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A WHALE OF AN EXHIBIT: The College of Charleston's Mace Brown Museum of Natural History now has a new permanent exhibition open that highlights the evolution of whales. The exhibit takes visitors on a 50-million-year-old odyssey, starting with whales' land-dwelling ancestors and ending with species that swim today in Charleston harbor and adjacent waters. You might not realize it, but ancient deposits around the Charleston area are the richest source of whale fossils around, according to college officials. The museum is in the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building, 202 Calhoun Street. It is open daily, except Wednesdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (It is closed, however, for the Thanksgiving holiday.) More. Photo provided.



Health care help is available through new signupSC program

Palmetto Project
Special to Charleston Currents
| permalink

NOV. 24, 2014 -- South Carolinians seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act now can access immediate in-person, online and over-the-phone assistance from a new statewide network of certified insurance navigators and application counselors.


  • Call toll free: 1-888-998-4646. You will be able to speak directly to a certified navigator.

  • Visit us online: http://www.signupsc.com

The Palmetto Project's signupSC network formally opened this month to assist residents in all 46 counties in securing affordable insurance policies through the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace. The network also provides information and support for small businesses applying for group coverage and families with young children in applying to SC Healthy Connections (Medicaid).

The current three-month open enrollment period runs through Feb. 15. Individuals seeking coverage for January need to have finished their selection process by Dec. 15.
While many people may use the federal health care website to directly choose a plan that works best for them, signupSC is a helpful tool to provide the help of an actual person with appropriate training for those with questions and unique concerns. What's important about that, too, is that if technical glitches occur with the federal website, we can help those eligible to apply and get coverage.

Individuals. The most important piece of advice we give people before they start to select a plan is that they have a list of their specific medical needs. Every plan does not fit the needs of every person. The amount of the monthly premium is only one of a number of factors contributing to the selection of a plan. Customers need to consider, for example, which prescriptions and services are covered and where service providers in a plan are located.

Up to 350,000 South Carolinians are eligible to buy insurance in the federal marketplace this year. Of that number, more than 118,000 selected policies during the first open enrollment period and will need to renew those existing policies or select new ones. An uninsured individual seeking coverage in the marketplace must have or expect to have a taxable income of at least $11,670, with subsidies and tax advantages phasing out at $46,680, but up to $95,000 for a family of four.

The signupSC network includes navigators who are specialists in helping underserved populations with unique barriers to accessing care. These include people with disabilities and others with pre-existing conditions like HIV/AIDS. The network also provides Spanish-speaking navigators and translation services to those for whom English is not a primary language.

SignupSC navigators can also assist applicants in determining likely subsidies and tax benefits which will make the monthly premiums even more affordable, she said. Last year, nearly nine out of 10 consumers were eligible for substantial financial assistance to pay premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Navigators are also empowered to assist customers who have complaints with their insurance carriers.

Small businesses. This year, the Affordable Care Act is expanding participation of eligible customers to include small businesses with less than 50 employees seeking affordable group coverage. SignupSC has navigators available to assist customers in using the Small Business Health Care Options Program (SHOP Marketplace) to compare and select plans.

SHOP gives every small business owner the opportunity to comparison shop among the plans offered by insurers in South Carolina. Many business owners are very surprised at the savings available based on their older plans.

Medicaid. South Carolina Healthy Connections (Medicaid) is state-run, mostly federally-financed health insurance for children, pregnant women and disabled adults. In most cases, healthy, childless adults living in South Carolina are not eligible for comprehensive Medicaid benefits.

However, all adults with incomes below 194 percent of the federal poverty level ($22,640/year for a single adult) are eligible for SC Healthy Connections Checkup, an expansion of the Family Planning coverage. This new program will still cover family planning services, but now also will cover a biennial physical and age-related health screenings.

The only way to qualify for checkup is to apply for Medicaid and be denied full coverage. At the Palmetto Project, we recommend that people in this income group do this not only for the preventive services but as proof that they tried to get coverage and therefore not required to pay a penalty on their taxes for failing to get insurance. Furthermore, should an individual's income increase during 2015 to a level at which Marketplace coverage would be an option, the consumer must show proof of the attempt to enroll in order to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to get insurance outside of the Open Enrollment period.

Additional resources. Federally Qualified Health Centers throughout the state have on-site certified application counselors also ready to assist any local resident in applying for insurance. The Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce is providing similar navigation services in Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Allendale, Barnwell and parts of Charleston County (843-986-1102).

  • To learn more about enrollment events and our partners with the signupSC network, click here.

    Steve Skardon is executive director of the nonprofit Palmetto Project, where Shelli Quenga is director of projects. She also serves as statewide coordinator for the signupSC network.

A promising chance for a poor part of South Caorlina

Editor and Publisher | permalink

NOV. 24, 2014 -- Imagine if there were some kind of program -- a little something extra -- that could give pervasively poor places a better chance so they could be more like most of America.

Imagine how such a program could create better job opportunities to stabilize family finances, reduce crime to make communities safer and improve education so children could expand economic mobility.

In January 2013, President Obama announced a pragmatic effort to help overlooked places in America. In his State of the Union address, Obama said he would designate 20 "Promise Zones" -- special urban, rural and tribal communities where the federal government would partner with communities to make life better.

What's smart about this effort is how it doesn't drop a big pot of money on poor communities. Instead they have to come up with real plans on how to fix things. Then they can apply for federal help through existing grant programs. But the bonus: communities that get the designation will get human capital -- trained federal workers who will help make applications for existing grant money to grow jobs, reduce crime or improve education. For these regions with low tax bases, that's practical help. Next, the Promise Zone communities get a few extra points when an application is scored -- a little bump because they're persistently poor areas with a lot of challenges. That's smart, too, because it gives these areas a realistic chance to compete for funding, instead of always being on the short end of the stick because they're small and often forgotten.

Today, South Carolina's poorest region applied for a Promise Zone designation. The Southern Carolina Alliance (SCA), an economic development nonprofit that covers Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties, is leading an effort to secure the designation for just over 90,000 people in this southern tip of the Palmetto State.

In this area west of Interstate 95, the poverty rate is 28.2 percent, including one sector with a poverty rate just shy of 50 percent of residents. Unemployment is 14.8 percent -- more than twice the state average. Crime rates are too high. The schooling that most kids get is substandard, recognized just last week by the state Supreme Court in a long-awaited landmark case on inequitable school funding.

As part of the Southern Carolina Promise Zone application, the SCA, in coordination with the counties, nonprofits and private entities, proposes to energize job growth strategies that would help small farmers grow foods to be sold in the state's metropolitan areas and keep hundreds of millions of dollars spent on food in the Palmetto State. Some 90 percent of the $10 billion in food we buy in South Carolina goes out of state.

Other job growth strategies call for special attention to agribusiness, such as food processing plants; creation of construction jobs by rehabilitating poor housing and building more affordable housing units; growing green-related jobs through a program to upfit homes to allow residents to save on energy costs and implementing a proven program to boost financial stability of low-income families. Also proposed: a revolving loan fund to generate more small businesses; education measures for more job training to expand skill sets; scholarship programs; early reading help; more prosecutors to curb career criminals and gang activity; and a peer victim advocate program in local schools.

SCA leader Danny Black says his group wants the region to be named a Promise Zone because it's just plain good for areas that have been ignored for far too long.

"It's the correct area of the Southeast to do something like this because we are hurting in all of the areas that they want to touch," he said. "It's something that allows us to bring quality of life issues and economic opportunities to a part of the state that really needs it."

Tim Ervolina, head of the United Way Association of South Carolina, said his organization is excited about the possibility of a Promise Zone in the Southern Carolina area.

"It's not just about the additional resources," he said. "It's about the opportunity to use those resources to build lasting community infrastructure which can bring sustainable change."

Indeed. It's about time. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Charleston Currents and Statehouse Report, where this column first was published. If you have a funny quip about a politician, send it along so we can share it. You can reach Brack at: publisher@charlestoncurrents.com.

Got something to say? Send us a letter. If you have an opinion on something we've offered or on a subject related to the Lowcountry, please send your letters of 150 words or less to: editor@charlestoncurrents.com. Please include your name, address and phone number for verification purposes. We look forward to hearing from you!

Charleston RiverDogs: Get ready for 2015 season

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Charleston Currents to you at no cost. This issue's featured underwriter is the Charleston RiverDogs. The Lowcountry’s leader in sports entertainment, Charleston RiverDogs baseball is an attractive, affordable medium for your group or business. The RiverDogs develop the next major league stars for the 27-time World Champion New York Yankees at one of the finest ballparks in Minor League Baseball -- Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.

Three short words sum up the every day approach taken by the Charleston RiverDogs front office. The brainchild of club President Mike Veeck, the nine-letter phrase “Fun Is Good” is meant to be a guideline and daily reminder of how employees should approach their jobs and in turn capture the imagination of the fans to turn them into repeat customers.


'Tis the season -- for giving thanks and giving back
By KYRA MORRIS, contributing editor
Special to Charleston Currents

NOV. 24, 2014 -- Giving. It's wonderful when it works out to benefit everyone involved, and you actually get something worthwhile back. That's what is happening with S.C.'s Community Development Tax Credit. This is a wonderful way to get into the spirit of the season.

Here's how it works. You donate money to a recognized nonprofit community development corporation (CDC) or community development financial institution (CDFI) and 33 percent of the donation is credited against your state taxes on your South Carolina tax return. A "community development corporation" is defined, in part, as a nonprofit corporation that has a primary mission of developing and improving low-income communities and neighborhoods through economic and related development. A "community development financial institution" is defined, in part, as an organization that has a primary mission of promoting community development by providing credit, capital or development services to small businesses or home mortgage assistance to individuals.

If you take the 33 percent tax credit, you cannot take the charitable deduction on your state tax return. A tax credit is usually more beneficial than a tax deduction, and in this case unused tax credits can be carried forward for nine years:

  • A $1,000 charitable deduction saves a maximum of $70 or 7 percent.

  • A $1,000 donation to the CDC saves $333 on your taxes or 33 percent.

In South Carolina, there are 21 qualified CDCs. The Charleston community has three -- Metanoia, Increasing HOPE and SC Community Loan Fund. You can find the complete list at communitydevelopmentsc.org. You are required to obtain a certificate of approval from the organization to get this credit and the tax credit is claimed on Form TC-14, "Community Development Tax Credit."

Another way to give and provide for your community is to invest in it. In this scenario, you don't just make a donation to the CDC, you actually help capitalize the CDC or CDFI with a loan. When you loan money to one of these organizations you still get a 33 percent state tax credit on your state tax return just like the donation.

It is treated though like a loan. You get interest payments over time, and you get back the money that you lent them. The loan term minimum is five years. For the five years, you get interest payments periodically. The interest is set by a governmental formula - currently 2 percent. At the end of five years, you get back your loan. Over the five year period, this is the equivalent of an 8 percent return on your loan when you consider the upfront state tax credit.

Before you dip into your investment account to take advantage of this program, you must recognize that there are risks. The primary risk is if the nonprofit defaults on the loan. In this situation, you only receive the tax credit you got from the loan in year one and any interest payments received until the time of the default. Because of this kind of risk these loans are considered unregistered securities and the law says you must be an "accredited investor." Accredited investors by definition have annual income of above $200,000 and at least a $1 million in net worth.

If you are an accredited investor and willing to do your due diligence with this loan, not only is there a good return for you, but the benefit for the community is far reaching. Often the federal government has matching loans to offer the CDCs or CDFIs. So that means your $25,000 loan turns into $50,000 with the federal match. A CDC can do a lot of good with these funds through programs that aid with home buying, providing healthy food, encouraging community businesses and constructing community facilities.

Not all CDCs or CDFIs, though, are set up to take loans. The S.C. Community Loan Fund is a Charleston-based local nonprofit that is. It takes the donor loan, gets matching loans from the federal government and then loans out the funds at somewhat higher interest rates to other nonprofit groups that do things such as building affordable housing.

Every year, the state makes available up to $1 million for these tax credits. Like some other tax credits, you need to make sure there are still tax credits available at the time you donate or invest. As of the end of October, funds were still available for 2014.

It is the season to give thanks. We are quite blessed with all we have. It is also the season to give back. S.C.'s Community Development Tax Credit program is an intriguing way to do both with an added twist - we benefit also. Now, that is something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kyra Hollowell Morris, a Certified Financial Planner, is CEO of Morris Financial Concepts, Inc., in Mount Pleasant. A national leader in the financial planning profession, she has been named several times by leading magazines as one of the country's top financial planners. More.

Give a frozen turkey and a twenty on Tuesday


You can help One80 Place Nov. 25 to stock its freezer while turkeys are on sale during a Tuesday turkey collection at the Bakker Family Donation Center, 25 Walnut Street, Charleston.

The nonprofit that helps those in need get food and shelter will collect turkeys and financial donations from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

One80 Place serves 170,000 meals annually, and turkeys will be served throughout the year. A $20 donation will also help One80 Place with the cost of providing food, shelter and supportive services to 180 men, women and children every night.

One80 Place provides food, shelter and hope to end homelessness and hunger one person at a time, one family at a time. Founded in 1984, One80 Place annually serves more than 1,600 men, women and children. In addition to food and shelter, One80 Place provides a variety of supportive services such as counseling, employment and educational programming, civil legal assistance, primary healthcare and more.

Thornley, Stern to receive new Riley award

Trident Technical College President Dr. Mary Thornley and College of Charleston former president emeritus Dr. Theodore Stern will receive the first Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Vision Award at MLK Business and Professional Breakfast.

The breakfast, a signature event of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration in the Charleston area, will be held Jan. 20, 2015, and is sponsored by the YWCA Greater Charleston and the City of Charleston.

Established in October, the award is named in honor of the Charleston mayor's 15-year tenure as honorary chair of the MLK breakfast and cites recipients for their "model corporate citizenship."

Both award honorees are acclaimed for overseeing major expansions in student enrollment, faculty, curricula, facilities and funding during their college tenures, Thornley from 1991 to the present, and Stern from 1968 to 1978. Stern will receive the recognition posthumously. He died Jan. 18, 2013 at the age of 100.

Give a can, get a Festival of Lights discount

You can get the most out of this year's Holiday Festival of Lights and its 2 million shimmering lights at James Island County Park by bringing a non-perishable canned food item if you visit on Monday through Thursday. In return, you'll save $5 off the vehicle admission.

Not only will donating save visitors money, but it will also help support those in need this holiday season. Last year at the festival was a jaw-dropping record-breaking year for donations to the Lowcountry Food Bank. More than 15,000 pounds of food were donated which equated to an estimated 12,648 meals. This year, in honor of the festival's 25th anniversary, event organizers with the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission have set a goal of collecting 25,000 pounds of canned food items.


Send us a review

An invitation: What Web sites, books or restaurants have you enjoyed? Send us a short paragraph review of why you liked a recent visit to a restaurant or a book that you recently read. Send to: editor@charlestoncurrents.com

Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery

In 1965 the collection of the Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery opened to the public on Thanksgiving Day with a display of some forty Old Master paintings. The majority of the collection had been organized and preserved by Dr. Bob Jones, Jr. The museum is a separate foundation that enjoys the tax-exempt status lost by Bob Jones University (BJU) in the 1970s. Its collections contain around 400 representative works of Flemish, Dutch, German, French, Italian, and Spanish painting from the fourteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Among them are outstanding examples from the brushes of Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, Botticelli, Preti, Reni, Le Brun, Gerard David, Cranach, Murillo, Ribera, Rubens and Van Dyck.

BJU Museum and Gallery displays paintings, period furniture, and decorative arts and also houses a collection of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Roman, and Hebrew antiquities representing thirty-seven centuries of past cultures. In addition, it contains an unusual collection of Russian icons with representative works from the 14th through 20th centuries, beginning with the Novgorod school and progressing through the reign of Nicholas II, the last Russian czar.

As a visual library and valuable resource, BJU Museum and Gallery presents a record of the culture, religion, and history of ages past. More than twenty thousand people visit the collection each year. Thousands of students, families, and adults participate in the gallery's educational and cultural offerings, such as the annual Living Gallery presentation, music performances, focus exhibitions, guided tours and more.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Sarah McCoy. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


Interesting perspective

Contributing photographer Michael Kaynard took this picture somewhere around the Charleston area. Can you guess where? Send your guess AND your hometown to: editor@charlestoncurrents.com. More: KaynardPhotography.com

More photos: If you want to see a neat photo of the rural South, sign up to receive photo emails at: www.BetterSouth.org. And tell your friends too!


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© 2008-2014, Statehouse Report LLC. All rights reserved. Charleston Currents is published every Monday by Statehouse Report LLC, PO Box 22261, Charleston, SC 29413.

Issue 7.04 | Monday, Nov. 24, 2014
Have a happy Thanksgiving

signupSC offers health insurance help

Promising new chance for poor area

Investing in CDCs, more

Giving turkeys, new award, canned goods

Bob Jones Museum and Gallery


Charleston RiverDogs


Send us your letters

Interesting perspective

On the wall


This week ... and next

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Plaque prevention

"Regular brushing could have prevented this plaque."

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(NEW) A Christmas Carol: Dec. 5-21, Dock Street Theatre, Charleston. Charleston Stage will present a new production of the Dickens classic with special effects, new scenery, new costumes and new music. The show will feature a cast of 29 performers. Tickets range from $38.50 to $57.50 with senior, student and military discounts. More: CharlestonStage.com

(NEW) Homegrown Holiday Bazaar: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Dec. 6, 3546 Maybank Highway, Johns Island. You can get a ton of holiday shopping done at this special bazaar at the site of the Johns Island Farmers Market. There will be a gift wrap station, hayride, food vendors, music and more. The event is offered by the market and Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce. More.

(NEW) On Emancipation Day Parades: 10:30 a.m., Dec. 12, John L. Dart Library, Charleston. Dr. Nic Butler will talk about the parades, music and political speeches that African Americans have had on January 1 every year since the end of the Civil War. The talk will offer insights into their significance and offer inspiration about why they should be continued. See scores of free events at the Charleston County Library by clicking here.


Regional premier of 4000 Miles: Through Nov. 30, Charleston Acting Studio, 915 Folly Road, James Island. Midtown Productions will offer the regional premier of this award-winning play at the end of the month. For tickets and info, click here.

Yuletide Madrigal Feast: 7 p.m., Dec. 4 through Dec. 6, Alumni Memorial Hall, Randolph Hall, College of Charleston, 66 George St. The Department of Music will present an annual feast with their award-winning Madrigal Singers. In addition to beautiful music, the Renaissance menu will include Cornish hen, haricots vert, wild rice, apple caramel tart, coffee and wine. Wassail will also be served.  Tickets are $40 to $70 per person and are sold in advance only. Reservations: (828) 432-7271.

Gospel Christmas: 7:30 p.m., Dec. 6, Ashley River Baptist Church, 1101 Savannah Highway, Charleston. CSO Gospel Choir and CSO Spiritual Ensemble will present the 14th annual performance of beloved holiday show. Tickets: $35, which lower prices for seniors and students. More.

That Holiday Book Sale: Dec. 5 through Dec. 7, Main Library, 68 Calhoun St. Charleston. Books, CDs and DVDs will be on sale during the annual That Holiday Book Sale. by the Charleston Friends of the Library. Books have been picked for quality with gift-giving in mind. With prices starting at just $0.50, this is a bargain that can't be beat.


Bird walks: 8:30 a.m. to noon, every Wednesday and Saturday. This is the time of year that a great variety of migrating birds fly through the Lowcountry so what better time to take part in one of the regular early morning bird walks at Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel. Pre-registration is suggested. Cost is $5. Walks also are conducted on James Island and Folly Beach.Learn more online.


11/24: Skardon, Quenga: signupSC
11/17: Cannon: Downtown schools
11/10: Lesesne: More Wi-Fi in parks
11/3: Denaux: One80 Place

10/27: Reynolds: Festival of Lights
10/20: Sabine: Halloween favorites
10/13: Charleston Jazz Jam
10/6: Nuovo Cinema Italiano

9/29: Smith: West Ashley
9/22: Haynes: Hurricane Hugo
9/15: ECCO's 25th
9/8: Riley on responsibilities
9/1: Sabine: RiverDogs' photo essay

8/25: Friedman, Moredock: New station
8/18: No pets, kids in hot cars
8/11: Ruff: County's greenbelt plan
8/4: Holling: Watkins's book

7/28: Fordham: Literacy program
7/21: Troy: Dolphin's new owner
7/14: Waronsky: Message focus
7/7: Devaney: Winning poster prize
7/1: Dodge: Take 5 campaign

6/16: Pritchard: Anti-cruelty effort
6/9: Wentworth: Palmetto Poem
6/2: Mullins: Play on bishop's murder


11/17: Battle of Honey Hill
10/13: Yellow fever epidemic
9/8: The "Immortal 600"
8/11: The inhuman threat
7/14: Nearly impregnable
6/9: Prisoners to Charleston
5/12: Change of command
4/14: Charleston capture?
2/10: Attack of the Hunley
1/27/14: Bleak conditions


11/24: Promise zones
11/17: Gerrymandered districts
11/10: Lesson on governing
11/3: Ballot box won't fix board

10/27: On the work ethic
10/20: Find the liberal
10/13: New station needed
10/6: Sheheen uses flag

9/29: On panhandling
9/22: Why we vote on Tuesdays
9/15: Watkins offers romp on Trace
9/8: DaPore on putting people first
9/1: On finding column topics

8/25: End of 2nd Reconstruction
8/18: Humor and politics
8/11: Gov's race interesting
8/4: Letters to a camper

7/28: Writer says S.C. like Africa
7/21: Problem with chamber
7/14: On being fair
7/7: Do more on civil rights
7/1: Great trip to Wyoming

6/16: All about chiggers
6/9: Hollywood drama at capitol
6/2: D is for dysfunctional


10/3: Honoring aging
8/4: There's an app for that
6/2: It takes a virtual village
5/19: Common IRA traps to avoid
4/7: Medication check-up
3/3: Read your deed
2/3/2014: Driving and being older

12/2: On the Personal Property Memo
11/4: Your time: great gift for seniors
10/7: Let's celebrate aging
9/3: Medicaid and your future
8/5: More on estates, wills
7/1: Estate planning myths
6/3: Pensions for wartime vets
5/6: Revocable Living Trusts
3/4: Resources to help seniors cope
2/4: On life estates
1/7: Next step in health care


11/24: Community investments
10/27: Silicon Harbor
9/29: On personal happiness
8/25: S.C. Inland Port
7/28: Your digital assets
7/1: Tax credits, deductions
5/26: Social Security conversation
4/29: Community ag/fisheries
3/24: Let's invest in Charleston
2/24: Getting beyond jitters
1/27/14: Financial independence

12/23: And now there is hope
12/2: The "thanks" of Thanksgiving
10/28: Impact of rising bond market
9/30: What happens when rates rise


11/17: Holiday fun for all
10/20: Sabine: Halloween favorites
9/15: Great run/walks for family
8/18: Edisto day trip
7/21: Great reading places
6/16: Picking berries, making jam
5/26: Art and music for kids
4/21: ArtFields for kids
3/17: Spring break ideas in S.C.
2/17: Four great outings for limited times
1/20: Upstate wonders

12/16: More holiday fun
11/18: Winter activities to do
10/14: Four ways to preserve history
9/16: It's harvest time
8/19: Kids giving back

7/15: Childrens' museums
6/17: Interactive adventures
5/20: Birds, bees, butterflies
4/15: Signs of spring abound
3/18: Great local parks
2/18: What's new in Charleston is old
1/21: Blaze a trail in 2013
12/10: Great holiday adventure


11/3: Harris: Accidentals
10/6: Meyers: back from the woods ...
9/1: Hagerty: Twinzilla Wormhole
8/4: Lamkin: A rose for my mother
7/7: Amaker: Out of breath
6/9: Wentworth: Path to the Beach

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