Monthly Archives: October 2016

Project Lifting Spirits


calling-postSeveral years ago Grovetown resident Stacey Blevins, a disabled U.S. Navy veteran, started sending care packages to her father who was working in Afghanistan as a civilian. She soon realized, however, that she wanted to do more.

Stacey started Project Lifting Spirits, which serves deployed troops and wounded soldiers at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, in 2007, and the initiative became incorporated as a nonprofit organization two years later. From holding fundraisers and visiting soldiers to supplying them with personal items and words of encouragement, Project Lifting Spirits focuses on letting troops know how much they are appreciated.

cp-aug-recliner-donation“Since I couldn’t serve anymore, I was looking for a way to give back,” says Stacey.

The organization sends items such as toiletries, underwear, socks, T-shirts, snacks, Girl Scout cookies, drink mixes, cards to send to family members, stamps and crossword puzzle books to soldiers that are serving overseas or are hospitalized. “We try to send them something that feels like home,” says Stacey. “It’s our way of saying, ‘Thank you. We appreciate what you’re doing.’”

She also works with the recreation therapist at the VA Hospital in Augusta to organize activities such as pizza Bingo nights and ice cream socials for wounded soldiers.

cp-bowling14“We love seeing them smiling and having a good time,” says Stacey, whose husband is retiring from the Navy in December. “An hour of smiles makes it all worthwhile to me.”

In addition, Project Lifting Spirits works with Warriors Journey Home, which holds meetings at a local church where soldiers can talk about their transition to home life, to organize fundraisers during the year. The groups held a golf tournament in May and a poker run in October. They also will sponsor a 5k/10k run in December at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

For more information about donating or volunteering, contact Stacey at (619) 227-6986 or georgia@

This Land is Your Land


oyster-roast-1Come sing the successes of the Central Savannah River Land Trust at its annual Bash on the Banks of the Savannah River

Everyone should enjoy the natural resources in the area, but the Central Savannah River Land Trust is showing its appreciation for those who support its conservation efforts as well.

The Land Trust will hold its 13th annual Bash on the Banks of the Savannah River at the River Island Clubhouse on Thursday, October 27. About 250 people have attended the event, which is open to people age 21 and older, in the last several years.

oyster-roast-2“It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the projects that we have done in 2016 and share our plans for 2017,” says Veronique Marchal, the Land Trust director of communications.

The menu will include Southern barbecue and an oyster roast, and a cash bar will be available. The Unmentionables will entertain the party-goers with live music. The event also will include a raffle and a live auction. Raffle items range from a kayak and Belgian chocolate to a day at the National Wild Turkey Federation and an activity at Sharpe Shooters. Local artist Richard Worth will paint a nature scene during the first part of the evening, and the watercolor will be auctioned off at the event.

oyster-roast-4“He will be painting along the banks of the Savannah River,” says Marchal. “People can bid on the painting, and the winner can take home a little bit of the river.”

Funded entirely by donations and grants, the Land Trust focuses its efforts on protecting large areas of natural habitat, the major sources of our drinking water, larger forests that purify the air and grand vistas that offer scenic views.

Since 2001, the Land Trust has protected almost 6,000 acres of land in Columbia, Richmond and McDuffie counties in Georgia and Aiken, Edgefield and Barnwell counties in South Carolina. The organization’s reach extends as far upstream as Hart County and as far south as Statesboro.

The Land Trust has worked with local governments as well as individual neighborhoods and communities to preserve areas for public recreation and for residents’ recreation in neighborhoods such as River Island. The Land Trust also has joined forces with private landowners, farmers and ranchers to preserve natural resources in the area. 

oyster-roast-3Currently, the Land Trust is working on projects such as the CSRA Regional Greenway Program, Greystone Preserve, a neighborhood conservation initiative and farmland conservation in upper Columbia County and Clarks Hill Lake. 

The Greenway Program will connect more than 70 miles of multi-use trails in Columbia, Richmond and Aiken counties. The project encompasses Euchee Creek Greenway, Savannah Rapids Pavilion and the Augusta Canal Trail in Columbia County, and the trails will connect to downtown Augusta, south Augusta, Fort Gordon and North Augusta, South Carolina. The Greystone Preserve project includes the construction of a new outdoor educational campus on the preserve, which has more than 260 acres of running or hiking nature trails, in North Augusta.

Through the neighborhood conservation initiative, the Land Trust is working with Columbia County neighborhoods such as Farmington, Sumter Landing and River Island to preserve greenspace. So far, more than 300 acres have been preserved in and around Columbia County neighborhoods. As part of its farmland conservation efforts, the Land Trust has preserved 2,300-plus acres of farms in and around Columbia County and Clarks Hill Lake.

If You Go:

What: Bash on the Banks on the Savannah River 

When: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday, October 27 for ages 21 and older

Where: River Island Clubhouse

How Much: $50 per person; cash bar available 

More Info:

State of the Arts


art-after-darkCommunity members can brush up on the talents of local artists at the annual Art After Dark exhibition

Columbia County and the surrounding area are full of talented people, and the skills of some of the most gifted local artists will be on display at Art After Dark. The signature event of the Artists’ Guild of Columbia County, the annual affair will feature an evening of art and entertainment. Guests will have the opportunity to purchase art in mediums such as watercolors, oils, acrylics, photography, pottery, fiber arts, jewelry and mixed media. They can participate in the silent auction as well.

art-after-dark3“The money raised from the art auction goes toward a $1,000 scholarship for a high school senior who is going to study art at Augusta University,” says Jane Waldrop, the Artists’ Guild treasurer.

“We’re trying to promote the knowledge of art that we have in Columbia County,” says Waldrop. “People don’t have to go out of town to buy good art.” 

The Artists’ Guild offers classes to all ages ranging from children and teenagers to adults and seniors. Next year the organization plans to start a program in which artists will demonstrate their skills at some of the area facilities for senior citizens.

The Artists’ Guild is a group of professional and amateur artists and patrons of the visual arts. The organization provides opportunities for artists to exchange creative ideas and business information, to show and sell their work, and to increase their knowledge through workshops. Membership is open to anyone age 17 or older who resides in the Central Savannah River Area.

Art After DarkIf You Go:

What: Art After Dark

When: 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, October 29

Where: Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center

How Much: Free; cash bar available

More Info:

Andrew Strickland


pysk-andrew-stricklandPlanning Services Director, Columbia County Board of Commissioner 

Number of years in position: 2

Family: My wife, Katie, and I have two cats, Jet and Izzy.

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: I believe whole-heartedly that we all want to be part of a healthy, vibrant, attractive, connected community—a community that has a little something for everyone. I’m fortunate to be able to interact with outstanding people on a daily basis—residents, business owners, elected officials, coworkers—who all share the same belief. In my three-and-a-half years with the county, I have come to work everyday excited to see how I can play a small part in helping our community become the best version of itself.

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: Katie and I serve as youth leaders in our church, and we are blessed to be able to support United Way of the CSRA and the important work its partner agencies do.

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: I suppose the largest obstacle I’ve faced is one that I will always face — fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear that I will make the wrong decision or screw up. Knowing that God has me exactly where He wants me and is guiding me the whole way has given me the courage to jump in, live passionately and do the work He has for me.

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: Katie and I are wrapping up a renovation of a 100-year old home that has been one of the most challenging and rewarding projects I’ve ever tackled. Breathing new life into an old house and the neighborhood around it has made the splinters, late-night crawl space shuffles and countless trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot all worthwhile.

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: For me, any Saturday afternoon spent on the water — ocean, lake or river — is a well-spent Saturday afternoon.

Favorite TV Show: I love “Parks and Recreation,” mainly because it portrays a lot of what it’s like to work in local government. I like to think of myself as Ron Swanson, minus the lush mustache and intentionally poor office work ethic.

Favorite Movie: Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino is a film genius.

Favorite Sports Team: Atlanta Braves. Whether they’re good or bad, it’s hard to beat a Braves game. 

Favorite Comfort Food: A plate of fried chicken, ocra and broccoli casserole from Longstreet Café in Gainesville, Georgia. I grew up in Gainesville, and Longstreet is just where you go. Period.

Favorite App: I think I would be a meteorologist if I could do it over again, so I have to say the Weather Underground app is my favorite app. The Mail app is my least favorite app. 

Last Book Read: I’m working my way through Truman by David McCullough right now. Before that it was Deep Blue by Randy Wayne White.

Dream Vacation: I would love to spend two weeks fly fishing in the Bahamas. That would be heaven to me. 

Something That Has Changed My Life: Accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior has been the most important decision of my life.

Best Thing I Ever Learned: I learned in college that your body functions way better when you get eight hours of sleep every night.

Favorite Hobbies: I’ve gotten really fond of afternoon golf. Film photography, traveling, scuba diving and fishing are also high on the list. 

Secret Aspiration: I’ve always wanted to get my pilot’s license. One day.

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: I’d like to think I could be the next “American Ninja Warrior,” but let’s be honest. I love to cook, especially with whatever happens to be in the pantry at the time, so I think I would be a serious contender on “Iron Chef.”

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: I’m a Jimmy Buffett freak. Seriously. If his was the only music I listened to for the rest of my life, I would never get tired of it.