April 26, 2005

10th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing
How the Chamber of Commerce helped recovery efforts

April 19, 2005 -- Today, on the 10th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Rotarians learned that one of our own, Charles Van Rysselberge, was there to witness firsthand the devastation as well as the cooperation and dedication of thousands of volunteers who assisted with the recovery efforts.

Today, Van Rysselberge is President of the Charleston Metro Chamber, and was the President and CEO of the Greater OKC Chamber in 1995 when the bombing took place. "Tears of sorrow/tears of pride" was an expression used to describe what hap- pened on April 19, 1995 when Timothy McVeigh packed a rented Ryder truck with explosives and blew it up in front of the Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, including children. Van Rysselberge was not far away at the OKC Chamber building, and immediately set about to do what he could to assist. With the help of consultants and Chamber staff, Van Rysselberge established two major efforts: a Business Emergency Assistance Center in the Chamber building, as well as a News Media Center in the lobby of a nearby hotel. These efforts proved critical in the recovery efforts, assisted with delivering informa- tion from OKC, and helped the City’s businesses who had no other champions. Thanks to these efforts, most businesses got the help they needed to rebuild or stay afloat. Over 3,500 calls were made to businesses, which resulted in $400,000 of in-kind services from companies willing to help. The Media Cen- ter handled over 50 national and international news media, disbursed over 500 media kits, and coordinated over 200 interviews. The Chamber also assisted with a hotel room locater service, evaluation assistance for planned conventions, a business relief fund, and government relief for businesses.

Van Rysselberge pulled from his experience with the Atlanta Metro Chamber, but took away a lot more from OKC as a result of the tragedy. Lesson learned included putting a disaster plan into place, as well as stress debriefing for Chamber employees. The Chamber also helped pass a $25 million bond referendum to establish a state-of- the-art communication center, which did not exist prior to the bombing. The Chamber also identified the need to help businesses review the fine print on insurance policies to determine exact coverage.

The statistics are amazing of what happened (and what has since taken place) in OKC and the spirit of community fostered through recovery efforts. Although it was one of the greatest tragedies of our times, the Chamber helped make a difference that can still be felt today.

In other business. . .

Dan Butts gave the invocation and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Henry Blackford welcomed visiting Rotarians and guests. Jennet Alterman offered Health & Happiness, and President Mark thanked Ellen Jackson for hosting last week’s Open House. He also reminded Rotarians to update roster information. Les Manigault introduced members of the GSE Team from India. Bill Eaton asked for support for the Alzheimer's Educational Support program. Anita Zucker introduced our speaker Charles Van Rysselberge.

-- Amy Riley

April 19, 2005

How The Charleston Miracle League Came to Be

April 12, 2005 -- Channing Proctor, a newly inducted Rotarian gave a heartfelt and moving talk about the events which led him to start the Charleston Miracle League, an organization devoted to giving mentally and physically challenged children the chance to play baseball.

Channing graduated from the Citadel in 1991 where he played baseball. Upon graduating he admitted to having the same goals as most just entering the workforce: "to make as much money as possible in as short a period of time as possible." Channing moved to Atlanta and proceeded to do just that. Within 10 years he was running a medical sales operation covering the entire Southeast, and he and his wife were living in a great house, driving nice cars and seemed to have all the trappings of wealth and success. One day, Channing was escorting visitors through a local hospital when he happened to run into one of his former high school teachers. It was a bittersweet reunion. His friend and former teacher happened to be a patient in the hospital because she was dying of breast cancer. This event caused Channing to begin re-evaluating his life’s goals.

In the process of self-examination Channing identified three goals which were impor- tant to him. The first was his desire to be a good husband and father. The second goal was his long-held wish to write a book about an athletically talented young boy who leaves the game of baseball but who eventually returns. He already had the title, The Seasoned Rookie. Finally, Channing wanted to bring his family to live in Charleston. With these three goals in mind, Channing approached his wife who eventually agreed and supported the changes.

While Channing was writing his book, he happened to catch a news story which captured his imagination. The story was about a baseball program in Conyers, Georgia where handicapped children could play baseball on a special field. Because of his passion for the game, he tracked down the leaders of the program and offered to donate $1.00 from every book he sold. In turn, they urged him to come watch a game. It was while watching the children in Conyers play baseball that Channing recognized the passion to which he wanted to devote his energies. He wanted to give mentally and physically handicapped children an opportunity to share and participate in the game he loves so much, baseball.

At first Channing could not get anyone interested in his idea. Nobody would even agree to serve on his board. Undeterred, he hit on an idea guaranteed to generate a lot of attention and get the ball rolling. He decided to donate his beloved 1965 Ford Thunderbird as a means to raise the money to start the Miracle League. Channing aired the Live Five news clip of that fundraising effort in which $25,000.00 was raised. In late summer 2004, the Charleston Miracle League broke ground on their new baseball field, and Opening Day took place in November 2004. Sixty kids showed up to play along with 500 spectators and volunteers. The television news coverage showed the smiles, excitement, and joy on the faces of everyone involved.

The Miracle League sponsors an eight-weekend spring and fall season. Children ages 5 to 18 who have a physical or mental challenges are invited to play. There are six teams, and games are held on Saturdays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.. Each player is assigned a special buddy to help them while they play.

Channing urged anyone who might be interested to come out and watch a game. Joe Griffith Miracle Field is located west of the Ashley off Play- ground Road. There are many opportunities to volunteer, and to do so in any capacity that one might wish. One member asked whether opportunities exist for businesses to get involved and Channing answered affirmatively. Business involvement could range from sponsoring a team to donating much needed equipment such as team t-shirts. More information and registration forms can be obtained on their website: www.charlestonmiracleleague.org.

In other business. . .

Amy Jenkins gave the invocation and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and David Ginn welcomed visiting Rotarians and guests. Bucky Knowlton offered Health & Happiness, and President Mark made an announcement regarding the upcoming Open House. He also acknowledged and reciprocated a toast from the Rotary Club of South Africa. Bill Eaton asked for support for the Alzheimer's Educational Support program. Three new members were inducted: Kenneth Fox, Dan Parker, and Channing Proctor. Earl Walker introduced our speaker (and new member) Channing Proctor.

-- Helen Harloe, Keyway Committee

April 12, 2005

The Democratic Party in South Carolina
We all have responsibilities no matter what our party

April 5, 2005 — Our speaker, Joe Erwin, is the new Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. He spoke to Rotarians today about the Democratic Party, what needs to be done within the Party, and what it means to have the kind of responsibilities we have today as a free citizen of South Carolina and the United States.

Erwin’s speech was not necessarily motivated by a “Democrat versus Republican” mindset; rather he noted that we are all quite similar because we discuss our is- sues in reasonable formats such as debates, unlike many countries around the world who kill each other over sim- ple policy differences. Republican or Democrat, we all have responsibilities to our state and country, even if we are not in the military.

Erwin earned his position by wanting to make a difference for South Carolina, although the state Democratic Party at the time was deeply in debt and its candidates were not doing well in recent elections. However, he felt this was the time to fight hard for the Party and make changes. He stated, “when things look their bleakest, that is the time for greatest opportunity.” With that said, he ran for the position (after being talked into it by his wife, a self-described

“Independent”) and now he is charged with rebuilding the Party and recruiting “good men and women”. He will also be charged with finding a Democratic candidate to run for Governor in next year’s election. He even mentioned a few names as possible candidates, including Senator Tommy Moore from Clearwater and Senator Anson McGill from Kingstree. Erwin also offered his thoughts on Howard Dean as a national party leader who understands grassroots politics.

Erwin admits the issues are different between Democrats and Republicans, but
ultimately we all have a responsibility to elevate democracy for everyone.

In other business. . .

Jake Burrows gave the invocation and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Jim Geffert welcomed visiting Rotarians and guests. Richard von Werssowetz offered Health & Happiness, and Ellen Jackson made an announcement regard- ing the upcoming Open House. Four new members were inducted: Jeremy Cook, Gordon Jones, Wayne Outlaw, and Chaun Pflug. Andy Brack introduced our speaker, Joe Erwin.

-- Amy Riley

April 5, 2005

The Future of Social Security
What are the issues?

March 29, 2005 -- Our speaker, Robertson Wendt, is a Charleston attorney who specializes in disability benefits law. Wendt began by pointing out that he is here not to engage in ideological warfare, but rather to discuss the serious issue before us. Social Security has problems, and it is important to the South Carolina economy: In 2003, 17.5 % of South Carolinians received benefits totaling $598 million every month.

SC Senator Lindsay Graham and Senator Shaw of Florida have emerged as the two leaders in reform pro-

posals. Neither proposal calls for private accounts, but both use index funds, similar to the federal retirement system. Wendt noted that we must be careful for what we wish for: one of the ramifications of investing Social Security monies in the stock market is the role and potential impact of the federal government being so deeply involved in the stock market.

Wendt noted that the Social Security website is rich with historical material dating back to the founding of the system that during the depth of the Great Depression. Among the principles of Roosevelt outlined were that the plan would be tied to work and that the program would be funded. His intention was to soften the blow of the “vicissitudes of life.” The plan was to start collecting taxes in 1937 and start paying benefit to 1942, after accumulating assets. In 1938, a group of Republicans changed the law to start paying out benefits and added disability as a benefit. The result is a mix of a trust and a pay-as-you-go system. In 1983, several changes were enacted to shore up the program, such as slowly increasing the retirement age, increasing the payroll tax, and scaled back benefits.

The real issue, Wendt says, it that human behavior does not lend itself to private accounts. The experience with 401(k) plans has been people make poor investment decisions and use retirement funds for current needs. In addition, the stock market entails risk and timing is everything. If someone has a bad fortune to retire during a down market, they could be left with considerably diminished retirement income.

Wendt thinks that the outcome will be similar to the federal retirement system, which has three or more index funds to choose from and purchase an annuity at retirement. There would be a minimum payout guaranteed by the government. The funding for these plans differs - Graham’s would increase the payroll tax, while Shaw’s would rely on current taxpayers.

Wendt also noted that the key question is what are expectations and whether this will work. The federal government would be the biggest investor of the private stock market, which has enormous ramifications. In addition, there are increased costs administrative costs of transition of politics, which will the objections to what companies are invested in such as tobacco companies, while cigarette so on: the public pressure for exemptions, which is already happened in 401(k) plans; and the impact of risk the role of government in the stock market or a lot in our lives in general.

Regardless of what we do, Wendt concluded, it will cost.

In other business. . .

Patterson Smith gave the invocation and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Sue Sommer Kresse welcomed visiting Rotarians and guests. John Bleecker offered Health & Happiness, and Paul Welborn made an announcement regarding the 2006 District Conference. Joan Ustin introduced our speaker, Robertson Wendt.

-- Amy Riley