Uncharted waters make brave adventurers

Uncharted waters make brave adventurers

Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top

By Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top

There is a sign in the window of the ROMA Ristorante Italiano in downtown Laurens that I think perfectly captures the strange and challenging journey that was 2020.

It says, “Uncharted Waters Make Brave Adventurers.”

While certainly the level of difficulty has varied based on individual circumstances, in one way or another we all became adventurers in 2020, doing our best to navigate a world that was suddenly flipped upside down by disruptions including a global pandemic, social unrest and economic hardship.

When 2020 began, the course for the year appeared to be generally straightforward. With unemployment across the state and country at record lows, the focus was on talent attraction and reducing barriers to employment (most notably access to transportation and skill training).

Then suddenly, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, the landscape totally changed. The declaration of a global pandemic quickly resulted in stay-at-home orders, shortages of essential goods and a rapid rise in unemployment to historically high levels. The corresponding strains on our economy are still being felt and have created additional instability for many.

Adding another level of tension and uncertainty were highly publicized incidents of police brutality that also brought the issues of personal safety and equality to the forefront.

While we all have spent the last nine months maneuvering the same storm, we have each been in our own boat (spaced out 6 feet apart).

Some of us quickly adjusted to working from home while our kids also had to deal with the challenges of virtual school. For others, unemployment, sickness or general instability have made the journey even more difficult.

Throughout this time, we have been quite fortunate here in the Upstate, as I am sure is the case in other parts of the country and world, to have a brave group of adventurers who have overcome the challenges of uncertainty to instead take on the difficulties head-on.

We recognized more than 130 of our “Upstate Unsung Heroes” during a Ten at the Top event in November, but there are undoubtedly many more people within our region who have been at the forefront of ensuring the safety and well-being of all residents over these challenging times.

Whether as community leaders or front-line essential workers, there have been many “Brave Adventurers” who are leading the way into what is still an unknown and uncertain future.

As we leave 2020 behind (thankfully), it sure would be nice to have a crystal ball that could help us sneak a glimpse at what the future has in store.

As a nonprofit organization focused on building regional collaboration and increasing our collective capacity around issues that impact economic vitality and quality of life, we at Ten at the Top are specifically focused on understanding how we can work individually and collectively to navigate the challenges ahead.

To help us gain a clearer understanding of the impacts being felt across our region and state as well as what might be coming moving forward, Ten at the Top has solicited the input of 25 business, government and community leaders as part of an initiative we are calling “Focus on the Future.”

Throughout 2021, we will regularly be reaching out to these community leaders asking for their input around ongoing issues as we look to maneuver through the continued uncharted course ahead.

The first insights from this group can be read now on the Ten at the Top website, and the group will continue to share its perspective throughout the year.

While an uncharted future that will certainly include more rough waves is intimidating and concerning, I believe we can take comfort in knowing that as an Upstate region we are blessed with many insightful leaders and brave adventurers that will help us get through this tough time and continue to stay on course for making the Upstate a leading place for all residents to live, learn, do business and raise a family.

You can learn more about Ten at the Top and the Focus on the Future initiative at www.tenatthetop.org.

You can read the article in Upstate Business Journal here.

TATT Chat Recap, December 17, 2020

TATT Chat Recap, December 17, 2020

Welcome – Terence Roberts, TATT Chairman

Year in Review 

TATT 2020 Overview – Dean Hybl, TATT Executive Director

Upstate Mobility Alliance – Michael Hildebrand, UMA Director

Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem – Erin Ouzts, Ecosystem Coordinator

TATT Initiatives – Justine Allen, TATT Program Manager

County Updates

Abbeville – Stephen Taylor, Economic Development Director

Decrease in ROIs and unemployment hit 13.9% in May but decrease to 4.2% in October

Marketing focus in 2021 with assistance from Department of Commerce

Promise Campaign and workforce to be highlighted

Water study and public transportation study also in 2021

Oconee – Christine de Vlaming, Marketing Director, Keowee Key

Real estate is sold out at close to 4,000 residents

Keowee Key’s model of engaging volunteer professionals includes a videographer with drone capabilities, photographer, landscape designer, and project manager (see presentation during video recording for examples of their work)

Union – Annie Smith, Marketing & Development Director, USC Union

USC Union received a 88.2% success rating

Started a Bachelor of Science/Nursing degree with 16 upper division juniors and 16 upper division seniors on campus this fall

Granted 100K dollars for upgrades to facilities, including projecting microscopes

10K grant to stock a student food pantry (large need)

Athletic department competes in the national junior college league, NJCAA, and has added a women’s volleyball team

Acquired an old high school gym in Jonesville to be renovated into an indoor training facility which is huge for recruitment (only one in the league)

Union County has designated many new development regions to attract new families and business

The Status of Christmas Parades Throughout the Upstate

The Status of Christmas Parades Throughout the Upstate

The holidays are nearing and given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Christmas events and parades have had to be adjusted, postponed, or cancelled. As an organization that focuses on connecting the Upstate region, we wanted to provide a comprehensive list of the status of Christmas parades throughout our 10-county region. For further information and updates, be sure to continue to check with individual county and parade websites and Facebook pages.

Holiday Parades Scheduled in December:

  1. Boiling Springs: December 5th, 10:00 am
  2. Clemson Parade: This year’s event is entirely digital. Businesses and organizations have opted to compete in a window-decorating contest which will be featured online.
  3. Denver Downs: December 20th at 3:00 pm
  4. Duncan Christmas Parade: December 6th, 2:00 pm
  5. Fountain Inn: December 9th, 5:30pm
  6. Greer: December 6th, 2:30pm
  7. Landrum: December 12th, 2:00 pm
  8. Liberty: December 5th, 6:00 pm
  9. Lyman Duncan Wellford Christmas Parade: December 5th, 4:30pm
  10. Mauldin: December 5th, 2:00 pm
  11. Pickens: Tentatively scheduled for December 12th at 11:00 am
  12. Simpsonville: Check out their drive-thru Christmas Parade, December 6th at 3:00 pm at Heritage Park.
  13. Traveler’s Rest: The annual Christmas parade in Traveler’s Rest will take place December 12 at 11:00am with several restrictions. Parade director Diana Kilgore is advising attendees to remain socially distant and wear masks or stay inside their vehicles. The event will also be live streamed on the Travelers Rest Christmas Parade Facebook page.
  14. Williamston: December 12th, 3:00 pm

Cancelled Parades:

  1. City of Greenville – Poinsettia Parade
  2. Spartanburg Jaycees Christmas Parade
  3. Clinton
  4. Pendleton
  5. Uptown Greenwood
  6. City of Anderson
  7. Easley Christmas Parade of Lights
  8. Woodruff
  9. Inman
  10. Chesnee

Even though many events have been cancelled, there is still a great air of Christmas spirit in the Upstate. If your annual parade has been cancelled, check out a live-streamed option or venture to another county for a new experience. Stay safe this holiday season!

*The above schedule is subject to change. If you have any additions or changes, please send them to directly to info@tenatthetop.org. For more information on area Christmas parades, refer to our Upstate Vibe 365 Calendar.

Ten at The Top Announces 10 County Representatives for Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event

Ten at The Top Announces 10 County Representatives for Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event

On Wednesday, November 18th, Ten at the Top hosted the Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event in place of their annual Celebrating Successes Luncheon. This event focused on honoring the many individuals throughout the Upstate who have devoted their time and selflessly served their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 130 nominees were recognized during the event as “Upstate Unsung Heroes.” You can read the full list here.

One individual per county was selected to receive special recognition during the event. Below are the 10 county representatives that were present for this special presentation:

Abbeville: Ethan Cornick – Dreams with Open Arms, Volunteer
Anderson: David Baker – Anderson County, Emergency Services Director
Cherokee: Dr. Carol McFadden – Know(2) Neighborhood Association, Volunteer Director Greenville: Marina Lewis – Mauldin High School, Social Worker
Greenwood: George McKinney – Greenwood County, Emergency Management Director
Laurens: Joey Avery – Laurens County, Emergency Management Director
Oconee: Vanessa Earle – Prisma Health, Community Health Worker
Pickens: Lesa Howard – 5 Point Church Food Pantry, Director
Spartanburg: Charlene Cheeks – Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Upstate, CEO
Union: Shanna “Nikki” Burgess – SC Works Greater Upstate, Talent Development Specialist Supervisor

“To adapt to these unprecedented times, Ten at the Top felt it was necessary to change both the format and focus of this annual event. We decided to bring the upstate together by recognizing the hundreds of individuals who have remained committed to serving others amidst the many unfortunate circumstances this pandemic has brought our way,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top.

“We hope that our event has not only shown great appreciation to these 132 nominees, but also highlighted the number of heroes we have living amongst us in the 10-county Upstate region that we encounter daily.”



Comprised of public, private and civic leaders across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to build regional trust and consensus through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to encourage quality growth and enhance the economic vitality, natural and cultural resources and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow. www.tenatthetop.org.

Ten at The Top Announces 10 County Representatives for Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event

Through the Eyes of An Unsung Hero

Marina Lewis, Mauldin High School – Social Worker

Written By: Marina Lewis, Mauldin High School – Social Worker

March 13, 2020.  Seemed like any other Friday, everyone was ready to get out the doors of Mauldin High and start the weekend.  The weekly food pantry backpacks were lined up for students in need to grab on their way out the door. I was busy wrapping up my emails for the week and didn’t get to speak to several of the students.  Little did I know that was the last time I would see them pick up their packs for the school year!

The following Monday we were in a state of emergency due to the Coronavirus, schools were closed and in 72 hours teachers converted their classes to eLearning.  Everyone was so busy making virtual learning available.  All I could think is what in the world could I do? My job as a school social worker is tied to my students being at school!  The Backpack program, all the small groups, OnTrack meetings, Mentor program, Social-Emotional Learning trainings, activities, and events all came to a screeching halt.

Quarantine stopped daily living as we knew it but life continued.  Our students needed the connection to the school that provided them stability in what was often a very chaotic and unstable home life.  That next Friday when our students normally would have picked up their extra food supply for the weekend I knew what I had to do. I needed to bring the food to them.  With an amazing co-worker (Kelly Yanity), we packed up the bags and delivered them to our 20 students in need.

As the weeks stretched on and the state was shut down, with support of our Principal, Michael Peake,  and the blessing of my husband, my three teenagers packed up the pantry and moved it to our garage.  We continued to make weekly supply deliveries to our families in need,  as well as new families that were struggling due to the pandemic. Everyone pitched in to assist making our little Mauldin High food pantry not only survive but thrive.  Brookwood Church continued to collect donations and PTSA donated all the items from the student school store that was going unused and sponsored a sign-up genius to collect needed household and cleaning supplies.  We switched from backpacks to boxes left them at the door to have as little physical contact as possible and followed all COVID protocols.

In the end, it became less about the food being delivered and more about the relationships strengthened and the trust earned.  The food became more of an excuse to check in with our students.  It wasn’t just for them either. It brought peace to myself and my co-workers being able to lay eyes on them knowing they were OK.  It gave me structure and purpose to my quarantine days. Assisting them with all the changes that had been thrown at all of us.  Helping them learn to do this eLearning thing.  Sharing resources and providing hotspots.  They felt heard.  They felt seen.  I felt relieved. These students gave me more than I could give them, reminding me not to take things for granted.  The hugs, the laughs, and the check ins we usually shared throughout the halls and classrooms were missing.  We realized the importance of relationships.

The silver lining of this pandemic is it made us slow down and focus on what is truly essential, connecting with others.  Being there for one another, that’s what will get us through.  My hope is that through all the changes, grief, and chaos 2020 has brought, that it brought us something greater that can live past this pandemic, gratitude. Gratitude for each and every person that impacts our days.  Greenville will get through this stronger by focusing on each other.  I am privileged to have the opportunity to continue to serve our students, teachers, and community and will let that be my lasting memory of this pandemic.

Ten at the Top recently hosted their Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event on Wednesday, November 18th.  At this event, they honored 10 county representatives and 130+ additional unsung heroes that have kept the Upstate region alive and well during this pandemic. Click here to view all 132 nominee listings.

The 10 county representatives that were present at the day-of event were:

  1. Abbeville: Ethan Cornick – Dreams with Open Arms, Volunteer
  2. Anderson: David Baker – Anderson County, Emergency Services Director
  3. Cherokee: Carol McFadden – Know(2) Neighborhood Association, Volunteer Director
  4. Greenville: Marina Lewis – Mauldin High School, Social Worker
  5. Greenwood: George McKinney – Greenwood County, Emergency Management Director
  6. Laurens: Joey Avery – Laurens County, Emergency Management Director
  7. Oconee: Vanessa Earle – Prisma Health, Community Health Worker
  8. Pickens: Lesa Howard – 5 Point Church Food Pantry, Director
  9. Spartanburg: Charlene Cheeks – Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Upstate, CEO
  10. Union: Shanna “Nikki” Burgess – SC Works Greater Upstate, Talent Development Specialist Supervisor
Native American Celebration at the Hagood Mill Historic Site

Native American Celebration at the Hagood Mill Historic Site

Katie Mann, Assistant Director, Hagood Mill

Every November the Hagood Mill Historic Site observes Native American Heritage Month by holding the Native American Celebration. Every Third Weekend of November we hold this beloved celebration that we also call Selugadu.  Selugadu translates into cornbread in the Tsalagi Gawonihisdi (Cherokee) language.  Selu, meaning corn and gadu, meaning bread.  This celebration of cornbread is in reality a Harvest Festival.  November is the time of year when Native Americans reaped the harvest of corn.  All across the Americas the first people developed over 250 varieties of corn.  Corn was an essential crop in Native American life and came to be in Colonial life as well.

At this time of year Americans Give Thanks.  Join us at the Hagood Mill to give thanks to, and honor the first peoples of these lands, for the food traditions and customs that have influenced southern Appalachian life.   On Saturday, November 21st we will bring together many people from many tribal groups to share their customs from today and yesteryear at the idyllic Hagood Mill Historic Site.

Saturday’s event kicks off at 10 am and runs until 4 pm.   We will have our typical Third Saturday activities, including the operation of the Hagood Mill, living history demonstrations and a cherry picked group of vendors.  Visitors and guest performers will participate in the festivities of the day which will include: Native American traditional drumming, singing, dancing, flute playing, storytelling, Cherokee hymns in the Tsalagi Gawonihisdi language, and traditional crafts and demonstrations.  Performers include storyteller and basket maker Nancy Basket, from Walhalla, SC; Cherokee singer Amy Sindersine of the Reedy River Inter-tribal Association; The Kau-Ta-Noh-Jrs Society Singers of the Tuscarora Nation, NC with On’yas Locklear, Raniya Locklear and Nawayla Locklear; and Keepers of the Word from South Carolina.

Demonstrations of food-way traditions such as stone grinding of cornmeal, cooking fry-bread, and roasting corn will take place throughout the day.  Barry Crawford’s prehistoric cooking demonstration using ancient soapstone bowls is too artful to be missed.  Members from the Foothills Archaeology Society will be on site to identify Native American stone tools and artifacts. Be sure to bring your treasure to be identified!

We will be inaugurating “Our Native Roots: An Interpretive Trail” at noon.  The interpretive trail takes visitors along the Old Indian Path, which is an ancient trading path that took the Native Americans from the Mississippi coast and up and through the continental divide to Virginia. The interpretive trail includes a dugout out canoe which will be burned during the Native American Celebration, a river cane restoration area, a sacred fire circle for all to experience on this special day, a medicine wheel garden, a corn garden, a mortar and pestle for grinding corn, a prehistoric stone mortar, an archaeology adventure for kids, the Paul West artifact collection, and the petroglyphs that were made in prehistoric times. We are especially grateful to Paul West, who donated his personal collection of Native American artifacts, art and books to the Hagood Mill Foundation, and are now housed in the Hagood Creek Petroglyph Site.

Due to COVID, we are limiting admission to this event.  As a result, admission will be $10 per person 13 and up and $5 per child aged 3-12.  One of our most popular events of the year, this event is sure to sell out, so get your tickets today.

We will kick off the weekend on Friday, November 20th at the Heritage Pavilion!  We have special free programming this year thanks to the Traditional Arts Touring Grant from South Arts.   Beginning at 5:30 pm we will have an Artifact Show-and-Tell, in addition to workshops from some of the veteran performers of our Native American Celebration! There will be artifact experts on site helping folks to identify artifacts and to share stories.  Nancy Basket will provide an educational workshop highlighting Native American basket making techniques, motifs, and the different types of construction materials which can be used based on one’s demographic location.  On’yas Locklear and Ka-Tau-Noh-Jrs Society Singers will be offering song and dance workshops as well.  Concessions will be available at 5 pm .  Admittance to the Heritage Pavilion will be cut off at 150 people.  Please bring PPE and your own chairs and bundle up! Arrive early to ensure your space.  Of course observers are welcome to disperse in the fields surrounding the pavilion.

Make a weekend of the event and reserve your camping space as well!

Primitive camping will be available Friday and Saturday nights– $10/person aged 13 and up for one or two nights (tent/car camping) or $30 for RV spaces.  Limit 6 people per site.  Car and RV spaces are limited, so register online soon.  Folks with loud generators will be asked not to use them during special events.

The Native American Celebration is partially funded by South Arts, Pickens County ATAX, and from generous donors like Paul West.

Visit our website for full event details and to access the ticket portal:


Text GRITS to 85100 to stay in the loop of all things happening at the Hagood Mill and to receive exclusive offers.