New picnic shelter at disabilities center honors Terri Ledbetter’s playful spirit
Published May 25, 2018
By Mandy Catoe
Terri Ledbetter spent every day smiling, dancing, listening to music, praying for her friends and hoping for a picnic. She died unexpectedly three years ago at 43.
Her mother, Janice Steele, has spent every day since then making sure that Terri would be remembered.
Her goal was to honor Terri and show gratitude to Terri’s friends at the Chester Lancaster Board of Disabilities and Special Needs on Camp Creek Road, where Terri spent two dozen years in the day-program workshop.
The dream became a reality last week, when she and the Terri Ledbetter Memorial Fundraisers dedicated a wheelchair-accessible picnic shelter for Terri’s friends to have a safe and all-inclusive place for
picnics and parties.
“I’m just so proud of us,” Steele said as she stood under the shelter.
By March of this year, the shelter was finished. But there was no money for a party.
Then one of Terri’s best friends, her paternal grandmother, Cornelia Hinson, passed away March 13. She was 95, and she asked that any memorial donations go in Terri’s honor to CLDSN.
Last Friday, the Terri Ledbetter Memorial Picnic Shelter was officially opened and dedicated. Nearly 200 people gathered for the first party, which featured hot dogs, potato chips, pink balloons, music and dancing. Half the attendees were friends and staff from CLDSN, and the rest were church friends, neighbors and family.
A memorial plaque with Terri’s image etched in stainless steel depicts her smiling.
Local artists Bob Doster and James Ouzts of Bob Doster’s Backstreet Studio said the memorial portrait was a difficult and healing act.
“These kinds of things are tough. It is not something I really have words for, but I hope it brings Janice some positive form of closure,” Doster said.
Hatching the idea
After Terri died in May of 2015, her mother began to search her soul for a way to honor Terri and show her gratitude to CLDSN. Her hairdresser and best friend, Debbie Crenshaw, insisted music had to be involved.
Crenshaw had enjoyed her last dance with Terri. She and her mom had come in to get their hair cut and styled the night before Terri died. Just before they left, Crenshaw and Terri danced a little jig.
Terri’s stepmom, Wanda Ledbetter, thought a picnic shelter would be the perfect memorial.
“When I would pick Terri up from the workshop, she would say, ‘Wanda, we didn’t get to go outside today, and I wanted a picnic,’” Wanda said.
The committee hosted two fundraisers, which brought in $26,000. They were ready to break ground, but were having trouble finding a contractor. Then one day, Perception Builders owner Chad Catledge stopped by Blackmon Insurance Group, where Janice works. She shared her dream with him.
Catledge was hooked. He saw the project through and attended last week’s celebration.
“In my prayer life, I had been praying to God to clearly speak and show us opportunities, and man, what an opportunity for us,” Catledge said. “We build, and when we are asked to contribute in that way, there is only one answer. And it’s yes, absolutely.”
Companies step up
Perception Builders donated all the time it spent on the project. The company’s Jon-Michael Williamson redesigned the shelter, which holds about 30 people, after the state required thicker concrete and additional compliances that added another $6,000 to the cost.
The committee then appealed to local corporations.
Within a week, Founders Federal Credit Union, Comporium Communications and Nutramax Laboratories donated the necessary funds.
Kristen Blanchard, vice president of external corporate affairs for Nutramax, said something in her gut told her to meet with Janice.
“She came to visit and showed me the photo album and told me what she was trying to do for Terri and everyone served by the board of disabilities,” Blanchard said. “I went to Dr. Bob Henderson and he said ‘Let’s give them the rest of the money and get this done.’”
The picnic tables were built and donated by the men at Immanuel Baptist Church. Terri’s Sunday school teacher, Larry Fowler, designed the tables.
“Everyone in my class embraced Terri,” Fowler said. “She had such a spirit about her. She was beautiful inside and out. We just loved her.”
Mom ‘a go-getter’
Sheila McWaters, executive director of CLDSN, described Steele’s persistence.
“I’ve always said the love of a mother is powerful and can never be stopped,” McWaters said. “This is proof. She is a go-getter.”
County council member Larry Honeycutt echoed that sentiment as he hugged Janice, his longtime friend, at the celebration.
“This woman right here didn’t stop. She got everybody she could involved to make it happen,” he said. “And here it is. Terri would have loved this.”
By noon, the party was well under way, music was blasting. Crenshaw took the hand of Crystal Bowman, a friend of Terri’s from CLDSN, and they began to move to the music. Crenshaw teared up as she realized the full circle moment of her taking the first dance in Terri’s memory.
Wanda Ledbetter stood under the tent making hot dogs, watching Terri’s friends enjoy the shelter. She shared a memory about how Terri would stop wherever she was to pray for her friends.
“Right in the middle of Walmart or the grocery store, she would stop, put her hands together and say ‘Oh, Wanda, we have to pray for them,” she said.
Wanda wiped a tear away and said, “People would say Terri was lucky to have me, but huh uh, no, I was the lucky one to have her in my life, because she taught me so much.”
Near the party’s end, Steele said she was moved by the outpouring of love from the community, to build the shelter and to celebrate its opening.
“Everyone was wonderful and this gave them a chance to remember Terri, and every single one loved Terri,” Steele said. “But I should say love Terri, because love never really dies. She will always live in our hearts.”
Rescue group’s fundraiser will need to expand next year
Published May 16, 2017
By Mandy Catoe
In its third-annual fundraiser, the Sun City rescue group Lancaster Animal Shelter Supporters raised $15,000 in its continued effort to better the lives of the county’s homeless pets.
Nearly 300 people braved 92-degree heat at The Ivy Place, including county council members Larry Honeycutt, Terry Graham and Billy Mosteller.
For the second year in a row, venue owners Terry and Genie Graham hosted the LASS luncheon as a gift to the Sun City-based rescue group.
“They come to county council and committee meetings in a very positive way and bring solutions,” he said.
This year’s fundraising beat last year’s total by $2,000.
LASS President Arlene McCarthy said the 258 tickets sold out quickly and the group already is making plans to expand for next year.
“We could have sold another 50 tickets,” she said. “Next year we will add tents around the main tent.”
LASS Treasurer Diane Rashall said $4,391 came from the luncheon, $2,933 from the auction, and $3,650 from raffle tickets for a fancy dinner complete with transportation in a Rolls Royce. A homemade quilt lottery brought in $600. The rest came from donations, program ads, vendor donations, wine and homemade dog-biscuit sales.
Community support has continued to grow since Sun City residents Sue White and Janine Gross dropped in on the county shelter with donations of food and supplies five years ago. The two women found an underfunded, outdated, much-too-small shelter to meet the needs of the growing county. They returned to their Panhandle retirement community and implored their neighbors to take action.
LASS’ persistence and hard work earned the financial and moral support of Nutramax Laboratories. Kristen Blanchard, vice president of external corporate affairs, has attended the last two annual fundraisers and presented a $1,000 donation each year.
“The Lord has blessed Nutramax, and we are able to give back, and we are so proud to be able to partner with LASS to help the animals in the community,” Blanchard said.
In 2018, LASS made the following contributions to the area shelter and pets in need: sponsored cat transport to Maryland rescue, $450; medical care for cats, $2,135; medical care for dogs, $1,812; heartworm treatment for 31 dogs, $4,650; worming medication for dogs, $400; boarding for rescued dogs, $906; pens for overflow dogs, $1,305; exercise pens for dogs, $600.
County animal shelter director Alan Williams said medical costs at the shelter are double what the county budgets.
“I can tell you without what they do for our heartworm-positive dogs and the boarding they help out with, our numbers of put-to-sleep dogs would be much higher than they are now,” he said.
Dr. Elizabeth Hill, veterinarian and owner of Southern Paws Animal Hospital, attended with her staff.
“We are so happy to support their cause,” she said. “They do good work.”
Honeycutt has been prodding his fellow council members to join him in demanding the county build a larger, modern animal shelter. Plans for that new facility are in the works, with site-selection now under way.
Honeycutt, 80, said he will run for re-election to continue fighting for the homeless pets.
“I will be there until that shelter is built,” he said.
‘This has given me a great deal of confidence, unlike anything else ever has’
Published May 13, 2018
By Mandy Catoe
Some mothers shop and dine with their daughters, but Kathy Faulkenbury spins and spars with hers.
Two to three times a week for almost four years, Faulkenbury and her daughters have dressed out in martial arts uniforms, practiced and sweated together and advanced through the ranks.
This past Thursday night, she and her middle daughter, MaryJoe, 11, were presented with their black belts at Kenaki Karate in Lancaster.
Kathy Faulkenbury, 38, is a force to be reckoned with. She can do push-ups, sit-ups, squats, jumps, fancy kicks and punches.
“I was just a lump before karate,” she said.
Yet she is most proud of the self-confidence she has gained. The once timid mother of three now stands up and speaks out. She even helps teach karate now.
“Having a conversation with anyone has always been difficult for me,” she said. “This has given me a great deal of confidence in myself, unlike anything else ever has.”
Her daughters discovered a love for karate during summer camp in 2013 through the Lancaster County Arts Council. Until then they had tried and quit various activities including dance, gymnastics and Girl Scouts.
MaryJoe and her sister Natolee, 13, began their karate journey in October that year. Mom was pregnant with her third daughter, Stella, who was born in January 2014. Kathy signed up six months later.
“I’d sit in the lobby for an hour just playing on my phone,” she said. “So I thought why not take karate with my girls, do something healthy for us all and have something special to share with them always?”
Natolee, a seventh grader at Andrew Jackson Middle School, earned her black belt this past December. Stella, now 4, is progressing through the ranks and looking forward to “breaking boards.”
MaryJoe, a fifth grader at McDonald Green, was glad to move on from scouting and dancing to karate for one very clear reason.
“Because I don’t have to wear a dress,” she said.
Just before receiving her black belt, MaryJoe said, “Earning a black belt is so much more than having kicks and punches or thinking, ‘Hey, I’m better than you.’ It’s about helping someone else and being able to protect yourself if you need to.”
The black-belt ceremony was attended by friends and family. Each was given an opportunity to speak publicly about their loved one. All were amazed at Kathy’s growing confidence.
Kathy’s mom, Kathy Ellis, has enjoyed watching her daughter come out of her shell. Kathy received her black belt wearing the new martial arts uniform her mother bought her last month for her birthday.
One family member commended Kathy for making time for her girls despite working full-time in a medical office.
Grand master Shihan White is impressed by Kathy’s dedication and the time she gives to her daughters and her own development.
“Mothers have so much more on their plates and have to keep more ends tied together,” White said. “Kathy finds the time to do this with her children and has endured the training to reach this pinnacle. It’s a huge accomplishment.”
The instructors presented them with their black belts and a sword. They were honored with the title “sensei,” which means teacher of martial arts.
The once-shy Kathy smiled more when her instructors called her “sensei” than when they tied the new black belt around her waist.
Connie Funderburk, Kenaki co-owner and third-degree black belt, shared her thoughts about Kathy’s inner and outer strength.
“She has done things in her martial arts career so far that no one expected, and she didn’t know that she possessed the power and strength to do, but I saw it. I knew it.” Funderburk said.
He also addressed his wife just before the belt ceremony.
“I am amazed at how strong it has made you, not just physically, but as a person,” he said.
And then with a knowing laugh, he added, “You used to be shy, and that is pretty much gone now.”
Funderburk said she realizes that Kathy’s motivation is to be a strong role model for her daughters.
Being awarded a black belt during the week of Mother’s Day made it extra special for Kathy, who sees her kids learning important lessons.
“I want them to know their opinion on things matters. I want them to have self-respect and respect for others,” she said. “I want them to know they can do whatever they put their minds to. I want them to not let the world’s opinions about who they should or shouldn’t be matter.”
Kenaki Karate is owned by a black belt mother-daughter team, Teresa and Connie Funderburk.
Published May 13, 2018
By Mandy Catoe
Downtown Lancaster is getting its first specialty-coffee shop in half a decade, as The Craft Stand broadens its usual offerings to include perkier brews starting Monday morning.
The Main Street craft-beer retailer and gathering spot will be serving coffee drinks from 7 until 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
“It will be basic in the beginning,” owner Brandy Geraghty said. “We will have drip and an espresso machine to make lattes and cappuccinos and I don’t know what else because I haven’t learned yet.”
Prepackaged pastries that can be heated onsite in the microwave and toaster oven will be available to purchase.
“Or just stop by Bojangles on your way in,” said Geraghty, who runs the business with her husband, Don. “I love their biscuits.”
The Geraghtys said businesses are invited to hold morning meetings at The Craft Stand. Anyone wishing to sip a latte while working online or surfing the internet will no longer have to leave town.
It’ll be Main Street’s first specialty coffee shop since Cop a Squat Coffee House closed in 2007 less than a block away in the Chastain’s Studio Lofts building. Another coffee shop, Justice Java, opened on North Catawba Street in late 2009, but it didn’t last long.
A lively buzz has followed The Craft Stand in downtown Lancaster since it opened in August 2016. It has a seating capacity of 49 and serves two dozen Carolinas craft beers on tap, as well as more than 200 in cans and bottles.
Earlier this year, the Geraghtys renovated to create more open space for events and live music. And CraftBeer.com named it the Best Craft Beer Bar in South Carolina for 2018, citing its atmosphere, staff, beer selection and special events.
The Geraghtys are modest about the role they have played in revitalizing the Red Rose City.
“We are simply on the front of the wave,” Brandy said.
In keeping with their commitment to buy local, the Geraghtys bought the espresso and drip machines from Forte Legato in Fort Mill. The family-owned business roasts single-origin beans in-house, and their own certified barista will train the Geraghtys in the fine art of crafting a perfect cup of coffee.
A little over a month ago, The Craft Stand added a nitro cold-brew coffee from Forte Legato. The coffee is charged with nitrogen, which gives it a creamy head similar to nitro draft beer like Guinness. Nitrogen gives the coffee a thicker consistency and also cuts the acidity, making it easier on the stomach.
The Craft Stand’s morning hours will be for serving coffee only. The nitro cold brew is on tap and available anytime.
Nick Penaloza, owner of Forte Legato, said he is excited to partner with The Craft Stand. The first coffee served will come from single-origin Cameroon beans from West Africa. His business distributes weekly-roasted beans to coffee houses, restaurants, and craft beer and wine bars.
Penaloza explained that roasting beans is a precise science where under-roasting produces a sour taste and over-roasting a bitter taste.
He said his company’s decaffeinated beans maintain the full flavor of regular coffee. It uses water and osmosis to remove the caffeine rather than harsh chemicals – a method called Swiss water process.
Forte Legato buys directly from coffee farmers without the middleman, Penaloza said, ensuring that the farmer gets a fair price.
The Geraghtys are excited about serving that first cup of coffee next week.
Last week, they stood behind the bar and talked about their experience the past two years, the friends they’ve made and the partnerships they have formed with other downtown businesses. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” was playing on the sound system as regular customers took their seats at the bar. The owners called them each by name and asked them if they wanted their usual.
“We love being in this city,” Don said as he wiped the counter and greeted the next customer. “Our goal from the beginning has been to be a part of this community.”
By Mandy Catoe
Give Local Lancaster raised $147,075 for 50 area nonprofits in its third-annual 24-hour online fundraiser.
As of Thursday morning, the total was slightly less than last year’s final tally of $155,164, but that figure is expected to be surpassed by the end of Second Chance Giving, which is open through Monday, May 7.
“We are humbled to see the giving spirit of our community,” said Holly Furr, Give Local Lancaster coordinator.
Money came in through online and offline donations, and matching gifts from local businesses. This year, 39 local businesses provided nearly $40,000 in funding to support the campaign.
Nutramax Laboratories offered incentives for the third year in a row, providing prizes and matching donations to help support and encourage donations.
“There are so many incredible organizations doing such wonderful work in this community,” said Kristen Blanchard, Nutramax vice president of external corporate affairs. “We are not done yet and will have more surprise donations soon.”
The three nonprofits receiving the most money as of Thursday afternoon were Lindsay Pettus Greenway with $15,685, HOPE with $10,580 and Lancaster County Society for Historical Preservation with $7,615.
The Give Local Lancaster campaign helps each organization’s bottom line, so they don’t have to worry as much about funding to achieve their goals.
Lancaster gave an impressive nod to green spaces with its support of the Lindsay Pettus Greenway.
Sherri Gregory, Greenway president, said she was thrilled with the generosity of the community.
“We were tickled to death. We have a lot of things starting to coalesce now, and I am really, really hopeful that we will be able to put a shovel in the ground this year,” Gregory said.
“We were just thrilled… with the response we got and how supportive everyone is. I think this shows the popularity of the greenway. People want to see it happen, and they are supportive and participating by voting with their pocketbooks.”
Gregory said the collaboration among agencies, local government and residents is energizing and encouraging.
“It’s a great time to be working for a better future for this community,” she said. “It feels very hopeful. It’s an exciting time for Lancaster.”
Bekah Clawson, executive director of HOPE in Lancaster, said the perks of someone else raising funds allows nonprofits to focus on programming and serving the community.
A crowd of Give Local Lancaster participants enjoyed the final third of the 24-hour fundraiser at The Craft Stand Tuesday night. The Main Street gathering place is usually closed on Tuesdays, but owners Don and Brandy Geraghty opened their doors for the second year in a row to host the fundraiser reception.
The event was part celebration and part pep rally, and attendees added an additional $5,200 to the effort, more than doubling last year’s reception total of $2,000.
The Craft Stand’s silent auction provided $1,300 for the Children’s Home; $1,700 to Lindsay Pettus Greenway and $1,200 to the Community Playhouse of Lancaster.
The Children’s Home donation was increased by $1,000 after Indian Land resident Ken Herron offered to shave his long beard, head and even eyebrows once certain fundraising targets were hit.
The excited patrons hit every mark, and Herron sat down as his wife, Carolina Gateway Editor Jane Alford, wielded barber’s clippers and transformed his appearance from bushy to bare.
The staff of the J. Marion Sims Foundation, along with members of partnering sponsors that included Lancaster County Partners for Youth, the city of Lancaster, and the Lancaster County Community Foundation, enjoyed mingling with each other and the community.
“There’s a lot of energy in this community, all focused on supporting the causes that matter to people who live here,” said Susan DeVenny, Sims Foundation president. “I think part of what makes a community stronger is evidenced in this room, where you see people talking and energized. Just being connected to each other makes for stronger bonds and a healthier community.”
Sharon Novinger, president of Lancaster County Partners for Youth, said, “It is just so rewarding to see everyone from so many walks of life in the community getting involved and behind different causes.”
Attendees at the reception enjoyed food from Leo’s, Charley’s Cafe, and Creighton’s Creamery. Local singer Jonathan Cross entertained the patrons.
Elizabeth Howe, a Sims Foundation employee, has been part of Give Local Lancaster from the beginning, first as an intern and now as a staff member.
“It is getting bigger and bigger every year, with different partners coming together,” Howe said. “The attitude and enthusiasm of everyone involved is amazing. It is so much more than money. It’s a beautiful thing.”
To learn more or to donate, visit https://givelocallancaster.org/ or contact GiveLocalLancaster@jmsims.org.
Rich Hill Farms
by Mandy Catoe
A stop at Rich Hill farms is like a visit home. Beverly Hovis, 56, stands under the carport with a smile and a spread of fresh homegrown vegetables and fruit. If it’s harvest time, her two daughters, Hannah and Rachel, will be busy gathering the crops in the ever-expanding field surrounding their home.
For nearly a decade, the Hovis family has been growing produce. Every year they add a few extra vegetables, an acre or two and a new piece of farming equipment.
Beverly’s husband, Kirk Hovis, 49, tilled a little piece of his land nine years ago to busy their daughters’ idle hands. At the time Hannah and Rachel were 16 and 13 and their dad thought they needed to learn how to work.
“We planted a few squash and tomatoes that first year,” Kirk said. “The next year we added cantaloupes and the next year we bought a tractor and the year after that more equipment.”
The girls wanted some spending money, so their parents allowed them to sell what the family didn’t eat. They set up a makeshift fruit stand under the carport of their home which sits right beside the Rich Hill Fire Department on Rocky River Road.
“We couldn’t quit now if we wanted to,” Beverly said laughing.
Kirk grew up farming. Beverly grew up working in the family garden.
Hannah and Rachel were members of Future Farmers of America at Andrew Jackson High School. Rachel earned the 2016 American FFA Degree, the highest honor an FFA member can earn.
Twice over the nine years, the family agreed to go bigger. One was just after the younger sister celebrated her 18th birthday in 2014 and the other was this past year when they decided to add strawberries.
“They turned 18 and were still farming,” Kirk said. “That is the age where if they still do it, they enjoy it.”
The once two-crop farm now produces squash, tomatoes, corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, broccoli, cabbage, kale, cucumbers, okra, turnips, mustard greens, collards, butter beans, field peas, and green beans.
In 2014, the family started a Rich Hill Farms Facebook page.
“Oh my goodness,” Beverly said. “That brought the people.”
Kirk said they often update Facebook on their way to the field just before bringing produce to the carport. Last summer, they posted that they were pulling corn. By the time they loaded the truck and drove a few hundred feet to the house, a line of customers had formed.
“Before we could go in and get a drink of water, people were standing in line and waiting for it,” Kirk said.
The decision to add strawberries brought extra work and everyone agreed to do their part.
So last October, Kirk cleared a little more land and they set out 18,000 strawberry plants.
Rich Hill Farms has outgrown the carport. The family hopes to build an enclosed vegetable stand near the road before that first red, juicy strawberry is picked.
“We plant them in October and they have to survive the winter,” Hannah said. “They should be ready in April.”
The strawberries have to be covered when the temperature dips below 20 degrees.
The family talks about their new crop like it’s a newborn baby. Kirk hurries home from his job at Resolute to check on them each day noticing the slightest change.
Hannah, dressed in mud boots and a heavy camouflage jacket, talked about the trials of farming. She can quickly access any farm-related statistic from the past decade. She recalled the historic flood of October 2016.
Her dad added humor, a survival skill of farmers.
“We lost all our collard plants that year,” he said. “All 8,000 plants washed away in 12 inches of rain. Even the FBI could not have found them. They were gone.”
Farming is year-round commitment with a harvest from May through New Year’s.
Beverly can’t recall a vacation other than a drive to Georgia for some farming equipment.
The family gets the land ready in March by rolling black plastic with a drip irrigation hose beneath. Their methods yield an early harvest which minimizes their use of pesticides.
“I am as limited with chemicals as I can possibly be, because I eat it too,” Kirk said. “I’m not scared to pick anything off the vine and eat it right there in the field.”
The Hovis sisters have gained some big life lessons from farming. They realize so much is out of one’s control – like the weather and life-threatening challenges.
Last April, just as they began planting for the coming season, Beverly began a battle with breast cancer which was discovered at her annual mammogram. She encourages all women to get their yearly exams. She had her last chemo treatment January 10 and has begun the first of 30 radiation treatments. She believes the early detection saved her life.
With life and farming, you work and prepare.
“And then,” Hannah said, “All we can do is pray.”
Hannah, 24, teaches second grade at Heath Springs Elementary. Last October, she married her high school sweetheart, Tyler Denkins, 24, who helps out on the farm. Rachel, 21, works full time at CVS as a pharmacy tech and attends college full time at USCL. Even with a full load, she will graduate a semester early with a degree in public health and an honors-level GPA.
Despite having full-time jobs, each family member pitches in to make the farm a success. Beverly works in the Rock Hill School District office. Tyler works at ADM in Kershaw.
“We do all this after hours until dark and on the weekends,” Beverly said. “Even Sundays after church. We are always picking something. We gather it and sell it fresh for our customers.”
Kirk said he has no regrets about encouraging his girls to work nine summers ago.
“They learned how to work. I taught them that,” he said. “If I leave this world today, they would be alright without me. They would be able to survive.”
Both girls agree that working hard in the field made them appreciate the less labor-intensive jobs they work during the day.
Interest for this year’s crops is already growing on the Rich Hill Farms Facebook page. One regular customer is Heath Springs resident Linda Stover.
“The produce is so fresh and right out of the field,” she said. “The family is so friendly and helpful.”
When people stop by Rich Hill Farms, they give and get recipes, share personal stories about their families, their challenges, and their triumphs. They hug. They even pray with each other.
“Our customers feel like family to us,” Beverly said.
Sun Power Saving Local Homeowners Money
By Mandy Catoe
Going green, whether for the environment or the green in your wallet, is becoming easier in Lancaster County. More and more homeowners are going solar and cutting their power bill by 25 to 50 percent.
Nearly half a dozen residents with recently-installed glossy black panels on their rooftops talked about their savings last week. Some owned and some leased the photovoltaic or solar electric equipment. They all saved a lot of cash.
“I have not had a power bill since August,” Keith Sellers said.
Before going green last July, the Buford Middle School chorus teacher, paid Duke Energy $185 each month for power. He now pays a total of $113 to Sunrun, the second-largest solar provider in the nation.
His only payment to Duke Energy is an $8.00 monthly connection fee giving him an extra $65 each month.
The growing number of solar customers is due to legislation passed under the previous governor, Nikki Haley.
In June of 2014, South Carolina legislators approved Act 236, the Distributed Energy Resource Program, a comprehensive solar bill that broke the gridlock on clean energy in the Palmetto State. The groundbreaking legislation was backed by solar developers, installers, utility companies, large power customers and environmental groups.
Prior to Act 236 homeowners had to purchase the expensive solar panels. Once the bill passed, homeowners could lease solar panels. The act also allows net metering which means the consumer can sell any unused power their system produces back to the grid. Ryan Mosier, Duke Energy’s corporate communications official, said Act 236 grew the state’s renewable energy market.
“The act created one of the country’s greatest success stories for renewable energy, making South Carolina one of the top ten states in the country for solar,” Mosier said.
“Prior to 2014 Duke Energy had less than 100 solar rooftop customers in South Carolina. Since then, that number has risen dramatically and we now have more than 5,000 rooftop solar customers on our system in the state.”
Consumers still have the option to buy the solar energy. Leasing gives them immediate savings with no upfront costs.
The lease is actually a Power Purchase Agreement or PPA which means Sunrun or other solar company designs, installs, maintains and monitors the system which will produce a guaranteed amount of power for 20 years. The homeowner agrees to purchase the power produced by the panels.
Billy Self, 64, switched to solar a year ago and chose the lease option. He and his wife have paid a stack of medical bills the past few years – a cost they can’t control.
Self’s 20-year lease is locked in at $96 each month. His only cost to Duke Energy is an $8.50 monthly connection fee. Prior to leasing the panels, Self was paying $150 to Duke Energy. The two-way, or net metering, allows Duke Energy to purchase excess power produced by his system. This past year, that overproduction resulted in Duke Energy sending him a check for $106.
“Do the math,” he said. “Twelve months at $8.50 is $102 a year. I came out to the good $4.00.”
Retiree Rodney Thomas began leasing the panels on his Arrowood home a little over a year ago. He said he had no power bill for five months from Duke Energy and only had a lease payment to Sunrun which was cheaper than his Duke Energy bill.
“My total power bill which includes what I pay Sunrun and the little I pay Duke Energy during the winter months is approximately 20 – 25% lower than what I was paying prior to installing the panels,” Thomas said.
Real estate agent Belinda Cockerill, said she and her husband began leasing the panels in January 2017. Their power bill on their Fort Mill home has been 40 percent less. The Cockerills were motivated by the environmental benefits, but enjoy the extra cash in their checking account.
The environmentally conscious consumers can take comfort in the green energy. Solar panels are powered by the sun. The polyvoltaic cells capture the sun radiation and turn it into electricity. The system is pollution free. According to LGCY power sales manager, Robby Edge, an average rooftop solar system will offset 30 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equal to 60,000 miles of driving, planting 2,400 trees, 16 tons of burned coal and 80,000 gallons of water that would have been used to produce electricity.
Sheri Wells, Buford Middle School principal, purchased the panels on her home three months ago. By buying the solar power, they will receive a tax credit which will be applied toward the payment of their panels. She hopes to have the solar power system paid off within a year.
Wells said she enjoyed a huge savings in January during the extreme cold snap that left her non-solar neighbors with power bills topping the $400 mark.
“Ours was $35,” she said.
Prior to solar, the Wells paid Duke Energy $150 each month. Their power bill is about $20 now and the finance payments to Greensky is $25 giving them a total power bill less than $50. Homestar Solar Solutions installed the panels and can be reached at 803-764-3560 or 800-909-5269.
LGCY and Sunrun
All the residents who leased the solar panels leased from Sunrun and LGCY power.
LGCY Power partnered with Sunrun, a provider of residential solar energy. LGCY is the sales force and Sunrun designs, manufactures and installs the panels. LGCY will sell or lease the equipment to consumers.
Edge explained the lease option which has the following requirements: the leasee must be the homeowner and have a credit score of 650; the roof has to be in good repair; and receive sufficient sunlight.
Edge said Sunrun designs the solar panels based on the past 12 months of kilowatt usage. The company pays for everything – permitting, installation, inspections, equipment, and maintenance.
At the end of the lease, consumers have four options – renew one year at a time with existing panels; make another long-term agreement and the old panels will be replaced with new ones; purchase panels at a depreciated price and have free power as long as the panels last; or not renew and Sunrun will remove the panels and fix the roof free of charge.
Edge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 704-277-3077.
Sunrun’s leasing option is only available to Duke Energy customers. For questions related to going solar, call 866-233-2290 or email email@example.com.
Co-op Solar Options
Lynches River and York Electric offer net metering to customers who have installed solar panels on their homes giving them savings or credits for their overproduction of power. Both cooperatives have built solar farms that have offset the amount of nonrenewable energy they use.
Lynches River’s consultant, John Hendrix, can advise customers interested in solar. He can be reached by phone 843-675-3279 or email John.firstname.lastname@example.org. York Electric members can call 803-684-4248 for more information on green energy.
The website http://www.myscsolar.com will answer many questions the electric cooperatives customers may have about converting to solar. York and Lynches River both have implemented community solar initiatives including solar farms which offer members the opporuntity to invest in solar energy without installing rooftop panels.
For those who want to purchase the solar energy, tax credits are available and reduce the cost of the solar power by 30 percent. If your tax liability, the total amount of tax on your income, is less than 30 percent of the cost of the equipment, the credit will be spread out over several years. Before deciding to buy or lease, consumers are advised to talk with an accountant to determine the best option.
‘God’s Gift to the World’
By Mandy Catoe
Bessie Johnson barely stands five feet tall and weighs well under a hundred pounds.
On Sunday mornings she can be found seated in a pew near the front of Bright Light Baptist Church in Heath Springs. When the spirit moves her, she stands and reaches her arms towards heaven.
Last week she spent a little time talking about her life as she sat on the couch between her daughter Vanessa Waiters and her adopted son, Anthony. Ginger, her 10-year-old chihuahua sat near her feet. The walls were decorated with family photos, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.
During the conversation, she shared her favorite Bible verse.
“Clap your hands, all ye people, shout unto God with the voice of triumph,” she recites as she clapped her hands in joy.
Her journey began nearly 95 years ago. Shortly after her birth in 1923, her mother gave her away to a couple who raised her as their own child.
Family central to her life
She grew up and married Henry Johnson, the love of her life. They had six children. Just before her husband died, they adopted an 11-year-old son.
Frank, their firstborn, had cerebral palsy and relied on a wheelchair and Johnson for his every need until he died at the age of 59 in 2000.
Johnson’s granddaughter, Jessica Cameron, described her grandmother’s devotion to Frank.
“That was during a time when you locked people like that away. You just put them away and don’t talk about it and she refused to do that,” Cameron said.
“He was so incredibly bubbly and happy and I think it was all because of her,” Cameron said. “Because she made sure he was well taken care of and happy and that he was loved.”
Cameron, 38, an anesthetist, lives in Indian Land and describes her grandmother as a master motivator.
“I have never honestly heard her say anything bad about anything,” she said. “She believes in giving people second chances. She believes in forgiveness.”
Cameron said her grandmother is a master motivator and her encouragement has allowed her family members to achieve success.
“I tell her all the time that she is my hero. It makes me cry because I don’t think she fully understands how much she means to me – to all of us,” Cameron said. “Always words of encouragement. Always. I mean doing things that we never thought we could accomplish and she just always told us it was possible. ‘You can do anything’ is what she would say.”
While her children were small, Johnson’s brother lost his home to a fire. She moved him and his family of six into her house filled with her own half-dozen children.
“You do what you have to do and I was glad to do it,” Bessie Johnson said. “I had a tiny path to squeeze through to get to the kitchen to cook breakfast.”
In her late 70s she took in “Uncle Cas” who was 80 years old and cared for him for the last years of his life.
Johnson’s surviving biological children range in age from 60-65 and live within a half-hour’s drive from her. Billy, Tyron, Vanessa and Mary all have professional jobs and two of them served in the military. Anthony lives with his mother.
Young for her years
Johnson does not look or act like someone nearing her 95th birthday.
Her son-in-law, Howard Waiters, 62, has known her since he was 16.
“She is just that vibrant with regard to her age,” Waiters said. “She just doesn’t seem to let it slow her down when she is determined to do things she gets out there and gets it done whether anybody helps her or not. And that really amazes me about her.”
‘Grandma was my best friend’
Once her children were out on their own, she took care of the grandchildren. Akio Harris, 42, now a supervisor at Comporium recalled fun times with his grandmother.
“Growing up, Grandma was my best friend. She was the one that I could talk to and the one I chose to talk to about anything I had going on,” said grandson Akio Harris. “She was my rock coming up.”
Harris said his grandmother often held Bible Study for him and his cousins. Harris said he
still has the Bible story book that she read from.
One of her foster children, Francina McCloud Foster, 41, said Johnson treated her like she was her own child.
“I still look at her as my mother,” Foster said.
Johnson’s ongoing encouragement has kept her believing in herself.
“She keeps me focused,” Foster said. “I’m going back to adult ed because of her.”
Foster said Johnson taught her to respect herself.
“She is God’s gift to the world,” Foster said.
Johnson enjoys shopping trips to Gaffney with her church family and trips to the mountains with her children and grandchildren.
She goes to church twice on Sunday, and once on Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening. She visits friends in nursing homes on Tuesdays.
Last week at White Oak Manor, she spent time with a friend whose mind was clouded with dementia and believed her family had abandoned her. Johnson held her hand and prayed with her.
Mother of the Church
The members of Bright Light Baptist Church view the active deaconess as the mother of the church.
Pastor William Coleman draws inspiration from Johnson.
“It’s a great joy to look out in the congregation and see Mrs. Bessie Johnson,” he said. “She doesn’t just show up on Sunday morning but she is there for mid-week service and Bible study. She supports whatever program we have at the church. It’s inspiring for me to see the commitment and the dedication from such a loyal servant of our Lord.”
Life Advice: ‘Love each other’
When asked, Johnson offered a little perspective from her life.
“Love each other,” she said. “I mean everybody. Real love from the heart. Reach out and do the right thing towards people even when they mistreat you. You still love them right because you don’t have anything to do with how they feel towards you, but we are held responsible for how we love each other.”