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Issue 2.14 | Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2009 | Ho. Ho. Ho.

MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT: Blackbaud employees collected 6,318 toys to donate to the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program this year, helping boost the toy total to well over 32,000 as of Dec. 22. The toy drive was one of many charitable efforts the Daniel Island company took on this year; see The List for more. (Photo provided by Blackbaud)

:: Mannie's journey: Second chances


:: More than point and shoot

:: Send us your thoughts

:: Five from Blackbaud

:: Local farming, Waddle, Black Book


___:: CALENDAR: This week ... and next

___:: REVIEW: Send us your reviews

___:: HISTORY: Best Friend of Charleston

___:: QUOTE: Franklin on Christmas

___:: SPOTLIGHT: Meet an underwriter


ABOUT US is a new online twice-weekly publication that offers insightful community comment and good news on events. It cuts through the information clutter to offer insight and news on the best of what's happening locally. More | Reader testimonials


Mannie's journey: Hope, help and second chances
Executive director, Star Gospel Mission
Special to

Editor's note: We thank the Rev. William K. Christian III for sharing a story that happens more often than most of us realize - and one that has particular resonance in this season of new birth.

DEC. 23, 2009 -- When Mannie arrived at the Star Gospel Mission he was a broken man. When he left several weeks ago he was a new man, a man who would go on to become a real-life success story. This, then, is the story of Mannie's journey.


In a frank and open conversation I had with Mannie recently, he was quick to say that he suffers from two addictions. "My workaholism came from my mother and my alcoholism came from my father," he said. "I started drinking when I was about 9 or 10. I discovered a bottle of vodka under the car seat one day when my father went into the barber shop. I said: 'Hmm, let me try this.' That's where it all began."

Mannie didn't enjoy school and stopped attending while in the eighth grade. He never attended high school, but when he was 18, "while drunk on wine, I took the GED, and, I don't know how I did it, but I passed."

Mannie was hard-headed and wouldn't listen to his parents. "I wound up going to the penitentiary three times -- the first time for breaking into a house and grand larceny; the second time for violation of probation; and the third time for accessory before and after the fact in an armed robbery." For this third crime he served five-and-a-half years at Kirkland Correctional Institution. While at Kirkland, he attended school and received an associate of arts degree in psychology. In 1979 Mannie got out on five years' parole.

After his release, he said that he still used drugs but stopped dealing drugs for fear of returning to the penitentiary. "It's jail or hell … meaning six feet under," he said.

In 1985 Mannie met Martha and they were married. They had three children, two girls and a boy. The girls were taken from them by DSS when the oldest was 5 and the youngest was 6 months. Mannie has never seen them again. He said, "It was that traumatic experience that kept me drinking."

Because he had three DUIs and no driver's license, he worked for temporary agencies for the next 11 years, living in public housing or at Crisis Ministries. One morning he woke up in North Charleston following a three-month drinking binge, thinking that he was having a heart attack or a stroke. "I knew I'd reached rock bottom. All the other things that had happened to me were nothing compared to this. It scared me so much; it was the final wake-up call. I called the detox center at MUSC, spent eight days there, and I haven't had a drink since," he said.

Mannie's next stop was the Star Gospel Mission, where he spent the next 12 months. While at the Mission, Mannie said that he "saw the world and the way people were living outside of the Mission and decided … I just didn't want to go back to that lifestyle." He made the decision to start life all over again and stuck to that resolve. Mannie believes that "God has got to have some greater purpose for me since I'm still alive! I believe that God had a hand in my recovery because I'm sober and still here."

When I asked Mannie about the influence that the Mission had on him, he said: "It was a great place to stay; I slept there, had plenty of good food to eat, and was able to save some money; it's where I got back on my feet. I wouldn't be where I am today had it not been for the Mission."

Since Mannie left, he's gotten his driver's license back, purchased a used truck and has secured a great new job as head of maintenance at a local hotel. Mannie is currently renting a house in North Charleston, where he lives with his wife of 26 years, their son, and several dogs and cats.

We are very proud to say that Mannie is one of the true success stories here at the Star Gospel Mission. His time here was truly a transformational experience!

The Rev. William K. Christian III is executive director of the Star Gospel Mission at 474 Meeting St. in Charleston. Contact him at

For good photos, it's more than point and shoot

By ANDY BRACK, publisher

DEC. 23, 2009 -- Watching a photographer like Jorg Meyer do his job is an odd kind of pleasure.


On one hand, you think, "I can do that. All he's doing is talking to those kids and snapping some shots."

But when you see the results of what he's done, you know he's doing something much different that you could do with your digital, snap-and-shoot camera.

"You still have to create your own image," says Meyer, born in a German town where there were more cows than people. "You have to see it, do the lighting and all of these important steps."

Most of us just point and shoot, and hope for a good shot.

"I always want to tell people that because you tell a doctor that you know aspirin helps for your headache does not make you a good doctor," he says. It's the same with photography, he notes. Just because you have a good camera doesn't necessarily mean you can consistently take great shots.

When Meyer starts a shoot with children, he squats to their level and talks to them awhile. Then he gets them to pose and say things they might find funny - "spaghetti" or "bologna sandwich" or "broccoli." Soon, they relax and start making interesting faces. All the while, Meyer snaps shots. Like us, he's looking for the really great shot, which he explains is a "combination of expression, how the person is set into the image, the setting and how the lighting affects the image."


He says he loves photographing people - and the wider the variety, the better.

"I love to find out the stories behind all of my subjects, being it an assignment or a personal project I create."

One of his worst assignments, he recalls, was shooting former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis for a magazine. Dukakis showed up in a Hawaiian shirt, instead of a suit.

"All of this I could handle, but after I got the film back from the lab, it turned out that he is the worst blinker I have ever met," Meyer remembers. "Usually, you can detect blinkers and you get in a rhythm to avoid the blinking, but I didn't see any blinks while I was shooting.

"In the end, I had only five frames of all the film I shot to present to the client!"

Meyer, who has lived in West Ashley and James Island for the last three years, is moving to New York at the end of the month to be nearer to corporate clients who are the bread and butter of his job in portrait and children's fashion photography. The kinds of things he shoots - from hip, happy children wearing groovy clothing to models for pages in Glamour or Parenting magazines - are harder to come by in South Carolina, where his three young children live.

"I just have to concentrate where the market is," he explains, adding that he will frequently be in Charleston and able to schedule time for any photographic projects here. As the economy, particularly the real estate market, picks up, he hopes there might be more work in the Lowcountry.

For now, you probably can enjoy Meyer's work locally when you see photos at TJ Maxx or Stride Rite. Or you can visit his Web site ( to see outstanding photographs of children, boxers and Latin America. It's particularly fun to try to figure out where he shot the many scenes around the Lowcountry.

Andy Brack is publisher of You can reach him by email here.

Send us your thoughts

Have a comment or want to vent? If you have something to say about leadership in South Carolina, the state of baseball today, good barbecue or something about your community's government, drop us a line to: Please send no more than 200 words and include contact information (phone number, hometown) so we can get in touch with you.

Maybank Industries

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring CharlestonCurrents to you at no cost. This issue's featured underwriter is Maybank Industries, LLC of Charleston, SC. With broad experience in commercial and government operations, Maybank Industries applies deep-rooted commitment to teamwork, reliability and personal service to provide innovative business solutions for project development, information technology, logistics, vessel design, shipping agency services and marine terminal operations, both locally and internationally. Maybank Industries applies a powerful blend of professional expertise to research, analyze and develop tailored solutions with thorough plans of action, combining a heavy dose of common sense to solve today's needs that can adapt to changing or evolving requirements. More: Maybank Industries and Maybank Systems.

Local program to help 'grow' new crop of farmers

With the average age of farmers in South Carolina at 59, Lowcountry Local First has decided to take steps to help ensure that there will be a new generation of farmers in the state by establishing the Growing New Farmers Incubator Project.

Growing New Farmers is designed to work with farm interns to train the next generation of farmers, strengthen our local food economy, preserve and steward farmlands, and improve the health of our community. "What we have learned from the land and our own hard work cannot all be taught, but the experience of farming is a rare opportunity that can be shared by those fortunate enough to have experienced it themselves," says Maria Baldwin, an organic farmer at Thornhill Farms who will be training a new crop of farm interns. "I am proud to share this beautiful farm and what we have learned with an eager mind. It will only help to shape us all for the better."

In addition to Baldwin, farmers Sidi Limehouse (Rosebank Farms) and Joseph Fields will be training interns as well.

Local residents can support the project by donating a laptop computer, digital camera or Palm Pilot for interns to use to upload information to online markets; housing a farm intern for the 2010 growing season; or providing a stipend for one new farmer. LLF says donations in any amount are welcome, and contributions of $500 or more will be matched by a private donor.

Checks can be sent to Lowcountry Local First, 1345 Avenue G, #AA, North Charleston, SC, 29405. To learn more, call Elizabeth Beak at

Aquarium extends 'Waddle Wagon' penguin program

The South Carolina Aquarium is extending its popular holiday penguin program for an extra week in response to visitor demands. The "Waddle Wagon" gives aquarium patrons a chance to see one of the facility's Magellanic penguins up-close as the bird rides in a special cart through the building, and people can even get their picture taken with one of the birds.

From Dec. 26 through Jan. 3, the Waddle Wagon will tour the aquarium beginning at 1:30 p.m., with educators and staff members on hand to talk about the penguins. At 2 p.m., visitors can watch the penguins being fed. To see a video of the Waddle Wagon in action, go to

Little Black Book celebrates 10th year of directory

The Little Black Book, a guide for "Every Busy Woman," will celebrate a decade in publication in 2010 with several special issues and the unveiling of a new design in January.

The concept of the publication arose from a local resident's unsuccessful attempt to find a doctor through a directory search. "A name and number in a traditional directory listing gives very little information and no testimony to the quality of services offered by that business," said publisher Jennifer Dyer Buddin. "The Little Black Book and, the publication's Web site, collect women's referrals for their 'go to' businesses and invites those recommended most often to be included in the specialized directory."

The first issue of The Little Black Book was published in January 2000 in Charleston, and it was produced annually. The directory has since grown to a quarterly publication and expanded into nine markets.

"Our passion is connecting busy women looking for trustworthy resources," says Buddin. "Women are busier than ever, but we still want the best for ourselves and families. We aim to help simplify that search by asking a few thousand of your 'sisters' to share who they trust."

A birthday party for clients and supporters will be held Jan. 14 and will feature the unveiling of the anniversary issue and a revamped design. Buddin says highlights for 2010 include the launch of a Business & Finance section for busy women in the workplace, expansion of's reach and presence, and a luncheon to honor Charleston women who impact the community.

County park plans winter carnival, fireworks to end year

An old-fashioned winter carnival at James Island County Park Dec. 30-31 will help send 2009 into the record books and welcome 2010 in style. The two-day, family-friendly event will feature carnival rides, a traditional carousel, food, marshmallow-roasting and, at 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve, a fireworks show. Guests can also still see the park's Holiday Festival of Lights displays those nights.

Wristbands will be sold for $10 each and will provide for unlimited rides on the carousel and the climbing wall (two tries during one turn). Individual ride tickets will also be sold for $1 each. Attractions average three tickets per ride.

The carnival and light displays will open beginning at 5:30 p.m., with fees of $10 per vehicle for up to 15 guests. For more information on the carnival, call 795-4FUN or visit

Send us a review

HAVE A REVIEW? If you have a review of a book, movie, restaurant or local arts endeavor, please send no more than 150 words to editor Ann Thrash. Make sure to include your name and full contact information.

Best Friend of Charleston

Commissioned by the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, the Best Friend of Charleston was the first locomotive built in the United States for public service. Constructed in New York City at the West Point Foundry to run on the Charleston-Hamburg line, the Best Friend was christened by hopeful supporters on its Charleston arrival in October 1830. The locomotive had its formal debut on Christmas Day 1830, pulling passenger cars from Charleston to Dorchester. Its performance exceeded expectations, with one observer writing that passengers "flew on the wings of the wind at the speed of fifteen to twenty miles per hour, annihilating time and space."

In 1831 the Best Friend was used to carry mail, freight, and passengers. A second engine, the West Point, went into use on the Charleston-Hamburg line in March 1831 but never achieved the same speeds as those of the Best Friend. The South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company used slaves to work on the line, both as laborers and as firemen to regulate the steam engine. At one point the company even considered the use of black engineers to serve under the management of white conductors, although the suggestion seems to have been dropped.

In June 1831 an accident brought an end to the Best Friend. A slave fireman closed up a safety valve on the boiler while the locomotive was stopped at a platform. When the Best Friend began to move again, a terrible explosion threw the boiler twenty feet into the air, killing the fireman, scalding the engineer, and injuring several workers. The engine was rebuilt and rechristened the Phoenix.

-- Excerpted from the entry by W. Scott Poole. 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.) 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.)


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This week and next, we're publishing only one day a week in observance of the holidays. Next week, look for us on Dec. 30. We'll resume our usual schedule again on Jan. 4.

Blackbaud's community help

It seems like it's Christmas year-round at Blackbaud on Daniel Island. Employees held toy drives throughout the year to collect items for Toys for Tots, donating more than 6,300 toys to the program last week. Here's a list of other charitable efforts the company has been involved in during 2009.

  • On Dec. 10, the company donated $20,000 to Crisis Ministries as part of a longstanding tradition of making a charitable gift in honor of its employees' service to nonprofits, both professionally and personally.

  • The Blackbaud Conference, held Nov. 15-18, directed about $200,000 worth of expenses to nonprofits and included service projects throughout the event.

  • During the third quarter, employees collected sports equipment for Louie's Kids, a Lowcountry nonprofit organization that raises funds to help treat childhood obesity.

  • In April, Blackbaud employee volunteers participated in the Lowcountry Food Bank's Backpack Buddies program. Over three days, volunteers gathered in the company's atrium and packed 400 backpacks with food supplies for area children.

  • During one week in February, employees participated in the "52 Weeks of Thanks," a Daniel Island Community Association program, with the company donating meals and snacks to First Responders serving at the fire station on Daniel Island.

On Christmas spirit

"A good conscience is a continual Christmas."

-- Benjamin Franklin, American statesman (1706-1790)


"The Night Before Christmas": 1 p.m. Dec. 23, Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting St., downtown. A trio of musicians will perform well-loved Christmas songs as actors bring favorite Christmas stories to life. Actors Chris Weatherhead and Michael Easler from the Actors' Theatre of South Carolina join Chamber Music Charleston flutist Regina Helcher Yost, clarinetist Charlie Messersmith and bassoonist Sandra Nikolajevs for the family-oriented concert. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children 3 and above; free for kids under 3. More info: 763-4941, by e-mail or visit online.

Happy New Year, Charleston: 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Dec. 31, Marion Square and surrounding locales, downtown. A family-oriented, alcohol-free event with concerts and activities to mark the beginning of the new year in the Lowcountry. More info online or at 724-7305.


(NEW) Resolution Run: Jan. 2, Joe Riley Stadium, downtown. Family-oriented 5K run/walk sponsored by Trident United Way to get the new year off on the right foot. Race begins and ends at "The Joe." Registration opens at 7 a.m. Jan. 2, and the race starts at 9 a.m. Kids, dogs and baby strollers welcome. Food, fun, party hats and a long-sleeve T-shirt for all participants. More info/registration.

Sounds at the Sea: 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 13, South Carolina Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the aquarium are teaming up to offer aquatic-themed performances throughout the aquarium. Attendees can wander through the exhibits, interact with the musicians, and sample light hors d'oeuvres and nonalcoholic beverages. Tickets: $10 for aquarium and CSO members; $20 for nonmembers. Call 577-FISH (3474) or go to or

(NEW) Legislative Reception: 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 14, South Carolina Aquarium. The Charleston Metro Chamber will host the reception to provide the community a chance for informal networking with local town councils, mayors, state legislators and federal legislators. Leaders who helped secure the Boeing facility will offer special presentations. Cost: $54 for chamber members, $65 nonmembers. More.

(NEW) New Park Tour: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 16, Two Pines Park near McClellanville. A Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission naturalist and historic specialist will lead a preview tour of the new Two Pines county park site, an 812-acre covered with pine flatlands and bottomland hardwoods. Open to ages 12 and up; a registered, paid chaperone is required for participants younger than 15. Cost: $12 Charleston County residents, $15 nonresidents. More info/registration or 795-4FUN (4386).

(NEW) 'The Art of Dueling': 7 p.m. Jan. 21, Charleston Museum. Museum Curator of History Grahame Long will give a presentation titled "Two Pistols, Two Seconds: The Art of Dueling in South Carolina." Discover why it has been argued that Charlestonians participated in more duels than any other community in the United States. Free and open to the public. More info or 722-2996.


12/23: Christian: Mannie's story
Bender: Polar Plunge prep
Brooks: Homes for Christmas
Doll: Enjoy holidays sans lbs.
Yarian: Instruments of Hope
De Armas: Latin biz expo
Blevins: Autism
Hutchisson: Giving
Barnette: Nutcracker
Franklin: Reverse mortgages
Wutzdorff: Be a principal
Haley: Buying local
McCutcheon: Work gap
Ohl: On carpooling
Wiedman: Women at Gibbes
10/26: Matouchev: Bear markets
Conover: BarCamp buzz
Wilson: Symphony update
Bender: Special Olympics
Baron: Breast Center
Ginn: Growing prosperity
Buffum: Waterkeeping
Personal branding


12/17: Cookbook, shopping
The Pig's wines
Neat shopping
LowCANtry holiday
Hawks vs. doves
Improving turnout
10/29: Celebrating a year
10/22: Good, bad signs
10/15: Bob's new food show
10/8: Robot ice cream
10/5: Costumes, snarks
Must-see TV
9/17: Fall leaves
Cold comfort, more
Being a fan
Good, bad, spineless
Locals on Runway
Cookie contest
Vote on car tags
True confessions
New way of tithing?
Lookout for manatees


12/23: Photographer Meyer
Ain't over on Sanford
Back off a little
Sanford presses on
Now is time for courage
Alliance's good news
SC's hidden gems
Boeing highlights needs
No place for prejudice
Have fun at Halloween
Renovated Gaillard?
10/1: Napa wine trip
9/28: Anti-crime measures
9/21: Caw Caw park
Debris policy
Mystery solved
This and that
SC's treasures
8/17: RIP to old clunker
8/10: Lots to squeeze in
8/3: On flying Delta
7/27: Conspiracy theories
7/20: Protect carriage animals
7/13: Economic thaw here?


12/23: Blackbaud 5
4 on holiday lights
Five about oysters
Winter finds
Free parking
Holiday parades
Home fire stats
Being a tourist here
Growing your business
Electronics recycling
Beyond the lights
Weather watching
5 cooking classes
Best lists of year
Oyster recycling
Howl-o-ween fun
Giving blood
Top ratings
Major league
Book sale
Citadel football

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