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Fellowship and Service the Bluffton Way

We meet Wednesdays at 7:30 AM
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P.O. Box 142
Bluffton, SC  29910
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October has been a busy month and after a very successful but tiring Arts and Seafood Festival I have finally mustered the energy to write the October President's Pen.
Let me first congratulate Mary O’Neill and the rest of the Arts and Seafood Festival Board and Committees (many of whom are your fellow Bluffton Rotarians) on a very well run and successful Festival. Secondly, I would like to thank all Bluffton Rotarians, their families and friends for all the hard work they contributed to make the Festival and our fund raising efforts a success. I would like to thank Mike Tripka and Bob Prust for stepping up to run the beverage carts. Without everyone pitching in, we would not have been able to raise the funds for our charitable account. Now the fun part begins, determining which organizations we should help.

November is Foundation Month in the Rotary year. We start on November 8th with Happy Feet. We received a $3,000 grant from the District and we will match that grant with an additional $3,000 to provide shoes for the less fortunate children in our community. The $3,000 grant comes from donations made to the Foundation by you and others and returned to the District for projects such as Happy Feet.

The Foundation also awards international grants. Deborah Burt and I have been exploring the process of receiving an international grant in hopes that the Club will choose to do an international project. We are leaning toward a Water and Sanitation project. Once we gather a little more information we will be coming to the Club to gauge your interest in such a project so we can decide if we should move forward. If we get started now we should be able to complete this in the 2015-2016 Rotary year.

November also marks the beginning of the bell ringing for the Salvation Army at the Kroger in Bluffton. We will have signup sheets soon.
One last point, membership is the lifeblood of any Rotary Club. Please keep that in mind as you go about your day and meet with business associates and friends. Also keep in mind that every person you meet is a potential Rotarian. Please invite them to a meeting, to ring the bell with you or attend another function that we are involved in. 

Elizabeth Bergmann spoke with the Bluffton Rotary Club on Wednesday, October 15.  She is the co-founder of Local Money Talks (LMT), a coalition of concerned Beaufort County citizens, and a resident of Port Royal, SC.  LMT’s purpose is to “strengthen the resilience of the local economy of Beaufort, SC by empowering existing businesses and fostering entrepreneurship.”  The group was formed almost a year and a half ago, and includes a diverse group of individuals from both the public and private sectors. 

One concept that Bergmann discussed at length was “slow money,” which encourages consumers and investors to keep money circulating in their local communities.  She encouraged the audience to spend their money in a more deliberate fashion and to consider intentional consumers’ potential impact as a result of choosing to spend a quantity as small as twenty dollars per month at local businesses. 

Local Money Talks is currently in the process of developing a business development program called “The Shrimp Net” through which aspiring entrepreneurs could receive mentorship and assistance prior to launching their businesses. 

The coalition also recently partnered with the Beaufort County Human Services Alliance, the Lowcountry Affordable Housing Coalition, and the Lowcountry Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program to host a community engagement luncheon for local bankers.  This event was designed to inform financial institutions in the Lowcountry of potential community reinvestment opportunities, and was attended by representatives of more than five banks.

In the future, Local Money Talks hopes to serve as a resource for individuals with entrepreneurial aspirations, small business owners in need of investment capital, as well as local residents seeking to invest in their neighbors. 

Executive Director, Pam Toney recognized the support of our Rotary Club for this vital community organization. She shared an overview of where they are today. Bluffton Jasper VIM is a free clinic for uninsured residents of Bluffton and Jasper Counties. The clinic has 5 exam rooms and though they are a free clinic, they give all the medical services you would normally find in a doctor’s office. There are 9 physicians, 13 nurses and over 100 volunteers.  There is a committee for grant pursuits and an administrative staff. The average patient profile would be female ages 40-63 in the Greater Bluffton area – single or divorced.  All patients donate something when they come in. This year to date, they have served 1810 patients. The clinic does not handle pregnancies, but on Wednesdays they have a mobile van that comes to assist and provide care. They also have quarterly dental services.
Goals include the need to improve their IT system and development/introduction of their first diabetes education program. Challenges faced by BJVIM include cash flow (because both donations and grants fluctuate), volunteers, translators and transportation.
Their mission statement includes a focus on preventive medicine and health education.

Human trafficking is a grim subject, but one that should be brought to light. Janice Dyer and Carol Stephens, with the Lowcountry Coalition Against Human Trafficking explained the very real definition of human trafficking and that it does happen right here in the lowcountry. In fact, resort areas are often a target to those who deal in human trafficking.  They love resorts and they love borders, two things we have in plenty.

The Lowcountry Coalition Against Human Trafficking is charged with raising public awareness of this crime and is now also working toward a goal of developing rehabilitation and housing for victims of human trafficking.

According to an earlier article from on “Sex slavery, human trafficking 'alive and well' in SC“, statistics show there are an estimated 150,000 sex trafficking victims in the United States. They are usually between 12 and 14 years old and live for just 7 years. These victims are, on average, sold between 10 and 15 times a day for at least 6 days a week. Only one to two percent of these victims are rescued. Human trafficking can take place in the form of prostitution, forced work labor and is another form of slavery.

"If you look at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there's probably 5,200 to 5,500 kids at a time that are missing that are expected to be in to prostitution," said FBI special agent David Thomas. "People seem to think slavery has gone away, but unfortunately it didn't," said Thomas. "It's still alive and well."

Thomas says it's alive and well in South Carolina because, according to him, the state is a "target-rich environment. We have a huge agricultural industry, and that industry kind of lends itself to that kind of activity," said Thomas. "We have tourism, a very large tourism industry; you look at Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, and Charleston."

In 2012, the South Carolina legislature passed comprehensive new legislation to combat human trafficking in South Carolina. The law became effective on December 15, 2012.

According to law enforcement, human trafficking is becoming one of the most lucrative criminal businesses in this country, second only to drug trafficking here in the US. What can we do? Educate ourselves, learn more, be observant, report suspicious behavior and educate your children and grandchildren.


Students from Interact Clubs all over Beaufort County participated in the second annual Beaufort County Interact Symposium on Saturday, October 4. The newly chartered USCB Rotaract Club helped host the event, held at the USCB Hilton Head Gateway campus. Representing Hilton Head High, Bluffton High, Hilton Head Prep, Beaufort Academy, Beaufort High School and Battery Creek, 81 Interact students attended the one day event. Local Rotary Clubs sponsored the event.

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, all students received and donned bright pink Interact Symposium t-shirts, becoming a sea of pink, as they shared successes and challenges of their clubs, played together with some ice-breaker activities, listened to guest speaker and past District Governor Ed Duryea. Participants also heard presentations from several students that attended Rotary Youth Leadership Awards held in Columbia this past summer, worked on two different service projects and finished out the day with team building activities.

The Interact students also had the chance to talk to Rotarian leaders throughout the district on various topics during breakout sessions after lunch. Topics ranged from scholarships (very popular), to the Rotary Youth Exchange program and Polio Eradication. There was a former Rotary Exchange student on hand to meet students and answer questions.

“This was an awesome event, bringing Interactors from different schools together to share ideas and get to know each other better. These are our future Rotarians!” said event organizer and past president of the Okatie Rotary Club, Annemarie Neubecker. “The feedback from our kids was great and we’re ready to start working on next year’s symposium!”

Dr. John D. Edman, retired entomologist shared a fascinating look at the “no see-um”. Edman’s background reflects an impressive career providing leadership and research throughout the world.  He retired in 2004 after a 40 year career of teaching, research and administration at the University of California at Davis, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. Originally from Minnesota, Dr. Edman has been a member of the Entomological Society of America for over 50 years. He was Vice President and President of the American Mosquito Control Association and the recipient of their Medal of Honor. Edman has presented numerous invitational lectures internationally and is widely respected in many circles from medical and health organizations and the department of defense.

There are over 4,000 species worldwide of no-see ums – 50 of those species are found in South Carolina. No see ums are small with clear wings and little spots.  Only the females bite. Sugar is fuel for flight and survival.  Some biting midges feed on blood from other insects. Adults only live 1 to 2 weeks.  Our area has over 420,000 acres of salt marshes – that’s why they’re here.  They thrive in the soil.  How far do they travel?  Gnats travel approximately one mile from their salt marsh habitat sometimes further if carried by sea breezes. What attracts hungry no see-ums to their host?  CO2 particularly on your breath and heat movement are the attraction.  Are some people more reactive than others?  It is difficult to identify variables (they have not been able to colonize them in labs for study), but drinking alcohol is confirmed as part of the problem.  The impact of no see-ums is the biting annoyance, health and economics.
Dr. Edman ended his presentation sharing ideas for personal protection.  1. Avoid outdoor activities during peak biting periods. 2. Wear light colored protective clothing and netting. 3. Use #16 mesh screening. 4. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, Skin So Soft Lotion and Citronella help. 5. Large high speed fans work. 6. Yellow light bulbs help and turn off porch lights.  Save your money on zappers, trap out traps and devices.  They don’t work.  Don’t use a blend of sunscreen and repellant..  Repellant should be used less often than sunscreen.  Choose repellants with a minimum of 30% DEET for adults – 10% for kids.
A final question from the audience received a round of laughter:  Does the no see-um serve any purpose?   Answer: It prevents development in some areas, thus the economics of it all.

Jennifer Massey attended our September 24th meeting to encourage us to think about a different point of view regarding hospice care. Massey is the hospital/patient care coordinator for Island Hospice.  She is a licensed social worker and a geriatric care manager.  Her speech was written and well rehearsed to capture our attention on what is “beyond Hospice –the true benefits.”  Jennifer emphasized 3 key points: Celebration of Life, Teamwork with staff, family and the patient and Education.  Jennifer confirmed her commitment to hospice by sharing that she has “grown in passion” through celebrating the life of each patient in hospice care.  “Life is meant to be shared with Hope.  It’s about “life.”  Even in final days, she suggests that a life review becomes very important.  Share the stories, record the stories, laugh a lot, make memory boxes.
Her second point - Teamwork simply means “sharing the load” by all. Final days can be an alienating experience.  No one should go through this time on their own.  Not only key family and staff interaction, but other options can help like pet therapy, cards and letters from family, friends and neighbors; arts and crafts can provide quality time of love and interaction.
Finally, education by a well trained compassionate and professional staff is a tremendous gift to families facing the hospice time with a terminally ill loved one.  Knowledge is empowering.  Hospice staff is available 24/7 to those on this journey.  It is empowering.

As we move into the fall and hopefully the temperature gets a little cooler we start getting busier as Rotarians. September is New Generations (Youth Services) month. Tony, Tom and Chris are busy with Rotaract and Interact. Plans are well underway for the Interact Symposium to be held at USCB on October 4th. The Symposium will include Interact members from all of Beaufort County. This is truly an example of Service above Self. We will also be welcoming our first Student of the Month for this school year from M.C. Riley at the business meeting in September. We are also please to welcome Danielle Breidung who is taking Paige’s place at USCB. I know she will continue the good things Paige did with the students at USCB and Rotaract.
I would like to thank Mike Tripka for heading up our efforts at the Boiled Peanut Festival. We had a great turnout of Rotarians, spouses and friends despite the close to 100 degree temperature.  The turnout was pretty good considering it was melting hot.  In the end we should be able to make a nice donation to the Foundation toward our Polio Eradication goal.
Coming up in October we have the Arts and Seafood Festival from October 12-19. Even though this is not a Rotary event like the Bluffton Village Festival we are fully committed to this Festival. Many of the Club serve on their Board and head up the committee’s.  In exchange for us providing a lot of volunteers for primarily Saturday and Sunday of the festival we get to run the beverage sales for those two days. All of the net proceeds from the beverage sales go into our contributions account and ultimately to those organizations that we support, both locally and internationally.
Also coming up on October 29th will be a visit from District Governor Jimmy Williamson. Please plan on attending the meeting that day so you can hear DG Jimmy’s message.

Maureen Richards with The Heyward House is the current Executive Director of the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society.  She stopped by to give us an update on progress and projects that BHPS  is currently overseeing. Maureen gave us an overview of how she “landed in Bluffton” to work on historic preservation since 2008.

Originally from Philadelphia, Richards earned her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and worked for the Chrysler Corporation in Detroit.  When it merged with Daimler Benz, she spent time in Austria for Jeep Grand Cherokee.  She soon fell in love with the historic architecture, took a leave of absence to restore castles in Italy and France and eventually returned to Savannah to study Historic Preservation at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  Upon completion of her studies in 2004, she was hired as Promotions Director of the Heyward House Historic Center.

Maureen talked about the visitors to the Heyward House.  Many come from word of mouth or guests of residents. Their tour numbers have seen a steady increase.  One area they struggle in is membership.  Though BHPS primarily focuses on the Heyward House, they also consult with the Town of Bluffton for other historical property preservation.  Currently, they are working on approval for funding a ramp or a lift to increase safety and accessibility to the house

Speaker, fellow rotarianRotarian from the East Cooper Club and author,  Andra Watkins entertained and inspired our morning meeting with her newly published book about her recent adventures walking the Natchez Trace. Andra lives in Charleston, South Carolina. She is the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did prior to the rise of steam power in the 1820’s.

 From March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014, she walked fifteen miles a day. Six days a week encountering wildlife and people along the way and other demands including a daunting wind storm and a memorable bad day physically impaired with a stomach virus. She was ready to quit by the second week, but prevailed to complete the walk and publish her memoirs of her present day experiences and historical themes about life on this road in the 1800’s .  She spent each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809. In addition to celebrating the release of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, the walk inspired her upcoming memoir of the adventure, Not Without My Father, coming in the Fall of this year.  It is sure to amuse and inspire with Andra sharing what it was like to spend each day on the walk with her 80 year old father each evening.

Dee Phelps had a full time and rewarding career as a surgical nurse for nearly 30 years in Beaufort County. She loved making a difference in the lives of others, but when her husband tragically passed, it was time for a change.  Dee started writing for therapy which led to the pursuit and completion of her master’s degree in Literature. After writing a children’s book and travel articles, Phelps desired more.  Dee is now an author of her first novel, The Disappointment Room. 

Family ties to a 2,000 acre plantation in Switzerland, South Carolina sparked an interest in the history and culture of plantation life, ancestors and slaves and soon….the theme of something few knew of was revealed –  “disappointment rooms”.  Disappointment rooms were secret rooms often in attic spaces where slave children with mental and physical handicaps were hidden from public view while their families worked.

Dee is now promoting her new historical fiction book which spans 8 generations of plantation life from Civil War to present through the children of disappointment rooms. The Lowcountry stories are infused with Gullah culture, voodoo and many local sights and sounds familiar to many of us who reside in Beaufort County.

She is currently working on a sequel and she has been nominated for a 2014 Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel.  We wish her further rewards in her journey as a writer.

Quick Update: Dee won the 2014 Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel -- congratulations, Dee!


Fire Prevention Week is October 5 – 11th this year and Lee Levesque, Public Education Officer for Bluffton Township Fire District came by the Bluffton Rotary Club last month to help us get ready.

Our Bluffton Fire Department handles many services for us … putting out fires, cutting someone out of a car and rescuing cats from tires. But they also “want to be a clearinghouse for all things safe”, according to Levesque. “We want to be there to help you”.

While insurance seems to rise on a regular basis, the cost of a single fire extinguisher for the home has only gone up 2% in 20 years. In fact, no one in the history of  Beaufort County has ever died in a burning building that has a working smoke detector…”now that’s good insurance” says Levesque.

Bluffton has 8 fire stations with a total of 126 people working in them, covering 256 square miles; we are within 5 miles of a fire station anywhere in Bluffton. The Fire Department offers a free service, where an inspector will come out to your business, work with you, save your business money and keep you safe. According to Levesque, there are 2700 businesses in Bluffton and “our goal is to hit every business every year.”

As we approach Fire Prevention Week, make sure fire extinguishers are up to date and smoke detectors work properly. If unsure, contact your closest fire department for help. If replacing fire extinguishers, donate old extinguishers to the fire department for training for new fire fighters.

August is Membership Month for Rotary.  We are starting the month off on a high note by inducting Allen Butts into membership on August 6th. Allen will be a great addition to our club and I look forward to him being a fellow Rotarian. Since membership is the focus for August, we should give some thought about who we know that would be a good Rotarian. Invite them to a meeting for a free breakfast and let them have an opportunity to find out what Bluffton Rotary is all about.
Saturday August 23 is The Third Annual Boiled Peanut Festival. This year we will be in charge of the beverage sales. Mike Tripka is chairing this event and will be asking for volunteers for the day of the event. The Board voted at our July meeting to use the net proceeds to help meet the Club’s Polio Eradication Goal of $2,125.
As most of you know, John Beiler and his family moved to Charlotte, NC which left us with a vacant Board position. I am pleased that Tony Falgiani agreed to take John’s place on the Board as Director of Youth Service.
The summer months are generally slow months for most Rotary clubs and our club is no different. July was a month that the new Board spent getting their feet wet learning more about their positions and responsibilities. As we move in to August we should see more activity from our various Committee’s.  Your Board members that head up these Committee’s need your help.  These areas of service are: Youth Services; Membership; Public Relations; Club Administration; Service Projects and Foundation. If you are interested in one or more of these areas please talk with the Board member who is responsible for that area or talk with me.    
In closing, I would like to thank everyone for making the transition to the new year smooth. I know that there well be bumps and hurdles through out the year but each and every member’s focus on the 4-Way Test and Service Above Self makes serving as your President much easier.

Our August 6th presentation was given by Amy Covington of the United Way of the Low Country.  Amy is a 19 year resident of the low country. This is her third week with United Way and her first speaking engagement for them. Amy explained how the United Way helps the people of the low country. They provide food, shelter, and pay bills and many other services to people in need. They do this through various programs - 44 programs in all. United Way received 135,000 calls last year through their helpline. Amy pointed out that United Way helps people across the entire socio-economic spectrum.

She went on to explain how United Way has partnered with the local school system to help lower the dropout rate. Many students who cannot read past a fourth grade level  drop out of school. United Way’s program has increased the math scores by 98%. United Way placed 200 tutors in the school system last year and 300 tutors this year. The goal is to increase the tutoring program to 600 volunteers.  United Way would like to see more involvement in their programs by Bluffton residents.

Besides tutoring they are asking residents to volunteer for the neighborhood ambassadors program and would like to see businesses get their employees to run United Way campaigns to raise money.  You may contact United Way By visiting or call 843.982.3040.


President Steve Miller inducts new Bluffton Rotary Club member Allen Butts. Mike Covert is Allen's sponsor. Welcome Allen!

Attorney, Ryan Mikkelson shared the efforts, successes and vision for Family Promise of Beaufort County.   The organization partners with local congregations, individuals, businesses, foundations, families and social services agencies to provide an extensive program for homeless families with a focus on children.  They provide temporary shelter, meals and comprehensive case management to help them find a job, gain permanent housing with the goal of keeping them out of a “homeless” category for 1 year.  This year, they project that the organization will assist 250-350 homeless children.
Ryan emphasized that families are homeless for many reasons beyond addiction issues.
Their day center is the hub of operations for developing budget and job skills and addressing social needs.  They are currently working towards a fundraising goal of one million dollars to expand facilities to assist and get more families “off the streets.”  Currently Family Promise leadership has raised $300,000 toward their goal. 
Ryan was well received by our club and we enjoyed seeing former Bluffton Rotarian, Family Physician Dr. Michael Mikkelson (Ryan’s father – “Mik” ) in attendance at our meeting.

President Steve Miller will be randomly asking members of our club to share a few interesting factoids about themselves this year at weekly meetings.

What a great way to emphasize this year’s Rotary International theme of “Light Up Rotary.”

Walt Dollman was the first Rotarian chosen for the spotlight. His sense of humor describing his life and career made it fun. He was well received!
Walt is at TD Bank in Financial Services at Okatie.  He is from Pittsburgh. Attended college at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. Received a B.A. degree in basically “nothing” he amusingly shared. He successfully managed a forklift company. Sales, business management and finance have been a major portion of his career. Married for 38 years.

Rodney Vaughn, beloved Rotarian in our club for many years shared his experience on a mission trip in June to the Dominican Republic.

Rodney went with 11 members from the All Saints Episcopal Church to provide a vacation bible school program in two different villages.

The church has gone for six years in a row.  Rodney wanted it to be both a Vacation Bible School and a Rotary connection to this country.  He proudly wore his Bluffton Rotary Club t-shirt throughout the trip.

The journey started with a two day tour of  the capital city, Santo Domingo.  After a day of skyscrapers, the real purpose began as they visited two poverty stricken areas to share the message of Christ.   Rodney and team worked closely with two churches serving a multitude of families over a 5 day period.   The team provided over 200 pairs of shoes to children. This gift was a huge hit with all that were able to receive a pair.   Rodney noted that there were Rotary welcome signs in many villages confirming that projects were under way or completed in the areas traveled. 



Dec 17, 2014
Singing Eagles
MC Rielly Chorus
Dec 24, 2014
Dec 31, 2014
Feb 04, 2015
Mike Davis
First Tee of the Low Country

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