Pat Birmingham to take the driver’s seat of Meals on Wheels.

Pat Birmingham to take the driver’s seat of Meals on Wheels.Pat Birmingham is a true believer in Meals on Wheels – Bluffton and Hilton Head Inc., and the valuable service it provides to its clients throughout southern Beaufort County.

“Meals on Wheels is a great organization,” Birmingham said. “We’re not flashy, and we provide a valuable service to people who can’t prepare their own meals. You don’t get much more basic than food.”

Founded locally in 1979, the organization will soon enter its 30th year of service providing meals to clients regardless of their ability to pay. “We have never missed a day of serving meals, even when the occasional bad storm passes through,” he said.

Originally from Hoag Corners, N.Y., Birmingham started college but quit after two years to enter the Air Force Aviation Cadet program. He spent 20 years in the Air Force, for a short time as a navigator and the rest as a fighter pilot.

Missy SantorumLowcountry dynamo generates energy for Palmetto Electric.

Most of us start our day with a cup of coffee to rev things up.   However, some of us come “naturally caffeinated”…our own little latte of energy.

There’s energetic, and then there’s Missy Santorum. This Lowcountry dynamo has been channeling all that get-up and go into our community since 1985 and without a coffee cup in sight. The moment you meet her, all that energy comes through and you realize that her to-do list seems to be in a whole different league than most.

When asked what she wishes she had a little more of, she’s quick to note, “I wish I could do it all.” But she’s a great example of today’s well-rounded woman who manages to balance her career, her family, which includes husband Dan and three children, and a volunteer workload and dedication to her community that might seem remarkable to most, but just part of a day in the life for Santorum.

A Concours d’Elegance icon.

October’s MVP: Rosemary Kimball - A Concours d’Elegance icon

If you attended the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival in 2007, you’ll certainly remember Rosemary Kimball. She was wearing a 30s-era dress, hat and fascinating vintage fox stole. Although it will be difficult to top that outfit, Kimball will definitely wear something fabulous from one of the historic automotive eras celebrated at the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, November 2, when more than 150 vintage vehicles compete for Best of Show. But Kimball is more than a fashionable addition to the Concours – arguably an integral centerpiece of the weekend; she’s responsible for why the event’s coveted awards are as artistic as they are prestigious.

September’s MVP: Carol SchembraThere are great women, and then there are amazing women – those who make you stand taller, set the bar higher and pave the way for others a little each day. Yes…she’s amazing all right. She’s also compassionate, smart, loyal, business savvy and a giver, by anyone’s standard. Carol Schembra, president of the WatersEdge Board and secretary of Hilton Head Prep’s Board of Trustees, is an MVP and it only takes five minutes into an interview to discover why. The day Monthly spoke with Schembra was a momentous one – her 30th anniversary with husband Phil.

Hilton Head Humane Association’s HERO.

August’s MVP: BOBBI HELTONRaven-haired Bobbi Helton sweeps into a room with the stealth of a tigress, attacking the day’s tasks with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. Whether she is taking inventory, assisting customers, moving furniture or wielding a mop, she gets the job done, collecting innumerable joys along the way.

Starting as a volunteer in 2000, a beacon of light to the Hilton Head Humane Association, Helton was asked to join the board the same year. She served as vice president in 2002 and was elected president in 2003. After working seven days a week for two years at The Litter Box thrift store (a funding mechanism for the organization), in 2006, she took the position as manager and continues to work tirelessly.

A former school teacher, devoted wife and lifelong animal activist, she brings passion and compassion to her role, her service and dedication surpassed only by her love of life itself.

Taking Care of BUSINESS

August’s MVP: Toni LyttonAfter 25 years with the sheriff ’s office, Toni Lytton now sits in the director’s chair for Beaufort County Animal Shelter & Control. Lytton, a native of California who lived in Hawaii after her father retired from the Marine Corps, came to the Lowcountry as a Marine wife in 1977. “Before I came here I worked for a veterinarian, but none of the vets were hiring,” she said of her career path. “I knew somebody who worked here and applied for the job and got it.”

When she started with the department, animal control officers didn’t carry guns even though they were certified deputies. “That came later,” Lytton said. “The incident reports haven’t changed, we just get more of them now. A lot, lot more compared to the ’80s and ’90s.”

The shelter serves all of Beaufort County, including Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Pritchardville and everything north of the Broad to the borders, she said. And population growth and development have increased the pressure of the job. “The people coming into Beaufort County are more demanding,” she explained.

Saving lives and beautifying beaches through Shore Beach Service.

July’s MVP: RALPH WAGNEREverything about his office has the usual corporate feel to it: an oversized wooden desk, family photos sprinkled throughout, however, visitors don’t receive the standard guest chair. It seems only appropriate that the “president’s office” would have beach chairs for visitors. When you’re the longtime owner of Shore Beach Service, green beach chairs for your guests make sense.

Ralph Wagner has been at the helm of Shore Beach Service since 1992. The beautiful island beaches we all know and love are kept that way in large part by Wagner and his staff. Shore Beach Service (shorebeach.com) is in charge of keeping the beaches beautiful as well as the ultra-important task of keeping beachgoers safe and out of harms way.

Wagner originally hails from the Midwest but came to Hilton Head Island in the early ,90s from snowy Chicago where he worked in corporate America as a controller for a Fortune 100 company. When the opportunity arose to purchase Shore Beach Service, the move was made.

Lowcountry maven Natalie Hefter is commended for her contributions to our community.

Lowcountry maven Natalie Hefter is commended for her contributions to our community.Want to know the history of life before the mainland bridge to Hilton Head Island? Just ask Natalie. Ever wondered about the headstones that seem to lean into the sunset along Broad Creek? Curious to know where alligators go after sunning themselves on the lazy lagoon bank or how long it takes to restore an old hunting plantation to its former glory? Just ask Natalie. Sometimes we’re all defined by what we do and when you carry around in your head the breadth and depth of knowledge about all things Lowcountry that Natalie Hefter does, you’re bound to garner a reputation as the one with lots of answers to lots of questions.

As Vice President of Programs for the Coastal Discovery Museum, Hefter counts herself lucky to be doing what she’s always loved since childhood. She hails from a family where international travel was the norm and time spent in museums and historic sites in the hinterlands of China, Australia and Europe, and she sowed the seeds of curiosity that you’ll still find growing in Hefter today. The best part is that she’s also sharing her knowledge with everyone from grade schoolers learning the basics about marsh life, to retirees wanting to know more about the interesting past and present of a place they now call home.

May’s MVP: JAMES D. COLLETTThis month’s MVP award goes to Mr. James D. Collett. If there’s room on his mantle, Collett will add his MVP to a growing collection that includes, most recently, the 2008 Presbyterian Men of the Church’s Man of the Year.

A Washington, D.C. native, Collett came to Hilton Head Island in 2000 with his wife, Marcia, following a distinguished career with Bell Atlantic. He attended Denison University in Ohio for his undergraduate studies, served 3 1/2 years in the U.S. Air Force, and earned a master’s degree in real estate and urban land studies from the University of Florida.

Collett is active in the Presbyterian Church, where he is an ordained Deacon and a Stephen Minister. He is president of the Hilton Head Plantation POA and serves on the Town of Hilton Head Island’s Board of Zoning Appeals. Collett is also a member of the Rotary Club of Hilton Head Island, the Greater Island Council, the Hilton Head Island Council of the Navy League and the Bear Creek Golf Club.

Service with a SMILE

April’s MVP: EARL “HAPPY” MITCHELLAt 8 a.m. on a recent Friday, the sun was just coming up over Harbour Town Golf Links. While the rest of the world was yawning and coming to life, one man was already up and facing the day with a smile that has become his trademark. Despite the hour, Earl “Happy” Mitchell already had a table of early risers at The Harbour Town Grill, in The Sea Pines Resort, howling with laughter, whipped into a chuckling frenzy thanks to his infectious energy.

The joke that started it all ended up lost in the laughter, but the punchline had something to do with an egg white omelet that had to be precisely cooked. They were the only people in the entire restaurant, but Happy had them laughing hard enough that Chuck, his co-worker behind the bar, was having a hard time hearing the phone call he’d just answered.