The Sumter Item Impact: April / May, 2024

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Diamond-Stackz Classic Organization grows far beyond basketball

Information: (803) 774-1200

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ABOVE: Travon Armstrong leads a lesson during a Diamond-Stackz Classic live session on Wednesday, April 3.

LEFT: Sterling Ta’bon, left, and Travon Armstrong, back center, have built the Diamond-Stackz Classic Organization to grow far beyond the basketball tournament they started in 2015 to remember their friend, Erick White.

Group marks 1st decade helping area’s youth

When Sterling Ta'bon and his friends hosted their first Diamond-Stackz Classic basketball tournament in 2015, they were just looking for a way to celebrate their friend Erick White, who passed away not long after graduating from Sumter High School.

Ta'bon had no idea just how far that basketball tournament would take them.

A decade later, the Diamond-Stackz Classic Organization represents much more than a basketball tournament, but their lost friend is still very much in the forefront. The program has blossomed into a home for youth looking to grow


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Welcome to the second edition of The Sumter Item Impact newspaper. Our motto for this paper is “Local News for Everyone,” and we mean it. We think having access to local news is not just important. It’s vital. To ensuring our democratic society flourishes at the grassroots level as well as simply improving our quality of life.

That’s why we send The Item Impact out to 28,000 of you, both homes and businesses. Even if you cannot afford a subscription to the 129-year-old Sumter Item flagship newspaper, or even if you don’t want to, we still think it’s important to know what’s going on around you.

Inside this edition, you’ll find a range of articles. Learn about upcoming

events. Meet our public safety officer of the month. Read about top storylines at the school board and places to eat. Stay informed on financial assistance programs and changes to the county’s business license ordinance. Get to know how one organization uses sports to create positive outcomes with youth, and meet the new F-16 Viper Demo Team commander at Shaw Air Force Base. The Item Impact also features columns from local community leaders in education and religion. This monthly paper would not be possible, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to mail it complimentary to you, without the support of all the local advertisers you see in these pages. So support them, and thank you for reading.


Long considered a manufacturing community, Sumter County’s concentration of manufacturing jobs is 17.2%, well above state and national averages. Health care and social assistance, retail, accommodation and food services, construction and education round out the top industry sectors in the county. Active-duty military are not included in employment statistics. The listing here is jobs within Sumter County and not necessarily where the worker might live. “Hot jobs,” or in-demand jobs with above-average wages, between 2020 and 2030 in the state include technical positions in manufacturing and numerous health care occupations and are also listed below. Some technical and health care positions are also “hot jobs” for Sumter County.

Call: (803) 774-1200 | E-mail: SECOND FRONT APRIL / MAY 2024 HOW TO REACH US 36 W. Liberty St., Sumter, S.C. 29150 (803) 774-1200 The Sumter Item is published each Wednesday and Saturday by Osteen Publishing Co., 36 W. Liberty St., Sumter, SC 29150, and delivered via USPS. Major holiday delivery may be altered due to USPS schedule. Periodical postage paid at Sumter, SC 29150. Postmaster: Send address changes to Osteen Publishing Co., 36 W. Liberty St., Sumter, SC 29150. Publication No. USPS 525-900 To place an ad, call (803) 774-1242, (803) 774-1274 or (803) 983-0786 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or email Impact Item Sales Reps Karen Cave (803) 774-1242 Devin McDonald (803) 983-0786 Mark Pekuri (803) 464-8917 Kayla Green Executive Editor (803) 774-1235 Jill Burrus Customer Service Manager Classifieds, Subscriptions and Delivery (803) 774-1212 Vince Johnson Publisher TO PLACE A NEWSPAPER AD Melanie Smith Assistant Editor (803) 774-1293 ESSENTIALLY LOCAL. AUTHENTICALLY SUMTER. THE SUMTER ITEM STORE Functional meets fabulous with these Sumter Item gift ideas. rector will be Herbert Johnson, director of several community choirs, including the Sumter Civic Chorale. “What's interesting is Andrea started it, and 9, at Patriot Hall, 135 Haynsworth St. Tickets are $10 in advance and can be purchased at Freed’s at 527 N. Guignard Drive or for $12 at Iris Gardens. But traditions are loved for a reason, so the studio couldn’t bear to part with its Santa’s Workshop scene. However, at the end of the show, everyone will return “home,” a new scene for the show but a familiar sight for audience members. Though Govier kept tight lipped about the sure-to-be grand finale, she assured that Sumterites will feel more connected to this year’s show. “I feel like people could see themselves [in this show], and everybody likes to see themselves in things. So, that's what we've done,” she explained. “It's not Radio City, it's Sumter With the revamp of the show, there will also be a return of some familiar faces. Govier, whose smile could barely be contained, spilled the beans that Sepulveda, co-originator of Jingle with the Arts, would return to the stage, not to sing but to lend her talents in instrument playing. In her place as choral dinow here I am putting it together and Sonja was a part of it, and now Herbert has her old job, so it’s come full circle,” she gushed. Govier also was moved by the willingness of so many community arts groups, including Lemira Elementary School’s percussion group and their director, to help make the vi“I just can't believe it — it is really extraordinary. To see something start to come together, and the cast is bigger this year than we've had it,” Govier gushed. “What's most exciting for me right now to see, bringing all of these people from different places together in one place at one time, and if it works, that would be my favorite part. The look of it, the sound of it — it’s going to be differSo, you don’t want to miss it! Jingle with the Arts will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8, and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. sion become a reality. the door. ent.”
JOBS BY SECTOR SUMTER % COMPOSITION Manufacturing 6,703 17.2% Health care/social assistance 5,659 14.5% Retail trade 4,734 12.1% Accommodation/food services 3,616 9.3% Construction 3,000 7.7% Educational services 2,991 7.7% Public administration (govt) 2,408 6.2% Administrative/waste services 2,246 5.8% Other services (except public admin) 2,132 5.5% Professional/technical services 1,129 2.9% Transportation/warehousing 1,113 2.9% Finance/insurance 873 2.2% Wholesale trade 736 1.9% Agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting 423 1.1% Arts, entertainment, recreation 374 1.0% Real estate and rental/leasing 298 0.8% Information 251 0.6% Management, companies/enterprises 214 0.1% Utilities 135 0.1% TOTAL* 39,036
* Does not include active-duty military at Shaw Air Force Base
and S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce
Industry machinery mechanics Self-enrichment education teachers Chefs and head cooks Multiple machine tool setters and operators Physical therapist assistants Respiratory therapists Aircraft mechanics and service technicians Dental hygienists Nurse practitioners Physician assistants Information security analysts Logisticians
Source: 2023, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Kayla Green

Patient Experience

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Education 3 storylines from recent Sumter School District board activity


After a lengthy discussion at the March 25 board meeting on the merits of a quarter grade floor of 50% even when students score lower, Sumter School District’s Board of Trustees said they want teacher input on the matter before moving forward.

“Maybe it’s time, before we go any further with this discussion, to have a discussion with the teachers,” board Chairman the Rev. Ralph Canty said. “T hey are the ones in the class molding our students’ minds. They know what is going on where the rubber meets the road. Does it make any sense that maybe we ought to be asking teachers what to do next before we even make a decision on this? It just seems to me the thing to do.”

All teachers will be able to offer their opinions and thoughts to a school representative, according to district administration. Those opinions will then be shared at a May 9 Teacher Advisory Council meeting.

“Teachers need to be keenly aware of what the issue is, and they need to have some process so they can feed their input into their representative from each school,” Canty added at the meeting.


After a unanimous board vote to ask Central Carolina Technical College for another extension on property to potentially build a technical high school, the college decided it will pursue its own options currently.

The college’s Area Commission of 12 members voted at its March 21 meeting to not turn property on Broad Street next to its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center back over to the local school district for an additional two-year extension.

A plan for a district technical high school next to CCTC’s Broad Street facility was a vision of the Sumter County Legislative Delegation for nearly a decade, but Sumter School District’s Board of T rustees and administration have never shown a full commitment to the venture.

“Sumter School District was granted a four-year term and then was given a two-year extension for a total of six years [with the property],” Central Carolina President Kevin Pollock said in a statement. “The district requested an extension beyond the six years the college already granted. CCTC’s governing board, the Area Commission, declined an additional extension at their March meeting to allow the college to explore other options for the property.”

According to Misty Hatfield, CCTC’s vice president for institutional advancement, the college has funding now to potentially house all its industrial programs at the manufacturing technology training center at 853 Broad St.

Another option for the college, she said, could be to expand the mechatronics program and other programs at the center to enroll more students.


In district moves, Marlon Dantzler is the district’s new director of transportation, which is a new position.

Last month, Chief Human Resources Officer John Kuomus left the district for a similar post in Richland School District 1.


Because of what we know of the brain, we can be mindful of how we welcome others

Our brains have a singular purpose — to keep us alive.

Neural processes in our brain scan our environments for “features that are safe, dangerous and life threatening,” an unconscious action psychologist and neuroscientist Stephen Porges has called neuroception. This constant scanning for threats developed a negativity bias in humans, which means we pay more attention to negative thoughts, emotions and social interactions than positive ones. Just think about it, when hunters on the savanna plains of Africa sensed danger (e.g., that looks suspiciously like a lion waiting in tall g rass) and retreated, they survived a little longer, even if there was no lion. Paying attention to negative features paid off in a real way.

In modern society, we are less worried about immediate physical threats, yet our negativity bias remains, which is the reason fatalistic news and cynical social media posts hold our attention. What was once a wholly useful feature can now, in a more advanced world, become a bug. Today, “threats,” not lions, often lay hidden in the long grass of social interactions: Will I be accepted at this new church? Will I know anyone at this party? Will my peers think I’m stupid if I give the wrong answer? What if I give my best effort and it’s not good enough — will my friends laugh at me?

So preachers, party hosts and educators, take note.

If our parishioners, guests and students are always scanning for threats and their brains bend toward negativity, then it is our job to provide “cues of safety.” Our goal is to “cue”

people’s parasympathetic nervous system (i.e., “rest and digest”) and avoid engaging their sympathetic nervous system (i.e., “flight, fight, freeze”). We cannot remove every threat, nor would we want to, but we can explicitly assist in this process. For example, Jesus began with love. Leading with judgment would likely have scared sinners off or created a conflict. Good party hosts expertly guide guests to people they already know or people they are likely to enjoy (we’ve all experienced how our bodies relax once we’ve connected with someone we know at a big party). And expert educators lead with relationship first. They get to know their students, they set behavioral expectations for the classroom (to manage peer interactions and avoid threats like bullying), and then, when their students feel safe to take risks, they stretch their cognitive, artistic and athletic abilities. Without psychological safety, students can’t reach their full potential.

The easiest way to get this right is to keep a “beginner’s mindset.” What would I have appreciated when I walked through the door of that church, country club or classroom for the first time? What did I want to know? What made me feel comfortable? What I love about this work in mind, brain and education research is how it helps us be more compassionate toward and responsive to the actual experience of others. Because we understand that our brains skew negatively, we can be mindful of and intentional with how we welcome others into new spaces.

Brent Kaneft is head of school at Wilson Hall.

Brent Kaneft


East Red Bay Road bridge maintenance set to be completed in 2025, penny tax prep continues

The East Red Bay Road bridge over Turkey Creek has been out of commission for a while.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation deemed it unsafe, closed it and issued a detour.

Ken Martin of SCDOT said during the Feb. 16 Sumter Urban Area Transportation Policy Committee meeting that it is set to open in June 2025.

The bridge even made its way onto the March 19 Sumter City Council agenda for the city to reimburse SCDOT for $304,096.64 for the "shared cost of the utility relocation for the Red Bay Road Bridge Replacement Project at Turkey Creek," according to public documents.

"When you hear 'DOT project,' you think DOT is going to fund it and take care of it, but we have a significant portion in this as well, which is our utilities," City of Sumter Mayor David Merchant said during the meeting.

The bridge closure made its way into conversation at the county level as well. According to Chairman Jim McCain, complications with the project stem from the bridge being over wetlands and having a major gas line running through it.



Sumter County officials have named six locals to the 2024 Capital Penny Sales Tax Commission.

Documents detail what area each person represents as well as race and gender.

— Herb McClary represents Sumter County and is a Black man.

— David Bagwell represents Sumter County and is a white man.

— Traci Nelson represents Sumter County and is a white woman.

— Earl Wilson represents the City of Sumter and is a Black man.

— Kimberly Rauschenbach rep-

resents the City of Sumter and is a white woman.

— Nancy Williams represents the town of Mayesville and is a Black woman.

If the Capital Penny Sales Tax, also called the Penny for Progress initiative, gets a majority approval from voters this November, there will be an added charge of 1% of the sales tax imposed that will fund capital projects, and it will be active for no more than seven years if voters approve it.

This added charge of 1% of the sales tax would apply to most items except non-prepared food items (groceries), prescription drugs and medical supplies.

The Sumter EDGE will be heading up the marketing and advertising campaign for the penny tax initiative.

"That has to be done with the private sector," Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon said about having a promotional campaign for the penny. "[Government officials] can obviously advocate for the penny, but

we cannot spend any public resources on that effort."

The Sumter EDGE is a 501c6 organization under Sumter Economic Development. "[The Sumter EDGE] will be leading the charge on the education and marketing efforts for the optional Penny Sales Tax for the November 2024 ballot," Erika Williams, communications and strategic initiatives manager for Sumter Economic Development, told The Sumter earlier this year. "Plans have yet to be finalized how the EDGE will move forward with this task as they wait for the commission to be formed and the full project list to be developed."

The penny was voted down in 2022 by a small margin, according to earlier reporting from The Item. The penny sales tax was active for 14 years before 50.84%, or 13,909 people, voted against the third Capital Penny Sales Tax.

The first referendum funded 16 projects and ushered in a $75 million boost to the county's economy, and the second funded 28 projects and cost $75.6 million. The projects fell under four categories: public safety, infrastructure and facilities, transportation and quality of life.

The third penny that was voted down in 2022 was projected to rake in $117 million during seven years to fund 34 projects at a total of $107,266,500 in projected revenue; the remaining $10 million was to be used as a "cushion."

If it had been approved, the penny would have paid for projects involving public safety, roads, park improvements, blight removal and more.

Because it was voted down in 2022, the penny stopped showing up on Sumterites' receipts in April 2023. And if it's approved this year, collections will start in May 2025.

Santee-Lynches is partnering with area counties to help qualifying renters with financial assistance

People living in Sumter, Clarendon, Lee or Kershaw counties may be eligible for rental assistance.

These county governments are partnering with Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments to help meet the needs of locals in financial crisis.

The Santee-Lynches Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program is for people living in one of these four counties who are low to moderate income and meet one of the following qualifications:

Visit www. santeelynchescog. org/TBRA or contact Shekia Harvin at (803) 774-1311 or

— 18 years or older;

— Married;

— A military veteran;

— Have at least one dependent.

All applicants must have a one-year lease because month to month is not accepted.

The application process, according to the Santee-Lynches website, takes at least 30 to 45 days and includes completion of the online application and agreement, verification of all income sources, landlord involvement and more.

Payments are made via check directly to the landlord for one year.

To find more information and apply, visit Shekia Harvin with the program can be reached at (803) 774-1311 or


Government Changes to Sumter County business license ordinance lessen barriers to reentry for those with convictions

Late last year, City of Sumter officials tightened the grounds under which a business license could be denied, revoked or suspended as it relates to people with past convictions.

This decision sparked conversation at the county level, too, but county leaders took a different approach, and now Sumter County's business license ordinance has looser grounds under which a business license could be denied, revoked or suspended as it relates to locals with past criminal convictions.

Sumter County Council unanimously approved on third and final reading changes to the county's business license ordinance, including changing

10 years to three years and altering the language to clarify the types of offenses that could prevent someone from having a business license from the county. Changes also clarify that the wrongdoing done within the last three years must be directly related to the type of business the applicant or licensee wishes to operate.

The amended ordinance reads as follows:

"The license official may deny a license to an applicant when the license

official determines [that the] applicant, licensee, prior licensee or the person in control of the business has been convicted within the last three years of a crime directly related to a business enterprise for which the license is sought; The applicant, licensee, prior licensee or the person in control of the business has engaged in nuisance activities directly related to a business enterprise for which the license is sought in the County or in another jurisdiction; The applicant, licensee or the person in control of the business has actual knowledge or notice of any person or employee of the licensee that has committed a crime on the business premises or has permitted any person or employee of the licensee to engage in the unlawful sale of merchandise or prohibited goods on the business premises and has not taken remedial measures necessary to correct such activity."

Before these changes, the county's ordinance allowed the license official to deny, suspend or revoke a business license if the applicant or licensee has been convicted of a business-related crime within the past 10 years. It also stated that a business license may be revoked, suspended or denied if the applicant or business owner "has engaged in an unlawful activity or nuisance related to the business or to a similar business in the county or in another jurisdiction."

Before the City of Sumter passed its amendment to the ordinance in September, the city could deny, suspend

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or revoke a business license if the applicant or licensee had been convicted of a business-related crime within the past 10 years, but now, after the change, crimes unrelated to the business could also bar someone from keeping or applying for a business license in the City of Sumter.

Verbiage that could bar people with criminal convictions from owning and operating businesses is not found in every county in the state, but there are business-related hurdles such people face throughout the country as is.

According to the RAND Corp. (its name was derived from the phrase "research and development"), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that challenges public policy to promote equal rights, business owners with criminal records already struggle to benefit from federal assistance programs.

For example, the Paycheck Protection Program, which was a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, helped businesses with less than 500 employees survive the

pandemic, but small business owners with criminal records were ineligible to receive money from it at first.

Then federal courts ruled this stipulation unlawful, according to an article from the American Civil Liberties Union.

In short, business owners with criminal convictions are having to overcome hurdles on a federal level and at the local level because of ordinances such as the ones the City of Sumter and Sumter County have that could bar some Sumterites with criminal convictions from having a business license, though county officials have now lessened the barriers.


1.2 million South Carolinians have criminal convictions, according to data from, and not all of them live in municipalities with this kind of ordinance, but many do.

City of Sumter Mayor David Merchant and Sumter County Council Chairman Jim McCain have confirmed that neither the county nor the city has had any business license denials.

As of late February, the number of active businesses in the City of Sumter is 3,868, and in the county, there are 3,066 active businesses.

In fact, both ordinances do not require that the city nor county deny a business license on account of a recent criminal conviction.

The language of the ordinances as they stand today does provide, however, the city and county with the option to deny, revoke or suspend a business license on account of a recent criminal conviction.

City attorney Danny Crowe pointed out that the ordinance uses the word "may" instead of "shall" when it says that the "license official may deny a license to an applicant," so it still gives room for Sumterites with recent criminal convictions to be approved to operate businesses in city limits, according to earlier reporting.

Sumter County's business license ordinance also uses "may" and not "shall."

In short, these ordinances that could bar Sumterites with recent criminal convictions from owning businesses do exist, but as of now, they have not prevented any Sumterites with recent criminal convictions that have applied for business licenses from operating businesses.

Both the county and the city state in their ordinances that anyone who is denied, revoked or suspended of a business license has the right to appeal to council.


Get to know

Committed to the community:

Meet Sumter PD’s Lt. Tyshica Gayle

From an early age, Sumter Police Department’s Lt. Tyshica Gayle knew she wanted to serve her community, to don a uniform that, while stylish, meant more than being part of a team. It means being at the forefront of protecting and preserving the beauty and integrity of her community, her country and all its comrades. And it all began nearly 29 years ago.

1995 — Gayle graduates from Hillcrest High School

As the oldest of five in her family, Gayle always felt like “the boss” and an “authority figure,” ensuring her siblings were taken care of while their parents were at work. Growing up in Wedgefield, though Gayle had little in-

teraction with law enforcement, she knew “I wanted to go in law enforcement” and to provide that same tender love and care to her fellow Sumterites. But things didn't go according to plan.

1996 — Gayle enters basic training for the United States Army Reserve

1997–98 — Gayle is deployed to serve in the Peace Mission between Bosnia and Hungary

1998–2002 — Gayle returns home to attend Morris College while also

working retail at Lady Footlocker

At this time, Gayle was pregnant with her now 21-year-old son. Her priorities changed, meaning she once again put her hopes of a career in law enforcement on the back burner.

2004-05 — Gayle is deployed again and then returns home

“When I came back in ’05, I was like, ‘No more retail,’” Gayle said. It was at that time Assistant Chief Jeffery Jackson worked as a mall security officer.

Lt. Tyshica Gayle is seen at the Sumter Police Department headquarters on Wednesday, March 27.

Aware of Gayle’s desire to work in law enforcement, he asked, “What are you going to do with that degree, girl?” Right then and there, Gayle felt the opportunity to finally pursue the career she always dreamed of had come, and after encouragement from Jackson to join the force, Gayle submitted her application.

May 2005 — Gayle is hired by Sumter Police Department

A “people’s person by nature,” Gayle

PHOTO PROVIDED Gayle upon entering the United States Army Reserve out of high school.
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can strike up a conversation with anyone. However, her years in the department taught her a lot about patience. In the Army, you never question your leadership.

“If they gave you an order, told you to do something, you follow through with it,” Gayle explained. "So now in today's society, it's not that the kids are being disrespectful, they just want to know why. That was something I had to learn and realize there wasn't any malice behind it; they just wanted to know."

Alongside invaluable life lessons, Gayle only immersed herself more in her community while on patrol. She enjoyed South Sumter, oftentimes preferring a walk through the neighborhood over a drive and afternoons spent perched on the porches of residents, sharing sweet conversations and making even sweeter memories.

“I had my elderly people I would go by and see. I had one lady that lived off Alice Drive, Ms. Rayner; on Sundays, I would go shampoo her hair. If she needed something from the grocery store, I would go do that. I had another young lady who lives on South Main Street –– Ms. Brown ––I would go by and check on her, so I really built a lot of rapport with the people in the community.”

Gayle couldn’t have done it without the women who inspired her. Joining the force under the leadership of former Police Chief Patty Patterson and being trained by Lt. Cerdetrica Furman –– both Black women, both equally inspiring –– Gayle “felt good about her chances of being an effective leader, when the time was right."

“She is willing to learn, and she has no problem telling you how she feels,” Furman commented about Gayle’s qualities. Though Gayle took some shaping, Furman assured that Gayle was destined for greatness since she walked through those doors.

Present — Gayle serves as recruiter for police department for sworn and non-sworn positions

And now, she is responsible for shaping the next generation of officers as lieutenant in the Administrative Services Division. Recruiting dispatch personnel, school crossing guards, officers and so on for nearly 11 years has been Gayle’s greatest joy.

“From beginning to end, my greatest joy is telling someone, ‘Hey, you’ve been selected to proceed to the next step in the process,’” she said. “That gives me the greatest joy because people that did not think that they could achieve it or didn’t have a chance, they were able to.”

“We’re still a full-service police department, and we still do a lot of community service, but it was just different back then,” Gayle shared. “I would just want the public to know that we're human, and we have feelings, too. We have a job to do, and they've entrusted us to do that job.”

2017 — Gayle retires from United States Army Reserve

Moving up the ranks to sergeant,

The majority of the applicants, especially those who are African American, Gayle said, grow up fearing law enforcement — as people and as a profession. Over time, that perception hinders them from seeking law enforcement when they’re in trouble or looking for a way to serve their community. To that, Gayle has a few choice words.

“Don't be afraid. If this is what you want to do, pursue it,” she encouraged. “But you’ve got to have a passion for it.”

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Gayle attends community events across City of Sumter to interact with the public.

Crosswell Home for Children partners with CarePortal to bring hope and practical needs to families in crisis Community

Imagine a community where families in need are seamlessly connected with the resources that can transform their lives, potentially preventing children from entering foster care. In Sumter, this vision is becoming a reality, thanks to the efforts of a home for children. By uniting local churches and groups, this organization is making a tangible difference in the lives of families, offering them a helping hand when they need it most.


preventing foster care is not only more cost effective, but it also produces healthier outcomes.

That is where CarePortal comes into play here in Sumter.



Call Jessica Kaneft with Crosswell Home for Children at (609) 635-6635 or visit www.

Jessica Kaneft, who works with programs, support and development at Crosswell Home for Children in Sumter, said every child deserves to remain in a healthy, loving family.

According to the CarePortal website, each year, government child protection agencies are alerted to more than 7 million children who have experienced maltreatment. Because of these reports, more than 400,000 children are being removed from their homes and placed in an overburdened foster care system. A report of child maltreatment is made every 10 seconds, 76% of children involved in the child welfare system have experienced neglect, and Black children make up 14% of the total child population but 23% of all kids in foster care. For comparison, white children make up 50% of the child population and 44% of kids in foster care. Fifty percent of the homeless, 60% of child sex trafficking victims and more than 75% of the prison population spent time in foster care.

Kaneft said the federal government spends more than $30 billion on foster care each year, but research shows that

CarePortal is a connecting technology that drives action for local children and families in crisis, according to its website. The organization was launched in 2015, working with child welfare agencies, schools, pregnancy centers, churches, businesses, volunteer organizations and more child-serving agencies. "CarePortal has done for child welfare what other tech platforms have successfully done to disrupt entire industries. Just as ridesharing and home-sharing services have unlocked value and connection in places where it didn’t exist before, CarePortal enables 'care-sharing,' a method of collaboration empowering people to share the responsibility of caring for people in need," according to its website.

As of 2023, CarePortal operates in 32 states, and Kaneft hopes by the end of the summer, Sumter can bring South Carolina into the 33rd or 34th state spot.

Kaneft said CarePortal is harnessing the strength of community by facilitating a care-sharing network to address practical needs. For instance, the program can allow for a team to provide furniture for a single mother who has recently left an abusive relationship and is rebuilding her life. This initiative is not only strengthening families, but also supporting safe reunification, stabilizing temporary foster and kinship placements and expediting permanent solutions for children in need.


“It is an online platform that connects vulnerable neighbors with trained groups from churches in the community,” Kaneft said. “The platform allows child-serving agencies — school counselors, pregnancy centers and case managers — to enter vetted needs."

CarePortal operates in a four-step process — identifying, vetting, inputting the need and alerting.

First a child or family is identified as needing help by a teacher, a case manager, a member of law enforcement or other child-serving agencies. Next is vetting, which ensures all requests are legitimate and helpful to the child and their family. After proper vetting, a trained member of the child-serving agency will input the need into the CarePortal system, including demographics and what is needed — beds, cribs, clothes, furniture, groceries, etc. Finally, churches within proximity to the request are alerted to the need. Churches that have enrolled in CarePortal and have gone through their training process are able to mobilize their teams to quickly respond to requests, according to Kaneft.

“Most of these requests that are entered are for material needs such as beds, cribs, car seats and more,” she said. “The goal is to create a connection between a local church and at-risk and vulnerable families in the community with the intention of not only meeting their material needs, but also meeting their social and spiritual needs.”


According to Kaneft, more than 3,500 children and youth are in foster care in South Carolina. Sumter County needs 29 more foster homes to meet the needs of foster youth in the area, 15 of those for teens between age 13 and 17. As of 2022, Sumter alone had a child poverty rate of 27.6% — more than 1 in 4. South Carolina has a child poverty rate of 22% — more than 1 in 5. Statewide, there are more than 300,000 children living in poverty.

Training includes five modules of top-

ics for CarePortal’s foundational best practices for connection, understanding various types of poverty, recognizing trauma and providing safety, prioritizing dignity for caregivers, partnering well with agency workers and launching with a gospel-centered message and motive.

CarePortal is open to child-serving agencies, and Crosswell Home for Children has become part of that partnership to bring the program into the state. Kaneft said she hopes to see it up and running by the end of the summer, and there have already been churches and other child-serving agencies interested in joining.


Kaneft said Crosswell Home for Children has a trained COPE, or Cost of Poverty Experience, facilitator.

In America, 37 million people, including 1 in 6 children, live at or below the poverty line, according to the COPE website.

“The Cost of Poverty Experience is a two-and-a-half-hour simulation that explores the lived experience of poverty firsthand through the eyes of real families,” Kaneft explained.

It was "created with the input of individuals with personal experience of poverty, and COPE sheds light on these challenges and catalyze meaningful dialogue and action. Participants are challenged to rethink poverty, respond effectively and partner with those affected for change," according to the site.

Kaneft said COPE is a tool that will help a team by deepening their understanding of the realities of poverty in the country, improve practices and approaches to better engage low-income individuals and their families and build partnerships with the broader community to improve outcomes for low-income families.

For more information on CarePortal or to get involved, call Jessica Kaneft at (609) 635-6635 or visit www.careportal. org

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Healing Guatemala through prayer, teamwork and intentionality

Missionary trips are more than just medical missions; these trips are transformative and focus on intentionality, teamwork and gratitude.

Twenty-two mission team members, many from Sumter, spent a week in Guatemala seeing approximately 750 patients and working on construction of Bethesda Hospital. The team was sponsored by the local Trinity United Methodist Church, which partnered with the local Guatemala mission, “Healing Guatemala.”

that patients can come in to receive care for little to no cost. Grunsky said he has performed cataract surgery for some for less than $50. The hospital is still being built. It currently has one operating room, an eye clinic, a dentist and a small waiting room.

“To see what he has done in this part of Guatemala has been truly inspiring. He has helped these people in more ways than one, and in a way, they have probably helped him, too,” Grunsky said.

Healing Guatemala is a nonprofit organization established by the Rev. Dr. Luke Rhyee, an elder in full connection with the South Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, according to the church's website.

Dr. Mitch Grunsky, a family physician and a member of Trinity United Methodist Church, said Rhyee has spent the last 10 years in Guatemala for this mission. At first, Rhyee’s wife and children stayed in the country with him, but they would constantly get sick because of the altitude and differences in weather compared to their home in Georgia.

“After speaking with his family and praying to God about it, Dr. Luke felt it was his calling to be in Guatemala,” Grunsky said. “So, he has been there for 10 years, and he gets to see his family a few times a year.”

Since being in Guatemala, Rhyee has built Bethesda Hospital with the goal

From March 2 to March 9, the 22 mission team members, made up of schoolteachers, their husbands, doctors, nurses, law enforcement, veterans and one person with a construction background, headed to the country to begin their journey. Grunsky said although they were there to help the people of Guatemala, they ended up helping him.

“The folks in Guatemala, they’re just amazing people,” he said. “These folks are used to like nothing, no medical care, so they have no expectations. They are just so thankful. We in America take so many things for granted, and you have these people who live off of a dollar a day with the biggest smiles on their face and always remain happy with what they have.”

Two years ago, preschool teacher at Crosswell Drive Elementary School Ashley Bateman joined the mission group at the church. She said because she had no medical experience, she was nervous as to what she could do to help.

“But the group that was with me trained me in less than five minutes to be a triage nurse,” Bateman said.

A patient in Guatemala and a clinic worker pray after the patient’s exam. LEFT: The Rev. Dr. Luke Rhyee is the founder of Healing Guatemala. RIGHT: Dr. Mitch Grunsky performs exams for children. PHOTOS PROVIDED Mission team members stop to take a photo in front of a church in Guatemala before setting it up into a clinic. Many were from Sumter and were in the country March 2-9.



“This year I was fortunate to be trained for the Rosani [Lens] Project. We were able to examine, refract and correct the vision of hundreds of eyes and grant them the ability to finally see with a pair of new glasses personally made for them.”

She said her f irst year going she was full of nerves but “blessed beyond measure.” She said you can never fully understand how much of an impact this trip is until you experience it for yourself.

“I never fathomed that I would find such joy in every moment of life while serving the people of Guatemala,” Bateman said. "No matter what blessings we were given, obstacles that we had to overcome, how many pills we had to count, every moment was overwhelmed with joy of the Lord inside our hearts.”

may benefit or help them, which is how I got involved with Healing Guatemala,” Nelson said.

He said Bethesda Hospital is not like building a hospital here in America. He said there are hospitals in Guatemala, but to receive care, to even be seen by a doctor, they expect payment immediately.

“Dr. Luke is trying to give care to people who can’t afford it. Where one surgery might cost $2,000 here or at another hospital there, he is giving these surgeries for free or as low as $60,” Nelson said.

She said when she first went and every year since, Grunsky has told them to be intentional.

“Two years ago, Dr. Mitch told us to be intentional when we meet the people in the clinic,” Bateman explained. “This is hard when 50, 60 people are lined up waiting to be helped and you want to make sure everyone gets the care that they need.”

But she was always reminded to share God’s love, and after every exam, no matter the line, they would pray with each patient. Although there was a language barrier, the mission team members would pray in English while the patients prayed in Spanish.

While most of the team members came from a medical background, Al Nelson, owner of Home Solutions of Sumter, came from a construction background and needed help building Bethesda Hospital. He recruited a person with a law enforcement background and a veteran to help him.

“My wife and I are friends with Dr. Mitch and told us they would need help with the nursing, but they also needed a construction side of it that

Nelson said in America, you get construction plans. In Guatemala, he just had Rhyee telling him what he envisioned, and he tried matching Rhyee's vision to the best of his ability.

“It’s a really nice hospital. I know this year Dr. Luke was able to perform his very first C-section, but I know he has plans to build more, and our team is ready along with other missionary teams who go,” he said.

Nelson and his wife are going again in the summer but to a different area of Guatemala, and he said he is prepared and excited to help an orphanage.

“It’s not for the faint of heart. I mean, you really have to be strong to go to these places. It’s not like here, you can feel the struggle, but you see these people extremely happy,” he said. “It’s a cultural shock, but you come back wanting to do more for them, and I have learned to have more gratitude.”

He said looking back on this recent trip, “you wouldn’t think a carpenter, highway patrolman and an engineer” would be able to construct parts of a hospital together.

“But after day three, we stood and looked back and were shocked, like we really did this,” Nelson said.

After coming back from the seven-day trip, all three — Bateman, Grunsky and Nelson — said they felt they not only helped the people of Guatemala, but they brought them love and closer to God.

“You always wish you could do more,” Grunsky said.

He told the story of a female patient coming to the clinic this year, and once her exam was over, they found what could be uterine or ovari-

an cancer.

“Obviously if she was seen in my office here, we would go through all the ste ps, get her all the appointments set and start treatment,” he said. “But there you run into problems and ask yourself what you can do now because they don’t have the same treatment or care options.”

He said they sent her to Rhyee, and hopefully she can get the care she needs.

“I think the impacts are limitless, for the community and for us,” Grunsky said.

He said there are a lot of people in the Sumter community who want to help but just can’t take the time off to go on these trips.

“If people are interested in helping Healing Guatemala and Luke for all of his wonderful talents and abilities, he has a Facebook page where people can reach out and donate,” Grunsky said.

He said anything helps, and if anyone can go on these trips with them to reach out to a local church or Trinity United Methodist Church.

Visit the Rev. Dr. Luke Rhyee’s Facebook page at luke.rhyee

PHOTOS PROVIDED Al Nelson and a mission team member work on building parts of Bethesda Hospital. A patient smiles after receiving a pair of glasses specially made for her. The only operating room in the Bethesda Hospital in Guatemala is seen in March.


We can build a better community if we try a little harder to be kind

My name is Stewart Rawson, and I am the new pastor at First Presbyterian Church here in Sumter. It is my privilege and honor to serve this historic church, and I will look forward to working hard to maintain its commitment to this community. It is easy for churches to turn inward and think only of their own needs, but I will strive to be the best neighbor I can be.

Speaking of neighbors, I was traveling several weeks ago and had to fly. If anyone has flown lately, you can attest that flying has become a chore and a challenge. Everyone (including me, I must humbly admit) is focused on where they are going, what they are doing and how they are going to get there. The boarding process, when everyone gets in their assigned line, is chaotic to say the least. In order to avoid extra charges for checking bags, folks will put everything

they own in a small, roller bag and then try to jam it in the overhead bin. I watched as people lost their temper with innocent flight attendants and then turned their ire toward their fellow passengers.

As a Christian, I have committed myself to try my best to follow the teachings and example of Jesus. In his earthly life, Jesus instructed his followers to “love their neighbors as they love themselves.” Sometimes that seems easier said than done. In another place, Jesus tells his followers to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We refer to this as the Golden Rule. It is interesting to me that in my casual research I have discovered that every major world religion has this teaching in their sacred writings. In Judaism, the Talmud teaches, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” Islamic followers are taught, “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” And in Hinduism it is written, “This is the sum of duty; do not

do to others what would cause pain if done to you.”

My conclusion is that almost everyone you meet believes this to be true, or at least we should believe it to be true. I believe we should all commit ourselves to living like this, trying our best to follow the Golden Rule or our version of the same. Once again, as I said before, easier said than done!

How much different would our city be if each of us tried a little harder to be kind and to treat others as we want to be treated? How much different would it be to travel if we all paused for a moment, took a deep breath and tried to practice kindness? My hope and prayer for all of us is that we take the extra time each day to be reminded of these words and then to live as if they are written in and on our heart.

Together we can help to build a better community.

Stewart Rawson is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Sumter.

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It is important for caregivers to take care of themselves; these 6 stress-relief tips help

Stress doesn’t just affect your mood — it can have long-term health impacts as well if you don’t take steps to manage it constructively. For individuals who face the stressful task of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia-related illness, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is offering six stress-reduction tips for caregivers as part of National Stress Awareness Month, April.

“Family caregivers often find it challenging to make time for themselves, but being proactive about addressing

caregiver stress and self-care is not selfish; it’s essential, and it benefits both the caregiver and the person for whom they are caring,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s director of educational and social services. “Failing to manage stress increases the risks of caregiver burnout, depression and many other mental and physical health issues. Caregivers need to take care of themselves so they can provide the best possible care for their loved ones.”

Family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias are at greater risk for anxiety, depression and poorer quality of life than caregivers of people with other conditions and provide care for a longer time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

AFA offers these six stress-reduction tips for family caregivers:

• Be adaptable and positive. Your attitude influences stress levels for both you and the person you’re caring for. If you can “go with the flow” and avoid fighting the current, that will help you both stay relaxed — conversely, becoming aggravated or agitated will increase the chances that your loved one will as well. Focus on

how to adjust to the situation in a constructive way.

• Deal with what you can control. Some things are totally out of your control. What is in your power to control is how you respond and react to these outside factors. Concentrating on finding solutions can help make the problem itself a little less stressful.

• Set realistic goals, and go slowly. Everything cannot be resolved at once, nor does it need to be. Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations. Prioritize, set practical goals, do your best to achieve them, and take things one day at a time.

• Mind your health. Inadequate rest, poor diet and lack of exercise can all exacerbate stress (and cause other health problems as well). As best you can, make it a priority to get sleep, eat right, drink plenty of water and find ways to be active. You cannot provide quality care to a loved one if you don’t take care of yourself.



• Clear and refresh your mind. Exercise, yoga, meditating, listening to music or even taking a few deep breaths can all help relax the mind and reduce stress. Find something that works for you, and do it regularly.

• Share your feelings. Disconnecting

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The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s Helpline, staffed entirely by licensed social workers who are specifically trained in dementia care, can provide additional information and support for families. The Helpline is available seven days a week by phone at (866) 232-8484, text message at (646) 586-5283) and web chat at www.


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from your support structure and staying bottled up increases stress. Whether it’s with a loved one, trusted friend or a professional, don’t be reluctant to talk about your stress because that can actually help relieve it. AFA’s Helpline has licensed social workers available for caregivers seven days a week to provide support or even just listen.

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through mentorship and leadership. Ta'bon and crew have added a slew of programs, most recently the Empowering Kings program that is set to kick of f in May, to help lead the next generation to a better tomorrow.

“I remember being at the Miller Arms Apartments and like we were like packed wall to wall, but I think that was the first time I'd actually seen a group of boys together, and we were just sitting there crying. We're crying, we're mourning, we're celebrating,” Ta'bon said. “From those moments there, it impacted me to say we do need spaces in which we see each other, we see the human side of each other, we see how to celebrate traumatic experiences and then how to take those traumatic experiences and create something that instills life.”

It all started with a basketball tournament at M.H. Newton Family Life Center. A year later, the tournament moved to Sumter High, an important first step in the continued growth of the program.

“Erick’s funeral was at Sumter High School on that court,” Ta'bon said. “For those that knew, us bringing that tournament to the court that he played on and the court we gave him a home-going service on was a bigger thing for us.”

As DSC expanded its reach, they started small. Ta'bon’s initial idea was a scholarship fund, but he quickly felt it wasn’t the best way to help the youth of Sumter.

“I'm all for scholarship funds. I've been blessed to go to college, got a master's degree and all that good stuff. But as an organization, we sat down in maybe 2019 and asked how we can do more than just give away money to one or two seniors in Sumter,” he said. “That’s why we sat down and created the Diamond Effect Leadership Pro-

gram. Our goal was to create a community and create adolescents that understood their pur pose, understood their purpose within the community and create access points, just increasing possibilities for communities here in Sumter.”

The Diamond Effect Leadership Program gave DSC a foundation. From there, Ta'bon and company found ways to expand. They run weekly live sessions every Wednesday where they use sports as an entry point to teach life lessons. That program runs as a partnership with The Blueprint, a youth ministry at Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church. They then expanded to leadership combines, which Ta'bon compares to a summer camp squeezed into a one-day conference focused on transformative leadership.

“It’s the idea that both inspiring and motivation could lead to not only changing themselves, but being a change in their own environment,” Ta'bon said. “We really want to attack all things that affect our community.”

Part of that attack is making youth aware of all of the negative “isms” that plague the community and how to grow past them.

“Whether it's sexism, classism, racism, ableism, all those things that hin-

The Diamond-Stackz Classic live session, seen here on Wednesday, April 10, included a mix of athletics and leadership training.

der youth in our community, we just want to teach them ways to deal with that and then teach them allyship as well,” he said.

Growing up in Sumter, Ta'bon had a mindset that many of today’s youth can be clouded by. He spent his entire life hearing that to succeed, you had to

PHOTOS BY ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM Sterling Ta’bon, right, speaks during a Diamond-Stackz Classic live session on Wednesday, April 10.
Basketball will always be at the center of the Diamond-Stackz Classic, as Ta’bon sees athletics as a perfect entry point to today’s youth.


get out of Sumter. Those success stories weren’t rooted in his backyard. He wanted to change that perception.

“I found out that wasn't true at 24 years old. I think I found out I just wasn't getting the access to these types of individuals,” Ta'bon said. “I want our organization to be seen by those individuals that have gone out and done great work and they've been trying to figure out what they can do in Sumter and how they can like be a part of the change in Sumter.”

Ta'bon’s next venture, which is set to begin in early May, is another step toward expanding the reach of the Diamond-Stackz Classic Organization. Empowering Kings is a partnership with Fast Forward, a nonprofit that advocates for teen reproductive health and information. The program includes a 10-step curriculum that covers everything from consent to building strong relationships to health care.

what you like to do. We just want to create an environment in which once they came to us through that one avenue, we’re able to connect them to multiple avenues.”

Throughout every stage of DSC’s growth, Ta'bon credits White’s mom, Alecia Thomas, for allowing their fallen friend to remain at the heart of everything they do.

‘I want our organization to be seen by those individuals that have gone out and done great work and they’ve been trying to figure out what they can do in Sumter and how they can like be a part of the change in Sumter.’


Diamond-Stackz Classic director

“Shout out to her and her guidance and her being able to be the catalyst by saying, ‘Hey, Sterling, go forth with this legacy of my son,’” Ta'bon said. “Every year we’re resurfacing her son. Every time she hears this organization, she has to kind of go through that process of maybe mourning or missing her own child. Her having the strength to say, ‘Continue on the legacy. I'm going to continue supporting you all as an organization by the way you're carrying my son's name.’ It says a lot for us. We meet with his family often to just kind of have a conversation as far as what we're doing in the community about his legacy.

“We’ve been able to get a grant where we’ve been able to work with about 40 or 50 youth where they’ll learn lessons about consent, they’ll learn about their identity,” Ta'bon said. “Hopefully by the end of May we’ll have a few lessons going on and then hopefully create a few cohorts, and a year from now, you’ll see cohorts of these youths being impacted and working in your community.”

Of course, DSC is still rooted in basketball. The 10th edition of the tournament is right around the corner on May 18. Athletics will always be the perfect access point for Ta'bon and DSC.

“If you go in any neighborhood right now in Sumter, there is a gym in some shape or form, there's a court. It's something called the huddle, and within the huddle, no matter shape or color, we're here for the same fight,” Ta'bon said. “We wanted to use that form of sports to create these safe spaces, no matter the demographic or what they've done to say, ‘We see you, we value you.’ And from those moments, if you don't like sports, tell me

“Erick never met his daughter, Kylin, so by us having this tournament every year, his daughter gets to see the support, the love, the energy that her father had through us and the people that show up, and maybe she gets a little taste of what it was like to be around Erick and his spirit.”


Anyone looking to work with the Diamond-Stackz Classic Organization or guardians interested in signing up their student can email demyouthlead@gmail. com

"If anyone wants to work with youth or take part in the Diamond Effect Mentorship Leadership Program, we’re going to have what we call train the trainers, where we’ll be teaching trauma-informed methods of how to work with the youth of today. That’ll be coming out this summer," Ta'bon siad. "But if anyone in the Sumter community has time and wants to give back, they have an hour or eight hours a month, whatever it might be, we would love to hear from them."

PHOTOS BY ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM Sterling Ta’bon, left, instructs during a Diamond-Stackz Classic live session on Wednesday, April 10. Local youth enjoy some fun and games at the Diamond-Stackz Classic live session on Wednesday, April 10.


Thomas Sumter spring invigorated by return of varsity softball, soccer

For half a decade, springs at Thomas Sumter have been a bit light.

While track and baseball have been constants in the final season of the school year, the Generals had been without varsity softball since 2019 and soccer since 2018.

That all changed this spring.

Both sports took different paths to return, but the Generals are thrilled to have a little bit more hustle and bustle this spring.

“It has been really, really nice,” acting athletic director Tanner Brunson said. “It’s busy all the time. It feels like every afternoon there’s a home spring sports event going on somewhere. We’ve seen a lot of our kids that may not have an in-

terest in soccer come out to watch the soccer games or kids staying after school to watch B team and varsity softball.

“Attendance at all the games has been good. It’s ultimately generating more success because it does take a village to build a great sports program.”

As far as soccer coach Eric Leagones is concerned, a rising tide lifts all ships in the spring.

“I think it’s been great,” he said. “I honestly think the success of the softball team and the soccer team, once we get it out there and people understand that Wilson Hall isn’t the only avenue we have for spring sports now, I think we’ll see some enrollment based on the opportunities to play soccer and softball at Thomas Sumter.”


Softball’s return to the varsity level has been a long time coming.

The process started in earnest two years ago when they began the B team program. They didn’t play a full schedule at Thomas Sumter, but they laid the groundwork for success by drawing in a dedicated crowd. When head coach David Porter came in last year, he was

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excited to help expand the program further by adding a JV team into the mix with a full slate of games. He thought last season really laid the foundation for them to be successful this spring.

“We probably could’ve gone varsity last year, but we didn’t feel like we were ready for it at that point. We felt like playing a year of JV was better for everybody, and it was,” he said. “Having that year to build off and to step up into this year and playing varsity has been a lot of fun for them.”

That groundwork paved the way for early success. They won their first three games and faced some good challenges in teams like Ben Lippen and Orangeburg Prep. As the season continues, Porter feels the growing interest in the sport.

“There’s been a lot more excitement this year. Just building on the success that we had last year with the middle school and JV level, it created a lot of buzz around the school,” he said. “This year, it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve had a lot of students coming out to watch the games. The parents are excited to see their kids competing at the top level of high school softball.”

The softball team also has plenty of room to grow, as TSA has no seniors and just one junior. This team will have a chance to blossom in unison for several seasons, especially as interest in the sport continues to grow around them.

“We wanted to make sure we did it the right way, building with the younger girls,” Porter said. “We’ve got a great group of middle-school girls this year; we had a great group last year that are trying to do things the right way. Of course, on the varsity, we only have one junior, so we’re very young, and that’s allowed us to do things the right way. People are starting to notice that. We’ve

got a couple of new students, and we’ve got a couple more coming next year. Hopefully we can keep building on that because they’re seeing what we have to offer with our softball program.”


Soccer took the more direct approach. With a committed group of players this spring, which includes five seniors, they wanted to jump at the opportunity to host a varsity team immediately. Leagones has loved the response from the TSA community.

“There’s been a lot of excitement, especially around the faculty members who have been there for a long time and were sad to see it go,” Leagones said. “I’ve noticed that since we started playing, there’s more interest from the middle-school students. I’ve had several parents show a lot of appreciation for the outlet of soccer.”

The layout of the athletic facilities at Thomas Sumter has provided some interesting challenges this spring. The outfield on the baseball field is the football

and soccer field at TSA, which means the Generals had to get creative when making schedules this spring. Leagones has worked closely with baseball coach Leniel Gonzalez to make sure both teams get adequate time to work on their craft.

“We have a really good working relationship, and we’re able to communicate effectively as far as when we’re going to practice,” Leagones said. “There’s a great cooperative spirit between all of the coaches at Thomas Sumter. We all support each other and cheer for each other.”

The biggest priority now is sustainability, especially with a sizable group

of seniors and no JV. One major step in that process is hosting camps for younger students during the summer.

Leagones is amped up to hit the pitch this summer to draw in a new crowd of footballers, especially after an excellent start to the season that saw TSA win six of their first seven games.

“The early success we’ve had has been helpful. I think that sustained success this year will bring a lot more interest going forward,” Leagones said. “That’s kinda the thing I’ve noticed about Thomas Sumter since I’ve been here, kids gravitate toward things that are successful.”

Thomas Sumter Academy soccer members run through drills on Wednesday, April 10. CENTER PHOTO: Head coach Eric Leagones, left, watches Ryan Gregory. PHOTOS BY ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM
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Thomas Sumter head coach David Porter, left, talks to a player during practice on Monday, April 8.

Sumter’s 803 United making impact on national stage

When Ivan Sanders and Paris Tindal formed the 803 United 7-on-7 football program three years ago, they wanted to find a way to highlight all of the great talent Sumter has to offer. They brought together athletes from across the county, regardless of which school they attended, as a way to unite Sumter under one roof.

Now the rest of the country is starting to take notice.

The program has started to get national attention after some victories over bigname teams in some of the largest 7-on-7 tournaments in the country. Their 15U and 10U teams were both nationally ranked. In their eyes, this is only the beginning.

“I guess it’s just been progression, trusting the process,” Sanders said. “I think everyone has gotten much better this year, including the coaches. This is our third season in, and I think the preparation we’ve been putting in is really starting to show. There’s not one tournament that we’ve competed in this year where our 15U wasn’t in the championship.”

The 15U squad has gotten the most attention. They started the year by claiming the championship in the BEA Southside’s Finest. 803 United then jumped into national polls when they played in a Next Level Greats tournament, falling in the championship to former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith’s Level82 squad.

“From that tournament, we garnered national attention,” Sanders said. “We were No. 15 in the nation. We didn’t compete on that circuit anymore, and even though we weren’t competing, we were still in the top national rankings on Pylon, which is one of the top 7-on-7 rankings in the nation.”

The best was still yet to come. The 15U team traveled to Charlotte on March

16-17 to take part in a tournament hosted by one of the most well-known quarterbacks in the Carolinas: Cam Newton. The former NFL MVP issued a challenge to everyone at the camp that anyone who could beat his 15U squad, which had gone undefeated for five years, would get paid.

The stars from Sumter were ready to rock.

“They were kinda overhyped and cocky,” wide receiver Franklin Richardson said. “We came ready to play, and they thought they were just going to roll


over us. It came down to the last play. It was tough; we kept scoring back and forth. They didn’t go down like an easy team.”

803 United pulled out a 28-26 victory with each player earning $20 from Newton in the process.

“That was a big step for us,” said

Ja’Quaylen Dennis-Harriett. “A lot of people didn’t think we could do it, but we shocked the world.”

For Tindal, that showed the rest of the world what he already knew.

“I believe we have top talent in the nation,” Tindal said emphatically. “I don’t even look at that as a big-time matchup. I look at that as a regular game because we’ve got the same guys y’all have got. People say that was an upset that we beat Cam Newton. I don’t think that was an upset. I think that was God putting it together where we got to play each other, and the outcome was exactly what I expected.”

The victory was still an important step for the program, regardless of Tindal’s expectations.

“It’s big because they get sick of hearing it from us,” Tindal said. “We’re with them every day, so sometimes they need to hear outside voices. Rather than the voice, it was the actual action itself. We

LEFT: 803 United’s 15U team breaks down a huddle during practice. The squad has earned national recognition after a series of strong tournament finishes, earning a No. 15 ranking by Pylon, one of the largest 7-on-7 ranking organizations.
Franklin Richardson is one of the top receivers for the 803 United 15U team. BELOW: 803 United has won tournaments at every age level this season. PHOTOS BY ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM United practices on Thursday, April 4.



tell them every day that we can play with the best of the best, we are the best of the best.

“For them to actually get that win against them, it kinda reassures them that maybe what coach is saying is right, maybe the training we’re doing is right, maybe we’re on the right path.”

What’s their secret to success? For Dennis-Harriett and Richardson, it’s their bond as a team.

“We play as a team. Nobody thinks they’re better than another one,” Dennis-Harriett said. “We communicate, we talk. It’s just like a brotherhood; everybody’s family.”

Richardson added, “Trust. We trust each other to make the play when it’s time for the play to be made.”

Quarterback Grainger Powell came from Laurence Manning last year to compete with the elite talent from Sumter School District, and he got an early sense that the group could be something special.

“It was definitely different, but the energy they bring every day at practice, it’s been great,” he said. “I was

kinda scared to come out at first, but over the past two years, it’s been really fun.”


While the 15U squad has gotten the most national attention, 803 United has been successful across the board.

“The rest of our teams aren’t too shabby either,” Sanders joked. “We had a 13U champion down in Summerville, we had a 10U champion down in Camden. We had an 18U champion at our 57-team tournament. Everyone has been very successful this year, and I’m excited about the smaller kids. Our 10U is a really strong team, and that’s our future. They’re on the same trajectory (as the 15U).”

on the 10U squad.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s a good experience to meet these guys and see good things in them. We get challenged enough, but I think we have the potential to be great.”

The program’s overall success was also evident at their own tournament. 803 United hosted a massive tournament with 57 teams at Sumter High this spring that Sanders expects to see continue to grow.

Jackson Nelson already has a frontrow seat to great football. His dad, Roosevelt, is the head coach at Crestwood. But he loves the chance to compete alongside the rest of Sumter County

“To be able to get that done in the city, that was huge,” Sanders said. “We look for that to be bigger and better next year. And I think it will be because this year we’ve beaten a lot of really good teams, so when we reach out next year, I think they’ll be eager to come down and try to get some get-back, as they say.”

While the accolades are great, Tindal’s favorite part of the spring has been seeing every player improve. That success will then feed into the schools

across the area as Sumter County continues to prove it has elite talent.

“Just seeing the kids compete at a high level,” Tindal said of his highlight of the year. “Regardless of if we win or lose, the things we didn’t do right last year, doing it right now. Some of the mistakes they made the first tournament, not making them now. Whether we get a win or loss from it, just seeing that development and improvement come into play, that’s big.”


803 United is always looking to partner with people in the Sumter community, whether that be in the form of formal sponsorships or helping to pay for hotels as they travel across the country.

Interested parties can reach out to Coach Sanders at Carolinaunited@

“It’s a great opportunity to be involved with the kids,” Tindal said. “We always talk about a lot of negative things going on in the city and wanting to mitigate those things, but nobody is putting action behind it. This is a good opportunity to put action behind it and get these kids out in the world to see things they don’t normally see.”

ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM 803 United practices in March. 33 West Liberty Street • Downtown Sumter 18 N. Brooks Street • Downtown Manning Monday–Friday 10am–6pm; Saturday 10am–5pm Lowest Pawn interest rate in the area and best layaway plan in town. Always buying gold! Old-Fashioned Service Never goes out of style! Call Today! (803) 773-3379 • Oil Changes • Tune-Ups • Computer Diagnostics • Tires • AC Service • Brake Service & Repair • Wheel Balance • Starters • Radiators • Shocks & Struts • Belts and Hoses • Alignments 1109 FLORENCE HWY, SUMTER, SC 29153 SERVICES
Call: (803) 774-1200 | E-mail: REFLECTIONS
Sammy Way REFLECTIONS Have you seen these photos from Sumter’s past?
his issue of Reflections takes a look at photos taken across the Sumter area through the decades. Farmers
once located on Hampton
city water tank on Hauser Street
clubs meeting in Central School auditorium Landmark
White Church Around the Corner Lowder store
restaurant Little

The arts

Trio of Sumter artists makes a splash at ArtFields in Lake City

fellow Sumterites, as three of them will feature their artwork in this year’s festival.

It’s as if you nestled your way into Crayola’s 64-box of crayons. Everywhere you look, vibrant hues appear to reach out at you, drawing you in to the sights, sounds and stylistic expression of creatives across the Southeast.

Welcome to ArtFields.

As the South’s most engaging art competition and festival, ArtFields began in 2013 to honor artists with a week’s worth of celebration and competition in the heart of Lake City. The annual festival will take place April 26-May 4, featuring about 470 adult artworks and nearly 200 student artworks that will be showcased in more than 50 venues, including its gallery and stores throughout the small Southern town. More than $100,000 in prizes will be awarded, $25,000 of which is determined by visitor’s vote.

Trisha King, a California native-turned-Sumterite, and Julie Watts, a Chapin girl and Sumter artist, will both be featured in this year’s annual festival.

The town nearly doubles in size with visitors as they travel from all over to experience the living art galleries innovated from spaces you frequent. You can enjoy one-of-a-kind artwork as you grab a haircut, browse for the newest spring fashion finds or pop into an aesthetic coffee shop for your midday pick-me-up.

But when you do, keep an eye out for unique pieces produced by your

King submitted her profound artwork, “F Cancer,” to ArtFields for the first time. Inspired by the tenacity of her friend and sister-in-law in their fight with breast cancer, she began collecting green circuit boards from long-forgotten gadgets to configure in the shape of a woman’s bust. She continued to work on the sculpture for six years, even during her breast cancer diagnosis. Friends of King, members of Sumter Artists Guild, knew the appreciation that would come from showcasing on a platform like ArtFields. So, after much convincing, King agreed. Shocked at receiving her acceptance, she was equally as supportive of her fellow Guild member Watts.

Watts fell in love with painting in high school and sought to make a career out of it. Fast forward a few decades, and she now splits her time between being a devoted social worker and mental health counselor as well as an artist. She would take tips from Guild members on how to tweak her

work to make it better. For more than a year, Watts painted 24 6x6 canvases of vintage items, inspired by memories from her childhood, and lovingly named the collection “Artifacts.” Like King, the Guild friends encouraged Watts to pursue the platform her artwork deserved. After two years of art submissions that were met with “No”s, Watts finally received the long-awaited “Yes” from ArtFields. Both artists' work will be displayed in stores in downtown Lake City, and they have made plans to be among the hustle and bustle of the festival to witness it being admired by others. They will also do admiring of their own, as Zanadia Solomon from Lakewood High School will have her artwork as part of the ArtFields Jr. Art Competi-

tion. The youth competition is open to South Carolina students first through 12th grade, categorized by primary, elementary, middle and secondary. Winners receive between $75 and $500 along with three merit awards and one student choice award.

ArtFields is thought to be “living, breathing proof of the power of art. A reminder that its beauty and soul and energy live within each of us –– even through the harshest season,” according to the ArtFields website. And for these artists to prevail, make strides and reap the benefits of their hard work, pinching oneself a few times does little to verify the reality; it feels like a dream, and it's finally come true. For more information, visit

PHOTO PROVIDED Art by Zanadia Solomon, a Lakewood High School student, will be displayed in the ArtFields Jr. Art Competition. ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM Trisha King, left, and Julie Watts, both Sumter artists, will be featured in this year’s annual ArtFields from April 26 to May 4 in Lake City.

We’ve got it: A spring festival, shrimp feast, jukebox music and kite flying Entertainment

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the fun has just begun. If you're in need of a good time, festivities of all kinds are happening around town, so be sure to frolic through a few — or all — of them.

Shiloh Project-Lift Spring Festival

Shiloh Project-Lift plans a Spring Festival at St. John School, 4515 Narrow Paved Road, Lynchburg, on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to help fundraise for the school’s renovation. It will include activities for all, including three-on-three basketball competitions, kickball, cornhole, 50/50 chances, bingo, chances to win a 2006 Chrysler Sebring, grilled specials (A Taste of Shiloh), music and singing to

start the summer off in grand style. Political leaders are invited, and there will be something for everyone to enjoy. It will also include the grand opening for the newly renovated sports field, made possible through funding from the Central Carolina Foundation. For more information, call (803) 459-7463 or (803) 983-5550 to register for the threeon-three tournament.

22nd-annual Shrimp Feast

Come and enjoy shrimp dishes of all kinds at the 22nd-annual Shrimp Feast on Thursday, April 25. Hosted in the Sumter County Museum gardens, attendees can feast upon all-you-can-eat grilled shrimp, shrimp and grits, boiled shrimp, skewered shrimp and Lowcountry boil alongside barbecue, beer, wine and soft

drinks. The fantastic spread will be accompanied by an even better show from Johnny Hilton, Family & Friends. All-inclusive tickets are $40 for museum members and $65 for the public; purchase tickets at

The event will begin at 6 p.m. at 122 N. Washington St.


Saturday Night

Get ready to get swept off your feet, clap your hands and move and groove to songs from the Big Band Era of the 1930s-1950s. From Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey to Glenn Miller to Duke Ellington and many more, Jukebox Saturday Night will bring various styles of swing, ballads, chas-chas, waltzes and tangos through the instruments of talented musicians and vocalists on the Sumter Opera House stage. The show

will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 26, at 21 N. Main St. Tickets range from $23 to $28 and can be purchased at

Inaugural Kite Festival

If you’re looking for a unique, free outdoor experience for kite beginners and experts, the Inaugural Kite Festival will soar high in the sky on Saturday, April 27, at Patriot Park. The event will be hosted in honor of Child Abuse Awareness Month, and the sky will come alive with kites of all shapes and size, and professional demonstrations that will leave all in awe. Aside from the mesmerizing kites, there will be various activities to enjoy, including kite-making workshops, indulging in delicious foods and enjoying live music throughout the day. The inaugural festival will begin at 11 a.m. at 380 General Drive at Field 6.

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Isaiah’s top 3 theatrical recommendations for this year Entertainment

We are officially in the month of April for 2024. Here are my recommended takes for this year in cinema.

Depending on what the future holds, these picks are based on my opinion with their current standings. There are myriad interesting releases on the horizon I am sure will change these rankings. However, these are what I recommend for the viewing audience interested in quality features.


Based on the late Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novelization. My expectations for "Dune Part II" were massively high. I read the book during my first year in high school and fell in love with the lore, characters, unique imagery and various political, military and historically inspired themes. Denis Villeneuve returned to the director's chair in bringing this mystical, mesmerizing sequel to life with the ensemble cast of Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista and Zendaya reprising their characters. The purpose of the sequel is to improve upon its predecessor by expanding upon the lore, intensifying the character development and honing the rich, mythological nature that the cinematic world of Dune offers. It is truly a science fiction masterpiece destined to become an all-time

classic. "Dune Part II" is the perfect science fiction film.


I had no interest in this release after watching the trailer and seeing the poster. Admittedly, curiosity won in the end. This film is deserving of massive praise and adulation for its method of executing its innovative and creative format. David Dastmalchian portrays Jack Delroy, a late-night talk show host in the ’70s competing with Johnny Carson to achieve ratings superiority. Jack’s popularity and fortune begin to decline with Carson continuing his dominance. One strange night for Jack’s final show transforms into a

syndicated visual perspective of confusion, dark humor, horror and tragedy. The intentional method of capturing the atmosphere of late-night ’70s talkshow excitement was brought to life in absolute perfection. Everything from the fashion to dialogue, music, world changing events, and commercials of that period gave the viewer a sense of living in that period. This was a pleasant surprise on a cinematic level with realistic, raw and thought-provoking performances. I had a challenging time determining whether this or "Dune Part II" would win the No. 1 spot.


Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolf-

hard and Grace McKenna reprise their roles from the previous "Ghostbusters" film. Joining them are original actors Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, continuing the traditional journey of "Ghostbusters." The story picks up after the events of "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" with the Spengler family combating and studying the paranormal. After a series of unfortunate events causing a trail of accidental destruction, the Ghostbusters are facing the reality of becoming a relic of the past. Combining elements of traditional practical effects, innovative visuals and deeper character development, the film serves as a healthy reminder of the brilliance of "Ghostbusters." While nothing will ever recapture what the first two features brought with the true essence of magic in a bottle, I have to say its exploration more into ancient evil rather than ghostly entities was a breath of fresh air. What I appreciated most about the direction of the story is the obvious intent of introducing the concept of "Ghostbusters" to a new audience. Rudd, Coon, Wolfhard and McKenna once again display amazing comedic, emotional and organic chemistry with their acting performances. Filled with nostalgic memories, suspenseful action and quirky images, it is another terrific addition to the "Ghostbusters" franchise. Also, it never gets old hearing the charging of the proton packs or watching Murray, Aykroyd and Hudson work their magic on the big screen.

To watch Isaiah Ridley's movie reviews online, find him @Izzy's Cinematic Escape on YouTube.

A REVIEW BY ISAIAH RIDLEY WANT TO IMPROVE SALES? Call an Item sales representative to advertise in our many publications! (803) 464-8917 MARK PEKURI (803) 983-0786 DEVIN MCDONALD (803) 774-1242 KAREN CAVE
Josh Brolin, Florence Pugh, Lea Seydoux, Rebecca Ferguson, Souheila Yacoup, Zendaya, Timothee Chalamet, Stellan Skarsgard, Austin Butler and Anya Taylor-Joy pose for photographers upon arrival at the world premiere of “Dune: Part Two” on Feb. 15, 2024, in London.


Don’t miss out — 3 places to eat downtown and their fan favorites


Hours: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch; dinner is 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch; dinner is 4 to 9 p.m.

Get a “fork and knife” burger — you will need them, given the generous toppings — and take in the Sumter County Sports Hall of Fame of local memorabilia at the 5 S. Main St. eatery.

Sumter legend Bobby Richardson probably has the most memorabilia on display, followed by Freddie Solomon and Jordan Montgomery, according to General Manager and Partner Drew Estep.

Favorites on the menu include Bucko’s Pacific Islander Tacos, The Cannarella and Clyde’s Pecan and Cranberry Chicken Salad, he added.

Friday and Saturday nights are generally very busy with dinner and the bar.

On the generous portions, Estep said the restaurant wants people to feel like they get their money’s worth when they come in.

“We try to make a living, but we want the community to be able to come and enjoy a place and get a good meal for a fair price,” he said.

The take-out option is also popular.


Hours: Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch;

dinner is 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, dinner only, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch; closed Monday and Tuesday

The only fine-dining restaurant in the city is a perfect place for that special occasion but also caters to casual as well, especially with the addition of La Piazza as a regular service area, according to Hamptons Front of House Manager Mary Halverson.

Hamptons is at 33 N. Main St. All menu items are created by Executive Chef Raffaele Dall’Erta, she said.

“He’s very focused and dedicated to his work,” Halverson said. “He is also passionate about food and drinks and flavors and likes unique combinations and textures.”

Three favorites on the dinner menu include a Japanese-style blackened seasoning (Togarashi) fish with sweet soy and crab fried rice and is pan seared

to perfection, she said. The braised short rib is also a menu staple and is fall-off-the-bone tender and “quite a unique dish,” Halverson said.

She also recommends any of Dall’Erta’s raviolis.

“It’s an old family recipe,” Halverson said. “We use the extra-fine flour so it has a very velvety texture to it, and he is always creating a different sauce. It’s a very delicate procedure how he folds the raviolis, so they are all the different shapes.”

Favorites from the lunch menu include the pan-seared salmon, tuna poke bowl and chicken green curry bowl.

A baker in house makes everything on the dessert menu down to the ice cream, she added. Staples include the crème brulee, warm brownie and carrot cake.

“We want to cater to those special occasions, but if you

PHOTO PROVIDED The Cannerella at J. O’Gradys SUMTER ITEM FILE PHOTO Hamptons Executive Chef Raffaele Dall’Erta creates ravioli for customers using a family recipe. PHOTO PROVIDED
Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad at Baker’s Sweets
A salad is prepared at Hamptons restaurant.

Frasier Tire has become a Sumter staple over 50 years

Business Building relationships and a passion for work keep Julian Frasier going BY BRUCE MILLS

A total of 50 years in operation will classify any business as a Sumter classic, and Frasier Tire Service just celebrated its 50th anniversary locally in March.

Julian Frasier, now 86, is the business owner, and a key to the company’s success, he said, stems from its willingness to service any tire — car tire, pickup truck tire, lawnmower tire, tractor-trailer tire, school bus tire or industrial equipment tire.

He founded Frasier Tire on March 1, 1974, and it was originally downtown at 105 N. Sumter St. and near Tuomey hospital. The tire and auto repair shop has been at 310 E. Liberty St. for 29 years, dating to 1995.

A Goodyear dealership in Sumter actually dates to 1923 with R.T. Brown Tire Co. Then, J. Clarke Hughes was the local Goodyear dealer from 1941 until Frasier took over in 1974 and expanded the business.

The Frasier family’s association with Goodyear dates to 1932 when Frasier’s father began working with the tire company.

Besides two years of active-duty service in the military, Frasier has spent his entire 60-plus-year career with Goodyear. Stops have included Miami, New York, Charlotte and several other cities along the way, but he calls Sumter home.

“I tell people I am a Charlestonian by birth, Sumter is my home,” Frasier said.

The business is actually much more than a single tire and auto service center. The Liberty Street location also includes a large tire warehouse and an

outdoor canopy area in the back for commercial trucks. A truck tire retreading plant is at 304 S. Harvin St. and services 6,000 public school buses across the state for the Department of Education and some of the fleet for the state Department of Transportation. Frasier has two other tire and auto service centers — one in Columbia and another in North Charleston. The Charleston operation also services a couple plants with large industrial equipment tires, and the company also does 24-hour road service for fleets.

All those businesses require building relationships, which is a focus for Frasier, he said.

Long-time and faithful employees are also a key to success, and some have been with him for 40 or more years, he said.

Known for staying active and his personality, Frasier can be seen each morning riding his bicycle to the post office on Main Street to collect the company’s mail.

“It’s one of the few jobs that I am still qualified for,” he said.

Here is a closer look at Frasier Tire Service with Julian Frasier.

Question from Item: What have been the keys to success for Frasier Tire?

Answer from Frasier: “First, I must give credit to the grace of God. He provides for everybody, and His hand has been in this business.

Next is a supportive family through time. If you are in business for yourself, your family has to support you. If everyone is pulling in a different direction, you will eventually fail by the second or third generation.

Next is loyal employees. I try to treat people right. If I need to give corrective criticism, I don’t do it out there on the floor. That is what the office room is for. Don’t belittle people but save their dignity. I want them to know that I am on the front lines with them.

Operating in a wonderful town and community, like Sumter, is also important. There are a lot of towns with good people.

Then, a 50-year relationship with one of the world’s premier companies in Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

And, finally, having two ‘lieutenants’ — as I would call them. One is my Executive Vice President Kruno Cerovecki. My wife and I had him as an exchange student from Yugoslavia in the early '90s. We sent him to The Citadel for college. He can run this company from a laptop in the South Pole. He runs the joint. Kruno also does all the finance, insurance and taxation. As time goes on, I have just let him do it. At my demise, he takes over.

Then, my other ‘lieutenant’ is Chris Lee, and he is vice president of sales. He had 30 years in the tire business, and he came to me about three years ago.”

Item: How do you compete with all the big chains as a mom-and-pop business?

Frasier: “The big chains don’t do all the tires. They just want the easy stuff.

PHOTOS BY ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM PHOTO PROVIDED Frasier Tire Service is seen at its 1974 location, 105 N. Sumter St., near Tuomey Hospital. Felix Green services a vehicle at Frasier Tire Service on Wednesday, April 3.
Randy Bonner works on a car at Frasier Tire Service on Wednesday, April 3.


We fix lawnmower tires, tractor tires, big tires for earth-moving machines, everything. You go to the chains; we don’t even know they are here in town. I am not being facetious or anything. People’s grass is growing now since it’s spring, and you can see them getting out of their car here with their lawnmower tire.

To be honest with you, I can fix the big truck tire easier than the lawnmower tire, but you are serving that customer. Even our competition sends people to us. They say, ‘We don’t do that. Go up to Frasier and Goodyear on Liberty Street. They fix that.’

Next thing you know, you make pals with them. And then, the wife needs a set of tires, and they are back in here dealing with you.

We have repeat customers come in all the time.

Just like any business, we want to create a pleasant experience when people come through the door. When

do that, and it works.”

Item: Have there been any hard times in the 50 years?

Frasier: “Of course, I have had hard times. I like to tell people that I have been broke twice. Being financially embarrassed is when you look in the checkbook, and you say, ‘Whoa, ain’t doing too good.’

— your working clothes — on, and you don’t give up. That is what happens at a lot of places — they give up.”

Item: What’s the key to personal longevity?

Frasier: “A good friend of mine is Dr. J.J. Britton. He just stopped practicing medicine. But he is a year older than me. He told me this one time: ‘You got to have good genes, you got to take care of your body and not put a bunch of bad stuff in your body. And


WHERE: 310 E. Liberty St., Sumter

HOURS: Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

PHONE: (803) 773-1423

the other thing you need is L-U-C-K … luck.’

I used to play tennis for a long time, but a lot of my tennis buddies are deceased now. So, now I ride my bicycle every day to the post office to pick up the mail. I will also ride down to the retread shop sometimes, too. You got to keep your legs going.”

ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM Jeffrey Rogerson works to repair a car at Frasier Tire Service on Wednesday, April 3.
Julian Frasier rides his bicycle along Main Street to pick up the company’s mail daily.
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Frasier, long-time owner of Frasier Tire Service, points to an old Goodyear Tire advertisement in his office.


Baker’s Sweets Bistro and Bakery


Jin Jin Chinese Restaurant Hamptons

La Piazza


Main Street Tavern

Hyatt Place Sumter/ Downtown

Brubaker’s Café and Bakery


Sumter Original Brewery

J. O’Gradys

J. O’Gradys After Hours

Cut Rate Drug Store and Coffee

Jeffrey Lampkin’s Country

Boy Bistro

Sub Station II

Chinese Cuisine and Thai Food

Tony’s Pizza


Taco Bell



El Paso Tacos and Tequila



want to come in and have a casual, nice meal, I definitely recommend the lunch or the brunch menu,” she said. “With that, you get to experience the service, the flavor, the food, and not have to worry about breaking the bank to do so. It is kind of like a step in the door, I say, and then save the dinner for those special nights.”


Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Open nearly three years now, Baker’s Sweets at 119 N. Main St. offers coffee and cold case grab-and-go items but also a full menu of hot food with the same quickness, according to General Manager Kate Foster.

Signature menu items include shrimp and grits, the Farmhouse breakfast sandwich and the pecan-crusted chicken salad.

The main store on Alice Drive has been around since 2000 and is a Sumter staple, but the downtown bistro and bak-

ery is not too different, Foster said. “We are a little bit newer than the main store, but we offer most of the same things that they do,” she said. “All of their favorite coffees and pastries are here. We have a little different menu, and our atmosphere is more quick and casual since most of our customers are business employees downtown from the nurses in the hospital to the lawyers in the courthouse. So, we are really here to serve our fellow workers in the community.”

The bar top area is equipped with internet outlets along it, and — with large windows — provides a view of the old Sumter County courthouse.

PHOTO PROVIDED Bucko’s Pacific Islander Tacos at J. O’Gradys PHOTO PROVIDED
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Shrimp and Grits at Baker’s Sweets

GamecockGrafx printing class teaches life, business skills and inspires students to keep creating


f they can dream it, then we can do it” was the original slogan of the GamecockGrafx.

Originating in 2019, one may think the full-blown student-run graphics production company based out of Sumter High School would have been in business for decades. They can print just about anything, starting small with stickers and banners to now doing embroidered clothes and experimenting with 3D posters, among other things.

“Everybody in here wants to be

here. We have so many programs at Sumter High the kids can't do everything. I feel privileged that they want to be in this class with me,” GamecockGrafx adviser Brian Jackson said.

The program is split into two classes. The fall semester focuses mainly on computer-based graphic designing and image editing while the spring is handson, learning to work their state-of-theart machines and physically creating products for the school and community.

They’re completely self-sufficient with all the money earned from sales going back into supplies for the program. They rely very little on funding from the greater school and district, according to Jackson.

And while much of their work is merchandise for Sumter Athletics and the school at large, GamecockGrafx is

continuing to grow their network in the community working heavily with other schools and local businesses to create products for them as well.

“When I go to different high schools I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I made that!’ and then I'll go right up to it and am like, ‘Look at my work, guys!’” senior Journey Wright said. “People out in the community enjoy students coming up and saying, ‘I did that.’ They appreciate that students took the time to make their projects.”

While they’re not in the business of purposefully taking customers from other local print shops, GamecockGrafx is in the business of teaching valuable life skills to students and what it takes to run a company: from

PHOTOS BY ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM From left, Sanaa Devine, Laniyiah Singleton and Cainen Schnyder work on a poster for an upcoming client as Sumter High School’s GamecockGrafx class works on Thursday, March 28. The class was started in 2019. Cainen Schnyder cuts out a poster for an upcoming client. Jada Wright carefully places a piece of paper with a logo onto a shirt before pressing it on. A custom-embroidered hat celebrating Sumter High’s girls basketball team winning the 2024 5A state championship — their first state title in 40 years — is printed. A GamecockGrafx logo is printed onto a quarter-zip sweatshirt, one of countless logos Sumter High’s GamecockGrafx class can print.

use on Thursday, March 28. In this case, a poster of the seniors on Lakewood’s Track team

APRIL / MAY 2024 | A33



Fill the grid so that every row, every column and every 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 through 9 only once.

Each 3x3 box is outlined with a darker line. You already have a few numbers to get you started. Remember: you must not repeat the numbers 1 through 9 in the same line, column or 3x3 box.

ACROSS 1. Muffet’s title 5. Edge 9. Winter illness 12. Story opener 13. Food staple 14. Not your 15. Scram 16. Impersonated 17. Wisecrack 18. Bush 20. Edition 22. Skunk 26. Toward the stern 29. Festive party 30. Hole punches 34. School group picture: 2 wds. 37. Mistake in print 38. Pour forth 39. Enemy agent 40. Liberation 43. Bond 46. Greens mixture 50. Bask 51. History 55. Steak order 56. North American deer 57. Draft animals 58. Outer covering 59. Tricky 60. Fuse 61. Make warm DOWN 1. Model Kate ____ 2. Ruler division 3. Wound trace 4. Arrangement 5. Half of a bikini 6. ____ Van Winkle 7. Frozen cubes 8. The press, radio, etc. 9. Hazes 10. Hawaiian cookout 11. Longing 19. Swamps 21. Sky light 23. Slip-up 24. Run off to wed 25. Worried 26. Tread the boards 27. Soar 28. Touch lightly 31. Had been 32. Back talk 33. Messy home 35. Not hard 36. Couples 41. Plant again 42. Swamp 43. Avails 44. Void’s partner 45. Very black 47. Huron, e.g. 48. Soprano’s solo 49. Small ding 52. Have an ____ to grind 53. Beautician’s aid 54. Also


Inaugural Sumter Springfest deemed a success

By the numbers for Springfest 2024

$75K raised for United Way

2,000 beers sold 1,600+ people in attendance

200 Springfest T-shirts sold 6 vendors Downtown Sumter event will return in 2025 on March 22

laughter harmonizing with the music as you partake in good drinks, great food and even greater fellowship.

On the afternoon and well into the evening of Saturday, March 23, the inaugural Springfest –– and all its feel-good festivities –– brought 1,600-plus people into downtown Sumter for a successful good time.

Good times are hard to come by for some cities but not for Sumter.

You can almost imagine it: The constant shuffle of feet on sidewalks, leading eager eyes and ears to find out where the infectious beats are coming from. The slaps sounding off from high fives or solid pats on the back exchanged between family and friends. The

Hosted by Quixote Hospitality, the inaugural event delivered eight hours of lively entertainment in downtown Sumter, drawing crowds from across the region. Artists like Eddie Rogers, The Jake Bartley Band, Lewis Brice, Honey & The New Era Band and 20 Ride kept spirits high throughout the one-day affair. There was also plenty of food to go around, thanks to the event’s six vendors, Sumter Original Brewery, Hamptons, Side Bar, Cut Rate, J O'Gradys and Jin Jin. While the good times benefited attendees, their purchase of a ticket and all proceeds benefited United Way, raising $75,000 for the nonprofit.

“We could have never raised this kind of money had

it not been for how great all our sponsors were,” expressed Danielle Thompson, founder and organizer of Springfest. “We were very pleased with that many people attending, and what really made it special was how great the crowd was and how much fun they were having.”

Patrons who frequent the revitalized Main Street — from Sumter and surrounding areas — enjoy its sights, sounds and selection of food and drinks. But on a night like March 23, when the fun was amplified times 10, they were beyond excited to attend, ecstatic to experience and eager to witness it all again next year –– and so are the organizers.

Thompson said with the buzz and success of the inaugural event, Springfest 2025 will happen on Saturday, March 22, in the heart of downtown Sumter.

ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM Sumter’s inaugural Springfest was held on Saturday, March 23, bringing together the community for concerts, food and drinks.

Inaugural Springfest 2024

Sumter’s inaugural Springfest was held on Saturday, March 23, bringing together the community for concerts, food and drinks.

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‘My hope as the commander is that we will inspire everybody we meet to serve their community — whether they consider that to be their country or their town or their school.’

New commander and pilot for the U.S. Air Force F-16

Viper Demo Team at Shaw Air Force Base

‘It’s going to be an amazing year’ Viper Demo Team commander, members, community celebrating 5 decades of the F-16

nything that kind of went somewhere else, whether it was boats, cars, planes” is how Capt. Taylor "FEMA" Hiester described his fascinations as a kid. “I got to the airplane phase, and I never grew out of it.”

Now, as the new commander of the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, which is stationed out of Shaw Air Force Base, Hi-

ester will get to share his love of planes with the community, more so than he already has his whole life. The Robesonia, Pennsylvania, na-

tive, who’s been based at Shaw for a year-and-a-half now, will take his team, as they do every year, to air shows and audiences across North America, displaying the capabilities of the F-16 fighter jet. Their 2024 show season started last month and runs through November.

However, more than his excitement of showing off “the perfect fighter jet,” as he describes, is Hiester’s desire to connect with the communities they visit and inspire, both young and old.

“Connecting with the American public if I had to sum it down is what I would say I'm most excited for,” he said. "My hope as the commander is that we will inspire everybody we meet to serve their community — whether they consider that to be their

The U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team’s new commander and pilot is Capt. Taylor “FEMA” Hiester.
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country or their town or their school. I think America will become a better place if we can just inspire them to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Hiester won’t do it alone, though, as his small team will equally serve a role in not only preparing, promoting and executing air shows, but also serving as ambassadors for Air Combat Command and the greater Air Force and Department of Defense.

“I think the people of Sumter would be really proud and shocked to realize that it’s only anywhere between 8 to 10 people that make that happen,” Hiester said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the F-16. It’s a milestone special to many but especially for Hiester, who grew up with models of the plane his son still plays with now.

“To be in the right place at the right time. To have the good fortune to be the demonstration pilot when we’re celebrating five decades of a very special airplane. It’s going to be an amazing year,” he said.

A frame in F-16 Viper Demonstration Team Capt. Taylor “FEMA” Hiester’s office displays a letter from first lady Laura Bush and a newspaper article of Hiester visiting Reading Regional Airport and meeting the pilot as a child. PHOTOS BY ADAM FLASH / THE SUMTER ITEM Capt. Taylor “FEMA” Hiester works with Viper Demo Team equipment on Shaw Air Force Base recently. He serves as the team’s new commander.
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