Columbia 2019 Atlantic Peace & Dialogue Awards Ceremony
Palmetto Club, April 30th, 2019
The Atlantic Institute of Columbia would like to thank all of our guests, sponsors, awardees, committee members and our speaker Irmo Mayor Hardy King for helping make the 2019 Atlantic Peace and Dialogue Dinner a truly memorable experience. We would like to thank Cindy Pharis, our MC, for guiding us through this evening with wit, charm and insight. In addition, we would like to thank LaRahna Hughes, Carolina Survivor Clinic, Cheryl Nail, Serra Sizemore and Krystle Holmes-Gay for being pillars of the community worthy of recognition.
To the table sponsors, guests, and friends of Atlantic Institute that made this night possible: we appreciate you! The dedication, generosity, and kindness that we get from our community in Columbia is truly humbling. Thank you all for a wonderful night!
Thanks for our sponsors:
Columbia Jewish Federation
Speaker is: Irmo Mayor Hardy King
Born and raised in Elon-Burlington NC area. Moved to Anniston, Alabama in 1978 before moving to Irmo in 1990. Met Eileen Edmonds, from upstate NY, and married in 1992. Our son Adam was born in 1993, and our daughter Kristiana was born in 1995. They both live in Irmo.
Elected to Irmo Town Council in 2005, re-elected in 2009, elected Mayor in 2011, and re-elected Mayor in 2015. Own and operate Kings' Furniture Revival. A business offering antique and furniture refinishing, repairs, chair caning, and items for sale.
Served in various community positions: deacon and elder in local church; board member of Harbison Areas Wheels Transit, United Way of the Midlands Allocations Panel, St. Paul AME Community Empowerment Board, Personal Touch Program Volunteer at Palmetto Baptist Oncology Floor. Currently serving as President of Lexington County Municipal Association, Member Masonic Lodge Boyleston #123-Ballentine.
Firm believer in “Say what you mean, and mean what you say”. Was reminded years ago from an elder, “but just don't be mean, saying it”. Still working on this part.
My favorite quote from someone that came before me (Sir Edmund Burke), “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
It is up to us to stand, when needed; push back, when necessary; and if nothing else seems to be working, just stand firm; and always pray and give thanks.
One of the reasons it is hard for men and women with integrity and character to serve in elected offices is the difficulty of doing the right thing, when it is not the popular thing or the desire of the majority.
2019 Awardees - Atlantic Peace & Dialogue Awards
Peace and Dialogue Award: LaRahna Hughes
She became engrossed in community work while living in Atlanta, Georgia and that passion has been fueled by her quest to help repair and rebuild sustainable communities. She spent twenty years of her professional career as a consultant to community-based nonprofits, faith organizations and small businesses. Her call to community development work as a consultant led her to explore other ways to impact change at the community level. It was this pursuit that eventually led her to seminary and farming. Faith and food have become part of her life work. Her strong belief is that our faith community holds the keys for shaping sustainable values in our community and she wholeheartedly believes that nature and farming provide lessons and parables for living. She is a champion for social change as it relates to living our values. Her life work of building sustainable community is evident in her current life work. She is currently the owner of Seeds Cafe, Farm and Market which is an emerging farm to table restaurant, farm, farmers market and residential community. She is also a part of Reimagining Church which currently serves the community by offering a monthly interfaith spiritual gathering “Soul Food Sundays” and by seeking out solutions for meeting the spiritual needs of the diverse, interfaith community in which she lives. Her work allows her to plant seeds daily in the lives of others. One of her regular reminders about living is to “plant good seeds and water them with pure water.” Her life work is to plant good seeds as often as possible and to water good seeds that others have planted, because seeds try their best to grow!
Public and Community Service Award: Carolina Survivor Clinic
The Carolina Survivor Clinic, in collaboration with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and The Palmetto Health USC Medical Group, provides comprehensive and holistic care to refugees who are survivors of torture through individual treatment and therapeutic programs. The Clinic provides complete health screenings for newly admitted adult refugees, routine check-ups, and mental health care, along with various community-based programs.
We have partnered with numerous volunteers to create a supportive and enriching environment for the refugee community and help them grow and succeed in their new homes. The programs provided by the Carolina Survivor Clinic aim to address the various limitations to our patients' human agency while providing the health and wellness resources needed to rebuild their lives.
Media and Communications Award: Cheryl Nail
Directing the Columbia Jewish Community Relations Council, Cheryl works to protect and promote the Jewish community’s interests within the wider community; mobilizes the Jewish community and community at large to respond to issues, such as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia; and engages the community through programs featuring dynamic speakers and thought-provoking discussion. She also serves as the Jewish Religious Worker at the University of South Carolina, advising the student organization Hillel and assisting with the Table of Abraham student interfaith group.
Cheryl is proud to serve as Vice Chair of Interfaith Partners of SC, a statewide organization that works to foster understanding and cooperation among the many diverse faith traditions in South Carolina, through education, dialogue, and collaborative projects, in order to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect; the religious freedom of all groups is protected; each religious group's practices and teachings are given respectful consideration; and interfaith discussions become conversation models that others will want to emulate. In this role, Cheryl has made several television appearances to talk about the interfaith community in our state, combatting anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and the importance of working toward interfaith harmony to achieve peace in our community; and she has served on multiple panels, including "Getting to Know Your Muslim Neighbor." She currently chairs Peace in the Park, an annual interfaith festival, featuring performances, activities, and student artwork from 11 different faith traditions.
A former 7th-12th grade English teacher and curriculum developer, Cheryl serves on the Columbia Holocaust Education Commission, assisting with Holocaust Education programming and curriculum for K-12 schools, colleges, and the greater community. She was recently asked to serve on the Circle of Welcome Council for Lutheran Services Carolinas to help educate the community about and advocate for the refugee population in Columbia. Cheryl also sits on the Steering Committee for the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative of Historic Columbia, helping to provide access to and raise awareness of local Jewish history.
Outside of work, Cheryl is a proud member of Tree of Life Congregation (SC), an avid reader, and enjoys spending time with her husband of 13 years, who is the reason she is able to do all that she does, and their five-year-old son. With a lifelong passion for pen and paper, Cheryl has written for Southern Poverty Law's Teaching Tolerance and InterfaithFamily.com, has contributed to several ESOL textbooks about American idioms, and is a contributing writer for Columbia SC Moms Blog. Cheryl also is currently working to launch a fund that will help support Columbia youth experiencing homelessness as they transition to college.
Impact and Innovation Award: Serra Sizemore and Krystle Holmes-Gay
In January of 2016, she began her higher education at Midlands Technical College in the Human Services Department. Her field of choice is largely inspired by her grandparents, Gene and Connie. She was incredibly close to both of them and their deaths in 2012 and 2014 had a major impact on her life. When she began her Human Services journey, she was sure that gerontology and hospice care was the path she wanted to take. However, after one class in Mental Health 1st Aid, she knew the field of mental health was where she needed to be.
During her time at MTC, she became a beloved colleague and confidant. She also chaired the first Out of the Darkness Suicide Awareness and Prevention walk with AFSP. She graduated from MTC in May of 2018 with her Associate’s Degree in Human Services and was the Human Services Student of Honor for 2018. She maintained a 4.0 GPA while juggling work, family and her church life.
Part of her education at MTC included internships with Sistercare and ARC of the Midlands. At Sistercare, she worked with the HART (Hospital Accompaniment Response Team), bringing care and support to victims of domestic violence. At ARC of the Midlands, she worked with adults with special needs, helping them with life skills.
Currently she is a student at Columbia College in the Social Work department. Again, she is making her mark as a woman who not only cares about her community, but also her colleagues and professors at Columbia College. She is a constant source of love, motivation and support. She is an active member of the Social Work Club and hopes to co-chair the club for the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters. While being a student, wife, mother and friend; she is also working on a project to bring mental health 1st aid certifications to students at the middle and high schools in the Midlands.
Her children are a constant source of motivation and inspiration in her work. She is the proud mother of a LGBTQ+ son. They work closely together in helping bring awareness of the mental health needs of LGBTQ+ individuals, especially the adolescent population, to the community.
After graduation, she has hopes to work as a school social worker and to get her doctorate in social work from USC. In the future, she hopes to have a program for women that supports them through pregnancy and the stages of motherhood.
My Name is Krystle Rene Holmes-Gay. I was born and raised on the Eastside of Cleveland, Ohio. I was adopted at the age of two to a family that my biological mother knew well. I always knew that I was adopted which I believe put a strain on the relationship with my adopted parents. I went to a Catholic School growing up named St. Thomas Aquinas St. Phillip Neri and attended a Catholic Church named St. Agnus Our Lady of Fatima. The school was prominently African American, and I attended this school from Kindergarten through sixth grade. The school had roughly 500 students from grades K-8th.
My sister and I were taken out of my adopted parents’ home when I was 13. We stayed with my biological maternal grandmother for a while before we moved with our biological mother. Living with my “real” mother, we did not have a structured environment as we did with our adopted family, so things went chaotic rather quickly. By the age of 14, I had a full-time job working at Whitmore’s Barbeque and trying to go to school. By the age of 15, I had gotten pregnant and drop out of high school. I felt that I needed to make money to provide for him. I moved out of my mother’s house at 16 and had my own place just my son and me. I instantly regretted that I dropped out of high school and tried to enroll myself at the age of 18. The school told me that I had aged out and they could not let me back in. I tried several different GED programs, but I couldn’t stick with it because I felt I needed to work to make sure we had a place to live.
By the age of 21, I had three children. My youngest two’s father was abusive, and it took me a while to gain the courage to leave that situation. At the age of 25, I moved to Columbia, South Carolina. At this time, I was staying with someone else, no GED, no family here, and no job. I used this opportunity to create a new life for myself and my three children. I got my GED in June 2016. I got my Associates Degree in Human Services in August 2018, and I am currently a Social Work student at Columbia College. I am currently on the Dean’s list. I was elected to attend The Columbia Future Leaders Dialogue Dinner, and I won the raffle to participate in the very educational and informative Leadership Bridge day here in Columbia, SC. I also volunteer at The Cooperative Ministry providing services such as food, clothes and financial assistance to the people in the Richland County area. I also Volunteer as a mentor to at-risk teen between the ages of 13-18 through Sowing Seeds in The Midlands.
I am currently 33-year-old and married to a beautiful woman. My colleague Serra and I are currently trying to start a program called, Mommy Mentors. We hope to teach young women with or without children basic life skills. In addition to that, we want to provide these women with resources they may not know exist or know how to apply for. We will walk them through different processes to meet their needs and be a confidant to them when they need a safe place to talk.