Review Category : Profile

Animal Advice: Canine columnist Tracie Korol cares about the Whole Dog

Tracie Korol is probably best known to readers of The Island News for her weekly column about dogs called “BowWOW.” In it, she gives practical advice to common behavioral issues facing our Best Friends — as she likes to call our canine pets — and offers holistic approaches on everything from nutrition and exercise to barking and raising a friendly, well-adjusted dog.

Tracie Korol performs Reiki on one of her patients.

Tracie Korol performs Reiki on one of her patients.

Although pets are her passion now, Tracie’s diverse background includes graphic design, retail advertising and being a practicing herbalist.

Born in Pittsburgh, she was raised in Johnstown, Pa., and central Ohio. She lived for a long time in New England before moving to the Lowcountry more than six years ago. In that time, she has written more than 300 articles for the paper.

Tracie has a BFA in graphic design and an MFA in advertising theory. Her first career was as a graphic designer/art director in Ohio. She also had her own firm for 22 years that specialized in industrial and retail print advertising; she’s designed Happy Meal boxes and international retail signage.

She is also certified in canine massage and homeopathy and recently certified in animal nutrition.

“The interesting juxtaposition in these two fields is that I used to BE the person writing the copy and putting the pictures on the dog food bags,” Tracie said. “I know first hand that what you’re buying is hardly ever what you think it is. What is on the bag has nothing to do with what’s in the bag.”

But she left advertising to literally “go to the dogs” designing, building and operating the first community play boarding kennel in Vermont. It was during this time that she really started to notice changes in the health of the dogs that came to the kennel. “I began to see that my dog friends were beginning to develop odd ailments — lupus, myelin sheath disorder, were getting fatter or were routinely coming with more and more medicines. It was not unusual to have 5 out of any 22 dogs be on prednisone and antibiotics at any given time. The why of it all began to bug me,” she recalls.

“I began to study, ask questions, reach out. Mind you, this is pre-internet,” Tracie says. “When I discovered Marty Goldstein in upstate New York, I began to study in earnest and get any certification available.”

Marty became her mentor and stressed whole foods, clean water, exercise, homeopathic remedies, herbal supplements, nutraceuticals, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and energy healing.

“Couple that with my already being a practicing herbalist, I made the acquaintance of Randy Kidd who authored ‘Dr. Kidd’s Herbal Care for Dogs,’ and honed my herbal skills to include animals,” Tracie said. “Along the way I also put myself in front of Richard Pitcairn and Albert Plechner, two of the forerunners in natural animal health, who stress that dogs are what they eat.”

Today, she works with a holistic vet in Aiken providing nutritional counseling for dogs with “dis-ease” for local clients who have tried traditional allopathic treatment and still have itchy, ill, badly behaved dogs.

She also produces REAL FOOD for dogs — a nutritionally complete frozen food for general health and maintenance made from real fruits, vegetables and hormone-free, antibiotic-free proteins.

As an adjunct to that, she also offers home boarding (CouchTime) because some dogs are not suited to kennel — the tinies, the elderly, the medically compromised and the dogs that have no life experience. She believes her yard and many acres provide the best place for a dog to reclaim his inner canine.

“I also as serve as personal chef for a number of dogs that have very specific dietary requirements due to very specific medical impairments,” Tracie adds. “And just because, I will coach dog owners with ‘difficult’ pets in how to achieve a good working relationship with their Best Friends.”

Tracie said one of the most interesting aspects about her profession is seeing the difference between a sick dog and a healthy dog, and how rewarding that change can be for everyone. “It is selfishly gratifying to help a dog go from being an uncomfortable, unhappy, unwell, smelly creature to the dog we all want to have — the dog with a sparkle in his eye, a shiny coat, a carefree sense of being, and what I particularly like, an ornery edge — in a relatively short period of time,” she said. “It is gratifying to see the change in owners, too, when they are no longer stressing about endless, exorbitant vet bills and their chronically sick animal. It makes a big difference, spiritually, in people when they feel that they are contributing to the betterment of their pet’s life instead of blindly turning it over to strangers.”

When it comes to family, Tracie’s mother, Doris, was a clinical dietician who instilled in her at an early age that you are what you eat. “She’s 91 and feisty, so it’s true,” Tracie adds.

Her son Jaren Shafaieh, 30, is a chef at Swank & Swine in Portland, OR, and Tracie said she looks forward to moving out there sometime in the future.

But for now she says most of her community efforts are for and in Sheldon, SC. “It’s a pretty hip little place with pretty hip people, all in all,” she said.

The philosophy behind her work is simple: “Our dogs hold a very special place in our physical and spiritual lives. They have not hurt us, have not let us down, have not criticized us. At the same time, they are woven into almost every moment of our lives. They are our best teachers of mindfulness: paying attention to their surroundings with a focus we’ll never know, living in a world of scent, movement, and adventure. They feel joy and happiness yet also frustration, fear, anger, disappointment, hunger, pain, discomfort. But they do not carry those stories. (This is the crux.) It is because of this gift to us that we must make their lives more complete. If I can help people understand how easy it is to be mindful and caring toward their dog — through allowing a dog to be a dog, through a diet that will give them the vitality to be the best dog, learning a new way to communicate effectively — in return, I am happy.”

Tracie’s goal is to teach more people how easy and how much cheaper it is to feed their Best Friends better food. She will do one-on-ones, group workshops, shopping/teaching expeditions or will just make it for folks who are convinced of the benefit but have no knife skills.  Delivery is free.

Contact Tracie Korol at 843-846-0804, email is,

Read More →

Donation Celebration: One of the largest donations in Beaufort County given to Holy Trinity Classical Christian School

A little over six months after the Rev. Chad Lawrence announced to parishioners at the Parish Church of St. Helena’s that an anonymous benefactor had promised to match $750,000 in a six-month, all-or-nothing challenge for Holy Trinity Classical Christian School, he once again stood before the parishioners on Sept. 7 to announce that the goal had not only been met, but exceeded. Lawrence announced that a total of $ 1,673,000 would be deposited to establish the “Farrell and Elizabeth Runyan Scholarship Fund” at Holy Trinity Classical Christian School for families who could not otherwise meet the financial requirements of the school.

Holy Trinity students celebrate the donation with Rev. Chad Lawrence.

Holy Trinity students celebrate the donation with Rev. Chad Lawrence.

In making the announcement last Sunday, Rev. Chad Lawrence, who also serves as the school’s headmaster, said, “It is truly amazing how the community has come together for the future of our children, our nation, and our faith. Checkbooks have been opened and piggy banks emptied to provide families in our community who otherwise might not be financially able the opportunity for their children to receive a life-changing classical Christian education.”

Lawrence also announced that the anonymous benefactor was the Farrell and Elizabeth Runyan Endowment Fund that issued the “Raise Up A Child” challenge.

Farrell and Elizabeth Runyan, the fund’s namesake, were missionaries who went to Africa in 1946 to dedicate their lives to the fulfillment of The Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19 (ESV).

Over the next 40 years, they lived this command going to Nigeria, Senegal, the Ivory Coast and Swaziland to spread the Gospel.

In 1993, to honor their service by providing financial assistance for projects that also furthered the Great Commission, the Farrell and Elizabeth Runyan Endowment Fund was created. It has purchased, translated and distributed Bibles to eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, hymnals for churches in Swaziland, translated the “Jesus” film for Southern African languages, funded a chemistry lab for a Baptist High School in Nyeri, Kenya, provided church planting tents in Kenya, built a maternity clinic in Malawi, aided persecuted believers in Iran, and supported Young Life of Beaufort.

“Saying thank you to the Farrell and Elizabeth Runyan Endowment Fund is hardly enough,” Lawrence said. “As the Runyans’ mission experiences often proved, ‘What God orders, He pays for.’ Again, He has done so with us, and more.”

Alan Runyan, the son of Farrell and Elizabeth and trustee of the fund, said this is not really the end of the fund but a new beginning.

“The Endowment Fund is taking its greatest and final step onto the most important mission field of the 21st century: training up young minds in the way they should go. For these young minds, trained in the way they should go, will be tomorrow’s missionaries to a lost world in whatever they do, wherever they go,” Runyan said. “It brings a wealth of emotions for me, it causes me to think about the lives of my mother and father and what they stood for, all the effort and the risks they took and it truly is a moment of both humility and challenge. Humility because of what has been done in such a short time and the challenge to the school to educate children with the kind of love for humanity that my mother and father would cherish.”

According to Lawrence, the classical Christian education not only provides a quality education but also equips youth with a strong Biblical foundation so they become ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, fully prepared to defend and advance the apostolic Christian faith.

Holy Trinity school provides a centuries-old, tried-and-true approach to education. “We endeavor to expose students to the good, the beautiful, and the true in all areas of human learning that we might cultivate well-rounded wise, virtuous, and eloquent leaders who are prepared to go wherever God calls them,” Lawrence stated. “A primary objective of classical, Christian education is to teach students how to learn,” Lawrence said. “Learning the truth is important, but learning how to seek the truth is even more critical.”

Such classical education was used to educate most of America’s founding fathers, as well as the world’s philosophers, scientists and leaders between the 10th and 19th centuries.

While there has been a resurgence in classical Christian education, Lawrence said that Holy Trinity’s growth has been quite dramatic since it opened in 2012. “We grew from 100 students the first year (PreK through fifth), to 150 students the second year (when the school added sixth grade), to 190 students this year (when the school added a seventh grade) and we are at capacity,” he said.

Lawrence said that many of the schools they visited started with only seven or eight students but that the Beaufort community has responded in such an incredible way to this educational approach that the initial growth that Holy Trinity has realized is almost unheard of in the classical, Christian educational community.  He said that others who want to start a classical Christian school are now visiting the Holy Trinity campus for more insight.

“However, the most encouraging part,” Lawrence said, “is how the students are responding.”

He said that the 2013-2014 ITBS testing scored Holy Trinity’s kindergarten in the 99 percentile nationwide, and across all grades, the school scored in the 95 percentile.

“It has indeed been a tremendous two years,” Lawrence said, “and with the generosity of the Farrell and Elizabeth Runyan Endowment Fund, the parishioners at St. Helena’s, Beaufort and its surrounding community, we eagerly look forward to the opportunity to serve the community of Beaufort as we help ‘Raise Up A Child’ for years to come.”

Read More →

Celebrating life with fashion: Local cancer survivor Nancy Vista is chairwoman of Belles, Baubles and Burlap to benefit Friends of Caroline Hospice

By Wendy Pollitzer

Nancy Harris Vista is no stranger to the Lowcountry. A businesswoman, a philanthropist and a stalwart member of the Port Royal community since 1992, Vista embraces the art of giving back.

And now, a breast cancer survivor, she wants to celebrate her journey and reciprocate her appreciation for life

Sharon Dwyer, left, director of Friends of Caroline Hospice, stands with Nancy Vista — chairwoman of Belles, Baubles and Burlap, Fashion for Compassion — at a recent Island Girls Night Out at Nancy’s store, Nuances, located at 918 8th Street in Port Royal.

Sharon Dwyer, left, director of Friends of Caroline Hospice, stands with Nancy Vista — chairwoman of Belles, Baubles and Burlap, Fashion for Compassion — at a recent Island Girls Night Out at Nancy’s store, Nuances, located at 918 8th Street in Port Royal.

by giving back to an organization she reveres as a valuable asset to Beaufort County. Friends of Caroline Hospice is dedicated to providing the highest quality end-of-life care that focuses on enhancing the overall comfort for terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less. Vista came very close to needing Friends of Caroline Hospice’s services and wants more people to know the significance and merit of hospice care.

Vista was diagnosed with Stage 4 triple negative breast cancer in August 2013. Triple negative breast cancer occurs in 10% to 20% of breast cancer patients and can be more aggressive and difficult to treat.  Also, the cancer is more likely to spread and recur.

After several rounds of failed chemotherapy treatments last fall, Vista was losing hope. But then, late that winter, she turned a corner. “I truly believe in divine intervention. Something, and I don’t know exactly what, started working. The tumors are gone. I am so grateful,” explains Vista.

About that time, Sharon Dwyer, director at Friends of Caroline Hospice, approached Vista while judging the wings competition at the annual event, Bands, Brews and BBQ. Vista inquired about the annual fashion show that normally is held in the spring. Dwyer explained that the fashion show was going to be held in the fall this year and asked Vista if she would be interested in helping plan the event. Vista agreed to chair the fashion show committee to benefit Friends of Caroline Hospice.

She’s the perfect fit for the role. Vista has years of experience planning successful events, owns a popular women’s apparel store in Port Royal called Nuances, and truly appreciates the value of hospice and palliative care.

“I’m excited to chair this year’s event, Belles, Baubles and Burlap, Fashion for Compassion. I think women in the community are going to be in for a treat,” says Vista.

This year, the fashion show will be held at the Dataw Island Clubhouse on Wednesday, September 17 at 11:30 a.m. The show will feature over 30 fashions from 13 area retailers, a live and silent auction and a delicious luncheon catered by Dataw. The emcee again this year is Deanna Bowdish, and Ash Milner will offer DJ services. All proceeds will support bereavement and caregiver support services at Friends of Caroline Hospice.

Vista is still receiving weekly chemotherapy treatments but maintains a positive outlook and is very appreciative of the community that has helped her through this difficult time.

“The people here are amazing. Everyone has been over-the-top generous with support,” says Vista. “I want this fashion show to be a celebration … of community, of perseverance … of life.”

The fashion show brings women together from all walks of life, young and old, not only to enjoy today’s trends and fashions, but also to rejoice in fellowship. This year, Vista wants everyone to remember why they’re there.

“What happened to me could happen to your mother, your daughter, your sister, or your friend. I hope all of the women who attend will pay silent tribute to those who have been diagnosed with and those we have lost to this horrible disease.”

Of course, Friends of Caroline Hospice, assists patients and families who have been diagnosed with a variety of illnesses and has been providing quality care for the Beaufort and Port Royal communities for over 30 years.

The fashion show’s popularity with local women is a testament to Friends of Caroline Hospice’s legacy of trust within the community, and it continues the tradition of bringing ladies together for a classic luncheon.

To purchase tickets to the fashion show, please call Friends of Caroline Hospice at 843-525-6257. Single tickets are $55 and tables of 10 are $500. Seating is limited, so be sure to make a reservation by Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Read More →

Meet the Mitchells: Abby and Patrick, and Parker makes three

By Lanier Laney

Abby and Patrick Mitchell were both born in Beaufort and were destined to be together. But Abby’s family moved to Columbia when she was 6 and it wasn’t until 15 years later that fate brought her back to Beaufort where she and Patrick met, fell in love and were married. Their adorable son Parker started at Beaufort Academy this week as the “Littlest Eagle” in the school’s Pre-K 2-year-old class.

Abby’s parents were both educators. Her mom taught at Beaufort High where her dad was also a coach. They continued teaching after their move to Columbia to help Abby’s aging grandmother.

The Mitchell Family, from left: Parker, Abby and Patrick.

The Mitchell Family, from left: Parker, Abby and Patrick.

Meanwhile, back in Beaufort, Patrick — the son of Red and Marjorie Mitchell — was growing up.  Marjorie ran the popular House and Garden Gift shop on Lady’s Island along with her mother-in-law for years. Red Mitchell was president of Mitchell Brothers, Inc., a company he ran along with his brothers and cousins. Patrick joined the firm after getting a degree in Business Management from Presbyterian College. Today, Patrick, his brother Cecil and cousin Jason Hincher represent the third generation to run the company.

Abby got a degree in Early Childhood Education at Clemson and found her first  teaching job back in her beloved Beaufort at Coosa Elementary where her fun spirit made her a popular teacher.

Says Abby, “I met Patrick my second year of teaching here — the rest is history!” Adding, “When Patrick asked me to marry him, he was so nervous and random with his speech, I thought he was breaking up with me.”

They just happily celebrated their sixth anniversary together.  Says Abby with a smile, “For our anniversary I gave a nod to the traditional gift of iron and had Patrick’s old golf clubs cut down to toddler size and regripped for Parker. So in actuality, I gave him a gift that wasn’t really for him — and yet he still loves me!”

Abby spent 10 years teaching multiple grades kindergarten through third at Coosa Elementary, where she was named Teacher of the Year in 2012-13. She now teaches at Beaufort Academy, and started the new school year with her son this past Monday.  “Patrick and I were sort of in a race to see who would get to Instagram Parker’s first day of school picture first. I, of course, won as I took the pictures and held them hostage until I had time to post them. I guess that shows how obsessed we are with our son,” says Abby with a laugh.

About her philosophy of teaching, Abby says, “Basically, I want my students to love coming to school each day and have plenty of fun while learning at the same time. I only have them for a year and I want to teach them as much as I possibly can in that short amount of time.”

She adds, “The staff and students at BA are just great! It’s because of them I enjoy every second of what I do.”

Patrick also pitches in by deep-frying turkeys for Abby’s class every year for her Thanksgiving Feast.

Mitchell Brothers, Inc. is an award-winning government contracting company that has successfully completed hundreds of projects for multiple military installations in Beaufort and the surrounding areas along with hospitals, churches and forestations.  The business was started in 1946 by Patrick’s grandfather and his three brothers who had recently moved to the small, barely developed (at that time) coastal town of Lady’s Island.

Says Patrick, “I enjoy working with my brother and cousins as part of a family business that has had a 69 year history of doing things the correct way. The second generation before us worked very hard to build Mitchell Bros. up to where it is today, and put us into a successful position. I credit our great team of hard-working employees to that legacy.”

He also credits the company’s clients. “I had a smart man once tell me that in the construction business, no matter how good you are, often your success is based on the success of the clients you work for,” says Patrick. “Mitchell Brothers has been very lucky to serve many great clients throughout our history and we could not be successful without them. The United States Navy, Beaufort County School District, Beaufort County, Bluffton Fire District, Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services, Beaufort Memorial Hospital, and Grayco Inc. are some of the clients we continue to enjoy working with to this day.”

As far as sports, Patrick has always been an avid golfer. Abby says her main “sport” now is strolling Parker over the bridge on weekends to visit the coffee or bagel shop.

The two are also active in the community. Patrick has served on the boards of the Beaufort County Storm Water Utility, the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club, and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee. Both he and Abby have been big supporters of Friends of Caroline Hospice’s Festival of Trees fundraiser for the past eight years where Abby has won several times for her innovative and clever tree designs.

As for the future, the Mitchells say they look forward to “introducing baby Parker to all the natural beauty that is Beaufort and all the great people here!”

Read More →

Get ready to sign up with David and Julie Felver

By Lanier Laney

Beaufort native David Felver met and fell in love with Julie Moore in art class at Battery Creek High School. They shared a passion for art, creativity and camping. Yes, camping! They have now been very happily married for 21 years and have restored over 30 vintage campers. Along with their successful sign business next door,  they now have one of the nation’s best custom camper restoration businesses right here on Burton Hill Road in Beaufort.

Julie and David Felver

Julie and David Felver

David, son of Wizard Auto Body owner Tom Felver, grew up in the vintage car restoration business with his brother Greg. Between the hot rods and car shows, David developed a passion for old things and how they could be made new again.

He and Julie didn’t have much money when they first got married, so they decided to buy an old Volkswagen camper and fix it up. Soon after they had their first child they realized they’d have to get a bigger camper. So when they sold their first camper so quickly, it gave them the idea that maybe there was a business there. Says David, “We’ve always restored campers how we like them — modern, but with a vintage feel.”

Their campers stood out at the vintage camper rallies they attended. And friends from the rallies started to ask them to help redo theirs.  That grew into the Felver Design Vintage Restorations.

Right now they try and focus on one camper rehab at a time and Julie adds her fine skills as an interior designer.  All the while overseeing one of Beaufort’s most successful sign companies next door.  But there is a connection between the two businesses.

Shortly after getting married, they moved to Orlando where both got jobs with a top sign company as graphic artists. This started their desire to eventually open a shop of their own.

“You have to find something to make you stand out, make people remember you,” says David about their sign and camper business. He also goes on to say how they love to work with a client to make a custom sign or camper that is uniquely “about them,” a perfect match of who the person is and their final product. “The sign business is a unique opportunity to work with people growing their businesses, and the camper business allows us to work with the people when they want to get away,” says David with a smile.

They feel whether it’s creating signs or designing the interior of a client’s camper, that their art background has brought them to where they are today. They started both companies in 2007.

They have two great children — Carson, their daughter, is 15, and Dawson, their son, is 13. The kids are both currently enrolled in an online charter school. This works very well for the family due to the fact that they are on the road traveling and camping so often.

When it comes to their camper restorations, David says, “We have a passion for bringing new life to treasures from a bygone era. We see potential in all things old where others might see none. Whether it’s the romance of the open road or the intrigue of wanderlust, these vessels of yesteryear will satiate your passion for adventure.”

Julie is also a local artist.  Her wonderful mixed-media shark tooth designs are currently  on display at SALT Gallery on Bay Street.

Both Julie and David love Beaufort. Says David, “Beaufort has a magnetic pull with its history, culture, art and the people.”

Adds Julie, “We love our beautiful hometown of Beaufort. On our off time we enjoy spending time with our two children, (Carson and Dawson). Church, going to the beach, camping, travel, and music are also things we enjoy doing together as a family.”

Julie and David restore campers for clients as well as build spec campers to sell.   But whether it is signs or campers, customization is the key, says David, as they both work hard to craft the perfect final expression of a client’s tastes and inner wishes.

If you are thinking about rebranding yourself or your business or hitting the road with your family, then consider a visit to Felver Design Studio — a sign studio marketing business with a vintage camper restoration shop right next door!

Felver Design Sign Studio is located at 10 Burton Hill Road, Unit G, Beaufort. Contact 843-846-0099 or

Read More →

Coasting to Success – Joel Garrett of 94.5 The Coast

By Lanier Laney

Joel Garrett

Joel Garrett

Two years ago, Austin Texas native Joel Garrett started 94.5 The Coast, Beaufort’s local radio station, and he hasn’t looked back.  Says Joel, “Beaufort is one of the most beautiful places to live, and the people are what really make it.  Everyone has been so welcoming and gracious.  I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”

When asked about his philosophy behind starting the station, Joel answers with a smile, “Be Live. Be Local.  Be Happy.  Wait, that might be a song….but honestly our goal is to bring old school radio back to smaller communities like Beaufort.  I want people to know the DJ’s. And, 94.5 The Coast should play music the whole family can enjoy– beach, soul, rock n’ roll, hits from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and also get some local news, weather and traffic as needed. This is a good ole’ fashioned radio station in the greatest town in the south.”
Joel got his first gig in radio while a freshman in High School. “I got my first job as a DJ at age 15 in Las Cruces, NM on a Country radio station.  I knew from that point on, it would be my career. I just wasn’t sure where I would end up or what level in the industry.  I worked my way up the radio ladder and decided that radio ownership would be an exciting direction to go, as long as you could do it in a small market with a great, close knit community.”

His first shot at ownership was in the Lowcountry.  Says Joel, “I purchased my first radio station with a couple business partners in Hilton Head and quickly decided that wasn’t the place for me. I sold my radio station after a few years and discovered a way to launch Beaufort’s only local radio station.”

As owner and on-air personality, “I still talk too much,” says Joel with a laugh.  He credits his staff for the station’s success.  “I have the best staff from upper management to part time DJs, and they are all equally valuable to this radio station. There are many moving parts to a radio station. At the end of the day, I’m fortunate to have a great staff built up of a general manager, sales manager, account executives, on-air personalities, promotions and business team members.  I make sure all of these pieces of the puzzle are fitting into place.”  His mom, Judy Garrett, runs his books “and keeps me in line,” adds Joel.  His dad Bert Garrett is a practicing physician.

Joel also notes the contribution of his advertisers. “I have been very fortunate to have some great advertisers that believe in the product we deliver every day. Radio needs both the entertainment side and the advertising side to be successful and we are so lucky to have both.”

When not behind the microphone, Joel pursues sports like golf, snow skiing and asks, “Does beer and bowling night count too?”  He’s also a hunter and says one of his most memorable hunts happened a number of years ago when he went gator hunting in Louisiana, (his first hunting trip of any sort by the way).  Says Joel, “the sound of a girlfriend’s Dad yelling out ‘shoot em, shoot em!’ will always ring in the back of my head as I wondered what would happen if I missed this 10 ft. dinosaur with fangs.”

He contributes to local charities saying,  “I represent ARTworks (The Arts Council of Beaufort County) as their Entertainment Director.  I’ve always been a fan of the arts and entertainment.  ARTworks is a great place to
express it!”

I also support and get behind everything that Friends of Caroline Hospice does.  They are a great group with an even better story.” Joel’s plans for the future are to continue to grow the company and make it even better for his listeners and advertisers.  He invites you to tune in to 94.5 The Coast and join in on the fun.

The Coast radio station is located in the Beaufort Town Center- or can be found online at

Read More →

Southern Tree Services celebrates 22 years

By Lanier Laney

Beaufort native Ronnie Reiselt met his future wife Sonya when she first walked into Beaufort High School at age 14 after her father, a civil servant, was transferred here in 1984 from Tifton, Georgia.  They’ve been happily married for 20 years this October. Ronnie had been working for his father, Ronnie Reiselt Sr. for many years in heavy equipment

Sonya and Ronnie Reiselt

Sonya and Ronnie Reiselt

excavation. He and Sonya were both entrepreneurs at heart and wanted to create a successful business. That business became Southern Tree Service of Beaufort, one of the most respected tree services in the county, for the past 22 years.

Ronnie, President, and Sonya, Vice-President are both International Society of Aboriculture Certified Arborists and oversee 2-3 crews a day and all aspects of the company.

Their services include tree trimming and stump removal, lightning protection, insect and disease analysis, root fertilization, cabling, bracing, and tree planting and pre-construction tree evaluation among others.

Ronnie stays updated on new practices by continuous training through Tree Care Industry Association and ISA classes and seminars so that he can pass on knowledge of all aspects of tree care to his clients and community. Says Ronnie, “We value our loyal clients and feel a sense of family and responsibility to them.  Our success would not be possible without our dedicated office manager, Gen and our great General Foreman, Crew Leaders, and dedicated members of our team.”  Sonya agrees adding that “It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work, effort and teamwork they demonstrate daily.”

Sonya is also a realtor with ERA Evergreen Real Estate where she represents both sellers and buyers. She enjoys helping people open a new chapter of their lives by finding the right home for them or selling their current one.

Sonya and Ronnie love the Lowcountry life on the water, and if you are friends of theirs on Facebook, you will see many great photos from the river of their friends and family and now new grandson, Colton, age 1. Says Sonya, “We just love the breathtaking scenery we have so abundantly here, and we enjoy the ambiance and simplicity of life here in the South.”

Ronnie is an avid outdoorsman, and besides being an avid fisherman, also does diving, spear fishing, bow hunting, and on occasion, skydives.  Sonya loves to help organize events, spend time on the water as well as spending time with her family. They work out together at Omni Health and Fitness and the YMCA, and Sonya also enjoys yoga at Artizen Yoga Studio.

Friends of Caroline Hospice is a charity very dear to their hearts, and in the past they have been involved with its signature event, the Festival of Trees. They are also active with the American Heart Association. They are active members of Meadowbrook Baptist Church on Lady’s Island.

As for the future, Sonya and Ronnie say they are committed to continuing to do their part to help beautify the Lowcountry and make it a safer place for all of us to live in.

To learn more about Southern Tree Services or to get an evaluation of your tree situation, go to or call (843) 522-9553. To contact Sonya for your real estate needs call (843) 321-2158 or go to:

Read More →

Keeping it clean: Bob and Melina Cunningham of Merry Maids Housecleaning Service

By Lanier Laney

Growing up with four brothers and sisters in a blue collar neighborhood in Philadelphia, Bob Cunningham recalls money was always tight in his family.

“I was fortunate, with my older brother, to get a newspaper route when I was 10,” says Bob. “That planted the seed to be a business owner.  The paper route required you to not only deliver the newspapers everyday but collect the money each week from the customers.  This was like owning my own business and I loved it.”

The Cunningham family, from left: Wes, Lana, Melina, Gracie, Laila and Bob.

The Cunningham family, from left: Wes, Lana, Melina, Gracie, Laila and Bob.

Later on, Bob worked his way through college and got a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and management from Drexel University in Philadelphia, then joined a national electronics company as a salesman.

Bob says, “When I got transferred to California in 1983, my best friend at the time, Lon Hudson, was transferred to the same office. He was raised in Texas and had a similar upbringing — middle child of five, paper routes, etc. We would have brainstorming lunches right there in the Silicon Valley, thinking of all kinds of businesses to start. One day he put a Nations Business magazine in front of me with a small article about an Omaha, Nebraska, based franchise called Merry Maids. At the time, Merry Maids was pioneering the professional housecleaning franchise model. We both looked at each other and said why not? Lon and his brother cleaned houses while attending North Texas State, and I had worked at a car wash so we thought that was good cleaning experience. There were no professional companies cleaning houses at that time, so we just thought there was tremendous opportunity for a professional company to service this market.”

He left the electronics business in August 1985 to start his first Merry Maids business in Mountain View, California.

“I always wanted to own and operate a business and this fit the budget I had at the time to start one,” says Bob. “Since then, we have added offices in Gilroy and San Jose in California; Beaufort and Charleston in South Carolina. Most of my day is spent interacting with my incredible management staff and the outstanding housecleaners that work for us.”

More than 10 years later, in 1996, Bob met his beautiful wife, Melina, in San Francisco, where they were both living at the time. They fell in love and got married three years later.

Melina, who is of Philippine heritage, was born in San Francisco and grew up there and in Vancouver, British Columbia, where her father was in real estate. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from San Diego State University.

“Bob and I have a joke that if you couldn’t make it in other more difficult majors, you ended up a marketing major,” Melina says. “I guess we both weren’t the most academically gifted, but we both worked really hard after college and made up for it by having the help of some amazing mentors.”

Today, Melina does the bookkeeping for Merry Maids.

How they found Beaufort

Says Bob, “Melina and I came to visit two families who had just moved to Beaufort from the Silicon Valley. We immediately fell in love with the place. On the plane ride back to California, Melina looked at me and said, ‘I want to move to Beaufort.  This is the place I want to raise our kids’.  So a year later we moved.”

Adds Melina, “All of our kids now go to Riverview Charter School which we love!” Wes is 13, Gracie is 11, and the twins — Laila and Lana — are 7.

Says Bob, “Melina and I are both city folks — so we were concerned about how we would adjust to a small town.  But we immediately fell in love with the lifestyle and especially the people.  In the first year in Beaufort we had more good friends than in the 10 years we spent in California. You can’t beat the sense of community — people are always getting together to have fun and helping each other out.”

Adds Melina, “Yes the people here make Beaufort a wonderful place to live.  Life is full of amazing opportunities and challenges and it’s good to know we are part of a community of people who have our backs and we have theirs.”

About Merry Maids

Bob says, “My goal in starting our Merry Maid businesses is to hire great people and take care of them. The twin brothers from Minnesota who started Merry Maids told me that this is a people business and if you take care of your employees and customers, they will take care of you. This philosophy has not changed since 1985. My parents always impressed us with politeness, good manners and giving back to the community. I have always worked to ingrain this in all of the Merry Maids companies.”

He adds, “We have been so blessed by the support of our business from the Beaufort community.  We started in June of 2008 at the start of one of the worst recessions in U.S. history.  But we were able to grow at such a rate that in 2009 we were awarded the Dallen Peterson Award of Excellence, which is given each year in honor of the founder to the top-performing franchise of that year.  The military has been a big supporter of our business in both customers and employees. Over half of our cleaning staff are military wives.”

Melina says, “I would like to thank our staff. Even though I’m not involved in the day to day operations, I thank God every single day for our employees.  They are all special in their own way and they make Merry Maids a great company. Employees have come and gone but all have contributed to helping Bob and I become better owners. That is our intention, anyway, to always learn and grow and become better because of our opportunities and most of all our challenges.”

She adds, “Bob jokes all the time that Merry Maids saves lots of marriages. I joke that men should know that the best foreplay is chores. But if you don’t want to do chores, you should hire Merry Maids for your wife and you’ll be glad you did.”

True to their word, Merry Maids and its employees have given back to the community. Says Melina, “The Beaufort community is blessed with so many great local charities that we have worked with. We have been able to support these with our employees volunteering and/or gift certificates to support fundraising programs.” Some of the worthy causes and nonprofits they have supported include the Coastal Community Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Military Appreciation Day, Beaufort Memorial Hospital, Riverview Charter School Beaufort Twilight Run, Beaufort Water Festival, Cleaning for a Reason, Historic Beaufort Foundation, TCL, Family Promise, Beaufort County Disabilities and Special Needs Department, CAPA, LowCountry Food Bank, Toys for Tots, Wyldelife and Young Life.

As for the future

Bob says, “We plan to continue living and operating all of our businesses from Beaufort. We are very blessed to have a partner in California who runs our operations there.”

Bob gets out there three or four times a year, and is fortunate to have a younger brother and his wife who live not far from one of the offices.

Melina says, “I am a super geeky health nerd. I give away health books, and sometimes people run the other way when they see I’m coming.  If you get me started, I will talk your ear off, so beware! In the future, I want to help people be healthier and happier. I’m not sure what this looks like yet, but for now I’m happy that Merry Maids helps people save time and have less stress in their lives. I think reducing stress is way more important than eating perfectly or exercising all the time, so I’m happy Merry Maids is helping people that way.”

Call Beaufort Merry Maids now at 843-420-2104. The office is located 829 Parris Island Gateway, Beaufort, SC, 29906. Visit to get a free estimate, special savings and see the range of services offered.

Read More →

Meet Doyle Clifton of the Beaufort Water Search and Rescue: Beaufort Water Festival’s ‘safety net’ for boaters

By Lanier Laney

Beaufort Water Search and Rescue (BWSAR) is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to assisting local boaters in distress. They have served boaters for 39 years and have been an essential “safety net” for the Beaufort Water Festival all those years.

One of the Beaufort Water Search and Rescue boats with its horizontal orange stripe.

One of the Beaufort Water Search and Rescue boats with its horizontal orange stripe.

The group’s primary mission is to assist and support federal, state and local emergency response agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and was formed in response to the realization that those agencies could not render assistance to boaters in distress in the vast water stretches of northern Beaufort County in all circumstances all the time.

Says 20 year BWSAR volunteer veteran Doyle Clifton, “I think our entire philosophy is to just help people.  Many of the 30 members are local boaters who have a very intimate knowledge of these waters, we use those skills and local knowledge to search and find boats in distress in the huge maze of rivers, creeks, marshes and mud flats that make up this area.”

He adds, “For the most part, we have five boats that belong to BWSAR, however, we also use personal boats owned by members, having a number of other sizes and types available.  We handle everything from deep water rescue to rivers, creeks, marsh and mud.  Even one time responded in a kayak and had to crawl through pluff mud and over oyster beds to reach stranded boaters.

“We also help with safety boat patrols and watch over participants in special events like the Beaufort River Swim, the Paddle Battle, Dragon Boat practices, Dragon Boat Races, Raft Races, etc.  There are large numbers of privately owned boats that participate in Water Festival activities every year, a few not too seaworthy, others have problems with motors and need tows (disabled), fuel issues, persons overboard — lots of alcohol-related issues, too.  After the day’s festivities are over we remain on standby to assist even after dark with festivalgoers who might have problems heading home.”

Originally from Allendale, SC, Doyle spent summers here growing up on the creeks with his family, moving here

Doyle Clifton of Beaufort Water Search and Rescue

Doyle Clifton of Beaufort Water Search and Rescue

permanently 34 years ago where he became an art teacher at Mossy Oaks Elementary.

Doyle is proud he met and married “a Beaufort girl.” He says with a smile, “Thirty years next month.” His lovely wife is Doris Barton Clifton, who works as an accountant for Waste Management. They have two grown children and three granddaughters.

Doyle holds his fellow volunteers  in high regard. “It takes a special kind of person to choose to belong to this kind of group — a special kind of attitude and mentality to leave a warm, safe and comfortable home and go out in probably the worst weather and sea conditions, almost always at night, to help those in need. Guess we ain’t wrapped too tight,” he says with a laugh.

Since the job is 24/7, Doyle says a lot of volunteers and their wives and families get disturbed, not only in the middle of the night, but also when they have just walked into a restaurant or are in the middle of all kinds of family events — like parties, church or even sitting in the dentist chair.  But Doyle says it’s worth it because of “the satisfaction we get knowing we have made a difference, that we can respond quickly to almost any situation from south end of Hilton Head to Edisto Island and inland all the way to Highway 17. We have a lot of what, at first, look like insignificant calls,  but we take every one seriously. Stranded boaters have no access to medical help, are at the mercy of the elements — lightning storms, rain. Simply aground on a sand bar can become a very dangerous situation.”

Doyle says that over his 20 years, he’s seen a lot of tragedy and sadness from families regarding losses to drownings and accidents. But he adds, “I’ve seen a lot of good, too, great feeling when you know you’ve made a difference and probably saved a life or two.”

In 2004, Doyle was awarded the highest award given to a citizen for services rendered to the State of South Carolina — The Order of the Silver Crescent — by the governor, for his efforts as skipper with BWSAR. Doyle is currently a beach master with the organization, coordinating information with the Coast Guard and other agencies and the rescue operation. He has high praise for current Skipper Dick Jennings and the other dedicated members of the team. He retired two years ago from teaching and now works part time as a tour guide on Parris Island.  As an avid kayaker, with 60 years of experience on the local waters he has a vast database stored in his head to continue to help with rescue operations in the future.

In reference to the type of volunteer work they do, Doyle says what has always surprised him are the number of members who join and last for only a short time.  “I’ve had people literally get out of one of our boats after a mission, walk by and say, “You people are crazy … I quit!’”

But for those who might like this kind of volunteer work that makes such a huge difference, they are always looking for new members.

Doyle credits Beaufort County for support with some funding, and encourages people to participate in the Annual St. Paddy’s Day Sea Rescue Golf Tournament fundraiser in March on Fripp Island. But he adds that the BWSAR is a nonprofit organization that mainly survives on donations.

Says Doyle “The donations we receive go to a number of needs. Obviously fuel is a huge expense right now with gas prices and these boats are not very fuel efficient.  Also, special equipment, navigation aids, wear and tear — these boats are almost always out in some of the harshest conditions — really takes a toll. If it weren’t for member Gary Bright — a former mechanic retired from Sea Island Marine — who literally keeps our boats running, Bobby Cooler at Sea Island Marine, and the good folks at Beaufort Boat and Dock Supply that help us out, not sure where we would be.”

To donate or volunteer, call 843-525-1969 or mail visit their office at: BWSAR, 817 Parris Avenue, Port Royal, SC, 29935.

Says Doyle, “To our Water Festival guests, have a great time, be patient, cooperate and work with the various Water Festival groups and enjoy yourselves. Make it your best Water Festival yet — just don’t make it the last for yourself or someone else.”

For more information, visit

For those who need assistance at any time day or night from Beaufort Search and Rescue, during the Water Festival or after, contact them by simply dialing 911 or HAIL VHF 16.

Read More →

Meet Brandy Gray: 59th Commodore of the Beaufort Water Festival

By Lanier Laney

The Beaufort Water Festival is the largest charity event in Beaufort, attracting more than 65,000  visitors to Beaufort and involving more than 400 volunteers for the massive 10-day annual summer event.

Well-orchestrated planning and a year round volunteer staff of 60 dedicated people bring it all together. Each year it’s all overseen by a new commodore, whose job and the responsibilities that come with it are equal to that of a CEO

Beaufort Water Festival 59th Commodore Brandy Gray, right, is seen with her husband, Mickey, and her daughter Emma La’claire, 6.

Beaufort Water Festival 59th Commodore Brandy Gray, right, is seen with her husband, Mickey, and her daughter Emma La’claire, 6.

of a small corporation. This year’s commodore is Brandy Gray, a fifth generation Port Royal native, (daughter of William and Peggy Buquet), who has been a committed Water Festival volunteer since she began as a Pirette in high school in 1989.  She’s the fourth female to become commodore in the 59 year history of the event, which first was held as a sailing regatta and water ski show in 1956.

Today’s Water Festival stretches over two weekends starting next weekend and includes major musical acts over multiple nights and a myriad of events for all ages and abilities including fireworks, an air show and a parade. (For a full listing of all the great happenings, check out The Island News next week, which will be dedicated to the Water Festival.)

Commodore Gray credits her family and the volunteers for helping make it all happen.  Says Brandy, “Our amazing group of volunteers are the backbone of our festival. They are the hard-working, passionate crew that we call our Water Festival Family!”

And when it comes to her husband Mickey, she says, “He is the reason I am able to do so many great things in our community. His support is unwavering. Our daughter has also been right there beside us during this journey.”

Brandy’s been happily married for 16 years to her husband Mickey Gray, who also grew up in Beaufort. Says Brandy, “I met my husband playing coed softball and I never thought in a million years that I would fall so quickly in love.”

Mickey, who retired from the state of South Carolina, now enjoys being a stay-at-home dad for their beloved daughter, Emma La’claire, age 6, who starts first grade at Riverview Charter School this August.

Commodore Gray is pleased with some of the innovations that the 59th Water Festival brings this year for attendees.

Says Brandy, “This year we have a new free downloadable app for your iPhone and Android that will allow you to buy tickets online for all events and give you all the venues and event times, plus a Google interactive map for their locations that you can forward to your phone or computer.  You will also be able to buy tickets online at the Beaufort Water Festival website.”

Also new this year, in order to ease parking problems, there will be a free shuttle service running every 15 minutes, starting Friday, July 17, from 5 p.m. to midnight, from the parking lot of Beaufort Town Center in front of ARTworks and also the parking lot of the County Government Center on the corner of Ribaut Road and Boundary Street that will take people to the Downtown Marina parking lot next to the Waterfront Park.

Brandy said she loves the Water Festival parade, which will start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, and is pleased that noted novelist Pat Conroy will be this year’s Grand Marshall. She is also excited that a full day will be devoted to the Dragon Boat races on that same day, Saturday, July 26, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Besides volunteering with the Water Festival, Brandy’s also been involved with many nonprofits such as United Way, CAPA, Friends of Caroline Hospice, Zonta Club of Beaufort and Beaufort Charities. She is able to do all this while also doing an excellent job as  sales manager for the Holiday Inn Express in Bluffton, where she works with groups, tour operators, wedding planners and corporate clients to provide lodging.

Brandy said, “Let me take a moment to thank all of our wonderful sponsors and volunteers. We are a unique group as we are all volunteer driven and have no paid staff. We host one of the longest running festivals in the county and state and are extremely proud of our history. This is such a memorable time for me as I am a second generation commodore and the first Pirette ever to become commodore. This truly makes it a family affair and I am proud of our legacy.”

As for the future, Brandy hopes Beaufortonians will attend as many of the wonderful events over the 10 day period as they can. Money raised will go to more than 20 charities and provide scholarships for local students to attend USCB.

For more information about free events, music nights, activities, and tickets, go online to

Read More →