LAKESIDE LAKE SIDE L I F E O U T D O O R S F R O M WAT E R E E T O S A N T E E
The Disney of South Carolina Palmetto Shores RV Resort is in new hands, and the McGoverns want guests to fall in love with living on Lake Marion.
Hands on the future
Sterling Ta'Bon is doing more than hoping for a better future for Sumter, he's helping create it — but he'll be the first to tell you, it's going to take a team.
Ranger Ronnie and Sue the Swan
The unlikely story of a swan who lost her mate and the park ranger she'll never forget
PLUS: A winery in Cartersville? You're not going to want to miss this one! BERKELEY • CLARENDON • KERSHAW • ORANGEBURG • SUMTER
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WE’RE THE BEST. YOU MAKE US BETTER. For the third year in a row, BOC was voted Best Bank in Sumter, and we owe it to our customers and friends for pushing us to be the best we can be.
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The Highest Safety Score Among Nation’s Hospitals 4 Times in a Row. We want to congratulate our very own Stephen Williamson on being voted Best Loan Officer. He’s just one of the reasons Bank of Clarendon has been the Best Bank in Sumter for three years in a row.
McLeod Health Clarendon has been awarded an “A” grade for safety for the fourth time in a row by The Leapfrog Group. It is the highest possible rating for delivering outstanding results in patient safety. The Leapfrog Group is a national non-profit group that informs Americans about the safety and quality of hospitals across the United States. McLeod Health Clarendon is your most trusted choice for medical excellence.
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about from the lake us PUBLISHER Vince Johnson EDITOR Kayla Green COPY EDITORS Rhonda Barrick Shelbie Goulding Melanie Smith WRITERS Shelbie Goulding Alaysha Maple Bruce Mills PHOTOGRAPHY Cal Cary Micah Green Nich Pitts PUBLICATION DESIGN Micah Green
Photography submissions from local amateur artists show state's beauty
4 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
Many want their community to improve. He's making it happen.
36 W. Liberty Street • Sumter, SC 29150 www.theitem.com
Sterling Ta'Bon poses for a portrait in Sumter, the community where he found his passion for youth development and helping kids realize their dreams. Photo by Cal Cary
Palmetto Shores RV Resort is a piece of paradise along I-95
on the cover
Mark Pekuri email@example.com
The unlikely and heartwarming story of a swan and her ranger friend
Devin McDonald firstname.lastname@example.org
ADVERTISING CONSULTANTS Karen Cave email@example.com
Cartersville Country Winery offers 12 varieties of muscadine wine with rural getaway
KAYLA GREEN EDITOR OF LAKESIDE
ADVERTISING / GRAPHIC DESIGN Jivon Adams
And while Swan Lake Iris Gardens is always a fan favorite for outdoor activities, you might take your next stroll with new understanding. A swan named Sue lost her mate, but she found a pretty decent replacement for a friend. Ranger Ronnie! There's even a book about it. This is the kind of happy story we all need. And then there's our cover story. Nothing about summertime activities, but it's one you'll want to be sure to read. Sterling Ta'Bon suffered tragedy as a teenager when his friend died in a drowning accident. But he and his friends were moved to action from it, holding fundraisers for the family that have since turned into a grand vision to help improve the community and give youth the tools they need to realize their dreams. He's doing a lot of good in Sumter, and it's been really cool to watch. We need more people like him. So, I appreciate the reads! Happy summer.
From theater and festivals to gun shows, music and Juneteenth, find things to do this summer
ummer, again. It's that time of year when I value my air conditioning and my sunscreen. But it's also the time of year when I want to be outside as much as possible. In my dream scenario, there would always be a body of water nearby. Now that festivals and community events are generally back on the schedule, there's plenty to do to help make that happen. But this issue gives some ideas for things to do that are kind of off the beaten path. Palmetto Shores RV Resort is a getaway vacation near home waiting to happen. The McGoverns seem like they've thought of everything, from kids' activites to aquatic fun to dinner with a movie night. All along the shores of Lake Marion. With gas prices so high right now, they just might have the best option for a trip that's far enough away while also not breaking the bank. Wine is also always a good option. To again stay closer to home, forget about Napa. There's a winery in Cartersville that produces 12 kinds of muscadine wine. I'm personally not the biggest fan of sweet wine, but I will vouch for these. Because we had to taste test, duh.
what’s inside FEATURE STORIES
A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 5
What to do & Where to go BERKELEY • CLARENDON KERSHAW • FLORENCE • RICHLAND ORANGEBURG • SUMTER
The Florence Little Theatre’s Rising Stars’ Workshop The Florence Little Theatre’s Rising Stars’ Workshop presents Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins JR.” ThursdaySunday, June 23-26, at 417 S. Dargan St., Florence. The musical is appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors aged 62 and up and $10 for students and those under the age of 18. Visit https://fltheatre.ludus.com/index. php. Adult Prom 2022 Masquerade Night Party Dress in your most flattering formal attire and enjoy a night of dancing at Adult Prom 2022 Masquerade Night Party at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 24, at 260 W. Palmetto St., Florence. There will be light hors d’oeuvres, photo opportunities and the crowning of the prom king and queen. Tickets are $25$40. Visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ adult-prom-2022-tickets-301793812417. Florence After 5 Held on the final Friday of each month, Florence After 5 is a downtown block party providing free concerts from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the 100 block of South Dargan Street between Evans and Cheves streets in historic downtown Florence. The schedule is as follows: June 24, Kids in America (Totally ‘80s Tribute Band); July 29, Blackwater Band; and Aug. 26, Tru Sol Band. Food and beverages will be available at the event. All food and beverage sales are made via tickets, which can be purchased for $1 each at the ticket booth located near the Florence County Museum. Both cash and cards are accepted. Scholarship Gala The fourth-annual Scholarship Gala will be held 5-8 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, at Francis Marion University, 4822 E. Palmetto St., Florence. Celebrate an evening of excellence featuring some amazing youth 6 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
from across the Pee Dee area at this blacktie event. The gala will feature live music, a speaker, dinner and an awards ceremony. Visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/4thannual-scholarship-gala-tickets321856861537?aff=ebdssbdestsearch.
vintage cameras, lenses, collectibles, film stocks, retro cameras, paper and images. Vendor registration is required before June 1. Call the Town of Summerton at (803) 485-2525 or contact Cedric Liqueur, event coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Repticon Repticon, a recognized leader in hosting reptile and exotic animal expos throughout the United States, will be at the Florence Center, 3300 W. Radio Drive, Florence, Saturday-Sunday, July 30-31. Hosting an outstanding mixture of vendors, breeders and educators, this family oriented event offers guests the opportunity to learn about animals not normally seen in local pet stores. Guests can shop for a new family pet among the hundreds of reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, spiders and small exotic animals. Repticon is also the perfect place to get merchandise, cages, supplies and both live and frozen feeders, as well as expert advice about caring for their new household member. Call (843) 679-4525.
Summerville Orchestra Woodwinds Quintet A free concert featuring the Summerville Orchestra Woodwinds Quintet and local students, amateur and professional musicians will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 9, at Charles Allen Ridgeway Park, downtown Summerton. Root beer and soda will be available after the concert.
Pitmaster Extravaganza BBQ Cook-Off The Pitmaster Extravaganza BBQ CookOff will be held Friday-Saturday, Aug. 5-6, at 804 N. Brockington St., Timmonsville, featuring DJ Big Mike and DJ Freddy Chapo. Gates will open at 5 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday. Call (803) 983-7123 or (843) 773-1860.
CLARENDON COUNTY Photography and Vintage Camera Fair A photography and vintage camera fair, hosted by Summerton's 4 MAIN Events Center, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, at 4 MAIN Event Center, 4 Main St., Summerton. This indoor/outdoor, nonprofit community event will be an opportunity for professional and amateur photographers to show off their images and for vintage camera enthusiasts to exhibit their antique and
SUMTER COUNTY Juneteenth Festival-Mixed Sistaz United Celebrating Freedom The second-annual Juneteenth FestivalMixed Sistaz United Celebrating Freedom will be held from noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, at the Southside Park, 630 S. Sumter St. Event will feature free gas cards, free food, free drinks and more. Fourth Friday Concert Series The Fourth Friday Concert Series will provide free concerts at 6:30 p.m. on Main Street in front of the Sumter Opera House as follows: June 24, Jus Tru Blac; July 22, BadWater; and Aug. 26, Level 10 Live Band & Show. There will be food and drinks available for purchase from Brubakers, SO Cool Italian Icee and the Sertoma Club. The Palmetto Optimist Club will offer free books for the children as well as popcorn for sale. Downtown restaurants will also be open for dine-in or take-out. Bring your chairs and spend an evening enjoying music and dancing in the streets. Sumter Artists’ Guild Exhibition The Sumter Artists’ Guild Exhibition will be held from June 30 through Aug. 26 at the Sumter County Gallery of Art, 200 Hasel St. The gallery is open 11 a.m.-5
p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Call (803) 7750543 or visit https://sumtergallery.com/. Young Professionals of Sumter Back-toSchool Cornhole Tournament A back-to-school cornhole tournament, hosted by the Young Professionals of Sumter and presented by Air Solutions, will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6, at The Hive @ Lavender Estate, 1695 N. Main St. This family friendly event will feature food trucks, bounce houses, entertainment by DJ Howie D and more. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ yps-cornhole-tournament-presented-by-airsolutions-tickets-333846573087?aff=ebds sbdestsearch.
LEXINGTON AND RICHLAND COUNTIES Columbia Museum of Art In celebration of Juneteenth, the Columbia Museum of Art will offer free admission 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, June 19. The museum is located at 1515 Main St., Columbia. At 1 p.m., guests can take a guided tour of Black art in the CMA Collection with Dr. Nancy Tolson, CMA commissioner, docent and University of South Carolina assistant director of African American Studies. Self-guided tours available all day. For information, call or email the CMA Welcome desk at (803) 799-2810 or email@example.com. Vince Gill One of the most popular artists in modern country music, Vince Gill will perform in concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 8, at the Township Auditorium, 1703 Taylor St., Columbia. Gill is known for his famous world-class guitar playing and warm, soaring tenor voice. A 22time Grammy winner, he will be touring with his band of legendary musicians as well as amazing harmony singer Wendy Moten. Tickets range in price from $47 to $97. Visit https://thetownship.org for information. VegFest The Columbia VegFest, a vegan event for the whole community, will be held 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, June 26, at Segra Park, 1640 Freed St., Columbia. Come learn about a plant-based diet, find out about new companies and products and receive information on becoming more health-conscious and fit. This family friendly event will also feature a kids zone
with free face painting, a magician, lifesize Jenga, life-size checkers, cornhole, magnetic sand and more. Visit https:// columbiavegfest.com/.
event, will be held June 23-26 at the S.C. Equine Park, 443 Cleveland School Road, Camden. Visit https://scquarterhorse. com/.
July Celebration The 34th-Annual 4th of July Celebration on Lake Murray, presented by Lexington Medical Center, will be held on Saturday, July 2. Enjoy the patriotic boat parade of decorated boats at Bomb Island beginning at noon. The parade will be viewable from the park sites at the Lake Murray Dam after 1 p.m. or by boat. This year’s theme is “Honoring Our Heroes.” South Carolina’s largest fireworks display will launch at dark (9:15-9:30 p.m.) from Spence Island and Dreher Island. For more details, visit https:// www.lakemurraycountry.com/event/4thof-july-celebration-on-lake-murraypresented-by-lexington-medical-center/.
Sixth-Annual Kids’ Fourth of July Parade The Sixth-Annual Kids’ Fourth of July Parade will be held 10-11 a.m. on Saturday, July 2, in downtown Camden. Kids are invited to show their patriotic spirit by decorating their bikes, scooters and wagons and by dressing in red, white and blue attire. Pre-parade activities and a short program will begin at 10 a.m. in front of Camden City Hall with the parade beginning at 10:30 a.m. Motorized vehicles (electric or gas powered) are not allowed. Children ages 10 and under must be escorted by an adult. Spectators are invited to watch the parade by parking on Rutledge Street in your decorated golf cart for a chance to win “Best Patriotic Golf Cart” and a $200 gift card from Rick Williams. Golf cart must be street legal and driven by a licensed driver. Golf carts must be in place by 10 a.m. Contact Laurie Slade Funderburk at (803) 7137323 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Katharine Spadacenta at kspadacenta@ camdensc.org.
SolFest RollFest 2022 SolFest RollFest 2022, a music and bicycle festival featuring Columbia’s first bike-powered stage, will be held noon-6 p.m. on Saturday, July 2, at Earlewood Park, 1113 Recreation Drive, Columbia. This family friendly event will feature live music, a kids bike rodeo, artisans, bounce house, food and drink vendors and more. The goal is to be a zero-waste event, so attendees are asked to bring their own containers for drinks and their own T-shirts to be printed with festival graphics. For more information, visit www.SolFest-RollFest.com, follow the festival on Facebook at @SolFestRollFest and Instagram at @SolFestRollFest. Lexington County Peach Festival The Lexington County Peach Festival will be held on Monday, July 4, in Gilbert as follows: arts and crafts vendors will be set up from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Gilbert Community Park; the car show will be held at 9 a.m. at Gilbert Middle School; the peach parade will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Hampton and Main streets; live entertainment will be ongoing from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Gilbert Community Park; and a fireworks display will begin at 10 p.m. behind Gilbert Primary School. Visit http://lexingtoncountypeachfestival. com/.
LEXINGTON AND RICHLAND COUNTIES Ken Smith Maxi Circuit The Ken Smith Maxi Circuit, a South Carolina Quarter Horse Association
S.C. GUN AND KNIFE SHOWS Saturday-Sunday, June 18-19, Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds, 575 Fairgrounds Road, Spartanburg. Show hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $9 per person and children age 12 and under admitted free with paid adult. Visit www. greatamericanpromotionsllc.com, call (865) 453-0074 or email mwxmarketing@ aol.com. Saturday-Sunday, June 25-26, Civic Center of Anderson, 3027 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Anderson. Show hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $9 per person and children age 12 and under admitted free with paid adult. Visit Great American Promotions LLC at www. greatamericanpromotionsllc.com, call (865) 453-0074 or email mwxmarketing@ aol.com. Saturday-Sunday, July 23-24, Jamil Shrine Center, 206 Jamil Road, Columbia. Show hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 per person or $8 with military ID, children ages 12 and under admitted free with an adult. Visit the South Carolina Arms Collectors Association at https://www. scgunshows.com. A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 7
As sweet as home Cartersville Country Winery offers a countryside getaway topped with tastes of muscadine Words by Shelbie Goulding Photographs by Cal Cary 8 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 9
ho knew South Carolina grapes could taste so sweet? A couple of Timmonsville residents did. Fourteen years ago, a farmer with more than 20 acres had the idea to grow a muscadine grape vineyard with just a handful of workers he calls family. Thomas Langston built that vision from the ground up to what it is now: a 17-acre vineyard, RV park, event venue, weekend getaway destination and 12 flavors of muscadine wine at Cartersville Country Winery. Muscadine is a grape variety native to the United States that has been used for making
dry and port-style wines. The grapes are naturally sweet, so pairing with a natural fruit made the most sense to Langston. He wanted his winery to serve something different and unique to the tastebuds while giving his customers a farm-life experience surrounded by rustic barn aesthetics in a quiet countryside 20 minutes from the City of Florence. He couldn’t have done it without his two right hands that make the winery thrive: Carlos Norton, the winemaker, and Susann Watson, operations manager. Back in the mid- to late 2000s, Langston
approached Norton with the idea of running a winery, and he wanted Norton to make the muscadine wines. The only problem was Norton had no experience in the trade. “I’m not a chemist,” Norton said. He was self-taught. It was all trial and error, Norton said. He went to wineries to learn different techniques, but most of the time he was just mixing and blending as he went. “Muscadines are naturally sweet,” Norton said. “We use natural fruits to flavor.” Adjacent to the event space, Norton pointed out the first rows of grape vines that were
My very first wine I made was a white wine. It’s called Moonlight Imagination. I came up with it one night when I was fishing. I had a beautiful full moon.”
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planted. That later grew to cover more than 17 acres of carlos, summit and noble grapes that made the homemade country wines a few years later. “That’s what started it all,” Norton said. “I would make wine in a carboy. Now we’re using stainless steel tanks.” Everything is done on the farm. Grape harvest, mixing, the fermentation process, bottling. It took years to get the hang of the trade, but Norton said the most challenging was going from making wine in a five-gallon carboy to 500-gallon tanks. He had to adjust mixing measurements, add sulfites, stabilizers and more to make sure the wines’ flavors stayed consistent. Fourteen years into the game, Langston’s crew
has it figured out. When September comes, harvest season begins. The winery stays open amid the three- to four-week process to continue giving customers the experience, but it also allows them to see how the process from grape to bottle works. “Once we start, we got to get everything,” Norton said. “It takes a full day to fill 500 gallons up.” They average about 5,500 gallons a year in juice to be turned into wine, according to Norton.
TWELVE WINES AND COUNTING
Not only is Cartersville Country Winery a homemade, country muscadine-based vineyard, but it’s also home to two award-winning wines made by Norton himself. A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 11
Cartersville Country Winery has had two award-winning wines named by the Great American International Wine Competition: “Just Peachy,” winning a Platinum award, and “Blackberry Tart,” winning a Bronze.
In total, Norton has created 12 wines: Moonlight Imagination, his first sweet white wine made from carlos and summit grapes; Honeymoon Delight, a dry muscadine white; Lynches River, a sweet red blend; Sparkleberry Delight, a muscadine dry red dark in color; and then his fruit wines in flavors of peach, blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, cranberry, elderberry, a “Farm Blend” and pomegranate. Norton himself does not drink wine, but of the 12 he’s made, he recommends to all his customers to try his award-winning peach wine, “Just Peachy.” “This is my award-winning peach,” he said while pouring a sample. The wine is light bodied with an orange tint. When you take a sip, the chilled wine dances on the tastebuds. It is light, refreshing and sweet. The perfect drink for a hot day. Norton watches for the facial expressions as customers take a sip, his favorite part about the Cartersville Country Winery tastings. He said everyone has their own taste, but those drinking his creations are the real critics. He also is surprised to hear when people like one wine more than another. However, the peach is a staple to the winery. “Peach would be the favorite. It’s probably the best one,” Norton said with a grin. He has had two award-winning wines named by the Great American International Wine Competition: “Just Peachy,” winning a Platinum award, and “Blackberry Tart,” winning a Bronze.
WANT TO HELP THE WINERY?
“He started fruit wines when people weren’t doing fruit wines,” Watson said. “No one was doing fruit wines,” Langston echoed, “but our fruit wine must be pretty good since we won awards.” All three are proud of the awards and plan to win more. They’ve had to expand their facility and reach as they grew in popularity by word of mouth in the past decade. According to Watson, Cartersville Country Winery sells its wines to more than 200 stores in South Carolina, and they ship all over. However, they don’t plan to sell in stores outside of the state. Norton likes to stay as local as he can with his wines. Norton himself designs the logos, which showcase South Carolina, the wine’s fruit base, the state Palmetto, a crescent moon and a star marking their location near Florence. The wines’ names resemble spots for fishing in South Carolina, something Norton does often and where he got his inspiration in the trade. “My very first wine I made was a white wine. It’s called Moonlight Imagination. I came up with it one night when I was fishing,” he said. “I had a beautiful full moon.” Even with his tastings, he gives customers a real country living experience, almost as if one were moonshine tasting in the Great Smoky Mountains. But instead of a mountain landscape, it’s South Carolina’s Lowcountry farming with a vineyard stretching the property off Cartersville/ Lamar Highway. “All my wine names come from local heritage of South Carolina. I try to keep it local,” Norton said. “Our wines is probably the closest wines to a true homemade wine there is.” Cartersville Country Winery, located at 571 Lamar Highway in Timmonsville, is open year-round. For more information, to book a tasting, stay or plan a visit, contact Susann Watson at (843) 992-1870 or visit www. cartersvillecountrywinery.com. Walk-ins are welcome during normal business hours, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. MondayFriday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday.
In early May this year, Cartersville Country Winery opened its newly expanded tasting room, bottling room and more (seen above). Soon after completion, a lightning storm came through and caused a fire in the tasting room. The winery currently has a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for a new tasting room. To donate, visit gofund.me/ffdd4566. They have a goal to raise $150,000 for the new facility. 12 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 13
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Words by Bruce Mills Photographs by Cal Cary
wan Lake Iris Gardens offers up many sights and stories for visitors, but this story about the park is about a special friendship. Or maybe it is more a story of hope. It’s the true story of the park’s full-time ranger, Ronnie Grooms, and a swan named “Sue,” and it has grown in popularity in the Sumter area since a book was published in November of last year on their unique friendship and their routine walks together through the gardens. Now, some frequenters to Swan Lake know them by name. When they spot them together, you will hear a “Hello, Sue!” greeting.
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A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 15
As the story goes, know this: Swans mate for life, and Sue, a Whooper swan and long-time Swan Lake resident, lost her mate years ago. Grooms began working at Sumter’s well-known family friendly park in March 2017. Within just a few weeks, he met and befriended Sue. “I was walking the lake one day after I started working here, and I noticed this swan over on the side in the bushes,” Grooms said. “I came by and looked at her, and she looked at me. About the third day, I was walking and she came out and she was following me. I stopped, she stopped. “Then, the next day, she started following me, and that is the way it’s been ever since. For the people out here, it was entertaining for them to see a swan walking beside a ranger.” Observers can see them walking side by side on the sandy paths around Swan Lake, or at times Sue is paddling alongside Ranger Ronnie’s path in the
water. Grooms is the only full-time ranger on the Swan Lake staff, and he initially thought it was his uniform or his jangly keys he dangles near his belt that drew Sue to him. (She also befriended the three part-time rangers, he said.) Things stayed the same for about two years, but in June 2019, Grooms left for about 1.5 years to do contracting work through an engineering firm, he added. About one year into that time away from being a ranger, Grooms walked the Swan Lake path one day with his grandson. As the book, “Ranger Ronnie and Sue,” written and illustrated by Grooms’ niece Laurice Prince, details, his grandson asked him that day if Sue would remember him? Grooms said he was not sure, especially because he was not in his uniform. They went to the back
In addition, another characteristic makes Sue stand out from the other swans. “She comes to me,” Grooms said. “The other Whoopers don’t attempt to come to me.” In his years at the park, he has never seen another swan be friendly with people. “Sue is my favorite,” Grooms said. “She is unique and different.”
side of the lake where Sue generally stayed in a quiet spot. He called, “Hello, Sue!” She came right up to them. “I think it’s the uniform,” Grooms said. “But then, the main thing is when I was not in uniform she came to me. Staff here could not get over that, that she remembered me. I say now, ‘I think it’s my voice that she remembered.’” One might ask just how Ranger Ronnie can identify Sue among all the swans at the lake. That is a good question, Grooms said. Swan Lake is home to all eight species of swans and more than 100 total. But there are only five Whoopers at the gardens, he said. Sue is also a little more petite in size than the others, he added. Also, there is at least one more identifiable physical trait that makes Sue unique, but for some general protection of privacy, we leave that one out.
THE STORY OF HOPE
As Grooms’ contract work was winding down at the end of 2020, he said, his hope was – one day – to get back on as the full-time ranger at Swan Lake. He said he dreamed one night back then that his former boss with the City of Sumter, Lynn Kennedy, called him and asked for him to come back on staff. He called Kennedy about the dream, but knew someone was currently in the position. Two weeks went by, and then Kennedy texted him that the ranger had retired. He started in January 2021. A dream was fulfilled. What about Sue’s hope? As the book details, Sue lost her swan mate. Then she met Grooms, a friendly park ranger with a “kind, soft voice,” who she would walk and talk with daily “swan talk” and “human talk.” Later, she lost Grooms and was down on her
‘SUE’ BY THE NUMBERS
Her approximate weight in pounds
13+ Her age
Number of Whooper swans at Swan Lake Iris Gardens
Source: Ranger Ronnie Grooms and Swan Lake Iris Gardens
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• “Ranger Ronnie and Sue” is locally sold at The Elephant Ear, 672 Bultman Drive, Sumter. • It is also sold on Amazon. On the home page, click on “Books” and then in the Search bar, type in “Ranger Ronnie and Sue.” (It should be the first listing.) The author is Laurice Prince of Sumter. The cost is $11.99, and it is only sold in paperback.
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My job, I feel like, it’s a job of hope. People are searching, and I and others know where the hope is really at.” — Ronnie Grooms
hope again. But he eventually did return. In the bigger picture with his job, Grooms said he loves meeting visitors to the lake from all over the world and just people in general. He considers his job a gift from God. He can rattle off visitors to the gardens from about a half-dozen countries and thinks he has probably met people from all 50 states. Grooms said sometimes he is asked how he got
“So, the Lord put me here, and when I get the chance I talk with people about the Lord.” Grooms then added to just consider everything that is going on in the world right now. “I love people, and as I am walking the park, I get to talk with people from all over the world that come here,” he said. “I don’t beat anybody over the head with the Bible, but at the same time, I ask the Lord every morning to give me wisdom. To know when there is someone there that I can speak to and that the Holy Spirit would give me the right words to say. “My job, I feel like, it’s a job of hope,” Grooms said. “People are searching, and I and others know where the hope is really at.”
the job at the picturesque park. “I say to them, ‘You really want to know?’” “They say, ‘Yeah, I want to know.’” “I say, ‘My Lord, Jesus Christ, gave me this job.’” “’Well, how you figure that?’ they ask.” “‘Well, in God’s word, it says, ‘All good things come from above,’ and this is a good thing. I love this job.
Voted Best Roofing Company 4 Years in a row! THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR AMAZING CUSTOMERS!
Callen Roofing, llC SERVING SUMTER & SURROUNDING AREAS FOR 60 YEARS
State Licensed & Bonded
custom framing 803.469.6638
Specializing in shingles, flat roofs & metal roof systems.
1420 Camden Highway, Sumter
ALL WORK GUARANTEED
Serving Sumter 18 years
Jeff Callen 803-968-3248
Zane Callen 803-491-4541
Voted 2022 Best of Clarendon Best Pool Company • Above & In-ground Pools • Spas 213 E. Boyce St. • Manning, SC 29102
(803) 433-7946 (SWIM) Mark & Amber Prickelmyer
• Services & Supplies • Pool Cleaning
• Above & In-Ground Pools • Services & Supplies • •
• Water Analysis • Outdoor Kitchen
• Water Analysis • Outdoor Kitchen
Sumter’s Locally Owned Butcher Shop Fresh Meats, Casseroles, “Grab ‘n Go” Sides, Salads, Soups, Sauces, Wine & More William B. Davis Jr. BIC
Sumter , Clarendon and Orangeburg Counties
Wyboo Sales Office
Lake Marion Realty
2538 Players Course Drive Manning SC 29102
310 S Mill Street Manning SC 29102
803-478-3337 18 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
**We offer a Military Discount** 651 Bultman Drive Sumter, SC (803)774-MEAT (6328)
803-433-7355 A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 19
Rent to Own Storage Buildings, Custom Built Decks
304 N. Church Street Manning, SC 29102
520 SC29102 29102 022 520West WestBoyce Boyce Street Street •• Manning, Manning, SC
(803) (803) 435-8094 435-8094
412 S. Mill St., Manning, SC
Ribgyyour St, Manning To33 Wlist business here (803)968.0161
Karen Cave 803-774-1242
Devin McDonald 803-983-0786
Home Decor, Furniture, Antiques, Clothing
CONTACT OUR SALES TEAM
Call or visit us today for all your insurance needs.
Mark Pekuri 803-464-8917
Bruce McNair, Agent 803-460-2167 mobile
John Mathis, Broker/Agent 803-473-6205 mobile
Brittany Poston 803-433-0060
Alfreda Pearson, Agent 803-374-9655 mobile
Brian Joyner, Agent 803-460-4176
(Next to Clarendon Memorial Hospital)
40 N. Mill St., Manning
TO LIST YOUR BUSINESS ON THIS PAGE CALL 803.435.4716 OR 803.464.8917
Santee Associates Realty
VOTED BEST MENS CLOTHING 2 YEARS STRAIGHT!
Call one of our friendly agents to assist you!
Large Enough to Serve You, Small Enough to Know You! 803-854-3000 or 1-800-476-0059
Buck Travis (Owner), Scott Clark (B.I.C.) Eletha Travis (Office Coordinator) 20 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
ear Ro nY
Mark Pekuri 803-464-8917
BAIT • TACKLE • GROCERIES • GRILL
Hot Bar • Beer • T-Shirt Print Shop • Hunting & Fishing License
1540 W. Avenue South • Pinewood, SC
Devin McDonald 803-983-0786 OMC FEEDS SOLD HERE
Thank you for voting for us ! A MOBILE STORAGE CO.
Great team of Real Estate professionals ready to help you buy/sell your Lake Marion (North & South Shore) property.
Karen Hardman Catherine Shuler • Maggie Grifﬁn Donna O’Neill • Cindy Ott
Sun: 11am-2pm • Tues-Sat: 11am-8pm
Dine In. Drive Thru. Catering
Check us out on Facebook!
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am9am-6pm - 6pm Hours: Monday-Saturday
To list your business here, contact our Multimedia Specialists
Locally Owned and operated since 1947
Big T Jewelers
Pam Stephens Shayne Stephens
Established Established1969 1969
SUMTER & MANNING
Serving your needs with compassion, understanding and trust.
Every Auto-Owners policy comes with a local agent!
ys a Wee
● Columbia (803) 799-1129 ● Florence (843)664-0554 ● Charleston (843) 723-9084
MAYO’S SUIT CITY
1121 Broad St. Suite 11 Wesmark Plaza Monday-Saturday 10-7 • 803-773-2262
● Myrtle Beach (843) 626-5875 ● Sumter (803) 773-5439
www.amobilestorage.com Portable Toilet Rentals
A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 21
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I, Monica Phan, owner, would like to thank all my wonderful customers for voting us
TANNERS #1 GAS STATION IN SUMTER
8 Years In A Row!
It has always been my dream to help people in the community. Being here every day at Tanners allows me to send people to work in the morning and home in the evening with a smile on their face.
I very much appreciate my customers and employees because without them I wouldn’t have any of this or be able to serve the community. You all make Tanners the Best of Sumter!
Tanners is your One Stop Shop 3 locations to serve you! 3088 ALEX HARVIN HWY. (HWY 301 & RACCOON RD.), MANNING, SC • (803) 473-2050 2605 WAREHOUSE BLVD. (HWY 15 SOUTH), SUMTER, SC • (803) 506-2804 2810 US 15 SOUTH SUMTER, SC • (803) 481-5857
24 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
WE INVITE YOU TO SEE WHY TANNERS IS VOTED #1 FRIENDLY SERVICE YOU CAN COUNT ON...
A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 25
' e s i d a r a p f o e c e 'A pi High school sweethearts build resort on I-95 that is more than a business; it's their dream Words by Alaysha Maple Photographs by Cal Cary
manda and Ben McGovern met as highschoolers in Virginia and have been inseparable since. The pair spent summers and holidays traveling to visit Ben’s family in Florida. On their long stretch on Interstate 95, the Palmetto Shores RV Resort, 5215 Dingle Pond Road in Summerton, was deemed their halfway point between Virginia and Florida. The quaint cabins along the shoreline of glistening Lake Marion, South Carolina’s largest lake, captured the eyes and interest of the couple every visit. “We would pass by here all the time, and ‘Oh,
26 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
we need to go and check that out’ or ‘It would be fun to camp there’ is the conversation we would have every year pretty much since I was 16,” Amanda said. While Ben was a combat systems officer, the family traveled frequently and was stationed from Texas to Japan. During their tenure in Washington, D.C., Ben enlisted to become a pilot, which led the family to pack up a fifthwheel camper and travel to all his training locations. Months spent moving from Alabama to Texas to New Mexico meant the family passed the RV
resort numerous times. On their drive to visit family in North Carolina in 2019, the McGoverns finally decided to stop and take a look around. The lake access and maximum 45-minute drive to the Shaw Air Force Base led the family to choose Palmetto Shores, Amanda said. Affectionately describing her family as “water rats,” she said they love being anywhere near water. Between the lake, pool, lazy river and small beach outside their front door, the McGoverns felt at home at the resort. Ben received orders to be stationed at Shaw
Air Force Base and moved to South Carolina in October 2019, and they settled into what they believed to be their temporary home. All was well until COVID-19 struck in 2020. While the pandemic canceled plans for many, the plan to find a permanent home changed course for the McGoverns. “We said, ‘You know what, we’ll stay here,’” Amanda said. “We got the lake access, we got the pools, we have a boat and jet skis; it seemed like the best choice.” The McGovern family enjoyed the great A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 27
outdoors and all the amenities with the resort as their oyster, despite the nearest fast-food restaurant and supermarket being a 30-minute drive. The resort was their “piece of paradise,” Amanda said. Fast forward to November 2020. The family was gearing up to visit family in Kentucky when the resort’s owner and manager, who the McGovern couple had grown close to, approached the two with the opportunity of a lifetime. They asked the McGoverns if they were interested in becoming the resort’s new managers; the current one was set to retire, and the owner had plans to sell. “Everything just kind of lined up,” Amanda said. “The new owner wanted to partner with us. He didn’t want it to be just a manager position. He wanted to bring Ben and I both on as working partners and manage the property as resort managers.”
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A CLEAN SLATE
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Jan. 1, 2021, was the McGoverns’ first day as managers of Palmetto Shores RV Resort. In their first year, the McGoverns had record sales and were sold out during all the major holidays such as Fourth of July, Christmas and New Year’s. But it was no easy feat. Their first month as managers was spent flipping the property’s entire septic system that had not been pumped in years. The two 12,000-gallon tanks were pumped to remove gallons of waste, the first step in “putting the place back together,” Amanda said. Other projects included the previous water tanks being replaced with salt-water tanks; the 20plus cabins were renovated to include new vinyl flooring, new furniture and appliances; and palm trees were planted to beautify the property to reflect the Palmetto State. The resort applied for numerous licenses and certifications in its first year under new management to be able to operate the swimming pools and sell beer and wine. On top of providing ample Southern hospitality, the couple also learned how to get down and dirty by doing most of the renovations themselves. “There’s a slew of things we had to do and a lot of learning behind it because I have a background in business management, but as far as hospitality, that’s a whole other industry that I never worked in,” Amanda said. Amanda adoringly spoke about Ben’s knack for fixing unforeseen problems. Like in April 2021 when the swimming pools needed renovations to fix the blisters and cracks they developed. Never having scraped a pool or worked with fiber staplers, Ben took on the project eagerly, and he had helping hands from their children. Amanda described him as “genius” as his engineering mindset allows him to immediately know how to fix an issue or figure it out as he goes. A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 29
With each McGovern having a hand in revamping and maintaining the business, Palmetto Shores now offers a host of amenities sure to provide endless fun and ample relaxation. Guests can visit the newly renovated, fully loaded arcade complete with games like PacMan, Simpsons and more. The flashing bright colors contrast well with the ivory walls and bring a nostalgic feel to the space. The air hockey, foosball and pool tables strategically placed allow for easy access and ample space to release one’s competitive energy. The flat-screen TV hangs above the game consoles, and plush sofas create the perfect spot for guests to play their favorite games. Meanwhile, those keen on the outdoors can enjoy the “Yard Games,” as the resort calls them, scattered throughout the campground. Pickleball, shuffleboard, corn hole, Connect 4, Jenga, jumbo chess and more along with a playground in the shade keep younger guests outside and entertained for hours, just as it does the McGovern children, Amanda said. Quite an appetite can be worked up when playing, and a short walk to the
snack bar can be just the solution you need. Warm and cool snacks along the shelves, counters and refrigerators can be enjoyed by guests of all ages. If a well-cooked meal is what guests are in search of, indulging at The Lake House Restaurant overlooking the lake allows for a delicious dinner and beautiful scenery. Food options are offered seven days a week, with curbside and poolside delivery. Anyone afraid of packing on a few extra pounds can shed their worries inside the newly renovated gym, equipped with weights, treadmills and other essentials for a productive workout. There are aquatic amenities in or around Lake Marion, too. Two swimming pools, a lazy river, splash pad, beach volleyball, a fishing pier on the lake and exclusive boat ramp are available for guests along with a beautiful view of the state’s 315-mile-long inland sea. Live music on the patio of The McGovern family The Lake House Restaurant and Disney movie screenings for family favorite movie nights are another way guests can further enjoy their vacation mere feet away from their RVs and cabins.
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As a family who has traveled the world, it is important to the McGoverns that the resort be a vacation spot both children and adults can enjoy. The chance for guests to unhook, unplug and unwind while never having to leave to seek entertainment, food or a chance to make memories is what drove the family to use the acres of land to their full potential. “I want it to be the Disneyland of South Carolina. That’s a high bar to reach, but we don’t have anything like this around here,” Amanda said. “Even if it’s someone who is local or someone who traveled from out of state, I want it to be worth every penny.”
NEW YEAR, SAME BUSINESS, BIGGER DREAMS
With a successful first year under their belts, the McGoverns are eagerly awaiting what the future has in store. Numerous renovations are completed with more underway. Without giving too much away, the McGoverns spoke animatedly about their future plans to expand the Palmetto Shores RV Resort brand beyond South Carolina. “It’s going to be the first of what we hope will be many. We’re talking from the Carolinas down, and we’re
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looking all over for properties, even if it’s a resort similar to this one that is ready to switch hands to construction builds,” Amanda said. “We’re open game for either or even something in between.” The couple agreed their first year was filled with many ups and downs, and many of their learning experiences were not easy pills to swallow or checks to write. But they’re beyond proud of themselves and their staff for being optimistic about the transition and handling business efficiently. Peak season started April 1, and the McGoverns are excited to make memories and the most of vacations for new and old guests of the resort. “I want it to be worth every penny to every person who comes through,” Amanda said. “I want it to be where families come and make memories, even if it’s their one and only vacation. Many families only have one week of vacation for the year, and regardless of whether they’ve been coming for years or if it’s their first time, I want them to come because it looks cool.”
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Diamondz in the rough Sumter native Sterling Ta’Bon turns tragedy into solutions with youth development work Words by Alaysha Maple Photographs by Cal Cary, Nich Pitts & Micah Green
36 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 37
If you’re in a society that encourages you to self-destruct, those simple things like getting around people that care about you really does take you a long way.”
With our organization, if it was about us, we would’ve already quit. But it’s not about us. It’s about the next person or the next kid that needs this.”
CHAPTER 1: WHEN PRESSURE IS APPLIED, DIAMONDZ ARE CREATED
Since he was a little boy, Sterling Ta’Bon was always told he would be a leader one day. Born and raised in Sumter, he was surrounded by people who supported his dreams and would fill his metaphorical cup with resources to fulfill his wildest ideas. He came from “good origins,” had loving parents, a supportive sibling and a prominent spiritual leader in his life, his grandfather, Pastor Marion Newton of Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church. 38 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
He graduated from Sumter High School in 2014 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science from Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, in 2018. Driven by his love for learning, he returned to school to earn a master’s degree in public health with a focus in rural public health and adverse childhood experiences in 2020. Following graduation, Ta’Bon returned home to Sumter and began working with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. As he immersed himself back into his community, he realized the public health issues he
learned about in college were the same issues that plagued his hometown, specifically in its Black and brown communities. Now able to identify these issues with scientific terms, his next goal was to find a solution. Turns out finding solutions is what he does best – a trait he learned about himself out of tragedy. One of his friends died in a drowning accident in Myrtle Beach during a trip with friends in May 2015. As family and friends mourned Erick White, Ta’Bon turned his grief into determination. With the help of Aja Black, Duane Kyles, Evan Todd and Jade Graves, the bunch hosted
car washes, fish frys and other events to raise money for the White family for Erick’s funeral. However, the fundraiser with the greatest impact, both monetarily and on the community, was the Diamond Stackz Classic Basketball Tournament named after Erick’s basketball alias. The first tournament they hosted in 2015 shocked the 18-year-olds. The Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church gym was lined with people from wall to wall. In three hours, they raised $3,000. Ta’Bon said that experience at such a young age taught them a lot about themselves and that they could trust in
their community. “I didn’t think I would go to the school I went to. I didn’t think I was going to study what I studied. When Erick passed away, I think it gave me the initiative and the courage to understand that my life is going to be short,” Ta’Bon said. “I think the good thing about life is that it is uncertain, so you can do with it as you please. “Also, there is a will within there as well. [The Diamond Stackz Classic Basketball Tournament] showed me that no matter where I go or how far I go, there are people in my community who need me, and I’m going to do what I can for them for as long as I can.”
CHAPTER 2: DUSTING OFF THE DIAMONDZ IN THE ROUGH
Growing up, Ta’Bon said he saw firsthand the “get-it-outthe-mud” attitude of Sumter’s young people. He also saw how many didn’t have an outlet for their frustrations, leading them to be disruptive instead of productive. When he and his friends created the Diamond Stackz Classic Organization, they focused on youth development and providing young people with experiences and access to resources they wouldn’t normally have. The
organization’s motto speaks volumes of their efforts: “The future isn’t a place we walk into, it’s a place we create together.” The basketball tournament is only the first step. Ta’Bon said basketball is an activity the organization uses to bring young people and adults together. The talented youth who sign up for the tournament can showcase their skills in front of thousands of Sumterites. From there, they are enrolled into the Diamond Effect Mentor-Leadership Program, started in 2018, to create a connection between youth and people in their communities
with varying careers. Ta’Bon said the organization’s committee knew as they got older that they would venture into different career fields that could be an asset to young people. He said there are career fields he was not even aware of until he got to college and felt that knowledge should be given to youth early on so they know they have more options. Upon enrollment, youth are given book bags, a blazer, the title of “Chief Encouragement Officer” and a template to create a plan for their future. They fill out that template over a six-week period, networking with people who were in the same field as their dream job A PUBLICATION OF THE SUMTER ITEM 39
and have meetings with their mentors regularly. Outside of planning their future, they take weekend trips to galas, museums, NBA basketball games and more. Ta’Bon often spends Wednesday nights in the M.H. Newton Family Life Enrichment Center playing basketball and having devotional with some of the young people in the program as well as kids from the community who like to stop by. He could barely contain his smile as he talked about how eager the kids are for a weekend trip or a Wednesday night meetup; they are giving them something to look forward to. The organization keeps up with the people who come through the tournament and mentor programs. The once wide-eyed, curious kids have grown into young adults, some in high school and college, with grand ideas and bright futures. Nearly 70 kids have come through the program each year, and the DSC committee loves seeing their growth. “It’s cool to see their confidence go up,” Ta’Bon said. “If you’re in a society that encourages you to self-destruct, those simple things like getting around people that care about you really does take you a long way.” Along with the leadership program and basketball tournament, DSC also hosts an annual wellness fair to highlight inspirational people in Sumter and introduce youth to a variety of resources that can help them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This year, the event was held on May 20 with a theme of “Make Every Resource Known,” or “M.E.R.K.” Ta’Bon explained it is important for youth to be aware of resources available to help them before they react negatively. The event featured performances, activities, numerous organizations and a panel about Sumter’s impact on youth, mental health and the future we plan to build together facilitated by Ms. Wheelchair South Carolina Tatianna Davis. Proceeds from both the basketball tournament and wellness fair now go toward the organization’s Erick R. White Scholarship Fund and the MentorLeadership program. “I just have a passion for making sure our youth are good,” Ta’Bon said. “Making sure they have the proper resources to be equipped to do what they want to do and understand that they are not limited to what they see around them.” 40 JUNE-JULY-AUGUST 2022 | LAKESIDE
Making sure they have the proper resources to be equipped to do what they want to do and understand that they are not limited to what they see around them.”
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CHAPTER 3: THE FUTURE SHINES WITH OPPORTUNITY
Ta’Bon envisions a bright future for youth in Sumter and hopes DSC can help facilitate it. To do this, the DSC Basketball Tournament will remain in Sumter. The committee received calls from organizations in Columbia, Florence and Myrtle Beach asking them to host a tournament after the organization canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19. Ta’Bon said the tournament was started in Sumter for the White family and that it wouldn’t have the same impact if it were held anywhere else. However, what will expand throughout the state is the mentor-leadership program. DSC has been in talks with organizations throughout the state, coordinating on how to
provide experiences and host events for Black and brown youth in other communities. DSC will continue to build with local leaders to help youth fulfill their ideas that could make a difference in the community and avoid barriers often faced when they go it alone. Ta’Bon said he gets calls from youth and young adults raving about their ideas on how to make Sumter better and questions of how to put them into action. Ta’Bon loves seeing this energy from local youth because once the current committee decides their work is done, they hope to hand the reins over to the next class of youth with that same drive and passion to better their community. The committee often talks about young adults who they feel are “up next” in Sumter. Ta’Bon hopes young
Thank you Sumter for voting us
BEST PLACE TO BUY AUTO PARTS adults who left Sumter for college will return to share their experiences locally, doing 10 times better at using the resources DSC has accumulated. Much, if not all, of the work DSC does is to better the lives and opportunities of the next generation. While Ta’Bon did work with youth in North Carolina during college, he knew the impact would be greater, for both him and the students, if he knew the community he was
trying to help. “With our organization, if it was about us, we would’ve already quit. But it’s not about us. It’s about the next person or the next kid that needs this,” he said. “Whether we impact one kid or we do this academy and grow to impact 500 kids a year who come through this program, you never know who’s going to come back and pour into the community or someone else’s community.”
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LOCAL TALENT Moments caught across the state by local amateur photographers.
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