Columbia Housing Authority’s goal has not changed since its 1934 founding – it works to provide affordable homes for city and Richland County residents. That mission was explained by executive director Gilbert Walker, guest speaker for Capital Rotary’s Oct. 3 meeting. Walker (at right in photo with Rotarian Chris Ray) said 7,000 families – about 28,000 people – make up the authority’s current tenants list. Housing costs range from $50 to about $1,500 monthly, depending on financial ability. Walker said authority income includes federal funding, tenant rents and returns from investments. Columbia Housing Authority is the nation’s third-oldest organization of its type, the biggest in South Carolina and the largest local provider of seniors housing. Redevelopment of the 1940s-era Gonzales Gardens site – vacant since Gardens demolition last year – is expected to begin this November. Walker said the project will create an impressive “gateway for the city and Richland County.” Redevelopment proposals include single family houses, midrises for seniors, garage townhomes, mixed-income rentals and a community center/museum. Despite its success and ambitious plans, Walker said the authority sees unmet needs – a waiting list of 15,000 people seeking homes.
Capital Rotary member Gene Oliver (center in photo) was recognized Oct. 3 for his latest donation to The Rotary Foundation in support of international programs promoting peace and world understanding. Oliver is a Paul Harris Fellow plus-three giver (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with three additional gifts in the same amount). Oliver – a retired college administrator – joined the Capital club nine years ago and has been a Rotarian for more than 50 years. Immediate past president Blake DuBose (left) is the club’s chair for Foundation contributions, while current president Philip Flynn is at right.
Capital Rotary Club members John Guignard (standing left rear) and Rowland Alston (standing right rear) helped deliver new paperback dictionaries to this Arden Elementary School third-grade class as part of the club’s participation in The Dictionary Project. The project – begun by a non-profit organization in Charleston in 1995 – aims to help young people become good writers, active readers, creative thinkers and resourceful learners. Capital Rotary donated dictionaries to some 900 students in 12 Richland County District One schools for 2018. Over the past 14 years, the club has distributed personal dictionaries to 14,000 students in the Columbia area. A number of other Rotary clubs in South Carolina and throughout the country are Dictionary Project sponsors. One of Rotary International’s major goals is improving basic education and literacy for adults and young people.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster told Capital Rotarians that the state is “on the edge of great prosperity” and must not miss the “window of opportunity for economic expansion and growth that will take care of our problems.” McMaster – a Republican running for re-election in November against Democrat James Smith – was Sept. 26’s guest speaker for the Columbia area club. He said the state’s competitive advantages in attracting new industry include (1) “three great research universities – the Medical University, University of South Carolina and Clemson University”; (2) “the best technical college system in the country” to train the needed workforce; (3) the Port of Charleston, which is being deepened to accommodate the world’s largest container ships; (4) inland ports at Greer and Dillon, making South Carolina the only state in the nation with two inland ports located on major highways like I-85 and I-95; and (5) a “unique population” made up of residents who are “friendly, hardworking and proud of what we’ve accomplished.” McMaster became the state’s chief executive in January 20127 after serving two years as lieutenant governor, eight years as attorney general and four years as United States attorney. McMaster received his AB degree in history in 1969 from the University of South Carolina and his JD degree in 1973 from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
When Columbia hosts the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Regionals next March, that could bring 20,000-25,000 visitors to town and generate a potential $9 million economic impact. Scott Powers, executive director of Experience Columbia SC Sports, is working alongside the University of South Carolina to make that experience welcoming, user-friendly and enjoyable for players, coaches, media and fans. Powers (shown at left with Rotarian Alex Serkes) was Capital Rotary’s Sept. 19 guest speaker. He said the event – to be held March 22-24, 2019 at Colonial Life Arena – is the first time Columbia has been an NCAA Regionals host since 1970. The eight college teams slated to compete in first and second round games won’t be announced until March 17. How well the tournament draws will be influenced by which teams will be playing, where they’ll be traveling from, each team’s fan base and their fans’ willingness to travel. Powers is encouraging the Midlands to get involved by offering community events, fun things to do while in town and food/drink specials. “All eyes will be on Columbia to determine whether we will be selected to host again,” he said. Powers has been Experience Columbia SC Sports director since 2004. He’s a USC graduate, a Leadership Columbia gradate and a founding member of the South Carolina Sports Alliance.
Two more Capital Rotarians have been recognized for donations to The Rotary Foundation in support of international programs promoting peace and world understanding. Shown in the photo from left are Blake DuBose, immediate past president and Foundation giving chair; E.J. Newby and Stephen West, both Paul Harris Fellow plus-one givers (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with an additional gift in the same amount); and Philip Flynn, club president. Newby joined Capital Rotary in 2017, while West has been a member since 2005.
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.
Four Capital Rotarians have been recognized for their donations to The Rotary Foundation in support of international programs promoting peace and world understanding. They are (from left in photo) Alex Serkes, a Paul Harris Fellow (donation of $1,000); Daniel Winders, a benefactor (pledging a $1,000 donation from his estate); Daniel Moses, also a benefactor; Frank Rutkowski, a Paul Harris Fellow plus-three giver (signifying an initial $1,000 donation with three additional gifts in the same amount); and Philip Flynn, club president. Capital Rotary members made nearly $13,000 in charitable contributions to the Foundation in the past year.
Capital Rotary Club visited the Richland County Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 29 for a slide show and briefing by Deputy Amanda Jordan (photo) on the agency’s mission, values, organization and programs. With its population of more than 400,000 spread over 756 square miles, the county presents a policing challenge for the sheriff’s force of 700 uniformed officers and 140 support personnel. Jordan said Sheriff Leon Lott stresses core values of service, integrity, accountability and professionalism for all employees and works to develop a sense of family throughout the organization’s various divisions and offices. She encouraged Rotarians to spread the word about the Citizens Police Academy – a 14-week program of classes designed to give participants an overview of the Sheriff’s Department structure, services and personnel. Jordan is a University of South Carolina gradate who’s been a deputy for 15 years and now is a sergeant in the Office of Public Information and Media Relations. Capital Rotary’s Aug. 29 briefing was part of the club’s Fifth Wednesday program substituting local field trips in place of a regular meeting.
South Carolina’s 20 electric cooperatives have a big stake in financial fallout from the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant abandoned a year ago by Santee Cooper and SC Electric & Gas. That’s according to Lou Green, communications executive vice president for the Electric Cooperatives of SC. Green (left in photo with Rotarian Tony Thompson) was Capital Rotary’s Aug. 22 guest speaker. He said co-ops are focused on financial impacts that resolution of the $9 billion failure might have on their 1.5 million customers. They are especially concerned about Santee Cooper’s fate since co-ops are the state-owned utility’s biggest customer base. Twenty-three lawsuits plus various legislative actions complicate the issue, but Green noted that a special committee is meeting now to study the idea of selling Santee Cooper to pay off its nuclear debt. “The state needs to come up with a process and bring options to the legislature,” Green said. “They’re the only ones who can make a decision about Santee Cooper.” Green joined the state co-ops organization in 1992 after working in radio and television. He is a University of Georgia graduate with a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina.