BLUFFTON TO HOST AREA’S FIRST PRIDE FESTIVAL

Ashley Mendez was 12 when she came out as gay to her closest friends and 16 when she broke the news to her family.

She figured being open about who she was would mean leaving her hometown of Bluffton as soon as possible, shoving off from conservative South Carolina in search of a more accepting community.

Campbell chapel2

BLUFFTON’S CAMPBELL CHAPEL AME CHURCH EARNS SPOT ON NATIONAL REGISTER

Historic preservationist Carolyn Coppola had to search high and low to find one of the most significant physical clues to support the oral history of the old Campbell Chapel AME Church building in downtown Bluffton.

“I had an intern go up into the old belfry,” said Coppola, who led the effort to document the historic church’s past in a successful push for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. “He took pictures in the attic on his phone — on a hot summer day. We were all looking for clues. We found the yoke inscription and traced it to a company using that name for a short period of time.”

The Boys &l Girls Club of Bluffton opened its new Literacy Center of Excellence, a 2,700-square-foot expansion made possible with a $75,000 grant from Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. Including this grant and other donations, the club raised more than $650,000 in less than a year. The expansion will double the number of children served in the reading intervention program. The club will also renovate its parking lot, expand its STEM program and add about100 additional members to the club to serve Bluffton’s growing population

May River High School in Bluffton might be a new school, but the Sharks proved their mettle in the Class 3A boys’ soccer playoffs and state track meet.

May River won 6-2 against Indian Land on May 11 at Itmo’s W.C. Hawkins Stadium. The school’s boys track and field team was victorious on the same day at Spring Valley High School. These are the first state titles in the short three-year history of the school.

A plan for a micro-hospital in Bluffton received initial approval by Bluffton Town Council in March. South of the Broad Healthcare is a joint venture between Beaufort Memorial Hospital and the Medical University of South Carolina and the first of its kind in the state. If approved, the facility will be 65,000 square feet on about 12.5 acres near the intersection of Bluffton Parkway, Innovation Drive and Buckwalter Parkway, according to the plan submitted to the town’s department of growth management.

Town Council members inducted Mayor Lisa Sulka into the town of Bluffton’s Wall of Honor in February.  Sulka, the town’s first female mayor, was nominated because she epitomizes the town’s slogan, “Heart of the Lowcountry.” She led the town’s economic development charge as she partnered with Clemson University in 2012 to create the Don Ryan Center for Innovation, the first business incubation center in a non-metropolitan area of South Carolina. Sulka is also a strong advocate for Bluffton’s youth. She says she hopes her actions, whether it is writing recommendations to colleges for students or helping them with their applications or just reminding them that Bluffton’s adults are rooting for them, have made an impact on their lives. The Wall of Honor is located adjacent to the Charles E. Ulmer Auditorium in Town Hall. 

One of Bluffton’s original grocery stores, The Rate at 45 Bridge St., will undergo restoration to its former condition. New owner Debbie Wunder bought the property last year and plans to restore the now-dilapidated building to honor the town’s history, architecture and preservation efforts. Bluffton’s Developmental Review Committee is currently reviewing her plans.

The town of Bluffton closed on the purchase of a 37-acre parcel located at 200 New Riverside Road in December. This property, commonly known as the New Riverside barn property, includes the iconic 2,700-square-foot barn visible from the highway. The sales agreement also included the donation of a 7-acre parcel located at the southeastern intersection of S.C. 46 and S.C. 170, made possible as a result of a successful strategic partnership with Palmetto Bluff. These properties are expected to be used as civic space. The parcel was purchased for $200,000.

Bluffton resident Mike Covert, a Republican, has filed with the South Carolina Federal Election Commission to run in the 2020 election. He aims to unseat Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman congressman and the first Democrat to represent District 1 in more than four decades. Covert is president and managing member of Covert Aire, LLC, a heating and air-condition business in the Lowcountry, and a member of Beaufort County Council.

The town of Bluffton is planning renovations at Oyster Factory Park in Bluffton. The boat ramp will close through mid-February as part of an effort to improve park drainage and walking accessibility, especially by paving over the gravel portion of Wharf Street. Access to the May River will be available at various locations throughout Bluffton including Alljoy Boat Landing as the renovations take place.