South Carolina Focus

SC Focus is a regular feature of South Carolina Public Radio.  As its name suggests, the segment focuses on the Palmetto State and its people.  It covers a wide variety of subjects, from South Carolina's war veterans to scientists, musicians and other topics, both serious and whimsical.  SC Focus is can be heard at various times throughout the week during our news program on all South Carolina Public Radio stations.

Ways to Connect

Poison Center operator Kelly Funderburg, a former emergency room nurse, answers a call and looks up information to advise the caller about a potential toxin.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

A child has drunk sweet-smelling shampoo.  A senior has taken his wife’s prescription by mistake.   A person comes to the emergency room after taking multiple medications at 3 in the morning.  What to do?  The Palmetto Poison Center is on-call 24/7 to help with cases from parents’ worries to questions from doctors unfamiliar with the effects of varying drugs taken together. 

Forester Chase Folk looks over a section of Sumter National Forest in Newberry County.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

For 90 years, the South Carolina Forestry Commission has fought fires and advised landowners on how they can best manage the woodlands on their property.   According to Forest Management Chief Russell Hulbright and Forester Chase Folks, forests can be managed for timber production, wildlife protection, aesthetics, soil and water preservation, or a combination of these outcomes.  Hulbright says the public benefits from trees just from the fact that they’re out there along the highways of South Carolina.  The state is blessed to have 13 million acres covered by public and private forests, acc

For the past two years, South Carolina has suffered back-to-back disasters. The thousand year flood in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 damaged homes, took lives, and crippled businesses. One of the businesses hit the hardest by these events was farming. For farmers, the setbacks from the storms were massive. Federal Recovery Programs offered little help and insurance didn’t completely cover damages. Only what is harvested can be insured, so when disasters two years in a row lead to low yields for farmers, the insurance just wasn’t going to cut it.

Richland County Flood Recovery on Track

Mar 21, 2017
Richland County Farmland flooding in 2015
Provided by Michael King

The Red Cross and National Guard may no longer be on the streets of Richland County, but that doesn't mean recovery from the devastating 2015 flood is over. In fact, hundreds of people are still out of their homes in the county according to Mike King, Richland County's Long-Term Disaster Recovery Chief. He says there’s been a lot of progress in recovery, but there's still a long way to go.  

Scientists Seek To Learn More About Sharks

Mar 17, 2017
OCEARCH researcher tagging the male white shark Hilton
Provided by OCEARCH

Off the coast of Hilton Head Island, the M/V OCEARCH sits stationary ready to catch sharks from twelve inches to twelve feet. The vessel is a temporary laboratory for scientists conducting research on the fish, from the way they see color to their mating habits. OCEARCH has done expeditions around the world, though this is the first time the organization has worked off the South Carolina or Georgia coast. They were pulled here by shark activity.

Edvard Tchivzhel, conductor of Greenville Symphony Orchestra.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

    Live classical music is widely available in the Palmetto State, thanks to orchestras in at least seven South Carolina cities. But even the same music can be approached differently by different orchestras and conductors. 

Greg Wilsbacher, checking film in USC's Moving Image Research Collection.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Since 1980, the University of South Carolina has built a national reputation as one of the top film preservation archives in the nation.  Its Moving Image Research Collection has recently become the recipient of a significant national gift – the archival films of the United States Marine Corps.  Tom McNally, Dean of Libraries at the University,  says the school took the collection with no funds to preserve it, but with the faith that revenue donors could be found, which they were.  

Beached vessel at Woods Bridge Marina
Provided by County of Beaufort

Beaufort County officials are planning to begin removing abandoned boats and dock fragments from its shores this week. A storm surge caused by Hurricane Matthew left a substantial amount of debris in several locations around the county.

Beaufort County Deputy Administrator Josh Gruber said, “It looks like a number of the boats and large pieces of the dock[s] were washed up into the marsh."

Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery staff join Keoashaws Brewer and her family for a ribbon cutting ceremony as part of their "Welcome Home" celebration.
Laura Hunsberger/SC Public Radio

Update

Laura Hunsberger recently spoke with Marilyn Gray, Midlands District Chair of the St. Vincent de Paul South Carolina Disaster Relief Program, and Dr. Lisabeth Medlock, Founder and Director of the Palmetto Project Community Flood Hub. Over the past year, Hunsberger has been following their work to provide furniture to families affected by the 2015 floods. In this interview, Gray and Medlock explain how their organizations, along with other community partners, developed a streamlined furniture distribution program.

In front of Tripp's photo his mother Sandra, sister Emily and father Glenn Rabon hold his baseball and football jersey. Tripp was killed in a car crash in December 2015.
Alexandra Olgin/South Carolina Public Radio

Sandra Rabon unfolds a large piece of white paper on the floor of her home in North Charleston.

It is her son Tripp's timeline for his life. Rabon reads aloud from the class project.

"Here he has graduating from Clemson 2021 and starting his own business in 2022," she said. "Then sell company or give to son, go fishing with the grandkids and finally die in a rocking chair in June 2098."

Industrial Hemp Seen as a Potential Boon to Farmers

Mar 7, 2017
Sign at the end of the road near the Baxley's farm
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

On a 5000-acre farm in Marion County, the Baxley family grows corn, soybeans, tobacco, and peanuts. In the past few years, intense storms have ruined their harvesting season, denying the family much needed revenue.  Neal Baxley, who manages the farm with his dad, is interested in planting a new crop, one that's more flexible, resilient, and profitable. For Baxley, hemp is the answer. The only problem is hemp isn't legal to produce in South Carolina. Cooper McKim reports that the state is one of many currently trying to legalize hemp production this year.

Jessica Skinner leads a rehearsal of the Cola Ukulele Band at a Columbia music store.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Over the past decade or so, the ukulele has grown tremendously in popularity among a wide variety of people, helped by its use by popular artists such as Jason Mraz and Ingrid Michaelson.  The trend hit the Midlands recently when University of South Carolina music student Tim Hall got a grant to start the Cola (not Columbia, though that’s where it’s located) Ukulele Band.  Since its beginning, the band has attracted members of all ages, from elementary school children to grandparents. 

World War II veteran Marvin Veronee of Charleston with a photo book, for which he wrote the text, on the Battle of Iwo Jima.  Veronee was in the battle as a 19-year-old sailor.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

In February and March 1945, one of the most significant battles of World War II took place:  Iwo Jima, just 760 miles from Tokyo itself.  Among the 70,000 marines assigned to the operation was 19-year-old Marvin Veronee of Charleston, a navy gunfire officer who went ashore with the Marines to call in fire from warships stationed off the coast when he found good targets.  75 years later, a 93-year-old Veronee recalls his  duties in the battle, his narrow scrape with a Japanese banzai charge ( a suicide attack), and his sight of the first (not the second, world-famous) American flag raised on

Megan Doty (left), 628th Security Forces Squadron unit program coordinator, files out her travel voucher with Senior Airman James Hauck, 628th Comptroller Squadron financial technician.
Airman 1st Class Thomas T. Charlton

Last October, Hurricane Matthew brought considerable devastation to South Carolina in the form of strong winds and crippling floods. For the military men and women stationed at Joint Base Charleston, this created unique issues. They needed to safely evacuate the military base while also providing help to those in worse conditions. The decision was made to have air force members by-pass emergency shelters and instead find alternative living accommodations, like family, friends, or even hotels.

US Senator Graham speaking in Town Hall.
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

U-S Senator Lindsey Graham met a rambunctious crowd at a Clemson University auditorium on Saturday. The room overflowed with constituents from young children to elderly veterans. This is one of the few times since President Trump's election Graham has met with constituents in his home state.

The telephone intake center at SC Legal Service in Columbia. On average, the law firm receives 25,000 calls a a year from low-income residents in need of legal assistance.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Months after the historic 2015 flood, Rhonda Simpkins turned on her furnace and watched green mold cover her home. Denials from FEMA, SBA and her homeowner's insurance led her to South Carolina Legal Services. The nonprofit law firm was able to help Simpkins and others. Now, potential budget cuts in Washington has the firm concerned the work it provides, to help the state's most vulnerable residents recover from disasters and navigate the legal system, could also be cut.

Tennis pro and Charleston native Shelby Rogers keeps up her practice on a recent visit home.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Charleston native Shelby Rogers has risen through the ranks in women’s tennis over the last few years, currently ranking #48.  She started off the year in grand style, defeating the world’s number 4 player, Simona Halep, in the Australian Open.   As she looks forward to returning home to play the Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island this month, she took the time to reflect on the beginnings of her career, her practice routine, and the price she’s paid to be a professional athlete.  

Mullins Residents Face Flooding Two Years in a Row

Mar 1, 2017
Mullins resident Barbara Sellers stands in an apartment being renovated again after Hurricane Matthew flooded the area in October 2016.
Josh Floyd/SC Public Radio

About a year ago, I met Barbara Sellers, a resident of the Genesis II apartment complex in Mullins, SC. Genesis II is a community for low-income seniors, subsidized the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In November of 2015, while the area was still saturated from October’s floods, a severe storm inundated Barbara’s home. Barbara and her neighbors were evacuated by boat, and their apartments had to be completely renovated.

A volunteer's transport van bears the slogan MAMAS on the Move.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Many stray dogs from South Carolina are finding homes in other states thanks to Bamberg’s Mary Ann Morris Animal Society, also known as MAMAS.  The no-kill animal shelter has developed a transport system that shuttles dogs to willing owners by way of a “pipeline” of volunteers that relay the animals from North Carolina to Maine and Vermont.  The dedicated volunteers talk about their devotion to saving these pets for new owners who are excited to give them loving homes, and keep in touch with MAMAS to update staff on the lives of dogs they’ve rescued. 

Rainfall from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 flooded the street and homes in the Pepperhill neighborhood.
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

Amy Knoch recently moved back into her house. When I visited, she was weaving through a maze of Rubbermaid bins that were stacked in her living room. .

Knoch lifted the lid of one box full of office supplies and the next her child’s toys.

“It’s like an organized version of a hoarder’s house,” she said. “Everything is in bins based on what room it came out of but you have pathways between all of the rooms.”  

She and her family lived in an apartment for three months after flooding from Hurricane Matthew damaged her home.  

Jaime Harrison
Provided by Jaime Harrison

UPDATE, 2/23/17, 2:30 pm:

The Associated Press is reporting that SC Democratic Party Chair, Jaime Harrison, has withdrawn from the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Guy Dozier had to use a kayak to get out of his house when it flooded in October 2016.
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

Guy Dozier thought he had planned for the worst when he built his two story home 30 years ago. Just a twenty minute drive from Myrtle Beach, his home in Conway is elevated five feet above ground, higher than any anticipated flooding. That is until Hurricane Matthew late last year.

"It was just one more dirty stinky nasty mess," Dozier said.

kerttu/pixabay

As times and technology evolve, so does crime.  Members of the Midlands Gang Task Force, a union of specialists from the Richland and Lexington County Sheriff’s Offices, the Columbia, Cayce and West Columbia Police Departments and more, see the methods of area gangs change from drug and violent crime, increasingly to white collar crimes such as tax and insurance fraud and identity theft.

Travel, history, ghosts and more are among the many subjects of the USC Press' books
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

The Palmetto State has a prestigious name in the world of publishing: the University of South Carolina Press. Because it’s a non-profit, it can publish scholarly books on important subjects that would not make a profit for commercial publishers, according to Suzanne Axland. But that doesn’t mean the press doesn’t publish for the general interest. It prints a wide variety of books on art, history, Southern culture, beautiful photography and more, even novels, says Axland.

International Non-Profit Lends a Hand Close to Home

Feb 16, 2017
A tap stand being set up in Columbia.
Jennie Reeb/Water Mission

Water Mission is a non-profit based in Charleston focused on helping developing nations restore access to clean water, particularly following natural disasters. The group has projects around the world including Peru, Indonesia, and Kenya. In 2015, they used their purifying technology to help a city closer to home: Columbia. Cooper McKim has the story.

Mopeds at Hawg Scooters, Rosewood Drive, Columbia. 2.	More South Carolinians are riding mopeds, and there are numerous reasons why.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

On any day in any college town across the state a multitude of students can be seen negotiating the streets on mopeds. But they are by no means the only riders. The use of these low-power scooters is exploding across South Carolina, and the nation. Today we talk with two dealers who explain the phenomenon, as well as a rider who tells of the advantages he gets from his moped.

More and more, boxes and crates of fresh produce leaving the Palmetto State for stores and markets in other states are bearing an increasingly familiar sticker: "Certified South Carolina Grown." Ansley Turnblad, branding coordinator for the S.C. Dept. of Agriculture, says the brand encourages people to look for, ask for and buy South Carolina produce.

Food tourists get good food and a history lesson during a food tour on Columbia's Main Street.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

While most folks know that tourism is one of South Carolina’s top industries, many do not know that food tourism is a growing phenomenon around the state.

Visualizations by Ernie Wright / NASA/GSFC

It may be winter now, but big plans are being made for this summer, when portions of South Carolina will see something that hasn’t occurred here in nearly a century: a total solar eclipse.  NASA has estimated nearly one million people will come to the Palmetto State to view this exciting phenomenon.  Midlands tourism spokesperson Kelly Barbery says Columbia is well positioned to get the longest exposure to the eclipse – just over two and a half minutes – and as the third largest city in America in the eclipse’s path, it is preparing activities for the many visitors it expects. 

The Mufuta family arrived in Charleston one week ago, less than 24 hours before the temporary refugee ban. From left to right: 30-year-old Bakemayi Mufuta, 3-year-old Georgina Mufuta, 6-year-old Promise Mufuta, and 23-year-old Rose Mufuta.
Vanessa Gongora

Hayat Qteifan is teaching Congolese refugee Rose Mufuta how to bake in her new North Charleston apartment.

“So you want to fill it up about two thirds of the way so that is has enough room to rise,” Qteifan said.  

Mufuta who arrived in the United States one week ago, wants to be a baker. This is the first time she is using an oven to make cupcakes. The women are using a spoon to put vanilla batter into a tin.

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