Capital Rotary members put in a solid hour of community service Feb. 21 when they volunteered at Harvest Hope Food Bank’s Shop Road headquarters in Columbia. Rotarians sorted and stocked 1,363 pounds of bakery items; bagged 611 pounds of snacks and 1,714 pounds of produce; and bagged and stocked 443 pounds of dairy goods – all destined for the Emergency Food Pantry. Harvest Hope, begun in 1981, works to meet the needs of hungry people in 20 counties in the Midlands, Pee Dee and Greater Greenville regions of South Carolina. Food Bank executive director Denise Holland is a Capital Rotary member. In photo, club members on work detail are (from left) Ione Cockrell, Trey Boone, Frank Rutkowski, Ben Carlton and Ann Elliott.
As Congaree Riverkeeper for the last six years, Bill Stangler works in the Midlands to protect the environmental quality of three different rivers and their tributaries because “water is a common good,” as he explained at Capital Rotary’s Feb. 14 meeting. Stangler (pictured with Rotarian Ann Elliott) is a former outdoors guide who studied ecology and river science at the University of South Carolina. He now monitors water, wildlife habitat and recreation conditions on the Congaree, Lower Saluda and Lower Broad Rivers – including 90 miles of river, 2,000 miles of streams and five different counties in the watershed. Stangler said preserving “our rights to our rivers” involves (1) outreach and education about issues facing rivers; (2) advocacy work and voluntary cleanups, plus water quality sampling; and (3) suing to enforce environmental laws when regulatory agencies fail to do the job. Congaree Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization, one of six in South Carolina affiliated with the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect rivers and coasts all over the world. One of Rotary International’s areas of focus is support for local solutions to bring clean water, sanitation and hygiene to more people every day.
Addressing South Carolina’s information technology “talent gap” is the mission of IT-ology, a Columbia-based nonprofit working to attract, retain and educate citizens about the IT profession. Capital Rotarians were briefed on those efforts during a Fifth Wednesday meeting with IT-ology staffers (from left in photo Lauren Wells, Kristy McLean and Bonnie Kelly). The Palmetto State has (1) a limited pool of trained, experienced potential IT employees; (2) an insufficient number of students in IT classes; (3) women and minorities underrepresented in the profession; (4) a high demand for more cybersecurity professionals; (5) a need for a statewide culture that encourages innovators and entrepreneurs; and (6) a need for workers with more “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and negotiation. IT-ology says the key to answering these needs includes more pre-K-12th grade programs, expanded technical college outreach, teacher professional development and IT career development seminars. Capital Rotary’s Fifth Wednesday program substitutes local field trips to sites like IT-ology in place of a regular club meeting.
Homeschooling is a good option for parents seeking one-to-one, individualized learning opportunities for their children. That’s what Capital Rotarians heard when Beth Martin – high school director for the South Carolina Association of Independent Homeschools – spoke at the club’s Jan. 24 meeting. Martin is a former public middle school teacher who homeschooled her own three children. She said the state association – a nonprofit founded in 1990 – works to ensure accountability for some 22,000 to 33,000 homeschoolers across South Carolina. That includes assistance with curriculum, counseling and class schedules; meeting test requirements; maintaining transcripts and issuing diplomas; providing for special needs students; and college/career planning. Martin said homeschooling can offer young people a superior education – aligned to their own specific needs, learning styles, personalities and interests – at less cost than a private or public school setting. (SC Assn of Independent Home Schools photo)
Columbia’s Capital Rotary has recognized three members for contributions to The Rotary Foundation, the international service club’s charitable arm that funds programs for world understanding and peace. Honorees include (from left) Mike Montgomery, a Paul Harris Fellow plus-six donor, representing an initial $1,000 donation, plus six additional gifts of $1,000 each; Hal Peacock, a plus-two Fellow with an initial $1,000 donation followed by two more for $1,000 each; club president Blake DuBose; and Tommy Gibbons, a plus-three Fellow with an initial $1,000 donation followed by three at $1,000 each.
Commercial banker Austin McVay (second from left in photo) and healthcare professional Jon Belsher (second from right) have been inducted into Columbia’s Capital Rotary Club. McVay – shown with sponsor Denise Holland – is a Greenville native with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Clemson University. He is a commercial relationship manager with TD Bank and previously worked at Verizon Wireless and ScanSource in Greenville and for GE Energy in Atlanta. Belsher – shown with sponsor Tommy Gibbons – is president and chief operating officer of UCI Medical Affiliates, Inc. A native of Palo Alto, CA, he was educated at Amherst College, the University of Arizona and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He has worked for the Mayo Clinic and Scott & White Healthcare and spent 13 years in the Air National Guard. He’s a former Big Brother and Special Olympics clinical director.
Capital Rotary president Blake DuBose receives banners from clubs in Nairobi and Ireland from Catherine Glen, a former Rotary Global Grant Scholar studying in the field of peace and conflict prevention. Glen recently received a master’s degree from Queen’s University in Belfast. She’s currently a visiting research associate at the university’s Center for Evidence and Social Innovation. Global Grant scholarships support graduate level study in one of Rotary International’s six areas of focus: peace, disease prevention, water and sanitation, maternal/child health, education, and economic/community development. Glen is a 2011 University of South Carolina graduate and has worked with young people within high-needs communities in the US, Japan, Northern Ireland and Kenya.
Capital Rotary Club members adopted two local families for the holiday season in partnership with the 2017 Midlands Families Helping Families Christmas program, a Palmetto Project and WIS-TV initiative. Each family had a single mother and six children. Youngsters ranged in age from two to 17 years old. The Christmas wish lists included clothing, toys, personal care items, small household appliances, groceries and furniture. The club’s goal was to raise a total of $1,000 in order to purchase each family’s gifts. The club offered to match donations made by members. Presents were purchased, gift-wrapped and delivered to a warehouse for distribution. Capital Rotarians who led their club’s participation included Neda Beal, Carol Caulk, Felicia Maloney, E.J. Newby (at left in photo with Sandy, a Families Helping Families volunteer) and Qing Wang.
The University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine works to serve the Palmetto State through exceptional education, research breakthroughs and world-class health care. That’s the message executive dean Dr. Les Hall brought to Capital Rotarians as their Dec. 13 guest speaker. Dr. Hall also serves as CEO of the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, which became active in April 2016. That group combined medical school faculty and local Palmetto Health System physicians to become the largest and most comprehensive set of health care providers in central South Carolina. Dr. Hall came to USC in 2015 from the University of Missouri. His academic work has focused on professional education, especially in the areas of quality improvement, patient safety and teamwork.
Social media and the Internet make it easier to spread “fake news” today, but there are several key factors for judging the reliability of what we hear and see reported locally and nationally, according to John Monk, a writer for The State newspaper since 1997. Monk was Capital Rotary’s Nov. 15 guest speaker, sharing what he’s learned after some 40 years as a journalist in South Carolina. To judge a story’s merits, Monk suggested readers or listeners should: (1) see if the story comes from a major news organization that carefully checks facts before publication; (2) consider the personal reputation and reliability of the reporter; and (3) remember that news is a “continuing conversation” that “hopefully is not the final word.” He told Rotarians that “there is a good deal of evidence that propaganda spreads through fake news.” Monk is a Maryland native, attended Davidson College and spent five years as Washington correspondent for The Charlotte Observer.