On Wednesday, November 18th, Ten at the Top [TATT] hosted the Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event in place of their annual Celebrating Successes Luncheon. While this event focused on honoring the many unsung heroes who have gone above and beyond for their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, two of TATT’s traditional awards were also presented, The Burdette Leadership Award and The Welling Award for Regional Collaboration.
This event marked the fifth year that the Burdette Leadership Award has been given in recognition of Carol Burdette, the first female chair of Ten at the Top. The 2020 recipient of this award was Beth Padgett, who recently retired from serving as Executive Director of Compass of Carolina. This award is given to women who have stood out for their leadership and service across the Upstate, and Beth has demonstrated that through her volunteer work and career at Compass of Carolina, along with her current service as the District Governor for Rotary District 7750.
“Though we would have preferred to honor our award winners and Upstate Unsung Heroes during an event where everyone was in-person, it was great to be able to recognize deserving recipients with a virtual audience of 300+ watching,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top.
The Welling Award for Regional Collaboration, named after Ten at the Top’s founding chairman, Irv Welling III, is awarded to individuals or organizations that embody the spirit of thinking and acting regionally. This year’s recipient was Michelin North America, for leading and fostering collaboration around the issue of mobility through their funding of the Upstate Mobility Alliance and support for the movement of people and goods across the Upstate. Mobility is critical to the mission of Michelin NA, which operates several facilities in the Upstate, and they have spent significant time, energy and resources championing this issue across the Upstate, country and globe.
ABOUT TEN AT THE TOP
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.
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:
- Abbeville: Ethan Cornick – Dreams with Open Arms, Volunteer
- Anderson: David Baker – Anderson County, Emergency Services Director
- Cherokee: 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
Following a series of four meetings convened through Ten at the Top (TATT), the Creating a Safer Upstate Discovery Committee has announced a series of recommendations designed to promote collaboration among stakeholders in fostering a culture in the Upstate that respects and values the lives of all officers and residents. To view the list of recommendations, click here.
The Discovery Committee was originally convened by Terence Roberts, Chairman of the Ten at the Top Board of Directors and the Mayor of the City of Anderson, following a number of highly publicized instances of police force across the country.
“While our region has been fortunate not to have seen the violence and social unrest that has occurred in other parts of the country, we do recognize that not every Upstate resident feels safe or trusts our law enforcement officers, Roberts said. “We felt with the platform already established by Ten at the Top to be a neutral convener, that we had an opportunity to proactively engage stakeholders across the region around the topic of creating a safer region for all residents.”
The Creating a Safer Upstate Discovery Committee consisted of more than 50 representatives from local governments, law enforcement, community organizations, faith leaders and Upstate businesses. The committee met virtually four times to discuss opportunities for how to create a united Upstate region where all stakeholders work collaboratively to ensure that we foster a culture that respects and values the lives of our law enforcement officers and all residents.
As the primary strategy, the Discover Committee recommends the development of a Safer Upstate Steering Committee to represent, support and communicate local efforts to improve relationships between law enforcement and community residents across the region. The Safer Upstate Steering Committee will focus on the following three goals:
1. Engage law enforcement ofﬁcials, community leaders and residents to work together to build healthy working relationships that elevate mutual respect, value cultural differences, and acknowledge the roles and responsibilities that each play in creating safer Upstate Communities.
2. Provide regular opportunities for law enforcement and community leaders to convene to proactively discuss community issues and emerging law enforcement topics while exploring approaches that can be implemented across the Upstate Region.
3. Enhance public trust by identifying, sharing and implementing best practice approaches for developing a sustainable, healthy relationship between law enforcement ofﬁcials and the greater Upstate Community.
The Steering Committee will be under the leadership of co-chairs Sheriff Rick Clark and Stinson Ferguson. Both Upstate natives, Sheriff Clark has been the sheriff of Pickens county since 2013 while Ferguson is Special Counsel for Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. in Greenville.
More information about the Safer Upstate initiative can be found at www.tenatthetop.org. Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Safer Upstate Steering Committee is invited to reach out to Justine Allen, TATT Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 864-283-0346.
ABOUT TEN AT THE TOP
Comprised of public, private and civic leaders from across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to connect and encourage regional collaboration 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 foster collaboration and strategic planning to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow. For more information, visit www.tenatthetop.org.
To view the list of recommendations, click here.
Creating a Safer Upstate Discovery Committee Members
Market Leader, Environmental Planning
Barnet Development Group
United Way of Anderson County
Vice President for Advancement
City of Greer
Urban League of the Upstate
Ripple of One
Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd
City of Abbeville
Office of Congressman William Timmons
Chief Operating Officer
Senator Scott Office
Upstate Warrior Solution
City of Greer
Upstate Mobility Alliance
Director of Inclusion & Diversity
Cultural Diversity Director
City of Inman
Ten at the Top
Harris Flooring America
Future Product Portfolio Leader
City of Spartanburg
Assistant City Manager
City of Clinton
Director of Inclusion & Diversity
Maddrey & Associates
City of Anderson
Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
University Center Executive Director
Laurens County Chamber
SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence
City of Anderson
Marsh & McLennan
Vice President of Human Resources
United Way of the Piedmont
City of Anderson
City of Union
City of Spartanburg
Upstate Warrior Solution
Associate Vice President
Deputy Campus Police Chief
Naturaland Trust is excited to officially announce the release of Renaissance Man: The Life of Tommy Wyche by Lynne Lucas. The book is now available at two local bookstores, M.Judson Booksellers in Greenville and Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, with all proceeds benefiting Naturaland Trust.
The late Tommy Wyche founded and led Naturaland Trust, South Carolina’s second oldest land trust, in championing the 40-year initiative that resulted in the protection of over 100,000 acres of the South Carolina mountains, which today include Caesars Head State Park, Jones Gap State Park and Jocassee Gorges. In addition, he was one of the key leaders in the revitalization of downtown Greenville. Tommy had an astonishing range of hobbies and talents, including photography, writing, piano, tennis, patented inventions, beekeeping, hiking and canoeing.
“Lynne has done an outstanding job in documenting my father’s full and amazing life,” said Brad Wyche, Tommy’s son.
Before starting her own eco-friendly garden design and installation company in 2003, Lucas was a staff writer, copy editor and columnist for The Greenville News for 25 years. The 339-page book, commissioned by Tommy’s children, explores his contributions to conservation, the City of Greenville’s amazing transformation, the Wyche law firm, and advocacy for the arts. It also includes a foreword by former Governor Dick Riley, many family stories, insights into his one-of-a-kind personality, and dozens of color photographs.
“The range of his accomplishments is just breathtaking,” said Lucas. “Every time I thought I was about finished, I’d uncover or be told about another terrific story or effort he was involved in.”
Tommy had so much going on in different arenas at the same time that one of the biggest challenges, said Lucas, was corralling and organizing the narrative, when it became clear that a chronological telling of his life wouldn’t work. Instead, the book is divided into major parts by topic.
Renaissance Man: The Life of Tommy Wyche is $24 and can be ordered at M.Judson Booksellers by calling 864-603-2412 and Hub City Bookshop by calling 864-577-9349. After ordering, store pickup is available at both bookstores, or the book can be shipped directly to your home.
ABOUT NATURALAND TRUST
Building on Tommy Wyche’s extraordinary legacy, Naturaland Trust continues to work on acquiring and protecting special places in the mountains and foothills of South Carolina, including lands adjoining Jones Gap and Paris Mountain State Parks, lands along Scenic Highway 11, expanding the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and protecting critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.
For more information, see www.naturalandtrust.org.
Sky Foster, Manager of Corporate Communications, BMW Manufacturing
Q: What were the primary factors that led to BMW shutting down production at the Upstate facility?
The health and protection of our associates was the primary factor that led BMW Manufacturing to stop production on Sunday, March 29. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on the global supply chain and customer demand for cars.
Q: Do you all have short- and/or long-term concerns around some potential supply chain issues? If so, what actions have you all done to help offset them?
One of the greatest strengths of our plant is flexibility. Our procurement and logistics teams are very experienced in dealing with any supply chain issues, from bad weather to traffic situations. It was no different during the coronavirus pandemic, just intensified. Going forward, we will continue to be flexible and adjust our production as the supply chain dictates.
Q: You were among the employees who still were at the plant while the production line was closed. What was your primary focus during that time period?
As communications manager, my team and I had to communicate internally with our associates and externally to the media. Internally, we prepared videos, signage, a booklet and other materials to let associates know how we would protect them when they returned. Externally, we responded to media requests about our changing production operations and the global supply chain.
Q: Is BMW in conversations locally and regionally with other manufacturers regarding best practices when it comes to safety and social distancing?
Yes, BMW always seeks out best practices when it comes to the health and safety of our associates. Besides seeking the advice of the CDC and SC DHEC, we have contacts with many manufacturers and suppliers in the southeast to exchange ideas and best practices on a variety of topics.
Q: What are the most significant changes that you all have implemented to create social distancing and address health concerns?
During the non-production time, BMW implemented a variety of deep cleaning and safety measures. This included disinfecting equipment in all technologies, sanitizing workstations, remodeling layouts to enhance social distancing, and completing preventive maintenance on equipment. New guidelines and procedures have been implemented at the plant to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These include temperature self-checks, modified seating for cafeteria and office areas, staggered lunch schedules, and expanded cleaning practices. Face masks are required for anyone who cannot maintain the required 6-foot social distance. BMW will continue to follow these and other CDC-recommended procedures.
Q: What changes do you see in manufacturing generally and at BMW in particular due to COVID-19 that are likely to be permanent?
The most likely change we see is fewer in-person meetings and more virtual meetings.
Q: Are you all back to full production yet and if not, is there any timeline for when that should happen?
BMW’s strategy for returning to production was a phased approach. We brought back one shift on May 4 and carefully managed our supply chain over the next four weeks. On May 31, our second shift returned. Over time, as the supply chain improves, our production will continue to grow. We’re not at full production yet, but we are on our way back.
Q: What is the status at the BMW Zentrum? Is there a timeline for reopening to the public?
The Zentrum museum is tentatively scheduled to reopen mid-summer with special safety and social distancing measures in place. Tours of the manufacturing plant will be announced at a later date.
Caren Senter, Communications Manager and Program Director at Upstate International
by Caren Senter, Communications Manager and Program Director at Upstate International
Learn a new language at Upstate International this summer! Our classes have gone virtual and people are loving the new experience, according to Christine Hofbauer, Upstate International’s language school director. UI has discovered that online teaching has some definite advantages, not the least of which is ease of use and time-efficiency with no need to drive to class. Hofbauer admitted that it was a challenge to get the teachers, all of whom are volunteers, to learn the new technologies necessary to transition to online learning. Fortunately, their passion for sharing their language and culture with others was all the motivation they needed and UI has managed to not only retain its teachers but also add new ones who are teaching from their home countries of Germany and Mexico.
To everyone’s surprise, once the initial technical issues were overcome, students have found that the learning experience is enhanced in a number of ways. For example, there is more time devoted to teaching and learning as there are significantly fewer distractions and it is easier to be on time for class without worrying about traffic and weather conditions. Of course, the weather has occasionally affected internet connections, so it isn’t perfect. The classroom is also surprisingly easy for the teachers to control online, giving each student equal opportunity to practice speaking, ask questions, and engage with one another. In addition, Hofbauer noted, the teachers are better able to share materials with their students through the use of Google docs, and they have easy access to the internet during a class and can share their screen immediately with their students. Moreover, students can use the chat capabilities to ask teachers questions without interrupting the class.
Hofbauer is thrilled that UI’s students are not just from the Upstate anymore, either. While UI has broadened its horizons out of necessity, it is broadening the connections among students and teachers. Of course, Hofbauer admits that everyone misses that before- and after-class social interaction that happens in person, but they are already hearing stories of new friendships being forged online. While, initially, some students may have been a little intimidated by the online format, they became more relaxed, more comfortable, and more focused in just a few short weeks.
Upstate International has been teaching languages since its inception over 20 years ago. It began with a simple English Conversation Club that met somewhat informally to allow recent expats, and other non-English speakers, to work on their English. Hofbauer got involved with UI 16 years ago, volunteering as an English Conversation Club facilitator. Today, UI offers anywhere between 15 and 22 foreign language classes each semester.
Membership levels have remained steady in spite of the transition to online.
Most prefer the in-person experience, but there are some that we have connected with who would not have otherwise found UI. Hofbauer says that one of the most surprising benefits to the transition we have made is that we can actually offer more classes since we are not confined to UI’s 4 classrooms. Going forward, Hofbauer hopes to have more students utilize our services who are not located in the Upstate, and to increase our roster of teachers to include many more teaching from their home countries; the only challenge then will be scheduling classes that work in a variety of time zones. UI and Hofbauer are embracing the new normal and plan to continue with live online classes as an option even once some in-person classes are allowed; a combination of both will provide the greatest access to foreign language learning for our community.
You can see the full list of languages and register for UI’s summer classes here.