• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Center for the Arts is planning an inaugural Music Festival.  “We are putting out a call for musicians, bands and local craftspeople to participate,”  states Bonnie Hargrove, USCB For The Arts Center Director. The event is being held to raise funds to support the USCB Center for the Arts.
Beaufort Homegrown Music Fest will be held at USCB Center For The Arts Campus on Friday June 6th and Saturday, June 7th.
The festival will be held on two stages, one inside and one outside.  The outside stage will be set on the lawn in front of the campus, as will food and beverage vendors and local craftspeople.
Music will be played concurrently on both stages from 1 -6 pm. After 6, the music will be continued on the main stage inside until 10 pm both days of the festival.
Hargrove adds, “In creating this inaugural event, we hope to further our vision of an annual festival for local musician, bands and music lovers alike, to share each other’s appreciation for great music in an accessible and affordable venue.”
“We have some bands secured and are looking for more.  We would love to hear from all of our local bands and musicians and give them an opportunity to be on our stage,” say Tammy Gates with USCB Center For The Arts.
USCB is also looking for sponsorships of this event.  Two of their main sponsors, Eat, Sleep, Play Beaufort and Beaufort Lifestyle have been working with Hargrove and Gates in the organization process.
Gene Brancho of Eat, Sleep, Play Beaufort says, “I am very excited to be a part of this event.  I think this will grow into a huge annual event for Beaufort.”
Beaufort Lifestyle’s Julie Hales adds, “We are thrilled to be asked by USCB to join their team in helping get the word out on this event.  Plans are coming together great.  Both Bonnie and Tammy are very excited and we are happy to be included in that excitement.”
“USCB’s Center for the Arts encourages cultural and economic development within the City and County of Beaufort by hosting art exhibits, theatrical events, concerts, and other performances.”


We are looking to hear from local musicians and bands in Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, and Colleton Counties, in the following genres:
Blues, Country, Jazz, Gospel, Classic Rock, Easy Listening, Folk

USCB Center For The Arts will provide the following : Stage, audio board, 4 mics, speakers and a technician.
Musicians will need to provide: Instruments, cords and amps.
Deadline to apply is
April 15 , 2014
Please email tgates@uscb.edu for application.

Crafts will be for sale at this event as well and craftspeople are invited to apply.
We are accepting applications in the following categories:
Jewelry, Woodworking, Art, Glass, Metal, Sculpture, Pottery and Ceramics, Fiber, Collage.
Deadline to apply is: April 15, 2014
Please email tgates@uscb.edu for application.
Sponsorships for the “Homegrown Music Festival” are available!

We would be delighted to answer any questions so contact us at the above email address or please call: 843-521-4145 for more information.



Zipping above the Charlotte Motorway in the face of oncoming race cars, gently floating above the Beaufort waterways over the marshes and oyster beds, or hovering above a fog-laden, musician filled graveyard long after dark, are images that Stephen Wollwerth captures with his camera attached to a remote controlled helicopter. After watching his videos, everything else looks well, somehow flat.
Stephen had always like model aircraft, but they were an expensive hobby, so he sold them when his children were born and other obligations took precedence. But passions die hard; Stephen explains, “When my son was three, I thought, ‘I want to get back into that, but I want to make money doing it.” He continues, “There is a lot of faith in my background; everything begins with prayer.” Buoyed with that faith, Stephen bought a remote controlled (RC) helicopter kit, which took him 3 to 4 months to build and then he attached a Canon 7D camera to it.  Chris Petry, now Chief of Operations of Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, hired him to create a public service video; the aerial cinematography was a hit, the film won an award and is being used at the University of Arizona in the Department of Environmental Sustainability.
Stephen spent his early years in Syosset, on Long Island, New York. When he was ten, his father died of brain cancer. His mother, Ginnie, married Walter Stooksberry and the family moved to Nebraska for the subsequent years. Immediately after graduating from North Central University in Minnesota, Stephen was invited by the Superintendent of the Singaporean Assemblies of God to teach guitar and music performance in Singapore for six months.  He came back to the United States for a year and a half before moving to China where he did missionary work for two years. Those were auspicious years for him; he met his wife Jenny there, and became fluent in speaking Chinese. His mother’s illness brought him back state-side; eight months later Jenny joined him and they were married in October 2004. Two weeks later they moved to Beaufort.
Of the five boys in the family, John, Brian, Brad and Bruce, Brad was already in Beaufort by way of the military, and older brother John followed Stephen here. At the time, Brad had a tile setting business, and hired his brothers to work with him. John, of course, is a well known photographer in Beaufort and much loved by this magazine. It seems that John and Stephen both inherited love and aptitude for photography from their father, Henry.
One project close to Stephen’s heart was creating a documentary, “Tropical Storm Sendong,” in the aftermath of the typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2011. In March 2012, he took Jenny, and sons Judah and Jacob, to Iligan which is in Northern Mindanao, where Jenny is from and her uncle is a pastor, and on the board of the Nehemiah Foundation. Stephen’s mission was to raise $20,000 for the people who had been made homeless by the floods, who were living in tent cities under the very poorest of conditions. His emotionally wrenching documentary gained momentum on social media and the money was raised.  As a result, the Iligan government  gave an additional $150,000 for houses to be built for 52 families on land that Jenny’s uncle, and the Foundation, had donated.
Innovative in his approach, Stephen says he was the first person in the world to put a Blackmagic Cinema Camera on a high-tech RC rig. When West Coast based Mi6 Films needed an East Coast crew to film aerial shots of NASCAR’s going around the track at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for a segment of a Fox Sports 1st premier commercial “Happy Days Are Here Again” in August 2013, Stephen was just the man for the job. The footage of cars racing at 200 mph, when seen from above, is dizzying. As stated in Visual Imaging News “‘The director, Joseph Kahn, was looking for a really dramatic wipe reveal of the stadium and motor speedway with fans cheering and waving,’ said Stephen Wollwerth. ‘We were also able to capture a long straight high speed shot where we cleared the fence and dropped down to just over the track level as cars were passing underneath.’”
Some of his most creative and as he says, most fun, works are music videos of the local band, Reckless Mercy. “What sets you apart is how creatively you think; everyone can possess equipment, but not everyone possesses creativity. It’s imperative to create imagery the viewer doesn’t expect.” It seems that everyone who sees those videos, falls in love with the band. In one, while they are singing the 1930’s song, Ain’t No Grave,  Stephen is busy filming the different components to make them look seamless.
Opening: full moon nestled in a dark milky way sky shedding just enough light to discreetly outline a church steeple; a lone musician, leaning up against a tree, playing the banjo.
The Mood: creepy yet redemptive; the ominous suggestive shadow of a gravedigger, back-lit fog drenched Spanish moss dripping heavily over gravestones.
Best Shot: a guitar player high up on the branch with the moon spilling through just at the junction where branch meets tree.
Biggest Challenges: creating the right light effects in the darkness, swirling the fog through the graveyard, the effortless look of raising and lowering the coffin by some supernatural force.
As Media Director of Praise Assembly, Stephen’s musical talents come to the forefront.  “I play guitar, I’ve led the music at church every week for the past ten years, leading on guitar while singing. I have a performance degree in classical guitar, but I don’t play much classical any more, so I play electric and acoustic guitar proficiently.
“When I’m not working, I’m usually trying to find a good way to spend time with my kids. I love running; normally I’ll get up and run 8 to 9 miles a few times a week before work. That time I also spend in prayer, I pray at least an hour each morning before I work.”
Currently in the works is the production of a feature film called ‘Revelation, end of days.’ “I had a vision where the Angel of the Lord appears to John in the Book of Revelation. I see this airing on the Bible or the History Channel. We shot for 3 months and produced 3 minutes of film; it’s just too big at the moment.” Currently part of a GoFundMe project, Stephen further explains,  “We’ve used our own funds to begin the project but we realize that in order to keep the entire project at an extremely high quality level we need the help of all who believe that the world needs to see Biblically based movies. As you can imagine, the imagery in the book of Revelation would need world class CG artists to create. Imagery such as a 7 headed 10 horned dragon chasing a woman is not easily filmed, but can be accomplished.  We want to release this movie on a national level only when it’s worthy of theaters.” (Visit www.gofundme/revelation for a film clip.)
Self-admittedly competitive, Stephen holds fast to the cutting edge, which is what puts him at the top. He is also charismatic, visionary, and just this side of brilliant. Those attributes, coupled with his faith, will undoubtedly transport him successfully forward. “My greatest goal, vision, dream, is that wollwerthfilms comes to the level of Paramount Pictures and beyond, ultimately creating many movies and television series.  It seems that in film and TV today, everyone is familiar with evil, destruction and darkness; how bad ‘bad’ can be, and everybody is trying to make another horror/zombie movie. But I’ve not seen much in the media that does justice to exemplifying how good ‘good’ can be. I believe it takes far more creativity to convey the latter because it’s so much deeper and multifaceted. Evil can be described in obvious terms, but good is best described as a mystery unfolding.”

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/WollwerthFilms and/or www.wollwerthfilms.com



urprisingly enough, for a reasonably small town, Beaufort has a well kept secret. From the 12th to the 16th of February is the 8th Annual Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF), held in the University of South Carolina Center for the Arts, with over 31 films shown over a period of three days, and bracketed by two to-die-for parties. But, shhhh… don’t tell because the majority of viewers come from over fifty miles away. This year, five foreign countries are represented – Germany, Australia, China, Canada and the Russian Federation. Ranging from 4 minutes to 98 minutes in length, films cover the following categories: Features, Documentary, Shorts, Animation and Student Film as well as Screenplays, and then there are Awards. Many of the films are South Carolina premieres, two are world premieres, and the student film category is dominated by the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, NC.
The 20th Anniversary of Forrest Gump is this years theme. Prior to that screening on Friday evening, there will be a sixty minute special film, The Magic Behind The Making of Forrest Gump, in which behind the scenes moments and footage will be revealed. See how Forrest was able to run carrying Bubba’s heavy body, find out how a golf course on Fripp Island was created in a war scene; it will make watching the movie (again) a more enlightening experience.
Tireless leaders of BIFF and the Beaufort Film Society (BFS), Ron and Rebecca Tucker work all year long to find the best of the best. Seven years ago, Ron had a vision and his unflagging efforts have brought this event a long way from it’s inception in 2007 with 500 people attending.The films selected are winnowed down from one hundred and fifty entries from all over the world. A select panel of judges watches all those films and chooses them on the following criteria: impact, technology, content and festival fit. Last year about 8,000 people came from all over the place to enjoy our film festival. On Wednesday evening, February 12, the festivities will begin with the Filmmakers Opening Night Reception held at the Old Bay Marketplace Rooftop. Several restaurants provide tasty bites of food with an abundance of wine, beer and water for drinks; the inclusive price is only $25 for BFS members and $35 for non-members. This party is not to be missed and is a wonderful place to meet and chat with the people involved in the film making process.
On Thursday, films are screened from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday evening a Wine and Cheese Reception starts at 7:00 prior to the Screenwriters Workshop and Table Read at 7:30.
Friday presents another day of films starting again at  9 a.m. and culminating with the Special 20th Anniversary Screening of Forrest Gump at 7:00 p.m. followed by Lowcountry Weekly’s Mark Shaffer moderating a discussion about the movie with Film Editor Arthur Schmidt and other special guests.
Saturday begins at 9:00 a.m. with films in the Animation and Student film categories and a special presentation of South Carolina Indie Grants Films. At 1:00 on Saturday afternoon is the Gary Sinise Foundation/Healing Heroes of the Lowcountry Presentation and the wonderful Documentary, AKA Doc Pomus at 2:00. But it’s not over yet – Saturday night’s wrap-up party begins with the Awards Ceremony Cocktail Hour at 7 p.m., catered by Debbi Covington; and the Awards Presentations begin at 8:00. This evening is always peopled with stars, want-to-be stars, and some people who just like to dress up as film stars; you never know who you might see – Scarlett O’Hara, Marilyn Monroe, Hedda Hopper and Clark Gable are just a few of the guests.
The Beaufort International Film Festival website (www.beaufortfilmfestival.com) provides the schedule, synopsis, and trailers of many of the films. But, because many of the trailers are short, perhaps some more in-depth information about a handful of the films will pique your interest:
The One Who Loves You (Feature) had two sold-out screenings at the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival last November. The film’s official website reads, “It’s 1974. Gloria Bethune faces a bleak existence when she retreats to her small hometown after failing as a singer in New York. She falls for a grifter who claims to be the former manager of a famous Country singer. Through this flawed man’s apparent faith in her, Gloria’s passion for singing is reborn, but she is pushed into uncharted territory. Enhancing the 1970′s flavor of “The One Who Loves You” is its roots-inspired Country soundtrack, which features music by the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Phil Lee (“The Mighty King of Love”). The movie also includes a new recording of Lee’s “I’m The Why She’s Gone” by hard-core country maverick and Austin Music Hall of Famer Dale Watson, as well as scorching performances by country Academy of Country Music Awards nominees Jann Browne (“Ain’t No Train”) and Joy Lynn White (“One More Time”).”
Pechorin (Feature) was Winner of Best Feature Film at the 2012 London Film Awards. This description was presented by the County Theater for the New Hope Film Festival – “Based on Mikhail Lermontov’s classic Russian novel, A Hero of Our Time, this arresting film by Moscow-based auteur Khrushch Roman is a smoky, contemplative journey into the human soul. Our hero is dying on a rickety cart. The scene around him: nothing but desert. But the life he has led has been anything but barren. Hasn’t it? A bon vivant and debauche who has lived only for the moment, he is suddenly grappling with questions that long evaded him: what is life all about, and because it only ends in death, are its trials and pleasures even worth the effort? His past indifference to everything except himself, when contrasted with the surrounding, windswept sands that he will join soon enough, make him appear, on reflection, at best a greenhorn and a show-off. Pechorin deems this unacceptable. So, unable to lift his body a single piad, he will instead raise his spirit by choosing the final action of an intelligent, and indeed outstanding, man: to judge oneself without mercy. Roman’s brilliant adaptation is worthy of Lermontov’s original.” In Russian with sub-titles.
Masque (Short) has won too many awards to list here. Here is the synopsis as stated in their press kit. “Colorado McBride is an infamous character who has led a sordid life as a prizefighter, gambler and henchman for a ruthless gang. An undefeated heavyweight champion, McBride is highly recognizable by his hideously scarred face that reflects not only his pugilistic profession but his dark and loathsome past. McBride’s boss informs him that tonight’s championship fight will be his last; “you’re past your prime”, the corrupt boss states, and he demands that McBride throw the fight to “this younger stronger man”. In defiance, McBride refuses to comply; he is drugged between rounds, ruthlessly beaten, and left for dead. Dragged to safety, by his loyal stallion, Colorado is found by a compassionate countrywoman who endeavors to nurture him back to health. As Colorado slowly heals, he quizzically observes the captivating caretaker who has taken him in. He is mesmerized by her beguiling beauty and demeanor. Quietly taking on his share of chores around the farm Colorado develops a doomed attraction to Grace. She shies from Colorado’s romantic advances, as he is the antithesis of all that Grace represents. She confesses to McBride that the man who might win her heart would possess “the face of a saint, a mirror of true love.”
Completely broken, McBride sets out in search of a mysterious Maskmaker, a gifted artisan who he believes can alter his appearance with the hope of winning the woman with whom he has fallen in love.The Maskmaker, who Colorado has brutally harmed in the past, empathetically agrees, and sets about creating a lifelike mask for McBride. With his newfound identity his outward appearance is transformed; on the inside, a change has also begun. The Maskmaker reveals to McBride that the mask cannot only cover his face, but holds a promise to “heal the man” if his desires are true. McBride returns to Grace as Cole, an attractive gentleman poet who asks if he can lodge for a time on her “peaceful and reflective” property so he can put his thoughts into words. Cole assists with the workings of the farm — even putting an old gristmill back into operation. Grace is engaged by the character of this kind and gracious stranger. She becomes enamored by “Cole” and his genuineness. Cole gives the Maskmaker money and requests that, in his behalf, he make financial amends to people he has formerly wronged. Inadvertently, McBride’s former cronies discover he is still alive. The boss and his gang ride into the country and confront a non-resistant “Cole” who they are confident is McBride in disguise. In front of his newfound love the mask is brutally ripped from his face to reveal…”
Moment of Tooth (Animated) was created at the Savannah College of Art and Design as part of a collaborative class. It is an absolutely enchanting story of Maurice, an elephant, while on his journey to becoming a tooth faerie gets his chubbly little elephant self stuck while trying to retrieve a tooth. In the four minute film there are so many elements combined that tell a much bigger story.
AKA Doc Pomus (Documentary) is the story of Jerome Felder. Born in Brooklyn and paralyzed as a child with polio, he was a blues singer who became one of the most brilliant songwriters with over a thousand songs to his credit, such as “This Magic Moment,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and “Viva Las Vegas”. In the film, there is a clip of him explaining his passion, “To be a successful songwriter, you have to write songs, it’s not like you want to write songs or you’ve figured out the best way to make a living. There is some kind of terrible force, and sometimes it’s out of control, and you have to keep writing and writing, even when there’s no meaning to it. You know you’re not going to make any money at it, you know it’s going to take up all your time, and you know nobody’s going to give a damn anyway. But, someday, you’re in the street and somebody is singing a song that you’ve written and you want to go up to that person and say, ‘Hey, I wrote that song,’ but they’d think you’re some kind of nut so you never do it.”
Discovering Dave – Spirit Captured in Clay (Documentary) is set a little closer to home. The film, which took more than two years to complete, was produced by Mark Albertin, of Scrapbook Video Productions, and George Wingard, of the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program. Wingard and his team discovered a shard of a “Dave” vessel in 2006, thus was born the idea for this documentary which traces the story of Edgefield, South Carolina slave potter, David Drake, who used his skills as a craftsman to create beautiful pottery during the turbulent 1800’s. Despite being born into slavery, not only did he produce thousands of pots, he also learned to read and write and several of his jars are inscribed with verses of his poetry. Often signed and dated, his vessels can be seen in several museums.
Tickets can be purchased in several ways – all events passes, day passes, and single film tickets. The best bet is to join the Beaufort Film Society as a member (www.beaufortfilmsociety.org) which will give you discounts on the Film Festival events, discounted ticket prices at the Plaza Stadium Theatre in Beaufort, and a discount for the “Beaufort Movie Tour” as well as other benefits. However you get there, just don’t miss this wonderful event which made MovieMaker Magazine’s 2013 list of the Top 25 Coolest General Film Festivals in the World!

Photography by SUSAN DELOACH

Some people look so familiar but yet you just can’t place them. You know you have seen that face but where? In the case of Jim Troutman you may have seen him in Sleepy Hollow, a Belk’s commercial, Royal Pains, Army Wives, or perhaps in Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies. If you missed those, maybe you saw Jim in CBGB as a New York City Police officer, as a parent on Teen Wolf or as a NASCAR official on an ESPN commercial.
Chances are you have seen Jim Troutman in at least one of his many film and television background roles. Since his retirement from the USMC and after ten years as a defense contractor, Jim has been very busy building a lengthy film resume of work in front of and behind the camera.
Jim is originally from Louisville, Kentucky, but grew up in Falls of Rough, a small lake community on the Rough River, where he says, “I wouldn’t have traded growing up there for anything.” Jim joined the Marines in 1977 and his first duty was at Camp Lejeune, NC where he was a basic radio operator. As he recounts, “One day someone asked me ‘do you want to jump out of an airplane?’ and I said yes.”
“I was in the 2nd Force Recon for three years, went to jump school and Navy diver training, and I was deployed a lot.” He continues, “I did enjoy jumping and doing something different. But I always wanted to learn more and that lead me to electronics school.” Jim spent twenty five years in the Marines, specializing in electronics and communications, and has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.
Jim and his wife Rhonda have called Beaufort home since 1999. Jim says, “The USMC brought me here again almost twenty two years after I went through boot camp on Parris Island. Never would I have thought I would retire here!”

Background Actor

So how does a military electronics and communications expert end up in the film business? Jim says, “Meeting Tom Berenger at the Marine Corps Ball back in 2001 and speaking with him sparked my interest in film. I first did some background work while still in the Marines for a Spielberg project named Semper Fi when they shot the pilot on Parris Island. It never got picked up but it aired as a NBC Sunday night movie. “
Background work, or being a background actor, is industry language for actors who used to be called “extras.” Essentially it is a non-speaking role and the actor appears in the background of a scene. For example, the people seen walking along a busy street scene in a film are all background actors. These roles require a level of skill to portray someone who is not yourself, as well as a professional level of reliability, punctuality and ability to take direction.
Jim continues, “Next I worked in Savannah on The Fugitive with Tim Daly.  But then life and work got in the way of my pursuit of learning more about film. It was only after retiring from the Marines and while working as a defense contractor for ten years in Charleston, South Carolina that I got back into working in television and film. In 2009,  I was offered to work on a film in North Carolina named One Last Sunset which reignited my interest and I have pursued learning about independent filmmaking ever since.”
He continues, “I have worked on shows such as Sleepy Hollow, Army Wives and the new upcoming CBS Drama Reckless which just finished shooting in Charleston and should air this summer.”
About working as background Jim says, “Doing background work, you never know if you’ll make the cut being seen at all, you might even be a blur. But working as background enabled me to gain access to sets and this was the best way to observe many of the ‘behind the camera’ aspects of filmmaking. I was able to gain an understanding of camera angles and lighting without going to film school.”
Jim says watching and learning from directors on the set has been very educational. He says, “I recently attended a great workshop called Directing Actors with director John Gray, writer and director of The Ghost Whisperer and now the new CBS drama Reckless airing this coming summer. While working on Reckless I was able to watch John directing on set.  And I had the pleasure of observing Tyler Perry in action directing Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor while working as background for the production in Atlanta.”

Behind the Camera

As his experience in the film industry increased Jim, found himself turning more and more to the behind the scenes aspect of the productions. He is an Associate Producer for the film Untouched which was filmed in Savannah, which stars Simone Griffeth and Chip Lane. Untouched is the story of a Savannah attorney who must face the darkest event from his past in order to acquit a teenager accused of murder.  It has been submitted to several film festivals and is currently in talks to pitch to the Lifetime Network.
Jim is also a Producer for Ticket to Ride, a short comedy film starring Danny Jones which was screened at the Charleston International Film Festival last year. Interested in learning every job in the business, he has helped crew for film projects in various positions including being the Assistant Camera for Accept Not, a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Signatory film shot in Bluffton which has been submitted to the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York City as well as being Key Grip for a short film Sara Jane which was filmed and edited over one weekend for the Savannah 48 Hour Film project.
“I really love filmmaking because it reminds me of a military operation where planning is key to success.” Jim says, “I have seen great productions and some not so great ones.  There is usually also a lot of camaraderie among the crews working towards a common goal. Everyone has a role and it all comes together.”
Jim has also helped crew  as a Key Grip on shorts for First City Film’s Getting Reel classes which trains actors with the production of a short film which features and showcases the actors, giving them material for a Demo reel.


As a member of the Beaufort Film Society, Jim has supported the Beaufort International Film Festival for years. A self professed “Big Movie Buff,” he has known Ron Tucker since before he retired from the Marines. Some of his favorite BIFF moments include “having the chance to meet Michael O’Keefe in Beaufort back in 2009.It was his first time back in Beaufort since filming The Great Santini which was being filmed while I was in boot camp. And I got to speak to him again at the 2010 BIFF.”
“One of my best moments at the BIFF was in 2012. It was prior to the Awards Night presentations and the lobby had gotten very warm and I decided to step out to get some air…and I ended up having a great conversation with Powers Boothe.  This is one of the reasons I enjoy the BIFF- you never know who you might run in to.”
Jim is also a member of the Carolina Film Alliance and is involved with the South Carolina Film Commission, which he says “give great workshops in many aspects of filmmaking, free of charge. He has also been a Jurist for the 2012 Southern Appalachian International Film Festival (SOAPIFF).
When asked what his favorite movie is, Jim thinks a minute and then replies, “That would be The Shining, as my favorite horror movie but my favorite military movie is Full Metal Jacket, with the actor R. Lee Ermey who played Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. The first time I saw it I indeed knew that this guy had been there and done it so there was very little acting involved.  He knew the real thing and was showing how it was done.”

What’s Next

Always busy, Jim has multiple projects and roles already in the pipeline for this year and will be working on various projects in Wilmington, NC, Atlanta, GA as well as Charlotte, NC and Savannah, GA.
He recently was Richard Dreyfuss ‘s stand in for the film Killing Winston Jones which should be released this year and he will soon be working on the film Midnight Rider, the Gregg Allman biopic, which will be filming in Savannah. In addition to his behind the scenes work Jim continues to audition for commercial as well as print work.
When he is not working, Jim enjoys photography, because as he smiles and says, “After all film is just moving pictures, right?”

For further information:





Story by  CINDY REID    Photography by PAUL NURNBERG

Attention all aspiring filmmakers from age 10 to 100! If you have ever watched a YouTube video and thought “I could do better than that,” or have a photos and video clips you would love to make into a special family keepsake, the St. Helena branch of the Beaufort County Library has everything you need to see your cinematic vision come to life. The Mac Media Production Lab/ Sound Lab is brand new, the equipment is of professional quality, and all of it is available to use at no cost to library patrons.
Melanie Florencio, Computer Lab Instructor at the St. Helena branch, says the goal of having the equipment is “Providing access freely to everyone. In this case, access to graphic design tools, 3D animation and filmmaking hardware and software.”
Any Beaufort County Library card holder may use the equipment at the St. Helena branch, but of course it would be unfamiliar to most so the branch offers classes and has video tutorials available for training. Melanie, who holds a BFA and MA in Sequential Art from SCAD, teaches the filmmaking classes as well as computer instruction at various branches. “People have been using the media equipment for various purposes,” Melanie says, “Our professional audio equipment has been used to record oral history memories and media professionals have used our Mac Media Lab equipment to create local projects, such as self guided tours for Friends of Hunting Island.”
The film making and sound design equipment at the Mac Media Production Lab/Sound Lab includes Panasonic HD flip cameras, Canon Powershot digital cameras, Panasonic production quality camcorders, a boom microphone, wireless microphones, the Green Screen, Final Cut Pro X, and iMovie. They also have tripods for camcorders, mini tripods for digital cameras and SD card readers.
“Whether you are a hobbyist or professional you have the capacity of creating a feature film here at the library.” She continues, “Not only do we have cameras we have Final Cut Pro, an editing software program, and we have Green Screens, which are used to project background images.” The software includes Logic Pro; which provides software instruments, synthesizers, audio effects and recording facilities for music synthesis; and GarageBand, a software application that allows users to create music and podcasts.
And that’s not all- for folks interested in graphic design, animation and game design the equipment also includes: Adobe Photoshop CS6, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Illustrator CS6,Sketchbook Express, Daz 3D Studio, Poser 9,Blender,Unreal Development Kit, iStopMotion, Anime Studio Debut, Swift Publisher and Makerware.
In addition, the St. Helena Library received a $25,000 grant via the Library Sciences and Technology Act funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the State Library of South Carolina, that enabled the library to purchase the following equipment:
Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printers (2)
Makerbot Digitizer Laser Scanner (1)
Little Bits  (Snap Circuitry Kits)
Bristle Bots (Small Robotics Kits)
Arduino Board Kits (Computer programming, robotics)
Raspberry Pi Computers (Computer programming, robotics)

Annual Teen Film Fest

Beaufort County Library organizes an annual Teen Film Fest, held  annually in October, for teens ages 11 to 17 years old. The teens can enter as teams or individuals. There are no restrictions on the film’s story theme, length or budget. The only caveat is that the films cannot use copyright material, including music. Amateur films submitted by teens from around the county compete against each other and the contest screens the finished works at Plaza Stadium Theater in Beaufort and at Park Plaza Cinema on Hilton Head Island.
“It is important to have an opportunity available for young people to express themselves creatively,” said Melanie, the film fest’s organizer. “Beaufort County has been the feature location for many award-winning films and by having the Teen Film Festival, it gives young people a chance to create a fresh new perspective on a familiar place.”
Reaching out to younger patrons is vitally important to the library, in fact the St.Helena branch is the only branch that has a Teen Librarian, Shay Brooks, and boosts a dedicated teen area that includes a teen lounge.

Filmmaking Made Simple

Melanie says that although the equipment may be intimidating at first, there is an established method to break down a good idea into simple steps and get it on film.
Write the script.
Story Board the script. This is a visual breakdown of each scene including camera distance and angles.
Use the camera and record the shots. Patrons can use the library cameras inside the library for interior shooting, and they can shoot exterior scenes on the library grounds while accompanied by a library staff member.
Edit the filmed shots on Final Cut or Imovie.
In addition to filming at the St.Helena branch, movie makers can also use their own filmed video by bringing it in on a flash drive or CD. For those so inclined they can also make a movie using the Stop Motion station, which can do claymation among other neat effects. Melanie says it is not difficult, in fact a “nine year old boy did one!”

Beaufort Film Tradition

Beaufort has been the home to some of those most celebrated films of the past, such as The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides and The Big Chill as well as the children’s series Gullah, Gullah Island, and so it is only fitting that we have this rich treasure trove of filmmaking equipment so readily available to residents who can be inspired by the past and by the unique beauty of our locale to create something brand new.

For further Information:
• Melanie Florencio, Computer Lab Instructor
Office number 843-255-6547 ,
email mflorencio@bcgov.net

• Beaufort County Library, St. Helena Branch
6355 Jonathan Francis Sr Rd
St Helena Island, SC

Programs and classes are listed on the library website www.beaufortcountylibrary.org

“When You See Somet hing, Say Something”

Story by  JULIE HALES    Photography by SUSAN DELOACH

When I walked into the Arts Center at Beaufort High School, I was a bit taken aback. What I saw, and experienced, was far from what I had anticipated.
I had been approached by a parent of one of the students on the Drama Team to write a story about an anti-bullying play the high school students were performing. I had heard some other buzz around town about it as well and thought, ‘What a better time to do this…in our Film Festival Issue.’
I contacted the Drama Teacher at Beaufort High School, LaRaine Fess, and made arrangements with her for an interview and photos. Mrs. Fess seemed super excited for the opportunity and quickly arranged for some of the students to be present for the interview and to perform scenes of the play for our photographer to capture.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, my photographer, Susan DeLoach and myself walked into the theater where Mrs. Fess and the kids were anxiously waiting. What unfolded next was something I will soon not forget.
When entering, the first thought in my mind was ‘Oh my, typical teenagers, running around, playing, exchanging gossip’…you know the drill. But, as introductions were made, it was certainly proven to be much different than that.
These kids possess something far greater.  It is quite evident from the first moment you meet them there is much more to these guys than being a typical teenager.  There is talent, camaraderie, a rare sense of family.
Getting down to business, Mrs. Fess and I started the interview.  The play, When You See Something, Say Something, is an anti-bullying play performed by the students.  But this play has a special meaning to many, and especially to LaRaine Fess.
Mrs. Fess’ eight year old son was bullied.  Her child was a third grader at Lady’s Island Elementary School. He was on the bus on his way home from school one day.  He was pushed accidentally into the aisle and quickly took a seat, not wanting to get in trouble for being in the aisle.  An eighth grade student approached him and threatened to punch him in the face if he didn’t move out of her seat. The young boy was scared and started crying, leaving the seat to the much older student.
This young boy did not tell his parents about the incident.  He was afraid. Mrs. Fess found out what had happened from the mother of one of her son’s friends who had witnessed the encounter.
LaRaine Fess was astonished.  Her son had been bullied.  “I was blindsided.  Who would bully my kid? He is confident, well liked, he has performed on stage….how did this happen,” Mrs. Fess shared with me.  “I didn’t find out about this for 2 weeks after it happened.  My son was afraid to tell me, knowing that I would do something about it.  He thought I would embarrass him and cause more problems with the kids and they would tease him.”
Mrs. Fess started doing research on bullying and her findings were not pleasant.  Bullying has become a major issue in our school systems today.
She went to her students one day and told them of her son’s experience. She asked them if they had ever had similar situations.  To her surprise, many of her students spoke up and told her about their own experiences of being bullied.  Those who had not been bullied had witnessed friends and fellow classmates being bullied.  They were all in agreement that bullying was a problem that something needed to be done about.
One of her seniors at the time suggested they write a play about it.  Other kids quickly agreed.  They joined together and started putting skits and music together. Mrs. Fess says, “I was looking for a way to help my son and a way for me to deal with what had happened to him.  I didn’t expect these students to be my answer.”
The play, When You See Something, Say Something, has gained quite a bit of notoriety.  These students have performed this anti-bullying play all over the low country and as far away  as Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“We are a touring show.  We have performed in many of the local schools from here to Hilton Head, for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, for the Rotary Club of the Low Country and in Myrtle Beach.  We will be heading to Columbia on February 6th to perform for Governor Haley and we have been asked to perform at a Rotary Convention in Baltimore, Maryland on Mother’s Day Weekend.  We had no idea this would grow to this magnitude,” states Mrs. Fess.
Through this interview process, there were moments we would stop talking and the students would perform different skits form the play for Susan to capture.  From the pictures on these pages, I am sure you can envision the feelings as I had.
These students were captivating.  Not only in their performance, but in the way they addressed me afterwards.  These guys were enthusiastic, excited and showed a true passion for what this play means to them. Some of them shared their own stories of being bullied with me. They shared their hopes, their dreams and their aspirations for the future.
One of the students, Meg Lacombe, a senior at BHS is one of the original cast members of the play. She, herself, was bullied.  Meg shares with me, “I went to a very small school where both my parents were teachers.  There was no policy on bullying. I was picked on all the time for just not being the ‘norm.’ Sometimes it would happen in front of teachers who just ignored it. It got to the point that I just stopped talking in class and stopped talking to my parents. I just wanted it to stop.”  Meg has learned how to stand up for herself and take control. She wants the bullying to stop in the schools.  She feels those being bullied get very depressed and sometimes suicidal.  This is a problem she wants to see go away.
Meg adds, ”Bullying doesn’t end when the last bell rings.  It goes home with you on the internet.  It is on Facebook, Twitter and all other social media….it’s called cyber bullying.  A student can be bullied all day at school and still go home and see the hate on their computers.”
Russel Perry, another senior in the play, says, “I have been bullied since I was in the 6th grade.  It started small but just grew.  I started high school in hopes it would get better, but it didn’t.  I have been beat up, pushed into lockers, you name it.  I am actually from New Jersey and things were bad there.  We moved here in 2011 in hopes of a new start.  But the bullying didn’t stop. In fact, it got worse.”  Russel has already had to transfer out of one area school to BHS.  “I transferred to BHS for my senior year.  Things are much better here.  I am not bullied here.  Mrs. Fess and all of the drama students welcomed me into the drama program.  Being involved in this class has helped me build my self-esteem,” adds Russel.
At this point, the kids are sitting around me sharing stories.  It is enlightening to watch them talk about the play and about their own experiences. It is very obvious from this interaction, these kids admire and respect their teacher, and each other. One of the students, Tiffany Jackson, said, ”We are like one large family, everyone loves everybody. When things get stressful and busy, we get rude and nasty…..just like a big family.”
As I am getting ready to ‘wrap things up,’ I ask a big question.  “What do you kids want to do when you leave high school.  Do you plan on going to college to pursue a degree in theater?”
The answers started coming at me like bullets being fired from a machine gun. I heard answers like, “I want to be in tech theater,” “I amn going to do sound, lighting, and staging.” And “”I want to perform.”
At this moment, it is obvious the love these kids have for the stage, but more obvious the love they have for their teacher, LaRaine Fess.  The smiles on their faces as they share stories about her will light up the entire theater.
Lyz Betz, also a senior, says, “I want to be a ‘Little Fess,’ I want to teach.” Then adds student Christian Osborne, “I want to be a ‘little man Fess.’” The other kids smile and laugh with approval.
LaRaine Fess just sheepishly smiles at this.  You can tell she loves what she does and she loves these students.  A bad incident with her own child turned into something far greater than she ever imagined……a chance to help other students overcome this growing problem.  Her wish to make a difference about bullying in our school systems has come to life on a stage at Beaufort High school.

About LaRaine Fess:

Fess is a graduate of Columbia College.  She has a BA in Elementary Education and Theater/Speech Communication.  She was born and raised in Columbia, SC and moved to Beaufort in 2001. She has been teaching Theater since 1992. Her husband, David Fess, teaches Biology and coaches football at Battery Creek High School.  They have four children: Elijah (10), Christian (7), Matthias (5), and Sophia (3).

Upcoming Performances at Beaufort High School:

The Whiz
March 13, 14,15
March 20,21,22
All performances start at 7:00pm in the Arts Center at BHS

The purpose for which Penn School was founded—education—is being celebrated at this year’s Penn Center 1862 Circle Gala.  Through its choice of inductees into the 1862 Circle, Penn Center has affirmed the value it places on education, from its inception as the first school for freedman in the region to the present mission as a center for cultural and historical preservation.
Marian Wright Edelman, President and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund, will deliver the Keynote Address after her induction into the Circle.  A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi, and worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as counsel for his Poor People’s Campaign.  She then founded the Children’s Defense Fund which for forty years has challenged the United States to improve policies and programs for children.
The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, and eight other books, Marian Wright Edelman is also the winner of many awards for her work, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings.  In 2000, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Herman Gaither has served this community for 45 years as an educator and administrator.  After graduating from Claflin College in Orangeburg, S.C., with a Bachelor of Science degree, and earning a Master’s degree in Mathematics from Reed College in Oregon, he began teaching.  His two decades of experience in the classroom led him into administration, where he worked as Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Administration in Beaufort County Schools (1990-1995, and as Superintendent (1995-2005).
His distinguished career was recognized as he was cited by South Carolina Gov. Hodges for his innovative leadership, named a Congressional Black Caucus Distinguished Educator in 2002, and selected as the South Carolina Superintendent of the Year in 2005.  Consistent with his desire always to give back to his community, Mr. Gaither has held numerous positions on local executive boards and committees, including the Penn Center Board of Trustees, while writing a regular column on educational, social and political issues for the Gullah Sentinel Newspaper.
Brick Baptist Church, as site of first Penn School classes in 1862, occupies a unique place in the history of Penn School and the education of a nation of freedmen.  It was built in 1855 by enslaved Africans and, after white plantation owners left St. Helena Island when Union forces occupied the region, the church was turned over to the Black congregants left behind.
When Penn School founders Laura Towne and Ellen Murray moved their teaching to Brick Church, an association began that continues today.  They began special classes for the Deacons and church leaders in Bible study, public speaking, English and spelling in 1865, and in 1883, Ms. Murray started the first Sunday school classes on the islands.
Brick Baptist Church and Penn School, now Penn Center, share 150 years of challenges and successes.  In 1974, Brick was designated as part of the National Historic Landmark District that      is the Penn campus.
Once again, Penn Center is honoring individuals In Memoriam who have made significant contributions.
Harriet Keyserling served on the Board of Directors from 1992-1995, and on the Board of Trustees from 1992 to 1998.  She also was elected to represent the Beaufort district in the S.C. House of Representatives for sixteen years from 1977-1993.  In her elected positions and in her work with Penn Center, Harriet Keyserling was a persistent and effective advocate for equal educational opportunity for all children.  Dr. Herbert Keyserling served as a Navy doctor during World War II and returned to Beaufort to open a distinguished fifty year career in general practice, building long associations with the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services, the Lowcountry Medical Association, and the TB Association, while serving as chief of staff of Beaufort Memorial Hospital.  He served on the board at Penn Center during the 1960s.
Agnes C. Sherman was known as “Keeper of the Culture.”  Her determination to improve the quality of life for St. Helena citizens led her to become the first woman elected to public office—the County Board of Education.   She worked for employment opportunities for African Americans, serving as Secretary to the local NAACP branch for two decades.  When her talents and energies turned to Penn Center, she developed efforts to create and maintain the York W. Bailey Museum, revived the monthly Community Sings, and worked on the first Heritage Days Celebration committee.  Her activism and concern for cultural preservation well-represented the values of the community she served.
The Penn Center located on St. Helena Island, is in its third and final commemoration year, “Celebrating 150 Years of Education, Leadership and Service” and the 1862 Circle Gala is its major fundraiser held annually.  The 1862 Circle, first established in 2003, recognizes leaders who embody the spirit of Penn Center and who serve as national advocates for the enduring history, arts and culture of the Sea Islands.  The name celebrates the founding of Penn School, now Penn Center, in 1862.  Some notable 1862 Circle Members from South Carolina are:         Dr. Emory S. Campbell of Hilton Head Island, James Denmark of Yemassee, Philip Simmons of Charleston, Congressman James E. Clyburn of Sumter, Jonathan Green of Gardens Corner, Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings of Charleston, Thomas C. Barnwell, Jr. of Hilton Head Island, Mary Inabinett Mack of St. Helena Island, Roland J. Gardner of St. Helena Island, Louis O. Dore of Beaufort, Congressman Robert Smalls of Beaufort and Ronald Daise of St. Helena Island.
Penn Center invites you to the eleventh 1862 Circle Gala to be held on Saturday, April 26, 2014.  The elegant affair will be held at the Sonesta Resort on Hilton Head Island beginning at 6:00 p.m. with a reception and silent auction followed by dinner, induction ceremony and live auction at 7:00 p.m.  For more information on the 1862 Circle Gala, sponsorships opportunities and to make reservations, contact Penn Center (843) 838-2432 or info@penncenter.com.

Story by MARY ELLEN THOMPSON  •   Photography by SUSAN DELOACH


Mike is the Three Musketeers rolled into one. He’s spent his life celebrating, cherishing, promoting and protecting Beaufort. He has never wavered from this mission and it’s all been finessed with charm, loyalty and the utmost sincerity.”                                                     -Marilee Sartori-

Mike’s mother, Lila Claire Haigh McFee, was born in Beaufort. She met his dad, Charles Andrew McFee, called Mac, when he was working at the Naval Hospital and she was working for the Red Cross. One of six children, spanning an age gap of thirteen years, Mike was born at The Naval Hospital in Beaufort but lived all over the East Coast during the times the family followed his father’s career in the Naval Hospital Medical Service Corps. Beaufort was always home port and the McFees kept a house here while they were living in places like Portsmouth NH, Kittery ME, Newport RI, Jacksonville FL, Jacksonville NC, East Greenwich RI, Bethesda MD, Patuxent River MD and Woodbridge VA. Mike started school in Rhode Island, but when his dad was stationed in Viet Nam, the family moved back to Beaufort for 14 months and he attended Beaufort Elementary and Mossy Oaks Elementary. They came back again when Mike was in the tenth grade and he graduated from Beaufort High, like his mother and grandmother before him.
What does he remember about all those places and moves? He remembers sailing extensively on a 44-foot Naval Academy Yawl when they lived in Maryland because his mother loved to sail. He remembers going to three schools in one year when they lived in Virginia. He remembers that with six children in the family that they were all put into service driving the younger ones to band practice, sports, school and other activities. Some of his best memories are of coming back to Beaufort and Hunting Island for a period of time every summer. His father’s family is from Asheville, NC, so trips there were interspersed with travel to Europe and across America. “We saw a lot of people and learned about so many cultures, I still have friends around the world. But the beauty of growing up in a small town, even though we traveled, was that if you did something on Bay Street, your mom knew about it before you got home!”
After graduating from Beaufort High, where he played “at” tennis, sang in the chorus, managed the girls basketball team, was in the student government and a member of various clubs and organizations, Mike went to the University of South Carolina. His original intention was to study medicine and hospital administration and follow in his father’s footsteps. But when seven more years of education loomed before him, he changed his major to business and biology. After graduation, he accepted a job in the trust department at the Bank of Beaufort. He stayed with the bank through a series of mergers and then joined Carolina Management Company where he was a project co-ordinator and property manager. Mike has been a realtor since 1981 and a broker since 1983. In the early 1990’s, he left Carolina Management and joined with Pat Harvey-Palmer at Hometown Realty, which is where he still is today.
A past President of the Chamber of Commerce, Mike also served on several Blue Ribbons panels, Tourism Management Advisory and the Waterways Commissions. “I served on those committees and commissions and saw what was happening, and more – what wasn’t happening. It whet my appetite for politics. I had uncles who were County Administrator, City Administrator and Superintendent of Roads and Bridges. I grew up hearing their stories of county and city government.”
In 2008, Mike was first elected to City Council. “I wanted to contribute something to the community. I am old fashioned, I think of it as public service. I’ve always been very honored at the trust the citizens have given me.” Mike may feel honored at the trust awarded him, but he has earned every bit of it. He has served on the boards of the United Way, USC Small Business Development Center, Alzheimer’s Association, American Red Cross and Caroline Hospice.
He has a particular affection for his participation with the South Carolina Service Council for the American Red Cross. “My aunt traveled with the Red Cross, and my mother was involved as well. Part of it was the military influence but also all the things the Red Cross does. I have worked with them since I was 17 on the State Service Council, the State Consortium, and as a member of the Clara Barton Society.”
The Carteret Methodist Church is also important to Mike in a variety of ways, “Several of the Circles and Societies are named for family members, everyone in my family was baptized there including my mother and grandmother. My former wife, Lisa, and I were married in that church as well as two of my siblings. I’m in the Chancel choir, and have served on the Pastor Parish Relations Committee and the Worship Committee.”
In his free time, if you can imagine from all the above commitments that he actually has any free time, Mike likes to play tennis, he loves boating and he walks 4 1/2 miles every morning with lifelong friend, Marie Radford Lewis. Whenever possible, he joins his sister’s chorale (Mesilla Valley Chorale, Las Crusas NM) which travels to France for the Fête de la Musique. “With lots of brushing up” he says, “I am conversant in French.”  Living on the water, Mike likes to swim in the river, he loves to garden and has created a beautiful memorial garden for his sister, Trish, filled with the gardenias she so loved. Cooking is one of his fortés, and Mike will give you a good debate on the virtues of either Gouda or feta in a tomato pie recipe. Entertaining is another; he’s adroit at popping a champagne cork and as an accomplished pianist, it isn’t unusual for Mike to sit down at his piano and encourage friends to sing with him as he plays. He recently performed in Handel’s Messiah, was co-music director for that wonderful production 8 Track – the Music of the 70’s, and will be assistant music director for the Honkey Tonk Angel Holiday Spectacular this December, all performed at USCB Center for the Arts.
A much anticipated highlight of his year is the annual family reunion. “We don’t go where anyone lives. All 26 of us go somewhere for a long weekend; we’ve taken cruises, commandeered entire B&B’s across America, and are planning a trip to Ireland and Scotland in 2015.” The siblings consist of Mike’s brothers Richard, Matthew and Robert, and his sister Cathy, who live all over the country; dad Mac lives in Beaufort with his wife, Joanne. Mike says there is music wherever they go. “We’re Scotch-Irish, we all sing. The family will sing at the drop of a hat. We had a reunion in Cheyenne and we went to a piano bar one evening. The piano player didn’t show up that night so we took over. We were having such a grand time that the other patrons put money in the tip jar on the piano and we started playing requests! We leave a mark everywhere we go!”
The entire family is talented. Mac McFee is an avid hunter and fisherman who designs and ties his own flies. Mike says that when his uncle Joe comes to visit his dad, there are fish stories flying everywhere. His dad also likes to garden and grow pecans; his lesser talent these days is climbing up ladders to pick said pecans. Joanne was a teacher and is a very talented seamstress, quilter and artist. Mike says she is also an exceptional baker. Godmother Chloe Martin Pinckney, is Mike’s dear friend, neighbor and was his surrogate mother when his own beloved mother died of cancer thirty years ago.
Art, and exceptional pieces of hand crafted furniture made for him by godfather Roger Pinckney, fill his house. Mike’s dining room table was crafted from white cherry grown on his aunt and uncle’s property. The huntboard in the dining room was made especially for that room, as well as a wonderful coffee table. An eclectic collector, his home is filled with all sorts of unusual items including works by local artists and friends such as Dusty Connor, Marilee Sartori, Sally McTeer Chaplin, Gilbert Maggioni and Joanne McFee.
With his background and variety of interests extending as far as they do wide, it’s difficult to imagine that he can do all these things, do them all well, and still have time to be a beloved friend to so many. There is a simple truth about Mike McFee: he truly is a prince among men.

Story by  CINDY REID
Photography by SUSAN DELOACH


What’s said about firefighters is that they are the ones rushing into the burning building while everyone else is running out. It can be said that Ross Vezin not only runs into burning buildings if need be, he rushes to help wherever he sees a need. Ross has been a City of Beaufort firefighter since 2008, and since then, he has devoted much of his free time to his community, often working with children in need.
Born and raised in Jupiter, Florida, Ross decided to become a firefighter while in high school. As Ross recounts,” I had a role model and mentor in Capt. Jim Dillon of Miramar Fire and Rescue. His son, David, and I were best friends. Tragically  Capt. Dillon was killed in the line of duty in 2006 but his life and service inspired me to follow in his footsteps and do what he did for his community.”
Directly after high school, Ross attended Fire Academy in Florida and upon graduation started applying for jobs all over the southeast. He says, “The City of Beaufort contacted me and I came up for a physical agility test and interview process. They called me a couple of weeks later and offered me the job, so I moved here in June 2008.” When asked what appealed to him about Beaufort, Ross was quick to smile and say, “The people! Being new, there was always somebody there to ask for help, somebody to tell you the best things to see, the best places to eat, how to get around.”  Looking around the waterfront park, Ross added, “And the quaintness, having grown up in a city environment I had never lived where there was a real downtown environment.”
It wasn’t long after Ross was settled into his new job before he started looking for ways to give back to his new community. “Camp Can Do” was just the start.

Camp Can Do

Located outside Kiawah Island, “The purpose of Camp Can Do is to provide a fun, residential camping experience for children, ages six to seventeen that have been treated for a serious burn injury.” (www.scburnedchildrensfund.org/camp) Ross has been involved with Camp Can Do as a camp counselor for four years and as a member of the planning committee for the past two.
Ross says, “We have activities for every age, from trips to the amusement park for the older kids to ice cream socials for the younger children. It is a sleepover camp and we have kids who will need dressings changed, physical therapy and other medical needs and we provide all of that so they can really have a great camp experience.” He says five to six children from Beaufort county regularly attend the camp and “There is no better feeling than to see a kid catch their first fish, it just makes you feel so good!” Judging by the big grin on Ross’s face when he talks about camp, it’s easy to see how much joy he gets from helping the children experience the simple joys of childhood.
Funded by the Burned Childrens Fund and MUSC, Ross is one of ten on the planning committee that helps raise money and get the camp ready (it takes place the end June and beginning of  July). “Being on the planning committee helps me get more involved in the camp and learn how it actually runs,” says Ross. The money raised goes towards providing for the children’s needs for everything from activities to sunscreen.

Make a Wish

Ross says he was “Just looking for more ways to give back to the community and saw something on the Make a Wish organization and immediately got involved by volunteering my time.” The goal of the organization is clear- “Our mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.” (http://sc.wish.org/)
For the last two years, Ross has been one of the three Make a Wish SC Regional Coordinators for the Beaufort/Jasper/Hampton area. “The first line office is in Charleston and we coordinate with the volunteers in our area, and provide training and support.” He says as many as ten children a year from this area are granted wishes from the foundation. “Although the number one wish is a trip to Disneyworld, anything is possible!” he says.

MDA Summer Camp

The Muscular Dystrophy Association and firefighters are closely linked. In fact, the International Association of Firefighters is the largest sponsor of the MDA. Most people may not know that the money firefighters are collecting with “the boot” is being donated to the MDA. Affected children are able to attend MDA camps located throughout the country. “MDA camp is a magical place offering a wide range of activities specially designed for youngsters who have neuromuscular disease and the related mobility challenges. At MDA camp, barriers simply don’t exist and a child with a disability can just be a child among friends.” http://mda.org/
Extending his camp expertise, Ross has been volunteering as a camp counselor at the NC MDA camp for the past three years. He says, “I volunteer at the camp in Stokesdale, NC because the MDA camp in SC and Camp Can Do are at the same time. We are there a week, “he says, “kids come from all over to attend the camp.”
When asked what drives him to spend so much of his time volunteering for children’s causes, Ross thinks for a moment and answers, “I have always had a passion for kids, and although we live such busy lives, I try to find ways to make sure kids have the best days, and the best years of their lives.”

Always Learning

Having just completed his Master’s degree, Ross is now attending the South Carolina State Firefighters Association’s Leadership Institute as one of nine candidates selected from the entire state. Being part of that keeps him busy as he says, “We have monthly meetings all over the state, from Charleston to Greenville and discuss topics that include Special Purpose Districts, Labor Relations, General Fire Service History, Firemen’s Insurance and Inspection Fund, Fire Service Legals and Liability and State Response Assets.”
He is also a member of the Exchange Club of Beaufort, and was the Exchange Club Beaufort Firefighter of the Year in 2011.  In addition, he was the 2009 City of Beaufort Career Firefighter of the Year and has been recognized by the Medical University of SC for involvement in the “Buddy Program” for burned children.

Family Life

Besides being a full time firefighter, Ross also works as an Emergency Medical Technician for a local medical transport company, which is how he met his fiancée Shannon Harmon. As he tells it, “In January of 2010, I was on a routine call waiting for a patient at a doctor’s office and I was talking to the patients and the staff, and Tammy Harmon said ‘You should meet my daughter sometime.” She showed me a picture, and I gave her my number and said if your daughter would like to get together have her call me.” Typical of today’s courtship, they texted back and forth for a month, and then Ross says, “I said I was going out of town for a birthday party and would like to take to you out to dinner when I get back. The rest is history. I knew she was the one. Shannon has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever met.” Two years ago, the couple bought a house they share with their yellow lab Juno, and their wedding will be in April of 2014. A Beaufort native, Shannon recently earned her Masters Degree as well and is a Sherriff’s technician at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
Ross’s parents still reside in Jupiter, Florida where his father Tom is a Federal Investigator for the Federal Public Defender’s office, and his mother, Kathy, recently retired as a pharmaceutical rep for Pfizer. His brother Chad lives in Philadelphia, PA where he is the Regional Business Director for Bausch and Lomb. Ross says, “My folks love coming up to Beaufort, they have been here many times.” Ross says Beaufort reminds him of his Florida roots. “There is always something to do because it is always warm, and  Jupiter is on the water so I grew up boating and fishing” he says, “which are things I love doing here in Beaufort. Shannon and I spend a lot of time with family, we do a lot with them. And sometimes we just relax!”
We can’t think of anyone who deserves a relaxing day more than this big hearted, hard working young man. Beaufort is lucky to call him one of our own.

Story by  JULIE HALES    Photography by SUSAN DELOACH

The full-stage musical, “Gullah Kinfolk Christmas Wish” has become a holiday favorite. There is no way one cannot be in the Christmas spirit after watching this performance.
This musical theatre presentation is intended for people of all ages and races who want to catch the holiday spirit.  It will be held on Friday, December 6th at 7:00 p.m. at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort’s Performing Arts Center.
The production stars Aunt Pearlie Sue, nationally acclaimed storyteller and her Gullah Kinfolk, a professional singing cast who bring history alive on stage. This musical performance depicts the last Christmas before the Civil War. It’s an historical account of December of 1860 and South Carolina has just seceded from the Union. The War of Freedom is the talk by both servant and master. The audience will get a glimpse into the “Quarters” and “Big House.”
Through soul-stirring, foot-stopping singing and dancing, the audience is drawn into the excitement of the Yuletide season on a South Carolina Sea Island plantation. The show has become very popular with travelers near and far who wish to experience the spirit of the season. People have traveled from as far as London, England to see this performance.
The night will start with a “Taste of Gullah” as the doors open around 6:45pm.  There will be tables of food from different Gullah caterers on hand to choose from.  The assortment will be anything from chicken to rice dishes to collard greens and gumbo…..along with some mouth-watering pies and cakes…..anything you would find on a Gullah Christmas dinner table.
There will also be a market place where local artisans will be showcasing their wares.  Renowned Gullah artists will be exhibiting unique works of art. The market place will feature paintings, jewelry, baskets and other items, all available at special Christmas pricing. If you are looking for that special gift, this is the place to look.
At 8:15pm, the curtains go up and the show begins!  See history come alive on stage.  Experience the excitement of what was going on at Christmas time on the plantations of the Low Country.
Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Admission is $10 for those aged 7 to 17. Ticket prices include the “ Taste of Gullah” Soul Food Buffet and the “Da’ Market Place” Artists Showcase.
For reservations and information on hotel and meal packages, contact the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce at (843) 986-1102 or www.bcbcc.org  or the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce at (843)525-8500 or www.beaufortchamber.org.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Community Circle of Hope Coalition’s Youth Program.
The performance lifts off the holidays in historic downtown Beaufort in conjunction with other annual events, including the popular Night on the Town from 6 to 9 p.m. December 6th, Light up the Night from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. December  7th and Beaufort’s annual Christmas parade at 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 8th. For more information on these events, contact www.downtownbeaufort.com.



Meet Aunt Pearlie Sue!

Aunt Pearlie Sue is the creation of Anita Singleton-Prather, a native of the Sea Islands in Beaufort, South Carolina. Based on her grandmother, Aunt Pearlie Sue’s character has entertained audiences with Gullah-flavored folktales for over 20 years from the schoolhouse to the White House.
In addition to being a renowned master storyteller, Prather is an educator, historian, business woman, writer, singer, actress and director/producer. She is the founder and artistic director of the musical performance group the Gullah Kinfolk. As a storyteller and singer, Prather has performed at many festivals, the Beaufort Gullah Festival, Penn Heritage Days Festival, Woodlands Festival and Spoleto USA international arts festival in Charleston, SC just to name a few . Her original movie, My Man Done Wrong, has been a part of the film festival circuit to include the Jamerican Film Festival in Kingston, Jamaica; Black Hollywood and San Francisco Film Festivals in California. She has appeared in the Hollywood film Forrest Gump and also on television Food Network Channel Holiday special, Christmas Across America, hosted by Rachel Ray.
In addition to her participation in many SCETV educational documentaries, Prather’s one-woman show, Tales from the Land of Gullah, has been broadcast on PBS nationwide and is also the title of her award-winning DVD and a traveling museum exhibit created around her animated character. This exhibit originated at the Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas in 2007 and has toured for three years throughout the United States and Canada in the top nine children’s museum. It was estimated that at least a million young people were introduced to the Gullah culture through this interactive exhibit. She is also co-producer, writer and featured storyteller on three Gullah CD’s and six DVD’s. She has partnered with South Carolina Educational Television to
create an interactive website on their children’s Knowitall.org/gullahnet that also features her animated character.
Prather, a mother of 3 and grandmother of 7, is also the curriculum coordinator for the Education of Gullah Culture through the Arts in the Beaufort County School District. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Howard University and a master’s + 30 degree in education from the University of South Carolina. She is a member of New Covenant Fellowship International Ministries of Beaufort where she has been ordained as a licensed minister of the Gospel. She serves as worship leader and trustee board member.
Through her Gullah heritage, Prather continues to be a “keeper of the culture,” creatively entertaining and educating audiences around the world of all ages and nationalities about the rich unique African experience in America.