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Greenville, SC
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Travelers Rest High teacher announced as district teacher of the year

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Burke Royster, superintendent of Greenville County Schools, congratulates Shelley Smith, right, for being named the district's 2018-19 teacher of the year.

Shelley Smith had always wanted to be a teacher — she taught her stuffed animals math lessons in elementary school before realizing math wasn’t her strong suit.

It was her teachers she remembers looking up to most as a child — when she felt insecure about the hundreds of freckles dotted across her face, they were there to allay her insecurities.

Now, Smith is being recognized for her own skills in teaching in the largest school district in South Carolina.

“I’ve always wanted to teach, and now I’m getting to live that dream,” Smith said.

Smith, a social studies teacher at Travelers Rest High School, was named Greenville County Schools’ 2018-19 teacher of the year among nine other finalists Wednesday morning.

Each Greenville County school selects its own teacher of the year before a committee chooses 10 finalists in the district. From those 10, the committee chooses three runners-up and the districtwide teacher of the year.

Greenville’s newest teacher of the year, Shelley Smith, right, poses with Suzanne Billings, the district’s 2017-18 teacher of the year.

Smith started her teaching career six years ago at Travelers Rest High after graduating from Clemson University.

Although the profession hasn’t been an attractive one — with low wages and teachers leaving the workforce en masse in recent years — Smith said the student successes are what make it worthwhile.

“The real life success stories that no one else really cares about,” Smith said. “We have to celebrate success, and we don’t do that enough.”

Before Smith, Travelers Rest High’s last teacher of the year was more than 17 years ago, prior to Principal Louis Lavely’s tenure.

“Shelley is an amazing teacher, and she does such great things for her students and the rest of the faculty,” Lavely said. “She has been a role model for new teachers and veterans.”

Smith’s father, Jerry Smith, knew his daughter would accomplish whatever she set her heart on. “She has been more determined to do everything she’s done in her life to the best of her ability,” Jerry Smith said. “She never comes up short, she always strives to be the best, and today, she is the best of the best.”

Runners-up for teacher of the year are Rick Schwartz of Greer High School, Matthew Boone of Northwood Middle School, and Reem Alnatour of Fork Shoals School.

Greenville veteran Doug Greenlaw named national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart

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Doug Greenlaw. Photo by Will Crooks.

One of America’s oldest veterans service organizations is now under local leadership.

Greenville resident and U.S. Army veteran Doug Greenlaw, who is the chairman of Community Journals Publishing Group, has been named national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA.

Founded in 1932, the Military Order of the Purple Heart is a Virginia-based nonprofit dedicated to “the protection and mutual interest of all combat-wounded veterans and active-duty men and women” who have received the Purple Heart, a decoration for wounds sustained in combat, according to a news release.

The group’s services range from helping combat-wounded veterans navigate the maze of government entitlements to providing rides to a Veterans Administration hospital to finding donors who can provide wheelchairs to those who need them.

“I cannot put into words the honor it is to be elected by my peers as the national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart,” Greenlaw said. “I am honored to help the order march into a challenging future and complex culture as we continue to assist our country’s military men and women every day.”

Greenlaw said he has both the military service and business acumen needed to lead the Military Order of the Purple Heart, which has about 46,000 members nationwide.

A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Greenlaw served as an Army officer, graduating from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga. He then trained officer candidates for one year before enrolling in “jungle expert” training at the Infantry School in Panama, South America, according to a news release.

Following his training, Greenlaw served as a first lieutenant, joining the forces in Vietnam as a platoon leader, receiving a brigade-level promotion to company commander in 1967 and 1968 while serving with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade.

Greenlaw was wounded once as a platoon leader in the fall of 1967 and gravely wounded as a company commander during the Tet Offensive in the spring of 1968. He is the recipient of the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Heart medals.

Upon his return from Vietnam, Greenlaw earned a Bachelor of Science degree in communications from Indiana University and joined the media world.

In addition to helping launch Community Journals Publishing Group, Greenlaw has held several key leadership positions with Viacom, the world’s ninth largest media company, and Multimedia Inc., which was purchased by Gannett in 1996.

Currently, Greenlaw serves as the chairman and CEO of Greenlaw Communications, which operates small-market television companies. He’s also on the board of directors of The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and its subsidiary, Alcentra Capital. 

Greenlaw has been a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart since 1996, when he was introduced to the organization by former Republican presidential nominee and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, a World War II veteran, who had chosen Greenlaw to serve as vice chairman of veterans outreach during his 1996 presidential campaign.  

Greenlaw has since served as the state commander and national chairman of the Military Order of the Purple Heart USA. He’s also the co-founder and former commander of the Capt. Kimberly N. Hampton MOPH Chapter 845 in Greenville.

During his yearlong tenure as national commander, Greenlaw said his primary goal is to improve the order’s finances by restructuring the Purple Heart Foundation, a sister entity that was chartered by Congress in 1957 and tasked with raising money for the organization, and launching a new fundraising campaign.

“The order’s financial needs are in jeopardy as we have never seen before in our history,” Greenlaw wrote in his nomination letter to order members. “While revenues continue to erode, expenses have grown considerably. Our foundation’s net asset value has deteriorated to the point that operating expenses cannot be covered. We are losing money every year with inadequate funding on the horizon.”

Greenlaw said the foundation, which funds the order through annual grants, has been hemorrhaging millions of dollars in recent years due to outdated fundraising plans, including used-car and household-goods donations.

Unfortunately, the foundation’s troubled financial state is already impacting the order’s ability to offer services for combat-wounded veterans, he added.

Earlier this year, for instance, the order announced that its National Service Program, which helps veterans navigate the bureaucracy involved in filing a benefits claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, would operate at a reduced funding level.

In order to improve the order’s finances, Greenlaw wrote that his fundraising strategy would “initially raise corporate funding, filling the short-term financial gaps while simultaneously building a celebrity-driven national fundraising drive.”

Greenlaw said he’s already received an endorsement from Fred Smith, chairman and CEO of FedEx Corp., and plans to meet with other top U.S. business executives, including the CEOs of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

He also said the order is coordinating a meeting with President Donald Trump, who has long championed veterans issues and promised to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, improve access to health care, and provide veterans with education.

“The order is facing change like you can’t believe,” Greenlaw said. “But I’m a change agent. I have been my whole career. That’s why they voted for me. My opponent was status quo. He wanted to keep everything the way it is. But we need finances. I know what I’m doing. I’m going in with a plan. It’s a good plan. And I’m going to execute that plan.”

For more information, visit purpleheart.org.

Sound Bites: Message to Love; Soda City Riot; Little Lesley & The Bloodshots

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Little Lesley, aka Lesley Swift, of Little Lesley & The Bloodshots. The band will play at The Velo Fellow Thursday, Aug. 16. Photo by Trashy Betty Photography.

Sunday, Aug. 19
Message to Love: A Benefit Show for Lennox Ostendorff
Gottrocks
200 Eisenhower Drive, Greenville
7:30 p.m.
$10

Freddie Wooten, a veteran Upstate drummer and drum-kit builder, has done many benefit concerts for various causes, and one of his most popular concepts has been a re-creation of the 1969 Woodstock festival, with local musicians taking on classics by Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, and more. But for “Message to Love,” a benefit for 8-year-old Lennox Ostendorff, who was recently diagnosed with a chromosomal disease called X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, Wooten looked to another legendary musical event: 1970’s Isle of Wight Festival. “The list of artists who performed there was incredible,” Wooten says. “It was just as amazing an event as Woodstock, if not more so: The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Chicago, Sly & The Family Stone, and Joni Mitchell all played, and it was the second-ever performance by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.” Recruiting a slew of Upstate acts including The Eric Weiler Group, Sound Committee, True Blues, Kelly Jo, The Bad Popes, and more, Wooten has assembled a three-hour-plus show named after a documentary about the festival. And it’s all for a family and a little boy who mean the world to him. “When this diagnosis happened, it was such a devastating thing for Lennox and his parents, Gentry and Holly,” Wooten says. “They’re like family, and because of that connection, it was important for us to try to do something.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rj405bbDsoY

Sunday, Aug. 19
Soda City Riot, with The Problemaddicts, Bullmoose, and Chunx
Radio Room,
110 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
8 p.m.
$7

For anyone who loved the loud, fast, and snotty hardcore punk rock of the early 1980s, the new split 7-inch LP release by Charleston’s Hale Bopp Astronauts and Columbia’s Soda City Riot will scratch a serious itch. It’s basically four songs of angry but insanely catchy hyper-speed rock with activism and anger to spare, and it’s surprising how much the bands’ respective sounds have in common while still remaining independent from one another. The split 7-inch LP has been a staple of punk rock for decades, and Soda City Riot guitarist Billy Ray says it’s a great opportunity for people to sample two bands for the price of one. “I think it shows the best of both worlds,” Ray says. “It’s what I like to call ‘sharing the state.’ We like to try to build a circle of friends and a good network, and that’s one way to make things work is to do those split releases.” The idea of networking is also why Ray loves multiband shows like the one Soda City Riot is playing at the Radio Room. “I think it’s a great idea, especially when you have a venue that’s able to have different kinds of bands come in from different areas,” he says.

https://sodacityriot.bandcamp.com/album/the-first-ep

Thursday, Aug. 16
Little Lesley & The Bloodshots
The Velo Fellow
1 Augusta St. No. 126, Greenville
9 p.m.
Free

For years, the Upstate band Little Lesley & The Bloodshots operated as a trio, putting on their best 1950s-era finery and hitting the stage to play full-tilt, old-school rockabilly, without any of the punk or hard-rock trappings that the genre seems to have taken on in recent years. And Little Lesley, aka Lesley Swift, was always center stage wielding a standup bass, twirling it, rocking it around, and even standing atop it while banging out that heartbeat rockabilly thump. But recently, Swift has expanded the band and moved over to rhythm guitar, which has opened up their music, even if the change gave her pause. “I was really worried about it because I think that one of the things that helped me get myself out there was that idea that I’m this really small person playing this big bass,” she says. “Visually, that was interesting to people, and that’s why we focused on it in the photographs. It’s been such a good marketing tool.” But Swift had grown restless with the band’s sound and decided it was time to shake things up, and her propulsive rhythm guitar has given The Bloodshots a new bounce, not to mention more focus. “It allows me to physically focus on singing,” she says. “And I think that the extra layer of the rhythm guitar has added this more danceable feel to the music.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnDJqVtYkaY

SUSTO’s Justin Osborne to play solo acoustic show at Radio Room

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Justin Osborne plays plays a solo acoustic show at the Radio Room in Greenville on Friday, Aug. 17.

SUSTO started back in 2014 as the creation of Charleston singer/songwriter/guitarist Justin Osborne. After the breakup of his previous band, the popular indie group Sequoyah Prep School, Osborne took some time off and wrote a set of songs that defied easy classification. The core of the tunes was acoustic, country-tinged folk, but Osborne’s winsome voice and an evocative, ghostly production gave SUSTO’s self-titled debut album an ethereal, otherworldly shimmer.

On the band’s second album, 2017’s “…And I’m Fine Today,” SUSTO went bigger, bringing in strings, keyboards, and choir-like backing vocals, taking the muted, gray-toned feel of the debut and splashing it with Technicolor. Osborne’s songs were just as strong, but it was clearly more of a fully realized band effort than simply a singer/guitarist and some hired hands.

Given the difference between these two records, it’s going to be interesting to see how Osborne handles the songs when he plays a solo acoustic show Friday at Greenville’s Radio Room. The selections from the first album will probably sound relatively similar to their full versions. The songs from “…And I’m Fine Today,” Osborne says, will be reshaped quite a bit.

“I think it’s cool to try to adapt those songs,” he says. “There are a lot of instruments and parts on ‘…And I’m Fine Today,’ so I think that trying to bring the same vibe with just one person and a guitar can be really interesting. You’re exploring the same melodies, but instead of being a synth, it might be with the vocals.”

It’s interesting that this show is happening at all; one would think that Osborne would welcome a break after essentially spending the past year and a half on the road with his band. But he says that it’s actually difficult not to be playing some kind of show somewhere, even if he’s just by himself.

“It’s hard for me to stop moving completely,” he says. “Whenever the band takes time off, it’s nice to have some shows where I can have a different experience with the crowd and do something different performance-wise. I just thought it would be cool to do a solo show because last time we were in town we had a really good crowd, so I knew there were some SUSTO fans and I just wanted to give people a chance to hear the songs in a different way and hear some new songs. I’m getting ready to go into the studio at the end of the month, and I want to try some new stuff out.”

Those new songs will largely deal with what Osborne has experienced in the past four years with SUSTO. The band’s two albums have met with wild critical acclaim from all over the country, with The Charlotte Observer writing that the album “adds to the band’s gentle roots and Americana base with layers of synthesizers, moments of sonic grandeur, and full-on rock songs that echo Drive-By Truckers and Tom Petty.”

Osborne’s lyrics and delivery, The Observer says, draw the listener in.

ConsequenceOfSound.com noted that SUSTO creates “the kind of music that just hits in the right way on those long, dark nights of the soul. Hell, it might even make you laugh when you’re done mopping up those tears.”

It’s a level of acceptance and acclaim for Osborne’s music that he has both welcomed and tried to keep at arm’s length.

“We’ve just been trying to do our best and ride the wave,” he says. “Any kind of approval we’ve gotten from fans or press, I just take as a mandate to keep doing what we’re doing. But if you pay more attention to it than just regarding it as a thumbs up, it can really affect what you’re doing. Keeping that stuff out of your mind is important.”


What: SUSTO (solo), with Darby Wilcox and Jordan Igoe
When: Friday, Aug. 17, 8 p.m.
Where: Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
Tickets: $12 (advance), $15 (day of show)
Info: 864-609-4441; http://www.radioroomgreenville.com/

Jones Gap State Park expanding with 680-acre donation

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Naturaland Trust will donate 680 acres to Jones Gap State Park. The properties will follow the South Carolina and North Carolina border as shown here facing north from Gap Creek Road. Photo by Mac Stone/Naturaland Trust.

Nature lovers, rejoice. One of the most popular state parks in the Upstate could soon get more hiking trails and campgrounds thanks to a local environmental group.

Naturaland Trust, a Greenville-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of land and other natural resources throughout the Upstate, announced on Tuesday the donation of 680 acres to Jones Gap State Park in northern Greenville County.

“Naturaland Trust has worked for almost half a century to protect South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and make them accessible for the public to experience and enjoy,” said Naturaland Trust president Frank Holleman. “Naturaland Trust’s gifts to Jones Gap State Park embody our work to save South Carolina’s mountains for future generations.” 

The nonprofit’s donation includes property located along the border of South and North Carolina that borders Jones Gap State Park and another piece that was recently acquired through private donations, according to a news release.

Mac Stone, executive director of Naturaland Trust, said the donated land would ultimately act as a connector between Jones Gap State Park and Gap Creek, a 955-acre tract of land along the South Carolina-North Carolina border that was donated to the state park system last year by the Greenville office of The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation group headquartered in Washington, D.C. 

About half of Naturaland’s 680-acre donation is situated between Jones Gap State Park and Gap Creek, according to the release, meaning the donation will, in effect, create a contiguous tract of land throughout the park totaling more than 1,600 acres.

Map provided by Naturaland Trust.

Stone said both properties feature a large hardwood forest system that is home to various animals and plants. Rare and iconic species found on the properties include Rafinesque’s big-eared bats, black bears, turkeys, salamanders, and white-tailed deer.

The properties also include a series of headwater streams that flow into Saluda Lake, which supplies drinking water to Easley in Pickens County, according to Stone.

“Jones Gap is one of the most striking and ecologically significant parks in South Carolina. We are incredibly proud to add to this iconic landscape,” Stone said. “Ultimately these properties should be a public asset, and that’s precisely what we’re doing by placing them in the very capable hands of S.C. Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.”

Upstate Forever, a Greenville-based nonprofit that protects land and water resources throughout the 10-county region, will monitor and enforce a conservation easement on the property to ensure that it remains protected and undeveloped, according to Stone. 

Stone said Naturaland Trust will work with the State Park Service to transfer the 680 acres into the park system over the next several months. Once transferred, the properties would include open access for hiking, camping, fishing and other outdoor activities.

Giving back to nature 

Since opening nearly three decades ago, Jones Gap State Park has become one of the state’s most popular spots for outdoor recreation, welcoming thousands of visitors every year who want to explore its more than 3,000 acres of woodlands and trails.

The park, however, may have never happened had it not been for Naturaland Trust, according to Phil Gaines, director of the S.C. State Park Service. 

In addition to playing a central role in the park’s creation, the nonprofit organization has helped with its expansion by donating thousands of acres over the years.

It all started in 1973 when local attorney and acclaimed conservationist Tommy Wyche launched Naturaland Trust and set out to establish a “bridge” of protected lands between the Table Rock Watershed in Pickens County and North Saluda Watershed in Greenville County.

Naturaland Trust has since worked with government agencies, nonprofits, private foundations, and local landowners to secure conservation easements and acquire undeveloped properties across the mountain escarpment, known as the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area.

Popular destinations located within the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area include Caesar’s Head State Park, Table Rock State Park, and Jones Gap State Park. Naturaland Trust acquired the land to form Jones Gap State Park in 1979. It opened nearly a decade later.

Naturaland Trust is responsible for the design and construction of most of the hiking trails at Jones Gap, according to the release. Also, with the current donation, the nonprofit will have purchased and given more than 1,200 acres to the state park over the last 11 years, expanding it by over 20 percent.

In 2007, under Wyche’s leadership, Naturaland Trust donated about 300 acres to Jones Gap State Park. It donated an additional 305 acres to the park in 2010. Five years later, Wyche passed away, leaving behind a lasting legacy in the environmental community. 

“Without Naturaland Trust and Tommy Wyche, Jones Gap State Park wouldn’t even exist,” said Gaines. “That alone is extraordinary, but they didn’t stop there. They continued to give us more and more land and have made the park an even better and more accessible place for the public to use and enjoy.”

Brad Wyche, Tommy’s son and founder of Upstate Forever, said his father “loved the South Carolina mountains and devoted much of his life to protecting them.”

“The establishment of Jones Gap State Park was one of his greatest accomplishments, and he was delighted to see the increasing popularity of the park and to enable the park to expand through the Naturaland Trust donations,” Wyche added. “I know he would be very pleased with this additional gift of even more land.”

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  • Naturaland Trust, a Greenville-based nonprofit organization, will donate 680 acres to Jones Gap State Park in northern Greenville County. Photo by Mac Stone/Naturaland Trust.

  • The Jones Gap expansion will add miles of protected streams that flow into the Middle Saluda River. Photo by Mac Stone/Naturaland Trust.

  • Jones Gap is known for its biodiversity, like this red eft clinging to mosses within the state park. Photo by Mac Stone/Naturaland Trust.

  • Many unique aquatic species like the greenhead shiners (pictured here) and the bluehead chub will benefit from protected streams and clean water that flow into the Middle Saluda River. This image was photographed in Oil Camp Creek, by Jones Gap State Park and a tributary of the Middle Saluda River. Photo by Mac Stone/Naturaland Trust.

  • Photo by Mac Stone/Naturaland Trust.

  • Facing east on Gap Creek Road along the Blue Ridge Escarpment, Naturaland Trust's donation of 680 acres will connect Jones Gap State Park with The Nature Conservancy's property that reaches to Highway 25. Photo by Mac Stone/Naturaland Trust.

  • Photo by Mac Stone/Naturaland Trust.

In addition to establishing Jones Gap, Naturaland Trust played a central role in creating and protecting Caesar’s Head State Park, the Jocassee Gorges Wilderness Area, the Blue Wall Preserve, the Stumphouse Mountain Heritage Preserve, and the Nine Times Forest, according to the news release. 

Naturaland Trust also has acquired and protected lands adjoining Paris Mountain State Park, key portions of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and lands along Matthews Creek and the South Saluda, Middle Saluda, North Saluda, Chauga, Reedy, and Enoree rivers.

Today, the nonprofit organization continues to own and manage more than 5,800 acres that are open to the public, the release said. It recently donated the 6.8-acre property for Greenville’s Cancer Survivors Park in downtown. The park opened earlier this year. 

For more information, visit www.naturalandtrust.org.

Two Carolinas will unite when Panthers visit Fluor Field

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The Carolina Panthers are coming to Fluor Field on Thursday night — and of course Sir Purr is coming with them.  As part of their “Two States. One Team.” tour, the Panthers are visiting the Greenville Drive to get fans hyped for the upcoming football season. 

In Thursday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Drive players will wear “One Carolina” jerseys, which will be auctioned off to benefit Mobile Meals of Spartanburg. The first 1,500 fans to enter the gate at 6 p.m. will each receive a Carolina Panthers T-shirt.

The night’s festivities will also include visits from Panthers alumni, Sir Purr, the TopCats cheerleaders, the Black & Blue Crew, PurrCussion, and more.

“With football season right around the corner, this is a great time to welcome the Carolina Panthers to Fluor Field for what promises to be an energetic night,” said Drive general manager Eric Jarinko. “The Panthers are committed to being a team for the Carolinas, and we are excited to host them as they prepare for another successful season on the field.”

The NFL will provide additional entertainment with the Play60 truck, featuring interactive stations and football activities that encourage children to be active 60 minutes a day.

The Panthers’ 2018 season kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 9 in a game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Tickets for Thursday’s game may be purchased at the Main Street Box Office, by calling 864-240-4528, or by clicking here.

Charter Institute at Erskine College offers bonus for sponsoring schools

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Tucked near the back of Vamshi Rudrapati’s contract with the Charter Institute at Erskine College is a simple statement — if the director brings in five charter schools by 2020, he’ll receive a $25,000 bonus.

Erskine’s charter institute hasn’t been around long, but its short history has been contentious from the start.

There are only three ways a public charter school can exist in South Carolina, according to state law: It must be sponsored by a local school district, by the statewide South Carolina Public Charter School District, or by an institution of higher education. The schools are public and must follow the same rules traditional public schools abide by — they are also funded by taxpayers.

The entities that sponsor charter schools are called “authorizers” and can receive up to 2 percent of each school’s state funding in South Carolina.

In prior years, Erskine College has had a history of financial woes — tax filings for the school from 2007 to 2016 show it consistently operated in the red. In 2014, the school was placed on probation by its accreditor as a result of its financial situation. After increasing tuition, slashing salaries between 5 and 30 percent, eliminating its Department of Foreign Languages, and cutting positions, the college was taken off probation a year later.

Last July, Erskine College became the first private college in the state to sponsor charter schools, and the only institution of higher education in the state to currently sponsor charter schools — South Carolina State University briefly sponsored an on-campus lab school in 2014.

Since then, state legislators have said they never anticipated that a private college would sponsor charter schools across South Carolina.

Since the charter law was written with the S.C. Public Charter School District in mind, it’s vague about what to do with higher education institutions — an amendment that was added in 2013 with S.C. State in mind.

The chairman of the state’s Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, told members of the committee in March that there needed to be a change in how budget requests are done now that Erskine is in the mix.

“In a year, there could be 10 authorizers. We’re not going to parade 10 authorizers in front of this committee every year asking for money. We’re not doing it,” Sheheen said to the committee in March. “Erskine has requested to make a presentation. Now, my initial reaction is, I don’t really want to hear from nongovernmental entities coming before this committee asking for money. I don’t want to do it, but the situation we’re in, which was unanticipated, is so bizarre that I don’t know how else to handle it.”

Several bills were introduced in the Legislature this past session to limit how many charter schools could be sponsored by a college or limit the amount of state funding colleges receive from them, but none made it out of committee.

The state Department of Education projects Erskine’s total state appropriations budget this year to be $70.8 million, most of which will go to its schools. The institute will receive 2 percent of the appropriations.

Immediately when the college announced it would sponsor charter schools, it also said there were already two interested applicants — Cyber Academy of South Carolina, a Greenville-based virtual school, and the South Carolina Virtual Charter School, which is based in Columbia.

Both schools operated under the South Carolina Public Charter School District and had been placed in “breach” status by the district for consistently poor academic performance. The district has four performance categories — good standing, caution, breach, and revocation; a school in breach status is one step away from having its charter revoked.

Not long after the two virtual schools, seven more schools filed to transfer from the S.C. Public Charter School District to Erskine’s charter institute — three were in breach status, two were in caution, and two were not eligible for a status because they opened less than two years prior.

From the start, the S.C. Public Charter School District did not support the schools’ intent to transfer — its board chairman and superintendent cited a national phenomenon called “authorizer shopping” where failing charter schools switch sponsors to evade accountability and remain open.

The schools have argued that wasn’t their intent, but that they wanted more support from their sponsor, something Erskine promised to provide.

Since then, Erskine has approved a total of 20 schools — 10 transferred from the S.C. Public Charter School District and five had applied to the S.C. Public Charter School District in the past and were denied.

Two months after Erskine announced its institute, it also named Rudrapati its director. Rudrapati had been employed with the statewide charter district for five years up to that point and was most recently the district’s director of federal programs, earning a salary of $77,700.

Rudrapati resigned from the S.C. Public Charter School District in a late-night email to the district’s director of human resources that said it was “effective immediately (09/18/2017).”

“I have not accepted a position as of now, but I have several potential job opportunities,” Rudrapati’s email said.

The Greenville Journal sent a Freedom of Information Act request for Rudrapati’s contract as well as the contract for Cameron Runyan, CEO of the Charter Institute at Erskine.

Runyan said he does not have a contract but is an at-will employee.

Rudrapati’s contract with Erskine, which was signed on Sept. 18, 2017 — the same day he resigned from the S.C. Public Charter School District — lists him as the director of the institute with a salary of $75,000.

But near the end of his two-year contract, under a section titled “Bonus Structure,” it says Rudrapati “will be due a bonus of $25,000 at the end of the contract term if the Charter Institute at Erskine is serving as a sponsor of five or more schools at that time.”

Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), said he had never heard of authorizer staff receiving a bonus for how many public schools they bring in.

“I’m more than 20 years [in this career], and I’ve never heard of that — of an individual getting a bonus based on the number of charter schools they oversee,” Richmond said. “We do surveys of authorizers and things like that, and it never even occurred to us to ask this kind of question — ‘Are you getting a personal bonus for authorizing schools?’”

NACSA is a national nonprofit with the primary goal of researching and implementing best practices for charter school authorizers.

Richmond said NACSA usually sees incentives in the percent of state funds an authorizer as a whole receives, which in South Carolina is 2 percent.

“There’s nothing noteworthy about that — 2 percent. That doesn’t mean it eliminates questions about, ‘It could still be a financial incentive to approve more schools’; that’s true, it still could be, but that’s a very typical percentage,” Richmond said. “That’s the discussion we’re normally having in this field about financial incentive and conflicts of interest — about whether that kind of fee can sometimes cause incentives or mis-incentives. Never, in all of those conversations, have I heard of someone getting a personal bonus based on this.”

Richmond said NACSA guidelines discourage authorizers from financial incentives to approve charter schools.

“A quality authorizer structures its funding in a manner that avoids conflicts of interest, inducements, incentives, or disincentives that might compromise its judgment in charter approval and accountability decisions,” Richmond said.

Runyan said the bonus was put in Rudrapati’s contract because the agency was uncertain if the institute would be viable.

“The reason that was put in there like that was that the charter institute needed an out if it wasn’t financially able to provide that — so it was always the intent of everyone involved to be able to give him that bonus on the back end, but we needed an out just in case,” Runyan said.

Cathy Hazelwood, general counsel for the state Department of Education and former general counsel for the State Ethics Commission, said the contract doesn’t violate the state Ethics Act.

“I know that there is rumbling here in Columbia about that term and that contract; however, it’s not because it’s a violation of the Ethics Act,” Hazelwood said. “There’s some sense that this is unseemly, but who knows?”

Ryan Brown, spokesperson for the state Department of Education, said the department would not comment on the contracts of leadership at local education agencies.

Southernside Community Center site could be redeveloped into affordable housing

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Southernside Community Center. Photo by Will Crooks

Southernside Community Center and three other nearby parcels could be developed into affordable housing for seniors if a plan under discussion by the city of Greenville and the operators of Brockwood Senior Housing comes to fruition.

Under a nonbinding letter of intent approved Monday by the Greenville City Council, the city would donate the land to the Southernside Block Partnership if it secures financing and zoning approvals within 18 months.

The deed would have a reversionary clause that would revert the title back to the city if any of the properties no longer were used for affordable housing.

The Southernside Community Center site and the three parcels — at West Washington Street adjacent to Brockwood Senior Housing, at West Washington and South Hudson streets, and at Nassau, Meadow and Oscar streets — are part of 25 acres the city owns along the edges of the new Unity Park.

The city plans to use that land for new affordable housing to counter rising property values and housing costs around the park and in the surrounding neighborhoods near downtown that some say are squeezing out lower-income and working-class residents.

Unity Park will be built on 60 acres bordered by Hudson, Mayberry and Meadow streets with an estimated cost of $40 million, half coming from the city and half from private and corporate fundraising. The first phase of the park is expected to open in 2020.

Unity Park’s purpose is twofold — to provide needed green space and to give an economic boost to an area of the city that has thus far been largely left out of the growth Greenville has seen in recent years.

Southernside Block Partnership proposes to build 125 units on the property, according to Ginny Stroud, the city’s community development administrator.

A 2016 study showed the city has a shortage of more than 2,500 affordable housing units.

The resolution passed Monday by City Council gives the city manager authorization to execute nonbinding letters of intent from developers interested in redeveloping city-owned properties adjacent to Unity Park for affordable housing. The letters should be “innovative and creative, and include a variety of housing options serving multiple incomes,” the resolution says. The resolution also authorizes the city manager to develop an affordable housing vision including the parameters by which city-owned properties will be disposed for review by city council.

Pay-it-forward brunch at Soby’s designed to unite diverse Greenville community

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A pay-it-forward restaurant founded by Jon Bon Jovi in New Jersey has inspired an upcoming pop-up brunch at Soby’s, 207 S. Main St., on Aug. 18.

Designed to feed anyone, regardless of their ability to pay for their meal, the first ever “S.E.A.T. at the Table” event in Greenville has been organized by some of the most recent graduates of the Riley Institute at Furman’s Diversity Leaders Initiative and is sponsored in part by Soby’s dining group Table 301 and BMW.

A S.E.A.T. at the Table — Sit Eat And Talk — is designed to be a welcoming pop-up, pay-it-forward event to nourish, educate, and unite the diverse Greenville community, regardless of background or means.

With timed seatings at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the organizers hope to ignite a spark and foster a spirit of pay-it-forward to help build up the local community. They are also encouraging people to either sit with friends or join one of the community tables and mix it up.

Rather than a set price, participants will have to the option to pay what they can for brunch or pay-it-forward to others via a donation to the Harvest Hope Backpack Program. The donations will go toward helping provide for children to sit and eat at their very own tables.

The menu will be similar to Soby’s Sunday brunch and will have ground-floor seating for about 100 for each of the two times, with additional seating upstairs should walk-ins require more space.

One of the organizers and graduates of DLI’s 25th class, Ed Stein, Upstate South Carolina regional president of Pinnacle Financial Partners, says his group developed this project based on what they saw as a need in the community.

“Restaurants have become such an integral part of what makes Greenville great,” Stein says.

But the socio-economic disparities between those who are able to dine out regularly and those who struggle to feed their families at home are ever present, he says.

According to the DLI program description, since 2003 it has sought to teach participants to understand their diversity and inclusion “blind spots” and how to suspend assumptions. The goal is for them to come away with focused decision-making skills and a deep knowledge of how to effectively manage and lead increasingly diverse workers, clients, and constituents.

Stein approached Soby’s founder Carl Sobocinski about helping with the project. Sobociski is a past graduate of DLI.

“Carl is all about giving back to the community,” says Michaela Leitch, who handles events and sales for Table 301 and has organized Soby’s part of the event.

Soby’s will put together smaller tables to form the community tables that will seat 10-12 people. The goal is for guests sit across from people they’ve never met, and using some provided talking points discuss what makes Greenville great and what could be better or different, Stein says.

Stein says his DLI group received guidance from Maggie Kane who recently founded a pay-it-forward café, A Place At The Table, in Raleigh, N.C.

Stein says although their part of the DLI project is done, they hope future classes may take up the mantle to grow the idea and continue it.

“We hope it does not stop here,” he says.

Visit aseatatthetablegvl.eventbrite.com to register for the brunch.

New animals and exhibits coming to Greenville Zoo in 2019

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The Greenville Zoo's $1.7 million lion’s den will include a 1,600-square-foot holding building with three individual bedrooms and a breeding room, allowing the zoo to participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African lions. Rendering provided by Craig Gaulden Davis.

Despite being tucked away in Cleveland Park, the Greenville Zoo has become one of the city’s biggest attractions since opening nearly six decades ago, welcoming hundreds of visitors every year who want to see and hear some of the world’s most exotic animals, including lions, monkeys, giraffes, and even lemurs.

Now the 14-acre zoo is poised to undergo a transformation that officials say will allow it to launch a new breeding program and offer improved veterinary care for its more than 200 animals.

The zoo plans to open a new lion’s den and renovated veterinary hospital by mid-2019, according to director Jeff Bullock. Both projects are part of the first phase of the zoo’s $65 million master plan, which was finalized in 2012.

Bullock said the $1.7 million lion’s den will include a 1,600-square-foot holding building with three individual bedrooms and a breeding room, allowing the zoo to participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for African lions.

The program matches individual animals from accredited institutions across the country for breeding in order to ensure a genetically diverse and self-sustaining population is bred in the event it is needed for a reintroduction program to save threatened or endangered species from extinction in the wild, according to Bullock.

Though currently not considered endangered, the wild population of African lions has declined by 43 percent over the past two decades due to habitat loss, climate change, difficulty finding prey, and hunting. Lions are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The Greenville Zoo is home to two male African lions, Chuma and Saied. The brothers were born at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens in Columbia in 2008 and sent to Greenville in 2010 on a breeding loan recommendation from the SSP.

Bullock hopes to exchange one of the two male lions for a female once the new lion’s den is complete. But there are no guarantees that the zoo will be chosen as a breeding site since the Association of Zoos and Aquariums matches males and females based on factors like individual behavior and compatibility, reproductive cycle and genetic variability, and spaces available at other accredited institutions.

Luckily, the Greenville Zoo has not only managed African lions but also bred ocelots and Amur leopards over the years, increasing its chances of selection as a breeding site, according to general curator Keith Gilchrist.

“When a zoo is able to demonstrate the ability to proficiently manage a particular species, it typically translates into a breeding recommendation,” Gilchrist said. 

The Greenville Zoo’s $1.7 million lion’s den will include a 1,600-square-foot holding building with three individual bedrooms and a breeding room, allowing the zoo to participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for African lions. Rendering provided by Craig Gaulden Davis.

If the zoo is chosen for breeding, Gilchrist said visitors could expect baby news within months of the female’s arrival. The gestation period for lions averages three to four months, and litter size is usually two to six cubs.

Gilchrist said the newborn cubs would stay with their mother in the new breeding room for three months before going on display. The zoo would then release the cubs into the exhibit and slowly introduce them to their father, who would be temporarily kept in a separate enclosure while the mother and cubs bond.

Visitors would be able to watch the cubs grow thanks to a new indoor demonstration area and viewing window outside the breeding room, according to Bullock.

Bullock and Gilchrist agreed that newborn lion cubs would likely become a hit attraction among Greenville residents and tourists alike, providing yet another platform for staff members to discuss the zoo’s conservation work with the public.

Riverbanks, for instance, has experienced an influx of visitors since the debut of three female lion cubs in July, said Sue Pfaff, the zoo’s assistant mammal curator. The trio was born in April to Thabisa, the zoo’s 3-year-old female, and Zuri, a 13-year-old male.

“Our attendance at Riverbanks has always been phenomenal, and we’re very proud and thankful for that,” Pfaff said. “But when our gate opens in the morning, people are running to see the cubs. I’ve really never seen anything like it.”

Unfortunately, while the cubs could become a hit among zoo guests, they would not become permanent fixtures in Greenville, according to Bullock.

After two years, the cubs would be eligible for the SSP. At that time, the cubs could either remain in Greenville or be transferred to another zoo for breeding purposes.

Bullock said the new lion’s den will also include a banded mongoose exhibit. The banded mongoose is a small, mainly predatory mammal found only in the forests and open grasslands of central and eastern Africa. It is closely related to the meerkat.

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  • Rendering provided by Craig Gaulden Davis.

  • Rendering provided by Craig Gaulden Davis.

  • Rendering provided by Craig Gaulden Davis.

The new lion’s den will also include an African-themed plaza area with restrooms, and a vending area, according to Bullock. It will also have a green roof and formal training wall for the lions. 

In preparation for construction, which is set to begin this fall, the zoo has relocated its three Griffon vultures (Kizazi, Nne, and Tano) to a new exhibit across from the zoo’s education station and picnic area, according to Bullock.

Construction of the new lion’s den will also require a temporary detour while crews work to excavate the land and build the plaza and holding facility, Bullock said. However, Chuma and Saied will remain visible to visitors throughout construction.

The zoo also plans to begin the renovation of its animal hospital this fall in order to meet updated veterinary requirements set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, according to veterinarian and deputy administrator Nick Kapustin.

Kapustin said the $500,000 renovation will add a surgical suite, treatment room, lab, and pharmacy. It will also add equipment necessary to meet current standards of veterinary care and add emergency backup power for life support areas.

“Our existing hospital was noted as a concern during our last inspection, which is one of the reasons we’re trying to get this project moving forward as quickly as possible,” Kapustin said. “This renovation will meet our short-term needs for accreditation.”

The zoo’s hospital renovation is expected to be complete by June, according to Kapustin. A second phase, which does not yet have an estimated cost or construction date, will include a quarantine area, necropsy room, laundry room, and storage space.

Once the hospital renovation is complete, the zoo plans to continue with phase one of its master plan, which costs an estimated $15 million, according to Bullock. The city has budgeted $3 million in tourism money for the first phase.

Bullock said the zoo will use the remaining $800,000 for the design of a new entryway, which is expected to have a gift shop and a cafe that would serve visitors from the zoo and Cleveland Park. Administrative offices would move to above the gift shop.

He added that the design will provide a more accurate cost estimate and also provide the renderings necessary for the Greenville Zoo Foundation, a nonprofit organization raising funds for the master plan, to promote its capital campaign. 

The prints above depict the first and second phases of the zoo’s hospital renovation. Provided by the Greenville Zoo/DP3.

The first phase of the zoo’s master plan also includes a new Asian forest and tiger exhibit with a glass viewing wall, training wall, overlooks, waterfalls, streams, artificial rocks, and new exhibit spaces for sun bears, siamangs, and birds.

Future phases include the construction of a children’s activity area and birthday pavilion, a tropical rainforest building, an education building, expansion of Africa exhibits, an events lawn, and a restaurant and events center.

For more information, visit www.greenvillezoo.com.

5 Wild Facts About the African Lion

1. Living in the grasslands and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa, the lion is the second largest cat in the world after the tiger.

2. They usually live in groups, called prides. A pride consists of up to three males, a dozen related females, and their young.

3. Female lions, which are smaller and more agile than males, are the primary hunters of the group, using teamwork to bring down their prey.

4. A lion’s typical lifespan is between 10 to 14 years in the wild, whereas they can live up to 20 years in captivity.

5. Lions are the laziest of the big cats, sleeping an average 20 hours a day.

Small Plates with Ariel Turner

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Tickets are now available for Indie Craft Parade's newly branded First Dibs Party to be held at its new home in the Southern Bleachery development at Taylors Mill. Rendering provided.

Mimosas for Moms

Can’t lie: I think this is my favorite event posting I’ve seen in a minute. I can without a doubt confirm that all-day mimosas served at Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery on the first day of school, Aug. 20, will be infinitely more satisfying than any muffins-with-mom preschool and elementary event. Sorry, not sorry. I think the added benefit of not sitting in miniature chairs seals the deal for me. Get your mimosas early and often from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. after you’ve deposited your children safely at school.

Grown-up games

Adult game night has become a monthly event at The Community Tap. The next G4G (Games for Grown Ups), from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 15,  is fishing-themed. The past two were Operation and Hungry Hungry Hippos, so you can see where this is going. I’m told the plan is to drink some beer, then try to steady your hand enough to play Gone Fishing with that tiny magnetic fishing pole and the spinning fishing pond. I’m not sure how that could not be the best way to spend a Wednesday night. Tickets for the blessed event are $10. Winner of the night takes home a $25 Tap gift card, an “epic” trophy, free entry into next month’s game, and, more importantly, bragging rights. Check out the Facebook page for more info.

Truck, yeah

Golden Brown & Delicious has a new food truck, permanently parked at the rear loading dock of Birds Fly South Ale Project at Hampton Station. Chef Alex George and team are serving up the same type of goodness you’ll get in his restaurant, just out of a truck and at a killer price point. Prices for the burger, chicken sando, ramen, salad, buffalo fries, and the like top out at $8. The truck kitchen is serving Thursdays through Sundays right now. Keep up with the menu and hours of operation on Instagram.

I call dibs!

Makers Collective 2018 Indie Craft Parade has announced a reformatting of its always-sold-out opening party. Now called The First Dibs Party, it’ll be held from 6-­9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at its new location in the new Southern Bleachery project at Taylors Mill. As part of the celebration, Makers Collective and neighbors 13 Stripes Brewery have partnered to create a special collaboration beer for the event, and a menu of small food plate options from Bacon Bros. Public House will be available to purchase on site. Tickets for the First Dibs Party are $20 in advance and will give ticket holders a first look at the artists’ work, live music, complimentary drinks, and the chance to win handmade items donated by participating makers. Visit makerscollective.org for tickets.

Stay woke

There’s a lot happening these days in the restaurant world. Seems like everyone came off of their July Fourth holiday and decided to make things happen. So, without being too vague — because that’s annoying — I’ll just say there are some great new restaurant announcements coming very soon and some highly anticipated openings that are around the corner. The way things go, some of them may even happen between the time I’ve typed this and it gets published.

Op-Ed: Greenville’s bus system leaves a lot to be desired

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By Jeff Alden

I was a lawyer in Minneapolis for over 35 years before my wife Paulette and I moved to Greenville, where she was born and raised, two years ago. Around the time of the Iraq War, I gave up my monthly parking space and started riding the bus to my office downtown. We’d just gone to war in the Middle East to protect our access to oil, but I was still driving to work every day and leaving my car sitting in a ramp the whole time. I wanted to do my part.

Minneapolis has an expansive bus system with routes that run often, with more-frequent trips and express lines to downtown during peak business hours. The buses run on time so you can count on one to be there when it’s supposed to be. Soon I recognized that other lawyers were riding my bus, along with secretaries, college students, bank tellers, department store clerks, downtown shoppers, and folks who worked at McDonald’s — none of us clogging the roads anymore as we bypassed the rush-hour traffic in our dedicated lane.

One of the first things I noticed when I got to Greenville was that there weren’t many buses. Except for the red trolleys that seemed to be mostly for tourists going to Drive baseball games, there was hardly any public transit system as far as I could tell. But there was plenty of traffic congestion.

When I brought up the lack of bus service one evening at a dinner party not long after we arrived in Greenville, I was surprised to hear one of the other guests proclaim that “more funding of city buses would just be welfare.” After living here a while, I came to understand that much of the community views public transit as just another government entitlement for the poor. Of course, the truth is that public transportation does help the poor. It provides transportation for people who can’t afford a car but still need to get places — like to jobs, doctors’ offices, or grocery stores. Why it’s bad to provide a way for low-income people to get around is beyond me.

The result of my dinner companion’s way of thinking is that Greenville and the surrounding area has one of the most underfunded bus systems in the South. That ethos — that the system shouldn’t be adequately funded because it’s an entitlement — has been both self-fulfilling and self-defeating. In 2016, Greenlink spent 69 percent less on bus-system operations and 98 percent less on capital assets than its peers in comparably sized urban areas — cities such as Charleston, Columbia, Baton Rouge, La., and Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C. Greenville has a $5.6 million budget for transport compared to Charleston’s $17.6 million.

Along the way, Greenville has managed to create a transit system so lousy no one would want to ride unless they had no other alternative. The coverage, service hours, and frequency of trips make the city’s bus routes almost unusable for most. But by funding a bus system that serves only the poor, Greenville is also serving the whole community poorly.

Greenvillians are rightly proud of their city. That man I met at dinner would be the first to tout Greenville’s downtown, its economy, and the infusion of big corporate business over the last 20 years. I’m proud of that Greenville, too. But that Greenville is in a big hole when it comes to supporting the life-blood of a healthy economic environment — an efficient public transportation system. Funding public transit isn’t welfare. It’s a wise investment in a modern city.


Jeff Alden is a retired lawyer who recently moved to Greenville after practicing law in Minneapolis for 36 years. He now spends his time writing, running in Cleveland Park, and serving as a mediator with the Upstate Mediation Center.

Community Health: Cheap fitness Q&A

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Q: I want to get fit this summer, but I don’t want to blow my vacation budget on it. What can I do? –Janet, Mauldin

There are plenty of ways to get fit on the cheap, but Mike Worley, an exercise physiologist with Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, says your first step should be visiting your doctor. “See a primary-care physician to address any contraindications to activity,” he said. He also suggests seeing a trainer if you’re getting started on an activity for the first time.

After that, free and cheap options abound. Worley, who recommends four to five days of exercise per week for about 30 minutes, says walking or jogging are great options. “Go hiking, go to the Swamp Rabbit Trail, or a lot of neighborhoods in the area almost have a resort feel,” he said.

To boost strength as well as cardiovascular fitness, he recommends body-weight exercises such as push-ups, crunches, and squats.

For a very low-cost option, he suggests apps or websites like 7 Minute Workout or Fitness Blender. Some workouts are free, with more-extensive options costing just a few dollars per year, he said. People can then add basic tools like tubing, dumbbells, or medicine balls to use along with the apps.

If the heat makes getting outdoors a challenge, Worley recommends spending a small amount on a Jazzercise or dance video, which you can do in the comfort of home. For a slightly larger outlay, you can join a gym on a month-to-month basis just for the summer.

In Our Community: Habitat for Humanity, Artisphere, and more

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HEALTH

Autism podcast launches

Springbrook Autism Behavioral Health has announced the launch of “Converge Autism Radio,” a podcast in conjunction with Mental Health News Radio. The free weekly program features nationally renowned experts providing insights for families and professionals in the autism community.

“Mental Health News Radio has always been an ally in advocating for the autism community, and we are pleased to partner with them through the Converge Autism Radio podcast to give parents and professionals a purposeful resource for information about living with autism,” Mike Rowley, CEO of Springbrook Autism Behavioral Health, said in a release.

The podcast will feature autism activists such as Kerry Magro, Chase Bailey, and Jennifer O’Toole, as well as the leader of Springbrook, Matthew Fisher. Converge Autism Radio is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and 70 other podcast feeds. It can also be found on the Mental Health News Radio website at www.mentalhealthnewsradionetwork.com/our-shows/converge-autism-radio. Springbrook is a nationally renowned program for the treatment of behavioral issues experienced by children and adolescents ages 5-21 with autism.

ARTS & CULTURE

Artisphere 2019 calls for entries

The 15th annual Artisphere presented by TD Bank received an unprecedented 1,163 artist applications for the 2018 event, which is a 3 percent increase over 2017 applications. Artisphere is consistently one of the top-rated art shows in the country. Show organizers attribute the rise in applications to the festival’s track record for garnering meaningful sales for participating artists; 2018 exhibiting artists reported average sales of $8,100. This year’s jury review will be held Nov. 3-4. Artisphere 2019 will be on May 10-12 in downtown Greenville. There will be 135 artists chosen from the applicant pool, and cash awards totaling $15,000. Some of the many benefits offered to participating artists are free parking with 24-hour security, an artist awards breakfast, complimentary meals, and reduced hotel rates. In its short history, Artisphere has distinguished itself as a national and regional highlight in the arts. In addition to a Purchase Awards Program that provides an average of $12,000-$15,000 in art sales, Artisphere distributes $15,000 in prize money to nine award winners each year. Artisphere’s multimedia advertising campaign markets the festival throughout the Southeast in print, radio, and television ads.

Artisphere has been ranked No. 17 on the list of 100 Best Art Shows in the country by Sunshine Artist Magazine; a Top 10 Fine Arts and Fine Craft Festival by the Art Fair Sourcebook; and No. 3 of 20 finalists for USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Art Festival. Applicants are being accepted until Oct. 4 through zapplication.org.

NONPROFIT

Habitat receives $60,000 grant

Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County has been awarded a Corporation for National and Community Services grant of $60,000 to support five Habitat AmeriCorps member positions for the 2018-’19 service year. AmeriCorps members will apply for and serve full time at Habitat organizations across the country helping families build stable homes. Award funds go toward corps member allowances and program administrative costs. During the 2018-’19 service year, Habitat AmeriCorps members are expected to contribute more than 600,000 hours of service toward building or improving Habitat homes in 130 communities nationwide. In Greenville County, AmeriCorps members will work in new construction, ReStore, neighborhood revitalization, and family services. The Habitat AmeriCorps program is in its 23rd year. Habitat for Humanity covers about half the cost of each service member, delivering results at a much lower cost than direct government services.

In 2017, Habitat AmeriCorps members served more than 5,800 individuals in 32 states; provided nearly 900,000 hours of service; and mobilized, trained, and managed more than 226,000 volunteers in community building efforts.

GRANTS

City of Mauldin receives Senior Center Permanent Improvement Project grant

The City of Mauldin has announced that it has been awarded $325,000 provided by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging’s Senior Center Permanent Improvement Project (PIP) grant program. The award is in addition to a required local match, as stipulated by the guidelines of the program. The PIP funds will be used to renovate an existing building to current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The senior center’s enhancements will include the installation of an elevator, hallway widening, and kitchen and bathroom improvements to accommodate a steadily growing number of seniors who utilize the center. The Senior Center Permanent Improvement Project (PIP) grant program was established by the General Assembly in 1991. Administered by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging, the PIP grant program has since funded necessary construction and renovations projects at senior sites throughout the state. While the City of Mauldin is the recipient of the PIP funds, the Appalachian Council of Governments and Area Agency on Aging is the grantee. All funds are disbursed to the grantee through a reimbursement system when certified invoices are submitted to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging and approved. “An active senior lifestyle encourages independence and enhances overall quality of life,” says Lt. Gov. Bryant, according to the release, “These renovations and improvements will allow the center to expand its reach in the Mauldin community, and I am very appreciative of the state and local leaders who have worked so hard to make it happen.”

Greenville pro soccer team unveils name, colors

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Soccer balls decorate Pour Taproom ahead of Greenville Triumph’s big unveiling Aug. 9. 

Triumph — that’s what the leadership of Greenville’s newest professional soccer team hopes to do.

Greenville Triumph will be the Upstate’s newest venture into the world of professional soccer, nearly two decades after two of the city’s former professional soccer teams, the Greenville Lions and the South Carolina Shamrocks, folded from low profits.

Started by entrepreneur Joe Erwin and his team at Erwin Creates, the Greenville Triumph name and navy/Kelly green colors were unveiled publicly Thursday at Pour Taproom.

Joe Erwin, founder of Erwin Creates, talks to soccer fans at Pour Taproom before unveiling Greenville Triumph on Aug. 9.

The franchise was awarded to the Greenville group by the United Soccer League in March after the organization announced it would start a new Division III league. At the time, Greenville was the third team announced for the division — now, the list has grown to include six teams across the United States and Canada.

Until now, the team called itself Greenville Pro Soccer.

Doug Erwin, vice chairman of the franchise, said the group started with about 20 name ideas before slowly whittling it down to Triumph with community input via focus groups and surveys.

President of Greenville Triumph Chris Lewis, left, and Doug Erwin, vice chairman, talk about the soccer team’s brand and colors at an unveiling party at Pour Taproom on Aug. 9.

“We wanted it to be something that was reflective of the community,” Doug Erwin said. “It was really about making sure we engaged the community in the process.”

Doug Erwin said the idea for the name came from the Upstate’s ability to reinvent itself after what seemed to be the decline of the South amid the fall of textile industries.

“You look at where the city was in the middle of the century — we were the textile capital of the world, and as the textile industry started a seismic shift overseas and people started boarding up factories and laying off workers, and the downtown kind of fell into disrepair — I think it would have been easy to watch the region just kind of continue to go downhill,” Doug Erwin said. “But the spirit of the people of the Upstate to reinvent ourselves and pick ourselves back up after facing adversity, to reinvent the region as an international manufacturing hub, to reinvent the downtown to become one of the most desirable, vacationable small towns in America — one of the best places to live and raise a family — speaks to the triumph and spirit of human will.”

Chris Lewis, president of the Triumph and past president of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits hockey team, said they hope to provide an experience to the community that goes beyond a soccer game.

“A sense of togetherness in terms of the community is what helped create that major triumph for the city to get it where it is now,” Lewis said. “We think that this team can be a vehicle for gathering people together and creating that sense of togetherness and community to create whatever the next triumph is for Greenville.”

Lewis said the blueprints for a successful franchise are already here with the popularity of the Greenville Drive, and the hope is to reach a variety of people with soccer because of its international popularity.

“This community is so diverse and inclusive and has such a rich international flavor, it really is a good fit for Greenville,” Lewis said. “Oftentimes, a team succeeds by sort of transcending the game.”

The team isn’t just about a brand or a game — Doug Erwin said it’s about uniting the community.

“As you look at how the name relates to soccer, or any sport for that matter, triumph being the goal on the field, we think it’s just a name that embodies the spirit of Greenville and of the entire Upstate,” he said.

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