photos by John Wollwerth
In the sleepy little coastal town of Beaufort, SC, the waterfront was teaming with festival goers, there to experience the city’s 11th annual Water Festival. Leading the charge that year was Beaufort’s very own Colden Battey, Jr. As many before and after him, the honor of being chosen to be the festival’s Commodore was bestowed upon him because of his many contributions to the town of Beaufort.
Battey recalls, “The Water Festival at that point was not nearly on the scale of what it is today.” He paints a picture, “First of all, most of the events were held at the bandshell, or on the water. Where the parking lot for the marina is now, there was a bandshell up on the hill there and all of that space there was vacant and people would bring in chairs…the venue was right there…that’s where the beauty pageant and even the dance were held.” Unlike the unobstructed view that we now enjoy of the waterfront, there were only a few places that one could set up and see the water shows.
Today, over the span of 10 days, the Water Festival offers a lineup of concerts in the park, shrimp boat tours, fireworks, air show, an arts and crafts market, and yes, even a Bed Race. These, along with many more activities allow festival-goers to have the full “Beaufort” experience.
However, in 1966, when Colden Battey, Jr. was Commodore, the festival only lasted four days. “We still have many of the same activities we did back then, but a few have gone by the wayside, and a few have been added.” Colden reminisces, “Even at that time we kicked off with the golf tournament. The festival then was Friday through Sunday and most of the events were free. The golf tournament was a big deal because most of the people involved were big golfers.” On Friday night, the bandshell stage hosted the beauty pageant, “A lot was centered around the beauty pageant.” The Water Festival date was actually set to fall on the weekend before the Miss South Carolina pageant. There were normally between 30 and 50 girls that would participate and they did so to get themselves ready for Miss SC. Saturday was the parade. “The parade was a big deal at the time. All of the pageant queens were in it. We had a heck of a time finding convertibles for all of them them!” Along with the pageant queens were around 6 to 8 elaborately decorated floats.
“One year we had the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps bands.” Battey ponders, “We also had a good many politicians that would come. We even had James F. “Jimmy” Byrnes who had been Secretary of State, United States Senator, Supreme Court Justice, and eventually the Governor of South Carolina. He always came to the parade.” There would be a luncheon after the parade in which all of the politicians were invited. “It was a big deal and we usually had about 90 people there. It used to be held at the National Guard Armory, but was later held at the St. Helena Parrish House.” The rest of the day consisted of air shows, skydivers, and stunt planes. “When we first started doing the festival, we even had the Blue Angels come and fly over the bridge.” One year, it was a very windy day. “As some of the parachuters were coming down during the air show, the wind kicked up and we ended up with one guy on the roof of the police station and another in the St. Helena church yard.”
Accompanying the air show was always a ski show. “We began to have the Silver Springs Professional Skiers perform along with the local ski club.” Saturday night, the beauty pageant would feature evening gowns and the announcement of the winner, followed by the dance. “The year that I was Commodore there wasn’t much for the young people to do, the dance was more for the adults. One thing I did was to put in a dance at the armory. Later it became the street dance.”
On Sunday, there was a repeat of the air show and then the blessing of the fleet. “There would be a dozen or so shrimp boats all decorated, then we would have the speed boat races. Those speedboats sure made a helluva lot of noise, but I miss them!”
In 1966, Beaufort was on the cusp of undergoing many changes. Modern neighborhoods, golf courses, and commercial buildings were springing up everywhere, all while taking great strides to still preserve the natural landscape and beauty of the sea islands. “Beaufort was just so much smaller then. It was mainly just the local community in those days.” Back in the 40’s and early 50’s, sailboat racing was popular in Beaufort. Colden recalls, “ By the mid 50’s it had sort of died out, and everybody knows how hot it is here in the summer. We all thought, ‘Now what are we going to do?’ That’s basically how it all got started.” Festival organizers wanted to make sure that most of the events were free. “We tried to get everybody there. We wanted the whole community to come out and have a good time and not worry about the cost.”
It clearly takes a lot of time and dedication to put on an event of this magnitude. “It’s really a big job being the Commodore. If things don’t go well, it falls on you. Back then it was pretty much a one-man job. I had a secretary, and maybe one or two fellows that would help out, and of course the Rotary Club and Lion’s Club. We didn’t have the cavalry of people that it takes now. The Commodore is generally responsible for pretty much everything, getting sponsors, and of course making sure everyone is working together.” There are program directors, which are often times Commodore-elects, and many other different directors who handle the logistics of the air show, water show, band etc. “It makes a big difference when everyone works together.”
Colden Battey, Jr. currently serves on the Water Festival’s Board of Directors. All past Commodores are automatically on the Board and meet a couple of times over the year. The responsibility of selecting a new Commodore each year resides with them. He still practices law in the heart of downtown Beaufort. He was chairman of the County Council for 8 years and is now the chairman of the Nemours Wildlife Foundation. The foundation maintains 10,000 acres, that houses a rich diversity of natural habitats. It offers an educational outreach program for people who are looking to receive a Master’s or PhD in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. Among his many commitments, he is also on the Jasper Port Authority and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Beaufort County Open Land Trust.
Although born in Augusta, Colden’s family is from Beaufort and they moved back here when he was in high school. “I went to the college, was in the Navy for four years, and then went to law school. I got the opportunity to travel around when I was first out of law school. I decided, ‘Why would I want to live anywhere else?’ I’ve got family, can make a good living, hunt, fish, do whatever I want. I’ve been back here now for over 55 years.”
When asked what he would like to see return to the Water Festival he replied, “I miss the parade, like it used to be…a lot of decorated floats, and bands…it was such a big deal. I miss the speed boats too. I miss having the politicians being a big part of it. I’d also like to see more free things for the public, so everyone would have the ability to participate.”
The former Commodore has seen many changes over the years. He laments, “It’s amazing that the festival has gone on for 63 years continuously. The public support is phenomenal. We have so many dedicated volunteers: people that have been doing this for 10 or 15 years. They often use their vacation time from work to come work the festival. It’s really amazing to me that a festival of this scale has lasted all of these years. It is definitely a testament to the dedication of the volunteers and residents of Beaufort.”
photos by Susan DeLoach
Born right here on Beaufort’s very own Parris Island, on July 5, 1944, Phyllis lived in Beaufort with her parents and siblings until she was in the first grade. The family moved away for a few years but eventually returned to the Beaufort Waterfront. “My father was in the United States Marine Corps at that point and we ended up leaving Beaufort when I was in the first grade. One of the places we lived during that time was Florida. That is where my father taught us how to ski.” Her father always loved boating, fishing and skiing, and when she was around nine years old, he taught his children how to ski. In 1955, the family moved back to Beaufort. Shortly after Phyllis’ father would deploy and then return home where he was assigned to the newly dedicated Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort as its first Sgt. Major. Phyllis remembers how they would take the boat out, she and her sister would practice skiing, and even attempt stunts.
At the time, the Beaufort Ski Club was the Water Festivals only ski show. They would pull stunts including 2, 3, and some 5-person pyramids. She and her sister began training and performing with the ski club in 1960. Phyllis’ father had been working with the ski club for a few years. “Daddy knew people in the Beaufort Ski Club and he would often times pull some of the skiers and pyramids with his boat because he had a pretty good size boat.” She chuckles, “You know, we didn’t exactly do it like the professionals today build pyramids. I saw one person flip a person up on shoulders and then back down… when I was skiing we built a pyramid by climbing on each other.. and how we got down…oh goodness! 1…2…3… the bottom skiers went left, the other went right and you just jumped in the water…it was a lot of fun though!”
Phyllis recalls, “I was in the club at only 16 and 17, and in high school at the time. I was in the band and a majorette, but when I graduated high school water skiing stayed with me.”
It took a lot of time and practice for Phyllis and her sister to master many of the stunts they performed. Her favorite stunt, “…was probably the pyramid.” Although she prefers to slalom now, that wasn’t always the case. “I got a couple of trophies when I was around 17, one of those was skiing a slalom course. I was talked into competing and ended up getting 3rd place in the event, but when I was first on the team I couldn’t slalom. In the club everybody could get up on one ski but not Phyllis! One time the team had to get back to another area in a hurry and I only had one ski and I said, “you know I can’t get up on one ski!” and they said, “Well, you’re just going to have to!” So, they threw out a double handled rope that was brand new and hadn’t been tied up. “I put the ski between the two ropes holding the handles which seemed pretty balanced, and I pulled it off so now that’s the only way I can get up on one ski is by using that double handled technique.”
“The last year I was with the ski team was 1961…” Phyllis would graduate from Beaufort High School in 1962 and begin a career working at the Port Royal docks in the accounting department. That is where she met her husband, Robert C. “Bob” Fabian. The young couple would marry in 1966. “My husband loved boating too. He loved fishing and did some skiing.” Having served in the United States Army and the Air Force before they met, Bob would eventually go on to work with the SC Air National Guard. “We moved around a good bit after we got married. We ended up moving back to Beaufort in 1993.”
The couple moved away for a while during Bob’s career as a plant manager and “overall troubleshooter” with Lifetime Doors, Inc. “ We have had quite a few moves,” Phyllis lamented, “18 times, 18 moves… SC, TX, CA, IL, FL, MS, then back to SC.” They would frequently come back to Beaufort on the weekends and go out skiing. “The waterfront was so different then, we would ski near the sand bar but there weren’t nearly as many boats and there was no waterfront park at the time. It seemed like every time we came home something new was being built.” Beaufort would continue to grow and change over the 26 ½ years that they lived away. They returned in 1993 right before Phyllis’ 49th birthday. “My husband had decided that we needed to get a boat. He loved fishing. He came to me and said, let’s get a boat and then take you out on your 50th birthday and see if you can still ski! He was really the one that started me on this journey. That year I got up, no problem, and then the next year we did the same and then the next, and so on…this year will be my 24th year in a row that I have been able to get out on or around my birthday to go skiing!”
Her helmsman, and loving husband of almost 50 years passed away three years ago, her son Michael has since taken over as her boat driver. Some years they have all the family: her daughter LaNelle, son Michael, and 3 grandchildren there to see her ski. Some years only a few are there, but rest assured Phyllis will be there until she decides it’s time for her to “retire.” Phyllis comments, “I want to get to 25 years before I retire from this journey, but who knows…”
For Phyllis, placing a lot of importance on keeping up with her health and fitness continues to make this goal attainable. “I wouldn’t say I have really a hobby anymore. Most of my extra time is spent taking care of the yard and I work out at the YMCA. Exercise has always been a consistent thing in my life. I don’t try to overdo it. I do believe it has made a big difference in what I’m still able to do with my body.” She does admit however, “I like going to the gym, but I absolutely hate doing jumping jacks… don’t do those! I figure, at 74 years old I don’t have to do those if I don’t want to!”
Thanks to the efforts of the non-profit Dataw Historic Foundation (DHF), several historic sites on Dataw Island have been preserved and improved with interpretive signage, including the Sams Plantation Ruins, which appear on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as other sites on the island, most notably the slave cemetery. DHF has also built a History and Learning Center to display artifacts and offer further interpretation of the sites.
Several generations (at least 5) of the Sams family, many of whom had dispersed across the country, met family members (in what was quite a unique setting – after all, not many families have volunteers working to preserve their history or museums with their families’ portraits.
“It is so rewarding that so many people who are not even related to the Sams family are willing to spend so much of their own time, and work so hard, preserving our family home,” says John Bonum Sams, Jr. (fourth generation to BB Sams). “We are indebted to the Dataw family. It just keeps getting better!”
Reading through the family history almost feels like walking through a map of Beaufort, sprinkled with names like Sams, Fripp and Barnwell. And, indeed, the reunion attendees were treated to a downtown Historic Beaufort Walking Tour featuring almost 30 homes and points of interest that are all tied to the Sams family. DHF volunteer Joe Roney wrote and led the tour.
“It really is fantastic to share our city’s rich history,” said Roney. “The family is so appreciative and have been wonderful to work with.”
The city of Beaufort was founded by Col. John “Tuscarora Jack” Barnwell, grandfather to William Sams, whose local story began in 1783 when he purchased Dataw Island (then Datha Island) to escape the political tension in Charleston following the American Revolution. He acquired Dataw Island, situated along the sea island corridor just outside Beaufort, and thrived with growing Sea Island Cotton. In 1798, William Sams died and left the island to his two sons, Berners Barnwell Sams (BB) and Lewis Reeve Sams (LR); the island was then split between them. BB retained the original family home (now known as the Sams Plantation) and later added the east and west wings. LR built a new home along Morgan River, but all that can be seen now of Lewis Reeve’s home is what local boaters refer to as “the chimney,” a stick of bricks peeking through the marsh only at low tide.
Sams family members came from near and far to learn of their family history, and many were surprised of what else they gained while here.
“This is so wonderful to experience,” said attendee William L. Sams. “It is such a great opportunity for my children to meet their family and a great time to connect.” He also spoke of the ruins saying, “The preservation is just amazing.”
John Colgan, DHF, gave lectures throughout the day on the history of the Sams Family; beginning with Bonum Sams who was born in Somerset, England in 1663 and came to Charles Towne in 1681. All of the the Sams today, descend from Bonum.
The day wrapped up with a presentation from a few Sams family members sharing how they met and how this reunion came to fruition. The family then presented Joe Roney with a check for $2300 and thanked Dataw and the DHF for all their hard work and dedication in preserving the Sams Family Plantation.
This is the first time the whole Sams family has come together for a reunion and what a better place than where it all started.
While many kids spend their summer break playing video games and swimming, others from around the country take one week out of their summer to lend a helping hand to neighbors in our community through the Catholic HEART (Helping Everyone Attain Repairs Today) Work Camp.
Earlier this summer, more than 285 students from across the nation came together here in the Lowcountry for the 19th Annual Catholic Heart Work Camp. United Way of the Lowcountry coordinates the one-week camp to help make life better for people throughout Beaufort and Jasper Counties.
“This program’s mission is to revitalize communities and beautify the homes of the elderly, the disabled and those who are unable to afford needed repairs,” says Bethany Marcinkowski, United Way of the Lowcountry’s Vice President of Education Impact.
During the Catholic HEART Work Camp program, the students, along with more than 100 adult leaders and several local volunteers worked together on 45 projects throughout the community. The students did everything from yard work and minor home repairs to installing handicap ramps. In addition to working on residential homes, some of the groups also worked on projects with agencies throughout the community.
“They did a lot of things I couldn’t do,” says Mr. Singleton, who is wheelchair-bound. In just a few days, the campers replaced boards and painted his wheelchair ramp, repaired his front porch and worked in the yard.“I appreciate it very much.”
“These young people make a big impact in just a few short days by doing simple home repairs including painting, yard work, cleaning, repairing screens, and anything else that is difficult for an elderly or handicapped person to accomplish. There is a big need for these types of services in our community and we’re excited to have this wonderful group of students in the Lowcountry each year, helping to meet the needs of our neighbors, says Marcinkowski.
Ms. Lucy couldn’t have been more excited to have a crew at her house. “It meant a whole lot to me,” says Ms. Lucy. She says her home has been in bad shape for several years after a tree fell on it. But living on a fixed income, making the costly repairs was challenging. Ms. Lucy says she is grateful for her church stepping in to help and last month students with the Catholic Heart Work Camp helped give her home a facelift with new paint and minor repairs. “I call them my little angels,” says Ms. Lucy. Hilton Head Glidden donates all the paint, as they have every year since the first group of HEART Work campers arrived in 1999, brightening spirits like Ms. Lucy’s through the Lowcountry. “The house is so bright now and it reminds me of how it looked when my children were young, says Ms. Lucy.
Students with the Catholic HEART Work Camp volunteer their time from Monday – Thursday and then have a free day on Friday to enjoy the amenities of the Lowcountry including beach visits, touring and other activities. Throughout their time here, they stay at the Hardeeville School Complex. After working throughout the day, they attend spiritual programs in the evenings.
Are you a native Beaufortonian?
I was born in Columbia SC, and my family moved here in 1984 and I have been here ever since. I graduated from Battery Creek High School, I met my husband here and both our children were born here. I consider myself a native by now!
How did you get into the HVAC/ heating and air business?
I have been working at the family business, Pender Brothers, for twenty years, and I have been in our HVAC division for nineteen of those years. Pender Brothers, Inc was established in 1985 by my dad and my uncle, Jimmy and Johnny Pender, but the HVAC side wasn’t added to the business until in 1996. I started out doing scheduling, parts ordering and other administrative tasks. Six years ago, I was given the opportunity to become the head of the HVAC division and have had my family’s support the entire time.
Being younger and a female in a leadership position has had its struggles. It has taken time and effort to gain the respect of my team, and in order to gain more technical knowledge I have taken as many training classes as possible. I always try to do what’s best for our team and for our customers. Our working conditions at jobs are far from luxurious, so I try to make it out to different jobs and crawl around in crawlspaces with them, inspecting duct work, and go into the attics. I try to do some of the same things my team does. The bottom line is I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. We are an eleven member team, and they are my extended family.
What are you currently involved with in your field?
I am going through the HVAC program at TCL (Technical College of the Lowcountry), which I started last year. It had been a while since I have been in a classroom but this is not an online course, we attend class and there are hands on labs where we do training. I am the only woman in the class, which is not really a surprise as the field is mostly male dominated. I have become use to being the only female, or one of only a few other women, at training classes.
What is a typical day for you?
Summer is always crazy. We have the schedule set by the end of the day. I get in to work between seven to seven fifteen in the morning and by eight its 52 card pickup because the schedule has changed! The hardest task is juggling the scheduling, which is all about trying to get every customer satisfied in a reasonable amount of time. The most satisfying part of my day is helping our customers. It’s a really good feeling being able to provide the service that makes their life more comfortable. If a customer has problems with a system we installed, I will take the issue to the distributor to get our customer the best result possible. We treat people the way we want to be treated by doing the right thing.
Industry Recognition 2017 Bryant Circle of Champions
I was very honored to be included in the 2017 Bryant Circle of Champions, and even more honored to have been awarded the 2018 Bryant Medal of Excellence, one of only fifteen in the nation (that’s only 2% of Bryant dealers in the country) to be so recognized. Because Bryant is a sponsor, I will be going as their VIP guest to the Indy 500 race in Indianapolis. I get to bring my husband, who is an electrician and not in the HVAC field. He is such a good guy, he texted me a picture of a tee shirt that said “I’m her plus one” because that’s normally what he tells people at any HVAC function!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
That last year I sat for a six hour exam and became a Licensed Mechanical Air Conditioning Contractor. I also passed my N.A.T.E. test this spring, so now I’m N.A.T.E. certified like my technicians. (North American Technician Excellence.)
What would you tell women interested in your field?
This is a great industry to be in, and I believe women bring a sense of finesse to it. Women don’t need to be scared or afraid to try the HVAC field. I will say that it is important to have support and help at home because it can be a 24/7 job.
When you have free time what is your favorite place in Beaufort?
That’s easy, being out on the river with my family. We like to walk along the mud bank and look for old bottles, go fishing or just cruise around and find a sand bar for the boys to play on.
Introduce us to your family …
My husband, Christian Petersen, is the owner of Petersen Electric. He is my rock, my biggest fan and biggest support. We have two sons, Gavin age six and Reese age two.
Due to my work and school schedules I do miss some things but I am always working on achieving that ideal work and life balance. As my son Gavin says – “If it’s hot, call Mommy!”
Pender Brothers offers quality air and expert HVAC service for your home. We know air conditioning and heating is important to your family. We also know the air quality of your home is equally important. We provide our customers with expert installers, knowledgeable, experienced technicians, that are N.A.T.E. certified and friendly customer service representatives.
Our mission is to provide our customers with assistance that far exceeds your expectations. We strive for excellence in all we do and settle for nothing less. We do this all at a fair and reasonable upfront price. All of our team members are equipped to provide you with the service you need in a courteous manner.
Dr. Marlena Smalls
story by Cindy Reid
photos by Susan DeLoach
Dr. Marlena Smalls is truly the Voice of Gullah. Founder of The Hallelujah Singers, an internationally known vocalist and entertainer, a cultural ambassador from the lowcountry to the world, she has been there and done that twice over and then some. She continues to educate, to entertain and to expand our horizons. A true American treasure, she sat down with us to share some of her wisdom on the business of culture and entertainment.
What are some of your current musical projects?
Two successful shows at USCB Center for the Arts, collaborating with vocalists Elaine Lake, Velma Polk and the Lowcountry Jazz Band, under the direction of David Hershey, have kept me busy. Together we performed a Tribute to Etta James, Motown and More; with a third show, Ain’t Nobody’s Biz, coming up this year. I greatly value working with USCB and it is a great joy to get on stage with Elaine and Velma.
How did your career in music start?
Interestingly enough, I started out founding a school of music with my mother where we taught voice, piano and dance. From our original five students, we eventually built the school to one hundred and ninety five pupils. Now from the school came out something even bigger. You see we did a wonderful play called “Hail Mahalia” with the music school students, and the parents of those children formed the first nucleus of ‘The Hallelujah Singers.’
Tell us about The Hallelujah Singers
I founded The Hallelujah Singers in 1990 specifically to preserve the melodies and storytelling unique to the South Carolina Sea Islands. We were the first Gullah Ambassadors. The Hallelujah Singers use entertainment to inspire, celebrate, and preserve the West African heritage which has shaped today’s Gullah culture.
Other important firsts?
I worked for the City of Beaufort as the Arts Coordinator, and in that capacity I created the first Gullah Festival in 1984. The festival came about because I was trying to create a project where we could fund raise for the arts, particularly children’s projects, and highlight Black culture at the same time.
How did you become the “Voice of Gullah?”
Even before the first Gullah Festival I was getting the word Gullah out there. Based on the work I was doing, there became quite an interest. Media outlets were contacting me for interviews and information on Gullah culture, the BBC filmed me three times and I did several interviews with NPR. At that point, then South Carolina Governor Riley and Senator Strom Thurmond were contacting me, essentially the state of South Carolina said ‘we need to talk to you!’ That is really how I became the ‘Voice of Gullah’ and I continued to represent South Carolina and conduct interviews on ABC, NBC, at the Atlanta Constitutional Journal and so forth.
In addition to being an artist, you were also in charge of the business of your work.
The creation of The Hallelujah Singers was the opportunity of a lifetime. As a troupe, we went to Japan, Germany, France, Spain, England and Scotland. We travelled the world. However it was very time consuming; it grew so fast so quickly that cash flow became a problem. I had a wonderful friend whose husband was a retired banker and he worked with me to complete a prospectus which helped me obtain a business loan. That was very unusual in the entertainment business, because you have no tangible assets. Keeping up with the business side of entertainment is a rollercoaster.
What do you want people to understand about Gullah?
I want people to understand Gullah is not stuck in time. It’s more than just being born somewhere from Wilmington, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. It’s the DNA. It’s the West Indies, Brazil and Africa. We cut the culture of Gullah short when we think of slavery and slavery alone. By doing that we exclude essentials such as diet, wisdom and religion. The Gullah was wise and creative enough to accept the culture so they could survive. The African survived. He entangled himself like a vine on a tree. The culture of Gullah is bigger than Beaufort.
What do you think about the current focus on Reconstruction?
When we look at Reconstruction, which we are starting to do here in Beaufort, we see it never completely took because it took fifty one years for the African to achieve equality. Fifty one years for the right to housing and education and healthcare. We are still not equal in how the African is perceived. This is a lack of education. We must be vigilant in making sure all Americans are educated. A campaign of diversity. A campaign of ‘See me’- to see what we have each brought to this country. We can do this by including a truer picture of history in the classroom.
This leads to your involvement in children’s education?
Yes, this is why children’s education is important. When I do cultural presentations in a classroom I start with a world map and work through food. I ask the children ‘do you know even if you have never left your hometown, you have travelled the world?’ We go through the origins of pasta, of frankfurters, of sweet potatoes and rice, of various spices. I ask the children to talk to the oldest person you can, to ask them to give you something to represent your heritage. Over the years I have gotten Irish war beads, a coffee cup from Peru, French bread made at home, various combs, a piece of a kilt, all sorts of things.
What is your current children’s project?
I have adopted the Mossy Oak Elementary School. At the end of this year the children will be collaborating with me and illustrating my children’s book. Next year I will have the children involved with music. The children are wonderful and I get great joy from the classroom.
What would you tell a young woman embarking on an entertainment career?
I would tell her, ‘You need to be kind.’ Because kindness has worked for me. I would say to her, surround yourself with positive and wise people. That’s what I did and that helped me to build my business. As I look back one person in particular was so meaningful in my life, and that was Harriet Keyserling. She had me come to her home. We had tea and talked. ‘Let me help you’ she said. She was kind and open. Also Jayne Leigh Powell was very important to me, she became my business partner. We were like sisters, and then she was a surrogate mother to me until she went on to Glory.
So I say you need to be kind, you need to be helpful, you need to share with mankind. Be kind.
Your favorite place in Beaufort?
The waterfront park. I have been here long enough to see the changes in the waterfront, and they correlate with the changes in my life. In the past, I worked with the city of Beaufort, and I planned events there, and now I am not working for the city and I occasionally sing from the stage. Now I get in the swings and I watch people, some I know, some I don’t, and I have quick conversations. God speaks to me there.
Feeling Blessed and Grateful
I would like to say I am very thankful to Beaufort South Carolina. They embraced me and my children when I arrived here and I will forever be eternally grateful. I was able to share Gullah and could not have done it without them.
I was blessed with so much after as I matured in my music and life. God allowed me to sing with my daughters, Tracey McGhee and Sumitra Stewart, and my sister Gladys Jenkins shared her gift of song with us. They were a blessing and inspiration to me over the years as we performed and kept Gullah in the forefront.
Also, I found my best friend and Sister, Peggy Bing-O’Banner, in this beautiful Lowcountry. The Hallelujah Singers produced five CDs over the years that I pray will forever leave an imprint on the lives of all who hear them. It is my desire that our music will speak for itself as it lays the path for future generations to hear and learn of our wonderful Gullah culture. Life is good.
Healing Rebuilding and Empowering Women to Live a Joyous and Abundant Life
story by Lindsay Lenoir
photos by Paul Nurnberg
The Women’s Empowerment Summit: H.E.R. Abundant Life, is the result of four dedicated, hardworking, successful, vibrant and beautifully flawed women. Businesswomen and entrepreneurs who call Beaufort home. On June 9th, 2018 women from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and walks of life will gather together under one roof to be uplifted and empowered by a panel of entrepreneurs; four women who have overcome many obstacles to “create the life they desire and have become obsessed with living a life they choose.” Hosted by, Ryanne Goneke, Brittney Hiller, Jennifer Glass and Allison Kindwall.
Starting out as the brainchild of Omni Fitness co-owner Ryanne Goneke, the Empowerment Summit began to take shape. “I said to Brittney, we need to host an event that empowers women and teaches them how to live their best life.” A small spark quickly ignited into a large flame.
The two women would begin to create an idea that would change and inspire two more influential young women, Jennifer Glass and Allison Kindwall. Jennifer, having met Brittney and Allison through Northwestern Mutuals’, Center of Influence Program (COI), quickly realized that they were not only successful, but were passionate about igniting the desire in other women to search for and live out their own truth. Gathering together at Pluff Mudd Coffee shop in Port Royal, Jennifer and Brittney began to fan the flame of what would become, in a matter of weeks, The Women’s Empowerment Summit.
Jennifer quipped, “I never knew it wasn’t possible, I just took an idea and made it a reality.” According to Brittney, “Jennifer is the doer. Ryanne, myself, and Allison are the visionaries.” Combining each’s strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, resiliencies, expertise, past mistakes, and present victories H.E.R. Abundant Life was born: Healing(H), Empowering (E), Rebuilding (R) and inspiring women, all women, to “live a joyous and abundant life.”
Meet the Panel
Ryanne Goneke: Co-owner Omni Health and Fitness
A native of Beaufort, Ryanne Goneke is a dedicated mother to two little boys, and loving wife to her husband, who serves our community on the Lady’s Island Fire Department. About 7 years ago Ryanne was happily employed as a manager and personal trainer in a Bluffton private community. However, life has a way of changing, and Ryanne and her husband became the proud parents to a baby boy. “I always knew that I wouldn’t be a stay at home mom. As soon as my son was two weeks old, I was ready to get back to work.”
Eventually, the commute and time away from her family began to take its toll on Ryanne and she decided to step away from the job she loved so much. Soon after, a good friend of hers approached her with the possibility of managing a gym they were about to purchase. Ryanne didn’t even get the chance to process this news before her friend would be calling her back and proposing that she and her husband go in as co-owners.
Ryanne said she had never entertained the idea of owning her own business, until that moment. In August of 2014, six months after this initial conversation, they were handed the keys to Omni Health and Fitness. Days later, she would find out she was expecting. There she was, in business ownership, pregnant, trying to manage 10 employees and 15 independent contractors, when things started to fall apart.
Ryanne said she had to stop and reassess how she was going to run her business. “I had to learn how to connect with so many different personalities so I could figure out how to best communicate with and support that person.” One of the most important lessons, though, concerned her own wellbeing, “You can’t support the people around you. You have to fill your own cup up first and continue doing that every single day. It’s not selfish… love yourself, so you can love others.”
It has been 4 years now and Ryanne is still standing behind her “self-love” commitment, even though sometimes that requires her to let go of a little baggage. “When you raise your vibration, certain people will start dropping by the wayside, and I’m ok with that because it opens up the opportunity for new like-minded people to come in. Everything you want in life is already there, you just have to be open to it!”
Allison Kindwall: Co-owner of InkDropz Custom Tees
Allison Kindwall is not your typical 21-year-old, and she is fine with that! In fact, she’s more than fine with it, she’s proud of it. While most young adults her age are still floundering around trying to find their place, Allison has seemingly figured this whole “life” thing out. She is a confident, self-assured, vibrant, young woman, who is unapologetically wise for her age. Having tried the college route right out of high school, Allison realized, “I didn’t really go for the whole college thing.” She said that it was a hard decision to leave college because she was afraid of being perceived as a college drop out.
Allison saw a clear path for what she wanted and the College of Charleston was no longer a part of that path. She decided to return home to Beaufort and become a part of her family’s business. Allison already knew that she could play a vital role in the business’ success by becoming co-owner of InkDropz.
“I think what I bring to the table is a perfect example of young women in business. I want to show young girls that other people are doing it and making it work.” She admits that there are some cases when the fact that she is a younger person hinders a client from automatically placing trust in her and giving them the job, but Allison says it doesn’t deter her. With confidence she says, “Often times, I just come out and say, will you let me do this job for you? People aren’t used to being asked.”
Don’t mistake her kindness for weakness though. “My parents taught me to always be kind. However, I misunderstood, thinking that being a Godly woman meant total and complete submission, but complete submission doesn’t create a healthy, happy woman. Women were made to be strong and play an important role. Empowerment is a happy medium because you can be both kind and strong.”
As if she weren’t busy enough, helping run a successful screen-printing business, Allison is also a full-time student as USCB, Majoring in Business Administration with a focus on Marketing.
Founder of Effervescence Yoga Spa & Children’s Book Author of “The Laughing Yogini”
A Marine Corps brat, Brittney Hiller moved around a good bit. Her father’s time in service brought them to picturesque Beaufort. Staying here was not an option in her youth, but as she puts it, “Beaufort has that rubber band effect on people, you stretch away from it, but it always brings you back.”
At 25, Brittney returned to the Lowcountry and was able to continue and expound upon her passion for Yoga and massage therapy. She started doing yoga in high school and upon her return to Beaufort was hired by a local yoga studio. Soon after becoming a certified instructor, Brittney parted ways with the studio. She decided to try a new concept: outdoor yoga.
What started as a donation-based, outdoor experiment turned into a business when her good friend Martha O’Regan opened her waterfront home to Brittney and started “TheraVista.” One evening Brittany witnessed her younger sister having a panic attack over a homework assignment. Deeply moved by this experience, and inspired to make a difference, Brittney wrote a children’s book. “The Little Laughing Yogini,” was a tool for promoting laughter yoga, an interactive way for children to center themselves and “find their bliss.” Because of her book, Brittney has been able to have access to many schools in which she is able to interact with the children, teaching them breathing techniques, and yoga through laughter and play.
Martha ended up selling her beautiful home so Brittney decided to take the leap into business ownership. “I always said I wanted to be a traveling yogini,” but finding the perfect space for her studio was the final push that she needed. Her studio is an, “infusion of yoga with a spa-like feel.” Brittney is married to her husband, Andrew. They have two dogs, Armani and Abby. She is passionate about joyful living and is intentional about giving women the tools to create their own happy and healthy life.
Jennifer Glass: Financial Consultant & Founder of Before the Shelter
Also a military kid, Jennifer Glass had quite a different upbringing. Being raised by an emotionally and verbally abusive father, she became hardened. From a young age she said her mantra was,“You will not break me!”
Suffering through the difficult divorce of her parents at the age of 14, Jennifer remained in a state of disrepair. By the time she was 16 years old, she was supporting herself and living on her own.
When Jennifer was 23 years old, she married a service member and returned to a life that she knew all too well– a life of abuse. After failed attempts at counseling and receiving no help from the military, Jennifer decided to end the marriage. She would go on to remarry, have a child, and fall into yet another tumultuous relationship.
During that time, she received devastating news. Her mother, her best friend, and the only source of love and protection in her life, had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and was given only fourteen months to live. The one person, “who always saw who I was, in that moment, and who I could be” would soon, and suddenly pass away in what Jennifer refers to as the worst year of her life.
Seemingly overnight, Jennifer had lost her mother, her then husband was put in jail over a misunderstanding, and she and her daughter were homeless. Seeking refuge at a local shelter, Jennifer says she ended up feeling “lost, confused and out of place.” She was struck by the environment of the shelter, noting that the women there seemed scared, uneasy and paranoid. She was so bothered by her treatment and the treatment of others that she decided she would dedicate herself to trying to give these women another option.
This is how “Before the Shelter” was brought to life. “Before the Shelter” is a non- profit organization that focuses on the prevention and education of victims of domestic abuse. To “encourage victims to build a new life and not just an escape plan.” “Life sometimes beats the belief out of you,” and during that time Jennifer was finally able to admit she was a broken woman. At her lowest point she realized, “nothing changed for me until to change was all I had left.”
Serendipity, placed her in the path of Brittney Hiller and Allison Kindwall, eventually Ryanne Goneke was the catalyst to her continued healing. Jennifer noted that Pluff Mudd Coffee Company played a huge part of her story. It was her safe haven when she was in the shelter and continues to be a place that she goes to unwind, do some work, and feel at home.
In order to pursue her passion, Jennifer decided to make the switch to working independently as a Financial Consultant, offering her Holistic Financial Makeover workshops through the Effervescence Yoga Spa. She is currently in the process of building a Board of Advisors for “Before the Shelter.”
These brave women each possess such clarity and perspective about their own truths, that it’s contagious. As women, we believe that perception is everything. We often times see ourselves as we believe others perceive us and we begin to let it define us. According to all of the ladies, “If you allow people to tell you who you are, it will always keep you in a box. To grow beyond that, you need to realize that just because it’s THEIR truth, doesn’t mean it’s THE truth, and it definitely doesn’t have to be YOUR truth!”
For more information on ticketing visit herabundantlife.org, and Facebook.com/
story by Lindsey Lenoir
The combination of modern sophistication, tradition, and Lowcountry comfort is what Breakwater Restaurant and Bar has offered historic Beaufort for the past eighteen years. Having relocated in 2009 to their current space nestled on the Corner of Carteret Street and Port Republic, Breakwater originally only served dinner. It has since opened its doors to the lunch crowd. Local patrons and tourists alike can enjoy a few of their favorite dinner menu items along with some new, lighter, and refreshing, seasonal salad and sandwich options. Don’t forget to grab one of their noteworthy cocktails, like the “Prince of Tides” (a fusion of Patron-silver, St. Germain, honey syrup and fresh lime juice). Then before you leave, be sure to tell Mrs. Donna Lang, General Manager, Co-owner, and wife of Executive Chef Gary Lang, hello!
Executive Chefs and co-owners, Gary Lang and Elizabeth Shaw, along with Chef De Cuisine Megan Horne, create their “New Southern Cuisine” by using fresh, local produce whenever possible. Incorporating culinary influences from different parts of the globe and adding some “fresh, Southern flare”, while utilizing seafood from the Carolina Coast, the chefs have been able to create a menu that is sure to delight. Chef Lang, founder of Breakwater, “pledged to stay true to simple cooking techniques and only work with sustainable, seasonal ingredients.” Chefs Lang and Shaw have succeeded in building a menu that incorporates, “simple, honest cooking” and adds fresh, innovative, “subtle nuances to traditional southern dishes.”
Every Saturday from 9am-12pm Breakwater serves the community at the Port Royal Farmer’s market, selling items like tacos, their famous butter bean hummus, and signature pimento cheese, all of which have ingredients sourced by the vendors at the market. Chef Shaw says that it has always been important to them to build rapport with the local farming community and to support local businesses and artisans. “We even used local architects and interior designers when creating the new location.” Breakwater has been voted OpenTables’ “Diners’ Choice Winner, earned the TripAdvisor “Certificate of Excellence”, and was voted as The Island News (TIN) Favorite for the seventh year in a row.
Breakwater is now open Monday-Saturday 11am-3pm for lunch, and 5pm-9pm for dinner with Happy Hour starting at 4.
Offering Young Creators the Opportunity to Produce an Illustrated Book, Camp Conroy: Build A Book, a new initiative of the nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center, is a two-week summer camp to be held June 18–29, Monday–Friday, 8am–4pm.
Offered in partnership with the Technical College of the Lowcountry, the program will provide campers, age 11 to 15, with a hands-on program of book building from start to finish. This nature-inspired, collaborative experience includes research, exploration, and interpretation of the natural world. Participants will engage with writing, illustrating, photographing, editing, storyboarding, and producing a book. The campers will act as a team, producing the book and chasing the story. Each will have a vital role in its conception, editorial content, and design.
In the first week, the book’s theme and overall design will be determined, as well as production team member roles: writers, poets, photographers, artists, copy editors, designers, and production editors. Throughout the camp, the participants will work with instructors to create, revise, and compile their content for the book: stories, essays, poems, artwork, and photographs.
The participants will also constructively critique one another’s work, a key and engaging part of the collaborative process.
The first week also includes a field trip to the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center. There the participants will explore the exhibits and talk with master naturalists about the beauty of the environment, and how to interpret and protect it as good stewards.
During the second week, participants will focus on editing, revision, production, and building a book mockup, prepping for its final print delivery. The students will visit the Storybook Shoppe in Bluffton and Alex Bell from Starbooks in Hilton Head will explain, in an interactive seminar, the anatomy of a book and the publication process. Bookshop owner Sally Sue Lavigne will share samples of published children’s books. Campers will spend the remainder of the week building their own book. David Woods of Budget Print in Beaufort will print the final book, which will be part of a final exhibition at the Mather School that will include all the campers’ stories, poems, artwork, and photography. Family and friends will then be invited to a closing celebration, and additional books will be available for order.
Camp Conroy is limited to 15 participants, and open to middle-school-aged students to rising high school sophomores.
The $299 registration fee includes daily lunches and two field trips. Two scholarships are available; to apply, students should submit a sample of their work (essay, poem, artwork, or photograph) by June 10 to the Pat Conroy Literary Center, 308 Charles Street, Beaufort, SC 29902, ATTN: Camp Conroy. Camp registration forms are available online at www.td.edu or www.tinyurl.com/campconroy.
The instructors for the camp are Miho Kinnas, Lisa Anne Cullen, both published authors, and Maura Connelly, photographer and Pat Conroy Literary Center’s communication and events coordinator.
Miho Kinnas is a Japanese-born writer and translator, and the author of the poetry collection Today, Fish Only (Math Paper Press 2015). Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. Miho conducts haiku workshops at many locations including Shanghai International Literary Festival, Pat Conroy Literary Center, local libraries, and schools. She holds an M.F.A. from City University of Hong Kong. She and her husband live on Hilton Head Island.
Lisa Anne Cullen is the author or editor of eight children’s books and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She holds an M.F,A. degree in writing for children and pairs this passion with her love of illustration, art, photography, and screenwriting.
Lisa has won awards for her artistic and written works and finds pure joy in connecting with the natural world. Her author-illustrated folktales Little Orange Honey Hood and Three Wild Pigs are being released through USC Press’s Young Palmetto Books in the spring and fall of 2018.
Maura Connelly is the communications and events coordinator for the Pat Conroy Literary Center. She holds a B.A. in English from Skidmore College and has also studied at UCD in Dublin and SCAD in Savannah. She is a photographer and master naturalist and lives in Beaufort.