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.

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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.

By the Numbers: Table shows progress of the state's 2015 flood recovery program to date
SCDRO

As of January 31, the South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office has awarded 44 award letters to households with damage from the 2015 rain event and flood. To date, the office has allocated a little over $1.4 million of its nearly $97 million of disaster recovery funds.

Households in Florence, Georgetown, Sumter, Williamsburg, Berkeley, Clarendon and Orangeburg counties now have information letting them know they have been accepted into the states disaster recovery program.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin: State of City is Strong

Feb 1, 2017
During his State of the City Address, Tuesday, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin used the Virtual Inter-Columbia Intelligence (technology acquired from the Department of Defense surplus program) to highlight the city's strengths.
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

During his annual city address, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said the state of the city is strong. Using technology acquired from the Defense Department's Surplus program, Mayor Benjamin highlighted the city's 3.8% unemployment, the creation of nearly 10,000 jobs within the past year and progress in continuing recovery efforts following the 2015 flood.

One SC Fund Announces Phase Five of Grant Awards

Jan 31, 2017
In October 2016, Bank of America Employees volunteered with United Way of Midlands, Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity and Home Works of America to repair siding on a flood-damaged home in Columbia.
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

Eight nonprofit organizations will receive $380,000 to continue recovery work for damages caused by the 2015 flood as well as Hurricane Matthew. Grant money will help organizations purchase building materials, do general rebuild work, mold remediation and supply home furnishings. South Carolina Public Radio spoke with Jim Powell, Director of Development for Home Works of America, and learned how this round of funding will allow the organization to continue to help the most vulnerable in the Charleston area.

Tattoos are a growing trend among people from many walks of life in South Carolina.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Since tattoo parlors became legal in South Carolina in 2006, they have ridden a growing wave of popularity.  No longer the province of sailors or convicts, tattoos are being worn by doctors, ministers, even grandmothers.  Tattoo artist Scot “Spyder” Kudo says the range of tattoo designs is as endless as the imaginations of his clients. 

Dr. Nori Warren loves caring for pets at 4 Paws Animal Clinic. Forced to relocate by the historic flood of 2015, she hopes to return to a new building near the original clinic later this year.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

After the historic flood of October 2015 destroyed the 4 Paws Animal Clinic in the Columbia suburb of Forest Acres, a friend came to the rescue with a temporary site for the business.  Dr. Nori Warren and her husband, Will, immediately began planning to a return to their original building, which was still structurally sound. 

Edisto Beach Begins Project to Replenish Sand

Jan 31, 2017
Alexandra Olgin\South Carolina Public Radio

Bulldozers on Edisto beach move and shape sand that is being pumped onto beach. The dark watery mixture is spewing out of a series of connected metal pipes that go more than a mile out in the Atlantic Ocean. Those pipes lead to a dredge – the large machine stirring up the sand on the bottom of the ocean Thomas Payne, with Marinex Construction explains.

Payne is managing part of the beach renourishment project. He says the man operating the dredge will start by pumping water through the pipes.

SC residents from Darlington, Dillon, Florence and Marion Counties attend Team SC PeeDee Day in October 2016 to get information about disaster recovery following Hurricane Matthew.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

In three months, the South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office (SCDRO) will close its mobile and fixed intake centers. To date, SCDRO has taken over 2,000 cases of people who still have unmet needs following the 2015 flood. South Carolina Public Radio learns, as this deadline draws near, the intake process for a program to help Hurricane Matthew victims is also approaching.

Recovery for Some South Carolina Farmers from 2015 Flood Is On-Going

Jan 24, 2017
Joe Jones tends his sheep, turkeys and chickens on his Blythewood farm.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Some farmers are just beginning to shake off the effects of the historic flood of October 2015, though others will take longer to come back.  One of those recovering is Eric McClam of City Roots, an urban farm in Columbia.  Because the farm is divided into two locations, one plot  was able to escape heavy damages and continue operating to help lift up the damaged second property. 

Vanessa Torres gets the active participation of her Spanish students at Nursery Road Elementary School.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Vanessa Torres is a passionate advocate for teaching foreign language to elementary school children.  She says research proves that early education in foreign languages improves deductive reasoning skills, memory, self esteem and more.  Her enthusiasm in the Spanish classes she teaches is contagious, says her principal, Love Ligons.  And her fellow teachers and students’ parents are not the only ones who have noticed. 

Irmo Resident Karen Elliot cuts a ribbon to welcome neighbors, rebuild volunteers and friends into her repaired home.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

In the span of 24 hours, two survivors of the 2015 flood celebrated rebuild milestones. Both residents entered the United Way of the Midlands 2-1-1 disaster case management intake system and both were contacted by rebuild organizations. 15 months after the flood, returning home has become a reality.

When Karen Albert cut the the ceremonial ribbon to mark the completion of repairs to her flood-damaged home, she acknowledged the possible sever between her and the volunteers with Reach Global Crisis Response.

South Carolina's Third Constitution, Ratified in 1790
Josh Floyd

South Carolina's original constitutions are breaking down. The several hundred-year-old parchments are tattered with frayed edges, browning corners, and stiff pages. In an effort to save the documents, archivists are seeking to preserve them permanently. For now, the documents lay unseen in a temperature-controlled room. 

"Everything in here is 60 degrees, less than 50% relative humidity," says Eric Emerson, Director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

If you are a regular listener of this network, the odds are you also like symphony music.  But how many of you think of your local orchestra as a business?  Our next guest certainly does.

Mike Switzer interviews Michael Smith, executive director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, it is estimated that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer-related deaths. As part of Radon Action Month, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) is providing free kits for residents to test their homes for the invisible, odorless, tasteless gas.

Faces of past U. S. Presidents carved into Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.
Aline Dassel/Pixabay

Comedian Jay Leno and others have long pointed out many Americans’ inability to identify people they should know, whether they be politicians, celebrities or historical icons. According to University of South Carolina historians Lauren Sklaroff and Kent Germany, attitudes are changing about whether there should be a certain set of people or information that all Americans should know.

Poet Ray McManus conducts a poetry workshop at a high school in Blythewood.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

University of South Carolina – Sumter English Professor Ray Mcmanus is a poet who can’t sit still. He travels the state conducting workshops in poetry much as a missionary would: But the message he brings to the people – that is, students from elementary to high schools – is that poetry isn’t the exclusive realm of artsy, smart people; it’s accessible to everyone, and it’s already in their lives if they take notice.

BMX Supercross is a rapidly expanding sport that few have facilities for.  Rock Hill is one of those few, and reaps economic benefits because of it.
Wendy Waddle

Rock Hill was a big textile town in the 1970s.  But when that industry started to go away, the city began to look for ways to diversify and to revitalize its economy.  It found the answer in amateur sports.  Beginning with baseball and softball, the city has built facilities that have attracted teams from across the country and around the world for sports such as lacrosse, soccer, tennis, cycling and more. 

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Cain sign their wedding certificate before friends at the Columbia Fireflies ball park.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

A recent wedding at the home of the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team would seem unusual to most people, but to a group of University of South Carolina students, it’s just part of a class.  The wedding planning class is included in the curriculum of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program, and for at least a decade has had the dual advantage of giving students experience in all the details that go into planning a wedding and providing the bride and groom with a free wedding and honeymoon.  The catch?  They must give the students total control over everything.  But s

Josh Floyd / SC Public Radio

Hurricane Matthew brought considerable damage and devastation across the east coast, but it’s hard to find a town affected more than Nichols, South Carolina. A month after the storm, debris was piled up so high along the roads that it was like driving through a tunnel. Today, nearly three months after the storm hit, most of that debris is gone, but the damage can still be seen. Every house has damage and there’s not a single citizen in sight. The town feels empty, but it’s not abandoned. If you find someone to talk to, there’s a smile on their face.

An information packet from USC's 2016 Economic Outlook Conference.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Construction means progress for South Carolina’s economy.  Experts speaking at the University of South Carolina’s annual Economic Outlook Conference in December made their forecasts for how the state’s economy should shape up in the new year.  According to research economist Joseph Von Nessen, the trends will include a leveling off of economic growth (after several years of steady increase, so it’s not a bad thing), a tighter labor market (which is good for job seekers), and a strong housing demand.   

A member of the Greatest Generation Columbia's Moffatt Burriss recalls his World War II experiences.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  Moffatt Burris of Columbia is one of the heroes who helped save the world from tyranny during World War II. He fought to liberate Sicily and at Anzio to free Italy. But perhaps his most memorable exploits came as a paratrooper who participated in Operation Market Garden, a failed attempt to hasten the end of the war with a massive jump into Holland.

  Shooting incidents around the country have not left South Carolina untouched.  The Emanuel AME Church shooting demonstrated that the Palmetto State is not immune to such violence.  To help citizens become more aware of what to do  and how to protect themselves in such a situation, law enforcement agencies are offering active shooter training to groups across the state.  We talk today to representatives of the Richland and Lexington County Sheriff’s Departments, who offer advice that could save lives in the event of an active shooter attack.

As recruits train at Fort Jackson, their weapons stand at the ready.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

As the army’s largest basic training post, Fort Jackson is a vital part of the nation’s defense. Today’s story looks at the approaching centennial of the fort, begun in 1917 in response to the need to train soldiers for World War I. Historians Henry Howe and Fritz Hamer comment on the fort’s beginnings as Camp Jackson, how it was built and its impact on the Midlands economy, as well as its prospects for the future.

  Local theater is found both in quantity and quality throughout South Carolina. Today we hear from representatives of two of them: Columbia’s Town Theater is the oldest continually operating community theater in America, and will turn 100 in 2019. It specializes in musicals, but presents other known plays as well. Across town, Trustus Theater employs professionals to bring audiences new productions that sometimes “push the envelope.” These and many other theaters across the state help their cities both economically, drawing tourism, and, of course, enrich them culturally as well.

Scam detector Frank Abagnale with the medallions he has received from organizations he has coached or helped to prevent or detect fraud.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

     Charleston resident Frank Abagnale has helped the FBI and numerous government agencies and corporations detect and stop fraud for more than 40 years. His expertise in the field comes largely from the fact that between the ages of 16 to 21, Abagnale was himself a scam artist and check forger, whose international exploits are recounted in his book “Catch Me if you Can,” and a major motion picture of the same name.

Josh Floyd / SC Public Radio

It’s been two months since Hurricane Matthew devastated cities across the east coast. In Lumberton, North Carolina, a Robeson County town hit especially hard by the storm, people are still seeking relief aid. Many families are still displaced from their homes, but many more are starting the steps to rebuild. That’s where the Robeson Church and Community Center comes in. Outside the building, a line of people await any help they can get. Inside, the center and the Red Cross have joined forces to offer any help they can give.

Illumineer worker installs Christmas lights on home of Columbia flood victim
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Nonprofits working in the Midlands of South Carolina are hoping Christmas lights will shine focus on flood recovery. They also hope charitable giving will boost donations during the gift-giving season. 14 months after the flood, South Carolina Public Radio talks with two homeowners, celebrating the holidays on opposite sides of recovery.

A Lot to Celebrate This Christmas

A committee of The South Carolina House of Representatives has been at work attempting to revamp the state’s outdated tax code,  the collection of laws and regulations that prescribe how the state collects tax revenues.  This year that's expected to be over $7 Billion.

Arthur Erskine of West Columbia and friend.
Lauren Rivers

Most men don’t frequent beauty parlors, but Arthur “Cotton” Erskine of West Columbia visits his every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas to prepare his hair and long beard for a role he’s portrayed for years: Santa Claus.  “Santa Cotton,” as he is known, becomes the Jolly Old Elf for events such as Christmas parades, private photo sessions and store appearances, sometimes with as many as six appointments a day.  He is “Ho Ho” to his grandchildren, and here he discusses the fun of  dealing with children, and the unusual requests they sometimes have of Santa.  Erskine’s hairdresser and the co

Holiday depression is a real phenomenon for some South Carolinians.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Cries of “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy New Year” can ring hollow for those afflicted with the phenomenon known as holiday depression.  Psychologist Fred Medway says holidays are so charged with memories that if one experiences, for example, a loss or other unhappy event during the holiday season, it can trigger sad memories in future seasons.   According to University of South Carolina nursing professor Sue Heiney, symptoms of holiday depression can include sleeplessness, change in appetite, sadness and not being able to enjoy anything, even things a person once took pleasu

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