Life is Good 2021

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All part of the plan

How the pieces are fitting together to make the dream of downtown Sumter’s revitalization a reality


can’t stop us A guide to Sumter’s arts and culture, outdoor recreation and new restaurants adapting to the pandemic


Since 1986, Thompson has provided construction and industrial services with the highest standards in safety, quality and integrity for a variety of industries. We now serve the United States with over 20 locations, plus mobile operations across the globe. Our growing family of companies has come a long way, but Sumter will always be our home. 800-849-8040 | 100 North Main Street, Sumter, SC 29150

WORKING AT THOMPSON - PEOPLE FIRST, SAFETY FIRST Thompson started in Sumter as a family business and no matter how much we grow, we always want our employees to feel like family. Throughout all the Thompson companies, our core values are safety, quality and integrity, with safety always being our number one priority. We take care of our people through forward-thinking safety programs, leadership development, exceptional benefits, training and career advancement. Thompson really is a special place to work, and anyone who is a part of our team (our clients too) will experience the core values that make us who we are. Interested in a career with Thompson? Visit the careers page at

SAFETY AND SERVICE Thompson’s commitment to safety radiates throughout the entire organization’s culture through a top-to-bottom, all-in approach. We’ve directed our primary focus at Serious Injury and Fatality prevention. By identifying precursors to the most serious risks and implementing additional controls and layers of protection, we have created a safer working environment that holds everyone accountable for taking safety personally. Having this culture in place was instrumental to our success in 2020 when the pandemic required us to put an even further emphasis on the health and safety of our employees, clients and community. We are extremely proud of our milestone safety records and the attention, thoughtfulness, and care for one another displayed by all of our teammates.

“We will never forget our roots in Sumter, SC� - Greg A. Thompson, CEO/President

INVESTING IN OUR COMMUNITY Over the last year, the Thompson family and the Sumter community have shown great resilience, teamwork and compassion in light of an extremely challenging year for many. Right at the onset of COVID-19, we knew there was a way we could help. Our industrial cleaning company, Thompson Industrial Services quickly developed a response team to provide commercial and industrial disinfecting services specifically regulated for the pandemic. We quickly got to work to help businesses and facilities keep their employees and customers as safe and protected as possible. We have partnered with many local businesses for routine disinfecting services so they can keep their businesses open and thriving safely. We are so grateful to our hardworking employees and amazing community for the incredible resilience and positive attitude they have shown. We still have much to be thankful for and to celebrate, including two major additions to Sumter by Thompson Turner Construction Group. Sumter Original Brewery is a brand new addition to downtown Sumter, and it is a sight to be seen! This is the very first brewery to open in Sumter and will be a huge catalyst for continued growth in the downtown area. This 30,000 square foot facility has 3 stories, a 15-barrel brewing system and will focus on brewing a diverse selection of quality craft beer. In addition, Thompson Turner is proud to unveil the new Quixote Golf Club which includes a world-class golf course, and skillfully crafted clubhouse. Greg and Lewis Thompson started Quixote Club with a vision to give back to the community by supporting children and their families. The end goal is attracting more families to plant their roots within their hometown of Sumter, South Carolina. With this vision in mind, Quixote Club was created to connect, inspire, and change lives through golf. With the support of its philanthropic minded members, proceeds from Quixote Club are reinvested back into the community through the Liberty STEAM Charter School. At Thompson, our commitment to community and customer service is top-of-mind every day. We value every job and every person, and are committed to always serving you safely with quality and integrity. Learn more at our website:

SAFETY QUALITY INTEGRITY Thompson Industrial Services provides safe, comprehensive industrial cleaning services to major industrial facilities. Our work is safer, faster and more precise with our growing line of advanced automation technologies. Thompson Construction Group focuses on industrial construction and on-site maintenance. Specializing in large industrial projects, we build and maintain facilities for a range of industries like Power, Paper, Steel and beyond. Thompson Turner, general contractors, builds commercial, government and educational facilities. We offer single-source, deadlines and budget-oriented delivery, including Design/Build and CM at Risk. Thompson Power Services provides construction services related to boiler and major gas-path equipment installation and repair for electric utilities and industrial facilities. Thompson Maintenance Services provides equipment maintenance, facility maintenance, operations support, elevated cleaning and small capital project improvements. Thompson Disaster Recovery Services provides recovery solutions to State and Federal agencies including the repair, replacement, and reconstruction of residential areas impacted by natural disasters. Thompson Custom Fabrication provides sheet metal fabrication, structural steel fabrication, CNC Plasma cutting, and on-site installation services to a wide range of industries.

THOMPSON INDUSTRIAL SERVICES IS NOW PROVIDING COVID-19 DISINFECTING SERVICES We’re here to help your organization keep people safe and healthy. Call us to disinfect your facility safely and thoroughly with disinfectant products that are EPA-regulated for the current pandemic. 800-849-8040 |

BE A PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER AT BD. Making a career transition to BD has never been more exciting. That’s because today our associates serve every corner of the world, united by one Purpose: advancing the world of health™. If you’re exploring new opportunities to make an impact and be part of something truly world-changing—consider BD. Here, unique and genuine individuals work together to make a difference. Our cultural and social diversity, coupled with our intellectually challenging opportunities, make a BD career a personal mission where, together, we can make a true difference of one. Ready to learn more? Visit

BD, Sumter, SC, 29151, U.S. BD, the BD Logo and Advancing the world of health are trademarks of Becton, Dickinson and Company. © 2021 BD. All rights reserved. 5942



a vibrant


Miles of trails, close proximity to rivers & lakes, acres of hunting land, and award-winning golf & tennis facilities make our community a great place to get out and play. From the experienced outdoorsman to the youngest hiker, there’s a trail, waterway or activity for you! Get out and play with the whole family. Outdoor adventures are made in Sumter.

There’s more to explore at

South Car olina

Welcome from

The Sumter Item R @theitem @sumteritem @theitem

esilience. Hope. New beginnings. On behalf of the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce, the Sumter Economic Development Board and my co-workers at The Sumter Item, I’d like to officially welcome you to the 2021 edition of Life is Good in Sumter. Coming out of the year that was 2020, “Life is Good” sounds a bit hollow, right? In many well-documented ways, it does to me, too. Yet, in my several years in Sumter and especially in this past year, Sumter has exuded the fire, the resolve, the fierce determination to ensure “Life is Good” and will continue to be for its residents. In the face of a worldwide pandemic, Sumter is getting through together. Today, Sumter is innovative. Sumter is bold. Sumter is a place of business and community. From Shaw Air Force Base to local industries to our beautiful downtown, growth is happening, not only through new buildings, businesses and incoming residents, but also through the sense of community, unity and belonging. Sumter is a place to live, to work and to play for people of all ages. In 2021, I’d like to encourage you to seek that community, to seek belonging. Build large bridges of unity with others who also make up the fabric of our area. Learn from those who have a different perspective of the world. Listen thoroughly with the goal of an even better tomorrow. As the area’s leader in media for more than 126 years, The Sumter Item is here to help build that community, hold the powerful accountable and promote economic growth. Local news does that, and we believe it’s important. Whether you’re a longtime resident or a newcomer to the area, we encourage you to subscribe to The Sumter Item, either through a print+online or an all-online subscription. At the very least, please sign up for our free email newsletter at We tell the stories of your community. We vow to listen and to elevate your voice. Inside these pages, you’ll see many of the people, places and businesses that make our community great. We’re here for you, Sumter, and we hope you enjoy this magazine. Best regards,

Publisher, The Sumter Item T H E I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |



A guide to Sumter's arts and culture scene................................... 10 Websites and social media accounts to know................................ 13 A restaurant manager and his love of vintage cars........................ 14 Sumter boasts accomplished authors............................................ 16 Sumter Opera House: A 125-year-old gem.................................... 18

SUMTER BUILDS We've got it made–right here........................................................ 20 Sumter Coatings gives back in a time of need............................... 21 Santa Cruz Nutritionals: Growth mindset....................................... 23

SUMTER LEARNS Liberty STEAM Charter School....................................................... 24 USC Sumter.................................................................................... 26 Spotlight: Amy Chua...................................................................... 27 Morris College................................................................................ 28 Central Carolina Technical College................................................ 30 Sumter Family YMCA..................................................................... 32 Spotlight: Travis Johnson............................................................... 33 Sumter School District.................................................................... 34

SUMTER LEARNS TRAVIS JOHNSON Crestwood High salutatorian heads to Harvard University as Ron Brown Scholar.

SUMTER WORKS FUTURE IS BRIGHT Quixote Club, other recent developments are leading to more success downtown.

SUMTER WORKS All part of the plan.......................................................................... 36 A Sumter ‘fixer-upper’: Commercial redevelopment downtown...... 40 Spotlight: Donny Hines................................................................ 41 A piece of the puzzle: Sumter County Airport............................... 42

SUMTER EATS Seconds, please............................................................................. 44

SUMTER LIVES Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital..................................................... 46 Tandem Health............................................................................... 48 McLeod Health Clarendon............................................................. 49

SUMTER GOVERNS How your Penny for Progress funds are being spent..................... 51 A day (or two) in the life of Sumter's new mayor............................ 54 A guide to Sumter's elected officials.............................................. 57


U.S. Army Central.............................................................................. 60 Shaw Air Force Base.......................................................................... 62 A patriotic history: Sammy Way's military museum........................ 64




SECONDS, PLEASE 'EVERYTHING New restaurants offer CHANGED menus that expand IMMEDIATELY' Sumter’s palate. 3 U.S. Army Central soldiers reflect on how 9/11 shaped their lives and service.

Local D1 recruits take it to the next level....................................... 65 Parks and athletic facilities............................................................. 66 Swan Lake's champion tree............................................................ 68


Grainger McKoy's Seven Swans sculpture is seen at the front entrance to Swan Lake-Iris Gardens. The 24-foot piece was commissioned by the City of Sumter, Friends of Swan Lake and local civic leaders and is the internationally known Sumter native's largest work.


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PUBLISHER Vince Johnson EDITOR Kayla Green COPY EDITING Rhonda Barrick Melanie Smith

EDITORIAL Kendall Bell Annie Brown Dennis Brunson Cathy Frye Shelbie Goulding Kayla Green Alethia Hummel Tim Leible Bruce Mills Ivy Moore Carrie Anna Strange Erika Williams Kareem Wilson

PHOTOGRAPHY Micah Green LAYOUT Janel Strieter AD DESIGN Ryan Galloway Janel Strieter AD SALES Karen Cave Devin McDonald Mark Pekuri

36 W. Liberty St. Sumter, SC 29150 (803) 774-1238

32 E. Calhoun St. Sumter, SC 29150 (803) 775-1231

Welcome from the

Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce O

@SumterSCChamber @SumterSCChamber

n behalf of the Board of Directors, staff and nearly 800 member businesses, we thank you for visiting our great community. For more than I00 years, the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce has served as the anchor for business and community advocacy. 2020 brought many challenges in both our personal and professional lives. Most importantly, the Sumter community proved once again that we are Team Sumter. Sumter continues to serve as the economic hub of our region. Coupled with our world-class hospitality, you'll find an abundance of locally owned and franchised restaurants as well as retail shopping that can serve all your needs. Not only are we Team Sumter, but we are also a community with "Uncommon Patriotism." Sumter is home to the United States Air Force's 20th Fighter Wing, 15th Air Force and the 3rd Army at Shaw Air Force Base. Though our military personnel are not permanent residents, we still consider them Sumterites. The COVID-19 pandemic has made an impact in our community. No one is prouder than I to say that our Sumter business community has stood by each other in one of the most difficult years in recent memory. Our business community has taken every precaution possible to ensure you are safe and have a pleasant shopping and dining experience. During your stay, be sure to visit our local attractions like Swan Lake-Iris Gardens, home to one of the oldest festivals in the Southeast, the Iris Festival. Whether you are shopping or dining on Broad Street, Bultman and Guignard drives, downtown, in Pinewood or anywhere else within Sumter County, rest assured your visit is appreciated and you will be taken care of like one of our own. If at any point you consider relocating, look at Sumter. Our community resources, quality of life, cost of living and our hospitality will make you want to join Team Sumter. Sincerely,

Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM President & CEO





creativity during a pandemic

From dancers incorporating masks into their costumes and routines to virtual theater and a safe space to experience art, Sumter's arts and culture scene is surviving a public health crisis that forces us to stay physically apart.



The coronavirus pandemic infiltrated all areas of society, virtually shutting down or severely limiting their function. In Sumter, as in most areas of the country, arts and cultural organizations were hard hit. Many have shut down or even ceased to exist; however, through persistence and creativity, Sumter’s have survived or gone into hibernation. Melanie Colclough, executive director of Patriot Hall and the Sumter County Cultural Commission, said many of the events scheduled for the county-owned auditorium have been postponed. The auditorium “has been closed since March (2020),” she said. “The county will let us know when we can reopen.” Events such as Fall for the Arts, a weeklong lineup of diverse artists, exhibits and events, have been rescheduled for 2021, but Colclough has been working her regular schedule making plans for programs to be presented after the

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official reopening. In the meantime, Colclough is planning several exciting events, she said. Among them is the creation of “a small art park.” She is also finding grants for the commission, which in turn awards smaller grants to nonprofit artists and groups in Sumter County. “We hope to come up with more opportunities to encourage artists around Sumter and to do new things,” Colclough said. Sumter Little Theatre canceled or postponed its final plays of the 2019-20 season because of the pandemic. “We produced four of the six plays that were on the 2019-20 season,” SLT Executive Director Eric Bultman said. “When COVID forced Sumter Little Theatre to close in March (2020), we were in rehearsals for ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ the fifth and sixth plays on the schedule.”

While Sumter Little Theatre couldn’t present live performances for its audiences, the board gathered a group of writers, directors, actors and technical crew to brainstorm and find a way to keep the theater active, Board President Todd Warrick said. The product of those sessions was the creation of three videos centered on the Christmas season. These were written, directed and acted by SLT regulars and offered free online. “Mom’s Macaroni and the Universe,” “Baklava” and “A Christmas Song I Don’t Hate” can be streamed at no charge at The Sumter County Gallery of Art closed the second week of March 2020 but reopened later with restrictions and safety precautions in place, and, luckily, the gallery is large enough to allow a limited number of visits during regular hours, Executive Director Karen

Watson said. “We’re a low-density place,” she said. The gallery requires face masks, which the staff supplies if needed, and hand sanitizer is placed throughout the space; full receptions for openings are restricted, and no food is served. “We plan to offer a full slate of classes for spring but with reduced capacity,” Watson said. “Students will be masked up and socially spaced, as will the instructors. I don’t think we’ll have to close down completely again. I believe we’ll be open for Fall for the Arts, the Inspire! Festival and our community-outreach activities. We’ve already got our 2021 exhibitions booked. We’re in good shape, and our artists are excited. Our fundraisers, the Christmas pecan sale and the gift shop did well.” In addition, the gallery received an almost $50,000 grant from SC Cares, which helps fund nonprofits. The Sumter County Museum and Temple Sinai Jewish History Center also received an SC Cares $50,000 grant, Executive Director Annie Rivers said. She’s optimistic about returning to a regular schedule this year. Author “Mary Alice Monroe will have a program in May, hopefully in person,” Rivers said, “and we’re currently preparing an exhibit on the Tuskegee airmen.” Earlier in 2020, the museum was forced to cancel several planned events but was able to switch several activities to virtual (online) programs. The museum offers local artifacts

and an outdoor backcountry exhibit that shows what life was like for an area settler around 1800. The history center, connected to the county’s only synagogue, teaches about Jewish life, traditions and the Holocaust and tells the story of a local Holocaust survivor. During the pandemic, Rivers said the museum and history center are offering free admission to all attendees. “We figure we’re not the only ones having to watch our budget,” she said. "We’re trying to stay hopeful, limiting visitors in the main building to 20 and requiring masks. It’s the same at the temple. We have a new exhibit about St. Louis, and we’re still getting grants.” She said several exhibits, such as

the one on Curious George’s creators, have been held over. “We hope at least by late summer it’ll be somewhat normal,” she said. The Sumter Civic Dance Company has also had to adjust for both rehearsals and performances. Most recently, the company moved its popular “Jingle with the Arts” show from its regular venue at Patriot Hall to the Sumter Opera House because the auditorium was closed by the county. Dancers and guest performers wore masks on stage. “Fortunately, we had our reunion concert with more than 100 returning dancers in early March before the restrictions were implemented,” said Andrea Freed-Levenson, executive director and chief choreographer. She said she has also purchased

Sumter Civic Dance Company performing its contemporary concert at the Sumter Opera House T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


an outdoor dance floor for the company to allow for social distancing in the studio parking area. Inside, she has marked off 6-square-foot boxes, one for each dancer needing to rehearse. Dancers wear masks, and parents of dance students older than 5 do not remain in the studio during rehearsals. So far, Freed-Levenson said, no dancers or instructors have contracted COVID-19. “I will (take these precautions) as long as I can,” she said. “So far, nobody has complained or become ill. They just want to dance. I’ll be first in line when the vaccine is available (to me).” The Sumter Community Concert Band and the SCCB Jazz Ensemble canceled all their performances and weekly rehearsals in March, said spokesman and trumpet player Rick Mitchum, adding, “We haven’t been able to get back together.” He pointed out that “when you’re playing wind instruments, you’re blowing out hot, moist air toward the audience and each other. There’s just no way to compensate for that. You can’t play while you’re wearing a mask.” The individual musicians have music to work on for future concerts — the concert band presents four performances annually, and the jazz ensemble has two, including the Big Band Dance. Since SCCB is a nonprofit volunteer group, “It hasn’t hurt us financially,” Mitchum said. “Like the other band members, I miss it — the concerts and the rehearsals. I hope it won’t be too long before we can get back together.”


by visiting these websites For updates on post-pandemic plans, see the organizations’ websites: • Sumter Little Theatre






— and Facebook


• Sumter County Cultural Commission • Sumter County Museum • Sumter Opera House

• Sumter County Gallery of Art

• Sumter Civic Dance Company

• Sumter Community Concert Band

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Financial Aid and Scholarships Available

Find Out More at


The world may be at our fingertips, but the internet can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Whether you’re new to the Sumter area or wanting to refresh your memory of what’s available all around us, here’s a short list of some helpful websites to help you stay in the know.

Websites to know The Sumter Item: The Sumter Item’s COVID-19 coverage:

Top 10 Things to Discover in Sumter: community/top10 Sumter School District: City of Sumter: Sumter County: Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce: https://www.sumterchamber. com/

Sumter Economic Development:

Social media sites to follow

Shaw Air Force Base:

The Sumter Item’s Facebook: @theitem

Sumter Police Department: dex.php

The Sumter Item’s Instagram: @sumteritem

Sumter County Sheriff’s Office:

The Sumter Item’s Twitter: @theitem

Gov. Henry McMaster’s Office:

Sumter School District’s Facebook: @SumterSCSchools

S.C. DHEC’s Vaccination Information: covid-19-vaccine-allocation

Sumter Police Department’s Facebook: @sumterscpolice

Find a COVID-19 testing site near you: covid-19-testing-locations CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker: ta-tracker/#trends_dailytrend scases


The Sumter Item Digital Archives: https://theitem.newspapers. com/



City of Sumter’s Facebook: @SumterSC Sumter County’s Facebook: @SumterCountySC Gov. McMaster’s Twitter: @scgovernorpress



Life in the

fast lane

Restaurant manager shares love of old cars with downtown Sumter BY KAREEM WILSON Hobbies can bring a sense of satisfaction to your everyday life, and for Todd Touchberry, there is no greater satisfaction than his vintage car collection. Touchberry knew how to drive even before he got his driver’s license. He loved fiddling around with spare parts and getting on the tractor at his grandfather’s farm. He grew up on the dirt track racing on the backroads as a teenager for the thrill of driving in his youth. That spark turned into an obsession as an adult. Touchberry is the general man14 |

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ager of Cut Rate Soda Fountain, a restaurant located in a traditional drug store in downtown Sumter, and has a hobby of collecting valuable vintage cars. He has owned at least two dozen cars and trucks, some of which are parked in his garage. The 48-year-old avid car enthusiast owns everything from Camaros to a Chevelle SS. He achieved a lifetime goal two years ago when he purchased a prized possession: Geraldine, a silver 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 he named in honor of his grandfather.

He bought Geraldine in great condition – with minimal changes, such as upgrading the air ride and replacing the studs – and proudly drives her around town. It was a memory of his grandfather that ultimately inspired the name for his car. His grandfather had a collection of full-size Fords and Galaxie 500s. The story goes that every time he had a bottle of liquor hidden away, he would often say, “You want to come kiss Geraldine?” a name that Touchberry himself doesn’t quite understand but

Photo by Janel Strieter

thinks was a made-up pet name. “In his honor, I named the car Geraldine,” he said. “I always wanted a full-size Ford, just like he had, and I finally got it.” He has driven the car on weekends when he can enjoy the riding experience of his Galaxie. He even custom-built cars in his racing days and still tends to them and newer models in his collection. His love of cars is known throughout the Sumter community, with even his family accepting

his love for his “babies.” “It’s an addiction,” Todd said. “They said it will be more addicting once it gets in your blood.” And cars are in his blood. Even his fiancé loves hopping in Geraldine and driving her around town when Touchberry allows her to. Touchberry also holds two annual car events downtown: The Rust and Dust and the Caffeine and Gasoline car show. Rust and Dust is a display held in the spring and is a fundraiser for the Disabled American Veterans. The Caffeine and Gasoline

car show is held in October where more than 250 cars can be seen. However, due to the pandemic, Touchberry had to cancel 2020’s spring exhibit and limit attendance for the fall show. He has his eyes on another classic vehicle but said it will take a while to collect it. However, he doesn't mind saying, he isn’t in any hurry. Nonetheless, this car enthusiast is always on the prowl for any more classic cars to add to his ever-growing collection.





The Stone Necklace By Carla Damron

Triple Tragedy in Alcolu By Kendall Bell

Primary Lessons By Sarah Bracey White

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BY IVY MOORE Mary Boykin Chesnut, born near Stateburg in 1823, is best known for her Civil War diaries. She is one of Sumter County’s first celebrated authors but far from the last. Sumter natives, as well as past and present residents, continue to publish novels and nonfiction works. Carla Damron, a native and product of Sumter public schools, Wake Forest University and University of South Carolina with a Master of Social Work degree, always enjoyed reading mysteries, from Sherlock Holmes stories to contemporary tales. In 2001, she published “Keeping Silent,” her first of three mysteries featuring social worker/detective Caleb Knowles, drawing on her knowledge of her community, social work and, of course, the mystery genre. Her 2016 literary novel, “The Stone Necklace,” won the Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. The book was also selected as Columbia’s One Book, One Community Read. Find her books on Amazon and read more about her work at her website, Kendall “Ken” Bell was a former Sumter Item city editor and multiple award-winning longtime reporter, having worked at a handful of S.C. papers. He retired from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office as public information officer before serving as deputy coroner. Primarily a nonfiction writer, Bell’s most recently published work is “Triple Tragedy in Alcolu,” a true crime novel about the trial and retrial of George Stinney Jr., the 14-year-old Black male from

Clarendon County who was found guilty in 1944 in the murders of two younger white girls. Extensively researched, the book covers the case from all angles; Bell even sat through the entire 2014 retrial of Stinney that exonerated him 70 years after he became the youngest person in the United States to be executed in modern times. Bell was recently nominated for an Edgar Award, named for Edgar Allan Poe, the originator of the ratiocination, the system of logic and inference in solving a problem or mystery. He is also working on a mystery novel. Bell died in January from COVID-19 complications. Find his books on Amazon and read more about him and his works at Sandy Richardson’s first novel, “The Girl Who Ate Chicken Feet,” won the Bank Street College award as one of the best Children’s Books of 1998. Since then, she has been published in numerous anthologies, magazines and educational texts. The founder of Southern Sass Publishing Alliances, Richardson published two anthologies, “His Mother!” and “Wild and Wacky, South Cackalacky.” The former is women’s stories about their mothers-in-law, and the latter a collection of “true accounts about life in South Carolina.” Richardson is a teacher, publisher and professional speaker and continues to work on her own fiction, including two middle-grade novels. Learn more about Sandy Richardson at Brenda Remmes, who lives and writes at Dabbs Crossroads in the eastern part of Sumter County, has written three novels about the small, rural (mostly) Quaker community of Cedar Creek, North Carolina. The first, “The Quaker Café,” introduces us to the characters of the town through the eyes of a liberal outsider who has married into the very conservative Quaker community. Like most communities, Cedar Creek has its secrets, as she slowly finds out. “Home to Cedar Branch” and “Mama Sadie” continue to unravel the secrets and foibles of Cedar Creek’s residents. Remmes has also written two nonfiction books, one about Dabbs Crossroads’ Eugene Whitefield Dabbs and Maude McBride and their descendants; the other, “Emma,” is described as “a narrative based on the life of Emma Marie Laubscher Remmes … in memory of her 19-year marriage to Henry (Hank) John Remmes and to the hard choices she made to support and to encourage her three children” following his death when she was very young. On her website, Remmes writes, “We all have stories. I was raised in an environment that values the art of telling them. I hope I can pass my stories on to you in a way that values your time and meets your expectations.” Read more about Brenda Remmes at Deanna Anderson, who works in the front office at The Sumter Item, is an independent author of more than a dozen books, including short story anthologies, themed prompt journals and the Make Each Moment series – four books about making special occasions even more memorable. Other topics include tarot and journaling. Anderson is also a freelance writer for local publications and has been featured in The Item. Anderson’s short story anthology, “The Radio Guy and Other Short Stories,” as well as her other books, are available on Amazon. A prolific writer, she also participates in various volunteering and community activities. Read more about Deanna Anderson on her Facebook page @DeannaLynnAnderson. Sandra Johnson, who lives in Columbia and was a social worker for Sumter County DHEC, has written two well-received volumes. The first is a nonfiction recounting of the “sweeping ep-

idemic of hate crime (that) targeted more than 100 Southern Black churches between 1995 and 1996, leaving them in charred ruins. St. John Baptist Church in Dixiana, South Carolina, was one of the first destroyed.” St. John was desecrated in 1985, survived several more attacks and was finally burned in 1995. Johnson wrote, “It soon dawned on me that while the media attention St. John attracted had been wide, it hadn’t been deep enough to truly tell the church’s compelling saga that spanned many years.” The resulting book, “Standing on Holy Ground: A Triumph over Hate Crime in the Deep South,” received excellent reviews from such publications as O: The Oprah Magazine, USA Today, Southern Living and others. The book earned Johnson a literary award from The Christophers, an international organization that highlights artistic accomplishments that promote social justice. Johnson’s second book, “Flowers for the Living,” is a novel about a suicidal African-American teenager who forces a white policeman to kill him and the act’s devastating effects on the teen’s mother and the policeman. The incident results in a race riot involving a “deranged gunman.” Both books are available on Amazon. Read more about Sandra Johnson on Facebook. Sarah Bracey White’s “Primary Lessons” is a memoir about, as she writes, “a poor little colored girl who came of age in the Jim Crow city of Sumter, South Carolina, during the 1960s and now has made a home — and a respected name for herself — in Westchester County, New York.” White’s coming-of-age memoir takes her first “from Philadelphia to South Carolina – with its whites-only water fountains and segregated schools – then to a job at a summer camp in the White Mountains of Vermont, where racism masquerades as classism and she’s required to address the campers as Miss and is forbidden to swim in the camp lake because she’s the help – and finally to college in Baltimore, just as the 1963 March on Washington unfolds.” White writes of refusing to accept the limitations placed on her by segregation in her brave memoir that may serve as an eye-opener to younger readers. Learn more about Sarah Bracey White at Find “Primary Lessons” on Amazon.



A historic milestone amid a historic year Sumter Opera House celebrates 125th anniversary with change

BY KENDALL BELL The Sumter Opera House made plans to celebrate its 125th anniversary in style during 2020. But, that was before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic forced many changes and cancellations. “We had a 125th anniversary Great Gatsby-themed gala planned,” Opera House Cultural Manager Seth Reimer said. “We would have held it around the first of the year. But, we soon realized that there would be no way to host something like that right now, so we had to cancel it.” Reimer said he and his staff were also forced to explore different options to allow for patrons to continue to interact with the theater and event venue. “We had quite an impressive lineup of shows planned,” Reimer said. “It was going to be quite a nod to some of the great artists and bands, both in the past and present, as well as some for the future.” And that’s not all. “We also had some historical events planned, and (local historian) Sammy Way was (to lead some programming),” he said. “We had four big-name acts lined up, as well. It’s tough to say if we can get them rescheduled because of our size.” Reimer credits Ellen Jansen, the facility operations manager, with 18 |

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a lot of the success during the pandemic. “She has really been instrumental in the outreach on social media to our patrons,” he said. “She lets patrons know through the use of a newsletter what is going on around town as well as in the Opera House.” Reimer said Jansen has effected other changes as well. “We recently changed our box office system that provides us with more activity, and it gives patrons more access to their accounts,” he said. “(Jansen) has taken care of all of that.” Reimer said it’s not always easy to schedule the bigger names in the industry. “If we want to bring in a big name, we sometimes have to reach out two or three years in advance,” Reimer said. At first, the facility was closed as the pandemic spread in spring and summer 2020. That changed somewhat in the fall when Gov. Henry McMaster declared that venues such as the Sumter Opera House could reopen at 50% capacity with other restrictions. “We implemented plans that included patrons wearing a mask at all times while inside the Opera House,” Reimer said. “Still, we had to reissue tickets for many of our season ticket holders showing

different seats.” The first show upon reopening was an Oct. 24, 2020, performance by comedian James Gregory. “Instead of him doing one soldout show, he agreed to do two shows at 50% attendance each,” Reimer said. “And comedian Jeanne Robertson agreed to do

the same thing.” While some shows have been offered to patrons, there have been no performances for school children. The free educational theater aspect of the Opera House is usually one of Reimer’s programming priorities. “Not having students has been hard,” he said. “We’ve offered three or four virtual performances where parents and teachers could log in and view the shows. Instead of bringing the kids to the shows, we brought the shows to the kids.” Despite the obstacles, the Opera House has exciting plans for the year. “We’re letting artists use the facility to record or video their acts as well, and we’re renting the facility out for private events,” he said. “We’ve also paired acts that you wouldn’t normally see performing together. That’s some-

thing unique that has come out of this.” Moving forward, Reimer said flexibility is the key as plans often must be changed – sometimes at the last minute. “It’s going to be month to month for us for a while,” he said. “We have to watch how things are changing as far as a vaccine and the COVID numbers go. But we hope to soon be back operating at full capacity as soon as it is deemed safe for everyone. We really miss seeing the familiar faces of our patrons.”


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L O C A L I N D U S T RY & E C O N O M I C D E V E L O P M E N T



BY ERIKA WILLIAMS For the past year, all of us have had to adjust our lives to deal with the global pandemic. The same holds true for our local industries. Not only did Sumter’s industries determine solutions to continue to produce high quality goods but, in some instances, pivoted their operations to manufacture essential supplies related to the battle against COVID-19. The economic uncertainty that accompanied the pandemic caused some of our local industries to briefly slow production. Despite the economic hesitation, three of our local industrial leaders – SKF, Santa Cruz Nutritionals and Nova Molecular Technologies – all announced operation expansions creating just shy of 200 new jobs and more than $113 million in new investment right HERE in Sumter. These expansions speak volumes about the success they’ve had - right HERE.

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Manufacturing careers make up 17% of all the jobs in Sumter. Our industries have taken extraordinary steps to ensure their employees are safe on the job and their workplaces minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure. These additional measures come as no surprise and reflect the value that our industries place on their employees. More than 70 industrial giants make up our manufacturing landscape and ensure that high-quality products made in Sumter are delivered all around the world. Careers in manufacturing pay well and require a variety of skill sets for which training opportunities are available locally. Our local industries offer diverse employment opportunities with robust benefits and growth potential. From human resources and information technology to engineering and operations, all departments

play a vital role in the pandemic response, just as they do daily. Being nimble and responsive are dynamic features that help make Sumter stand out when competing for operational expansion and new industry. Our quality of life, as showcased in the acronym HERE, focuses on not only our Employment offerings, but also our Health care, Education and Recreation that are unique to the region. It all combines to make Sumter a dynamic place to call home. In 2021, we look toward what’s next for our country and our community. The compassion and perseverance demonstrated by our industries during the pandemic clearly shows not only concern for the bottom line, but also consideration for the health and well-being of employees. Yes, we’re not only making it right HERE – We’ve got it MADE – HERE!


Paint company Sumter Coatings produces hand sanitizer amid pandemic BY BRUCE MILLS Around Sumter Coatings manufacturing plant, there is a slogan: "Anybody can sell paint. We sell quality and service." Amid the pandemic, the company on U.S. 15 South stepped in to meet a need in the community. Sumter Coatings President and CEO Barry Reynolds and two members of his management team discussed how the midsized chemical paint manufacturer started producing hand sanitizer in spring 2020 when there was a product shortage at the onset of the coronavirus in the U.S. Reynolds described thinking late one night in March 2020 about the shortage of hand sanitizer in the country with the start of the virus' spread and the fact that his operation is a chemical manufacturer. The question became: "How can we get into manufacturing hand sanitizer, not on a major scale, but at least enough to support our community?" After a few phone calls and discussion with legal counsel for the American Coatings Association, Reynolds was able to get a relatively simple FDA-approved formula. The next step for Sumter Coatings was getting a temporary exemption from the FDA to produce the hand sanitizer as long as the company produced it to the agency's exact specifications, according to Reynolds and company Vice President Randy White. With many of the raw materials for the finished goods already

on hand including plastic gallon containers, shipping cartons and in-house label printing capabilities, the company's purchasing department bought the necessary ingredients, and manufacturing began. "It wasn't a difficult startup to get into making hand sanitizer because we had all the raw materials," Reynolds said. "Just getting the approval of the formula was the big thing." The FDA-approved formula is about 80% denatured alcohol, or ethanol, distilled water, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol. Sumter Coatings produced the hand sanitizer in 238-gallon containers, or totes, used regularly in its production cycles. During about eight weeks in April and May, the company produced a little more than 2,000 gallons of the sanitizer, Reynolds said, in addition to its regular coatings business. Given the simple formula, Sumter Coatings could produce a 238-gallon batch size in one to 1.5 days, he added. The batch translated to 238 plastic 1-gallon jugs for packaging, sale and distribution. After putting the product on the company's Facebook page, community members became interested because of hand sanitizer's short supply at the time. Shaw Air Force Base purchased the largest volume - 200 gallons. Local nursing homes, assisted living facilities and several churches also ordered jugs. Reynolds structured it so that charitable organizations, such as the local United Way, received the

DID YOU KNOW? On an annual basis, Sumter Coatings, in the Live Oak Industrial Park, produces about 800,000 gallons of paint coatings. The operation has 68 employees.

sanitizer for free. Nonprofit groups basically got it at cost, and for-profit outfits were charged a reasonable price, he said. Sumter Coatings also provided it to many of its customers across the country, especially in New York and New Jersey, where there was a big need. Each company employee also got a free gallon jug, White said. Some people even walked in off the street to get gallon containers. Since then, regular hand sanitizer makers have ramped up their production, and there is plenty in the U.S. supply chain. Therefore, Sumter Coatings has stopped production. The company still has one full 238-gallon tote container of it on the production floor that could be distributed right way if demand picks back up, plant manager Kevin Sweeney said. Reynolds added his company could also start producing it again if there is a need. "I am from Sumter, and we have a lot of ties to the Sumter community as a company," he said. "We're in the nature of giving back to the community. That's why we went down this road with the hand sanitizer. We stepped in to meet a need and provide a service for our community."


2410 U.S. 15 South, Sumter Online:

Top 10 industries in Sumter by number of employees Continental Pilgrim's Pride BD Thompson Eaton 22 |

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1 2 3 4 5

6 7 8 9 10


I’ve spent enough time in Sumter now to know that this is a strong community with great people and dedicated leaders looking toward the future. Continental Tire is proud to continue to be a part of Sumter’s success story.

American Materials Company

-CRAIG BAARTMAN Manager, Continental Tire The Americas, Sumter

Santee Print Works Caterpillar Hydraulics Kaydon/SKF

A growth


Santa Cruz Nutritionals, a top-volume gummy maker, plans for its Sumter site to be a lead production facility of vitamins, supplements.

Photos provided by Santa Cruz Nutritionals. BY BRUCE MILLS


he leading North American contract manufacturer of gummy vitamins and supplements thinks it has found the right fit in Sumter for its largest production facility moving forward. Blake Tannery, Santa Cruz Nutritionals vice president of manufacturing and site leader for the Sumter facility, spoke of the “exciting times” for the firm as the calendar turned to this year and shortly after a 150-plus job expansion announcement in November 2020 for the local operation. The gummy vitamins, minerals and supplements (VMS) market has expanded exponentially in the last decade and only grew more last year with the COVID-19 pandemic as demand for immunity vitamins skyrocketed, Tannery said. Santa Cruz is also well-positioned in the market given its history and experience. Nearly 25 years ago in 1997, company research and development scientists created the first-ever multivitamin gummy to hit the market, and Santa Cruz is considered an industry leader in gummy innovation and taste. The company is sometimes referred to as “the gummy expert” in the industry, and Tannery said innovation is a key part of its competitive strategy. “We’re always trying to be first to market with new formulas, and the pandemic is another example of that,” he said. “We want to continue to deliver on our customers’ expectations on those immunity formulas and those things that will promote health and wellness but also with a bend toward an enjoyable dosage form.”

That means gummies that taste like an orange slice or watermelon, he said, as opposed to other nutritional supplements. Hitting on the right cylinders currently means opportunity abounds for Santa Cruz. “A lot of companies are experiencing tough times in this global pandemic,” Tannery said, “but our business has done nothing but go the opposite direction because we are making immunity-formula products and health and wellness products; so, the demand for our product is at record highs. It’s an exciting time to come to work for Santa Cruz Nutritionals because of the growth opportunities.” Since arriving in Sumter in early 2019 with a 100,000-square-foot facility acquisition in Live Oak Industrial Park from a candy manufacturer, Santa Cruz had already grown from 50 employees to about 200 by the close of 2020. With its current expansion, Santa Cruz will reach 350-plus employees and is in the process of doubling its facility footprint, he said. Cleanliness and safety are essential aspects of the facility environment because Santa Cruz adheres to a compliance program to produce nutritional supplements. In its future state, the local facility will be a production leader for Santa Cruz, and goals are high. “Our vision is to create the standard for world-class gummy manufacturing right here in Sumter, South Carolina,” Tannery

said. “And, there is a complete commitment from the executive leadership team to support us in whatever fashion that is.” Building its workforce around the core values of people, growth and cultural fit will be important as the operation expands, he said.

Employees who value trust, respect, accountability, relationship-based leadership, long-term results and long-term growth are the people Santa Cruz is looking for to build for the future. “To build a center of excellence here,” Tannery said, “we are specifically looking for those like-minded people who want to grow themselves, challenge themselves, have a place where they can work that will enhance them as an individual and enjoy their work but also provide them an opportunity to grow their career.” LEARN MORE: T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |



P U B L I C K - 1 2 E D U C AT I O N, P O S T- S E C O N D A R Y

Liberty Charter A new choice for public education BY BRUCE MILLS This year represents newness in education. In 2020, Liberty STEAM Charter School went from just a concept to implementation. First, in April, Liberty was approved by its authorizer, the S.C. Public Charter School District, to begin operations this fall. The charter’s senior leadership team went from a single person to four employees by year’s end with the addition of a founding executive director, Khalil Graham; director of advocacy and engagement, Latasha Carter; and managing director of operations, Luna Velez. Now, Sumter’s first-ever public charter school will open its doors in August to its founding two classes, a kindergarten and first grade. The founding primary academy’s lead-

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ership team also was formed with three hires: a founding director (or principal) in Sherman Logan, an instructional coach in Tanya Peckham and a lead teacher for STEAM enrichment, Sally Harris, who will also serve as a Liberty Leader Fellow. In her role, Harris will also help lead the launch of the Liberty Elementary Academy in Fall 2023. After state approval, the U.S. Department of Education’s Public Charter Schools Program awarded Liberty an $800,090 start-up grant in May 2020 that helped build momentum. The federal funding is being spent in the charter’s planning year, the first year of school operations and year two of its launch. Even in the pandemic, Liberty staff and its board of directors reached out to the community last year to build interest in the public charter school with 77 recruitment events, which included 59 family preview sessions and numerous community/neighborhood canvassing events throughout the City of Sumter and Sumter County. Each family preview session was limited in attendance due to COVID-19 safety protocols, and some sessions were held virtually. By the time of its inaugural enrollment lottery in early December 2020, Liberty had 208 student applications for 144 seats,

which are split evenly between kindergarten and first grade. Founding board member Cammy Chandler might have summed up the year of planning, commitment and work best on the night of the lottery. Chandler burst out in cheer when she discovered that a boy whom she had met a few weeks earlier at a local neighborhood canvassing event had been selected in the lottery for the founding class. Sincere Rouse will begin as a kindergartner this fall. “I was quite touched by Sincere and hoping that this would all work out for him, and then to see his name up there was very gratifying,” Chandler said. “He was so inquisitive, very bright and so anxious to know about the school. So, I think he is going to be a bright, shining star for us, and he truly embodies what we hope for our future scholars.” Board Chairman Greg Thompson spearheaded the school’s creation last year to provide more choices for parents in Sumter and provide all students equal access to a world-class K-12 education. “I am just thrilled to see our staff and team come together around this mission that the board created,” Thompson said. “When you subordinate yourself to a real, worthy goal, then all of

the other things that seem to get in the way of high-performing people goes away.” Liberty is a tuition-free, open-enrollment public charter school with no admission or testing requirements. The charter’s planned opening to students is scheduled for the first week of August. Liberty plans are to add one grade per year until it's a K-12 school.


A GROWING TREND Total public charter school enrollment in S.C. by year 2009-10: About 13,000 2019-20: 39,097

Source: S.C. Department of Education

Liberty STEAM Charter School holds its inaugural admission lottery in December 2020. Photos provided by Liberty STEAM Charter. T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


Preparing you for any path

USC SUMTER’S OFFERINGS RANKED 2ND BEST COMMUNITY COLLEGE IN S.C. BY ALETHIA HUMMEL Ranked as one of the top community colleges in South Carolina, the University of South Carolina Sumter’s faculty and staff are dedicated to keeping students safe. For now, classes may look different than they have in the past with many more online options, social distancing and masks, but USC Sumter will always offer a quality, affordable education in small class sizes that are close to home. Students come to USC Sumter, which ranked No. 2 in community colleges for 2021, for many reasons, whether it be to complete some of their general education requirements, earn an associate degree or work toward one of 19 bachelor’s degree programs offered online through Palmetto College. These degrees can lead to some

of today’s most in-demand career opportunities like public health, early and elementary education and computer science. New in 2021, USC Sumter is offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in partnership with USC Aiken. Graduates of this program are prepared for a career in a variety of settings. The nursing curriculum at USC Sumter offers not only the basics in nursing procedures, but also hands-on, practical clinical experiences. A BSN program graduate will also earn the necessary background for post-graduate nursing education. The nursing program is approved by the South Carolina State Board of Nursing and is fully accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

USC Sumter offers many of the same experiences that students have at a large university. In fact, USC Sumter is home to a total of nine sports in its athletics program, including baseball, softball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer and volleyball. The school also boasts the first collegiate eSports team in the state of South Carolina. No matter your path, USC Sumter has flexible and convenient options to help you reach your goals. Campus offices are open Monday through Friday to help you navigate the admissions and registration process. Financial aid and scholarships are available. Visit www.USCSumter. edu and apply today.

Photos provided by USC Sumter 26 |

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AMY CHUA Sumter School District’s 2020-21 District Teacher of the Year is making an impact where it all started for her.

Amy Chua’s teaching career, only six years in, has already brought her full circle. The 2020-21 Sumter School District Teacher of the Year was born and raised in Sumter, and the third-grade teacher has been working at Alice Drive Elementary School since she began teaching in August 2014.

“I went to school there. It was always my dream to go back to Alice Drive and be able to teach there,” she said. “So many people in this community have invested in me over the years. I feel a huge sense of responsibility to give back to Sumter and for the future of Sumter, for the children that will one day be our community’s leaders.” Each spring, the district, which has more than two dozen schools, names a campus-level teacher of the year. They are narrowed down to three finalists in May before the district’s top teacher is announced during the district’s annual

opening meeting for teachers, administrators and staff in the fall, which was held on YouTube Premiere in 2020 amid the pandemic. Chua’s path to becoming an educator started in elementary school at the same school where she now molds young minds. She herself had inspirational teachers, and she’s always wanted to give that back in her hometown. “It’s home,” she said. “It always will be.”


We’ve got it made

HERE Healthcare • Education • Recreation • Employment

Lee & Sumter, SC T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |




RETURN Morris College optimistic about new year after quiet campus during coronavirus era BY KAREEM WILSON

As school reopened after winter break in January 2020, things seemed normal at Morris College. Old friends reconnected. The flowers bloomed on campus. College students began moving into their dorms. For everyone, it was the beginning of another year at Morris. However, the Hornets’ Nest was swiftly shaken by the most life-changing event of 2020 and likely our lifetime: the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The ideal start of a new semester crumpled away for students as Morris leaders announced they would be closing the campus to avoid any exposure to the COVID-19, abruptly ending student life on campus, the only of Sumter’s three colleges to house students at school. Dr. Leroy Staggers, president of Morris College, said closing in the early spring was one of the most difficult choices he ever had to make. “We anticipated that it would be for a week and then things would go back to normal,” he said. “That did not happen.”

Change has come

When Morris College canceled in-person classes in March, the college moved to virtual instruction. Like everywhere else across the nation, events were canceled, and dorms closed. Students gathered their belongings during spring break and left. Staggers, taking over after the retirement

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and death of Dr. Luns C. Richardson, has been president of the college since April 2019. He has worked at Morris for 27 years, taking on numerous roles as an associate professor, academic dean, professor of English and now as president. He usually walks daily throughout the campus socializing with the about 650-750 students and 200 employees. To him, this is the highlight of his day as he gets to interact with students. It’s hard to see the campus now, he said in January 2021, devoid of life and engagement. There was no chatter in the hallways. No laughter from students. Even classrooms and the dining hall — located on the first floor of the Daniels Hall building— show no sign of student life. “I’ve never seen something like this before,” he said. The pandemic presented quite a challenge for Staggers as he entered his second year as president dealing with student graduations at the end of the term. Morris College was forced to postpone the commencement ceremony scheduled in May 2020, upsetting hundreds of seniors anticipating graduation. After hearing from them, Staggers rescheduled their spring commencement for August with an outdoor ceremony for students and families. Another issue he had to deal with was the transition to online instruction. Staggers said they had trouble adjusting to the new form of learning because most

students lacked the internet and broadband access needed to receive the virtual assignments by professors. Eventually, after a few trials, the process became smoother and faster. “We really did not have the full capacity of online apparatus to do that with, but we were able to do it and able to manage it,” he said. “It was a dramatic experience.”

Finding support

The pandemic struck the heart of the Hornets’ community like a “wrecking ball,” affecting their fundraising and recruitment process. The pandemic limited college scouters’ interactions with local high school seniors, causing a decline in school engagement. This led to their fall 2020 enrollment decreasing by 20%, according to Staggers. There were some challenges in raising money for the college as well. Fundraisers, such as the annual Fall Harvest Rally held in November, usually bring in crowds of people inside the Garrick-Boykin Human Development Center. The rally also has a parade that draws hundreds and starts on Harvin Street and ends at the gates of Morris College. These events generally raise about $850,000 for the college. They improvised during their financial troubles by receiving grants and donations from the Sumter community and supporters. Because it is a historically Black college, many African-American Baptist churches and organizations donated to support college funding. They donated through letter campaigns and virtual sessions even though some of the same churches were also struggling financially during the pandemic. “The giving was down because churches were also having challenges,” Staggers said. “It did not come to the level that we normally get to.” He was appreciative of the CARES Act, from which the college received more than $740,000 from the federal government. They were able to use this money to give to 92 students who desperately needed the funds for food, housing, health care, course materials and childcare purposes. “Much of the business community stepped up and gave and continue to give to Morris College to help us survive the pandemic,” he said.

The road ahead

The new year marked nearly a year of the pandemic, and with so much time passed, the campus will have higher expectations of safety measures to limit the coronavirus. After all-virtual learning for most of 2020, Morris College planned to have its students return to campus for in-person instruction at the end of this January. The decision came after the school looked to other schools and health experts for guidance in reopening with new safety measures, including limited class sizes, mandatory mask wearing and proper sanitation. They will also enforce single occupancy in dorms, limiting capacity by half. The campus will also set up areas for students should they have to quarantine. Before students return, they’ll have to test negative for the virus, according to Andrew Little, the interim director of enrollment and management records. Little said more than half of students are looking forward to returning and seeing their peers and professors again. Staggers also received a large outpouring of student voices waiting for the campus to reopen so that they can grasp a sense of “normal” in this new year. He realizes they are anxious to return and is doing everything in his power to make them safe as they continue to find their footing in the coming months. He said he was optimistic that they could “make it work for the spring.” However, he is cautioning all his students to be on guard before they return as the pandemic continues to resurge while the general public awaits widespread access to vaccines that will reshape our communities. Morris College is looking at a bright future in an unpredictable new year.

Photos by Kareem Wilson T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


LEARN HOW YOU LIKE CENTRAL CAROLINA TECHNICAL COLLEGE GIVES STUDENTS OPTIONS DURING COVID-19 BY CATHY FRYE As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter the way we live, work and play, Central Carolina Technical College developed four options for class styles to meet the needs of students. Students can choose between online, Zoom, in-person or hybrid class formats. Online and Zoom classes both require an internet connection, but instruction methods will vary. Online classes will not meet at a scheduled time, with students being responsible for completing course assignments on their own schedule. Zoom classes, however, will meet at a scheduled time when the faculty and students can interact with each other live on the Zoom platform. In-person classes are presented in the traditional academic setting, where students report to a classroom or lab on a CCTC campus at a set time. These classes will adhere to social distancing and other CDC guidelines that have been put in place at CCTC’s campuses. Hybrid classes are also available, which include a mixture of traditional and online versions of learning. In hybrid classes, students will be able to choose between attending the class inperson or on Zoom. The current formats allow for modifications as we make adjustments to protect the safety and well-being of our students and employees. The college is committed to bringing back more in-person classes once the virus is no longer a threat. After classes begin, CCTC will regularly evaluate conditions if changes are necessary.

QLess virtual waiting line

Central Carolina will continue to use the QLess virtual waiting line for on-campus appointments. Those looking to book an appointment must

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download the QLess app on their smartphone or text “main titan,” “fed titan” or “kcc titan” for appointments on CCTC’s main campus, F.E. Dubose campus or Kershaw campus, respectively. QLess allows visitors to schedule their own appointment at a convenient time. The campus will remain open to the public in the spring.

Main campus construction update

Renovations on the CCTC main campus will continue through 2021. The 400 building, which houses industrial programs like welding, automotive and HVAC, has received a much-needed facelift on the exterior of the building. Renovations are also taking place in the 500 building. These changes include moving student services like TRIO Support Services, Student Life and Career Services all under one roof beginning in 2021. Construction on a much-needed green space area will begin in spring 2021. “My wife and I are excited to be a part of the CCTC family

and the surrounding Sumter community," new CCTC President Dr. Kevin Pollock said. "I’m thrilled to see the college’s commitment to students and the community, evident in projects such as our recent renovations, and the future addition of a green space on Main Campus. Central Carolina Technical College is dedicated to serving our students, and we will continue to offer a competitive, well-rounded student experience.” Regardless of the class delivery method, CCTC strongly recommends that students obtain a reliable laptop and internet connection that they can use throughout their time at Central Carolina. All CCTC campuses are equipped with free internet access, and the CCTC bookstore has laptops with webcams available for purchase. The library also has desktop computers available for use. Availability of class options is subject to change based on COVID-19 conditions. In-person classes will strictly adhere to social distancing, which will limit classroom capacities. For the most updated class availability, students are encouraged to log onto their myCCTC account and search for available classes.

Select programs that are offering classes completely online during the spring semester include:

ACCOUNTING -Associate Degree in Accounting -Accounting Specialist Certificate

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE TECHNOLOGY -Microsoft Office Applications Specialist Certificate

COMPUTER SCIENCE -Cybersecurity Certificate


“My wife and I are excited to be a part of the CCTC family and the surrounding Sumter community. I’m thrilled to see the college’s commitment to students and the community, evident in projects such as our recent renovations and the future addition of a green space on Main Campus. Central Carolina Technical College is dedicated to serving our students, and we will continue to offer a competitive, well-rounded student experience.

-CCTC President Dr. Kevin Pollock

About Central Carolina Technical College Central Carolina Technical College is a comprehensive, public, two-year institution of higher education that is dedicated to fostering a positive environment of teaching and learning for faculty, staff and students. The college serves primarily the region of Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee and Sumter counties in South Carolina and confers associate degrees, diplomas and certificates. Central Carolina Technical College students have a wide array of programs and series from which to choose. Our online programming and cooperative agreements with other colleges and universities provide students with exceptional opportunities coupled with our more traditional learning opportunities. Learn more:

-Associate Degree in Management -Entrepreneurship/Small Business Certificate -Human Resources Specialist Certificate -Logistics and Supply Chain Management Certificate -Office Management Certificate -Supervision and Leadership Foundations Certificate

ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY -Associate Degree in Environmental Engineering Technology -Associate Degree in Natural Resources Management -Environmental, Health and Safety Certificate

WATER & WASTEWATER OPERATOR -Water Operator Certificate -Wastewater Operator Certificate

MEDICAL RECORD CODING -Medical Record Coding Certificate -Inpatient Medical Coding Certificate T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


IT TAKES A VILLAGE Sumter Family YMCA helps students, parents adjust to virtual learning BY KAYLA GREEN

Walk around any normal day inside the YMCA of Sumter, and you can likely find adults working out and children playing basketball, swimming or finding active ways to have fun. But days are no longer normal. Pandemic-induced adjustments can be seen in full force at the family health and wellness center on weekdays, where students are taking part in its new Y Virtual Learning Academy. "A lot of parents have to work, so they can't stay home, or they're single parents," said Fannie Lockett, youth development director at the Y. Lockett usually runs the Y's after-school and summer programs, and they realized they could fill a need for families when Sumter School District announced it would begin the school year in an all-virtual capacity. As of the beginning of the second semester, which is back to all-virtual learning after a stint of in-person options, 37 students were spending their day at the Y, getting help from counselors during school and getting their daily dose of physical activity in the afternoon. Parents who can't work from home don't have to worry about leaving their young children home alone and can rest assured they are not falling behind in school. Students have a folder with websites and QR codes from their teachers that connect them to an array of online classrooms, and counselors help them log in and answer connectivity questions while they work. Lockett said the students' class schedule varies between watching teachers give live instruction, completing assignments on their own and engaging with their class on their Chromebooks. At 2:15 p.m., the academy transitions to a more traditional after-school program. They do arts and crafts, camp activities, play. They're incorporating yoga and zumba into their physical activity options. "We're making sure we're maintaining social distancing. They're wearing masks, and we sanitize. Every time we move, we sanitize," Lockett said. Much of the setting is the same as a classroom, but there are differences dotted among the routine. Kids plugged into headphones and Chromebooks instead of playing together. Each student has his or her own table bigger than the desk that would normally be allocated. Instead of sitting next to students they've grown up with, classmates converge from all over the city, signified by a row of 32 |

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tables featuring blue Chromebooks from one elementary school, yellow from another, maroon, purple, red. Masks come in different colors and patterns, each student's a testament to his or her personality, a varietal display akin to a cubby full of backpacks and lunchboxes. The program has a $25 one-time registration fee, then a weekly fee of $125 for members and $175 for non-members, but Lockett said there is financial assistance available. Discounts are also available for siblings. They are prepared to have room for up to 160 students and charge students in part because they plan to bring on more counselors as students join to keep counselor-to-camper contact ratios low. "A lot of the kids here now went through the summer program," Lockett said. "It's a blessing to the parents to be able to go to work and know they're being taken care of." Counselors can communicate between parents and teachers, serving as a bridge between all the adults in a student's life trying to navigate COVID-19. The benefits of the program are clear to Brandon Yando. The Y's youth enrichment coordinator is studying early childhood education and said he has seen the impact of the academy on a young girl. She came into the program shy and nervous, having gotten used to quarantine and scared of illness. He wants students in the program to know they have someone to talk to. During the summer, there were no known cases among 160 campers. "At first, she didn't even want to talk to the counselors," Yando said. "Now that she realizes we're all safe and she's not going to get sick, she comes in the room screaming good morning to everyone."





Travis Johnson will tell you he's been blessed with opportunities throughout high school, and, thanks to earning a top national scholarship, those opportunities will likely continue. Crestwood High School's Class of 2020 salutatorian and now Harvard University freshman was named a Ron Brown Scholar Program recipient. The prestigious, national scholarship program selects about 20 college-bound African-American youth each year to participate in a leadership network while in college, offering them personal and professional development opportunities and

experiences to help them succeed. A $40,000 academic scholarship is included, and the program awards scholars based on demonstrated academic excellence, leadership potential, social commitment and financial need. The scholars program was founded in 1996 and named in memory of the first African-American to serve in the Cabinet as secretary of commerce, Ronald H. Brown. Brown, who served during President Bill Clinton's first term, was also the first Black chairman of the Democratic National Committee and is remembered for his dedication to public service. The $40,000 scholarship is the largest Johnson received and will provide him $10,000 per year at Harvard. A Lynchburg native, Johnson is no stranger to accolades, though. In addition to being his high school's salutatorian with a 5.345 GPA, he spent his final year in high school as the national Future Business Leaders of America president and two-time state FBLA president, and he already earned a two-year associate degree from USC Sumter's Early College program before graduating

in May 2020. "I recognize that none of us get to where we are today alone," Johnson said, "and I believe in giving back to other people." He attributes his parents, Derick and Elaine Johnson, for instilling those qualities in him. Johnson said he considers leaders such as former President Barack Obama on the national level and state Rep. David Weeks, D-Sumter, on the local level as role models for him, and he wants to follow in their footsteps with a career in public service. After graduating college, Johnson said he wants to attend law school at Harvard and become a lawyer. His "dream job" down the road, he said, is to be a U.S. senator. Johnson said he's fascinated with the role because a senator represents a significant population, can write legislation to help people and gets to debate that legislation. Public service has been a passion of his for a long time, he said. "Since I was a child, I admired the idea of public service," Johnson said. "I admired the idea of being able to contribute to society and helping other people realize their dreams and fulfill those dreams. My ambitions in life are to do something greater than myself. At the end of the day, it's always about serving people and raising them up and ensuring they can succeed just as I have." Crestwood Principal Shirley Gamble said Johnson's parents instilled in him a strong foundation toward service and that he's humble and appreciative. "Since I have known Travis, this has been his message, as well," Gamble said. "He's always wanted to be about service. Each time that he has had the opportunity to speak in front of crowds, that has always been his message. He acknowledges the help of others. He will acknowledge his teachers and past principals that he has had."

Through his accomplishments, Johnson has met many people in high school. He said he hopes being a Ron Brown Scholar will allow him to continue to do that. "I feel like this program is a culmination of four years of hard work in high school," he said. "Now, being able to see that work pay off in college and after college by being able to network with people and potentially explore career options, I am excited about that." T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


Broadening all


Sumter School District middle school earns national STEM recertification BY BRUCE MILLS "It's who we are." That was the response of Alice Drive Middle School administrators when asked why achieving national STEM recertification was a top priority for the school. Leading educational certification group Cognia awarded Alice Drive Middle with its five-year recertification as a national STEM school. STEM is an educational curriculum focused on the integration of science, technology, engineering and math with the other core subjects. In the organization's review process, the school at 40 Miller Road in the center of the city is the first middle school in the nation to achieve Cognia's recertification and just the fourth overall to wave the recertification banner, according to the agency. In the 21st century, more and more jobs are moving to a science and technology focus, and school leaders say they want students who attend Alice Drive Middle to be ready. Stephanie Barrineau, the school's curriculum coordinator, said local business and industry represented on Alice Drive's STEM Advisory Board think it's the right track for students. "There is such a need from business and industry," she said. "For our kids, whether they decide they want to go to college or decide they want to go straight into a career, STEM is where it's at. Employers need them to have these 21st-century soft skills that STEM promotes along with the ability to think outside the box and knowing how to troubleshoot." Business and industry have workforce gaps now, Barrineau added, and if schools target them now for development, students can be successful when they graduate. Principal Jeannie Pressley said with the internet now, traditional teaching involving standing in the front of the class and lecturing isn't the goal for educators. 34 |

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"In the 21st century, everyone has all that information at their fingertips at any time," she said. "So, we need to be teaching our kids to problem solve." Down the hall, that was on display in Amanda Buckingham's project-based automation/robotics class. Because of COVID-19, her hybrid class during the school's second block consisted of four in-person students while others attended via livestream instruction from home. Another twist with the coronavirus is there is no hands-on building of robots in the classroom now. The curriculum has been modified to "virtual robotics" in a "virtual playground" online. Computer coding by students moves robots forward and backward, lifts items and then drops them off in a box in a warehouse setting. What does it take to construct a good robot? "A lot of computer code," said sixth-grader Brayden Rohling, "so it can do anything you want." In the recertification process, Cognia evaluators noted Alice Drive's increased student participation in STEM and its growth in the quality and effectiveness of the STEM learning experiences. When the school initially earned the national certification in 2015, it had about 770 students, Pressley said. For the 2020-21 school year, through Sumter School District's open-enrollment process, Alice Drive Middle has about 950 students because of families' interest and demand for its programs. In 2015, the school had five STEM-specific elective classes. In 2020, there were 15 STEM electives at Alice Drive, and STEM is

integrated into all content areas, leaders said. Administrators are quick to say the STEM vision at Alice Drive is all-inclusive and school-wide, not just for a select group of students. Students who struggle academically may discover they are good with their hands, Barrineau said, and develop a desire for a technical career. Then, in high school, they can take coursework at the Sumter Career and Technology Center. Alice Drive Assistant Principal Jenaii Edwards said she has seen students' career goals change through the years in their Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs. "For the longest time, students always said, 'I want to

be a basketball player,' 'I want to be a football player,'" Edwards said. "But, thinking back to the IEPs that I am listening to now, now you hear, 'I want to build computers,' or 'I want to be an engineer,' or 'I want to go to a specific college.' "Like, their goals have completely changed, and I know that's truly because of them being in a STEM school. That's what we push, that's what we are doing. So, exposing them to things that they probably would have never seen if they were not in a STEM school, I think that has made a difference in what their outcomes will be moving forward."

Penny for



e made it through a tough year and still managed to see progress in many areas. Our new recreation complex and new animal control facility are two key Penny for Progress projects that will serve all of us in Sumter County for many years to come.

nny for T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |



Future is bright The new Quixote Club golf course and other recent developments are leading to more success downtown. BY BRUCE MILLS


ntering 2021, the development of downtown Sumter is looking brighter than it has before and involves numerous parts, pieces and people. Don’t they always say a team approach is best? In early 2020, the downtown area included about 10 options for food, an upscale men’s clothing store, Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital and a local boutique and gift store, among other businesses, and Sumter’s first brewery and tap room, Sumter Original Brewery, was coming online. In a major milestone as part of the city’s 30-year redevelopment plan for the area, a Hyatt Place hotel has served 36 |

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as an anchor in downtown’s central business district since 2018. Fast forward to 2021, and one upscale men’s store (Grady Ervin and Co.) has replaced another (C. Anthony’s Menswear) at 2 N. Main St., and the December 2020 opening of a multi-million-dollar renovated golf course less than four miles away is creating all sorts of buzz. QUIXOTE CLUB BRINGS NEW LIFE TO GOLF COURSE NEAR DOWNTOWN After brothers and business partners Greg and Lewis Thompson purchased the former Sunset Country

Quixote Club Where: 1005 Golfcrest Road, Sumter, SC 29154 Phone: (803) 775-5541 Web: PHOTOS BY PAUL TOMLINSON / WAXED DESIGNS T H EIT E M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


Club in 2019, a vision was born to create an elite golf club with a philanthropic mission. The new club’s mission is to support ongoing, high-quality, free public education in the form of Liberty STEAM Charter School, Sumter’s first public charter school, set to open its doors in August. The club’s new name comes from “Don Quixote,” the Spanish novel from the early 1600s with an emphasis on knighthood. According to Eric Pedersen, Quixote’s head golf professional and membership director, a golf course becomes an elite club with “white glove service” and “by making the experience a memorable one from the beginning until the end of your round.” Doing the “little things,” like getting members’ clubs, loading their bags and washing their clubs down after their round, are important for generating a common bond with members and guests and making them feel comfortable. Adding beautifications to holes and penal areas, such as sand, also contribute to an elite course, he said. An elite course and the club’s mission to support the public charter school – located in economically depressed south Sumter – help give Quixote Club regional and national appeal for membership, Pedersen said. And when traveling to Sumter to visit the course, many of those members will stay at the Hyatt, spend money at restaurants they can walk to and be potential customers at Grady Ervin, located next door to the hotel. Quixote has two categories in national members, who live outside a 75-mile radius of Sumter, and local members. “We will get them back and forth to the golf course, and they will see Sumter as a place for them to go for a retreat for 12 people or so or other ideas,” he said. Jay Davis, broker-in-charge of Coldwell Banker Commercial Cornerstone located upstairs from Grady Ervin, added that the golf course is helping with development downtown. “So, that's got some positive energy going, too,” he said, “that’s helping with higher-end stores trying to locate in downtown.” A BLUEPRINT IN ATLANTA Quixote Club is following a model first started in the late 1990s when a few philanthropists started the work of transforming one of Atlanta’s most troubled neighborhoods, the East Lake community, and creating a place where people of all ages and incomes now choose to live. Initially, East Lake started with a complete renovation of a dilapidated golf course – East Lake Golf Club – and through the support of a foundation, a public charter school with a high education platform was built next to it. Now, 20 years later, it’s a model of urban renewal. Greg Thompson is also the founding board chairman of Liberty STEAM Charter, and its primary school is 2.8 miles away from the course. “The golf course at East Lake was in complete disrepair,” Thompson said. “The facts are eerily similar.” Drew Charter School opened in 2000 as Atlanta’s first 38 |

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public charter school in the high-poverty East Lake community. Today, it's a high-performing school in Atlanta with graduates becoming success stories in all walks of life, Thompson said. The success of the East Lake initiative has served as a national model of holistic community revitalization for 27 other sites across the country with the assistance of a community network organization, Purpose Built Communities. A LOCAL MOVEMENT A goal for Quixote is to retain local members from the former Sunset Country Club and also add local members. “There have been numerous people who have joined this club for the mission of Liberty STEAM Charter School,” Pedersen said. “Many are joining the golf club who have no idea even how to hit a golf ball. But, they want to learn how to hit a golf ball and to play and enjoy the concept of the club and the school.” The cost to join is $7,500 with $2,500 going directly to the charter school. All members are called “champions.”

CITY’S HELP IS KEY Everyone associated with the redevelopment of downtown will also tell you the City of Sumter’s help has been critical. Physical infrastructure, public safety, parks and similar efforts by municipalities – provided via local tax dollars – are sometimes overlooked when new private projects come online. “Whatever it takes, the city is a partner in what’s going on downtown, without a doubt,” Coldwell Banker’s Davis said. “Elected officials and city administrators were working on this vision years before it ever happened.”

Sumter/Downtown (803) 774-8100

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A Fourth Fridays concert is held on Main Street pre-COVID-19. Photo by Micah Green.

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A Sumter ‘fixer-upper’


How a local team’s approach to commercial redevelopment is bringing out the character of downtown buildings. BY BRUCE MILLS


t’s involved a lot of pieces coming together and a team I approach, but one of Sumter’s leading commercial real estate firms is helping put downtown Sumter on more and more

businesses’ radars. Jay Davis, broker-in-charge of Coldwell Banker Commercial Cornerstone of Sumter; Heather Tickel, a broker associate with the firm; and a couple of their clients spoke on the commercial “fixer-upper” operation that Davis and associates have put together in the downtown area. Coldwell Banker has managed a series of renovation projects in recent years that have brought out the character of downtown buildings — such as old brick walls, hard pinewood, windows and stairways — that has appealed to new tenants. Examples of the firm’s fixer-uppers include the Frank Shuler Law Firm on the corner of Law Range and North Main Street, North Main’s Edward Jones and Liberty STEAM Charter School’s administrative offices and F-45 Training fitness center at 20 W. Liberty St. Add to those now One Accord, a high-end women’s clothing store and fine art shop at 1 W. Liberty St.; Grady Ervin and Co., an upscale men’s clothing store at 2 N. Main St.; and a few more on the horizon, and downtown development and relocation is becoming more appealing to area businesses, Davis said. The local team approach to the redevelopments include Davis and Tickel, who has been with the brokerage since 2014 and provides the firm’s creative outlet. Also included are private business owner Greg Thompson and his wife, Danielle, who coown some downtown properties with Davis; architect Scott Bell of RS Bell Architects; contractor Brian Scott of BDS Construction; and local craftsmen, such as Lance and Tory Lasseigne with Palmetto Metal Design. “That’s kind of been fun, too,” Davis said. “To not just go to a building supply store and buy something off the shelf. We have been able to get people who are truly talented to help us put these things together.” In doing one of the initial projects, the Shuler Law Firm, Davis said he was struck by what his firm could do in collaboration with others. “We took the upstairs there, and we removed all the asbestos,” Davis said. “We re-did the roof, and we exposed a lot of old wood, and that is when it started to hit us what we could possibly do with these buildings. We started to see if we had the leeway, as we start tearing stuff off, to say, ‘OK, let’s leave 40 |

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this brick wall where you can see it,’ where it was normally covered.” The same was true with One Accord when removing materials from the first floor and seeing the quality of the wood there, Davis added. The entire redevelopment process with One Accord took about a year, Tickel said. Stephanie Dowling, owner of One Accord, said Davis, Tickel and their team far exceeded her expectations from a shell of a building. Her store was on Bultman Drive for five years before relocating downtown in October. “There is great energy downtown,” Dowling said. “I love what they are doing. It’s taking these old buildings and restoring them. I say ‘moving from ashes to beauty.’ It’s a commercial fixer-upper. It really is. I have to pinch myself when I walk in that I get to work here. It’s so stunning and just beautiful.” In the development world, it’s often said, the best ingredient for success is success, and Davis and Tickel credit the Thompson family for helping facilitate the downtown revitalization process. In the last decade, the Thompsons’ investments in the downtown area include La Piazza, Hamptons, Sidebar, the downtown Hyatt Place hotel and, most recently, Sumter Original Brewery, among some others. After some redesigning from Davis and the team to include new carpet and lighter paint on the walls, Grady Ervin and Co. opened its doors in November 2020. “They were the start of the vision,” Tickel said. “Now, it’s grown from there, and it’s starting to become very contagious, especially now with One Accord in next door. People have seen that building, and now they are calling us up and are like, ‘What is it going to take for us to get downtown?’”



DONNY HINES Longtime family businessman wins Sumter Chamber's Businessperson of the Year BY BRUCE MILLS In many ways, Donny Hines epitomizes a gentleman and a businessman with his service mindset, and for that he has been recognized with the area Chamber's highest honor. In his acceptance speech for the 2020 Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce’s Philip L. Edwards Businessperson of the Year award at the organization’s annual gala, Donny Hines, owner of Hines Furniture Co., said helping others is what drives him daily. "I enjoy what I do," he said, "and the greatest success that I take from all that is the ability to take care of people. The satisfaction of doing that, at the end of the day, is what carries me through." It's the first time Hines has won the honor, and he thanked everyone - his employees, customers, the greater community, his wife, children and his parents - in winning the award. His mother, Rose, was in attendance. His father, Rick, who founded the business 49 years ago in 1971, passed away in 2015 but remains one of Hines' greatest inspirations. "I believe children represent their parents, and children are their parents," Hines said. "I thank my Mom and my Dad, who I wish could have been here today. You all knew my father. He stood for a lot of things. Character, honesty, integrity and truthfulness always stays in my head."

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SUMTER Gateway for business Sumter County Airport has become a center for business travel

BY BRUCE MILLS You might not think about a small, local general aviation airport as a key tool for economic expansion, but that’s a reality in the 21st century business world. Time is money for business and industry executives who generally want to use their corporate aircraft to visit communities and explore areas for expansion opportunities, according to Sumter Economic Development Board staff and the owner of the business that operates Sumter County Airport. On Eagles’ Wings Aviation Services has operated the county-owned airport since 1998, and company owner Jeff Knauer discussed various changes and enhancements that tell the story of the local airport over the last 20 years and how it has become a center for business travel. In those two decades, Sumter County Airport has received a 500-foot runway expansion to 5,501 feet to attract larger corporate jet aircraft to the facility, and Knauer anticipates another 500-foot extension in the next five years. Reconstruction projects on the facility’s ramp continue in order to provide a stronger foundation for larger, heavier, corporate aircraft to park, and the airport now features three 42 |

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large box hangars to go along with 30 regular-sized hangars for smaller planes. A pilot himself, Knauer said Sumter’s airport offers a full range of services, with body and engine maintenance with an avionics services facility being added in the middle of this year. As far as landing approaches, the airport has added an instrument landing system (ILS) on one side of the runway and GPS-based approaches on both ends to allow for landing in all but the worst weather conditions. All those features allow for national-level executives to easily fly into Sumter to visit locally based manufacturers – such as BD and Caterpillar – or other higher-end businesses, Knauer said. About 20% of local airport travel is recreational flights on smaller planes from private pilots who might also be fighter jet pilots stationed at Shaw Air Force Base or fly for an airline. They often come out on the weekends to fly their personal planes. The recreational side is a piece to the puzzle but only a

SUMTER COUNTY AIRPORT Photo provided small piece, Knauer said. “The big misconception out there is that this is a ‘rich man’s playground,’” he said. “That is simply not true. This is a business airport. … The airport exists for business aviation, and we have a great business asset sitting out here. “We have everything necessary for a modern flight department to come in and comfortably use this airfield. We have a long enough runway, and we have all the necessary services available.”

Knauer added he’s grateful that Sumter County has valued and invested in the airport and sees it as an economic development tool. “A well-run city or county that is attractive to business is going to have an attractive airport,” he said. “They go together, and, again, I think that is because the airport is the gateway for business. So, as Sumter has been successful in attracting and landing significant businesses, part of that puzzle has been the airport.”





SECONDS, please

New restaurants offer menus that expand Sumter’s palate BY SHELBIE GOULDING Throughout the years, Sumter has gained more and more local restaurants with various cuisines for foodies to enjoy. From Southern and coastal favorites like barbecue and Cajun to the city’s first Cuban and rolled ice cream parlor, Sumter welcomed many new, unique places to eat in 2020 with more coming in 2021.

Cajun Claws & Wing

Seafood combos and wings. What more can you ask for? Cajun Claws and Wing, located at 321 W. Wesmark Blvd., offers almost any option your stomach craves with more than 10 flavor choices and cooked-to-order items. Flavors range from Cajun, juicy special, garlic butter and lemon pepper to any spice level. You can either make your own seafood meal by the pound or pick one of the many daily specials, all within an affordable price range for a coastal meal. The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. It is closed on Monday. To view the menu or order online, visit or call (803) 905-3468.

Duggie Dogs Express

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If you’re looking for a cheap, classic eatery, look no further. Sumter’s Duggie Dogs Express has you covered with allbeef hot dogs, chili dogs and the perfect milkshake to pair. The 1253 Hastings Drive quick-food joint opened in December 2020 and serves customers at a drive-through and inside. Duggie Dogs focuses on being fast and efficient in its service and food. The restaurant specializes in hot dog combos and build-your-own dogs, as well as sweet treats with Hershey’s ice cream, milkshakes and even its unique Outrageous Apple Pie ala Mode. Duggie Dogs is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. To place an order, call (803) 469-3647. The menu can be viewed online at

With sugar cane, meats, croquettes, empanadas, potato balls, Cuban sandwiches, coffee, Caribbean produce and more, Havana 65 became a fan favorite to many looking for something new and full of flavor. Caribbean-style foods aren't commonly found across the U.S. Most of the restaurant’s ingredients come from Florida and other coastal and tropical states. Havana 65 is located at 1029 Broad St. The lime building houses the restaurant, while the yellow building is planned for a future catering café and bakery. It’s open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Sunday. They plan to serve breakfast soon as early as 6 a.m.

Sumter Original Brewery

Havana 65

Sumter shines a little brighter now after a lemon-and-lime building opened its doors to adventurous foodies looking to try something uncommonly found in the area. The family behind Havana 65 Cuban Cuisine first opened the restaurant in Miami, Florida, but decided to plant roots in Sumter to follow their Shaw airman son and provide the community with large portions of food that tickle your taste buds with Caribbean flavors.

Featuring a three-story brewery with a taproom, game room and city-view rooftop, it’s no wonder Sumter County’s first-ever brewery has become an iconic hotspot in the downtown area. Sumter Original Brewery opened mid-March 2020 and thrived amid the COVID-19 pandemic with to-go service offering cans and growlers of beer for months before even opening its doors. The 2 S. Main St. location is Sumter’s one and only brewery, and it offers bar bites and about a dozen in-house perma-

nent and rotating taps. Whether you’re looking for the perfect pint or want to sample a flight of brews, Sumter Original Brewery is the place to sit back and sip for a fun-filled weekend afternoon outdoors or weekday happy hour. You can even test your brain with trivia on Wednesday evenings. The brewery is open Wednesday and Thursday 4-11 p.m., Friday 3-11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sunday from 1-6 p.m. It is closed Monday and Tuesday. For the latest updates, visit www. or call (803) 774-4425.

Thai Tea

Those with a sweet tooth can’t resist this new addition to Sumter. It solves the sweet cravings one desires with the

scrape of a simple roll. Thai Tea, located at 655 Bultman Drive, opened mid-summer 2020 to provide the city with its first rolled ice cream parlor whose inspiration came from Thailand. This ice cream, boba tea and smoothie shop offers an assortment of unique flavors and freshly rolled ice cream, all of which represents some dessert favorites that prosper overseas and now in big cities in the U.S. Rolled ice cream is a sweetened frozen dessert made with milk, cream, sugar and other ingredients that is flattened on a cold slab, “stirfried” then scraped into rolls to create a flavorful taste and appetizing presentation. Thai Tea is open Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday noon-8 p.m. It is closed on Monday. Learn more on Thai Tea Sumter's Facebook page, or call (803) 883-4088.

For the latest updates on specials, menus and other offerings during COVID-19, visit the Facebook group "Sumter County, SC Eat, Drink & Shop Local During COVID-19."

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2825 Carter Road | Sumter, South Carolina 29150 | 803-469-7007 | Covenant Place is a locally owned, not-for-profit, continuing care community. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.




Big-time health care at home BY PRISMA HEALTH


stablished more than a century ago, Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital today is a 283-bed Joint Commission-accredited medical center dedicated to putting our community first. Our active medical staff includes more than 150 doctors representing more than 25 medical specialties. Our facilities include a 36-bed nursery, an expanded ICU, 10 operating suites, an outpatient surgery center, an award-winning day surgery unit, a beautiful women and infants pavilion and a satellite medical park. We offer diagnostic and treatment capabilities for cancer, heart care, maternity, wound care, orthopedics and surgery. Tuomey Hospital’s purpose is for every team member to inspire health, serve with compassion and be the difference. That means providing the safest, most impactful care, considering a patient’s emotional health as well as physical health and finding new ways to help our community stay healthy. Tuomey Hospital is a part of the largest not-for-profit health care company in South Carolina, one that serves more than 1.2 million patients annually. Prisma Health employs more than 30,000 people who work to improve the health of our communities through improved clinical quality, access to care and patient experience while also addressing the rising cost of health care. More than 1,400 people work on the Sumter campus. The dedication of these team members has helped Tuomey earn prestigious designations as a Baby Friend Hospital and Breast Center of Excellence. Being named a Pathway to Excellence hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center recognizes Tuomey as a place that encourages nurses to be their best, to seek continuous learning and higher certification, to provide strong leadership and help that engagement flow into other departments. The Tuomey Pharmacy opened in 2020, making it more convenient for patients to obtain their medications immediately following their appointments. The pharmacy keeps on hand the top 400 medicines ordered by area physicians so that patients can pick up their prescriptions without having to leave the campus. It will also eventually offer adult

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immunizations such as influenza, influenza HD (for those over age 65), Tdap (which is important for parents, grandparents or others who have close contact with an infant), the pneumococcal vaccine (recommended for those age 65 or older to protect against pneumonia) and the zoster vaccine to protect against shingles. Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital also is administering the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the state’s response. Tuomey is also a satellite for Prisma Health—Midlands Children’s Hospital, providing pediatric care that includes support from a pediatric pharmacy, nutrition therapy and the ability to keep smaller infants and those needing special care close to home and their families. The hospital supports a Level II nursery; an intensive care unit; 10 operating suites; centers for outpatient surgery, imaging and cancer treatment; an infusion center; an award-winning wound healing center; a heart failure clinic and cardiac, speech, physical and occupational rehabilitative services. Our diagnostic capabilities feature comprehensive pathology services, interventional radiology and cardiac catheterization. Transitional care is provided through our Home Health Services program, as well as hospice and palliative care. In addition: An intensivist care program is dramatically changing the way care is provided in the intensive care unit, with measurable increases in patient quality of life and significant drops in patient mortality among our most critically ill population. Tuomey became home to its first residency program in 2019. In 2021, eight family medicine physicians are completing their residencies in collaboration with Tandem Health to bring greater access to primary care to Sumter residents.

Other Tuomey Hospital facilities include:

The Wound Healing Center, specializing in the treatment of chronic wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, venous stasis ulcers and dehisced surgical wounds. The center offers outpatient care and hyperbaric oxygen therapy as well as disease management, diabetes care, vascular studies, tissue culturing and biological skin substitute applications. The Cancer Treatment Center was one of the first in the state to offer TrueBeam radiation treatment, using state-of-theart linear accelerators paired with CT-based treatment planning, which allows radiation oncologists to offer intensity-modulated radiotherapy. The center uses stereotactic body radiation therapy for early stage lung cancer to allow highly precise delivery of high radiation doses to a small target. The Women and Children’s Center includes the Birthplace and the Family Place, units dedicated to meet the unique needs of our pediatric, gynecological and obstetric patients. Pediatric hospitalists are trained to provide inpatient care to children and are often able to keep smaller infants and those needing special care close to home and their families by treating them locally. The Level II nursery allows the hospital to treat high-risk newborns. The center also features breastfeeding rooms, a lactation consultant and education nurse, antepartum rooms and a bereavement room. Having an infusion center on site means patients can go home from the hospital more quickly and perhaps even avoid being admitted. We provide treatment for Crohn’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as infusions of medications such as antibiotics, antivirals and iron drugs in an outpatient setting. Our Wesmark Boulevard campus offers outpatient imaging (including bone density studies and 4D ultrasound for pregnant women), programs in physical therapy, speech and occupational therapy, cardiac rehab, audiology and one of the most comprehensive sports medicine/orthopedics programs in the region. We provide pre-season screenings for athletes, injury clinics to assess injuries post-game and onsite sporting coverage.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest health care system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,947 beds and more than 300 outpatient sites with nearly 2,000 physicians, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually in its 21-county market area that covers 50% of South Carolina. Prisma Health’s goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. For more information, visit

Photos provided

Prisma Health physician practices aligned with Tuomey include: • • • • • • •

Pulmonology-Sumter Palmetto Heart-Sumter Sumter OB-GYN + Manning satellite office Sumter Surgical + Manning satellite office Pain and Spine of Sumter Orthopedic Center of Sumter Family Medicine-Sumter

• • • • •

Infectious Disease-Sumter Plastic Surgery-Sumter Heart-Manning Specialty Pediatrics-Sumter Hospitalists Professional Medical Services Hospitalists-Sumter



‘New ways of doing

old things’

Tandem Health is adapting to COVID-19 while retaining quality, compassionate, affordable care BY ANNIE BROWN


e have all heard it said that the only constant in life is change. Some embrace change naturally, others attempt to welcome the challenge it brings, and many seek to avoid it all together. However, we all know it is unavoidable, and, therefore, we must trust the blessing of both change and challenge, for in the end they will be the only things that served to strengthen us. Back in early 2020, no one had any idea of what we would all be exposed to in the coming months as COVID-19 began to catch traction across our nation. It became apparent to us here at Tandem Health that we were going to have to evaluate each and every element of our operations to ensure high-quality care would continue to be provided to our almost 18,000 patients. I could not be more proud of our staff, board of directors, executive leadership and medical providers for the resolve demonstrated and the effort put forth daily to help us develop and sustain a safe environment to provide care for those we serve. Additionally, I want to say thank you to our patients. Thank you for your willingness to journey alongside us during this tumultuous chapter and allowing us to continue serving you and your family’s health and wellbeing. If you are looking for a new medical home, we would be grateful for the opportunity to partner with you. We offer patients a wide array of medical services, including primary care, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, behavioral medicine, dentistry, immunology and two full-service onsite outpatient pharmacies, which also offer an optional mail-order prescription delivery service for patients. Embedded within these specialties is the availability of counseling focused on diabetes, nutrition, substance use disorder and medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Additionally, Tandem Health works with patients to help eliminate barriers related to financial circumstances and/or social situations that often have a negative impact on their access to quality health care. By addressing such barriers, patients 48 |

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and families are ensured the provision of comprehensive health care and social services regardless of their ability to pay. Providing patients with the compassionate care they need all while treating them with dignity and respect is what has enabled Tandem Health to thrive since 2003.

As we look forward to 2021, we are excited to further enhance the delivery of high-quality health services to our patients both within and outside of the walls of our various locations. This past year has punctuated the importance of exploring “new ways of doing old things” that expand our ability to enhance accessibility to care all while maintaining the element of affordability. Using feedback from patients, community partners, the local business sector and various other mechanisms, we will work to enhance the patient experience, improve health outcomes and strengthen relationships both with those we treat as well as the community at large. If you are interested in becoming a patient or would like to explore the many services we offer at Tandem Health, contact us at (803) 774-4500 or visit us at


Transforming health care now and for the future

McLeod Health Clarendon


larendon Health System joined McLeod Health on July 12, 2016, and began a season of transformation that continues even today. Now, McLeod Health Clarendon in Manning is continuing to fulfill its mission to improve the health and wellbeing of the residents in Clarendon and Sumter communities. Our highly skilled physicians and medical staff provide a wide range of medical services designed to meet the unique needs of our patients. Services include an emergency department, intensive care unit, labor and delivery, medical surgical unit, surgical services, infusion services, sleep lab, radiology services, lab services, wound care center and a swing bed unit. Cardiac, speech, physical and occupational rehabilitation services are located in our McLeod Health and Fitness Center Clarendon. Cardiology, general surgery, orthopedics and urology specialty services are also available. Our continuum of care for patients outside the hospital is provided by our home health, hospice, nurse-family partnership, sports medicine and occupational health services.

Renovation and expansion Currently underway is the expansion of the ICU, which has been crucial in the care of COVID-19 patients. The expansion will allow for more spacious patient rooms, a designated exam room, additional storage space for medical equipment and staff support spaces. There will also be a private family consult room for providers to meet with family members as well as a family waiting room. “When patients suffer a critical illness or injury, they want quality care close to home. Our ICU patient volumes have rapidly grown over the past few years. Not only does this renovation under-

score our continued investment and commitment to bring quality health care to Clarendon and all communities from the Midlands to the coast, but it also allows patients and their families to heal and recover close to home,” explained Rachel Gainey, McLeod Health Clarendon administrator. Expected completion is early summer 2021. The initial phase of development of McLeod Medical Plaza Clarendon was completed in June 2020. This includes the new McLeod Family Medicine Rural Residency Program, McLeod Primary Care Clarendon, McLeod Rehabilitation Clarendon and The Spa at McLeod Health Clarendon. The second phase will include additional medical office space for primary and specialty care services. Expected completion of phase two is late fall 2021.

Increasing access to primary care and specialty services The McLeod Family Medicine Rural Residency Program launched its first class of residents on June 29, 2020. The program’s mission is to graduate skilled physicians committed to intensive training in caring for patients to prepare them to practice the full scope of family medicine, particularly in rural settings. Resident physicians train in the family medicine specialty under the close



supervision of physician faculty. They provide care for the entire family – from delivering babies to end-of-life care – including pediatrics, women’s and men’s health and obstetrics. Residents care for patients both in the office and in the hospital. Residents Dr. Lauren Benning, Dr. Kevin Londe and Dr. Laine Way serve patients at McLeod Primary Care Clarendon. “Expanding the McLeod Family Medicine training program into the Manning community will provide much-needed access to physicians, enhance recruitment efforts and afford physicians the opportunity to practice medicine in a small community setting,” Gainey said. McLeod Health also welcomed several new providers in 2020 to include General Surgeon Dr. Danielle Saldana (McLeod Surgery Clarendon); Hospitalist and Board-Certified Cardiologist Dr. John Rozich; Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Rodney Alan (McLeod Orthopedics Clarendon and McLeod Orthopedics Sumter); and Certified Nurse Midwife Allison Saran (McLeod Women’s Care Clarendon).

Photos provided

Advancements in technology Patients visiting McLeod Health Clarendon will now have more advanced imaging services through a newly installed CT scanner and 3D mammography unit, which includes a breast biopsy attachment. Installation of a new, state-of-the-art MRI has begun with expected completion in early summer 2021. “3D mammography allows early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer and is a highly effective tool in detecting breast cancer long before any physical symptoms develop. Early detection is documented to be critical in reducing mortality rates,” Gainey said. “With the new CT scanner, we can produce higher-quality images with lower radiation, all with more efficiency. This means quicker treatment of acute issues like stroke, which are very time sensitive. It is our mission to continue providing the most advanced diagnostic imaging equipment for our patients.” 50 |

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Quality health care McLeod Health Clarendon was recently awarded an ‘A’ in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, a national distinction recognizing our achievements in protecting patients from harm and providing safer health care. The Leapfrog Group is an independent national watchdog organization committed to health care quality and safety. It assigns an A, B, C, D or F to all general hospitals across the country and is updated every six months. Grades are based on performance in preventing medical errors, injuries, accidents, infections and other harms to patients. Additionally, McLeod Health Clarendon achieved the Healthgrades 2020 Outstanding Patient Experience Award™, recognizing McLeod Health Clarendon as being among the top 15% of hospitals nationwide for patient experience, according to Healthgrades, the leading resource that connects consumers, physicians and health systems. “The pursuit of quality improvement at McLeod Health Clarendon is unending. These accomplishments, achieved through the teamwork and dedication of our entire staff, are a positive step in our patient experience and quality journey, yet we recognize that we can never stop improving care for patients,” Gainey said. “Health care is constantly becoming more complex and challenging, and our team is committed to providing the best care possible to our patients both now and in the future.” For more information about McLeod Health, visit

Nu-Idea is centrally located in Sumter, SC, and all administration, warehousing, etc. is located there. Your call will be answered by our staff and your needs met promptly. Nu-Idea routinely manages projects of all size and scope for its customers.

710 South Guignard Sumter, SC 29150

Est. 1921




Community-funded BY SHELBIE GOULDING

improv ement

One penny at a time, Sumter is improving county and city parks, roads, buildings, government offices and more thanks to Sumter voters and shoppers. Sumter County's Penny for Progress initiative is a referendum that voters approved first in 2008 to fund capital projects by raising the sales tax countywide 1 cent and funneling those pennies to the initiative. A total of 16 projects were funded by $75 million from the sales tax, according to Sumter County govern-

RECREATION DEPARTMENT What: New 12,800-square-foot gym Where: 155 Haynsworth St. Cost: $6 million Expected completion: Spring 2021

The county broke ground in April 2020 with the first of three phases: the new gym construction and a new lobby area that will connect the new gym to the current gym. Phase two, which is well underway, will see the current gym overhauled, as well as new LED lighting, a new HVAC system, scoreboards and new goals. New synthetic flooring with multi-layered vinyl will also be installed. The plan is to offer volleyball, pickleball and basketball year-round with the renovations and new building, according to Phil Parnell, director of the county’s Recreation and Parks Department. “We will have many options once our new gym opens and our current gym is modernized,” Parnell said. “It’s going to be very conducive for recreational opportunities for many years to come.” A full-service concession stand and new parking will also be a part of the makeover. “We’re making long-term investments in our quality of life, our roads, as well as recreation and public safety,” County Administrator Gary Mixon said. “We’re investing in our community for generations to come, and I’ve seen firsthand how important recreation is for our young people and the positive impact it has on their lives.”

ment data. A second referendum passed in 2014 and is ongoing with an additional 16 projects that cost approximately $75.6 million. Sumter County Communications Coordinator Joe Perry provided the following updates on current projects that were completed or are near completion in the past year.


What: 3.4-mile pedestrian greenway to connect Dillon Park and Swan Lake-Iris Gardens Where: Dillon Park to Swan Lake-Iris Gardens Cost: $4 million Status: Construction began end of 2020

The greenway will have a paved walkway alongside the Shot Pouch Branch. The goal is to provide walking, biking and outdoor activity space for Sumter and its surrounding communities and to connect green space in the county and city. Currently, Shot Pouch is being cleared of vegetation and surface debris as part of the first construction phase.

ADMINISTRATION BUILDING What: County government offices renovations Where: 13 E. Canal St. Cost: $2.8 million Expected completion: Completed

The project was first given the green light in March 2018, including renovations to council chambers, enhanced security measures and the general idea to simultaneously make the building more conducive to doing business with the general public while also T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


increasing security. A new elevator was also installed as was a new façade to aesthetically match the Sumter County Judicial Center across the street. The building houses office of the assessor, auditor and treasurer on the first floor; finance and purchasing on the second floor; and administration, County Council Chambers, human resources, county attorney and clerk to council on the third floor. “This building was originally a bank in the 1970s and was acquired by the county in the 1980s, so renovations and upgrades were definitely needed. We’re always looking for ways to better serve the public, and the first-floor offices are busy throughout the year, so we’re happy to have this project completed,” Mixon said.

SUMTER COUNTY COURTHOUSE What: Renovations Where: 141 N. Main St. Cost: $3 million Expected completion: Mostly completed

Sumter’s old courthouse building was built in 1907 in the Beaux Arts Style by architects William Augustus Edwards and Frank C. Walter, according to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. The county received approval in March 2018 from the Historic Preservation Design Review Committee for an extensive makeover, which included the addition of a new elevator and new restrooms that are ADA-compliant, as well as a new column structure on the North Harvin Street side of the building. The exterior was pressure washed and painted, new energy-efficient double-paned Pella windows were installed, and the columns out front were also washed and painted. The granite steps were damaged during the renovation, so new granite steps were installed while the old steps will be repurposed for benches. Other renovations included offices, courtrooms, carpets and painting. The main courtroom is the only remaining facet that still awaits renovations, Perry said. “The Sumter County Courthouse is easily one of the most recognizable buildings, and the last restoration and addition was completed in 1965,” Mixon said, “so it was time to give some attention to an icon of Sumter County.” The courthouse houses the offices of voter registration and elections, emergency management, register of deeds and some functions of the solicitor’s office.


What: Replacement Where: Manning Avenue between East Oakland Avenue and Divine Street Cost: $2.5 million and SCDOT funding Start: Summer 2023

Design efforts are still ongoing, but the S.C. Department of Transportation selected HDR Engineering Inc. for consultant design services in the renovation, according to Project Manager Jason Stoddard with the City of Sumter. The contract was formalized in June 2020. Construction should take 18-24 months.

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NORTH MAIN AND MANNING AVENUE CORRIDOR What: Renovation and redesign Where: North Main Street and Manning Avenue Cost: $5 million Start: Late 2021

Right-of-way plans are complete, and consultants are currently working with SCDOT for utility relocations and redesign efforts. The $5 million in Penny for Progress funding was matched with $11.4 million in federal funds. With the extra funding, the goal is to improve aesthetics of this key artery through downtown while also keeping pedestrian safety in mind. Construction should take 18-24 months.


What: Intersection improvement Where: Wilson Hall and Carter Road Cost: $900,000 Status: Construction began May 2020, expected completion by May 2021

Phase 1 is roadway widening for turn lanes and pedestrian improvements, and Phase 2 is focused on installation of mast arms and final pavement markings.

DEMOLITION OF DISTRESSED STRUCTURES What: Community revitalization Where: Countywide Cost: $1 million Start: Ongoing

This project has seen nine properties demolished and cleaned up while three are on hold. The goal is to demolish abandoned and distressed properties and return them to the open market or serve as open space for recreation, parks or other natural uses in Sumter County.


What: Renovation Where: 12 W. Liberty St. Cost: $894,600 Expected completion: Spring 2021

Work began mid-October 2020 on the 22,000-square-foot project building that houses the planning and building departments, the business license department, the city/county credit union and the Sumter Police Department’s Community Services Unit and Worthless Check Division. Also part of the Liberty Center are the city’s communications, information technology, events and tourism, community development, codes enforcement and Sumter Volunteers. Work includes two new conference suites with display screens to better serve the public. New ductwork, flooring and painting throughout the building will also create an overall fresher and cleaner appearance.

MAYESVILLE DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION What: Revitalization Where: Main Street, Mayesville Cost: $875,000 Status: Completed

Sumter County’s Mayesville community received finishing touches on its project to further revitalize its downtown and preserve its historic value. The former Bland Stables has been brought back to life with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to complement Penny for Progress monies. Four public housing units, a museum and gift shop, an on-site medical clinic and a café with Wi-Fi for public use were the latest additions. According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the Mayesville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 16, 1979, because of its “representation of the cultural, commercial and architectural development of a small 19th century South Carolina community. The district, which encompasses the western half of the town, contains a concentration of 80 properties that represent a broad range of late 19th and early 20th century vernacular architectural design, including commercial, residential (majority) and religious examples.”

ANIMAL CONTROL BUILDING What: New 6,000-square-foot facility Where: Winkles Road Cost: $300,000 Expected completion: Early 2021

In partnership with Saving Sumter’s Strays, Sumter County will help find forever homes for stray animals. The nonprofit was instrumental in working with the county to facilitate the project, which features 40 indoor and outdoor kennels, front office space and a grooming area. The long-term goal is to have a contract veterinarian make regular visits for spaying and neutering in an on-site surgical suite. Construction was aided by an anonymous benefactor.

For more photos and information on projects, go to and find the "Penny For Progress" tab.

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2945 Airport Road • Sumter, SC 29153 Phone: 803-469-4639 • Fax: 803-469-6726




MAYOR MERCHANT A day (or two) in the life of the Sumter businessman who became the city’s new leader

David Merchant takes flight with Shaw's 20th Fighter Wing commander.

BY SHELBIE GOULDING Bare walls surround a near-empty desk waiting for the next family photos, artwork and favorite college team decor to be hung and placed. It’s been 20 years since there was a change of scenery to this room, and the mayor’s office will soon be splashed with new colors and a different personality. Mayor David Merchant arrived an hour early on Dec. 1, 2020, the first Sumter City Council meeting of his four-year term. He sat alone in the unadorned room with only an agenda, a small package and a few documents waiting to be signed. Every now and then, a city staff member would slide into his office to greet Merchant with a new document to sign, discuss a government matter or wish him luck before he struck the gavel at 1 p.m.

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“The hamsters are spinning in there,” Merchant said, laughing about how busy he’s already been. He couldn’t remember how many papers he signed since being sworn into the position the night before, but he likes the pace of the work so far. “This makes it official, huh?” Merchant asked a city staff member as he continued signing. Before transitioning to mayor, Merchant served on city council representing Ward 6 for eight years. He had thoughts of running for mayor before, but he had said he’d never run against Joe McElveen. That situation changed when McElveen retired after 20 years, which is the longest a mayor has ever served Sumter.

The Columbia native ran on ideas to further foster business and industry development, sharpen the city’s relationship with Shaw, expand youth development and career readiness opportunities and bring Sumter into a new era. The only word he could think of to describe his election was “surreal.” “If everybody looks back at their story and kind of sees where they come from, everything happens for a reason,” Merchant said. He not only had his first-ever council meeting on that December day, but he also had the Swan Lake-Iris Gardens Christmas lights to turn on later that evening with his city family, along with his wife, Laurie, and their four children, Hannah, Pate, Sam and Connor. As the time drew closer to the meeting, Merchant left his office to greet the other council members. Together, they entered the council chambers. When the clock struck 1 p.m., Merchant felt the vibrations of the gavel striking the table’s surface. He paused for a brief second with a

which Merchant showed up early for in different attire. He dressed in a bold lime green jacket that shined brighter than the Christmas lights. What was even more bold was the Santa on the back of his coat, which he flashed to people as they drove through the light show. “This is a fun way to end it,” Merchant said about his first day as mayor.

slight grin and began with the first item on the agenda. Less than a halfhour later, council adjourned. Merchant went back to his office to see if there were more papers or matters to attend to. He looked around and was already thinking of how to decorate the office, but he thinks he’ll let it grow as the years go by. With no other tasks, Merchant headed back to his work outside of council, but he’d soon see the same faces again at Swan Lake for the lighting ceremony,

Getting in the swing of things

Merchant quickly learned how to balance his political, work and family life within the first couple weeks as mayor. On Dec. 15, 2020, he woke up as early as 4 a.m. to meet up with airmen at Shaw Air Force Base for an immersion flight. Both his City of Sumter and Team Merchant families were there. After the flight and with barely a break in between, he was off to work at his business, Merchant Iron Works, a strucT HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


If everybody looks back at their story and kind of sees where they come from, everything happens for a reason. - David Merchant Mayor of Sumter

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tural and steel fabricating company he built from the ground up. “It started as a hobby,” he said, which he began by making residential ornamental handrails out of his own driveway in 2001. Over time, the business expanded to larger welding and manufacturing tasks, such as staircases and building structures. By 2008, Merchant Iron Works made Beulah Cuttino Road its home and has only continued to expand, currently to more than 50 employees. As CEO, Merchant’s job is more behind the scenes than hands on. From 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., he’s putting out fires and piecing together a planning puzzle rather than getting his hands dirty like in the old days. He occasionally puts on his hard hat and joins the team in the warehouse for stress relief or a breather. “I’ve got to make sure they’re working on something I won’t screw up out there,” Merchant laughed. He continued working through the last hour, feeling the grogginess of the already-long day. He even reviewed the Sumter City Council agenda to save time so he could run home and clean himself up beforehand. It was picture day. New council, new headshots. Merchant left work early enough to greet his children, who were putting up Christmas lights on the lawn, and say hello to his wife. While he was busy getting ready, Laurie showcased her children’s inhome gingerbread house competition that was lined up perfectly on the island countertop. She thought they were going to miss the annual family event with their busy schedule from the campaign, but they made it work. “It’s nice just being able to breathe a little bit after a very busy fall,” she said. “I think with the runoff, it expedited things a little bit.” The campaign was a long road, but she thinks it proved that hard work pays off in the end. David and Laurie met at Clemson and have been working together since, whether that was the decision to move to Sumter 21 years ago – a central location for their jobs at the time – start a business at home, start a family or carve their role in

public service. “We’ve just really had some great family time,” Laurie said. “Selfishly, it’s been very nice for our family unit, but adding mayor into that, I think we’ll get the full brunt come January.” Soon enough, the kids were back inside, running back and forth with friends who were visiting that afternoon. Their youngest son, Connor, showed off his brand-new Nerf gun to his dad, who walked into the kitchen holding a multi-colored tie and another that Laurie considered an “old man tie.” “Which tie?” David asked his wife, lifting them up to his chest. “The brighter the better,” Laurie said, and his daughter, Hannah, agreed. Laurie continued to showcase the gingerbread masterpieces. She said Connor was this year’s winner, of which the rest of the competitors did not approve. “I came in last,” Sam said with disbelief. “I think it’s because you didn’t do the sides,” David offered. “No one looks at the sides,” Sam responded. “Well, nobody noticed my small detail,” Hannah added. While judging the finished products, a small piece chipped off Connor’s masterpiece. Hannah quickly fixed the broken part before Connor could see the damage. She was doing it to prevent a wrestling match between him and his brothers, which happens often, according to Laurie. The boys have spectated at professional wrestling matches in Sumter and like the sport. “Yeah, we were on our way to the swearing-in and we were like, ‘Ok guys, no wrestling,’” Laurie laughed. “We don’t have a coffee table or anything because there’s no point.” As David was ready to head out the door, Laurie stopped him. He needed to deliver Christmas goodies to his city staff at the meeting. David and Laurie worked together to sign tags and organize the gifts into a laundry basket for transport. She wasn’t going to let any of their City of Sumter family go without the Christmas sweets she made. In no time and on time, David was out the door with a basket full of goodies heading to the meeting. “It’s good. It’s manageable,” David said about his new routine as mayor, knowing this is only the beginning of a new chapter in his life.

Elected officials SUMTER COUNTY VOTER REGISTRATION AND ELECTIONS OFFICE • Patricia Jefferson, director • 141 N. Main St. Sumter, SC 29150 • (803) 436-2310 • Monday-Friday, • 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. 290 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-5972 508 Hampton St., Suite 202 Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 933-0112 U.S. SENATOR Lindsey Graham (R) 104 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-6121 1901 Main St., Suite 1425 Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 771-6112 U.S. SENATOR Tim Scott (R)

569 Cannon House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 (202) 225-5501 454 S. Anderson Road, Suite 302 B Rock Hill, SC 29730 (803) 327-1114 U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DISTRICT 5 Ralph Norman (R) 200 Cannon House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 (202) 225-3315 1225 Lady St., Suite 200 Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 799-1100 U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DISTRICT 6 James “Jim” E. Clyburn (D)

STATE SENATORS To email a member of the state Senate: Thomas McElveen, (D-Sumter) District 35 Sumter 508 Gressette Bldg. Columbia, SC 29201 Business: (803) 212-6132 Sumter Office: (803) 775-1263 Columbia Office: (803) 212-6132 Home: (803) 778-0597 Kevin Johnson, (D-Manning) District 36 Clarendon, Darlington, Florence, Sumter 606 Gressette Bldg. Columbia, SC 29201 Business: (803) 212-6024 Home: (803) 435-8117 STATE REPRESENTATIVES To email a member of the state House of Representatives: Will Wheeler III, (D-Bishopville) District 50 Kershaw, Lee, Sumter 422B Blatt Bldg. Columbia, SC 29201 Bishopville Office: (803) 484-5454 Columbia Office: (803) 212-6958 Home: (803) 428-3161 David Weeks, (D-Sumter) District 51 Sumter 308D Blatt Bldg. Columbia, SC 29201 Sumter Office: (803) 775-5856 Columbia Office: (803) 734-3102 Home: (803) 775-4228 Kimberly Johnson, (D-Manning) District 64 Clarendon, Sumter 422D Blatt Bldg. Columbia, SC 29201 Business: (803) 212-6929 Home: (803) 938-3087



Elected officials Murrell Smith, (R-Sumter) District 67 Sumter 525B Blatt Bldg. Columbia, SC 29201 Sumter Office: (803) 778-2471 Columbia Office: (803) 734-3144 Home: (803) 469-4416 Wendy Brawley, (D-Hopkins) District 70 Richland, Sumter 309D Blatt Bldg. Columbia, SC 29201 Business: (803) 212-6961 Home: (803) 776-9286

SUMTER COUNTY COUNCIL Council meets at 6 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday at 13 E. Canal St. During COVID-19, in-person seats are physically distanced. To watch meetings online, search Sumter County Government on YouTube. Carlton Washington (D) District 1 13 E. Canal St. Sumter, SC 29150 Home: (803) 436-2102

Artie Baker (R) District 2 3680 Bakersfield Lane Dalzell, SC 29040 Home: (803) 469-3638

Jimmy Byrd Jr. (R) Vice Chairman District 3 P.O. Box 1913 Sumter, SC 29151 Mobile: (803) 468-1719 Fax: (803) 436-2108 Charles Edens (R) District 4 3250 Home Place Road Sumter, SC 29150 Home: (80) 775-0044 Mobile: (803) 236-5759 58 |

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Vivian Fleming-McGhaney (D) District 5 9770 Lynches River Road Lynchburg, SC 29080 Home: (803) 437-2797 Business: (803) 495-3247 Jim McCain Jr. (D) Chairman District 6 317 W. Bartlette St. Sumter, SC 29150 Home: (803) 773-2353 Cell: (803) 607-2777 Gene Baten (D) District 7 P.O. Box 3193 Sumter, SC 29151 Home: (803) 773-0815

SUMTER CITY COUNCIL Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. During COVID-19, the second monthly meeting is reserved for in-person public hearings and public comment. To leave a comment ahead of time, go to To attend meetings virtually, go to The council is non-partisan. David Merchant Mayor 26 Paisley Park Sumter, SC 29150 (803) 773-1086

Thomas Lowery Mayor Pro Tem Ward 1 829 Legare St. Sumter, SC 29150 (803) 773-9298 James Blassingame Ward 2 PO Box 3488 Sumter, SC 29151 (803) 840-1029

Elected officials Calvin Hastie Sr. Ward 3 810 S. Main St. Sumter, SC 29150 (803) 774-7776

Steve Corley Ward 4 115 Radcliff Drive Sumter, SC 29150 (803) 305-1566

Colin Davis Ward 5 720 Oak Brook Blvd. Sumter, SC 29150 (803) 494-3337

Gifford Shaw Ward 6 28 Paisley Park Sumter, SC 29150 (803) 773-5918

SUMTER SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF TRUSTEES During COVID-19, meetings are closed to the public in person. Attend virtually by searching “Sumter School District Board Meetings” on YouTube, or watch on Facebook @SumterSCSchools. Trustees are non-partisan. Brian Alston Area 1 3385 N. Kings Hwy 261 Rembert, SC 29128 Cell: (803) 572-1938 Sherril P. Ray Area 2 528 Mimosa Sumter, SC 29150 Cell: (803) 491-7628

Matthew ‘Mac’ McLeod Area 3 2985 Bruce Circle Sumter, SC 29154 Cell: (803) 938-2701

Johnny Hilton Area 4 2691 Wedgefield Road Sumter, SC 29154 (803) 468-4054

Rev. Daryl McGhaney Clerk Area 5 9770 Lynches River Road Lynchburg, SC 29080 Home: (803) 437-2797 or Gloria Rose Lee Area 6 PO Drawer 2039 Sumter, SC 29151 (803) 464-6414

Barbara R. Jackson Chairwoman Area 7 1510 Reedroman Road Sumter, SC 29153 (803) 775-2520 Frank Baker Vice chairman Member At-Large Seat 8 8670 Black River Road Rembert, SC 29128 Cell: (803) 968-5901 Shawn T. Ragin Member At-Large Seat 9 3835 Quiet Court Sumter, SC 29150 Cell: (803) 464-6859




'EVERYTHING CHANGED immediately' Ahead of the 20th anniversary, 3 USARCENT soldiers reflect on how the 9/11 attacks shaped their lives and service BY KAYLA GREEN


n base in Honolulu, Hawaii, 3 a.m. In Mr. Hanson's middle school history class, Room 403. Wherever a 9-month-old would be. Three people in different stages of life, at different moments in their day, located across the country had no idea, like the rest of the nation, how the day would unfold. That the phone would start ringing, the TV turned on. That their lives, immediately and down the road, would be changed forever by the plume of smoke growing over lower Manhattan. Nineteen years ago, Col. Roy D. Banzon's oldest son was 8, his daughter 3. His wife was pregnant with their youngest son. Matthew Lepage, an all-source intelligence analyst, remembers what his middle school history teacher told the class 19 years ago. “He said every decision our country makes for the next 100 years will be a consequence of today,” Lepage said. He remembers walking home and stopping by his usual spot where he’d watch the flight line of airplanes over the Atlantic from his rural New Hampshire neighborhood. On a normal day, it was a relaxing way to prolong homework. That afternoon, there were no trails. “That grounded me. They were real people. Not just something on TV,” he said. Lepage went on to work with at-risk youth and had a mind to stay on the education track. When his high school friend was killed in Afghanistan, a switch flipped. Four years ago, the then 26-year-old walked into a recruiting office and hasn’t looked back. Keon Horton was less than 1 year old on 9/11, but the 60 |

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images from school remembrance days and the stories his family told stuck with him. He always knew he wanted to work some type of government or law enforcement job, possibly a police officer on a SWAT team. He didn’t need to have it figured out before high school. Of all the family members who served in the military, his uncle’s death struck the closest. The man he looked to as a father was serving in Iraq when his Army vehicle drove over an IED. The Athens, Georgia, native went straight from high school to the recruiting office. “It made me feel like you were there,” he said. “You don’t want to see it happen again.” Family. Impact. Fulfillment. After a deployment to Afghanistan, Banzon’s wife couldn’t stand to see how many children were suffering. So, they adopted an 18-year-old, a 17-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 3-year-old from the Philippines. Being in the Army has meant family to Banzon. After his wife died from cancer, USARCENT let him stay in Sumter, going on five years now of his 29 in the military, so he wouldn’t have to deploy and leave his children. Sometimes, a soldier’s duty can seem like just a cog in the machine. That’s not how it is for Banzon, Lepage and Horton. The nature of their jobs allows them to see the impact they make daily. As inspector general, Banzon helps soldiers resolve issues their chain of command cannot. Like quality control, he said. He joined the Army to follow his father, who served to bring his family to the United States from the Philippines. Lepage and Horton joined to protect their country from a direct threat.

As an analyst, Lepage provides soldiers with an understanding of their battle space, delivering information that allows units to make their best decisions in theater. Horton tells the stories of his fellow soldiers through the public affairs office, connecting an affinity for graphic design he found in high school. “I like when I put a video out there to see people’s reactions to what I do,” Horton said. Through differences in backgrounds and experiences, the three are connected, as are their brothers and sisters in uniform, by the tragedy of 9/11. Their careers have been shaped by it. But that’s not their only bond. In the face of darkness, they’re fighting to do something about it. “When I joined, it was in the height of the defeat ISIS campaign, and I knew I was going,” Lepage said. “You know what you’re signing up for.” They’re fighting for a country that has its hardships, but it’s one they say has gone through a culture change in its view toward the military. Lepage’s father fought in Vietnam. He didn’t talk much about it. “He had a great military experience, but he had a lot of challenges coming back,” he said. “But he’s still so proud to say, ‘My son is a non-commissioned officer.’” Especially in Sumter, they all agreed, they feel supported. They see the impact. Lepage was in Baker’s Sweets recently, he said. “An old woman grabbed my wrist just to say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” he said. “When they say that here, they’re genuine.”

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New Shaw Air Force Base leader talks leadership style, maintaining readiness amid a pandemic BY KAYLA GREEN


ol. Larry Sullivan thinks people, and airmen, bond in struggle. What better way to test that than to assume command of your first fighter wing during a pandemic? Sullivan took command of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base mid-2020 and used his first month or so in Sumter to get to know the squadrons, teams and airmen who comprise the Air Force's largest F-16 combat wing. His first focus was to ensure the health of the airmen. Readiness has always been the primary focus at Shaw. If COVID-19 were to spread throughout the airmen, that mission would be threatened. "Any minute, the phone can ring and we've got to get a lot of jets and a lot of people out the door in an extremely short timeframe," Sullivan said in the commander's office shortly after he arrived to Sumter, a room whose window offers a view of F-16s taking off, whose walls stood in that transitionary phase between occupants save for a few items and a framed photo of his wife and three daughters. "So, we need healthy, ready, trained-up people, so having a few cases on base that take up full units would stop that." 62 |

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Readiness in the face of a highly contagious virus has meant, like elsewhere across the world, the closure of schools and activities, "a lot of the stuff that makes it fun to be in the military, the team aspect of it." His path toward the cockpit of a fighter jet was not innate. Sullivan grew up in the Midwest and went to high school in the Boston area. His wife may be a third-generation Air Force servicemember, but Sullivan only had a few nonimmediate relatives with military careers. As he will reiterate later, everyone comes to their service from a different background and for a different reason. The service academies appealed to him, so he applied to West Point and the Air Force Academy. "I was doing an interview with a West Point graduate, and he said, 'Don't worry about the location of the school. What do you want to do after?'" he said. "I hadn't thought about it." Between sea, ground and sky, he decided.

The true mission: Helping others reach their potential He has spent most of his military career overseas, especially in Korea and Japan, and his perspective has led him to notice the difference in community relations and that having a trusted command team makes him excited to be in Sumter, a place that other units and missions want to move to. Hardship helps a team get to know each other, he said. He knows that beyond readiness, a mission's success relies on that team dynamic and the support each member feels. Part of Shaw's success, both in mission and perception, is its relationship with the Sumter community. Sullivan's wife had been living in Washington, D.C., working in the Air Force Reserves with the Pentagon while caring for their 7-year-old, 9-year-old and 11-year-old daughters as Sullivan was deployed on a year-long remote unaccompanied tour as vice commander of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base in Korea. They visited for Christmas. Within hours of finding out the family would be relocating together, Sullivan received an immediate email welcome from Steve Creech, a stranger who happened to be a former mayor of Sumter. Positive community relations don't exist everywhere. In Japan, he exerted effort in preventing the government from building a windmill next to the base. In Sumter, local government leaders bought an old family farm to transform it into a welcome center. In getting to know the base, Sullivan wants to find out what each unit needs and to offer support and resources toward solving problems. "The base has been so well-run for so many years. It turns out everyone knows what to do. You don't have to come up with every solution yourself," he said. "There's an entire structure here and specialists for every crisis we could have." Part of realizing he doesn't have to come up with every solution involves realizing he won't have the best answer to every problem. Surround yourself with the people who do. "If I can provide broad guidance for what the priorities might be in the wing, if I can make people feel like it's OK to toss up potentially bad ideas, to think openly and discuss stuff collaboratively without fear of immediately getting shot down or a negative judgment right off the bat, then I think the good ideas will actually come to the surface. And we can pick the winners out of those and then run with them and take care of the people who are actually going to do the work," he said. The third-in-command at Shaw, Command Chief Master Sgt. Steve Cenov, was stationed at Kunsan with Sullivan. They, along with Vice Commander Col. Ryan Inman, cover each other's blind spots, Sullivan said. Amplifying other peoples' voices and supporting collabora-

tion is how he describes his leadership style from the top down. He spent a lot of his career as an F-16 and weapons instructor, acknowledging lifelong learning as a critical skill. "The young people here show up and wake up, and they want to do the best they can every single day," he said. "Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, 'I really want to mess up today.' Nobody says that." People don't need their mistakes pointed out, he said. Focus instead on the why. What fell apart? What broke down? "If you're constantly on the prowl for other human beings to have an opportunity to reach their full potential and you're capable enough as either a leader in an organization or an instructor in a specific technical task, and you can find that, and you can help them grow and step up and see the joy they have in their own face and the pride and joy they have in their own accomplishment, and sometimes the gratitude they have as a result of that," Sullivan said, "that's the best part of the job." Sullivan thinks of each airman as being dealt a poker hand upon entering the base gate. He hopes they're all aces. Sometimes, there's a mix. A three of a kind and some duds. Other times, he knows there's not even a high card. He knows every person has had a different life experience leading up to the time they get their wings. Every person working on base has had various levels of training and experience. It's his job to understand that and to offer support and resources to help each airman be able to put all the chips on the table with the best hand possible. So that even when changing command during a pandemic, your hand can still win.

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A patriotic history

Sumter County has a hidden gem in its military museum, and it’s free to visit BY KAREEM WILSON

From street level, the small brick building looks like nothing much, but inside is a whole new world. Many upon seeing it for the first time are astonished at the countless displays and thousands of photos and pieces of rich military history. Here lies the home of the Sumter Military Museum. The Sumter Military Museum, located on South Harvin Street, is filled to the brim with artifacts, memorabilia and relics of the past curated by local historian and The Sumter Item’s archivist, Sammy Way. A former Sumter High School educator and coach, Way holds many titles in his life, working as the curator, archivist and storyteller who brings these inanimate objects in the museum to life with his in-depth knowledge of military history. He is responsible for more than 200 military uniforms and maintaining the preservation of more than 7,000 photos and 8,000 pieces of memorabilia, including caps, airplane models, flags and documents. The museum started as a simple school project to have a remembrance for fallen soldiers from Sumter County. Way eventually realized the significance of military-related activity in a town full of military presence. For him, what started as a small project eventually turned into a monument for a vast array of military history and Way’s knowledge.

From a soldier’s gas mask from World War I to an original Tuskegee Airman jacket to remnants of bomb shrapnel, there is no shortage of relics of heroes and memorabilia in Way’s museum. Medals of honor are displayed proudly in cases on shelves. He lets people feel the weight of a World War II gun and weighted vests the soldiers wore. He loves to show people a display of Maj. Gen. Billy J. Ellis, a vice commander of the 9th Air Force, Tactical Air Command, 64 |

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who was a close friend to Way. “He was a heck of a soldier and a pilot,” Way said. He loves showing patrons photos of the planes Ellis used to fly, including his favorite, the SR-17 Blackbird. All items are donated to Way and the museum by families who want to preserve their loved one’s history and role they played. It took him 11 years to organize all the material in the museum, and what’s there now is probably only two-thirds of the actual collection. He runs the museum with his wife, who is a retired nurse and printed out the photos to hang on the wall throughout the museum, filling the blank walls with local heroes who served in almost every war recorded in modern history. The museum is often visited by those in the community who wish to learn more about Sumter’s military background and is a frequent educational outlet for high school students. He welcomes anyone to visit the gallery for free. He has used his own finances to pay for some aspects and gets help through donations given by military organizations. He calls it an honor to the brave men and women, some who gave their life in service. “Please come and enjoy what you see,” he said. “For me, this is an honor. This is not something I take very lightly. To be able to do this, to me it’s very special.” He isn’t stopping anytime soon, but he hopes to find someone to give the reins of the museum to one day. Someone who also has a deep interest in history. Yet, for Way, this is a mission he is proud to commit to, as the museum is a remarkable testimony to Sumter’s military history.

Visit the Sumter County Military Museum

VISIT Admission is FREE

Where: 129 S. Harvin St., located in the Santee-Wateree RTA building Hours: Friday, 8 a.m.-noon and Sundays, 2-4 p.m. Admission: Free



Sumter High School defensive end Justus Boone signed with the University of Florida for the 2021 season.

S P O R T S & R E C R E AT I O N


TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL Sumter is home to plenty of high school athletes who go on to bigger fields


BY DENNIS BRUNSON umter has always had its fair share of prominent athletes grow up here and move on to perform on a grander stage. It started in the early days with Buck Flowers, an Edmunds High School graduate who was a star football player at Georgia Tech and ended up in the College Football Hall of Fame. There have been so many others since then who have gone on to achieve greatness, like New York Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Freddie Solomon, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Henry Marshall, New York Giants safety Terry Kinard and Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen. More recently, there have been the likes of current NBA Rookie of the Year Ja Morant from Crestwood High School and current Yankees left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery. And those are just the prominent names. There have been plenty of others who have gone on to nice collegiate and professional careers in a vast array of sports. Of course, talented athletes from a place Sumter’s size come in ebbs and flows, but in the last few years there have been several coming through the local high schools and going on to NCAA Division I programs. Sumter High School has been a regular recruiting stop for Football Bowl Subdivision schools in recent years. Defensive end Justus Boone, considered by many as the top prospect in the state, recently signed with SEC powerhouse Florida, while linebacker Miles Capers signed with the SEC’s Vanderbilt, and linebacker Deshawn McKnight signed with Appalachian State. That makes a total of 12 football players from Sumter High who have signed with FBS schools following graduation since 2016. Seven of them have signed with schools from Power 5 conferences – Boone, Capers, defensive back O’Donnell Fortune with South Carolina and wide receiver Tylee Craft with North Carolina in 2019, offensive lineman Zion Nelson with Miami and defensive end Eric Watts with Connecticut in 2018 and punter Pressley Harvin III, who in early 2021 was named to

The Associated Press All-America first team and won the 2020 Ray Guy Award with Georgia Tech in 2016. Also, two players who graduated during that timeframe and signed with junior colleges have since moved on to FBS schools. One, defensive lineman Jahkeem Green, played with Power 5 Nebraska in the 2020 season. Lakewood High School defensive back James Wright signed with Power 5 Kansas in December. Former Gator defensive lineman Tyreek Johnson signed with USC in 2016. Of course, Morant is the most famous recent basketball signee. He graduated from Crestwood in 2017, having signed with Murray State. Two years and a first team All-America selection later, he was the second overall pick in the NBA draft, selected by the Memphis Grizzlies. However, Sumter High has had two of its graduates playing at major college basketball programs. C.J. Felder is in his second year in the ACC at Boston College, while former teammate Isiah Moore is playing in New York City with St. John’s. Their two teams faced off against each other earlier in the 2020-21 season. Also, Lakewood has had two players sign with Division 1 schools in the last couple of years. Quentin Hodge signed with USC Upstate, and Jawan Perdue signed with Jacksonville State. Several local girls players have signed with DI schools in recent years. The most recent is Sumter’s Layken Cox, who signed with Gardner-Webb in November. She joins former SHS teammate Ki’ari Cain, who graduated in 2019. Sonora Dengokl, a 2016 graduate from Lakewood, played with North Carolina Asheville. Former Crestwood players to sign with DI schools include Shaquanda Miller-McCray with Georgia State, who last year became the school’s first female pro athlete when she signed with the league in Serbia, as well as Keanu Williams with Jacksonville, Jah’Che Whitfield with Winthrop and Destinee Jamison with Winthrop. T HE I TE M.C O M/L I FE I SGO O D |


Photo by Sumter County Government

Sumter’s parks & athletic facilities

are a great way to get out during COVID-19

BY TIM LEIBLE The coronavirus pandemic has limited how much people are able to do out in public, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck at home. Sumter has several public parks and athletic facilities that give people an excuse to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors. Sumter County is home to 30 parks, all of which are currently open to the public and including 24 in city limits. With the variety of parks around Sumter, there is something for everyone, including birdwatching, gardens, camping, hiking, biking, hunting and athletics. The most popular include the 150-acre scenic Swan Lake-Iris Gardens and a pair of spaces that come with athletic facilities in Dillon Park and Patriot Park. There are three nearby state parks in Poinsett State Park, Thomas Sumter Memorial Park and Manchester State Forest. Phil Parnell, director of Sumter County Recreation and Parks, said teams can 66 |

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practice at the various athletic facilities if they follow protocols that include social distancing, but for the most part parks are mostly open for people to come enjoy the trails and use the athletic facilities at a smaller scale. Campgrounds, like those at Mill Creek Park, are available, but the department isn’t taking rentals while the pandemic is still a risk. “Our parks are open. We just ask for people to social distance and, of course, stay away from large crowds,” Parnell said. “We’re not doing any rentals now since the numbers have gone back up (as of winter).” The Sumter County Recreation and Parks Department normally runs a youth basketball season in the winter, but they were forced to put that on hold. It has also closed its indoor recreation facilities. Reopening offerings throughout the year will depend on COVID-19 trends, and it’s best to follow the department’s updates

to know what is or isn’t happening. While the department has closed community centers, there are still some great outlets for athletics outside of the parks. Two of the easiest sports to play while social distancing are golf and tennis, and Sumter has options for both. The Palmetto Tennis Center is one of the largest tennis centers in the state and generally plays host to numerous collegiate and United States Tennis Association events. While those large events, which are a massive economic impact for the city, are currently on hiatus, the Palmetto Tennis Center has opportunities to play. The facility hosts clinics throughout the week, all of which adhere to strict COVID-19 standards. Members of the public can also play at their leisure for free. The sport is naturally social distanced, but the tennis center has protocols in place for visitors using the pro shop and other indoor facilities.

“One of the best things is that it’s first come, first served, and there’s no charge to play recreationally,” said Susan Wild, City of Sumter Recreation Programs and Facilities director. “It’s definitely important to have this facility open to our community because they do get an opportunity to come outdoors, and tennis is rated one of the safest sports right now. It’s great for all ages to come out and play, and, living in South Carolina, we don’t really have a tough winter in most cases, so you can play tennis year-round.” Wild also oversees the Sumter Aquatics Center, which is in its regularly scheduled offseason over the winter months. The center was able to be open during the summer in 2020 and plans to reopen at its usual time this year on Memorial Day weekend. Alongside tennis, golf is one of the safest sports to play during COVID-19, and Mike Ardis, the pro at Crystal Lakes Golf Course, has seen that continue. The course is essentially open as usual, with the only changes being limited food sales. Crystal Lakes has also cut down on tournaments for 2021, but

Ardis said players can still play without much limitation due to the natural social distancing that comes with a round of golf. “It’s the best it’s been. Being open, a lot of people can’t do other things, so the business is really good,” Ardis said. “Because we’re in the city, you have to have a mask on when you come into the clubhouse.”

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A champion among trees

Swan Lake is home to the potential largest tree of its species in the state. BY SHELBIE GOULDING Some kids grew up wanting to be storm chasers, but two college friends and experts in garden cultivation and management grew up wanting to chase down giant trees. Champion Trees are the largest of their species according to a standard measuring formula based on trunk circumference, tree height and average crown spread, and the two friends recently discovered a potential candidate planted right in Sumter. Phillip Carnley, a horticulturist for Swan Lake-Iris Gardens, came upon a rare, giant Loblolly Bay (Gordonia lasinathus) tree that is expected to be the state's new champion or co-champion of the Gordonia species. "It was kind of a happy accident," Carnley said. "It was just kind of awe inspiring to see one as massive as this one was." Carnley found the tree in a swampy area off Gordonia Drive, which he thought was ironic given the name, on July 22, 2020. He said this one was massive in comparison to what he has seen of this species. Just a week after discovering the giant, Carnley took his friend, Chase Smoak, a horticulturist serving the Clemson University Extension Office covering Sumter, Clarendon and Lee counties, to measure the tree. An American native, the Loblolly Bay reaches an average height of 35-60 feet, according to a plant profile from the University of Florida. According to the South Carolina Champion Tree database, the current Loblolly Bay state Champion Tree is based in Aiken County, measured with a circumference of 68.4 inches, a height of 82 feet and a crown spread of 38 feet. Carnley and Smoak measured the Gordonia in Sumter with a circumference of 88 inches, a height of 81 feet and a crown spread of 33.5 feet. The two immediately realized they found a Gordonia that reached Champion Tree status and nominated it immediately. Sumter's tree could be considered a co-champion because it is within a 5-point difference of its competitor, according to Smoak, but regardless of its rank, he and Carnley are just glad to have found such an amazing giant. Smoak said if horticulturists love one thing, it's finding large trees, and to be able to find a potential state or national Champion Tree is even better. "For somebody to be able to find a Cham68 |

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pion Tree in their lifetime alone, that's an accomplishment," Smoak said. The two friends have known each other since attending Clemson, and they've been pushing each other in their fields since for the horticulture and the fun behind the job, Carnley said. This is one of the aspects that makes horticulture fun for them. Smoak said the Gordonia isn't the first potential Champion Tree in Sumter, though. Not too long ago, someone discovered a Magnolia tree that even made the national rank. "We had a champion Magnolia here in Sumter that we lost last year," Smoak said. "In fact, it was the second-largest Magnolia in the nation, but it got struck by lightning." Smoak and Carnley agreed that preserving and protecting large trees is extremely important. "It's important, to me, to protect these trees for prosperity. As the population grows, we see fewer and fewer large native species due to habitat loss and encroachment," Carnley said. "The value of a tree is relative. Each tree has its own benefits, whether it be economical or social or ecological." Smoak said there are many ways a community can protect big trees like the Gordonia they found. It just takes a bit of caring. "It's kind of the same thing with yourself. You always make sure that your heart is in good health," Smoak said. "The same thing goes for trees." Smoak said landowners wishing to protect large trees may benefit from installing lightning protection on the tree, correcting soil compaction around the root zone with the use of an air spade and proper pruning of dead and/or structurally compromising limbs, which often requires a professional for larger trees. A key point with any tree is that you want to keep it as stress-free as possible, Smoak said. Once a tree becomes stressed by factors like bad pruning or compacted root systems, it opens itself up for secondary problems like pest insects or plant diseases. He said if any landowner wants to help preserve and protect large trees like the Gordonia in Sumter, Clemson Extension agents are a free resource to the public.

Learn more

More information about South Carolina Champion Trees can be found at Sumter County Cooperative Extension: index.html

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