ABBEVILLE: Abbeville County Industry Education Week Community Tour

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

October 24, 2018

ABBEVILLE — The kickoff to Abbeville County Industry Education Week began on Monday, October 1, 2018, with the Community Tour of WCTEL, Prysmian, and Stoll Industries.  The community was invited to participate in a free tour of these three local industries. Everyone met at the Greater Abbeville Chamber of Commerce to take a bus to each of the sites.  The bus was furnished by Stoll Industries.

The tour began at WCTEL.  The tour included a brief introduction to the WCTEL Company and its many offerings to the community and businesses which included background information about the internet provider and employment there.  WCTEL is not just a place that you go to work for; it is a place that you begin your career at and retire from.

From there, the tour moved on to Prysmian.  This tour included some background information about what Prysmian does and the different types of jobs there.  A tour of the plant floor and the extrusion tower followed.  The tower gave an amazing view at 330 feet tall looking out over Abbeville County.  It is wonderful to know that one of the largest facilities inside of the Prysmian Group is located right here in Abbeville, South Carolina.

Stoll Industries was the last stop.  During the Stoll Industries tour, we visited the showroom, the design area, and the plant floor to see first-hand how their custom products are made.  It was amazing to see the talent that is involved in creating each piece that leaves Stoll Industries.

The community tour finished with a Chick-fil-a lunch sponsored by Stoll Industries at their facility.  All of this was made possible by WCTEL, Prysmian, Stoll Industries, SAGE Automotive, and the Freshwater Coast Community Foundation (FCCF).  We look forward to seeing you on the tour next year.

The Abbeville County Industry Education Week was held October 1-4, 2018.  Abbeville County students were able to tour WCTEL, Prysmian, SAGE, Thermaflex, and Stoll Industries.

A finisher applying coating to one of the many products designed and made at Stoll Industries. Abbeville County Industry Education Week Kickoff Community Tour, October 1, 2018.

ABBEVILLE: Abbeville County Industry Education Week

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

September 18, 2018

ABBEVILLE — A meeting was held at the WCTEL Corporate Office on Tuesday, September 4, 2018, to discuss the Abbeville County Industry Education Week. Wilder Ferreira, FCCF, led the meeting to gather information and set up the activities for this year’s event. Those in attendance were:  Melissa Billey, Dr. Charles Costner, Dr. Betty Jo Hall, Lori Lindler, Lee Logan, Renee Robinson, Jean Smith, Virginia Smith, Stephen Taylor, Jeff Wilson, and Wilder Ferreira.

Looking back at last year’s Industry Education Week, a discussion was held of what worked well and what could be improved upon.  Lori Lindler, Calhoun Falls Charter School, Vice Principal, commented that after they arrived back at their school last year, the ninth-grade students were so engaged that a conversation continued with questions and answers from what they had seen that day.  This shows that these students were not only interested in what they had seen, but it also captivated them enough that they wanted to continue the conversation. This is very positive for Abbeville County and these students.  They are not only able to see what careers are available here in Abbeville County, but also learn what it will take to make that transition from high school to the professional workforce here in their home area.  With the investment in their education by local businesses through scholarships and grants such as the Abbeville Promise, these students will have a significant advantage in this area for upcoming jobs.  These students, by receiving a tour of local businesses, get to see what products are made, what jobs are necessary at the businesses to make these finished products, and what they need to do as far as education to pursue these jobs.

The Abbeville County Industry Education Week will be held October 1-4, 2018. These students will tour WCTEL, Prysmian, SAGE, Flexible Technologies, and Stoll Industries.


Abbeville County Industry Education Week planning meeting held September 4, 2018.

Abbeville: Adam Gore, Ag/Horticulture Extension Agent

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

September 12, 2018

ABBEVILLE — Let me introduce Adam Gore, Agriculture/Horticulture Extension Agent for Abbeville County Cooperative Extension Office.  Adam comes to us from Loris, South Carolina.  He is a Clemson Graduate with a B.S. degree in Agricultural Education (Clemson University, 2013) and a M.S. in Plant and Environmental Sciences (Clemson University, 2016).

Adam has a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to horticulture.  If you have questions about issues with plants such as discolored plants, dying plants, the “why, if, how to” about plants; he is here to help.  I guess you could say he is a plant doctor, and he is literally in Abbeville County’s backyard.

During my conversation with Adam about his new position at the Abbeville County Cooperative Extension Office, I learned something new just in general conversation about blackberries.  He said a recent question was brought to him in regard to blackberries.  The individual who contacted him had stated that the blackberries were plump, large and juicy, yet they were not sweet.  He explained to me that while the blackberries had the rain they needed during the growth time in order for them to be large and juicy; they did not have enough sun to produce the sugar in the fruit for them to be sweet.  Due to the lack of sun, the sweet flavor ended up being watered down.  To think, I gained that knowledge in a small conversation with Adam; imagine what he can do with the questions you have about your plants.

You can meet Adam and introduce yourself during the Touch a Tractor Event at the Abbeville County Agriculture Building on Saturday, September 22, 2018, from 10:00AM until 2:00PM.  He is available Monday through Friday from 8:30AM to 5:00PM at the Abbeville County Agriculture Building.  You can also reach him by phone at (864)446-2276 or email at  Adam has also started a Facebook page to post information.  You can view the Abbeville Horticulture: Clemson Extension Facebook page at

Adam Gore, Ag/Horticulture Extension Agent for Abbeville County Cooperative Extension Office, September 10, 2018.



Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

August 21, 2018

ABBEVILLE — West Carolina Tel (WCTEL) is not only a full-service state-of-the-art telecommunications provider; they are a moving-forward-to-the-future community sponsor that partners with other entities to better the area that we call home.  WCTEL is helping to build a stronger future in Abbeville County, McCormick County, and the Starr-Iva area of Anderson County, also known as the freshwater coast region.

 WCTEL does more than just telecommunications, it supports the freshwater coast community’s future.  While WCTEL provides infrastructure to the Abbeville area and surrounding areas, it also assists with the community growth by supporting projects such as the Abbeville Promise to help provide a good solid future to Abbeville residents and help retain the workforce in the area.  The Abbeville Promise will help fund graduating high school students who want to go to college, but do not necessarily have the means to go, by awarding them with a scholarship to Piedmont Technical College.  The Abbeville Promise will be very helpful in Abbeville County to make sure our businesses have a continual pool of well trained, well-educated young people to ensure a strong future.  WCTEL also hires interns from colleges to work through the summer so that they have work experience when they graduate out of college.  This makes these students even more marketable and workforce ready after graduation.  WCTEL is also part of the Apprenticeship Carolina SC Technical College System Program which is also a part of the National Apprenticeship System.  This apprenticeship program helps by combining supervised on-the-job training with job-related education in the classroom.  Again, helping to get the soon-to-be-graduates ready to “hit the ground running” after graduation.  Also, this benefits the student by earning a paycheck during the apprenticeship.  One more benefit, the student is then trained for a job at the facility if there is an opening. 

 Recently, WCTEL was awarded the Smart Rural Community Award by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association.  Thirteen companies in rural areas of the United States and Canada earned this designation in 2017.  That is quite an honor for WCTEL, but even better, it shows the extraordinary efforts of WCTEL to advance the community with broadband solutions to provide their customers with state-of-the-art technology so that our area continues to move forward into the future.

 Currently, WCTEL offers high speed Internet, voice, HD TV, security, wireless services, hosted business solutions, and home automation to Abbeville County, McCormick County, Starr-Iva area of Anderson County and the surrounding areas.  They have built a solid infrastructure with fiber that supports businesses and residents in the area.  This not only benefits the current businesses that are here now, but it also shows to potential businesses coming to this area that fast, reliable Internet and advanced business solutions along with network support are available to their businesses in this region.  Infrastructure is one of the top items that companies look into for potential areas to grow their businesses.  With WCTEL, they can see that this is a viable area where they can move into and expand.

 WCTEL is doing a great job at connecting the dots to continue with a viable future in technology, personnel, and community support.  They are doing a great job at keeping that circle going:  the more trained workforce we have, the more jobs we have, and the more people stay in our communities to start the circle again.

Please visit WCTEL on their website at for more information and to learn about everything they are doing for the future.

WCTEL (L-R): Virginia Smith, Marketing Representative; Lance Tade, CFO; Shannon Sears, Director of Commercial Operations; Chuck Nash, Director of Business Solutions; and Jeff Wilson, CEO. August 22, 2018.

McCormick: Teresa Kemp: Full of Life, Full of Knowledge and Information

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

August 6, 2018

MCCORMICK — Today I met the most amazing woman.  She is so full of life, but more importantly, she is full of knowledge and information.  Teresa Kemp, the owner of SC Wild’s Heritage Center of Plantation Quilts Adventure Museum, gave me a tour of her museum in McCormick, South Carolina.  If you are ever in McCormick, South Carolina, you must stop for a tour; actually, you should make this a destination to visit.

The museum is housed in the Historic McCormick Train Depot at 201 South Main Street, McCormick, South Carolina 29835.  The tour begins with an explanation of the area’s heritage.  It concludes with information on the area’s gems and mining tradition.  I will not spoil the tour by giving you the detailed information, just know that when you leave there, you really want to take the tour again because it is so historically rich.  Another benefit to Ms. Kemp’s tour of the museum is that it is hands-on.  Not only do you get to see the textiles and different pieces that have a home there, but you are allowed to feel the items.  This gives you the visual of the many elements that make up the museum, but by being hands-on, you get to engrave that into your memory.  This is a win-win for all school aged children.  Ms. Kemp gives tours to adults and families, and she is also very happy to have classrooms come through her museum to learn and become engaged in history.

The museum offers self-guided tours and guided tours.  There is free parking onsite, and the facility is handicapped accessible.  You can visit her website at

Teresa Kemp, SC Wild’s Heritage Center of Plantation Quilts Adventure Museum, giving a tour on July 19, 2018.

Calhoun Falls: Our Children, Our Future

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

July 16, 2018

CALHOUN FALLS — A meeting was held today, July 12, 2018, by Wilder Ferreira in Calhoun Falls to brainstorm with residents regarding the youth of Calhoun Falls. The question on the table, “What is the most important item that we can help these children with?” Officer Kesler responded first with education. Physical activity and healthy snacks were another response that was received from the Calhoun Falls residents. Afterschool activities such as homework tutoring, Beta Clubs, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) organizations, youth sports, healthy snacks; these all became the topics of the discussion.

These children need a good education in order to further their future to have good jobs, receive trade skills training, go on to higher education, and be able to give back to their community. Education is so important for each and every student. Another item that was discussed was healthy lifestyles. By becoming active in sports in afterschool programs, it gives these children a chance to utilize the energy that has been stored up all day during school. They then have a place to further personal fitness and lifetime fitness, something that everyone can benefit from now and in the future. These physical activities not only benefit these students during their adolescent years but benefit them into adulthood because they have started a healthy habit that they will continue. As the discussion continued, healthy snacks during the afterschool programs was brought up. Again, this is something that will not only benefit these children now, but it teaches them what they should eat to help their bodies be healthy.

It was evident during the meeting about how much these residents care and want to give these children, their children and grandchildren, a good educational and healthy start in life. They realize the importance of helping the children in Calhoun Falls in attaining a good education and healthy lifestyle.

Meeting in Calhoun Falls on July 12, 2018 regarding opportunities for youth in the Calhoun Falls area.

McCormick: McCormick Arts Council at the Keturah (MACK)

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

June 25, 2018

MCCORMICK — The McCormick Arts Council at the Keturah (MACK) has so much to offer to everyone young and old alike.  From programs and camps to exhibitions and classes, this is the place for art.  The MACK’s mission:  provide art, culture, and education to the region.  And yes, the MACK does just that.  I was given a tour recently of the McCormick Arts Council at the Keturah and was given a wonderful history and insight to not only what they do, but also where they are housed. 

The building that houses the MACK was the Hotel Keturah built by 1900.  The first Hotel Keturah burned, and a second Hotel Keturah was constructed in 1910.  Mr. W. J. Conner built and managed this hotel that accommodated travelers and train passengers.  He named both of the hotels after his wife, Keturah, who also helped to manage them.  The downstairs of the building showcases art in a gallery and accommodates a gift shop and some offices.  The upstairs of the once hotel utilizes the guest rooms for artists to work in and give lessons.  Another space housed upstairs is for the young art students to come and enjoy the art programs and art camps.  The amount of creativity that comes from these young artists as they learn and create here at the MACK is absolutely wonderful.  It opens doors to so much more from these students learning to express themselves in art.  The MACK even displays the art that is created by these young students during an exhibition twice a year.  During the other times of year, you will find different exhibits from other artists.  The MACK also works with the local school district to bring art into the classrooms.  This joint effort helps keep art alive.

The MACK is a non-profit organization that relies on donations and support.  The MACK is a wonderful community asset and a great organization to donate to.  They have many levels of support for donations.  Your support will help the MACK achieve their vision to be the catalyst of cultural development for McCormick County.  Please contact the MACK or visit their website for more information on donor levels and how your support will continue to assist a great community organization.

The MACK is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00AM until 4:00PM and closed on Sunday.  For more information, feel free to visit their website at  They also have a Facebook page that you can visit in addition to their website at


McCormick Arts Council at the Keturah (MACK), May 22, 2018.

McCormick County Senior Center and McCormick Area Transit

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

May 15, 2018

MCCORMICK — McCormick County Senior Center is very busy agency made up of the McCormick County Senior Center, the McCormick Area Transit (MAT), and the Talmadge Fitness and Wellness Complex. 

McCormick County Senior Center is a private non-profit agency that began by providing care to the McCormick County seniors.  The agency receives contributions and donations, as well as grants, contracts, and local support from McCormick County government and the Town of McCormick.  The McCormick County Senior Center decided they needed a sustainable plan for income to help with all of the programs and projects that they provide to the McCormick County seniors.  The decision was made to convert the Talmadge Sewing Plant into the Talmadge Fitness and Wellness Complex.  This has not only opened doors for the McCormick County Senior Center to have a sustainable avenue of funding; it has opened doors to broaden their mission to encompass all of the McCormick County residents. 

Each branch that makes up the McCormick County Senior Center is providing each individual in McCormick County accessibility to benefits and options that they may not have had without it.  The Talmadge Fitness and Wellness Complex is able to provide routes for a healthier community.  Through the McCormick County Senior Center, the seniors in McCormick County along with McCormick County residents, have the availability to:  utilize transportation through the MAT service which includes public transportation, Medicaid transportation, and senior transportation; retired volunteer program; Meals on Wheels; Congregate Meals; Frozen Meals on Wheels for those who live in the more rural areas of McCormick County; bridge/activity room; bingo/craft room; pinochle/reading area; 24 hour access to the physical fitness exercise room; ½ mile outdoors walking track; I Care Counseling; and building and room rentals.  Upon DHEC approval, a brand new indoor heated saltwater therapy pool and a whirlpool will become available to the members of the Talmadge Fitness and Wellness Complex.  All of these programs and services combined are helping to make McCormick County healthier.  A new addition also housed in the Talmadge Fitness and Wellness Complex is the TFC Café.  It has an extensive menu to which items are being added weekly.  I got to sample the chocolate ice cream which is awesome; it reminded me of the fudgsicles I used to get as a kid.  Inside of the Talmadge Fitness and Wellness Complex is a full service physician’s office also.  Although it is independently run by Carolina Health Centers, Inc., aka McCormick Family Practice, it definitely adds to the Talmadge Fitness and Wellness Complex.  McCormick Family Practice provides low cost or no cost health care to the general public of all ages.

There are a lot of benefits coming from these facilities for McCormick County; benefits for not only the seniors in McCormick County but for the residents also.  For information about the McCormick County Senior Center, the McCormick Area Transit, the Talmadge Fitness and Wellness Complex, or the TFC Café, please visit their Facebook page at:

McCormick County Senior Center, April 24, 2018.

Diamond Hill Aquaponics Project

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

May 9, 2018

ABBEVILLE — Mrs. Busby’s class at Diamond Hill Elementary School is getting a hands-on experience with an aquaponics project.  The aquaponics equipment was delivered to Mrs. Busby’s class in February 2018.  The lesson, grow plants in water, with nutrients coming from the fish living in the water, from which clean water is returned to the fish because the plants filtered it.  Sound like a cycle, well it is.  A wonderful cycle that these children are very excited about. 

On April 23 2018, as Jenny Mountford, Abbeville County 4-H Agent, and myself entered Mrs. Busby’s class, the first thing I noticed was the teaching style Mrs. Busby has…traditional and hands-on.  In the back corner of the room, sits the aquaponics unit, a system that is doing so much more than just sustaining fish and growing lettuce.  This aquaponics system is teaching these children about plant and animal life, life cycles, sustainability, environmental changes affecting plants and animals, biology, and so much more.  As I listened in during her lesson, I was amazed at the amount of information these students have not only learned, but retained.  They answered every question that Mrs. Busby and Jenny Mountford asked.  They talked about xylem, transpiration, carnivorous plants, evaporation, nitrogen levels; and the conversation continued about how the fish were helping the plants, and the plants were helping the fish.  Did you know fish can drown?  Mrs. Busby’s class does.  They even know how to keep it from happening by making sure there is enough oxygen in the water and how to provide it.  Currently, the class is growing lettuce; however, they are not limited to this plant only.  The class is getting ready to change out the lettuce to a different plant.  In an aquaponics farm, you get to harvest both the plants and the fish for consumption.  These children may or may not realize it right now, but they are not only learning science, they are learning agriculture also.  The students were able to taste the “fruits of their labor” or should I say vegetables.  They said the lettuce tasted good.  One student comically piped up that he prefers ranch on his lettuce; I believe I would tend to agree with that student.  However, in all seriousness, an entire salad could be grown from aquaponics and the fish harvested for the main course.

A joint effort between Clemson University, Freshwater Coast Community Foundation, and the Abbeville County 4-H has brought this opportunity to Mrs. Busby’s class.  The aquaponics equipment was provided by the Freshwater Coast Community Foundation.  Clemson University has provided the support for the project.  The Abbeville County 4-H program reached out to Diamond Hill Elementary to connect with Emily Busby as a teacher.  This partnership has allowed for the traditional classroom education to meet with the 4-H hands-on education to give new opportunities to our Abbeville County youth.  Dr. Lance Beecher, Aquaponics, Aquaculture and Fisheries Specialist, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service, has been instrumental in helping to get the unit set up and providing help as needed for Mrs. Busby’s class.  While there are many high schools around the state that have aquaponics systems, very few middle schools or elementary schools, if any, have that system.  This is a very unique opportunity for this 6th grade class.  Dr. Beecher is more than happy to assist any school out there to get a program together and offer advice on system design.  Another aquaponics unit is being utilized by an organization in Abbeville County, the Due West Robotics First Lego League Team, Narwhal of Ideas.  This unit is housed at Erskine College and is maintained by the robotics team.  The team is still excited over the lettuce they grew.  These are projects that Mrs. Busby’s class and the Narwhal of Ideas robotics team will never forget.  These hands-on learning experiences are totally educational, totally interesting, and totally fun; and that is what makes for a great education and learning experience.


Mrs. Busby’s 6th grade class adding plants to the aquaponics system, May 4, 2018.

FCCRD Advisory Board Meeting

Melissa Billey, Project Manager –

April 18, 2018

ABBEVILLE — A meeting of the FCCRD Advisory Board was held on April 18, 2018, at 8:30AM, at WCTEL conference room.  Lee Logan, the Chairman of the FCCRD Advisory Board, opened the meeting with a warm welcome and prayer.  Breakfast was provided by WCTEL.

 Wilder Ferreira began the meeting with the introduction of the new employee, Melissa Billey.  She will be assisting Wilder as the FCCRD Project Manager as the FCCRD continues to grow.  Wilder gave a presentation on the many projects that have been completed, projects that are on-going, and future projects that are in the works.  FCCRD has made such a difference in assisting the rural areas of Abbeville County, McCormick County, and the Starr-Iva Community.  The development and continued support in agri-business, education, entrepreneurship, and the arts has been seen and felt in each community in these counties.  The passion for partnerships and alliances working together can be felt from each individual in attendance that represented these areas.  Wilder Ferreira’s expertise has been utilized by the FCCRD to help revitalize and grow programs to assist the communities.

 Lee Logan followed Wilder with information on the Abbeville Promise.  The Abbeville Promise Kick-off Event is scheduled for April 19, 2018.  Lee also updated the group on how well the projects are coming together and impacting the areas.  Some projects that are making an impact are:

  • The Aquaponics Project at Diamond Hill Elementary where 6th grade students in Ms. Busby’s class are learning about plants grown in water.
  • The Starr-Iva Alliance that is focusing on workshops, public relations, and consulting to promote small businesses in the Starr and Iva areas.
  • The Abbeville County Youth Leadership Program that will focus on high school seniors to promote soft skills and leadership.
  • The McCormick County Workforce Development Program that will focus on high school juniors to obtain an IT Professional Certification upon graduation for job placement.

 The meeting was closed by Lee Logan.

Wilder Ferreira, FCCRD, speaking during the FCCRD Advisory Board Meeting at WCTEL on April 18, 2018.