Actions are louder than words for well-known volunteer

July's MVP: Gordon DealIf it’s for a good cause, Gordon Deal probably has a hand in it. Known around town as the man who belongs to every volunteer committee and appears at all the major charitable events, Deal just doesn’t have it in him to turn down a request for help. “My wife used to say to me, ‘Let me take your jaw and help you say ‘NO,’ ” jokes Deal, who is originally from Savannah but has lived on Hilawards ton Head Island since 1998. “I said to her, ‘But I’m having a good time!’ I work seven days a week because I like to stay active and give back.”

Much of Deal’s community involvement stems from his nine-year membership in the Rotary Club. For example, when a fellow Rotarian mentioned he was also the executive director of the Mental Health Association on Hilton Head, Deal asked what he could do and soon found himself with a Christmas gift wish list in his hands.

The Curry Foundation, started by Tom Curry of Lowcountry Paver, is raising money for Ben and Brittany Kennedy of Bluffton, who are facing mounting medical bills since Ben was diagnosed with follicular non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Treatment could take six months to a year. Meanwhile, the Kennedys are struggling to pay for their house, car, food and utilities.

Young actor shines onstage

Lauren OsborneWITH A NATURAL POISE beyond her years, fresh-faced Lauren Osborne brings the stage to life. The 15-year-old found her calling onstage with her first lead role as Laurey in “Oklahoma!”

“It’s one of my favorite places to be,” said Osborne.

“I have a good feeling — must be the adrenaline!”

“Oklahoma!” was an ideal role for Osborne, according to Jodi Layman, Main Street Youth Theatre artistic director and choreographer.

“Lauren studied ballet with Hilton Head Dance Theatre for years and is a beautiful dancer,” Layman said. “She’s a triple threat — voice, dance, acting — and those are hard to come by. Most of all, she’s a natural. It’s in her eyes! She’s so believable.”

Upwardly Mobile Coach

Bob Cooke stresses values and sportsmanshipIt’s no surprise that St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church’s Upward sports program is so popular. In fact, it’s tripled in size in the last two years, and that has a lot to do with coach Bob Cooke.

“It’s one of the largest faith-based, youthsports programs, with guidelines that help with coaching,” Cooke said of Upward, which is part of a national program with more than 750,000 kids across the country. “The key piece of Upward is being out there with the kids, making sure they hear a consistent message.”

Retired lawyer Kenneth Nagle finds fulfillment as volunteer.

Kenneth NagleKenneth Nagle, a volunteer for Lowcountry Legal Aid, is no stranger to service.

After attending The Citadel in Charleston on a basketball scholarship and graduating from law school at the University of Cincinnati, he served in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps in Vietnam, Germany and other assignments where he tried courts-martial cases among other duties.

He left active duty but remained in the Army Reserves and retired as a colonel in the JAG Corps.

Upon leaving the Army, he began a career with the Defense Department as a contract law attorney and was involved in litigating contract disputes. Nagle’s other professional experience includes working for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as a litigation attorney in banking cases.

New Hilton Head Prep chief and his family are ready to enjoy island living.

Kandel, “is totally committed to doing what’s best for the kids. He is the right guy to take the school to the next level.”Anthony Kandel, newly named head of school at Hilton Head Preparatory School, would admit to personal as well as professional reasons why he’s eager to move to the island.

Those reasons could be summarized as “Sun” and “Belt.” Kandel, contacted March 4 in Philadelphia, where he heads the upper school at Haverford School, reported an outdoor temperature of 16 degrees at mid-morning.

“Two nights ago it snowed eight inches,” the Los Angeles native added.

April's MVP: Ted CooleyNAMI volunteer offers hope to families affected by mental illness.

Dealing with mental illness can be a baffling and traumatic experience for everyone involved.

But thanks to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), family members of the affected now have somewhere to turn.

Bluffton resident Ted Cooley, who was named NAMI’s 2008 Volunteer of the Year in South Carolina, knows first-hand what it’s like to see a loved one suffer from mental illness —his son has schizoaffective disorder.

“You have someone who is very successful and lives a wonderful life, then all of a sudden strange things start to happen,” said Cooley, citing a statistic that one in five families today are touched by mental illness. “They go from being a loving person to a person who has all these crazy ideas, and the parents have no idea what’s wrong or how to deal with it.”

Hilton Head & Daufuskie Communities

One of the most unique aspects of the Lowcountry, from a geographical standpoint, is the expansive barrier islands that dot the coast. Connected by intricate rivers and marshes, these islands form a chain of unique areas, each with a flavor of its own. Perhaps none of these islands is as famous worldwide for its beauty as Hilton Head Island, which has found itself transformed over the past few decades into an amenity-rich hometown like no other.

Lowcountry Living Guide - Hilton Head & DaufuskieBut, just a brief ferry ride away, lies a less known barrier island, called Daufuskie, where the world slows to a crawl, a sunset lasts forever and neighbors become close friends over an oyster roast. It is becoming increasingly familiar, however, as new developments and amenities attract more visitors to its shores.

Hilton Head Island has always been synonymous with good times thanks to the popularity of events, such as the Verizon Heritage and the many arts, food and community festivals enjoyed by visitors and locals. Home to a rich community of artists and performers, Hilton Head offers numerous cultural experiences, from musical events to stage performances and everything in between.

It wasn’t that long ago that, between Hilton Head Island and I-95, you’d find nothing but timber land. Just a few miles away from this strip, you’d find a sleepy little oyster town named Bluffton. Oozing Southern charm, this quiet corner of the world lived with the tides in a one-square-mile paradise on earth. Then, about 15 years ago, the area simply exploded. Its natural beauty, coupled with its prime location, convenient to Savannah, Hilton Head Island and Beaufort, created the perfect jumping off point for development. Funny thing is, though, as big as Bluffton becomes, it’s still that quiet town perched on a river.

That explosion of development continued on to nearby Okatie, and in fact it is this newer area where much of today’s most exciting growth continues. Now, Bluffton and Okatie are some of the most vibrant and fast-growing areas in the state. Both have been very careful to balance new growth with environmental considerations, and it has paid off with an area rich in cultural opportunities and ample space for those looking to set down roots.

We begin in Bluffton, where old and new blend to create a unique and charming environment. Where else can you find a stateof-the-art tech park, home to the vanguard in technology, situated right up the road from a downtown that has remained largely unchanged since Bluffton still woke and slept by the tides? Where else can you enjoy a round of world-class golf on courses designed by the greats, take in a movie in stadium seating with the latest in picture and sound, browse the unique works of a score of talented local artists, and then plan your evening around the tides as you set up for a barbecue on the May River’s famous sandbar?

The Broad River, towns such as Bluffton and Hardeeville are seeing unprecedented growth.

The first Blufftonians were Native Americans who came to reap the bounty of this riverside paradise’s shellfish, crabs and oysters. Apart from their annual visits, however, the town’s sole resident was the majestic May. That changed in the early 19th century when wealthy planters from around the state, and largely from nearby Savannah, flocked to “Bluff Town” to enjoy the cooling breezes that the May brought with each tide. In addition to keeping insects at bay, these breezes created a comfortable climate far from the heat of the city.

Bluffton’s road access to Charleston and Savannah and coastal locations made it a trade hotspot for farmers shipping their goods to cities up and down the coast and abroad. This trade spurred tremendous growth and, in 1852, the town officially incorporated as “Bluffton.” Over time, the town’s reputation as a trading post would be eclipsed by its role in fostering secessionist thought.

According to legend, disgruntled planters from Bluffton would meet at what is now called the Secession Oak (which still stands; albeit on private property, so don’t plan a visit) to air their grievances with federal trade policies. Their discussions would eventually spawn a rebellious ideology that would come to be known as the “Bluffton Movement.” This radical new movement would soon spread across the South, encouraging secession by planters and farmers and setting the stage for the “War of Northern Aggression.”

Within 16 years, the tensions reflected in the Bluffton Movement boiled over, and the first shots of the war rang out in Fort Sumter, just up the coast. Union troops, recognizing Bluffton as the birthplace of the secessionist movement, razed the town and burned many buildings, churches, and more than 30 homes. Along with these buildings, most of the town’s archives went up in flames, all but erasing Bluffton’s rich history. What we know now about Bluffton’s past has been painstakingly pieced together from letters, state records and family stories.

The few buildings which escaped the Northern torches, silent survivors of history’s brutality, were restored or renovated once the war ended. One such home, and perhaps the most famous, is the Heyward House. Believed to have been built in 1840, this stately reminder of a bygone era, appropriately enough, currently serves as home for the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society. The Society has made great strides in protecting Bluffton’s cherished history as the town builds toward the future.

This “historic district” has helped foster yet another radical movement: a quirky, whimsical attitude that has come to be known as “The Bluffton State of Mind.” Born of the relaxed creativity of its eccentric population, this mixture of art, performance, and culture is helping to redefine Bluffton.

If this state of mind had a capital, it would no doubt be Calhoun Street, the cultural heart of Bluffton.

Calhoun Street hosts a variety of festivals and parades, from the Bluffton Village Festival to the TGI3rd Friday events, all of which celebrate Bluffton’s unique mindset and atmosphere.

Utilizing a town manager style of government, Bluffton has the people and pieces in place to face its exciting future, while preserving its history and charm. The many neighborhoods around Bluffton offer amenities to suit nearly every taste, including golf, water views and luxurious stables. Combine that with plenty of shopping opportunities, from outlet malls to big box retailers to wonderful local shops, and add a short trip to the beaches of Hilton Head Island or the big city fun of Savannah, and it’s easy to see why so many are choosing to call Bluffton home.

The Bluffton Parkway continues to link the town together, as the recently-opened portions open it all the way to S.C. 170 and new stretches one day hope to provide a second route from the bridges to Hilton Head all the way out to I-95.

Farther north, in Okatie, development has included several new commercial districts and neighborhoods. Trading on the natural beauty along the Okatie River, this region is home to various neighborhoods that exult in outdoor activities. While the development in Bluffton was just booming, Okatie patiently waited for its chance to grow. Now, that chance has come, with new retail spaces opening up and new neighborhoods in the works.

Another exciting “South of the Broad” area is the up-and-coming city of Hardeeville. Once little more than a pit stop for travelers heading down I-95, this picturesque Southern town is expanding, with new developments going up in recent years and dedication to maintaining the small town charm that has people feeling as if they’ve stepped into another world.

There’s no telling how big this region will become in the coming years. Its location, infrastructure and natural beauty assure that it will continue to draw new residents, and smart development policies promise it will continue keeping an eye on preservation.

Dr. Douglas K. Fletcher, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian ChurchACROSS AMERICA and on Hilton Head Island, people have seen their projections of retirement income decimated.

Jobs have been lost, income sharply curtailed. I would like to be able to say that my church has been spared all the chaos, anxiety, and heartache. It has not. Instead, we participate in the broader experience of the community, and our people, whether longtime members or new to faith, have no guarantee of protection from adversity, financial or otherwise.

But the issues do get framed differently in church. After all, along with the economic challenges come a number of spiritual challenges. There is the challenge of  anxiety and stress of living in uncertain times.

But then what times are really certain? Jesus didn’t counsel running away from stress, but instead invited us to remember that God cares more about us than about birds or flowers.