native Barry Townsend, is a brand-design studio that brings big-brand experience to organizations of all sizes.

Townsend said the decision to join the chamber was something he wanted to do to get more involved with the community.

“Although the majority of my business is from outside of this market, I do believe that there are some opportunities here, and there’s a need for the services I offer here in the Pee Dee,” Townsend said. “I’m a member of this community, and this is a way for me to be involved.”

In addition to his business, Barry Townsend is the chairman of the Florence One Schools board.

“Beyond just my business, I can make connections that can help with the schools and such,” Townsend said. “As a district, we need to partner with businesses, and this is just one way that I can get involved. For me, it’s just a great all-around benefit.”

Townsend TM works closely with businesses and organizations to help them define or redefine their brand, design logos, websites and more.

Recently, Townsend completed the rebranding of the Florence Center and was involved in the branding efforts of Florence One Schools over the past few months. He has worked with big brands such as Target, Best Buy and Nestle Purina in their brand development and design efforts.

He said he is looking to bring those marketing and branding strategies to small businesses in the Pee Dee while also continuing to work with clientele from all over the nation.

“A lot of people assume that branding is just for the huge corporations, but a lot of the lessons that I’ve learned and rules that they use to create those brands are equally applicable and, in some cases, maybe even more so for a small business,” Townsend said.

“This is something that you can get right here,” Townsend said. “You don’t have to go to Columbia or Charlotte or Atlanta. There’s someone you can work with locally that will give you the same quality of work, and that’s not something you can typically find in a smaller market like this. If people have a need, I hope that they would search me out.”

For more information, visit towsendtm.com.


Pee Dee State Fair offers ‘something for everyone’

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — Pee Dee residents began flooding the Florence Center on Thursday afternoon and into the evening for a chance to be the some of the first people to experience The Greater Pee Dee State Fair & Expo.

Florence Center officials celebrated the opening of the inaugural fair with a brief ceremony and a ribbon cutting that included confetti cannons.

The fair will run every day until Saturday, Sept, 16, opening at 4 p.m. during weekdays and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Paul Beard, general manager of Florence Center, said the staff was excited to see the fair finally kick off.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Beard said. “Our entire staff has already been burning the midnight oil, but it will be worth it. Hubert Bullard [fair manager] and I have run and seen a lot of fairs, and this one is by far the biggest. I’m excited to work with him, and he’s done a fantastic job.”

Admission for the first day was free. For the remainder of the fair, admission is $7 and children two and under get in free, but the Florence Center will have several promotions, including Scrubs Night, 4-H Day at the Fair, Military and First Responders Night, student nights, as well as a Faith & Family Day. Visit florencefair.com for more information and details.

Residents had the chance to experience more than 50 rides and attractions, including the world’s largest portable roller coaster, as well as entertainment shows, games and tasty treats.

“Other than the state fairs in Columbia and Raleigh, this is the biggest fair in all of the Carolinas,” Beard said. “We’ve got something for everyone, young or old. If you’re into thrill rides, we have thrill rides. If you have kids, we have stuff for them. If you like to be entertained, we have plenty of shows and vendors. That’s not even mentioning the all the fun fair food.”

There will be free parking in the lower deck of the Florence Center, but there will also be two overflow parking lots: At G.E. Healthcare across the street at 3001 W. Radio Drive and at the old Winn-Dixie parking at 124 S. Cashua Dr.

Those free parking lots will be available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with trolley and shuttle services running from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on those days. Seniors and ADA drop-off will be available in the lower deck of the Florence Center. For more information on parking, visit florencefair.com/directions.

“A lot of kids growing up have never gotten to experience something like this,” Beard said. “For some, Columbia is a lifetime away. This fair will give families and kids a chance to create memories and have a great time right here in Florence.”


Pee Dee Realtor Association host Business After Hours

By: Andrew Boardwine

Hundreds of business and community leaders gathered at the Pee Dee Realtors Association office Thursday, September 6th for an evening of networking and fellowship.

The Pee Dee Realtors Association, at 1375 Celebration Blvd., held a Business After Hours event in conjunction with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Jennifer King, CEO of the association, said the Business After Hours gives members of the business community a chance to network.

“We are members of the chamber and we value that partnership,” King said. “This is sort of coming off the high point of buying season, so we thought this would be a perfect time to get together, mix and mingle and for all the people in the business community to come out and have a great time.”

Attendees were treated to live music, free refreshments and a chance to win some door prizes.

The association links real estate people together, provides education for those in the field and looks to support the community.


Mindy Taylor of Duke Energy will serve as the 2018 – 2019 Chairman of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

By: Andrew Boardwine

Mindy Taylor of Duke Energy will serve as the chairman of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce board of directors for the 2018-19 term.

Taylor, the district manager for government and community relations, said the chamber of commerce is the “front door” to any community.

“One part of my job is to understand the community,” Taylor said. “The Florence Chamber of Commerce does such a great job and they’re so focused on supporting the local business community and providing relevant programs to businesses in an effort for them to be successful.


Fresenius Kidney Care expands in Florence

By:  Matthew Christian, Morning News

Shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dr. John Pittard cut the ribbon to mark the expansion of Fresenius Kidney Care in Florence.

Fresenius Kidney Care has expanded into a new facility that will allow more patients to be cared for individually. It had more clients than it could handle at its previous location.

The new facility is at 1453 Pamplico Highway.

Fresenius Kidney Care trains patients with end-stage kidney failure how to perform dialysis at home except for one visit per month to a kidney center. Dialysis is the process that attempts to replicate the removal of poisons from the human body that the kidneys normally perform. Fresenius Kidney Care offers patients with failed kidneys the opportunity to learn how to perform one of two types of kidney dialysis depending on their needs.

Being able to dialyze at home offers patients with end-stage kidney failure the freedom to continue to live their life.

“It’s tough,” Pittard said. “One of my favorite stories: I was coming back from Wyoming about four years ago, and I went to turn in a car at 4:30 in the morning. There’s a couple, a man and his daughter from Galveston [Texas], because of the flood problems, he has to travel 45 minutes to Houston to dialyze.”

Pittard said the man’s situation was even worse on vacation in Wyoming. In that state, near Jackson Hole, the closest place for him to go was in Idaho, an 85-mile trip across the southern end of the Teton Mountains.

“On top of it, the clinic he was supposed to go to messed up,” Pittard continued. “He didn’t have a spot. His vacation got canceled after four days. Had he been on home dialysis, there would have been no problem. He could have enjoyed his vacation.”

For more information on Fresenius Kidney Care, visit FreseniusKidneyCare.com.