Since completing acquisition of beleaguered SCANA Corp. in January 2019, Dominion Energy is focused on growing the economy in South Carolina. That’s the message Capital Rotary heard April 3 from guest speaker Kristen Beckham (shown at right in photo with Rotarian Gloria Saeed). Beckham, an external affairs manager for Dominion, said the Virginia-based utility has been “on the road” for economic development seminars across the Palmetto State. Beckham leads the regional Community Investment Board for Dominion’s Charitable Foundation, where plans are to increase corporate and charitable giving by $1 million per year for at least five years. She said Dominion is committed to keeping a headquarters campus presence in Cayce, plus maintaining compensation levels for employees of SCANA and its subsidiaries until at least July 2020. Long-term rate relief means monthly electric bills for the typical residential electric customer are now 15% lower, Beckham said, while noting that Dominion gives priority to recruiting and retaining military veterans in its workforce. A graduate of and board member for Leadership South Carolina, Beckham also chairs the Junior League of Columbia’s public affairs committee, is sponsorship chair of the United Way of the Midlands and serves on the Alumni Association of the College of Charleston’s board.
Columbia’s Capital Rotary has been named “Club of the Year” in District 7770, which is comprised of 80 clubs and about 5,000 Rotarians in 25 eastern counties of the state. Proudly displaying the new “Club of the Year” banner on Aug. 3 are (from left to right in photo) sergeant-at-arms Jack Williamson, president Philip Flynn, Assistant District Gov. Eric Davis and Blake DuBose, immediate past president. Chartered over 30 years ago, Capital Rotary presently has about 60 members and holds weekly breakfast meetings at the Palmetto Club downtown. Club service activities include (1) awarding continuing four-year college scholarships to local high school graduates; (2) donating paperback dictionaries to third-graders in Richland County District One elementary schools; (3) taking part in the Meals on Wheels program to deliver hot dinners to home-bound clients in Richland County; (4) volunteering at Harvest Hope Food Bank’s Columbia site; (5) sponsoring a Red Cross blood drive each summer; and (6) providing holiday gifts for a local family as part of the Midlands Families Helping Families Christmas program. Club members also financially support district and Rotary International projects that promote peace, human development and world understanding.
Capital Rotary Club member Tony Thompson (right in photo) is congratulated by president Philip Flynn after receiving a District 7770 Leadership Award for fundraising to support the CART (Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust) Fund. Thompson organized a gala celebration last August that resulted in donations of more than $15,000 – all monies earmarked for cutting edge, high-impact research aimed at preventing or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The CART initiative began in South Carolina over 20 years ago and has since been adopted by Rotary clubs throughout the United States. The district award lauded Thompson’s “dedication to impactful actions and meaningful service to the Columbia community.” He has been a member of Capital Rotary since September 2001.
(Far left) Rotary Club of Beaufort President Dr. Robert F. Allen stands with representatives of three local organizations that were presented grants at the Club’s March 20thluncheon meeting. (From left to right) Representing Honor Flight Savannah and receiving a $500 donation are board members Owen Hand and Jim Weiskopf. Representing Beaufort’s Free Medical Clinic and receiving a $500 grant are Clinic volunteer physicians Dr. John Gray and Dr. Toni Bush. Representing the Spanish Moss Trail and receiving a $1,000 grant is founder and volunteer executive director Dean Moss. All three organizations had previously made presentations at one of the Club’s weekly meetings.
Photo credit: Rotary Club of Beaufort Photo by Jeff Johnson
The Class of 2020’s Grace Cooney is the second University of South Carolina student asking Capital Rotary Club to endorse her application for a Global Grant Scholarship. Cooney (shown in photo) is a Greenville native majoring in public health. The award would enable her to pursue a Master’s of Science Degree in Migration, Culture and Global Health from Queen Mary University in London. She says this would expand her understanding of health to address not only the physical ailment, but also religious affiliation, native culture and socioeconomic status affecting patients. She hopes to become a physician practicing internationally, working with underserved and vulnerable populations abroad. Cooney has been a Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity officer, an anatomy lab teaching assistant and a volunteer at Carolina Survivor Clinic. In a four-year summer internship in Greenville, she experienced hands-on training, interactive workshops and professional engagement seminars. Recipient of a Stamps Carolina Scholarship – the university’s highest academic scholarship award – Cooney was one of three students granted enrichment funds for out-of-classroom experiences for excelling in leadership and service. Rotary International’s Global Grant scholarships support graduate-level study in one of six areas of focus: peace, disease prevention, water and sanitation, maternal/child health, education and economic/community development.
Capital Rotary Club members on March 20 heard how Columbia’s Ronald McDonald House works to comfort families that have to be away from home while dealing with a child’s medical crisis. The compassionate story came from guest speakers Liz Atkinson (left in photo) and Beth Lowrie (at right in photo), who serve as the charity’s operations manager and executive director, respectively. They said the 16,000-square-foot, 16-bedroom Ronald McDonald House provides a comfortable environment where families can rest, enjoy home-cooked meals, relax in spacious living areas, use laundry facilities and most importantly, experience a network of support among other families facing similar worries and fears. The stability of this “home away from home” not only relieves emotional and financial stress, but also allows families to focus on being there for their child when it matters most. The local Ronald McDonald house is one of 368 similar facilities located in 48 countries. Columbia’s house opened 35 years ago; its occupancy rate averages 87 per cent. Atkinson and Lowrie said there is a constant need for volunteers and fund-raising to support the charity’s programs. The Ronald McDonald House is open to serve families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.
Rotary Leadership Institutes were held on March 9 at Hilton Head Prep school. Twenty seven participants were in this training. Our District Governor, David Tirard and Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island President Larry Sanders were present to welcome the participants. The Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island had 11 participants. Five participants from District 7770 completed the third institute. Thanks to Rod Funderburk and Joan Grayson and the great faculty for making this a memorable event.
Author Randolph G. Russell told Capital Rotary members March 13 that ignorance about our nation’s history is “profound and widespread” throughout the American public. Russell (at left in photo with Rotarian Matthew Pollard) was guest speaker at the club’s weekly breakfast meeting. His book “American History in No Time” takes a quick look at the “essential fundamentals” of our heritage and could help repair what Russell called a “fading connection” with the past. He believes knowing US history is important for these reasons: (1) it’s part of our national identification as Americans; (2) it’s a way to counter those who try to “fill the void of ignorance” with misinformation; (3) it affects the quality of government by enabling us to make better choices at election time; and (4) it’s a fascinating story that can enrich everyone’s life. Unlike weighty school texts, Russell said his book is an overview of key events, people, places and principles divided into chapters that can be read in a matter of minutes. He described it as the quickest way to get up to speed with history’s essentials – what everyone should learn and not forget. Russell holds degrees from the University of Miami and the University of Florida. He’s worked in financial management for companies in Florida and Georgia. Also an accomplished musician, Russell concluded his presentation with a saxophone rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Columbia’s Capital Rotary Club is backing University of South Carolina junior Alexis Vetack’s application for a Global Grant Scholarship award to earn a master’s degree in public policy. Vetack (in photo), a member of the USC Honors College Class of 2020, is a Charlotte, NC native. Her major – Public Health and Social Justice in Developing Countries – combines the fields of public health, social justice and public policy on a premed track. She hopes to become a Centers for Disease Control physician specializing in infectious disease. Vetack is president of USC’s Phi Delta Epsilon medical fraternity and volunteers at the Good Samaritan Clinic serving Latino patients in the local community. She also works with Carolina Survivor Clinic, a local nonprofit providing holistic healthcare to refugees who have survived torture. Vetack has received an Honors College Exploration Scholars Grant of $4,500 for research as an undergraduate assistant at the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Lab. 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.
Providing clean water, sanitation and education is the “first phase of hope” for a better life in impoverished communities in Ghana and South Sudan, according to Walter Hughes, a member of the Rotary Club of Rocky Mount, VA. Hughes (at left in photo with local Rotarian Bud Foy), was guest speaker for Capital Rotary’s March 6 meeting. Over the past 10 years, Hughes and teams of Rotary and non-Rotary volunteers have undertaken building projects spearheaded by Rotary International. They’ve sunk wells to provide clean water for over 300,000 people in Africa – helping to eradicate Guinea Worm disease – and installed microflush toilets in place of pit latrines that smell bad and pollute water and soil. In partnership with 170 Rotary clubs in the US, Canada and overseas – plus governments and other non-profit funders – Hughes’ efforts have raised more than $3.2 million for humanitarian projects. He’s been active in Rotary-funded school building including three elementary schools, a preschool and a junior high. One of the elementary schools now under construction is funded in part by Rotary District 7770 and four clubs in South Carolina, including Capital Rotary as lead club.