Category Archives: Local News

Guardian ad litem program needs more volunteers

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — More volunteers are needed to serve as guardians ad litem in Pickens County.

Guardians ad litem give a voice to children in the family court system and provide recommendations to judges on their behalf.

Cherie Walker spoke to Pickens County Legislative Delegation members about the guardian ad litem program during their annual meeting Monday.

Walker is the director of county operations for the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem program.

“During fiscal year 2017-18, there were 2,200 guardian ad litem volunteers statewide who served over 14,000 South Carolina children,” Walker said. “Here in Pickens County, our volunteers advocated for 557 abused and neglected children.”

Pickens County’s GAL program is the seventh largest in the state in terms of caseload, she said.

“Our volunteers are very dedicated and compassionate,” Walker said. “They all make a difference in the lives of children in our community.”

She shared some examples of the work of guardians ad litem in the community with the delegation “so we can honor them.”

Mitzi Bowles learned a GAL teenager didn’t have a dress to wear to her military ball.

“She donated a brand-new ball gown to the program so that young lady could go to the military ball with a beautiful, quality gown,” Walker said. “Mitzi’s very familiar with the struggles of children in foster care. She grew up in foster care herself at Connie Maxwell, and now she chooses to give back to the program and serve in that way.”

Guardian ad litem Pat Smith remained on a guardian case for six years with multiple children “as they went through the process and were placed and adopted,” Walker said.

“Two of the children initially didn’t want to be adopted,” she said. “She supported that foster parent and those children as they went through that transition. It’s very difficult. Eventually, the children were ready, decided they wanted to be in a forever home and those two children were adopted this year and that case finally closed after six years.”

Guardian ad litem Nika Phipps was a guardian for a 17-year-old girl “who was about to age out of foster care and go into independent living,” Walker said.

Phipps advocated for the teen.

“She provided inspiration, guidance and support to this young lady, and she is now enrolled and doing well at Presbyterian College,” Walker said.

Those success stories highlight the importance of the program, she said.

“It’s so important for these children, statewide and here in Pickens County, to have volunteers so that their voices are heard in family court,” Walker said.

The program actively recruits and trains new volunteers, she said.

“Our goal is that every child that comes into the system has a volunteer guardian ad litem to speak on their behalf,” Walker said.

The time commitment is flexible for GAL work, she said. Volunteers receive 30 hours of free training.

“We screen them,” Walker said. “They need to be 21 years old and pass various background checks.”

The program is particularly interested in recruiting more male volunteers, she said.

“They make wonderful role models for many children that don’t have a male role model in their life,” Walker said.

Those interested in learning more about the guardian ad litem program should visit


PRA announces challenge winners

PICKENS — The Pickens Revitalization Association has announced the winners of the latest Main Street Challenge, an entrepreneurial startup competition for the purpose of generating additional retail occupancy in Pickens.

PRA awarded the top cash incentive of $7,500 to first-place winner The Colonial House, followed by $5,000 for second-place winner Twisted Skillet Bistro and $2,500 for third-place winner Burgess & Taylor General Store.

“The selection committee was impressed with all three businesses and wanted to help each of them,” PRA director Allison Fowler said. “We were fortunate to be able to offer a cash incentive to all three

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What can SC schools learn from Finland?

This fall, I had the pleasure of joining a group of educators and leaders on a trip to Finland led by Public Education Partners, Furman University’s Department of Education and the Riley Institute at Furman. Our goal was to learn about what makes Finland’s public school system one of the best in the world, and how we could put some of their strategies to work here in South Carolina. On the way home, the lessons I learned there began to form in my mind into a simple rhyme:

Build more.

Feed all.

Test less.

Play ball!

One of the first differences I noticed at Finnish elementary schools was how much the students worked with their hands. They were constantly making, crafting and building! Finland is not afraid to put

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County councilmen tour TCTC facility

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

PENDLETON — Members of the Pickens, Oconee and Anderson county councils toured the renovated Ruby Hicks Building on the Pendleton campus of Tri-County Technical College last week and heard from college officials about future facility plans.

“We’re really appreciative,” Tri-County Technical College president Ronnie Booth said. “We wanted to have you out to say thanks … to invite those people who are honestly the most responsible for making this happen to come and see what we’ve done.”

During the luncheon, Booth said the Hicks Building is no longer the “dark, dark old cave” it once was.

“A few months ago, this building was literally so open you could roll a

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Local Christian chamber chapter launching

First meeting planned Feb. 19 at SWU

CENTRAL — A new organization is being established that will offer Christians in business, ministry and community leadership in Pickens and surrounding counties the opportunity to network with others and be informed and inspired by speakers on a variety of topics.

The Christian Chamber of Commerce (C3) was first established 10 years ago in Columbia and is now launching a Pickens County chapter. The chapter’s first meeting will take place Feb. 19 at Southern Wesleyan University in Central.

The first C3 luncheon will take place in The Founders, on the lower level of the University Dining Commons. Networking will begin at 11:30 a.m., and the program will be held from noon-1 p.m.

The featured speaker will be William Renfrow, CEO of Renfrow Industrial. Renfrow will speak on Kingdom Influence and its power to transform

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Apple Quilt displayed on new OLLI office in Patrick Square

CLEMSON — The Apple Quilt was chosen by the Osher Life Long Learning Institute’s board of advisors to grace its home in Patrick Square, the Charles K. Cheezum Education Center.

The long-awaited facility houses Clemson University’s OLLI program, a membership community of seasoned adults that provides a wealth of activities in the area of the arts, sciences, history, technology, natural history and culture. The handpainted quilt is located on the back side of the building, located at 100 Thomas Green Blvd. in Clemson.

The quilt is a patchwork pattern featuring an apple in the center of each block and was made by members of the Mabe family — Ruth and Sadie of

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Courier Community Calendar 1-16-19

• Conservatives set to meet in Pickens

The next meeting of the Conservatives of the Upstate will be Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. at Pizza Inn in Pickens. This will be a planning meeting to discuss what action items the group wants to pursue in the next three months. The meeting will last an hour.

The group hopes all will consider attending and help with input as to what conservative issues are important.

Those planning to attend are asked to rsvp

• BROS orcid show planned at WOE

The 10th annual Blue Ridge Orchid Society (BROS) Show at the World of Energy in Seneca will be Feb. 21-23.

The free orchid show will feature beautiful, unusual orchids of all shapes,

Police: Man, 81, dies in murder-suicide attempt

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Pickens County Sheriff’s Office investigators believe an 81-year-old Pickens man shot and wounded his wife before taking his own life Thursday.

The sheriff’s office received a report of a shooting on McJunkin Road in Pickens at 9:35 p.m. Thursday, according to a release from Chief Deputy Creed Hashe.

Deputies arriving at the scene found a 73-year-old woman with what appeared to be a gunshot wound.

The woman was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery Friday morning “to repair injuries sustained from having been shot one time

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Residents press legislators to make education changes

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — Several residents called for the Pickens County Legislative Delegation to do its part toward eliminating the state’s Education Oversight Committee.

Comprised of Sens. Thomas Alexander and Rex Rice and Reps. Davey Hiott, Neal Collins, Gary Clary and West Cox, the delegation held its annual meeting Monday night at the Pickens County Performing Arts Center in Liberty.

Johnelle Raines of Pickens spoke on behalf of United States Parents Involved in Education “to recommend an education governance structure change.”

“It is evident South Carolina public schools are failing after the latest results of the nation’s report card,” she said. “It is a disgrace. Our rankings have gone further downhill. This is not acceptable.”

Legislators must change the leaders who are making decisions about the

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Foundation impressed by Dream Center’s success

Hipps Foundation recently gave to Opportunity Village

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Tucker Hipps had a passion for helping the homeless, and the foundation that bears his name wants to help homeless people in his memory.

After Tucker’s death, his mother, Cindy Hipps, said the family was told many stories about people witnessing Tucker helping the homeless.

“He’d take them out to lunch or open his wallet and give them money,” she said.

Cindy Hipps is the president of the Tucker W. Hipps Memorial Foundation, which recently made a $25,000 donation to the Dream Center

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