News

Warner-Baker dance team rehearsing samba routine

on Wednesday, 18 February 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
Published 2/17/2015

Chris Warner and Meggie Baker are rehearsing a lively samba routine for their presentation at Dancing With the Stars of Florence. They will be quick-stepping to the music of Bruno Mars' "Treasure." The pair are practicing weekly at the KFA dance studio perfecting some spins and dips for the March 31 competition to be held at the SiMT Building. Chris is a sales representative for St. Jude Medical. He grew up in Aiken where he attended Cotillion classes during seventh through tenth grades. As for dancing, that's the extent of his experience, he says.

However, nine year-old daughter Ella, a ballet dancer in training, is helping him practice at home. He and wife Heather also have a six-year-old son, Gray. Meggie began dance training at an early age and today she serves as a ballet mistress with the S.C. Dance Theatre. An attorney, she is Director of Corporate Compliance and Risk Management for HopeHealth Inc. And, she is a cast member for the Florence Little Theatre's upcoming production of "Noises Off," rehearsing four times a week for that play.

Both Chris and Meggie say they are having a good time rehearsing for a good cause. "This is such a great event," said Chris. "It raises a lot of money and it all stays here." He added that his children are in the public school system. The School Foundation will host its 5th Annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence fund-raising event on the evening of March 31. Over $480,000 has been raised from this event in the last four years.

Completing this year's line up of dancers are Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

A panel of judges will select one couple as "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. A new edition this year, The Social Stars trophy, will be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Chris Warner or Meggie Baker, or other couples, at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www.theschoolfoundation.org.

Dancing With The Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Deepak Chowdhary

on Tuesday, 17 February 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2015 8:30 pm
Nicole Cartrette/Morning News

What is your previous dance experience?
My only dance experience has been on the dance floor at parties or at home with my family. I grew up listening to Bollywood songs, which are a rich amalgamation of classical and folk dance laced with elements of jazz, hip-hop, and salsa. In Bollywood dance, the main goal is to have fun while dancing, so there are no rigid steps or moves followed. As a result, I often just feel and dance to the beat of any song that plays.

Do you have a go-to move, at weddings, parties, etc.?
I believe I have had the same go-to dance move for most of my life. Whether it's Indian, jazz, or even classical music playing, my go-to move is a type of Indian folk dance called bhangra, which was originally performed as a way of celebrating harvests in India. These bhangradance moves are often described as being done in a flamboyantly happy way. The moves involve petting an imaginary dog with one hand, screwing in an imaginary light bulb with the other hand, and stomping on the ground with one leg while simultaneously jumping up and down.

How was the first practice?
I thoroughly enjoyed my first practice. I was able to get to know my partner better and even learn the first few dance moves of our song. I truly look forward to many more practices and to finally perfecting our dance choreography for the Dancing with the Stars event!

Was it easier or harder than you expected?
I was incredibly nervous and apprehensive at the start of my first practice as I was not quite sure what to expect. Luckily, it turned out to be much easier and less intimidating than I had anticipated. My partner and I got along very well and practiced the first few seconds of the song. She reassured me that we will be able to learn the entire choreography over next practice sessions to come.

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?
Brandi has been very encouraging and patient with me. I was worried about tripping over my two left feet, but she has repeatedly reassured me and told me to relax, stay loose, and enjoy this exciting journey which will culminate into our final performance on March 31.

Why were you interested in taking part in Dancing with the Stars of Florence?
During my young adult years, I was often discovering new places and new hobbies with my close friends. I realized recently that I had fallen into a routine and thought that participating in the Dancing with the Stars event would be a great change of pace, a way to take up a new hobby, and a wonderful way to meet new people. Not only is it a way for me to have fun and add to my collection of dance moves, but this event promotes a worthy cause that I believe very strongly in, which is the improvement of education. If I can be a part of an event that spreads awareness for the importance of education and raises money to help improve it, while giving people a night of fun and entertainment, I consider it a perfect opportunity to be a part of.

What do you think of The School Foundation's mission?
The School Foundation's mission coincides well with my passion for education, and my children can vouch for that. I consider the importance of education almost unparalleled and strongly believe that every child should have the opportunity to gain knowledge and receive a good education. The quote by journalist Sydney J. Harris sums up my beliefs quite well: "Education turns mirrors into windows." I agree wholeheartedly with this quote that when you look into a mirror, you see only your own reflection. When you look out of a window, however, the view is limitless; and it is precisely education that allows us these limitless opportunities.

How does it feel to be the 'celebrity' in your pairing?
I feel both humbled and honored to be a "celebrity" in this Dancing with the Stars event. I feel absolutely wonderful that this small effort on my part can have a direct impact on the students within our community. I do believe, however, that the true celebrities are the children of our community and of communities around the world whose insatiable curiosity, elaborate imaginations, and incredible ability to learn, improve and follow their dreams, whatever they may be, never ceases to amaze me.

What is your job title and your day-to-day responsibilities?
By day, I am a gastroenterologist with McLeod Gastroenterology Associates, meaning that I am trained to diagnose and treat various conditions of the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver and pancreas. My main responsibility is to ensure that my patients receive the most proper and effective care that each and every one of them deserves. I would particularly like to emphasize the importance of early colon screening as it is highly effective in preventing the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths. Receiving a simple colonoscopy procedure every few years after the age of 50 can help reduce your risk by approximately 90 percent; and since March is colon cancer awareness month, I highly recommend that everyone make an effort to be safe and get checked even if symptoms are not present.

Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and his partner Brandi Williamson will be dancing to Dilliwaali Girlfriend.

DWTSF Partners are 'Happy' about their routine

on Wednesday, 11 February 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
Published 2/10/15

It was a weak moment when Michael Miller agreed to be one of the celebrity dancers for this year's Dancing With The Stars of Florence, but the president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce is happy to be helping The School Foundation raise funds for the children in Florence School District One. Michael says his dance experience is zero, even though his wife Kevin is a dance instructor. He said she has been trying for 38 years to get him to take dance lessons.

"I just don't want to fall and injure myself or my partner," he said, adding, "If I get a few laughs, that's fine." Miller will be dancing a jive with Cheyanne Beck, last year's Technical Skills Winner with Craig Washington. They will be dancing to the song, "Happy," by Pharrell Williams. Cheyanne Beck, 17, is a freshman at Coker College where she is majoring in both dance therapy and medicine. This is her third year as a professional with DWTSF. She is the daughter of Jay and Melody Beck of Florence and a South Florence High graduate.

Cheyanne has been dancing since the age of three and is trained in jazz, ballet and modern dance. As dance professional and teacher, she said Miller is doing great on the dance floor and both are "Happy" to support this great cause. The School Foundation will host its fifth annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence fund-raising event on the evening of March 31 at the SiMT Building. Over $480,000 has been raised from this event in the last four years.

Completing this year's line up of dancers are Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. Fans may vote online for Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck, or other couples, at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www.theschoolfoundation.org.

 

Dancing With The Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Fields Norwood

on Monday, 09 February 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2015 8:30 pm

What is your previous dance experience?

I took a class at Clemson that taught me to shag a little, but other than that it’s just been trial and error on various dance floors throughout the Southeast.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

According to my wife I like to twirl her, or drop it down to the ground.

How was the first practice?

The first practice I thought went really well. My partner, Tiffany Welsh, has been an excellent teacher and motivator.

Was it easier or harder than you expected?

I would say it has been slightly easier than I expected, but I was expecting the worst. There are a couple of steps that have been a challenge to learn but overall it’s been a fun experience.

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

Tiffany has just constantly reminded me to relax and to have fun with it. I tend to take most things in life a little too serious.

Why were you interested in taking part in Dancing with the Stars of Florence?

I was interested in Dancing with the Stars of Florence because I want to do anything I can to help the next generation. I am especially enamored with their education. I believe, wholeheartedly, that knowledge is power. It’s such a cliché to most people, but it is so very true. You can never know too much.

What do you think of The School Foundation’s mission?

I am a huge believer in their mission, and how they are going about achieving it. I believe knowledge is power. It’s incredibly hard to gain that knowledge when you are not properly equipped to learn, or your educator is not properly equipped to teach you. My mother has been a teacher for 33 years, and she has spent a lot of her own money to ensure that her students have what they needed to learn. I am glad that The School Foundation is in place to help provide these teachers with what they need without them having to dig into their own pockets.

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

I really haven’t thought much about being the “celebrity,” but now that I have it’s a little odd. I don’t feel as though I am a celebrity here in Florence, but I am definitely someone who will do whatever it takes for this community to continue to thrive.

What is your job title and your day-to-day responsibilities?

I don’t have a “title” per se, but I work with my two uncles on our family’s farm. As far as day-to-day responsibilities they vary widely. Most days out of the year I am usually spraying our row-crops or turf, taking employees where they need to go, or doing whatever I need to do to keep everyone’s productivity high. Once the peanut harvest starts you can find me on the combine all hours of the day, and night.

Fields Norwood and his partner Tiffany Welsh will be dancing to 'Walk This Way' by Aerosmith.

Burnadene: The talent behind the DWTS spotlight

on Wednesday, 04 February 2015. Posted in News

The News Journal 2/4/2015
Brenda Harrison, Editor

As director of choreography, Burnadene Kelley-Newman has a full dance card with Dancing With the Stars of Florence. This highly popular and successful fund raiser for The School Foundation will celebrate its fifth annual event on the evening of March 31 at the SiMT Building. Involved in this local benefit since its beginning, Burnadene choreographs about 80 percent of the dance routines, helps select the music for the competition, is responsible for finding the professional dancers, donates space in her studio for rehearsals, and generously assists dancers who ask for help with their routines, costumes and shoes.

She also provides entertainment for the event, presenting dancers from her studios. She is motivated to give so much of her time and effort for this event because it benefits children, schools and the community. "I just don't know how I could say no to that," she said. Burnadene grew up in the rural crossroads of New Zion, where she was not only encouraged in the fine arts, but taught about community service. She has an elementary education degree from Columbia College where she also majored in dance.

Today, she and her husband Sid Newman own and operate KFA (Kelley's Fine Arts) with dance studios in eight locations, including Florence, Lake City, Bishopville, Cheraw, Hartsville, Camden, Turbeville and Johnsonville. They also have full gymnastic facilities in Florence and at two other studios. Burnadene also coaches the Pee Dee Vipettes, cheerleaders for The Pee Dee Vipers, a minor league basketball team in Florence with the Premier Basketball League (PBL). Her three daughters, Alexis, Rebecca and Georgie, are all dancers who have performed as professionals in previous Dancing With The Stars of Florence. She also has a stepdaughter and stepson.

In addition to DWTSF, Burnadene directs and produces Dancing With The Stars benefits in Lee County, Camden and Cheraw. Again, she says it is difficult to say no to events that provide a service to these communities. Although Burnadene develops most of the dance routines, the professionals are free to choreograph their own if they desire. She doesn't prepare ahead when choreographing their routines. She talks with the couple to find out what they like to do, asks about injuries and then listens to their music before designing their steps. "I really don't know how I do it. It just comes from my head.

I have been dancing and choreographing as long as I can remember," she explained. If a dancer needs assistance, she will find time to work with them one-on-one. "I'm here to help and I'm not going to leave anyone stressed," she said. Not only does working with the DWTS event allow her to meet people and make new friends, is rewarding and great fun. "Some of the dance celebrities come in very nervous, but by the time they leave they want to win.

It is a great feeling to see a sparkle in their eyes and watch their confidence level go up," she said. Burnadene expects this year's event to be very competitive, commenting that the celebrity dancers, as a group, are the most coordinated that she has seen. This year's line up of celebrity dancers paired and professionals are: Mike Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. Fans may vote for their favorite couples online at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. Over $480,000 has been raised from the DWTSF benefits over the last four years. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www.theschoolfoundation.org.

Dancing With the Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Michele Pridgen

on Sunday, 01 February 2015. Posted in News

Melissa Rollins/Morning News
Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015 5:30 pm


What is your previous dance experience?

The only experience I have is the year and a half between 6 and 7 when my mother insisted I take tap. I did one recital.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

I will join in on a train in a heartbeat. I believe life is all about having fun so when a train starts, I jump right in. I’m also known to join in on any line dance; there are so many of them now. I may not know all of the moves but I sure will give it my best.

 How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

I went in to the first practice anticipating that I was going to have to learn so much that first day. I was relieved when I found out we would be breaking it down into phases. The way they structure it was surprising to me but it helped and Jacob put me at ease.

 Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

Jacob has been very encouraging. His advice was just to have fun…and let’s win. He said that if we have fun, that will reflect in the routine and everything will fall into place.

 What about the mission of The School Foundation interested you enough to take part in Dancing with the Stars?

The mission of The School Foundation totally coincides with Honda’s philanthropic mission. We understand that today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. The foundation helps get those technologies in the schools where grants seem to be lacking a little bit these days, especially since we are still recovering from the recession. It really takes nonprofit visions like The School Foundation; if they were not capable of dreaming and envisioning better school systems in our area, I don’t know where the schools would be. The School Foundation is working to get the things the schools need when there is a gap. I can’t think of a better foundation to support.

 What is your job title and what are your day-to-day responsibilities?

I am the assistant manager of administration. I am responsible for public and community relations, representing Honda of South Carolina. There is also an element of communications that I am responsible for, both internally and externally for Honda.

Michele Pridgen and her partner Jacob Coward will be dancing to Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass.

Dancing With The Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Chris Warner

on Wednesday, 04 February 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2015 7:28 pm
Melissa Rollins Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What is your previous dance experience?

I took ballroom lessons that turned into cotillion classes from 8th to 10th grade but other than that not much experience other than dancing at wedding receptions.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

I think if you asked my friends, they would tell you my go-to move would be the worm. That tends to get broken out toward the end of the night.

How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

Our first practice when really well. I have a really great partner, Meggie, and I told her I was really open to doing any type of steps; I feel like I can pick them up really easy. Once we decided on the dance and starting getting our basic footwork down, I think it went really well. I think we’ll be able to put on a pretty good show.

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

I’ve gotten a little bit of grief from friends outside of Florence; they didn’t know I was a local celebrity. My daughter has been loving it too, I’ve been rubbing it in with her every chance I get. It has been a lot of fun to be the celebrity in the pair.

What about the mission of The School Foundation interested you enough to take part in Dancing with the Stars?

I have two kids in the school district; both of them are at Royall. The School Foundation is a great charity and any chance you get to participate in something like this and raise money for the local schools is a no-brainer.

What is your job title and your day-to-day responsibilities?

I am a local sales representative for St. Jude Medical, a medical device company based out of Austin, Texas, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. I assist in the implants of pacemakers and defibrillators and I do follow-ups with patients. Any time a device needs programming or troubleshooting, I am responsible for that as well.

Chris Warner and his partner Meggie Baker will be dancing the Samba to “Treasure” by Bruno Mars.

Three initiatives mean win-win for the community

on Tuesday, 27 January 2015. Posted in News

EDITORIAL:  Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2015 3:00 am
Morning News

Several community initiatives that are in support of good causes have left the 2015 starting line and are off and running toward spring.

Florence’s Biggest Loser competition kicked off Tuesday. The latest Dancing with the Stars got underway earlier this month. The countdown has begun for Big Give Pee Dee, a new initiative.

The Biggest Loser is a sequel to the inaugural contest that the United Way of Florence County launched a year ago.

Dancing with the Stars, a crowd-pleasing event that is staged by and for The School Foundation, is back for a fifth year.

The Eastern Carolina Community Foundation is the organizing agency for Big Give Pee Dee, a regional event that will involve a nonprofit giving day.

The Morning News salutes and supports all three organizations and their initiatives.

A year ago, 60 people competed in Florence’s Biggest Loser. The group collectively lost more than 1,000 pounds in 10 weeks. Participants pushed themselves to the limit and changed their lives, and by doing so, they served as an inspiration to others. Mary McLeod won the $1,000 first prize. She lost 40 pounds, and she has lost 17 more since the competition ended. The event also served as a fundraiser for United Way. That made it a win-win event.

This year, 72 people have paid the registration fee of $150. In the end, $500 will go to the individual who loses the greatest percentage of pounds and $500 will go to the contestant who loses the most inches. But all participants are winners if they lower their blood pressure, increase their flexibility and create sustainable fitness and nutrition habits.

The emphasis last year was on fitness and nutrition. United Way has added a life coach this year.

As Stephanie Navarro, the community resource manager at United Way of Florence County, noted in an article published Sunday in the Morning News, the Biggest Loser program is only one part of a larger initiative called Burn & Learn, which promotes healthier lifestyles to the whole community.

The Morning News again is a partner with United Way, along with HillSouth, Miller Communications, Sozo Life & Leadership and McLeod Health & Fitness Center.

The Biggest Loser’s finish line is April 2. That’s two days after the Dancing with the Stars event takes place at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center. The dozen “celebrity” dancers have a little more than two months to work on their best moves with their “professional” partner. March 31 is a date to mark on your calendar. The event is entertaining.

Last year, nearly 750 people attended the gala, which raised roughly $190,000 for The School Foundation. A short time later, the foundation presented more than $151,000 in grants to Florence School District 1 classrooms.

Kudos to the celebrities who are participating this year: Dr. Deepak Chowdhary of Pee Dee Gastroenterology Associates; Cedric Kennedy of South Florence High School; Will King of IGA Food Stores/KJ’s Market; Mike Miller of the Florence Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Susan Ninichuck of Roche Carolina; Fields Norwood of Lawson Turf Farm; Michele Pridgen of Honda of the Carolinas; Rick Ryan of NBSC; Stephen Wade of the Morning News; Robert Watkins of Johnson Controls; and Chris Warner of St. Jude Medical.

May 5 is the day to remember for the Big Give Pee Dee. In the weeks to come, you will hear more from the Eastern Carolina Community Foundation about this initiative. You’ll read about participating nonprofits in the Morning News. The campaign will culminate in a local “day of giving” effort. Other community foundations across the nation will carry out their own day of giving simultaneously.

Best wishes to United Way of Florence County, The School Foundation, the Eastern Carolina Community Foundation and all of the individuals involved in these initiatives.

Here’s hoping all three of these worthwhile efforts exceed expectations.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of this newspaper. Editorial board members are Stephen Wade (regional publisher), Don Kausler Jr. (regional editor), Kimberly Brauss (online editor), John Rains (news editor) and David Johnson (regional circulation director).

Dancing With the Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Rick Ryan

on Saturday, 17 January 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015 7:39 pm

STAFF REPORTS

What is your previous dance experience?

My wife suggested before our wedding that we take dance lessons for our first dance. We took six or eight lessons, 30-45 minutes each. We wanted to be able to do something more than a twirl, or a dip. When they called us out, I forgot everything we learned for a minute and I will probably do the same with this (Dancing with the Stars of Florence) too.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

I don’t have a go-to move; what I do is kind of dictated by the song. Sometimes though I will walk up and do a spin ; it usually gets a lot of people to laugh. That is kind of an inside joke with my friends.

How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

The first practice was pretty easy. I think my partner (Georgeanna Kelley) relaxed a little when she realized that there wasn’t anything I wasn’t comfortable doing or any limitations on the things I would at least try to do. I am glad , though , that we will have a lot more practices between now and the event.

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

Georgeanna and her mom (Burnadene Kelley) knew some of the contestants from before so they were telling me ‘He was about your height and your build and he was able to do this’ and ‘He didn’t pick this up as quickly as you’ so that felt good, knowing I wasn’t doing badly.

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

There was a small group from my high school that had a get together last weekend. They saw in the last article that I was a ‘celebrity’ so my friends were dying laughing over that. They were asking if there would be a time for pictures and autographs. If my ‘celebrity’ status brings more attention to The School Foundation, I’ll be a celebrity all day long.

What are your responsibilities at NBSC?

I handle commercial lending like opening new business accounts, any type of cross-networking with mortgages.

Rick Ryan and his partner Georgeanna Kelley will be dancing to Uptown Funk.

Local dancers meet partners for Dancing With The Stars of Florence

on Monday, 19 January 2015. Posted in News

Published in the News Journal 1/13/2015 12:57:00 PM

The dancers for the 5th Annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence have been paired with partners and chosen their songs for this popular competition and benefit to take place on Tuesday, March 31. All funds raised go to the School Foundation. This year's celebrity dancers paired with professionals are: Mike Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

These local celebrities and their professional dance partners will square-off at SiMT for a chance to win the coveted mirror ball trophy at the 5th Annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The reception will begin at 6 p.m. and the competition will begin at 7 p.m. Guests will enjoy food, beverages, fellowship, and an opportunity to win a custom-designed piece of jewelry, donated by Lisa and Lex Matthews of Southern Jewelry Design. A limited number of tables and individual tickets went on sale to the public on Jan. 12. Pricing for tables of eight guests begins at $1,000 and individual tickets sell for $75. Over $480,000 has been raised from this benefit over the last four years. After Feb. 1, fans can vote online for their favorite couple(s) at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for only $10 per vote.

The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. One couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The School Foundation's board member Ed Love and local celebrity Audra Coble will be master and mistress of ceremonies. The 2014 celebrities will perform the opening act and the KFA Fierce team will provide special entertainment throughout the evening.

About The School Foundation Founded in 2000, The School Foundation promotes educational excellence in Florence, SC School District 1 through grants for innovative learning and through high impact initiatives designed to prepare all students for success. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www. theschoolfoundation.org. To date, the foundation has provided over $962,000 in grants to FSD1 educators and is currently leading a school readiness awareness campaign focusing on preparing all children to enter kindergarten with the skills needed to succeed. The foundation also launched Start2Read, a program that distributes age appropriate books and reading tips in local businesses.

Florence's School Foundation gets $5,000 check from Duke Energy

on Wednesday, 14 January 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 9:00 pm
BY MELISSA ROLLINS Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FLORENCE, S.C. — Early Childhood Education programs in Florence School District 1 got a boost from Duke Energy on Tuesday morning when a $5,000 check was presented to The School Foundation.

The presentation was made by Mindy Taylor, Duke government and community relations manager, at the R.N. Beck Child Development Center. Taylor said Duke recognizes the importance of supporting the communities where the company operates.

“Duke has a long history of investing in the community,” Taylor said. “We want all of our students to have bright futures and all of those bright futures start in the classroom.”

Taylor said getting a good foundation gives students a strong start.

“We want every child to reach their potential and reading is such a critical component of that success,” Taylor said. “That is why we felt it was important to partner with The School Foundation and Florence District One to help them purchase the books, to help students start learning at an early age to get that good foundation.”

After the check presentation, Taylor and Debbie Hyler, executive director of The School Foundation, also handed out books to students at the school.

Beck 4K teacher Mitzi Jones said she was thrilled that her students will have another book they can add to their personal libraries at home.

“In this classroom my main goal is to include literacy in every aspect,” Jones said. “They love to read books and look at pictures and they are very excited to have a book to take home and look at.”

Jones said having community partners in education is key to the success of schools, teachers and students.

“I think it is important that the community is showing support,” Jones said. “It really does take a village to raise a child and I am happy to have the support. I think that it is great that Duke is providing books for the students.”

Hyler said the money presented to T he School Foundation will go toward purchasing books. Students in the Start Smart, Start 2 Read programs will be benefiting from the donation. Books will also be distributed through Reach Out and Read, which provides books to pediatrician offices to give out to their young patients.

2015 Dancing With the Stars of Florence Contestants Announced

on Monday, 12 January 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2015 8:27 pm

BY MELISSA ROLLINS Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FLORENCE, S.C. — It is time once again for Florence County to strap on its dancing shoes. This spring, Dancing with the Stars of Florence returns for its fifth year. The dancing duos met for the first time Tuesday night at a pairing party, where they picked their song and the style of dance they would be tackling.

Debbie Hyler, executive director for The School Foundation, said she is excited to start another season of the crowd-pleasing fundraiser.

“I think it is so popular because it is just fun,” Hyler said. “Think about the people you work with; wouldn’t you like to see them dance? Honestly, for the companies that participate, it is almost a team - building exercise for the business. They all chip in and come up with marketing ideas to get votes. It is just a great time.”

Each dancing pair is made up of a local ‘celebrity’ and a ‘professional’ dancer.

As in years past, the lineup includes a who’s who of business professionals and dancers from Florence County. There are doctors, dance teachers, lawyers, public school educators and dance students. If Tuesday night was any indication, the new cast is up for the challenge and ready to raise money for The School Foundation.

Rick Ryan, a ‘celebrity’ with NBSC, said that he was eager to start practicing and see what he and his partner can do.

“I volunteered to do it,” Ryan said. “I’m ready to roll with this thing. I’m pretty excited to do it. Seeing how many people would be doing it, that made me a little bit nervous but I think I can do it. Before our wedding, my wife and I had maybe eight lessons, but it is kind of different when you are dancing in front of people you know.”

Jovan Kindred, a returning ‘professional’ and last year’s 1st Place People’s Choice winner, said he enjoyed his time with the event last year and was happy to be invited to participate again.

“It is always so fun to be involved with The School Foundation and Dancing with the Stars,” Kindred said. “They asked me last year and I thought ‘Why not’. They must have thought I was good enough to ask me to come back again.”

The Dancing with the Stars event will take place March 31 at SiMT but the dancers will have long months of choreography and practice ahead of them.

While much of the evening will be dedicated to the dancers in the 2015 competition, there will also be an opening act performance by the 2014 contestants and performances throughout the evening by the KFA Fierce team from Kelley’s Fine Arts.

The website featuring all of the new contestants’ pictures and biographies is expected to be up and running around the beginning of February.

2015 Dancing with the Stars of Florence Pairs

Celebrity  Company

Dance Partner 

Dr. Deepak Chowdhary 

Pee Dee Gastroenterology Associates

Brandi Williamson

Cedric Kennedy

South Florence High School

Shandi Cox

Will King

IGA Food Stores/KJ's Market

Amanda Smith

Mike Miller

Florence Chamber of Commerce

Cheyanne Beck

Ashley Nance

King, Love and Smith Attorneys at Law

Desiree Stokes

Dr. Susan Ninichuck

Roche Carolina

Jovan Kindred

Fields Norwood

Lawson Turf Farm

Tiffany Welsh

Michele Pridgen

Honda of the Carolinas

Jacob Coward

Rick Ryan

NBSC

Georgeanna Kelley

Stephen Wade

Morning News

Kayce Smith

Robert Watkins

Johnson Controls

Drew Arnold

Chris Warner

St. Jude Medical 

Meggie Baker 

EDITORIAL: Businesses play big role in early education

on Monday, 08 December 2014. Posted in News

Posted: Sunday, December 7, 2014 5:30 am

Morning News

Tuesday at Alfred Rush Academy in Quinby, Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman, R-Florence, gave and received.

He gave Florence School District 1 a check from the state for $147,500, the last quarterly payment for financing a school readiness program. He received a positive report on how the program has done.

He expressed delight in the progress and talked about talking to Molly Spearman, the new state Superintendent of Education, about taking the program statewide.

Statewide.

How about that?

An incredible success story continues to take shape right here in Florence.

“We’re really beyond what we dreamed,” said Tammy Pawloski, a professor of education at Francis Marion University and director of the Center of Excellence. “All of the pieces have fallen into place. Our school board unanimously has embraced this idea. We should be a model across the state. It definitely is a proud time that this is coming from the Pee Dee, from our visionary thinkers.”

It’s time to pause and reflect on where this initiative started, where it is and where it is going.

The roll call of leaders would be long, but Pawloski starts by giving credit to Debbie Hyler with The School Foundation and Richard Harrington of The School Foundation’s board. The Florence School District 1’s administration – including Floyd Creech, the district’s director of school readiness – and the board have played instrumental parts. Leatherman’s political clout has been important.

But where would this movement be without Pawloski? Her expertise in neuroscience and early childhood education, plus a passion to share her wisdom, is making a difference in a community that has needed help.

Discussions about leveraging the business community started in 2011 and led six months later to the Business Leaders Summit on Early Childhood Investment. It drew more than 450 people to the Southern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology at Florence-Darlington Technical College.

“We captured a business audience and helped them understand,” Pawloski said. “Educators are not going to make this happen. Educators can’t make it happen. Business people support it on all levels. They support employees improving their parenting skills.”

The business community has come a long way in a short time.

“Historically, business people thought the important work began not even at first grade,” Pawloski said. “They thought it began in high school.”

This was an awakening.

“We can predict a fourth-grade reading level at about 18 months – before a child speaks – based on the vocabulary used by parents,” Pawloski said. “By age 5, 90 percent of the neuroconnections are in place, yet look who’s wiring our children.”

Thanks to support from businesses, more parents are participating in pilot programs.

“We’re teaching parents how to use books effectively in growing their child’s brain,” Pawloski said. “We’re growing a population of parents who better understand the power they have to change their child’s brain just in how they read a bedtime story.”

Dividends will come.

“Employers will see the return on their investment in 12 years, when these children grow up and become their workforce,” Pawloski said. “Imagine what that social capital will grow into financially. The better we do in early childhood education, the better the state will do economically.”

Pawloski’s vision for the future is bold.

“Libraries of books in every home, viewed by children and parents as their most prized possessions, and they use them and soak them up,” she said.

“In five years, we’ll have a reduced number of special education students. There’s such a trickle down if we change parenting skills. I envision a reduced dropout rate, an increased graduation rate, increased attendance rates, fewer disciplinarian problems in school. Reduced unemployment, because we’ll have a more marketable workforce. Fewer teen pregnancies. A reduced crime rate. That’s what education will provide. That’s what we’re paying up front for.”

It’s hardly a cost. This is a monumental investment.

When we get to a bright tomorrow, remember yesterday and today. And don’t forget the people who are making it happen.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of this newspaper. Editorial board members are Stephen Wade (regional publisher), Don Kausler Jr. (regional editor), Kimberly Brauss (online editor) and David Johnson (regional circulation director).

Early childhood program in Florence 1 showing progress

on Wednesday, 03 December 2014. Posted in News

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 7:26 pm

BY MELISSA ROLLINS Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – S.C. Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, visited Alfred Rush Academy in Quinby on Tuesday to hear about the progress of the school readiness program started by Florence School District 1 and The School Foundation.

Leatherman said he was pleased to see how much the program has grown in its first year. “I saw the results today and thought, ‘Wow, it’s working,’” Leatherman said. “That’s why I am going to talk to the new Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman, and see if we can get this program statewide.”

Leatherman said he sees the benefits of Florence 1’s Start SMART program and wants to see South Carolina politicians focus on other programs like it that will improve the lives of the state’s citizens.

“This is what I have tried to do in my time in the Senate,” Leatherman said. “I have tried to look for programs like this that will be better for all of our citizens, particularly these young ones.”

Part of the presentation Tuesday included Leatherman giving Florence 1 representatives a check for $147,500. The check was the final quarterly payment from the state for its share of the financing of the five-year pilot program. The state agreed to pay for the first four years; Florence 1 will be responsible for paying for the fifth year.

School board member Trisha Caulder was present Tuesday and said that as a big proponent of early education, she is thrilled the district has made it a priority.

“It is fantastic, seeing the excitement in the parents and the children in the program,” Caulder said. “Family literacy is what I did in the district for a long time. To be able to see things that we have wanted to happen for so long happening now is amazing. And it is all because we all came together. It is a partnership, and Sen. Leatherman is a huge part of that partnership.”

The preschool program in Florence 1 had about 400 students enrolled last year at the start of the early childhood initiative. Now roughly 700 students, including special needs children, are enrolled.

The school district and The School Foundation partnered with businesses in the community, working with their employees to encourage them to start their children’s learning early in their homes.

Relationships also were formed with local childcare providers and doctors’ offices to ensure children are receiving health screenings.

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