• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

story by Lane Leopard   photos by Paul Nurnberg

“At bottom, robotics is about us. It is the discipline of emulating our lives, of wondering how we work.” 

– Rod Grupen

Big things are happening at Lady’s Island Middle school, with the help of their robotics team and teacher Mike Rentz. Last season, the robotics team, “The Janitors,” were the first robotics team from Beaufort County to compete in the VEX VRC World Robotics Championship.  They were one of 160 middle schools from around the world invited to the event.

     Engineering and Computer Science teacher, Mike Rentz, heads up the robotics program at Lady’s Island Middle. His undergraduate is from the US Naval Academy and his MBA is from Boston University. Rentz is  a Master Teacher for the for ‘Project Lead the Way,’ a national STEM curriculum and has been teaching PLTW’s Gateway Program at Lady’s Island for 8 years.

     When asked what sparked his interest in robotics and starting the team at the Lady’s Island Middle School, he replied, “One of the biggest issues our students face, and educators face, is the lack of real world problem solving in regular school curriculum.  Our students are taught, in educational silos, the 4 core subjects but very rarely get an opportunity to use those skills in solving real world problems.  I see robotics as a way to bring in real world problem solving in a competitive educational environment that is student centered.  Since our first VEX competition, I’ve been hooked.  When you attend a VEX tournament, no one ever leaves wondering how we can get fewer students involved.”

      Currently Rentz coaches three VEX Robotics teams at Lady’s Island Middle. Team “Legends” is five eighth graders, James Dennison, Jacob Krebs, Tate Shetzer, Jonah Forrestall and James Stone. Aready winning two Excellence Awards and a Tournament Championship, they have qualified for the US Open and for the Palmetto State Championship.

     Team “Metalmorphasis” is five seventh graders. “Metalmorphasis” has won a Robot Skills Challenge Award and an Excellence Award, as well as qualifying for the US Open and for the Palmetto State Championship. They are Michael Dennison, Carson Geier, Tyson Adkins, Blake Burns and Riley Kelly.

     And robotics is not just for the boys, “The Mighty Pushers” is Lady’s Island Middle Schools all girl team. The three seventh graders competing are Abigail Henry, Lily Ellis and Mackenzie McMahon.

     Robotics isn’t just about the fun and games. The robotics program helps create young adults who represent themselves well. The students apply the mechanical and computer science problem solving techniques to real world problems.

     “I think, in Beaufort, that there is the misconception that we don’t create students who can operate in a high tech environment.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Spending 5 minutes with a robotics team will change that perception” Rentz says.

     Building a functioning robot is no easy task. Each robot the teams build has to be able to move, have a lift system, and have the ability to interact with scoring objects. Then every robot has to be programmed to be controlled. The students create their codes from scratch based on what they want the robot to do. The robots have to be able to perform in two part matches, an “autonomous period,” and a driver controlled period.

     Every robot at Lady Island’s Middle School is completely designed and built by the students. Mr. Rentz’s role is that of an advisor, there to assist with technicalities, and as a sound board for ideas. The students spend hours researching before ever starting the building process. They are constantly testing and finding solutions, working to improve the robots.

     For now, Mr. Rentz volunteers his time spent with the team, which limits the amount of students that can participate. With Beaufort lacking major engineering or tech firms, finding the business partners to team up with and sponsor the team can be tough. They compete from teams that are in places like Charleston, Greenville and Columbia, which are funded at a much higher level than the Lady’s Island Middle School team. They haven’t let that slow them down yet.

     The team will be hosting a large tournament at Lady’s Island Middle School in January with close to 50 robotics teams from across the state competing.  Between now and then, they will continue to improve their robots, practice, and compete in other robotics events.

     Every competition the team faces is an opportunity to improve their robots, and reach the ultimate goal of qualifying for the VEX World Championships that will take place in April.  The State Tournament is in March and will give the three teams a chance to qualify for VEX Worlds. The season ends in April with a trip to Iowa for the CREATE US Open VEX Robotics Championship and hopefully a return trip VEX Worlds.

      If you have interest in learning more about robotics at Lady’s Island and how you can be involved, Rentz invites you to come and visit the school and see the students.

Team Legends and Team Metalmophasis are qualified for the

US Robotics Open

These young students are seeking sponsors to help pay their travel expenses to Iowa for this competition.  Anyone interested in sponsoring these young men should contact Mike Rentz at Lady’s Island Middle School. (843)322-3100 or michael.rentz@beaufort.k12.sc.us

Story by Emily Burgess

United Way of the Lowcountry is busy making spirits bright this holiday season through their Operation Holiday Heroes program that serves to ensure children in Beaufort and Jasper Counties receive food and gifts this Christmas.

     Operation Holiday Heroes is a collaborative program in which the United Way partners with the Toys for Tots Foundation, The Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet, Deep Well Project, Bluffton Self Help, The Salvation Army of the Lowcountry and Love House Ministries to provide gifts to thousands of children in approximately 1800 families that would not otherwise be able to afford them.

     “Christmas is a magical time of year and we want every child in our community to wake up Christmas morning and experience that magic,” said Chrystie Turner, Vice President of Allocations and Community Engagement for United Way of the Lowcountry.

     Families apply to participate in the program and must provide a South Carolina ID or driver’s license, proof of residence, birth certificate for each child they want gifts for, and current income/expense information. The rigorous screening process creates accountability and assures that the generous donations are being used in the best way possible. Families can apply for Christmas assistance at the participating organizations. Each one has designated dates and times to apply that run now to December 22nd.

     Through Operation Holiday Heroes, each child receives two gifts, a stocking stuffer, and a book to encourage the importance of reading. Several of the sponsors set up a “Toy Shop” in which parents can come and pick out the gifts themselves and even wrap them, allowing parents to have a more hands-on role in their child’s Christmas. The program provides gifts to children up to age 12 with a high need for gifts in the 8 to 12 age range.

     Last year the number of families participating jumped to more than 1,800 from less than 1,500 two years ago, due to the impacts of Hurricane Matthew in which many families unexpectedly needed to pay for evacuation; gas, hotels, etc. In those families, 3,936 children received gifts from the program. Numbers are expected to hover in the same margin this year after Tropical Storm Irma swept through the area.

     “We receive calls on our HELPLINE every day from people who are struggling to make ends meet and this time of year many parents have to make the hard choice on either spending that last paycheck before Christmas on presents to put under the tree or for utility bills to keep the lights on,” Turner said.

     There are many ways for our community to participate and donate to Operation Holiday Heroes. Toys for Tots has provided boxes in businesses and stores across our county to collect new, unwrapped toys. Toys can also be dropped off to any of the United Way offices in Beaufort, Bluffton or Ridgeland, the Salvation Army, Love House Ministries, Bluffton Self Help or the Deep Well Project. Businesses can also request a Toys for Tots box to collect toys or even place a jar in their workplace for monetary donations.

     United Way also suggests hosting a holiday or dinner party and asking those attending to bring gifts or financial donations to benefit the program. Donations can be made in honor or memory of a loved one as well.

      Monetary donations in either cash or checks (made payable to Operation Holiday Heroes) can be dropped off or mailed to United Way of the Lowcountry at P.O. Box 202 Beaufort, SC 29901 or dropped off at the United Way Beaufort office located at 1277 Ribaut Road. Donations are being accepted through Christmas. Online donations can be made at www.uwlowcountry.org.

     For those who are looking to give back this holiday season, the best place to start is right here at home in the lowcountry.

story by Cindy Reid  photos by John Wollwerth

Imagine the stillness it takes to capture one single instant in an owl’s life. Imagine getting up before dawn and settling yourself in a john boat, silently, stealthily, in order to capture the one single moment when twenty roseate spoonbills take flight. Imagine yourself Kelley Luikey, the photographer behind the camera at Nature Muse Imagery. Photographer, teacher and Master Naturalist, you have seen her work on two different billboards around the lowcountry. One was the sunrise image “Cloudscape” taken at Hunting Island and selected as through a juried process for the Beaufort Arts Council and Adams Outdoor Advertising “ ArtPop” competition, and the other is a dolphin ‘standing’ half out of the water for a billboard promoting Port Royal for the “Cool, Coastal and far from Ordinary” campaign. You may have seen her gorgeous images at MacDonald Marketplace on St. Helena Island and other venues.  And if you are really fortunate you may have one hanging in your home!


     Born in Seattle, Kelley lived all over the country as her family moved due to her father’s career. As a child she had a keen interest in the outdoors and was always out exploring. Eventually they ended up in North Carolina where she attended Appalachian State University. Kelley says her interest in nature was evident then, “I wanted to be a marine biologist, but after being talked out of it, I ended up being a psychology major. I took photography classes in college and I spent a lot of time in the darkroom- those were the film days! I spent a large part of my days in college outdoors exploring the mountains and I taught an Experiential Education program for rising high school seniors for several summers.  I had always wanted to live by the water, so after college I moved Nantucket Island, where I spent most of the next 5 years and where I met my husband Rich. I was working at the Nantucket airport where Rich was a pilot, and I met him while I was flying back and forth to graduate classes on the mainland.”

      Life continued, two children Arden (now 10 years old) and Tristan (now 13) came along and eleven years ago the Luikey family moved to the lowcountry. She spent much of her time on the water exploring and learning as much about the lowcountry as possible. Kelley says her interest in photography was revived around four years ago and a good friend encouraged her to pursue it more seriously. She says, “At the age of 41, I decided that it was time to go back to what I loved most, being outdoors and bringing the camera with me.  In the meantime, digital had taken over and everything was very different. It was a huge learning curve and while using the camera came back fairly quickly, learning computer editing was much harder.” After four years working in the new technology Kelley says, “Learning to edit is the key to differentiating yourself and getting to that point was hard. Going from a straightforward documentarian approach to creating an artistic image to ‘put on the wall’ has really been my journey.”

      Even her choice of subject has evolved over the last few years. Kelley says,”When I went back to photography, I also revisited my interest in marine biology, which meant photos of dolphins and turtles but at that time my equipment wasn’t quite right for wildlife subjects so I focused on landscapes -sunrises and sunsets -but as I added lenses and camera bodies to my equipment I shifted to a love of photographing birds. “

 Great Kiskadee

     As a nature photographer, Kelley obviously spends a lot of time in the wild where she sees all kinds of interesting birds and animals. But nothing had prepared her for what turned out to be quite a significant birding moment in February of last year. She recounts, “I was out at Bear Island Wildlife Management Area in Colleton County and I noticed a bright yellow bird about on a branch a few trees away from me. I took the picture and texted a bird friend who immediately knew I had found something very special.” The bird was the Great Kiskadee, a South American bird that had never been seen on the east coast before. This was very big birding news. Kelley’s find was discussed on SC Public Radio by renowned host Rudy Mancke on his show “Nature Notes” and many birders flocked to the sighting spot hoping see the Great Kiskadee for themselves. “It really was thrilling to see this bird and be able to report it, and I met some really lovely people through the whole experience.”  Says Kelley.


     For a very long time, bobcats were the number one animals to see and photograph on Kelley’s bucket list.  She says, “I spent hundreds of hours looking for bobcats, in fact it became a mission. And then one day last month I saw what I thought were raccoons going down a path at one of my photography haunts. Because I thought they were raccoons, I took my time getting my equipment assembled, locking up my car etc. I followed them down the path, still thinking they were raccoons, and when I caught up with them and realized they were bobcats I had about 45 seconds to take my pictures.” What she captured is a series of breath taking images of bobcat kittens at play. “The whole encounter took place over a span of four minutes,” she says.

     When asked what is next on her bucket list, she answered “Snowy Owls have been on my list for awhile, I’ve been watching this year’s activity and making plans to head north this winter,” says Kelley, “and there is no real end to my list as there is always something beautiful in nature left to see.”

Shooting in Shadows

     “Go dark or go light” says Kelley, “I like negative space in a photo, because that is what draws the eye to the subject. One of her most sold works is “Timeless Reflection,” a photo of a single sailboat taken in the extreme fog. She says, “This was taken here in Port Royal and is a really good example of creating an image that someone would enjoy having in their home, something someone could visualize hanging on a wall.”

     Her series of the Roseate Spoonbills has been very popular as well. According to www.audubon.org   “Gorgeous at a distance and bizarre up close is the Roseate Spoonbill.” These large wading birds were almost hunted to extinction for their distinct pink plumage in the 1860’s but since then they have made a decent comeback and can be found in parts of Florida, Texas, Louisiana and in a tiny slice of South Carolina coast. They live in marshes and their pink color can be attributed to their diet rich in shrimp. With marshes and shrimp in abundance in the lowcountry, one can see the attraction.

      Kelley’s photographs reveal the beauty and grace in these unusual birds, and she is able to highlight their unique and startling pink plumage without rendering it garish. They resemble nothing so much as ballerinas in her photographs. Set against a black background, these are indeed portraits of individual birds, but unlike any way we have seen them before.

      Equally interesting is her series of owls, which reveals a playfulness and companionship between the birds rarely seen in the clichéd photos of the “wise owl.” Owls appear equally inscrutable and approachable in Kelley’s owl portraits.

     Kelley’s ability to bring us into a wild creature’s world while expanding on their otherness to us gives her wildlife photos a dimension not seen in documentary photography work. She shapes the subtleties of the lowcountry morning around a bird’s pink wings, while bringing out the masterpieces contained in a single feather. She has made “shooting in shadows” beautiful for us, the viewer, and we are the richer for have seen it through her eyes.


     Our lowcountry landscape holds such a lure that its own beauty could be its downfall. Building has been accelerating, everyday one sees new commercial or residential development. Tracts of undisturbed land are becoming extinct, which of course upsets the natural order of wildlife. Spending as much time as she does out in the wild, Kelley is highly attuned to the changes in our natural environment. When she frames a photo, she not only works at creating an artistic effect but also she is subtly encouraging the viewer to truly see this bird, this sunrise, this bobcat. Her work strives to lower the barriers between our two worlds. Kelley says, “My ultimate goal is to create artistic images that encourage others to get out, to see the beauty that surrounds us. This in turn encourages people to want to protect our environment, for ourselves, our children and ultimately for future generations.”

For further information visit:




South Carolina Independent School Association

Story by Cindy Reid     Photos by Paul Nurnberg

Meet De’Shaun Epps. This may be the first time you’ve heard his name, but it’s guaranteed not to be the last. De’Shaun was recently named SCISA 8-Man Division I Player of Year for his outstanding first season with the Beaufort Academy Eagles football team. (SCISA is the South Carolina Independent School Association). He earned this honor with his impressive rushing and scoring offensive play. De’Shaun rushed for 1,979 yards and 20 touchdowns and, he also caught 13 passes for 363 yards and five scores.  In his extraordinary first season with the BA Eagles, De’Shaun ran 2431 all purpose yards, with a remarkable average of 243 yards a game.

     De’Shaun’s performance on the field helped bring BA to its second five win season in school history and its very first trip to the SCISA 8 Man semi-finals. Regarding his “Player of the Year” honor, De’Shaun says, “It felt good, because I never really had a season like that before.” He says, “My team mates are good and we have the motivation to work together.”

     BA football Coach Scott Richards says, “I nominated De’Shaun for both Offensive Player of the Year and all round Player of the Year. The coaches in our region are the ones who vote, so in order to be named Player of the Year, the player has to have made an impression on the other coaches as well. Any coach who saw film of De’Shaun on the field had to design a game plan around his playing. De’Shaun deserved the nomination and he was worthy of this honor. He is an impressive player and an impressive young man.”

     Coach Neil McCarty, Athletic Director of Beaufort Academy, says “De’Shaun really proved himself with the adjustment to the eight man team, the adjustment to a new school and to all new classmates. He has a natural talent, a natural instinct for the game. Our team needed someone like De’Shaun, someone who was able to bring extra motivation to the team.”

     In addition to De’Shaun, four other Beaufort Academy Eagles players were named to the all-region team. De’Shaun was joined on the all-region team by Jaxon Spratling, Will Warren, Edward McCormick and Daniel Richards. This has truly been a stellar season for the Eagles.

Great Season

     Coach Richards says, “No question that the first day of practice, we were on the field in shorts, no helmets, and De’Shaun came out and made a big impact. On every play the ball stuck to his hands. He knows the game, he understands the game. He is just a natural.”

     The game that brought the eagles to the playoffs was against Cathedral Academy. For the big game De’Shaun ran 389 yards, the equivalent of almost four trips down the 100 yard field, and scored five touchdowns, bringing the Eagles to a 76-50 win. “This win brought the Eagles into the playoffs” said Coach McCarty,” This was the first year BA has been able to host a layoff game so it was pretty exciting”.

Motherly Motivation

     Although De’Shaun’s mother Ramie Epps parents are from Beaufort, she and her family lived in Florida where De’Shaun was raised. They moved to Beaufort a year ago, and De’Shaun briefly attended Beaufort High School before transferring to the smaller Beaufort Academy. De’Shaun made the change because Ms. Epps says, “I wanted him to be more focused, and I thought he would do well in a smaller environment.” That certainly appears to be the case, as De’Shaun has excelled on the field and is thriving in the classroom, where history is his favorite subject.

     De’Shaun has no greater fan than his mother, who attended each and every game, even the away ones. For a mother working two jobs, one of which is at night, this is no easy feat. Ms. Epps said “I made sure I always had the time off for De’Shaun’s games, even the away games. I never missed one and some were pretty far away.” Next season she will be in the stands cheering her son and his team on every game as well.

Future Plans

     Although still a sophomore, De’Shaun has naturally thought about where he would like to attend college and play football. He says,” I want to go to Ohio State. I have been following their football program for years and my favorite player, Ezekiel Elliot, went to Ohio State.” As for playing goes he says, “I want to develop and have the opportunity to play quarterback, something I could see myself doing. But I will work at any position I am in, and I will work hard.”

     Ms. Epps says, “De’Shaun is always talking football and he has always talked about Ohio State. And when he wasn’t talking about football, practicing or playing a game, you could always find him working out or playing at the YMCA.”

     De’Shaun says he wants to study engineering and business management at college. He says, “My Grandmother showed me what engineers do, and I like that, I like creating things.”

     Coach Richards says, “De’Shaun has a great opportunity here at Beaufort Academy, everyone wants him to do well and he is taking responsibility and working hard. As long as he continues to buckle down, hit the weight room and keep his grades up, he will be fine.”

Next Season

     Coach Richards says, “We are losing five senior players, for the second year in a row, so we have to replace those five with five new guys that want to play. We are bringing back our quarterback and, although we need to fill the offensive line I think we will be in really good shape. We are going to have a team that wants to play and I look forward to a great season.” Coach McCarty adds, “Their success has motivated the team; we are going to have a great fall.”

De’Shaun says, “My team mates are hard working and they really want to be good, and we will be even better than last season!”

When the Gullah Kinfolk get together to practice, it’s a family reunion, a prayer meeting, a celebration and a very serious commitment to their art, all at once. They arrive after a full day’s work, after dinner, and after dark.  They are there to prepare for their annual Christmas show with their Director, Anita Prather, or as you may know her, Aunt Pearlie Sue.

     This really is a family reunion, for many of the group are related, and those who aren’t related by blood might as well be, because their bonds are strong and long-standing. Rehearsal is not only serious business, but it is also a time to catch up with each other’s news and watch each other’s children grow up.

     And it really is a prayer meeting, because these singers pair their commitment to the presentation of their Gullah heritage with their faith in God and a desire to praise him, and the songs they sing reflect that.  Most have learned to sing in church choirs, and the level of talent and professionalism is very high.

     When Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk perform, they make you feel like part of that loving family.  Their joy in singing together is palpable and infectious, and they take you in – you are no longer a stranger.   It doesn’t matter whether or not you can carry a tune; you will find yourself singing with them – in spirit, if not in fact.

     The full-stage musical, “Gullah Christmas Wish…Freedom Coming” has become a holiday favorite. This presentation is intended for people of all ages and races who want to catch the holiday spirit. It will be held on December 1st at 7:00 PM at USCB’s Performing Arts Center.

     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 Festival

     The Festival of Trees benefiting Friends of Caroline is one of Beaufort’s beloved holiday celebrations.  The 2017 Festival continues a tradition that started thirty years ago.  The Festival showcases beautifully decorated trees that are judged for their originality and creativity.  The Festival kicks off with an Opening Gala featuring a silent auction, music, wine, beer and appetizers from local restaurants.

This year’s event will be held at The Shed November 30th through December the 3rd.  The Opening Gala will be Thursday, November 30th from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  More than 350 individuals usually attend this reception where the trees are previewed prior to opening to the general public on Friday, December 1st.

     This year there will be Festival Shoppes open throughout the event where you can get curated Christmas treasures from Friends of Caroline Thrift Store, school tours, kids fun zone, a Sunday Snow Day (with real snow to play in), a visit by Santa himself along with Mrs. Claus and even a live reindeer.

Here’s the schedule for this year’s event. You just don’t want to miss it.

Festival Schedule

November 30, 2017– Opening Gala from 6 pm to 9 pm at the Shed in Port Royal (featuring tree sales, silent auction, and local restaurants)

December 1, 2017– General Admission from 10 am to 6 pm

December 2, 2017– Yoga in the Trees at 8 am, General Admission 10 am to 6 pm, Frozen Day 11 am to 2 pm

December 3, 2017– General Admission 11 am to 6 pm, Snow Day 11 am to 2 pm

     Come and see the decorated trees and enjoy food vendors with themed dishes and lots of fun for the kids including a rock climbing wall, bungee jumping, face painting and more.

Any child who signs up for their school’s tour will receive free admission, courtesy of Sea Smiles Pediatric Dentistry.

General Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children

     On Saturday meet special guests Elsa and Anna from Disney’s Frozen who will be in attendance from 11am to 2pm to enjoy talking with the kids and taking photos and visit with our live reindeer, Sven, courtesy of Sea Island Carriage Co.

     Yoga in the Trees is also scheduled for Saturday at 8am with Brittney Hiller. Yoga in the Trees is free, but donations are accepted.

     If Frozen Saturday wasn’t enough, a special Snow Day returns bigger and better than before. Bring the kids from 11am to 2pm to enjoy playing in the snow, building a snowman or having

snowball fights with our outdoor snow fields bungee jumping, face painting and more. General Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children

     Opening Gala Reception tickets can be purchased online by visiting FriendsofCarolineHospice.org/Events

Become a supporter of this year’s Festival by sponsoring a tree, decorating a tree, donating an item to the silent auction, buying a ticket to the Opening Gala and telling your friends about the event. The Festival has raised close to a million dollars and this treasured event would not be possible without the amazing support of businesses, community groups and individuals who donate their time, talent and treasures to make this event a success.

     FRIENDS of Caroline HOSPICE serves individuals and families in Beaufort County and provides hospice care, bereavement and caregiver support services to all individuals in the community regardless of their ability to pay.


FRIENDS of Caroline is committed to providing the highest quality care to patients and families of those suffering from a life-limiting illness.  FRIENDS is a local, non-profit, Medicare-certified hospice provider that has been serving throughout Beaufort County for the past 37 years.  Adult Bereavement and Support groups are offered to family members of patients served by FRIENDS as well as any member of the community at large who has experienced a loss. Donations from individuals, businesses and foundations allow FRIENDS of Caroline to provide hospice care, bereavement and caregiver support services to all individuals in our community regardless of their ability to pay. FRIENDS of Caroline, “adding life to days”.

Everyone knows that the traditional Christmas colors are green, white and red. For merchants, however, black is perhaps the most important color of the season. It means enough silver and gold could come their way to get their bottom line out of the red.

     Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving, is called “Black” because it is the official start of the Christmas shopping season. The season is what puts retailers in the black. Unless you are in retail, you’re probably not aware of how expensive it is to succeed in that field and how slim margins can be.  Most retailers operate at a loss throughout the year. They stay afloat because of the year-end frenzy of consumer spending.

     It is generally believed that Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, but that’s not necessarily the case. Typically, busiest shopping day honors goes to the Saturday before Christmas or, if Christmas falls on a weekend, the Thursday and Friday before.

     But Black Friday is well worth celebrating, since it begins the season that makes a retailer’s year. Very few people get all of their Christmas shopping done in any single day during the season. It is the entire month (give or take) leading up to Christmas that makes the merchants merry.

     The whole thing conjures up images of ravenous shoppers barreling mindlessly through stores, trampling everyone in their way, grabbing at everything in sight, and contending with one another over the last great bargain.

     But that’s not the true holiday spirit. That spirit can be found when shoppers are truly thoughtful about what they buy and where they buy it. That’s why the small business organizations of Beaufort, Port Royal, St. Helena and the surrounding areas encourage residents to spend their money in local businesses.

     Dollars spent in our  locally owned businesses have a tremendous impact on our community. When shopping locally, the dollars stay in our community, creating jobs, funding more city services, and providing more money for community development.

     In our region, buying locally also means dining locally. Beaufort is legendary for its cuisine, from traditional fine dining to the most amazing, authentic lowcountry cooking. Tourists come from all over the world to eat right here, but these restaurants are cherished possessions of the local landscape. They’re not just for tourists. As you are doing your holiday shopping this year…and you happen upon one of those people that are so hard to buy for…consider a gift certificate for one of our local restaurants. You can’t go wrong giving a friend or family member a great meal in one of their favorite local places.

     Small businesses form the backbone of our local economy, generating jobs and improving the quality of life for citizens. For every dollar you spend locally, you are doing your part to help stimulate and preserve your local economy.

     And, don’t forget about the wonderful services provided by some of our local small businesses…services such  as hair salons, nail salons, and spas are vital to the local business mix, and provide thoughtful gift options.

     The first weekend in December brings plenty of holiday magic. Friday evening, December 1 from 6–9 p.m., is the Annual Night on the Town. Bay Street will be closed to traffic and all shops stay open late for your shopping pleasure.The evening will feature live entertainment from local choirs, dance groups and clubs.. There will also be the Lighting of the City’s Christmas Tree and Santa himself will be in attendance.

     On Saturday evening December 2, the Light Up The Night Boat Parade illuminates the waterfront from 5:30–8:30 p.m. Join Beaufort Sail and Power Squadron and Main Street Beaufort, USA as they celebrate another festive holiday season and the magical display of decorated boats ambling up the Beaufort River. Bring the family to watch the enchanted display of decorated boats with holiday cookies and hot chocolate.

     The traditional Beaufort Christmas Parade will be December 3rd at 3:00.  The parade will meander through the streets of downtown Beaufort.  Floats, bands, groups of walkers and personal cars and trucks are expected to participate. Deadline for entries s November 17th.

     Our local merchants offer thousands of products and services from local artists, artisans, farmers, and other producers of celebrated goods. Buying local means more than just supporting merchants–it supports local producers as well.

     It’s also important to remember that if you have grown accustomed to shopping online, you can shop online locally, too. Virtually all local merchants have websites. If a merchant doesn’t have purchasing capabilities on its site, simply call them. You can get the best of both worlds: on line convenience and personal service from people you know. You can even save on shipping by picking up your purchases at your convenience.

     Shopping local has so many advantages,…and with all our local businesses have to offer…why go anywhere else? Shop Local, Shop Beaufort…that’s what it’s all about!

Helping People Realize Their Dreams

story by carol lauvray   photography by john wollwerth

Annette Bryant has dedicated her life to helping people find the home of their dreams. As the broker in charge and manager of the Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners office in Beaufort, Annette leads a team of 30 professional real estate agents in Beaufort and Bluffton, who specialize in helping their clients find the right home in the right community. “It’s critical for us to understand the differences between the communities we serve, so we can help people explore what each has to offer them. We ask our clients what is important to them. Folks who are coming to the area to retire may prefer Beaufort because of its vibrant arts, cultural and educational opportunities and its small town ambiance. Young military families may find that Bluffton better suits their active lifestyles and needs. Once we help clients determine the right community, we help them find a great home there.”

A Lifetime of Real Estate Experience

     Annette attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and took a job in New Orleans after college, later transferring to Savannah. She’s been in real estate most of her adult life. She and her husband, Mark, were homebuilders and developers during the 1980s and 1990s. Annette, who transitioned into real estate full time in 1998, owned a real estate office in Savannah for 10 years. In 2003, Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners purchased her real estate company in Pooler, Georgia and asked Annette to stay on as the manager/broker. She directed the new homes division of Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners, which represented 18 different builders in 24 communities from Beaufort to St. Simons Island, Georgia. While still living in Georgia, in 2006 Annette and Mark bought a home that they planned to renovate on Lady’s Island along the Coosaw River, with the idea of retiring in Beaufort in the future. In 2008, when the recession in new home construction came, Annette decided to leave real estate management and go back into the field with Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners, working with individual homebuyers and sellers. In 2009 she and Mark decided to move to their home in Beaufort full time.

The Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners Difference

     Annette says, “I’ve been with Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners since the company bought my real estate firm in Pooler in 2003. I believe in the firm’s brand and in the real estate tools and systems the company provides to support my business. The resources that Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners offers allow us to focus on giving our clients the best possible real estate services and personal attention. The company’s state-of-the art website connects my realtors and me to a premier customer-relationship-management system that enables us to stay in constant communication with our clients.”

     The real estate industry has changed a great deal in the last 10 years, she states, adding that technology is now at the center of real estate. “Ninety-eight percent of our customers do research on homes and communities via the Internet before they contact a real estate agent. We know that people who want homes in this area are going to start looking online from the North Carolina coast down through Florida. One of the things I love about Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners is its regional presence—the company covers the entire Georgia and South Carolina coast up to Beaufort. We have eight offices throughout that area: Beaufort and Bluffton in South Carolina, and Midtown Savannah, Pooler, Richmond Hill, Brunswick, St. Simons Island and St. Marys in Georgia.” Annette says that an advantage of buying real estate in our area is that the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia are still affordable—growth here has been more stable and steady, versus the frenetic price increases that have occurred in some areas along the coast.

     Annette believes in continual education and training for her real estate agents. She conducts onsite training and coaching in all eight of the Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners regional offices. “I believe it is important for me to stay current and to actively sell real estate and service clients myself, so I can help my agents be effective in those roles,” she says. “It’s a balance acting as the broker in charge for the office and also working in the field, but I love the challenge of fulfilling different roles in the real estate industry.” Annette belongs to the Boards of Realtors and Multiple Listing Services both north and south of the Broad River. She says, “Our real estate firm is successful as a result of the teamwork between our 30 agents and the office staff. My real estate partner, Julieanne Steinmetz, is an expert in real estate lead-development technology and Buyer Agency. Julieanne, Pam Tritschler, our Team Administrator, and my husband Mark, are the glue that makes everything work smoothly,” Annette explains.

     The Beaufort Coldwell Banker Platinum Partners office will be moving to a new location at 2015 Boundary Street, Suite 105, which is located in the Beaufort Town Center adjacent to Starbuck’s, effective December 1, 2017.

A Full Life in Beaufort and Beyond

     Annette says that when she and Mark are not working, they love to kayak, take their boat out on the river, walk on the beach or just enjoy the view from their Coosaw River home. She also admits to being an avid reader of everything from biographies to fiction. The couple has five adult children, ranging in age from 28 to 35, and two of them have followed their parents into the fields of home construction and real estate. Annette and Mark enjoy frequent travel and are planning trips in the near future to Virgin Gorda, the Dominican Republic and Rome.

     Annette Bryant has focused her life on helping other people realize their dreams, while she makes her own dreams come true.