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Publisher Tammy Clark Editor Heather Page Office Manager Tiffany Skipper Advertising Executive Mary Kevin Miller Advertising Executive Jordan Pupa Creative Design Tuesday Taylor

Contributing Photographers Jonathan Boatwright Deseare Grantham Jill Hindman Fred Salley Judy Quick Sharon Steve Roos Tracey Rowell Contributing Writers Gray Bostick Mark W. Buyck, III Linda Crowley Denise Cottingham Robby Hill Murphy Monk Sharon Norris Jordan Pupa Mary Ridgeway Donna Tracy Ziad Skaff, MD Mary Welch

Serving Florence, Hartsville, Darlington, Marion, Mullins, Lake City and the surrounding areas 2011-B Second Loop Rd, Florence, SC 29501 FIND US ON FACEBOOK

For advertising rates, call 843-687-4236.


This month we are honoring local women who serve our community. Our cover showcases the Junior League of Florence. These women have worked diligently to improve the lives of those in the Florence community and beyond.


VIP Magazine | May 2018







MAY CONTENTS 10 Under the Dome Families of Florence

12 Florence Community HillSouth iT Solutions | Robby Hill

24 Positive Pursuit

46 Happenings

The Chandlers: Adoption Journey

26 Developing Downtown Lake City’s Launchpad Winner

48 Time to Toast 50 Agribusiness The Lake at Lake City

14 In The Head Of Cory Brownsten

28 Balancing Act Chatham Place | Jennifer & David Lyles

52 Paying It Forward Tenacious Grace

16 Advocating Healthcare Addressing Behavioral Health Issues

30 Balancing Act Kelly Benton

54 Health & Wellness Moles, Freckles & Skin Tags | Ziad Skaff, MD

18 Business Spotlight New Generations Adult Day Care

20 Paying It Forward Foster Care Clothing Closet

22 Business Spotlight Bizzell’s Food & Spirits


VIP Magazine | May 2018

32-37 Cover Story The Junior League of Florence

38 Tech Savvy Coker College | Master’s Program

40 To Dine For La Victoria Restaurante

56 Fasion at Work & Play 58 Agribusiness Gardening for Birds

60 Finances McGee Financial Group | Dan Askins

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Sulzbacher Jewelry Co., North side of East Evans St., just east of the Central Hotel, c. 1918

Families of


The Sulzbachers: A Prominent Role in the City of Florence story by Mark. W. Buyck, III When the City of Florence was founded in the 1850’s, there was not a Florence County. The Town of Florence was in the Darlington District (County). The surrounding towns of Darlington, Marion, Bennettsville, Cheraw, Kingstree, and Georgetown were already well established; however, Florence was strategically located at the junction of 3 railroads. In the decades immediately following the Civil War, the Town of Florence grew rapidly and became the commercial center of the Pee Dee. In the late 1880’s, a group of businessmen and prominent citizens formed the “Committee of Fifty” to campaign for the establishment of Florence County with its county seat the City of Florence.

The Committee was successful in its undertaking and on December 22, 1888, the South Carolina State Legislature passed a bill recognizing Florence County. Isaac Sulzbacher (1844-1920) was one of the members of the Committee of Fifty. A German Jew, Sulzbacher immigrated to the United States from Bavaria after the Civil War. He was a watchmaker and jeweler and maintained a shop in downtown Florence. Sulzbacher was proficient in his work and he and his company were designated as an Atlantic Coast Line Official Watch Inspector from 1884 to 1929. Florence’s largest employer at the time was the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company. The railroad depended on accurate and efficient time keeping and undoubtedly Serving Businesses and Individuals from Florence to Myrtle Beach: the Business Law, Litigation, Real Estate, and Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys of Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A.


VIP Magazine | May 2018

248 West Evans Street | Florence, SC | 843.662.3258 2050 Corporate Centre’ Drive, Suite 230 | Myrtle Beach, SC | 843.650.6777

its employees kept Sulzbacher and Son a bustling downtown business. Sulzbacher was also hired to maintain the Town clock located in the central tower of the old City Hall building. The German Immigrants led a prominent role in the early development of the City of Florence. Other prominent ethnic minority families included the Sternbergers, Kukers, Cohens, Bultmans, and Jacobis. Sulzbacher built his home on the corner Gaillard and East Pine Streets in approximately 1910. At the time this was a distinguished neighborhood home to many prominent families. The home is a large 2-story structure with a distinctive 3-story tower. The exterior of the home is of faux stone construction which was popular at that time among German immigrants to Florence. Other extant examples of this style are the original St. Luke Lutheran Church located on the corner of East Palmetto and Railroad Avenue, and the Bultman House, the current home of Hillsouth. Another prominent example was the Jaeger House, which was located on the corner Jarrett and East Evan Streets. The Jaeger House was hand built by Henry Jaeger, an ACL Railroad engineer. He cast on site the exterior blocks in five molds of varied design. This home was demolished in 1975 as part of the McLeod Hospital campus expansion. In his later years, Isaac Sulzbacher operated his establishment as Sulzbacher and Son. When Isaac died in 1920, his son Samuel Isadore Sulzbacher operated the business for several more years. Isadore was serving as the Commissioner of City Streets of City Council as Park Commissioner in 1915 when Timrod Park was created. The Sulzbacher family and other German immigrants played an important role in the early years of Florence. The German immigrants were influential in the founding of the Temple Beth Israel as well as St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. While the Sulzbacher family has long departed Florence, they have left a handsome home to remind us not only of their contributions but also a testimony to the East Pine Street neighborhood which it continues to anchor. The City of Florence has proposed to demolish the house as part of a neighborhood revitalization program. The Florence Historical Commission has determined that the home has significant historical value and has urged the City to explore restoration or adaptive reuse for the property.

Mark W. Buyck, III

Concentrating in Banking, Business, Civil and Business Litigation and Appeals, Contracts, Employment, Government, Real Estate

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



+ Our Chambers Of Commerce Are The Unified Voice Of The Business story by Robby Hill Florence, South Carolina has been the only home I have ever known – and throughout my entire business career the Florence Chamber of Commerce has been essential to my understanding of this community and the growth and development of my company. When I was starting HillSouth at the age of 17 in 2001, one of the very first things I did was make sure that my company was a member of the Florence Chamber. I remember clearly our firm’s first involvement after joining was attending and sponsoring the Hole-in-One Challenge at one of the Chamber’s annual golf tournaments. My golf game has only seemingly gotten worse since, so I do think back to this first function often. Other than that fact, it’s been an incredibly rewarding ride ever since! As a very young entrepreneur, I lacked pretty much every skill to run a business. Fortunately, I was open to meeting new people, and through constant networking at Florence Chamber events I was able to surround myself with smart and successful small business owners. I also enrolled in Leadership Florence (maybe as the youngest participant to date) to continue to explore my new business home. Many

of the friends I made in those early years continue to be close advisors to HillSouth as it serves the information technology needs of businesses across South Carolina and beyond. I can recall countless Chamber events where I made the perfect business contact that would serve me and my company for years to come. It took persistence and many rejections along the way, but the Chamber was always a steady source of contacts and inspiration as I met my business idols and listened intently to try to piece together in my mind how they had achieved the business success I desired to have one day. My business has taken off to heights wildly beyond anything I could have imagined in those early days – and I truly owe its growth to mentorship and advice I would never have gotten had I not had my roots deeply planted in Florence’s business community through our Chamber. Since joining Florence’s Chamber 18 years ago, I have had the opportunity to serve on the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the US Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Entrepreneurship Council. As I have worked with

Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, 100 W Evans St, Florence | 843.665.0515 | 12

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local, state, and national Chambers, I saw a theme that binds them all together: our Chambers of Commerce are the unified voice of the business community to policy makers and community leaders at every level. In my time serving on Florence City Council I further came to the realization that even within City Government – Florence Chamber is essential to both spreading the word of the good works being done by our City but also hearing from the chorus of business leaders to understand what their challenges were and what priorities could be set at the local government level to support our thriving business community. We accomplished successes on both fronts through public/ Chamber partnerships and I’m proud of what Florence Chamber has done to emphasize both the hard work of our elected officials and helping to hold them accountable to the needs of their constituents through ready access at Florence Chamber events throughout the year. I have heard more than once from new Chamber business members that they feel overwhelmed upon joining at how best to leverage their newly minted memberships. I want to state that your participation in the Chamber, just like everything in life, will commensurate with the level of effort and work that you put into it. Whether your priority is business to business networking or influencing policy goals at the local, regional, or even national level – you will get out of your Chamber no more than you’re willing to put in. Volunteering for a committee aligned with your goals and attending the events throughout the month is a great way to get started. As are the annual Building Bridges, Legislative Breakfasts, Leadership Florence, and countless other activities to grow your rolodex and your knowledge of our community. I’ve watched Chamber Chairmen and Presidents come and go in my 18 years of membership but there is always an inherent understanding that no matter who is on the team or at the helm of our Chamber of Commerce – service to the businesses of our community, making this place we all call home the best possible place to live, and have a thriving enterprise – remains at the heart of all the events, publications, and partnerships that make our membership work for us. Robby Hill Founder & CEO, HillSouth iT Solutions

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Cory Brownsten Welcoming the 2018 Florence RedWolves Coach story by Heather Page

This seasons Florence RedWolves coach, Cory Brownsten, comes all the way from Rochester, NY. Cory grew up in Lockport, NY, and has been playing baseball since local teams would let him sign up. He played Little League, AAA Muny and AAABA (wooden bat leagues around the Western New York area), and high school ball. Afterwards, he attended Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY. “This was the best decision of my life and I wish it were a four-year school. We made it to the World Series both my years,” says Cory. During his sophomore year at Monroe, he was 1st Team All-American, All-District, All-Region, Regional and District Player of the year, Easton Defensive Player of the Year, and Rawlings Gold Glove Winner. He transferred to the University of Pittsburgh where he was eventually drafted by the Atlanta Braves. Cory’s background in baseball makes him a clear choice for the RedWolves 2018 coach. Cory’s coaching career began with the Peninsula Pilots, where he spent a summer in the Coastal Plain League (CPL) working on his game. “At the time, I wasn’t sure if I was finished playing, but decided to finish out the regular season assisting with the Pilots and was there when they won their first championship.” He then left to go back to PITT for a semester to finish his degree. After graduating, he became the Volunteer Assistant Coach at Monroe Community College for the spring semester, where he previously attended. “Throughout the summer I had coaching offers come up. I never really bit on them and then the Monroe Community College Coach, David Brust, called me and asked me to be the head assistant and I was all in. I now was able to give back to the school that taught me everything.” During Cory’s first year as a paid assistant the team went to the World Series. “I have already learned so much about the game while coaching in just my three years from school and the Coastal Plain League, but then I always say to myself that I have pretty much been doing it my entire life being a leader behind the plate.” Cory is the coach for the Florence RedWolves this season. The team is an affiliate of the CPL and the season spans the entire summer, with games from late May to August. Games are played at Francis Marion University’s new Sparrow Stadium. Cory shares, “I am looking forward to the challenge of being a team leader and having responsibilities that I have yet to have in my coaching career. I can’t wait to meet the guys that I have been talking with all off-season and watch them compete at a high level.” Key players that we can look forward to seeing this season with the RedWolves 14

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small photo: Brownsten with Monroe Community College players

are Ben Peden (Citadel), John Ricotta (Ball State), Dylan Spence (Citadel), Jackson Svete (LIU Brooklyn), Greg Vaughn Jr. (LIU Brooklyn), Tyler Walton (Delta State), Chris Botsoe (Eastern Kentucky University), Jake Garella (Saint Louis), Will Morgan (Old Dominion), Griffin Hulecki (Ball State), Thomas Harmon (Ball State), Joshua Plummer (University of Tennessee), and many more. “I really think we have put together a great group of guys so far. I am excited for bus rides, and hearing player’s stories about their careers or things their coaches do. I’m ready to meet all new fans and check out Florence.” Cory is looking forward to the season and loves everything about the game of baseball. “I love that it is timeless and there isn’t a clock. I love that the same thing will rarely happen and that the defense is in charge, not the offense. I love that I get to do what I enjoy most and that is to play ball every night!”

For game schedules and ticket info, call (843) 629-0700 or visit

May 2018 | VIP Magazine




Behavioral Health ISSUES story by Donna Tracy, Communications Coordinator, HopeHealth

Recent tragedies have shown what can happen when behavioral health issues are not addressed when recognized. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in every five people experience a mental health illness in any given year. That’s an estimated 43.6 million U.S. adults and doesn’t include those living with substance use disorders. Being aware of indicators can help prevent future tragedies and paying attention to our own mental health can be a first step. “There are things we need to do to take care of ourselves and, as a society, we are not very good at that,” said Dr. Farrah Hughes, director of Behavioral Health Services at HopeHealth. “An individual struggling with anxiety, for example, might not consider themselves anxious, but yet becomes agoraphobic* as stressors accumulate. By stepping back and paying attention to stressors, whether family, work, illness, finances, it can greatly improve that individual’s life.” *An anxiety disorder characterized by fear and avoidance of places and situations that might cause feelings of panic. Addressing mental health needs does more than just help individuals, it impacts families and communities. Behavioral health illness is a root cause of more than a third of high school student drop outs, and in the workforce, serious illness costs more than $193.2 billion in annual lost earnings. Indicators to address your own behavioral health can include changes in routine behavior – anything that seems atypical for you. For example, indicators of depression can include disinterest in things you usually enjoy, low self-esteem, lack of energy, appetite changes, and sleeping problems. “Almost every psychiatric illness has a sleep disturbance associated with it,” said Dr. Farrah Hughes. “Too much or too little sleep, the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep; all can be symptoms.”


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Hughes notes that most people underestimate the impact of daily difficulties, saying that we develop a “grin-and-bear-it” mentality toward regular cumulative stressors. So, what can be done to improve your own mental health? Hughes recommends the first thing to do is listen to your instincts and talk to someone. “You don’t have to start with a physician, though that is a good place to go for a first step if you are not sure what else to do,” she said. “We don’t pay attention to our gut and speak up when we feel something is going on, and are much harder on ourselves than we are on others. It’s important to get perspective; talk to someone close to you and find out what they have observed, reflect back on what’s been going on in your life, and think about the stressors you have been dealing with.” Providers such as psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, clinical social workers, and marriage and family therapists, can help address any concerns. These professionals assess and diagnose mental and behavioral health difficulties and use evidence-based psychotherapeutic methods to treat them. Their help can ward off clinical depression, prevent suicide, combat opioid use disorders, strengthen relationships, and even improve physical health. “Sometimes, people just need a few sessions to regain their perspective. Sometimes, people need more intensive clinical treatment, and, sometimes, people need that combined with medication to get back on track,” said Hughes.

360 North Irby St. Florence, SC (843) 667-9414 | photo by Grayson Markle/HopeHealth

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Where Every Day Can Be Your Best Day John Belissary, administrator and one of the owners of New Generations Adult Day Center owes the family-owned business success to his mother, Gail. After working for years as a nurse, Gail Belissary and Chris Yahnis started a Home Health Company which later sold to McLeod Hospital. Gail knew there was a need in society for caring for the elderly. With the help from her daughter, Karen, they opened New Generations Adult Day Center on Irby Street in 1998. John describes his mother as one of the most brilliant people he knows with a heart full of compassion. With personal experience, determination, and discipline, Gail took on many roles from nurse to bookkeeper in order to provide opportunities and care for others. She went eight long years without a real pay check. Though there was a time when others encouraged her to give up, her ambition and passion for enhancing the quality of life for others outweighed any negative thoughts. The business started out small with few clients, then eventually grew, moving to West Jody Road after out-growing the other facility. John, his sister Karen, and his wife Ann, are committed to keeping the family passion alive. With one autistic brother and one with down syndrome, John and Karen both understood the extent of the responsibility needed to take care of a family member while both parents worked. They knew they needed to create opportunities for those who aged out of school and had no other options. They made a decision to add a focus on intellectual and physical disabilities and exceptional adults, and started Gary’s Gang. Today, New Generations focuses on elderly and special needs individuals who may need some extra care during the day. They understand that caring for a loved one can take a toll on family members, which is why they provide adult day care services that can give a much-needed break


VIP Magazine | May 2018

story by Jordan Pupa

in addition to other benefits for those who attend. Open on weekdays from 7a.m. to 5:30p.m. for those 18 years or older, the day is full of special programming and allows a loved one to return home in the evening. What makes New Generations unique is that their model is different than most other adult centers. The population is separated to provide more comfort and space for young adults versus those that are more mature. Additionally, those with different levels of need are separated to provide the one-on-one attention and care they need by trained staff. They understood the different groups had little in common and different desires. Because of that, there is different programming for different groups in separate buildings that provide the necessities for each group to thrive. The facility includes dedicated, safe space for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. New Generations Adult Day Center even has a special group called the “2:00 Club”, which emphasizes exercises and activities that focus on recall, reminiscing and sensory stimulation. At New Generations, there is always something to do, whether it is crafts, daily devotions, or outdoor activities. Participants will always be provided with options to keep them busy. A program called “Gary’s Gang,” named in memory of Gail’s late autistic son, is a featured program directed towards all levels of learning disabilities, with exercises ranging from reinforcing personal care and hygiene to developing social skills and personal interaction. Exceptional adults are divided up into a higher functioning area, more assistance areas, and an autism room (sensory room). When starting the program, staff connect personal goals and interests with desirable activities. With a focus on “person centered planning,” everyone is able to have their day look as they desire. If there is an activity planned that someone

“Today, New Generations focuses on elderly and special needs individuals who may need some extra care during the day.” does not want to participate in, there are alternate options. The program is educational, highly engaging, and focuses on community integration and social interaction. Participants have learned about marine life, then had the chance to take a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium. Other lessons and trips have included dining at a hibachi grill after a lesson on Japan, McLeod Farms for an outdoor pumpkin patch adventure, plus more. Family members are always encouraged to attend. Activities such as “share time” and competing as a group in a talent show allow for participants to break out of their shell and build their self-esteem. The group won the talent show last year and will compete again on May 15th. New Generations has two locations, one in Florence and one in Marion. The Florence location is now the second largest facility in the state. Those who attend come from near and far. Fourteen busses run from the Florence location traveling to Pamplico, Darlington, Effingham, Hartsville, and other areas. A Lake City route was also recently added. The success of New Generations and the infectious spirit of those who attend sparked the attention and interest of Hood Temple and Byron Yahnis. They wanted to get involved and continue to provide supportive services to positively impact those with special needs. Byron is the son to Chris Yahnis who originally helped Gail Belissary open Home Health Inc. and he wanted to continue the family tradition. Partnering with John and keeping the spirit alive, they opened Club Horizons in Charleston, SC. Joelle Forgeng saw a great vision for the space and created a comfortable, inviting facility out of an empty building. The facility is complete with a beach mural and vibrant colors where those who attend are considered “members.” The facility holds the same values that New Generations holds and has the same successful model with specific planned programming, community integration, and care to enhance the quality of life for all. Club Horizons is now the third largest facility after running for only seven months. Gail Belissary is very proud, as she never dreamed in her wildest dreams that she would be part of creating a place that has continued to grow and now helps 250 families a day between all the locations. John Belissary knows all the attendees by name and shares a bond with all of them. He states, “It’s really good stuff. This is the business to love. You can see the look on someone’s face that you have changed their life with the opportunities we provide. At the end of the day, our message always revolves around compassion.” New Generations and Club Horizons give the advantage of letting family members remain an active member of society and work during the day, but also gives participants the advantage of continued learning, independence, social interaction, and a better quality of life. The opportunity can make a difference for a whole family.

2111 West Jody Rd. | Florence



Foster Care CLOTHING CLOSET Passion & Dedication of a Community story by Jordan Pupa

The Foster Care Clothing Closet of Florence was started by a community who had a passion for assisting foster care children. The closet consists of donated items meant to offset the costs of new clothing and other necessary belongings for children in care. In October of 2015, a team of dedicated and local women opened a business space on Irby Street to house supplies and attribute their success to a giving community. It began when Jennifer Gray, now a foster mom of three, was contacted to foster her first child. She was called at 3 a.m. and when she got to the child, the only supplies she was given were a half filled bottle and half of a pack of diapers. There was no one for her to call and no support system. During Jennifer’s training to become a foster parent in Greenville, facilitators spoke about how there were local clothing closets that could assist in helping prepare quickly for the needs of a foster child. However, she realized quickly there was not one in the Florence area. She posted on Facebook that there really needed to be something in the community that helps people that are loving on these discarded children. Her friend, Joy McKnight, saw the post and jumped on board. The two decided to save baby clothes to give to


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pictured L to R: Joy McKnight, Kristin deKoster, Jennifer Gray and Nicole Griggs foster children and with a post on social media, they gained the support from many who also wanted to help. They went from filling an empty closet, to a dining room, then to taking over several rooms in each of their houses over just a few months. Mr. John Jebaily offered them a space on Irby Street shortly after and has consistently donated items to help in their efforts. Kristin deKoster and Nicole Griggs also play a major part in the organization. Kristin is the Operations Manager and takes care of distribution. Nicole is the Secretary and plays a major role in community involvement, networking, planning, and fundraising. Joy helps with a little bit of everything. Jennifer, Joy, and Nicole graduated together from Cornerstone Academy (a school through Lambs Chapel that closed years ago), and Kristin graduated a couple of years behind them. They all have been friends for many years. While Jennifer, Joy and Nicole sit on the Board, other Board Members include Anna Patton and Shauna Mazique who also dedicate their time when possible to help the Closet achieve its goals. Jennifer understands from experience the need for the Foster Care Clothing Closet within the area. DSS requires parents to have certain things when a child is placed with them and most of the time those parents may not have the means to do it immediately. Jennifer shares, “Being a foster parent is a huge responsibility and comes with a lot of red tape. Financials and bed space obviously play a huge role. Siblings are being separated, which makes it really hard for them.” Foster parents receive information about the clothing closet when they get placement from DSS. The organization can assist all ages up to 18 and tries to give each child a week’s worth of clothes. They also provide baby care products. The closet even gives children the chance to come pick out their own items, which makes them feel valued. The entire team works together to be available at any time due to the uncertainty of foster care placement.

Needs List:

•Children’s toothpaste

•Infant car seats

•Toddler car seatsCritical need

•Adult and children’s toothbrushes

•Booster carseats

•Baby wipes


•Diapers- sizes preemie, newborn, 4, 5, and 6

•Baby swings

•Pull-ups- All sizes

•Double strollers

•Double strollers

•Baby wash

•Umbrella strollers

•Baby shampoo

•Baby monitors

•Baby lotion

•Boys pants sizes 3T-8

•Diaper rash cream

•Boys jeans sizes 12-20

•Kids body wash (tear free is best) •Kids shampoo •Adult shampoo, conditioner, and body wash

•Boys sneakers sizes 8, 9, 11, 12, 2, and 5

•Men’s sneakers sizes 9 and up

•Boys XL underwear

Items can be donated to: 1811 S. Irby Street, Florence | Suite 107 The organization is always in need of donations. “We are grateful for the amount of donations we receive from the community,” shares Nicole. “We don’t advertise the need other than on Facebook amongst our friends and the organization's followers, and they immediately fill those needs. We’re fortunate in that we are able to give foster children gently used and new items. Many of these kids go to a foster home with little to nothing, it's our goal to make them feel like someone cares for them.” The Clothing Closet holds fundraising events each year which help them to pay their bills. They have a chicken bog event in the Spring and a 5k in the Fall, which will be held on September 2nd this year. They also host a huge Christmas party each year for foster children and their parents. The event gives many kids the chance to see their siblings who may be placed with a different family. Last year the party had 75 foster children in attendance. They are seeking more sponsors to help with needs throughout the year.

If you're interested in becoming a foster parent, the Closet will be happy to assist you in any way. For more information, please contact Jennifer at (843) 372-0086. May 2018 | VIP Magazine



CELEBRATES 20 YEARS IN BUSINESS story by Denise Cottingham | photography by Steve Roos

In May of 1998, Willie and Leigh Ann Bizzell opened their own restaurant in downtown Hartsville. It was a risk, as many restaurants have opened and closed in the past 20 years, but Bizzell’s Food and Spirits has remained resilient and prosperous. The Bizzells credit the restaurant’s success to their faithful customers, their willingness to transform their business model, and the mutual support of the community. Prior to opening the restaurant, Willie and Leigh Ann Bizzell managed Food & Beverage operations at Hartsville Country Club where they served a membership of approximately 600 families. The Club management experience provided them with the necessary knowledge to open and operate this independently-owned establishment in downtown Hartsville. They had a gift and it was their desire to share their culinary treats with the entire community. Through hard work, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit, Bizzell’s Food & Spirits remains a staple in the downtown area today. In honor of their success, Willie and Leigh Ann Bizzell were presented the Will Woodham Business Person of the Year Award by the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce this year. Whether it’s a casual lunch with friends or family, a more formal dinner setting to celebrate a special occasion, or a business get-together, Bizzell’s provides the perfect atmosphere. Bizzell’s offers a full-service menu for lunch and dinner with local and regional dishes. Bizzell’s rich and creamy Shrimp & Grits have been a “most talked about item” since their opening in 1998. They are simple but so delicious, made with stone-ground white corn, cooked for hours and finished with buttery grilled shrimp. A variety


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of Sweet Muffins are baked every morning to accompany the dishes on their menu. A dish Bizzell’s created several years ago has become the most popular menu item of choice, Chicken Champagne! And the famous Chocolate Cobbler ala mode has been experimentally duplicated in the homes of Hartsvillians, but never as good as Bizzell’s. When celebrating birthdays at Bizzell’s, you are served a delicious scoop of the brownie-like cobbler with ice cream, compliments of the restaurant, in honor of your special day. As the weather gets warmer, the patio tables outside of Bizzell’s are the perfect spot for a summer meal or a cocktail with friends, and the drive-thru/pick-up window is so convenient for patrons who want to eat at home. About ten years ago Willie and Leigh Ann recognized the need for catering services within the area, so they expanded their business to meet the demand, especially in the Florence area. Leigh Ann shares, “We were fortunate enough to have been invited to be on the Preferred Caterer’s List of several Florence venues and have been solicited by their clients ever since.” Owning a restaurant in downtown Hartsville has not always been a positive endeavor. “After the 9-11 terrorist attack, foot traffic was light

and we tightened the reigns and did a lot of praying for many years thereafter. Creativity and a lot of love for our customers kept us close to our loyal supporters, they were our family. We knew the economy would come back around, we just didn’t know when”, Leigh Ann expressed. The catering portion of the business has helped them get through the slow times and enabled business survival. With a warm heart, Leigh Ann says, “Catering is a guarantee; you know when you’re working, how many you are going to feed and how much you will be putting in the bank. God is Good!” Today, foot traffic is better than ever! Leigh Ann shares, “The City of Hartsville has done a fabulous job of promoting our City and putting us on the map through revitalizing projects and continuous economic development in our downtown. All the behind the scenes planning and strategy workshops have benefitted the small businesses of Hartsville. We just have to be patient and wait for our return.” A City’s Downtown is their “Calling Card.” Bizzell’s Food & Spirits is proud to be sitting in the middle of it! The Bizzells are dedicated to helping Hartsville thrive. They are also known for returning support to the local community. They continuously give back through donations, workforce support, and participation in outdoor and community events. Willie and Leigh Ann made Hartsville their home almost 30 years ago and they are appreciative of the friendships they’ve made. They feel the love each time their supporters come in to dine or order take-out from the pick-up window. With three, very nice hotels currently in the downtown, they welcome the opportunity to befriend visitors, who look forward to returning to Hartsville on multiple occasions. Bizzell’s hosts Sunday Buffet Fundraisers, where nonprofit organizations volunteer to work for tips. The Sunday Buffet Fundraisers run from the first Sunday in January each year through Mother’s Day. Dining the Sunday Buffet is a great way to support an organization or cause and gives guests the chance to sample some of Bizzell’s catered buffet menu items. In honor of the constant support from Hartsville locals and visitors over the past 20 years, Bizzell’s will be hosting an “Anniversary Block Party” on Saturday, May 19 from 4-10 p.m. in front of Bizzell’s Food & Spirits on East Carolina Avenue. The city stage will feature the live band, “Landslide,” who will be playing your favorite rock, beach and country tunes. There will be food and beverage booths for kids and adults. Bring your appetite, dancing shoes, and the whole family and help Bizzell’s celebrate 20 successful years! Visit Bizzell’s on Facebook at Bizzell’s Food & Spirits or on the web at

137 E Carolina Ave., Hartsville (843) 857-9080 May 2018 | VIP Magazine




CHANDLERS Our Adoption Journey story by Mary Welch

Melissa Chandler and her husband, Benji, have been together since they were 19 years old and have been married for 18 years. With such a strong relationship, they have been able to support one another through struggles and new experiences. Melissa and Benji have shared the journey of adoption and parenthood together. Today the couple has two boys, Daniel and Ben. When Melissa was around 27 years old, the couple discussed having children. After a couple months, Melissa started to get sick and after laparoscopic surgery, she was diagnosed with endometriosis. After continuing to get sick, she saw a specialist in Charleston who performed a second surgery, leading to the point of realization that the possibility of becoming pregnant was minimal. The unfortunate news was hard to hear, and the ride home that day was long and depressing. Melissa felt defeated. Benji looked at Melissa and said, “I am not going to lie. I would like to see what we would put out there, but I would love to adopt a child. In fact, I think that is what we are supposed to do.”

After much time and prayer, they knew adoption was their calling in life. The approval process for adoption took about six months. The process was lengthy and included filling out tons of detailed paperwork, being assigned a licensing specialist, multiple interviews, and home studies and inspections. Yearly physicals and background checks were also conducted. After approval, they were assigned an adoption specialist. It took about a year before the couple received “the call.” Melissa shares, “I will never forget it. I was sitting at my desk and our caseworker Kaci called. She said there was a baby who was born yesterday


VIP Magazine | May 2018

who will

photography by Jonathan Boatwright

be placed for adoption, however, there were some issues. There had been no prenatal care and he was born with drugs in his system. I ran out the door to call Benji and he said, ‘Yes, that’s our baby.’” The call was on Thursday and the couple had to wait until Monday to meet him, which they describe as the longest weekend of their lives. It was what they had been waiting for. Daniel was placed with them in April of 2008 and his adoption was finalized in May of 2010. Daniel will be 10 years old in April. Melissa describes him as a smart, handsome, sweet, and talented boy who loves to play baseball, hunt, and go to the beach. Ben’s case, on the other hand, was quite different, and they ended up fostering him first. He was placed with them in June of 2014 and his adoption was finalized in April of 2016. With many special needs, DSS helped every step of the way. They directed them to BabyNet who sent out some of the best therapists in the world to help Ben. During the two years before finalization, case workers and a guardian ad litem would visit their home monthly to be sure everyone was okay and that the boys were safe, well cared for, and loved. Melissa and Benji also had to attend

classes in order to keep their license up to date. Today Ben is four years old and loves watching Braves baseball, going to the beach, and music. “He is a ball of energy,” says Melissa. “He had a rough start and spent his first four months in NICU, but God has done miraculous work in his life. He is so smart and funny, and is just as handsome as his older brother.” Melissa and Benji have made a great team as parents. “Adoption is not a quick or easy process. It can be very stressful and time consuming, but it is so worth it in the end,” Melissa shares.

“The moment we met each one of our boys we knew they were ours, immediately. God had chosen them to be our boys, to be Chandlers, no doubt about it.” Many new surprises in life have come along since their adoption journey. Melissa’s sister and her husband felt the call on their life to adopt and now, through adoption, they have a beautiful daughter, and a little sister for their son. The Chandlers currently live in Effingham with their dog, Lucy. Melissa works at JayMac Sports Products and Benji works at Harris Pest Control. They have been attending Lebanon Church for the past 12 years and have been active in Children’s ministry and the new Special Needs Ministry. “I am very blessed to work for a company that was very supportive through the whole process and has always allowed me to take time off when needed. We have a very supportive family and two great sets of grandparents who are happy to help whenever we need them.” Melissa enjoys sharing her story with others, as there are many kids within our area who need love and a good home. “If it wasn’t for adoption, I wouldn’t be a mother. Once folks learn that I have adopted children they always ask questions. This gives me an opportunity to tell them about the importance of adoption and foster care. And I cannot talk about adoption without sharing God’s great love for us, he adopted us into his family through Christ.”

For more information about adoption and fostering, visit

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



PiggyBacks BBQ & Catfish Mitchell & Shannon Sims

Lake City’s Launchpad Competition Winner Downtown Lake City is currently the home to many locally-owned businesses. In an effort to boost downtown traffic and increase occupancy, the Greater Lake City Community Development Office hosted a Lake City Launchpad competition designed to give a winning entrepreneur or business owner an incentive package to open a business in the downtown area. The winner of the 2018 Lake City Launchpad inaugural competition is PiggyBacks BBQ & Catfish owned by Shannon and Mitchell Sims. For Mitchell, cooking good BBQ takes him back to his childhood. Growing up, his father always cooked using wood, and vinegar, salt and pepper for his BBQ sauce. He shares, “The big thing was, we would bring the hog inside after we all ate off of it from the pit. We’d place it in a tray and cover it with a bed sheet until morning.” His mother would wake up in the morning and cook a big pot of grits, so they would eat cold BBQ and hot grits for breakfast. At the age of 12, his mother passed away, and family meals slowed down. After his father passed away, the family meals completely stopped. In an effort to bring back the tradition, Mitchell and his brother started to learn the skill of good BBQ. He shares, “That’s what it’s all about, spending time with family and friends.” 26

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story by Sharon Norris

Mitchell began traveling as a food vendor 16 years ago at different festivals, then started participating in BBQ cook-offs. They would spend all weekend prepping, traveling, cooking, and feeding people. They traveled mostly throughout South Carolina. Shannon later joined in on the adventure. “We started small - with a tent, a grill, a borrowed fryer, doing it for fun, and it grew,” shares Shannon. “The BBQ is more of a learned skill. We’ve gone through all types of things to perfect our recipe and the way we cook the BBQ. These days we prefer to roast our BBQ using pecan wood and prefer a thick, rich, sweet sauce.” Shannon learned about Launchpad through the Visit Lake City weekly e-mails. She also owns The Hair Shack in Lake City, so staying involved and informed with what is going on is important to her. Shannon says, “I said, ‘Why not?’ We’ve been doing this a long time, I feel like most people know who we are, and so I kept our application very simple. I don’t even know if I told Mitchell I did it.” Competition was steep, as PiggyBacks was one of 47 businesses that originally submitted an application, and one of 20 that submitted a business plan. Seth Kines, Executive Director for Visit Lake City explains, “When we started this competition, we didn’t have any preconceived notions. We had no clue what was going to win or what we were looking for. We had

submissions from all sorts of businesses - boutiques, restaurants, etcetera. There were some that had existing business that wanted to expand, some with very new ideas - all things across the board.” A committee of six went through the business plans and voted on which businesses they thought would be the best fit for Lake City and would be successful for many years to come. With no number in mind, they ended up with four finalists. From there, the finalists had to conduct a live presentation, then the winners were announced in April. “A huge thing for us was Mitchell and Shannon already had a huge following and they already set up as vendors at most of our Lake City events. It’s a really good story to take local people, that already have a great following, that are trying to continue to move forward, and let this be the avenue, or venue, that takes them over the top,” shares Seth. “PiggyBacks really sold themselves in the presentation. Everything they did was great, but they really did well in the presentation portion of the competition.” As winners of the competition, PiggyBacks receives $55,000 that will go towards expenses and innovations. PiggyBacks will be a large, family restaurant with 14-foot-long tables to have family style dinners. They plan to use local produce, have reasonable prices, and have a menu with traditional favorites, but also items that you can’t find anywhere else nearby. The menu will consist of everything from steaks, fresh lobster tails, catfish stew, BBQ, plus crab legs and frog more stew. By fall of 2018, you will find PiggyBacks at 116 Sauls Street in Lake City. Seth states, “Pizza Roma, an old Lake City staple, will be there, along with a new art gallery. In the next couple of years we will install pavers down the street, raising it to curb level and stringing lights across the road. It’ll be where the people want to go and hang out.” The new restaurant will also provide new employment opportunities in the area, as PiggyBacks will be looking to build a talented team to assist with competitions and catering events, too. The Sims are grateful for the opportunity Launchpad has provided. “It would have taken us a lot longer to do this had we not had the help from Launchpad,” says Mitchell. “We actually bought a building in Olanta and had a ten-year plan. Thank the Lord this presented itself to help us move this quicker. I’m so thankful for this opportunity. We have a lot of people that follow us asking where we will be next, now we have something great to tell them. It’s going to be a great time.” May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Visit and use coupon code VIPMAG for 15% Off your order!

Photography by Reflection Images

Jennifer and David Lyles

CHATHAM PLACE Jennifer and David Lyles worked hard to pursue their careers. They met at Francis Marion University, where Jennifer received her B.S. in Biology and David received his B.S. in Political Science. After graduating, they moved to Gainesville, Florida to further their education. Jennifer went to graduate school at the University of Florida where she later gained a Ph. D. from the UF College of Medicine. David also attended the University of Florida where he received his Masters in Educational Leadership. Upon returning to Florence in 2015, they both took positions at their alma mater, FMU. While extremely invested in their careers, their interest in a hobby they started while living in Florida continued to grow. VIP sat down with Jennifer and David to find out where they are now, and how the growth of Chatham Place, a small business where they create personalized handmade gifts, has shifted their lives.

First off, tell us about Chatham Place. “We specialize in creating unique, personalized gifts for every occasion - weddings, anniversaries, housewarmings, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, and more! Every item is personalized, crafted by hand, and carefully inspected to ensure that only the highest quality products are provided to each and every customer! We are currently offering over 220 options for personalized prints, stylish jute tote bags and makeup bags, custom wine bags, super cute and comfy women’s socks, and more. Our best-selling items are our burlap prints. We offer unique, personalized burlap prints in several sizes - unframed or framed. All of our prints are made from 100% all-natural, eco-friendly jute burlap.”

Jennifer and David live on a quiet 5-acre plot in the country with their 18 month old daughter, Eliana. Jennifer is currently an Assistant Professor of Biology at FMU. David stepped down from his position as Technology Specialist for the Psychology Department at FMU in 2016 to work full-time for Chatham Place, while Jennifer helps in her spare time.


VIP Magazine | May 2018

How did Chatham Place get started? “In 2012, I opened a small Etsy shop as a creative outlet, and named it Chatham Place after the street I grew up on in Florence. I have always loved designing and creating, and having an Etsy shop was a perfect excuse to exercise that creative side. During the first year, Chatham Place would receive about one order a month. In August of 2013, I created a personalized print as a wedding gift for my cousin. I thought it was really cute so I added it to my Etsy account, and the rest is history! I will never forget the day I sold my first burlap print on Etsy. I was so excited! Then… another order came in. And another. I thought, ‘This has to be a mistake. What is going on?’ Sure enough, I received six orders that day. Six! I couldn’t believe it. And once that ball got rolling, it never stopped. The shop grew, orders came in, and before I knew it, we went from getting one order per month to filling hundreds of orders every month. To date, Chatham Place has sold over 32,500 items to people all over the world! It has been a dream-come-true that we never expected. We are grateful every single day for the success that we have experienced.”

Do you have any new products you can tell us about? “Yes, we are so excited about a brand new addition to the shop - a do-it-yourself fingerprint family tree! The kit includes a framed textured print on acid-free linen art paper, three ink pads, and a fine-point Sharpie. The print has a large tree with many branches in the middle, and below the tree it reads, ‘Like branches on a tree we all grow in different directions, but our roots remain the same.’ It’s quickly becoming a customer favorite, especially for Mother’s Day! I love creating new designs and exploring fun, new products to offer for our customers! We also love custom orders! If you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for in the shop, shoot us a message, and we’d be happy to help you create the perfect gift.”

What is your favorite part of owning Chatham Place? “By far, the customers! I cannot begin to describe the amazing people we have been able to connect with all over the world. One of the best parts of this job is hearing back from the customers after they have received their items. Hearing how a grandmother cried when she received her burlap print with her grandchildren’s names and birthdates on it. Or a couple who couldn’t wait to hang their new personalized address sign on the wall of their first home. Or a wife’s reaction after opening a custom anniversary gift that her husband had a hand in designing. It never gets old. Every story warms our hearts and reminds us why we do what we do. It makes it all worth it.” May 2018 | VIP Magazine



KELLY BENTON Work-Life Balance story by Linda Crowley | Deserae Grantham Photography

There is no such thing as perfect, and work-life balance means something a little different to everyone. There are also only so many hours in the day, and for Kelly Benton all of those hours are claimed with taking on important roles as a mother, wife, professional, and active community member. Kelly’s ability to balance a packed schedule is remarkable and her community involvement has led to new opportunities. Kelly is from Ware Shoals, SC and graduated from Coker College in 2013. Kelly and her husband, Corey, are high school sweethearts and just celebrated their 6th wedding anniversary in March. They have a 3-year-old son, Cayson, and a 2-year-old daughter, Lillian. Kelly is an Insurance Agent with Macon Hunter State Farm Agency. Kelly’s passion for helping others is what inspired her to become involved within the Hartsville community. Kelly is currently a board member and lead ambassador for the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce. She is also the vice president of the Hartsville Young Professionals organization and is the membership director for the Hartsville Kiwanis Club. While it may appear that taking on another responsibility with an already busy lifestyle could be a poor choice, the benefits of being involved outweigh the costs. By being involved outside of work in the community, Kelly has a chance to meet and build relationships with people of all demographics from all different professions. The organizations she is part of present her with networking opportunities, new friends, and provide her with valuable board member and decision-making experience. Kelly is a major cheerleader for the town of Hartsville. “Hartsville reminds me of my hometown since it is small and the people that live here have the biggest hearts,” she shares. “I knew the more that I was involved I would have a greater opportunity to know what kind of impact I could have on an individual in our community, as well as the impact they would have on my life.” 30

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One would think it would be difficult to balance multiple roles, however, Kelly has been successful due to the encouragement and support from her family. “My family is my backbone. They recognize the love I have for Hartsville and support me on a daily basis.” Organization for proper time-management and continued education are two main keys to success for Kelly. “I am old school when it comes to organization. I still write down everything in my planner! Education is essential. I am currently enrolled in Leadership Hartsville where the main focus is on how to become a 360-degree leader.” Kelly strives to continue to find ways to improve her balance between personal and professional life. She believes it is important to set aside time for self-reflection, which she enjoys doing by going to the gym. For anyone who is interested in getting more involved in the community but is hesitant, Kelly encourages you to go for it! “Always find ways to break away from your comfort zone,” she says. “If you’re looking to get involved, consider joining one of the many civic clubs or organizations that is proactive in the community. By trying new things, you will be surprised to what it leads to in the long run.”

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



VIP Magazine | May 2018

Women Building Better Communities story by Jordan Pupa

COMMUNITY IMPACT: The Junior League of Florence has been a part of the Florence community since1948 and has worked diligently to improve the lives of those in the Florence community and beyond. The organization focuses on educational and charitable opportunities in the community and is dedicated to promoting volunteerism and seeking to help women realize their full potential. The Junior League of Florence is part of the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI), which is an international organization composed of more than 290 Leagues in the US, Canada, UK, and Mexico dedicated to community service. The Junior League of Florence has a total of 50 active members. The Russell House became the league’s home in 1996 and is used for meetings, events, and other activities. JLF has a long history of contributing resources to deserving local charities. Within the past 5-7 years they have helped numerous non-profit organizations. The organization has successfully completed

many community outreach projects and fundraisers within the last year. Most recently, the league recognized a growing need for a place of hands-on learning and partnered with the Children’s Museum of the Pee Dee with a commitment of $25,000 over the next five years. Past year’s signature projects have included partnering with Habitat for Humanity and donating $75,000 to build a house and donating $100,000 to the Boys & Girls Club.

eXplore/Children’s Museum

Each year, the Provisionals (new members) have the opportunity to plan and conduct a project of their choice that is consistent with the mission and vision of the Junior League. This year the Provisional Project will be a pamper day event for foster girls with nail painting, makeovers, and a motivational speaker to help boost their self-esteem. Last year’s Provisional Project was a selfdefense class with an instructor from McLeod. Once a year JLF accepts applications for new membership through an informed admissions system.

Foster Care Clothing Closet

of the Pee Dee Naomi Project United Way’s Annual Day of Caring Treats for Special Kids Help 4 Kids Hurricane Harvey Relief Pee Dee Coalition Belk Charity Day Sale Giving Tuesday Junebugs Care

Durant Children’s Center House of Hope Lighthouse Ministries Care House CAPES For Kids Run Harvest Hope Food Bank

FUNDRAISER EVENTS: Merry Marketplace Lucky Shamrock Little Black Dress Initiative Touch A Truck

May 2018 | VIP Magazine


Introducing the Women of the Junior League of Florence These women go above and beyond to serve their community. They are wives, mothers, and professionals, yet they still find time to dedicate to the improvement of their community.

Jillian Wilkes Jillian has been an active member of the Junior League of Florence since August 2013 and has served as Vice President of Community Impact for the past three years. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Doctor of Pharmacy and completed a PGY1 Pharmacy Practice residency at McLeod Regional Medical Center. She is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at the Florence VA Outpatient Clinic and serves as a Pee Dee Delegate for the South Carolina Pharmacy Association. Jill enjoys spending her free time with family and friends, shopping, traveling, and volunteering at Junior League of Florence events! 34

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Elizabeth Heustess Elizabeth joined the Junior League of Florence in the Fall of 2007 and is now a Sustaining Member. She has held several leadership roles including VP of Community, Merry Marketplace Chair, and President. She is originally from Hartsville, SC and is a graduate of Winthrop University with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. She currently lives in Florence and is a Tax Manager with Automatic Data Processing. 

Emily Crayton Emily has been an active member of the Junior League of Florence since 2013, and she currently serves as Vice President of Fund Development. Emily grew up in Georgetown, SC. She attended the College of Charleston, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Hospitality and Tourism Management. She then earned her Juris Doctor from Charleston School of Law. Emily is now a criminal defense attorney with the 12th Circuit Public Defender’s Office. She is married to Tommy Crayton, a local chef, and they have two wonderful daughters, Emma and Lily.

Emily Jordan Emily has been a member of the Junior League of Florence for more than 7 years and is the current President-Elect. She attended the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Upon completing her undergraduate degree, she attended Jones School of Law, in Montgomery, Alabama, and received her Juris Doctorate in Law. After law school, she moved to Florence. She is married to Daniel Jordan, and they have a 4-year-old son, Thatcher. Emily practices law with her husband at The Law Office of Daniel T. Jordan, LLC. Her practice is focused in the areas of probate law and estate litigation and she appears in Florence County Probate Court on a near weekly basis. She is an active member of First Presbyterian Church of Florence and is currently running for Florence County Probate Judge in the upcoming Republican Primary on June 12, 2018.

Alison Swaggard Alison has been an active member of the Junior league of Florence since August 2011 and is currently the VP of Finance, which she has held for two years. She has held several roles in the organization including VP of Membership and Merry Marketplace Co-Chair. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration as well as a Master’s Degree in accounting, with an emphasis in taxation. She is a Certified Public Accountant and works for WebsterRogers, LLP as a supervisor in their Business Services Group. She is married to Clay Swaggard, a local attorney, and together they have one son, Sam, two rescue dogs, and a cat. They reside together in Florence.

Brigitte Jenkins Brigitte has been part of the Junior League since 2015 and is currently the Treasurer. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. She is currently a design engineer at Vulcraft-A Division of Nucor. She is recently married to her soulmate, Gaston Jenkins. They reside together in Florence with their two beloved dogs, Mercedes and Sergeant.

May 2018 | VIP Magazine


Lauren Vause

Elizabeth Neyle

Lyndsay Brown

Lauren has been an active member of the Junior league of Florence since August 2012 and has served as the President since 2016. Since joining the Junior League, Lauren has served in many roles including VP of Community, Merry Marketplace Chair, Lucky Shamrock Chair, Touch A Truck Chair, Home for the Holidays Chair, Run for the Kids 5k, and Provisional Project Chair. A Francis Marion University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Marketing, Lauren is a senior recruiter with Cirrus Medical Staffing and also is the chair of the philanthropy committee at Cirrus. Outside of Junior League Lauren is also involved in the Leadership Florence Class of 2018 through the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce. She is married to Michael Vause. They reside in Florence.

Elizabeth is the Vice President of Membership and has been active in Junior League ever since moving to Florence in 2015. She attended the University of South Carolina, where she majored in international business and marketing and minored in Russian. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, she then earned her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Elizabeth is now a criminal defense attorney with the Florence County Public Defender’s Office. Beginning in July, she will also serve as the 12th Circuit Representative for the Young Lawyers Division of the South Carolina Bar. She is married to Edmund Neyle, an attorney who works for the United States District Court. They have one daughter, Virginia.

Lyndsay has been a member of the Junior League of Florence since August 2013 and for the past two years has held the position of Secretary. Since her provisional year, she has held many roles in the organization, including being the New Member Co-Chair and VP of Membership. Originally, from a little town called Portsmouth in Rhode Island, Lyndsay graduated from Keene State College in Keene, NH, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and Geography. She works at Greenwood Elementary School in Florence as a third grade teacher. When not working or helping with the Junior League, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, kicking back with a good book, or taking day trips down the beach or Charleston. She is married to Ryan Brown, an EMT, and together they have a cute little cat named Holly. They reside together in Florence.


VIP Magazine | May 2018

April Smith April has been a member of the Junior League since 2013. She is currently the Nominations and Placements Chair, the Merry Marketplace Decorations Chair, and a member of the Lucky Shamrock Committee. She has held other roles including the New Member Chair & Lucky Shamrock Chair. April received her Bachelor’s degree from Francis Marion University in 2002 and her doctorate PharmD degree from the MUSC College of Pharmacy in 2006. She has been the owner of LowCountry Pharmacy, LLC since 2014.  Her pharmacy is located inside of Eastern Carolina Pediatrics behind Carolinas Hospital in Florence. She is happily married to Jerry Smith and they have 2 children Kelsie (9) and Kade (6). They reside in Coward. In addition to the Junior League, April is the JC Lynch Elementary PTO President, a School Improvement Council Member, a Girl Scout Troop #521 Co-Leader and she helps with the youth at Hebron United Methodist Church.

Meggie Baker Meggie has interacted with the Junior League of Florence since moving back to Florence in 2012 where she transferred from the Columbia league. She has been honored to serve on the board as VP of Membership, VP of Communications, and currently, as Strategic Planning Director. Her undergraduate degree comes from The George Washington University and she obtained her JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law, where she graduated with high honors. She works as Director of Compliance and In-House Legal Counsel for HopeHealth, Inc., a community health center with 11 locations across South Carolina. Her passions, aside from the league and its mission, involve the arts, fitness (especially barre classes), and nonprofit work. She resides in downtown Florence with her pit-bull terrier, Watson.  

WE ARE THE JUNIOR LEAGUE Leading change. Transforming communities. To learn more or to join the Junior League of Florence, call (843) 667-0376 or visit

The Junior League of Florence presents


Saturday, May 5th | 9am - 1 pm at the Darlington Raceway Children will have the opportunity to explore exhibits like fire trucks, law enforcement vehicles, bulldozers, agricultural machinery, and military vehicles.

$5 - Children under 2 FREE May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Master’s of Science in Management and Leadership story by Jordan Pupa

Coker College has launched a new online, affordable, 15-month Master’s program in Management and Leadership. The program provides core business management and leadership skills with an emphasis on strategy development and decision making that employers are actively seeking. Many professionals locally and afar are taking advantage of the unique program while expanding their knowledge and skills in order to thrive professionally. Quinetta Buterbaugh, president of the Greater Hartsville (S.C.) Chamber of Commerce is currently enrolled in the program. She shares, “Earning my master’s degree is something I wanted to do for my whole life. I’m a first-generation college student and I’m proud of that...It’s not only about myself, but it’s also about the story I’m telling my children, my daughters, Buterbaugh that they should continue to pursue to be better, to continue to learn, and educate themselves so that they can be self-supporting, as well.” In her role as president of the Chamber of Commerce, Quinetta is responsible for a wide variety of tasks, including budget planning, strategizing, event planning, and project management. She also heads up the Chamber’s Leadership Hartsville initiative, which is a 9-month program designed to develop leadership skills in participants and provide essential information about the Hartsville community. She says, “I feel like one of the major bonuses of me going through this 38

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program with Coker College and earning my master’s degree will be the opportunity to be better at sharing leadership skills and models with the Leadership Hartsville class, and really using this as a way to influence our future here in Hartsville.” Quinetta has found online learning to be feasible and manageable. The program is 15-months long, online, and provides the flexibility that professionals in the workforce need to be able to work while continuing their education. “Enrolling in an all-online program for my master’s degree has been a really awesome decision,” says Quinetta. “I don’t have the opportunity or the luxury to spend several hours on a weekend to sit in classes like a lot of other master’s programs are, so coming into this program, it’s been pretty fun.” The program has a strong focus on team building and human capital, and provides ample opportunity for collaboration and group work through interactive classroom sessions. “It’s a great balance between teamwork and individual work,” Quinetta says. “The three times that we’ve met face-to-face online has been really interesting because I got to put a face with the names of the people in my class and I’ve gotten to converse with them when I wouldn’t normally have that in an online program, and I’m grateful for that opportunity.” The program is also designed for optimum feedback and involvement between students and professors. Coker's management and leadership program puts an emphasis on strategy development and decision making, and creates innovators equipped to bring positive change that can be beneficial across many fields of study. The program also incorporates finance and accounting courses. Coker recently developed the Corporate Partners Graduate Scholarship, which allows employees from selected corporate partners

Coker College

to enroll in the Management and Leadership program and receive a 50% off tuition scholarship, which is a savings of $9,750. Coker currently has four partners including Carolina Pines, Duke Energy, Sonoco, and McLeod Health. The number of discounted spots available for each cohort is limited. The next term to begin the program is August 2018 with a deadline of July 1, 2018. Higher education is a family affair for the Buterbaughs. Quinetta is scheduled to graduate in May 2019 from Coker’s Master’s of Science in Management and Leadership program. Her husband, Dallas, is also a first-generation college student and is getting his bachelor’s degree completely online through Coker’s business management program. Dallas is taking extra hours every semester so that he can graduate with Quinetta in May 2019. Their daughter is currently enrolled in Coker’s adult degree program, majoring in psychology. “Education is priceless,” says Quinetta.

For more information, visit to download a program preview, or email to speak with Coker admissions staff.

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Sindy and Mama Maria

LA VICTORIA RESTAURANTE A MEXICAN FOOD FIESTA Story by Gray Bostick | Photography by Judy Quick Sharon

It’s said that one can’t judge a book by its cover. And the same principle can be applied to restaurants: You can’t judge a meal by looking at signs, landscaping, a building, or decor. The best gauge of good eats is word of mouth awareness – and a parking lot full of cars. That said, the word is out: La Victoria Tienda Mexicana y Taqueria of Hartsville is THE spot in the Pee Dee for authentic Mexican cuisine and dry goods. And judging by La Victoria’s well-worn parking lot, the “word” being put out is spot-on: Aqui está...This is IT. Or, to be short, Eat Here. And many are, with more learning of this blessing from South of the Border daily. A family-owned and operated business, La Victoria is the pride of Maria Jimenez, and a true labor of love. In fact, the business is built upon such a solid foundation and simple mission that it even predates an actual brick-and-mortar building. And at a time when many restaurants try to be something they aren’t, La Victoria knows exactly what role they play: good eats, good service, good people, and good prices. “My mother has always loved to cook for others,” explains Sindy Ramos, “Mama” Maria’s daughter. “For quite a few years she would make tacos and other items at home and sell them, even delivering them to people at 40

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work or home, but mostly on weekends. Her dishes were very popular.” So popular, in fact, that Maria soon began to seek ways by which she could make her meals available with less hassle, such as having to drive as far as Monroe, North Carolina weekly just to obtain the authentic ingredients needed to create truly genuine Mexican dishes. Finding a suitable building available and seeking to live the American Dream, the Jimenez family took the leap and opened a small store in 2001, custom-targeted at providing other members of the local Hispanic community an easier means of obtaining genuine Mexican ingredients and items. By fortuitous chance, the structure housing the Jimenez’s tienda, or general store, which offers dry goods, special entree ingredients, beverages, treats, and sundries, all direct from Mexico, also had an unused area in the rear that caught Maria’s eye as a good spot from which she could sell her kitchen delights, allowing fans of her food to come to her at a central location when they wanted, rather than waiting until items were available. And within a few months, the La Victoria taqueria/restaurante was up and running. “Things were a little slow at first,” Sindy relates, “but we had some really good and loyal customers, especially

from Sonoco, who were regulars, and they’d bring in friends, who would then bring in their friends. We don’t do any advertising, but people started hearing about us and how delicious our dishes are, and the restaurant business started to pick up.” So much so that, a couple years back, it was decided that an expansion was in order and an additional dining area was constructed that more than doubled seating capacity. Yet, given the high-quality and authenticity of La Victoria’s food, even with the expansion, it still pays to get there early to ensure you’ll get a seat. An understandable concern given the La Victoria menu, which covers the full scope of typical Mexican dishes, yet offers atypical, for this area, preparation of those entrees. This ain’t Taco Bell, folks. The staff at La Victoria, which includes many members of the Jimenez family, takes extreme pride in their offerings, right down to handmade corn tortillas for tacos, as well as gorditas, tostados, sopes, fajitas and tortas (sandwiches), all available in beef, pork, sausage, chicken or seafood, along with a full spectrum of toppings. Vegetarian dishes are also available, as are lunch and dinner plate specials, such as the Coker College platillo. And La Victoria takes service a step further for their diners, delivering a selection of chopped onions, limes, cilantro, and two types of salsa to each table to enjoy along with fresh nacho appetizers. One might also be advised to break from the routine, to go full-on Mexicali, and pass on the traditional Southern beverage choice of sweet tea and, instead, opt for a glass of Jamaica, a very refreshing and nutritious drink made from hibiscus flower petals. But La Victoria plays a role perhaps even more important than simply satisfying hungry amigos, or making available authentic Mexican ingredients or merchandise via the store, they serve as a place where the Hispanic community, especially newcomers to the area, can find a true taste of home, along with the companionship of fellow Mexicans as they acclimate to their new surroundings. Conversely, La Victoria also uniquely serves the non-Mexican population of the Pee Dee, acting as host for educational field trips by local students seeking to apply foreign language skills and absorb authentic Mexican culture, in both cuisine and character. “We’re always excited and happy to host these students who are looking to expand their horizons,” Sindy informs. “We’re very proud of our Mexican heritage and we’re happy to be able to contribute to their educational experiences and expose them to authentic Mexican dishes.” The sign is aged, as is the building; the decor is simple, the floor-plan plain, and seating is basic. But few folks come to La Victoria for the visual appeal; good food has an ambiance all its own. And it’s bringing folks back, over and over. Long story, short: a true taste of Mexico lies right here in our backyard, folks. So make a plan to soon celebrate the end of your week with a Mexican meal like you’ve probably never seen, much less tasted, and make your way over to Hartsville and La Victoria for the Real Deal – siesta not included.

La Victoria Staff The La Victoria restaurante is located at 1511 S. 5th Street in Hartsville, and is open Thursday thru Sunday, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, while the general store is open daily from 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, except on Tuesday, when hours are 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm. They may be contacted at 843-857-0910.

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



The 9th Annual Hearbeat Gala was held at NewSpring Church on March 15th.


VIP Magazine | May 2018

First Responders Cookout The event was hosted by Raldex Hospitality at Hampton Inn & Suites on April 20th. May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Florence Wine & Food Sip & Savor The event was held April 13th in Downtown Florence. Photography by Jill Hindman


VIP Magazine | May 2018

May 2018 | VIP Magazine




FLORENCE 1............................................................................................................................. Family Day, Southern Hops, 11am 1-5......................................................................................................................... Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, FLT, 7:30pm 3............................................................................................................................ Bone-E-Fit – Waters Building 7p-10p Chamber Spring Golf Classic, Traces Golf Club, 11am 4............................................................................................................................ 22nd Annual Sheriff’s Office Golf Tourn., CCSC Florence Habitat for Humanity Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, 5:30pm The Marshall Tucker Band, FMU PAC, 7:30pm 5............................................................................................................................ March for Babies, McLeod H&F, 9am Monster Jam, Florence Center, 1pm 6............................................................................................................................ Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, FLT, 7:30pm Florence Symphony Youth Orchestra, FMU PAC, 3pm 10.......................................................................................................................... BBQ for a Cause Fundraiser, Block & Vino, 10:30am FDTC Graduation Ceremony, Florence Center, 6:30pm 12........................................................................................................................... Annual Sista Strut, Florence Center, 8am 13........................................................................................................................... Family Yoga, Seminar Brewing, 10am 17........................................................................................................................... Brother Oliver, Seminar Brewing, 7pm Great Gatsby Gala, Waters Building, 7pm 17-20.................................................................................................................... Greek Festival, Greeth Orthodox Church 20......................................................................................................................... Masterworks Choir, “A German Requiem,” FMU PAC, 5pm 26......................................................................................................................... Run for the Heroes, St. Anthony Catholic School, 8am 27.......................................................................................................................... Soule’ Sunday Salsa Social, Soule’ Café, 12p 31........................................................................................................................... Coffee & Friends, All 4 Autism, 8am Florence RedWolves game, Sparrow Stadium, 7pm WEEKLY EVENTS Wednesdays..................................................................................................... Wine Down Wednesday | Dolce Vita 4pm Thursdays.......................................................................................................... Ovis Hill Farmer’s Market | Naturally Outdoors 3pm-7pm Trivia Night | Southern Hops 7pm Live Music | The Dispensary Saturdays........................................................................................................... City Center Farmer’s Market | Downtown 9am-1pm Live Music, The Dispensary

MARION/MULLINS 9.................. Mullins Chamber Golf Tournament, Dusty Hills, 12pm 17-19.........Biker Bash, Swamp Fox Entertainment Complex, 7pm

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MAY 2018 HARTSVILLE 3................................................................................................................. Bourbon Tasting, Retrofit Sip-n-Seat, 8pm Taste of Hartsville, DeLoach Center, 6:30pm-9pm 5................................................................................................................. Relay for Life Darlington County, Byerly Park, 12pm Walk with the Docs, Byerly Park, 10am 6................................................................................................................. Gospel in the Park, Pride Park, 5pm-8pm Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, Center Theater, 3pm 10............................................................................................................... Willy Wonka & the Choc Factory, Center Theater, 7pm Downtown Block Party, East College Ave., 6pm-9pm 12, 26-27.................................................................................................. Paddle Opps, Lawton Park, 9am-12pm 15............................................................................................................... Foreign Language Night, Retrofit Sip-n-Seat, 6pm 17................................................................................................................ Spring Book Sale, Hartsville Memorial Library, 5pm 18............................................................................................................... 200Hr Yoga Teacher Training, Black Creek Arts, 6pm 19............................................................................................................... Bizzell’s 20th Year Celebration, E. Carolina Ave., 4pp 24.............................................................................................................. Downtown Block Party, East College Ave., 6pm-9pm 26.............................................................................................................. Screen on the Green: Top Gun, Burry Park, 8:30pm WEEKLY EVENTS Thursdays............................................................................................... Centennial Farmers Market | 5th & Carolina 3pm-6pm

DARLINGTON 5................................................................................................................. Touch-A-Truck, Darlington Raceway 9a-4p 10............................................................................................................... Bringing Downtown Alive! Cruise-In, Pearl St., 6pm Open House Darlington, Darlington Chamber, 1-6pm 19............................................................................................................... Carolina Small Tire Racing Pro., Dtown Dragway, 12pm 5k Run/Walk, Darlington Middle School, 10am 25.............................................................................................................. Summit Sportsman Spectacular, Dtown Dragway, 10am

LAKE CITY 2................................................................................................................. River Jamboree Color Splash Fun Run, Lynches Park, 8am 12............................................................................................................... Backyard Carnivorous Plant Bogs, Moore Farms, 9:30am 18-19......................................................................................................... May Days: Lecture, Plant Sale, Garden Open, Moore Farms 21............................................................................................................... Yoga in the Garden, Moore Farms, 6pm-7:30pm

DILLON 7................................................................................................................. Corner Cookout & Carwash, 1st Ave & Calhoun St., 11am 21............................................................................................................... Springfest, 117 E Main Street (Latta), 10am-5pm May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Carolinas Hospital SystemFlorence Names CEO Carolinas Hospital System has named Vance Reynolds as the new Chief Executive Officer, effective April 30, 2018. Reynolds joins the hospital from Aiken Regional Medical Center, a 259-bed hospital in Aiken, South Carolina. “Carolinas Hospital System has a strong tradition of providing patients with compassionate, quality care,” said Reynolds. “I am excited to work with and support the medical staff, employees, volunteers and community to continue building upon and strengthening the quality care we provide patients.” In Aiken since 2015, Reynolds oversaw the operations of the hospital and a multi- specialty group employing over 20 providers. His strategic leadership has led to the success of the organization, both clinically and financially while meeting the needs of patients and the community. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from University of North Texas and master’s degree in business administration from University of Texas in Dallas. Reynolds and his wife, Paula, have been married for 27 years and have six children, two still live at home. They look forward to being a part of the community and calling Florence their home.

Courtney McGinnis Graham Community Shelter Receives Donation for Men’s Shelter

CHS Announces Assistant Chief Executive Officer Carolinas Hospital System is pleased to announce that Spencer Twigg is the new Assistant Chief Executive Officer. Spencer received his Master of Science in Health Care Management from The Johns Hopkins University and his bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Business Administration from The University of Alabama. Spencer oversees the departments of Food Services & Clinical Dietetics, Environmental Services, Radiology, Radiation Oncology, and Laboratory Services at Carolinas Hospital System. He serves on several hospital committees including: Leadership Link, Cancer Committee, Blood Utilization Committee, Service Team, Compliance Committee, Infection Prevention & Control Committee, Quality Committee, and Medical Executive Committee.

FDTC Welding Rodeo Returns to FMU Arts International Festival The familiar sounds of clanking metal returned to Francis Marion University’s Arts International Festival Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Florence-Darlington Technical College’s ninth annual Welding Sculpture Rodeo. This year’s contest featured two new winners in the professional and student division. Florence’s SteelFab of South Carolina wins for the pros, while the team from FDTC wins the amateur rodeo.

Courtney McGinnis Graham Community Shelter thank sHighland Park UMC and an anonymous donor for their very generous donation to the new men’s shelter at the Church Street location! The dining room in the new facility will be named after their former pastor and his wife, Fred and Dorothy Reese.

For five years now, the day-long festival has hosted FDTC’s welding sculpture competition. FDTC’s Educational Foundation and Lincoln Electric sponsored the free event on FMU’s campus. Both the professional and student teams had nine hours to create their work of art and this year’s theme was the Olympics.

This is a HUGE investment in aiding the homeless in the Pee Dee region!

Competing in this year’s rodeo were teams from the Darlington County Institute of Technology, Dillon County Applied Technology Center, Duke Energy, FDTC, Frazier Industrial of Darlington County, GE Healthcare, Richland County’s Heyward Career and Technology Center, SteelFab and Williamsburg Technical College.

Samantha Murray Receives Pesidents Club Award Congratulations to Samantha Murray for receiving the President’s Club award from Weichert Real Estate Affiliates. Samantha is among the top 1% of Weichert Realtors nationwide!

The contest, which was behind the FMU’s Smith University Center, started at 7:30 that morning with teams running in a “scrap dive.” The competitors picked out scrap metal to mold into their Olympic sculptures. A three-person panel of judges picked the best pieces and the artwork was auctioned afterwards to benefit scholarships for students at Tech. SteelFab’s creation was sold for a bid of $500. For more information about the FDTC Welding Sculpture Competition, contact Lauren Dorton with the Foundation office via email at or 661-8002.

Signature Wealth Group Expands Presence in the Carolinas with Addition of Spartanburg Office

Lifetime Hearing Receives Excellence Award Lifetime Hearing was recognized as the 2017 Beltone Regional Excellence Award winner for the Southeast region! This amazing team works extremely hard to go above and beyond for their patients! If you are having trouble with your hearing, see their award winning team!

Dancing For Our Future Stars- Smashing Success Congratulations to the People’s Choice Winners! First Place - David Hall and Erin Haynes; First Reliance Bank Second Place - Les Ward and Mallory Baxley; Pepsi of Florence/Pee Dee Food Service Third Place - Robbie Timms and Meggie Baker; BB&T Wealth

Congratulations to the Technical Skills Winners! Louie Callahan and Alexis McDonald; Burch, Oxner, Seale Co., CPAs, P.A.

Congratulations to the Social Stars Winners! Dr. Ramzy Hourany and Julia Thompson; Carolinas Hospital System

Congratulations to the Most Entertaining Winners! Ken Baker and MaryGrace Colburn; WMBF News

Because of your support, they raised over $133,000 to support Florence School District One schools. A special thanks to all dancers, judges, volunteers, SiMT staff and KFA for making this event possible!!

In a move that expands its locations and resources, Signature Wealth Group (an independent organization aligned with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC) has added an additional office in the Upstate region of South Carolina, bringing with it more than 150 years of experience to lead Signature’s division that will focus on first-generation entrepreneurs. In late March 2018, Signature completed the addition of Alliance Wealth Partners in Spartanburg, bringing Signature’s total office locations to five across North and South Carolina, powered by a force of 12 advisors and 30 total team members who now collectively oversee over $800 million in assets. The organization’s presence now includes offices in Florence, Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina as well as offices in Charlotte and Mooresville, North Carolina.

FDTC Commencement Features Nationally Known Motivational Speaker Nationally known motivational speaker Mark Moore will deliver the Commencement Address at FlorenceDarlington Technical College’s graduation Thursday night, May 10, 2018 at the Florence Center. The McLean, Virginia resident uses his life struggles to connect with listeners. He’s the author of, A Stroke of Faith: A Stroke Survivor’s Story of a Second Chance at Living a Life of Significance. His book tells the story of back-to-back strokes in 2007 that almost ended his life. Moore recovered and ran a 5K charity run just one year after his hospitalization. Moore credits his Christian faith with overcoming the many obstacles from major strokes. Moore is now serving as the mid-Atlantic Ambassador for Empowered to Serve, a major initiative of the American Heart Association in reaching out to faith-based and African American communities. He is also the National Ambassador for the program, speaking all over the country about his faith, stroke prevention and stroke recovery. In that capacity, Moore shares his message at churches, hospitals, clinics, wellness centers and community centers as well as presenting workshops. Along with his wife, Moore established the Mark and Brenda Moore Foundation in 2010. The foundation supports advances in healthcare, education, the arts and Christian Evangelism. Their foundation has contributed to a wide variety of causes including Mount Vernon Hospital’s expansion program, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Posse Foundation, Hopkins House Early Childhood Learning, Community Coalition for Haiti and the John Leland Center for Theological Studies. The Moore’s also have strongly supported the arts. Their foundation has contributed to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the National Symphony Orchestra and other cultural institutions.


THE LAKE 273 N. Church St. Lake City, SC

THE LAKE at Lake City story by Jordan Pupa

Lake City has been known as “the city that has no lake.” Jason Springs, a County Councilman, took on the project since the first day he joined the county six years ago. Before becoming part of the county, he was a City Councilman for Lake City for six years. He shares, “Since I was a kid, people have always talked about there needing to be a lake in Lake City.” There was a vision for a lake area in order to provide an outdoor recreation and leisure area for people to enjoy. During Jason’s time as City Councilman, the project had been discussed and planned, though it fizzled out due to struggles of obtaining project approval. However, with the help of the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation, intelligent contractors, and the city, the project was completed successfully after many years. On April 20th, the dream became a reality with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new lake with over 200 people in attendance. The space was originally a land fill on the edge of the swamp, which closed in the late 70s, and then became the city’s Public Works Department. On that site was Lake City’s main public station where 75% of the sewer from Lake City was pushed onto the waste water plant. The area was an eye sore every time people came into town. Around 2010, the county acquired the property, including land behind the site which was primarily swamp. Thanks to grants and sales tax monies, the Public Works site was relocated and now has a beautiful building on Kelley Street. With the vision of creating a lake, they had an initial


VIP Magazine | May 2018

plan to make it five acres, but after digging, they realized it wasn’t large enough. They brought in Board Members from the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation and they agreed that it needed to be larger. The foundation gave them the extra funds to support an additional three acres to be dug. The new eight-acre lake area has a 16 foot fountain with LED lights, boardwalk, and picnic shelter that seats 40 with six large fans to accommodate the summer heat. The shelter can be rented out by calling the Florence County Recreation Department. There are also a few picnic benches throughout the park, all with small grills. The space is beautifully decorated with trees and plants. Darla Moore donated $100,000 worth of trees for the space and DNR donated 24,000 fish for the pond. Additionally, there are six swings throughout the park which were built by Bradley Bazen, a local Sheriff’s Deputy. The lake backs up to Lion’s Park which will be transformed into a green space, with possibly more picnic areas, a community shelter, and parking area, in the near future. The process was tedious with setbacks along the way, though everything worked out in the end and the excavation process was approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers. “You can’t fill in wetlands, but you can dig in them,” explains Jason. “So what we figured out was that as long as we dug and put the dirt directly into the back of a truck, we could do it. Technically, you can’t let any fall back into the water at all. But we were in the swamp, and you can’t just

drive a dump truck into the swamp. We had to get large mats, made of wooden logs bolted together, that made a big road. This is one reason it cost so much money.” Part of the Brownfields grant that was received included that they put a two-foot cover on top of the old landfill beside where the landfill sits. It worked out that the dirt dug out was good enough to put on the landfill, which saved money by not having to transport it to a separate landfill. Many people and organizations helped make the project possible. “The City was a big help giving us the property. We couldn’t have done it without the generous donations of the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation,” shares Jason. “DNR has assisted us a lot with grants and donating fish and Bill Fetter out of Conway did the boardwalk and did a wonderful job.” Ronnie Goodson was in charge of the excavation. Jason says, “When we were looking for a contractor, I called everyone I knew from Charleston, Greenville, Columbia, and all throughout the state. I told them we had a really sensitive project and I needed someone good that would do the job right. It was funny, they all recommended Ronnie Goodson. He did a great job.” Lake City now has a lake. “I had one goal when joining County Council and that was to improve the quality of life for our community,” shares Jason. “We basically took an eye sore and turned it into a gem. It is something that the entire community can take advantage of. I feel like this is a huge effort.” The project is beneficial because it will last and serve the community for many years to come as a beautiful space for various outdoor activities.

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Non-profit Ministry Donates Release Bags to Female Inmates story provided by Tenacious Grace


(approx 12.5 x9.5”; cloth/canvas)

• packs of Chapstick • Feminine hygiene products • Packs of gum

(Orbit, Extra, Stride, Eclipse)

• Granola bars • Travel packs of antibacterial wipes • 8 oz bottles of water • $5 fast food gift cards

(Burger King & McDonalds)

• New copies of small devotionals (Jesus Calling, Joyce Meyer, etc...)

• Personal notes of encouragement addressed “Dear Friend


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Tenacious Grace is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to creating resources that encourage and challenge people from all walks of life. The local ministry is dedicated to serving hurting women with truth, strength, and hope. The organization recently delivered the second installment of release bags to the Florence County Detention Center. The bags are designed to place needed resources in the hands of female inmates upon their release. Each zippered pouch includes a personal note of encouragement, a water bottle, a granola bar, a fast food gift card, a small devotional, antibacterial wipes, a pack of gum, Chapstick, church information, a bookmark with contact information for appropriate community agencies, and feminine hygiene products. “We are aware that many incarcerated ladies are released back into very difficult circumstances, and through this bag of resources, we hope to communicate, ‘We care about what happens to you now,’” explained Tenacious Grace team member, Cookie Cawthon.

The ministry also has a long-term goal of bringing free transitional housing for formerly incarcerated women to the Pee Dee area. Five Sparrows, the proposed home, will offer comprehensive assistance (i.e., counseling, job training, financial coaching, access to recovery programs, spiritual support) in a stable environment as a safe place to write a new story. “We want these ladies to know that there is still hope after serving jail time, and Tenacious Grace wants to be a link to that hope,” shares Melanie Turner, TG Volunteer Director. Tenacious Grace has received support from local organizations like SPC Credit Union in Hartsville, Chick-Fil-A inside Magnolia Mall, Food Lion, Walmart, Piggly Wiggly, and Southside Baptist Church in Florence to launch the new initiative.

If interested in donating bag items, email the ministry at You can also learn more about the work of the organization at

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Moles, Freckles & Skin Tags...

Oh My!

The past two decades have brought us a significant amount of education on skin cancer: who is at risk, what it looks like, and how to avoid it. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with more than 3 million people diagnosed each year. With increased awareness and screening habits, dermatologists are also seeing and treating patients concerned about more benign forms of skin lesions – either for medical reasons or vanity. “As we grow older and are exposed to more sunlight and environmental factors, our skin changes in response to those exposures,” says Dr. Ziad Skaff of Carolinas Hematology & Oncology. “Almost everyone has at least some presence of skin marks, such as freckles or moles, which may grow, multiply or change over time. While the vast majority of these marks are benign and will never be cancerous, it’s important to give them a closer look at least once every year.”

Ziad Skaff, M.D.

Ziad Skaff, M.D. is a board certified oncologist and hematologist at Carolinas Hematology & Oncology with Carolinas Medical Alliance. He is also on the medical staff at Carolinas Hospital System. For more information go to:


VIP Magazine | May 2018

Below, we break down the list of the most common, non-cancerous skin marks and lesions, and which ones you should pay most attention to over time.

• Moles can appear almost anywhere on the skin, either alone or in a group. They are typically brown or black in color, and first appear during childhood or the first 20 years of one’s life. The average adult has between 10 and 40 moles distributed across their body. Over time, moles can change slowly – becoming more raised and lighter in color, developing hairs, or even just disappearing entirely. • Freckles are small brown spots usually found on the face and arms. They are extremely common, often hereditary, and not a health threat.

• Skin Tags are a small flap of tissue that hangs off of the skin. They are typically found on the neck, chest, back, armpits, or groin area. Benign and not dangerous, they occur at a higher rate in women. Removal is a common, and mostly painless, procedure. • Lentigines. A lentigo (or plural, lentigines) is a spot that is darker than the surrounding skin. They are typically brown in color, and are more common in Caucasians. • Seborrheic Keratoses are brown or black growths most often found on the chest and back, but also on the head. As they develop, they can appear more warty. • Cherry Angiomas are small, bright red dots, usually ranging in size from a pinpoint to a quarter inch in diameter. Some appear smooth and even with your skin, while others appear slightly raised. They most often grow on the torso, arms, legs and shoulders, and typically show up after age 30. “With the exception of moles, all of these skin conditions are largely hereditary, are either caused or worsened by sun exposure, and are nearly always benign,” says Dr. Skaff. “Unless the patient is significantly concerned about the aesthetics, or is experiencing bleeding or irritation due to some type of friction, I typically will not recommend any treatment at all for things like freckles or skin tags.” While moles are also often hereditary, they are more prone to structural changes as you age. Also, moles that are present at birth, and ones that are atypical in size or shape (not perfectly round and flat) are more prone to developing cancerous cells in the future. If a dermatologist believes a mole needs to be evaluated or removed, he or she will first take a biopsy of it. This is a minor procedure resulting in a small tissue sample of the mole that will be examined under a microscope. If any cancerous cells are discovered, the entire mole will be removed along with the rim of normal skin surrounding it. Your physician will most likely want to follow up with you in a matter of weeks, to ensure the small wound is healing properly. Regardless of family history or a prior cancerous skin lesion, be mindful of all variations and changes in the status of your skin, across all areas of your body. At least every few months, with the help of a mirror and good lighting, examine your face, neck, chest, trunk, and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Check the front and backs of your legs and feet, including the soles and areas between your toes. Also check your genital area and the area on and between your buttocks. Have someone help you check your scalp and behind your ears. See your primary care physician or dermatologist each year and expect them to do a thorough examination of your Instagram:hartsvillebubbleguy skin, exploring anything new, changed or irregular. Twitter: @hvillebubbleguy

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



Blooming, Beautiful &


Just in Time for Mother’s Day!


VIP Magazine | May 2018

May 2018 | VIP Magazine




story by Mary Ridgeway of Kalmia Gardens

Springtime is an exciting time to get out in your garden after being indoors all winter. It is a time to get out in nature and enjoy backyard birds. For me, birds are spectacular and add beauty to our landscapes and I want to do all I can to make their lives easier and productive. It is my hope you will want this also. Birds need food, water, shelter and protection from predators such as domestic cats. I have listed some sites that will give you instruction on how to care for your home landscape and create a sanctuary for you and birds. Let’s get started!

CAROLINA YARDS: index.html Carolina yards “focuses on low maintenance, low cost actions that individuals can take to make positive changes in the environmental quality of their yards, neighborhoods, and surrounding waterways.” It is an easy site to maneuver through and explains many topics of home landscape care.

NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION: The federation explains, “Rapid and large-scale changes to our lands and waters mean wildlife are losing the habitats they once knew. Every habitat garden is a step toward replenishing resources for wildlife such as bees, butterflies, birds, and amphibians—both locally and along migratory corridors.”

AUDUBON: Audubon states, “Restoring native plant habitat is vital to preserving biodiversity. By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.” This website shows how each bird, caterpillar or butterfly uses native plants and is listed by zip code. This list will be suited for your landscape.


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Lastly, I know you are excited to get out and clean your gardens, get them under control and whip them into shape. Often this includes drastic pruning. I am asking you to take your time and look into each shrub or tree before you remove any vegetation and check for bird nests, baby birds or a sitting mom. A bird family is often raised within a few weeks. So, if you find an active nest please allow those birds to raise their families. You can direct your energy to planting beautiful containers or putting out new mulch until you can tidy up those shrubs. It is my intent for you to enjoy your home landscape and the wildlife that lives in it. We can make a difference to the health and beauty of our own space with a few easy changes. I hope you find enjoyment in your home landscape this year.

May 2018 | VIP Magazine



What Would My 75 Year Old Self Tell My 25 Year Old Self? story by Dan Askins, III, McGee Financial Group

“I should have died two years ago.” That’s what John told me the other night. He’s 75 years old, college educated and owned his own business for over 30 years. Sally is planning a trip to the Caribbean with her 10 kids and grandkids. She is also 75 years old, college educated and enjoyed a lengthy career in education. What’s the difference? Why is Sally debating which island to visit, while John is wondering how to pay the light bill? The answer is planning. When Sally was 55 years old, she met with a financial services professional who told her she wasn’t going to make it unless she made significant changes to her investment strategy. Sally listened. John never sought any counsel. At age 55, they were in roughly the same place financially. Twenty years on, they couldn’t be further apart. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of 20-something’s called Hartsville Young Professionals (HYP). The title of my talk was, “What Would My 75-YearOld Self Tell My 25-Year-Old Self?” The basis of the talk was the true story of these two people (names changed to protect privacy). The premise is that it is much easier to deal with things now, when we are relatively young, than it is when we are older. We all face three risks in our lives, and we all need a plan to deal with them. The three risks we all face are Death, Disability and Retirement. Statistically speaking the chances are pretty high that we are going to have to deal with at least two of these events, if not all of them. So, what’s your plan? How are you going to navigate in such a way that you end up like Sally and not like John? Death is not a fun topic, but let’s be honest with each other. As the Foo Fighters say: “It’s a shame we have to die my dear. No one’s getting out of here, alive.” (Foo Fighters, DOA)

546 W Carolina Ave, Hartsville 843.858.9514 Dan Askins is the leading specialist in the Pee Dee for Life, Disability and Long Term Care Insurance. His focus allows him to help clients make a plan for the three greatest risks we all face--Death, Disability and Retirement.


VIP Magazine | May 2018

We can never replace you, but we can replace the financial hole you leave behind. If your family depends on your income right now, they will need it at least as much if you passed away suddenly. Debts that you owe do not follow you to the grave. Your family will be tied down by those debts. What is your plan? Disability is a lurking menace to whom we do not give much respect. The truth is that “just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.” ( When someone is disabled, they can no longer earn an income. Quite often the spouse has become the caregiver, which can impinge on her ability to earn an income as well. A skiing accident, a car wreck or a mishap at work can put an immediate end to your income. Disability insurance can provide a vital source of income when you need it most. The alternative is moving back into your parents’ basement or couch-surfing with your college buddies. Neither of those options has much appeal to yours truly. So, what’s your plan? Retirement is a goal for most, but it is a risk for all of us. Remember our friend John? He is experiencing the pain of having more month than money. His options are severely limited by his health. Wal-Mart is not hiring any more door greeters. Now add in the specter of skilled nursing care. The costs for elder care are sky-rocketing. It is not unusual to spend $43,000 to $82,000 per YEAR. The average need is 3 years. That’s $129,000 to $246,000 per PERSON. ( Are you saving enough to pay those bills? The tragedy is the first spouse uses up all the savings, forcing the surviving spouse to make some very difficult and scary decisions. Long Term Care Insurance provides a great way to hand off the risk of outliving your savings to the insurance company. What’s your plan?

The moral of the story is simple: Be like Sally. Make a plan.

May 2018-2  
May 2018-2