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Locals list helping others, improving health as some of their New Year's resolutions

As the new year begins, people young and old are either setting new goals for themselves with wishes ranging from better school grades to improved health and wellness.

Many individuals are also engaging in ways to help others, even if it’s just being kinder and gentler, or setting up a nonprofit organization to help girls.

Just ask Orangeburg resident Keyona Gainey, who plans on getting her nonprofit called Precious Jewels up and running in 2019 to assist and inspire girls ages 5 to 25 in their development.

“It’s to help prepare and guide them for the real world. My goal is to make it nationwide. I also want to be successful in my career at the Social Security Administration, but also really focus on the nonprofit organization for all women and young girls around the globe,” Gainey said.

Her organization’s mission statement is: "Where young women always have a voice and an ear that will always listen."

“It is also to help them not just with mentoring, but personal skills on how to become ready for the real world. It’s about how to build your portfolio, write resumes, do your hair and nails, just branching out -- a whole different aspect of things," Gainey said.

“I also just got a 24-hour hotline and an email that should be up and running by the first of the year for them to reach out to me. That’s my main focus for the 2019 year, and just to be happy and blessed,” she said.

Orangeburg residents Robert James and Melissa Berry also want to be blessed in the new year.

“I want to be blessed with all God’s gifts and to help people. You can’t make it without helping people. You get more blessings and favor and things will come to you,” James said.

What is Berry looking forward to in the new year?

“Getting my walk closer with God. That’s my first goal. The second one is living a healthier lifestyle. I got to come off some of these pounds but, of course, that’s not going to start until January after the holidays," she said, smiling.

Orangeburg resident Deirdre Shingler is also praying for good health in the new year.

“Health is important to me because I'm a diabetic. Every doctor wants to put you on medication. Take this pill or take that pill. I take 15 pills in the morning, four pills in the afternoon and eight pills at night. So I don't want to take any more pills or anything else," Shingler said.

“Diseases are just some attack of the enemy. It's a spiritual thing for me, and my prayer is to be healthy. That's my New Year's resolution. Health means more to me than anything in the world. If that means I have to exercise, I'm willing to do what it takes."

Gardenia Robinson of Orangeburg said shedding more pounds is just one of her goals for the new year.

“I want to actually go to the gym at least twice or three times a week. I want to lose at least 15 pounds. I did lose three, but I still want to lose 15. My financial resolution is to pay down some credit card debt so that I can go on vacation guilt free,” Robinson said, noting that another personal goal is to reach out to some of her family members more beyond weddings and funerals.

“I’m good with my nucleus: my mom, dad, brother and sister. But I want to reach out to cousins because we’re getting older … . I want to be that person that’s reaching out a little bit more,” she said.

Rebecca Sibley of Orangeburg recently had two back surgeries six weeks apart and is looking forward to improving her mobility.

“My goal is to exercise enough to get my back to heal so that I can hopefully function again. Exercise is important. I’ve been doing the basics of what the doctors tell me to do, but I want to add more strengthening exercises to it,” Sibley said.

“The other goal is to do a family-type thing of just making memories. My mother and my husband’s mother are very frail in their health. My mother will be 95 in January if she lives that long, and I just want to continue to make memories. I’m going to visit more in Mississippi,” she added.

Esther Jones of Orangeburg wishes to be more consistent with the things she does and nurture the positive relationships in her life.

“My goal is to be more consistent in everything. I’m also going to try to grow my hair about two or three more inches, and I want to reach out to my family members more,” she said.

Get jump on Jan. 1 resolutions

Christmas is a week from today. New Year's is two weeks away. Maybe you're too busy getting ready for Christmas, but thinking now about New Year's resolutions is the way to go.

Jones, who teaches chorus at William J. Clark Middle School, said she also wants to keep working on her music. She sings and plays music and just recorded a Christmas song titled “Through the Miles.”

“It’s basically saying Jesus is the reason for the season and that it’s just a beautiful time to celebrate all the people you hold dear. It’s on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon Music. I also have a music video for it on YouTube. So I was really thankful to get that out,” said Jones, whose artist name is Esther J.

Orangeburg resident David Smith said he is anticipating meeting his family in the new year.

“I’ve been blessed to find my family that I haven’t seen in 50 years. They’re wanting to come down to see me. I’m apprehensive about it, but I really want to see my sister again,” Smith said.

He said he is also looking forward to living as he battles cirrhosis.

“I have that chronic illness that I’m fighting, and my goal there is just to keep on trying, keep on plugging in there and keep on getting where I can keep on living,” Smith said.

Rev. J.P. Sibley, pastor of New City Fellowship in Orangeburg, said his goals for the new year include exercising three times a week, reading a novel every month just for fun and finding time for silence every week.

“I just want to have time every week to unplug a little bit. And then my wife and I have a goal together. We want to get to know our neighbors better,” he said.

Teenagers Terry Bell of St. Matthews and Zarria Johnson, Yasmire Evans, Lillian James and Jaylin Bender, all of Orangeburg, have also set personal goals for themselves in the new year.

“For the new year, I want to be polite to everyone, bring holiday joy and be friendly and help everybody up,” Bell said.

Johnson said, “My New Year’s resolution is to focus on my grades more and focus on getting myself back on track.”

Evans said her plans for 2019 include being less worried about things and getting closer to God.

“My New Year’s resolution and aspiration is to alleviate my worries, strengthen my spiritual guidance with the higher being. I want to expand my horizons and connect more with myself,” she said.

James said, “My New Year’s resolution is to be able to better communicate with others, interact more with others and to also figure out my future. That’s that I’m trying to figure out now.”

Bender said he is resolving to “try to better myself as an individual so I can positively impact others around me” in the new year.

Teens Kaylee Livingston, Syrenity Sims, Ashlyn Fanning, Tamyah Perry and Gabriel Broome, all of North, have also set goals which include improving their performances in academics and sports.

“I guess the biggest thing is to keep my grades how they are and to work harder. In some classes I have to get some better grades than I have right now. So I just want to get better grades than I have right now. I play sports so I also just want to get better at those,” said Livingston, who plays softball and volleyball.

Sims, 13, said while she hadn’t really put much thought into New Year’s resolutions, she is anticipating a successful move to high school.

“I kind of just want to get this year over with so I can go to high school. But I want to do better in some sports and continue to have my grades be good," she said, noting that she will also be working on her singing, particularly by continuing to hone her skills at church.

Fanning said, “I really hadn't thought about it yet, but I want to try to stay positive and do better in school and do good in track.”

Perry said her goals include avoiding school drama and focusing on her grades.

"I want to have good grades, achieve new goals and push myself a lot harder than I am now. I want to stay out of drama and not get sucked up in school squabbles. I just want to focus on sports and things,” she said.

Broome enjoys football and wants to continue excelling in that sport and practicing good behavior along the way.

"I want to get ready for the next football season," he said. "I also want to keep my head down and stay out of trouble."


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'Powerful Tools for Caregivers' course to be held at Vance Senior Center starting Jan. 15

VANCE - The "Powerful Tools for Caregivers" education program will hold its first class from 2-4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the James "Boy" Davis Vance Senior Citizen Center.

The free, six-week course will also be held from 2-4:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 and 29 and Feb. 5, 12 and 19.

The program is designed to help family caregivers take care of themselves while caring for a relative or friend who has a chronic illness.

Those who have cared for another person on a regular basis know how challenging this can be. In today’s world, lives can be busy enough. Throw in the regular needs of someone else, and things can really get crazy.

Jean Davis, site coordinator of the Vance Senior Citizen Center, noted the challenges involved with being a caregiver.

“Your stress levels can go up. People feel a need to get out of the house or get away for a little while. Basically, they just need a break,” Davis said, noting that whether someone is a full-time or part time caregiver, it can take a toll on them.

Jan Hyatt, NOAH (Neighborhood Outreach Alzheimer's Help) project coordinator with The ARK, added, “Caregivers just get so exhausted. Their health goes. They quit going to church, they quit going to their own doctor, they quit seeing friends."

The ARK-Alzheimer’s Family Support Services will be presenting the six-week program. The ARK provides the classes throughout South Carolina to help those who are helping others. Their mission is to provide hope and relief to families living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia through support services such as respite care, support groups, education, caregiver consultations, resource referrals and community development.

According to The ARK’s website, there are 81,000 people age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease in South Carolina. South Carolina is ranked eighth highest in Alzheimer's death rates in the U.S., the site notes.

Those numbers alone speak to the importance of programs to help caregivers.

“Forty percent of caregivers actually pass away before their care receiver," Hyatt said. “It is evidence based that taking this class could have prevented 20 percent of those deaths."

Many caregivers may not even realize how much it will benefit them to attend the program, Davis said.

She said some of the symptoms caregivers might experience include “anger, guilt, depression -- and they don’t even realize it’s due to the stress they are under. Some people even become sick themselves. They develop negative attitudes, become defensive and blame themselves.”

Hyatt said the upcoming "Powerful Tools for Caregivers" program will help people “recognize their own emotions” and basically “find that balance of taking care of someone else and making tough decisions."

“Caregivers need to take care of themselves so they can be there for those they are caring for,” she said.

The class needs a minimum of eight people to sign up, but Hyatt said she would like to see at least 25-30 people attend. It will likely be the only class of this type for a least another year, she said.

The six-week course is not for professional caregivers. Hyatt said it is for ordinary people who are simply caring for someone they love.

The program provides a great opportunity to spend time with people carrying the same burdens, share ideas and learn from each other, she said.

The class comes with a thick book filled with additional resources to help caregivers.

To register for "Powerful Tools for Caregivers," call The ARK at 843-471-1360 or email info@TheARKofSC.org. Visit the organization's website at www.TheARKofSC.org.

The Vance Senior Citizen Center, which can be reached at 803-492-3894, is located at 10304 Old Number Six Hwy. in Vance.


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Children’s conditions improve in region; Kids Count study says state still behind much of U.S.

While some conditions are improving for children in The T&D Region, many are still born with low birth weights and live in poor areas, a new Kids Count study shows.

Considering a broad range of issues affecting children, including health care and education, Kids Count ranked South Carolina 38th in the nation in child well-being. That’s the state’s highest ranking to date.

Kids Count ranked South Carolina’s counties on 16 indicators of child well-being across four domains: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

“With this data, we can work with communities to build well-being and resilience and prevent child abuse and neglect from occurring in the first place,” said Dr. Melissa Strompolis, Children’s Trust’s director of research and evaluation.

“Community members are the key to using this data as well. They are the experts who can identify what’s working and where additional support is needed,” she said.

Calhoun County was among the counties making the biggest leaps from 2017, improving by eight spots to rank 24th among the state’s 46 counties in child well-being for 2018. Bamberg ranked 30th and Orangeburg ranked 40th. 

Carissa Gainey, interim director of the S.C. Department of Social Services’ Calhoun County office, said “I think the most important thing that we've realized is that child welfare is not just the job of DSS, but it's a community effort. We partner with agencies like First Steps and other community programs, and we really get the best outcomes for children."

Based on comparisons between 2017 and 2018 county profiles, the Kids Count study revealed Bamberg, Calhoun and Orangeburg counties improved in the number of births to 15- to 19-year-olds.

In Orangeburg County, births to teens decreased from 34 per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19 in 2017 to 27 births in 2018.

Bamberg County was recorded as having improved with 16 births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19 in 2017 compared to 10 among the same population in 2018.

Calhoun County also saw a decline in its teen birth rate with 25 reported births per 1,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2017 compared to 20 reported births among the same population in 2018.

“Bamberg School District 2's Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention's Initiative is now 36 years old. We do attribute the positive gains we've been able to make and sustain over 36 years to our intensive long-term, age-appropriate sexuality educational programming for our students in grades pre-k through 12th grade,” said Michelle Nimmons, coordinator of Bamberg County School District 2’s Pregnancy Prevention Initiative.

“We are very fortunate that our community, the board of trustees and district administration continue to be supportive of our program. They understand the connection between young people delaying the initiation of sexual behaviors, avoiding risky sexual behaviors, contracepting effectively and school success,” Nimmons said.

All three counties also improved in the following areas: percentage of children up to age 17 living in households with incomes below the poverty level, the percentage of teens ages 16 to 19 not enrolled in school and not working and the percentage of children living in single-parent households.

There were more mixed results in other areas, including the percentage of children living in areas of concentrated poverty. An area of concentrated poverty is defined as an area in which the census tract has a poverty rate of 30 percent or more.

While Calhoun County’s percentage remained unchanged at 0 percent between 2017 and 2018, the percentage slightly worsened for Orangeburg and Bamberg counties.

The percentage of children living in areas of concentrated poverty increased from 32.2 to 32.3 percent in Orangeburg County and from 29.3 to 30.8 percent in Bamberg County.

The data also revealed fewer babies were born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces in Calhoun County, which saw its percentage decline from 13.3 percent to 11.5 percent.

Orangeburg County’s percentage of low-birth-weight babies increased from 11.6 to 14.2 percent, while Bamberg’s percentage increased from 10.7 to 13.3 percent.

The area of education also yielded mixed results. While the cumulative percentage of children failing grades 1, 2 or 3 slightly worsened for Orangeburg County from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, it improved for Bamberg and Calhoun counties.

Bamberg County’s percentage decreased from 12.1 to 8.6 percent, while Calhoun County’s percentage of children failing grades 1, 2 or 3 dipped from 6.8 to 5.1 percent.

Calhoun County First Steps Executive Director Virginia Newman said early childhood education provides the foundation for success in grades 1-3.

A Parents as Teachers program, which is provided through First Steps, strengthens families with home visits and group meetings, while a Dolly Parton Imagination Library provides an age-appropriate book each month to children through age 5 in the county, Newman said.

Countdown to Kindergarten, a school transition program, is another service provided to assist 4-year-olds with skills needed for success in kindergarten.

“We’re also fortunate in Calhoun County that they’ve been offering the 4-K program for the past 18-plus years. So once the child leaves our program, if the parent wants the child to go to Head Start, which is next door to us, they may refer them there, or we work with the school district in getting them into the 4-K program,” Newman said. “We also work with the Montessori teacher at the St. Matthews K-8 School. That classroom accepts 3- and 4-year-olds.”

She said her agency has good working relationships with the other county agencies, including the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“We’re required by legislation to have a representative from the school district, DSS, DHEC and the county library on our board,” Newman said.

Calhoun County First Steps stresses that the parents are a child’s first and best teacher.

“Parents are the key, and they don’t always know that,” she said.

Kids Count is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It provides data on children and families

To view the report, visit online at scchildren.org/county-data-available-for-child-well-being.