Through the Eyes of An Unsung Hero

    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
    Ten at The Top Announces Date and Nomination Process for  Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event

    Ten at The Top Announces Date and Nomination Process for Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event

    Greenville, SC | September 15, 2020 – Ten at the Top [TATT] is excited to host the Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event at 11:30 am on November 18th, recognizing and honoring Unsung Heroes from across the 10-county Upstate region. Traditionally known as the annual Celebrating Successes Luncheon, this event typically recognizes businesses, organizations and individuals who help make the Upstate a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family. Given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the TATT Board of Directors felt that it was not only necessary to host this event virtually, but to take the opportunity to honor those who have remained committed to serving others throughout this pandemic.

    Whether they are a community volunteer, employed in an essential business or someone within local neighborhoods who has gone the extra mile, Ten at the Top is encouraging members of the Upstate community to nominate individuals who have stood out during the pandemic due to their unselfish nature and willingness to help support the well-being of their community. In addition to their service as an Upstate Unsung Hero, the only requirement for nomination is that the nominee must live or serve their vital community function within one of the following ten counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg or Union. Everyone nominated will receive recognition as an Upstate Unsung Hero, but a selection committee will choose one special Unsung Hero per county to be honored as part of the November 18th event.

    All nominations can be submitted directly online at and must be submitted by October 14th at 5:00pm.

    “As an organization that focuses on bringing the Upstate together, we felt this event was important to honor the individuals, organizations and businesses who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to keep our community healthy, safe, and strong,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top. “With the number of unfortunate events that have transpired over the past few months, we wanted to take this opportunity to shed light upon and honor our unsung heroes that have kept the Upstate going, day in and day out.

    “Though we will not be able to gather in-person as a region to celebrate our Unsung Heroes, we intend to make this virtual gathering a special event that you will not want to miss. We will be live streaming the event and there will be several ways that attendees can participate in the celebration.”

    The virtual event is free, though advance registration is requested through Eventbrite and a special “event gift” will be sent to all who register by Wednesday, November 11th. In lieu of an admission charge, attendees are encouraged to make a donation to help Ten at the Top continue its mission across the Upstate and to help say “thank you” to the county Unsung Heroes. Contributions will be divided between Ten at the Top general organizational support, the TATT Ignition Fund for providing long-term impact across the Upstate, and a “thank you” stipend to the Unsung Heroes that will be honored at this event.

    To learn more about Ten at the Top and their Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event, please visit

    Ten at the Top Hires Intern to Support Regional Comprehensive Plan Update

    Ten at the Top Hires Intern to Support Regional Comprehensive Plan Update

    Ten at the Top (TATT) has hired Kyle Dool, a second year graduate student in the City & Regional Planning program at Clemson University, to review and update the Upstate Comprehensive Plan Analysis originally completed in 2015 in support of TATT’s Upstate Professional Planners work group.

    As many counties have revised, updated, or rewritten their comprehensive plans over the last five years, this project will update the work from the previous comprehensive plan review, identify new commonalities between the plans, and connect these ideas with current programs being developed within Upstate South Carolina. There also will be an increased look at the connection between land use and transportation.

    Dool will review each county’s comprehensive plan, identify common themes, provide key takeaways and identify the top three long-range plan priorities for each local government. Though they were not included in the 2015 analysis, Ten at the Top also will be looking at select city plans for this review.

    Phil Lindler, Greenwood City/County Planning Director and co-chair of the Upstate Professional Planners group, says, “We are pleased to have Kyle Dool working with us. This project will draw on a number of planning areas that he has direct experience with—land use development, transportation, economics, and natural resources. We are excited to see the results of his work as we once again compare and contrast the land use objectives of the region.”

    The project is structured so that there will be deliverables throughout both the fall and spring semester. In addition, there will be a project steering committee, co-chaired by Lindler and Michael Forman from GSP International Airport, that includes public and private planners from across the region. The steering committee will support Dool over the year by providing technical expertise and information.

    The results from the Comprehensive Plan Update will be shared with local governments, Upstate planners and the general public at various points throughout the year.

    Pique, Ten at the Top’s Young Professional Event, Postponed Until 2021;  Will Hold Free Virtual Events Leading Up to It

    Pique, Ten at the Top’s Young Professional Event, Postponed Until 2021; Will Hold Free Virtual Events Leading Up to It

    Due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Ten at the Top (TATT) will not hold Pique, its signature young professional event, in 2020, but will plan to hold the event in 2021. In the months leading up to the in-person event, a series of free virtual events will be held for young professionals.  

    It was originally scheduled for March 23rd and most recently was planned for September 14th as an in-person event to be held at the Huguenot Mill and Loft in downtown Greenville, with ScanSource as the presenting sponsor, and local author Sallie Holder as the keynote speaker. A new date has not been set, but both the original venue and the keynote speaker have confirmed.

    “As September gets closer, it seems unlikely that an in-person event for 300 people will be possible, and there are challenges to moving an event such as Pique to a virtual platform,” says Pique planning committee chair Jessica Miserendino. “With networking being such a big part of the event as well as the executive roundtables providing valuable interaction with high-level executives from a variety of fields, we didn’t see a way to recreate that experience online.”

    Instead, Ten at the Top will be hosting a series of monthly “Sneak Pique” virtual events leading up to an in-person event to be held in the spring of 2021. The Sneak Pique events will be free one-hour virtual meetings designed to convene young professionals in an informal setting, with a variety of content provided and led by the Pique planning committee members, who are themselves young professionals.

    Part of the “sneak” element is that the content will not be revealed ahead of time. The first one will be held on September 14th, on the date Pique was scheduled to be held. Subsequent dates will be released at the end of each event.

    Ticket holders have been refunded for the 2020 tickets purchased, and they will be informed when ticket sales resume for the 2021 event. For more information, contact Sharon Purvis.

    Ten at The Top Announces Date Change for 2020 Upstate Summit

    Ten at The Top Announces Date Change for 2020 Upstate Summit

    One-day Summit featuring Best-Selling Author, Richard Florida, will Move to May 2021

    Greenville, SC | June 2, 2020 – Due to ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19, Ten at the Top’s Upstate Summit originally scheduled for Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020, has been postponed to Wednesday, May 5th, 2021. The health and safety of the community has always been of the utmost importance to Ten at the Top and it is critical to play a responsible role that reflects the organization’s mission to make the Upstate region stronger together. Given the large number of attendees at this biennial event, it was clear that deferring the event to a later date was the most optimal decision to make and implement moving forward.

    “We are certainly living in unique and unprecedented times. Given the importance of taking precautions to further prevent the spread of this virus, moving the event date was ultimately the best decision to make for our attendees, supporters, and the Upstate region as a whole,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top. “This date change will allow us to enhance the overall event experience and dive deeper into Richard Florida’s focus on ‘The New Urban Crisis,’ by waiting until a more appropriate time to host a large-scale event.”

    The one-day summit held at the Greenville Convention Center currently plans to maintain the focus on the “The New Urban Crisis”, as best-selling author, Richard Florida, will remain the keynote speaker. Richard Florida’s book The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation and Failing the Middle Class—and What We Can Do About It, explores the recent trend of the young, educated, and affluent flooding back into living in American cities, reversing past trends of suburban flight and urban decline. The TATT Summit Committee, made up of members from the Board of Directors, will continue to monitor the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and could implement minor changes to the program if it seems warranted.

    To learn more about Ten at the Top and the Upstate Summit, please visit

    Pique, Ten at the Top’s Young Professional Event, Postponed Until 2021;  Will Hold Free Virtual Events Leading Up to It

    Pique, Ten at the Top’s Young Professional Event, Postponed Until September 14th

    Amid uncertainty about when large gatherings will be permitted or advisable, Ten at the Top has made the decision to postpone their signature young professional event, Pique, until September 14th.  It was originally scheduled for March 23rd and had been rescheduled for June 15th. The event will still be held at the Huguenot Mill and Loft in downtown Greenville, with ScanSource as the presenting sponsor, and local author Sallie Holder as the keynote speaker.

    Attendees who have already purchased tickets will be issued a refund if they are unable to attend at the later date; those who have tickets and do still wish to attend do not need to take any further action. Ticket holders will be contacted by Ten at the Top.

    The event focuses on connecting young professionals across the Upstate, giving them opportunities to network as well as to hear from experts on topics that are relevant to their working lives.

    In this 5th year of Pique, the program will feature 3 breakout panel sessions along with executive roundtables, a LinkedIn Lounge, and keynote speaker Sallie Holder. Additionally, there will be plenty of opportunity for networking, sharing ideas, and discussion of future collaboration.

    During each of three breakout sessions, attendees will have four choices: one of two panel sessions, the executive roundtables, or the LinkedIn Lounge, sponsored by AFL, where they will have an opportunity to have a professional headshot done.

    The planning committee will be revisiting the panel topics in light of COVID-19. “The original panel topics, ‘Negotiating Your Best Career,’ ‘Community Engagement: Building Your Career Outside of Your Office,’ and ‘Conflict Management: Effective Communication for a Peaceful Workplace,’ are topics of interest to young professionals, but the world has changed since we chose them,” said Pique planning committee chair Jessica Miserendino. “Whether we just tweak the content of those panels or choose new topics altogether is something the committee will be looking at.”

    For many young leaders who want to make an impact on their local community, one major barrier is having access to current decision makers who are helping shape the region. Pique hopes to foster collaboration and bridge the gaps between young professionals and the Upstate’s top executives through the executive roundtables that have been a very popular feature of past Pique events.

    Local author Sallie Holder will be the keynote speaker. Her book, Rock Middle: The Roadmap from Empty Success to True Fulfillment, was released in January, and copies will be available for sale at the event.

    A graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of South Carolina Law School, Holder previously served as an attorney at Ogletree Deakins Law Firm and lives in Greenville. She coined the phrase “Hitting Rock Middle™” and the revolutionary BE BOLDER strategy to help people create their biggest, boldest, most successful careers. In addition to her recently released book, Sallie is a dynamic speaker who leaves audiences with the tools they need to make the changes they desire. She’s an expert on leadership, teams, change management, mindset, and motivation.

    Following her talk, attendees will head to the reception, which will once again be catered by Cribbs Catering.

    Registration and networking begin at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, September 14th, at Huguenot Mill and Loft (101 West Broad Street, Greenville, SC 29601), with the event beginning at 2:00 p.m. The reception will begin at approximately 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here. For more information, visit the website or contact Sharon Purvis.