Remembering Hugo, Awaiting Irma

By: Chaunte McClure

Today reminds me of that warm, late summer afternoon in September 1989 when the threat of Hurricane Hugo had South Carolina residents on alert. I was in the eighth grade and vaguely recall standing in the courtyard in front of our high school as the light breeze brushed our faces and mangled our hair as my friends and I talked about little of nothing.

Fast forward 24, or maybe 48, hours and my family awoke to a quiet house with no electricity or running water. That was the state of our community for a few days. Bottled water was not a household grocery item in those days when scrunchies and leg warmers were accessories.

With Irma on the horizon, grocery stores are trying to keep up with the demand for bottled water. I’ve heard story after story and I’ve seen photo after photo of empty shelves where 24-packs of water are usually stocked. I’m sure my grandparents filled empty milk jugs with water in preparation for Hugo. When that stock nearly ran out, we journeyed to Mr. Howard’s house to refill our containers. Mr. Howard still had an old hand water pump. Though weathered from years of outdoor exposure, that rusty pump poured some of the coolest, best tasting water. I doubt anyone in my hometown still has one except for use as antique décor in their flower garden. Before Irma makes landfall in Florida and maybe Georgia and South Carolina, I’m sure many people will probably reminisce about that throwback water source.

I was in my garage Saturday and discovered three bottles of the water left from the 1,000-year flood experience of 2015 when we were without water for about three days. I’ll use those first (not for drinking), should circumstances warrant it. Unlike in 2015, this time, I’ll remember to fill the bathtubs with water in case we lose power.

I’ve seen a couple other good tips on preparing for a storm on Facebook the past couple of nights, neither of which I’ve heard of before. One of my friends shared a post from delish.com with a tip on determining if the food in your freezer completely thawed during a power outage while you were away. Here’s the tip: “You put a cup of water in your freezer. Freeze it solid and then put a quarter on top of it and leave it in your freezer. That way when you come back after you’ve been evacuated you can tell if your food went completely bad and just refroze or if it stayed Frozen while you were gone. If the quarter has fallen to the bottom of the cup that means all the food defrosted and you should throw it out. But if the quarter is either on the top or in the middle of the cup then your food may still be ok.”  – Sheila Pulanco Russell

Another Facebook tip that has gone viral from a Facebook user is on substitutes for sandbags. Edward Sweat says, “Plastic bags [garbage bags] 1/3 filled with water make good substitutes for sandbags at doorways.” And in the event water enters your house, he advises using paint cans or five-gallon buckets to support and elevate your furniture.

At this hour, the path of the storm is still unclear, but the best advice I have for you is to be safe and be prepared when and if Irma arrives.

Rooted in Bringing People Together

By: Chaunte McClure

I would often hear Grandma say to family and friends, “I was thinking about you not long ago.”  My cousin and I would low-key think Grandma was just making conversation. Now that I’m older, I find myself often thinking about others and the good ol’ days. Like the ones we spent under the tree, just a stone’s throw from my grandparents’ house, where we made mud pies, let our imaginations run wild, and played all sorts of traditional and made-up games during the summer.

When we’d visit my great-uncle Fletchie in what we called the backwoods, most times we’d find him tending the garden or sitting under that old pecan tree. Air conditioning was a luxury in the 80s and folks knew how to take the heat. Others would probably argue that it wasn’t that hot back then. Regardless of opinion, that ol’ pecan tree was the setting for many conversations shared by family and friends. It’s still standing and family and friends still gathered there until recently.

I started thinking about those trees after a recent visit to Angel Oak, the famous tree on Johns Island that’s believed to be around 400 years old. I’m amazed that thousands of people travel near and far to see this tree. Though the Angel Oak just isn’t any tree, like many others, it’s rooted in bringing people together to make new memories and share old ones.

Every small town has a tree where friends, family, or old winos meet to shoot the breeze. Where is, or was, that tree in your community?

5 Reasons to Participate in the Tunnel to Towers SC 5K Run & Walk

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

This year marks the 5th annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk. Join Lexington Medical Center and other members of the community on Friday, September 15th at 7:00 p.m. in Columbia’s Vista to honor our veterans and heroes.

Below are 5 reasons to gather your friends, family members, and coworkers and participate in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk:

It is a way to honor those who have sacrificed in the line of duty. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created by the Siller Family to honor the memory of their brother, Stephen. New York City firefighter Stephen Siller was off duty on September 11, 2011. When he heard what was happening at the World Trade Center, he strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran from Brooklyn to Ground Zero to save lives.

This foundation honors Stephen Siller’s legacy by supporting our first responders and service members who sacrifice for our country. Attending the Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run and Walk is a great way to show support for the men and women who keep our community safe.

It’s for a great cause. The proceeds from this event supports Building for America’s Bravest, a program of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation that constructs specially adapted smart homes for injured service members.

It’s a fantastic way to get your family up and moving. This 5K is open to all ages and activity levels. Participants are welcome to walk or run. Not only will this 5K give your busy family an opportunity to spend some quality time together, but it will also be a good way to get your family active.

Running is always more fun with friends! Switch up your usual Friday plans with your friends and create a team for the 5K. Running with friends not only gives you quality time to catch up and chat, but it also gives you that extra ounce of motivation you need to continue on.

There is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you come for the run, the live music, the food vendors, the after party, or just to enjoy the beautiful views of Columbia’s Vista, there is sure to be something for each and every person to enjoy.

For more information or to register, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/T2TSouthCarolina2017.

Penny Candy, Souse Meat, Liver Pudding & Bologna

By: Chaunte McClure

Last week I took a trip down memory lane, making a stop at the cinder block pale yellow or beige building on the corner of Highway 908 and what is now Paul Richardson Road. It was one of the mom and pop stores in Britton’s Neck where residents could conveniently buy general grocery items locally, since the nearest grocery store was almost 30 minutes away.

I spent many childhood summer days riding my bicycle to the Richardson Store, as my family affectionately called it. Grandma rarely sent me to buy anything, but I wanted to go sometimes to rack up on penny candy. I shamefully admit that I used to rob my aunt’s Maxwell House jar of the old pennies and other coins she collected in it. (I confessed my theft to her years ago, but it’s not like she hadn’t already figured out why her penny jar was dwindling.) I would take the time to count and wrap those pennies to present them to Ms. Mary or her husband, owners of the Richardson Store, to pay for my penny candy, Now & Laters and other cheap sweets that, over time, contributed to my cavities. I’d buy as much candy as I could for a dollar and share with the other grands at Grandma’s house.

I miss stores like the Richardson’s where you could go to the counter and ask for $2 dollars worth of souse meat, liver pudding or bologna. Let me tell ya, the pan fried bologna cut in the center would make for a good bologna sandwich. I remember for supper some nights we’d have just grits and bologna. It was filling and something quick and easy for Grandma to prepare.

Curious of whether my Facebook friends remember the mom and pop stores, I invited them to share in my nostalgia, posting a related question one night and surprisingly, many of them replied with places in the Columbia area where one can find fresh cut souse meat, liver pudding and bologna. Places like Conwell’s, Caughman’s and Mr. Bunky’s made the list. One day I’ll make a stop at one of those community staples and share my experience with you.

What were some of the mom and pop stores in your community?

Local, Family-Friendly Fourth of July Celebrations!

By: Meg Cowan, Guest Contributor

The Fourth of July holiday isn’t complete without a celebration! From running a 5k, to enjoying a parade, or even boating on Lake Murray, there are tons of local family-friendly options. This Fourth of July, kick back at the following Independence Day events in the Midlands:

Lake Murray’s Star Spangled Celebration
July 1, Annual Boat Parade starts at 12 pm

Spend a day on Lake Murray, beginning with a festive boat parade. Fireworks start at approximately 9:15PM, launched from both Dreher Island and Spencer Island.

https://www.lakemurraycountry.com/things-to-do/events/columbia/Lake-Murray-Fireworks-Celebrations

Star-Spangled Symphonic Salute by the Lake Murray Symphony Orchestra
July 3, 8 pm at Saluda Shoals Park

An evening of patriotic music and fireworks with the Lake Murray Symphony Orchestra!

https://www.lmso.org/star-spangled-symphonic-salute

Born in the USA Four Miler in Columbia, SC
July 4, Race starts at 7 am

Compete in a four-mile race around Forest Acres Lake and Golf Course!

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/BUSA/index.html#Participantinformation

59th Annual Lexington County Peach Festival
July 4, 9 am to 11 pm at the Gilbert Community Park on Rikard Circle in Gilbert S.C.
Fireworks at 10 pm, field behind Gilbert Primary School

Featuring a parade, recipe contests, live entertainment, fireworks and, of course, peaches!

http://www.lexingtoncountypeachfestival.com

Independence Day Fireworks at Lexington County Blowfish Baseball Games
Games July 3 & 4

Watch the Lexington County Blowfish play some ball, and stay for the celebratory Fourth of July fireworks at the end of the game!

http://www.goblowfishbaseball.com

OZONE AWARE: Help Take Care of the Summer Air

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

We have another month until it’s official, but it already feels like summer in the Midlands.  Here in the Midlands, summers are known for festivals, homemade ice cream and playing in Lake Murray. But there’s something else that heats up when the Midlands starts getting warmer: ground-level ozone. Here’s the dirt on ground-level ozone:

Good up high. Bad nearby. Unlike the good, protective ozone layer in the stratosphere, ground level ozone is a harmful air pollutant that affects all of us. It’s formed when emissions from everyday items combine with other pollutants and “cook” in the heat and sunlight. (Gasoline-powered cars and trucks are the most common source of emissions in our area.) Weather also plays a key role in ozone formation. The highest ozone levels are usually recorded in summer months when temperatures approach the high 80s and 90s and the wind is stagnant or light.

Ground-Level ozone affects everybody. At ground level, ozone is a health hazard for all of us, especially the young and elderly. Those who are active and exercising outdoors may experience breathing difficulties and eye irritation. Prolonged exposure may result in reduced resistance to lung infections and colds. Ozone can also trigger attacks and symptoms in individuals with pre-existing conditions, like asthma or other respiratory infections like chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Stay alert all summer. Remember, the highest ozone levels are typically found on days that reach the high 80s and 90s and when the wind is stagnant or light. Stay tuned to your local meteorologists, as they will be notifying the public of Ozone Action Alert days when ozone levels are forecasted to reach unhealthy levels. Or use Enviroflash to sign up for free air quality forecasts.

Don’t just breathe, do something. Fellow breathers, you can become a part of the solution. There are simple, easy steps you can take to reduce harmful emissions during ozone pollution season. Be a clean air warrior and click here to get started. 

For more information on ground-level ozone, visit Clean Air Midlands or SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.

 

Partnership Transforms Plastic Bags to Help Those in Need

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

If you’re like me, you start off with the best of intentions when it comes to using reusable shopping bags. You have a cute set conveniently tucked into your cargo area or trunk – my favorites are Queen of Green bags from Lilly Pulitzer. But if you’re like me, those great bags don’t always make it back into the car. Then, in a moment of eco-embarrassment, you end up using the plastic bags from the store, only to get home and find they seem to multiply tenfold in a matter of days.

Plastic bags may be “free” at the grocery store, but they have a huge cost for the environment. They:

  1. Litter our landscapes, clog waterways and jam expensive equipment at the recycling recovery facilities.
  2. Migrate to the ocean via local waterways, where some 100,000 marine animals ingest them and die each year.
  3. Waste energy and create greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing process.
  4. Jam expensive sorting machines at the recycling recovery and sorting facility.

What if you could use your plastic bags for good?  Thanks to Operation Bed Roll, you can. Operation Bed Roll is a local collaboration designed to keep non-recyclable materials out of our landfills, engage our citizens in a community-wide maker project and provide the chronically homeless with a better place to sleep. They transform thousands of plastic grocery bags into plastic yarn aka plarn to create crocheted sleeping mats that provide an insulated barrier for those whose circumstances result in sleeping on the ground.

Operation Bed Roll consists of ten partners: Sonoco Recycling, Environmental Education Association of SC (EEASC), United Way of the Midlands, Sustainable Midlands, City of Columbia, EdVenture Children’s Museum, Art Ecologie Group and countless community volunteers: schools, retirement communities, churches, artists, Scout troops and more.  They adopted the project from a similar one in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The average American uses 500-700 plastic grocery bags each year, and that’s about the same number it takes to create a bed roll. And while a recycled bag might not be your idea of luxury, they are lightweight, easy to carry, dry quickly and don’t attract bed bugs and provide insulation for those who sleep on the ground. (A bed roll has been found to keep users 10 to 20 degrees warmer than sleeping on the bare ground.)

I participate in Operation Bed Roll as a bag collector and plarn maker. I love the diversity of volunteers and partners involved as well as the simple sustainability of the project. It takes something that’s designed to be used for a mere 12 minutes and creates something practical and lasting for those less fortunate. And when the bed rolls wear out, they can be recycled with other plastic bags at grocery store plastic bag recycling containers.

Since beginning in January of this year, Operation Bed Roll volunteers have created over twenty “plarn” sleeping mats, saving approximately 15,000 plastic shopping bags from the landfill. Those mats are being distributed to the chronically homeless by United Way of the Midlands.

Operation Bed Roll’s goal is to produce another 80 mats between now and the fall, when the weather will get cooler again. You can help in many ways:

  1. Donating your plastic bags (used only, please; getting new ones defeats the purpose).
  2. Cutting plastic bags into strips.
  3. Linking strips together to create plarn.
  4. Donating plarn to knitters.
  5. Using your crocheting skills to create bed rolls.

For more information, visit OBR’s Facebook page or email the group at operationbedrollsc@gmail.com.