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​City of Aiken
Since 2000, the City of Aiken's strategic plans identified the need for a new recreation facility in the Toole Hill Neighborhood. The revival of the historic Eustis Park fulfilled this need with the construction of the Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior & Youth Center. The center focuses on health, wellness, educational, cultural and arts programs across age groups and income levels. The park's playground, outdoor sports facilities and walking track also received renovations.

Planning for the project included input from a senior commission, public meetings and local community groups. The project stretched funding from grant and tax sources creatively. It reduced the size of the original facility plan while leaving the potential for expansions. The park renovation was a catalyst for improving maintenance and occupancy of neighborhood properties.

Contact Jessica Campbell at jcampbell@cityofaikensc.gov or 803.642.7632.

City of Beaufort
A growing retiree population, a heavy presence of service industry jobs and a lack of affordable housing have made it difficult for the City of Beaufort to attract and retain young people. To solve this problem, local leaders went to work to promote better-paying jobs and a more diverse economy, which led to the creation of the Beaufort Digital Corridor, a city-sponsored nonprofit.

The project turned a vacant bank building into a modernized coworking and meeting space. It also established computer coding classes, hosted tech networking events and worked to promote technology curricula in local schools through partnerships with tech businesses.

The previously-created Charleston Digital Corridor helped with creating Beaufort's program. Funding came from Hargray Communications, SC Department of Commerce Proviso funds through Beaufort County, and a Hometown Economic Development Grant from the Municipal Association of SC. The Beaufort Digital Corridor is now pursuing private fundraising to reduce the dependence on public funding.

Contact Stephen Murray at smurray@cityofbeaufort.org or 727.457.2817.

Town of Bluffton
The Town of Bluffton partnered with the Lutzie 43 Foundation to educate and engage the public about the dangers of distracted driving as a way of reducing fatalities, injuries and property damage. The project also advocates for a "hands-free" law in South Carolina.

After an earlier campaign in 2017 received little traction, the city partnered with Lutzie 43 as a way to greatly amplify its message. Partners included local businesses, high school students through the Teens for Healthy Youth organization, local schools and public safety agencies. The project used social media, video, radio spots, festival booths, community group presentations, print material and a 5K run to promote its message. More than 3,000 residents signed the pledge to not drive distracted.

Contact Debbie Szpanka at dszpanka@townofbluffton.com or 843.540.2274.

City of Clemson
The Larry W. Abernathy Waterfront Park, built in 2004 along Lake Hartwell, needed its weathered boardwalk replaced. City leaders aimed to replace 7,000 feet of wood decking with durable composite material, and provide landscaping, brush removal and litter removal. They also wanted to use volunteer workers to encourage community engagement, even though it would not be the easiest and quickest way to complete the project.

The city focused on strong volunteer recruitment and set up an initial work period coinciding with Clemson University's spring break. Local businesses and churches donated materials, food for lunches and commemorative project T-shirts. The initial workweek saw the completion of one third of the decking. After additional workdays, about 90% of the project stood complete, with a total of 290 volunteers working a total of 2,008 hours.

Contact Andy Blondeau at ablondeau@cityofclemson.org or 864.653.2030.

City of Conway
In 2016, the City of Conway partnered with a major downtown property owner to improve previously-overlooked properties such as pocket parks and alleyways to boost economic activity. These efforts, completed in accordance with a 2017 master plan, have spurred the rehabilitation of vacant structures, fostered greater community spirit and better connected the riverfront with the downtown.

The first project placed decorative lighting in Norman Alley. Next, the Garden Walk project added lighting, landscaping and a decorative arch entrance to an alleyway. The city also overhauled Kingston Park with a new knee wall, historic brick pavers, a fountain water wall, landscaping and a mural.

City staff handled most of the fabrication and installation of materials. The project costs totaled $54,000, which in turn led to nearly $6 million of private investment into downtown. The parks are now popular for pedestrians, events and photo sessions.

Contact Adam Emrick at aemrick@cityofconway.com or 843.902.9334.

City of Florence
The City of Florence's Food, Artisan and Warehouse District aims to bolster access to healthy food in an area next to a U.S. Department of Agriculture-designated food desert. This effort is in keeping with the community health and livability components of the city's comprehensive plan.

Action items for starting the program included locating a multimodal transit hub in the district, as well as establishing a farmers market facility with a commercial kitchen. The district includes the city's health and wellness campus, which features the Barnes Street Community Center and an all-inclusive playground created in partnership with I PLAY Florence. The city and the Palmetto Housing Authority contributed funds toward the construction of a downtown grocery store. The city also joined HopeHealth in sponsoring the Full Life Festival, a celebration of health and wellness in Florence.

Funding for the various projects within the district came from a tax increment financing district as well as hospitality tax revenue and foundation grants.

Contact Clint Moore at cmoore@cityofflorence.com or 843.665.2047.

City of Fountain Inn
Downtown revitalization in Fountain Inn brought shops and restaurants to Main Street, but no child-friendly attractions. The city partnered with the Leadership Golden Strip class, a project of the Fountain Inn, Mauldin and Simpsonville chambers of commerce, to create a child-friendly attraction in the form of a splash pad. The finished product used no taxpayer dollars.

The project converted a portion of a former parking lot into a splash pad. The Leadership Golden Strip class that contributed to the effort raised more than $125,000 in donations. The city donated the property and made in-kind donations of labor and equipment.

The splash pad, which has jets and fountains as well as slip-resistant concrete and LED lights, has brought together many children and families during warm months. Further plans include a redesign of the parking lot serving the splash pad.

Contact Shawn Bell at shawn.bell@fountaininn.org or 864.862.4421.

City of Greenwood
Greenwood has significant tourism opportunities, given the area's seven golf courses, a lake, growing downtown and the nearby Ninety Six National Historic Site.

Discover Greenwood, the area's destination marketing organization, created a contest to get three nonresidents living at least 50 miles away to serve as local ambassadors. Through an interactive campaign, winners would tell the stories of their relationship to Greenwood, their favorite places to visit and things to do in the area. The contest offered themed getaways as a prize and attracted hundreds of entrants from places as far away as Arizona and Kansas.

The three winners' stories covered Lake Greenwood, local music and golf. The project also highlighted the new branding for Discover Greenwood. The completed stories are available at
www.storiesofgreenwood.com. Support for the project came from accommodations tax revenue and from in-kind donations for the vacation packages.

Contact Kelly McWhorter at kelly.mcwhorter@gwdcity.com or 864.953.2465.

City of Hardeeville
The City of Hardeeville has historically faced economic and leadership difficulties resulting from its reputation as a "pass-through" community on Interstate 95. The "Can You See Us Now" project aimed to change this with small-scale, inexpensive and specially-tailored marketing efforts. The campaign aimed to communicate a distinctive and positive identity for one of the fastest-growing communities in South Carolina.

Marketing efforts used local television, social media, events and internal marketing. Elected officials used public speaking engagements and media interviews to convey the idea of "Starship Hardeeville," a city that had entered an exciting era of new possibilities. The city also worked closely with the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce and local media to promote and showcase city-sponsored events.

Contact Neil Parsons at nparsons@hardeevillesc.gov or 843.784.2231.

Town of Hilton Head Island
Community connections within the Town of Hilton Head Island are made difficult by the mix of gated and nongated communities, and the lack of a traditional downtown. The first Hilton Head Island Lantern Parade sought to change this. The event brought together residents who created lanterns based on the island's history, ecology and people. Parading the lanterns on the beach created an extensive public art installation.

Planned through a collaboration between the town's Culture and Arts Advisory Committee as well as the Office of Cultural Affairs, the project brought together participants from schools, nonprofits and leaders of residential communities. Funding for the parade came from both the town and in-kind donations.

Planning called for 500 participants, but the event exceeded expectations by attracting 1,800 participants and 2,000 spectators. Planners also set a goal of securing two anchor nonprofit partners and ended up with nine.

Contact Josh Gruber at joshg@hiltonheadislandsc.gov or 843.341.4634.

Town of Irmo
The Town of Irmo, in partnership with the Irmo Arbor Day Committee and Tree City USA, has long worked to create more green spaces, family-friendly parks and opportunities for health-focused activities. This initiative spurred the development of the Irmo Town Park, Community Park of Irmo and Irmo Veteran's Park.

In the last 15 years, the town has planted more than 1,500 trees and created many green spaces along major roads and at gateways into town. Homeowner associations have been involved in the planning and construction of green spaces in their subdivisions and are providing ongoing maintenance.

To fund these projects, the Arbor Day Committee collected more than $300,000 in donations. State and federal grants totaled about $720,000, and land donated for the Veteran's Park was worth $650,000. The town spent about $2.3 million with annual maintenance costs of about $70,000.

Contact Bob Brown at rbrown@townofirmosc.com or 803.781.7050.

Town of Moncks Corner
With the Moncks Corner Regional Recreation Complex, the town found a way to support the athletic programs that are central to its community and promote downtown revitalization. The town accomplished these goals while removing a blighted, 55-acre abandoned lumberyard in the center of town.

The complex, serving thousands of children and adults every year, replaces an older facility. The new facility has four baseball/softball fields, a football field, a soccer/event field, two basketball courts and a farmers market pavilion. The town funded its development with help from Berkeley County, the Berkeley County School District, SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, private industry and federal brownfield cleanup assistance. The town also issued a bond backed in part by hospitality tax revenue.

Since the complex opened, youth sports registration has more than doubled. Six new businesses have opened downtown with more than $3.5 million in private investment, and a hotel is planned for just outside of downtown.

Contact Douglas Polen at doug.polen@monckscornersc.gov or 843.719.7913.

Town of Mount Pleasant
WellMP, the Town of Mount Pleasant's employee wellbeing program, provides a focus on physical and mental health, nutrition, finance, education and community. Reasons to participate go beyond a sense of achievement and include promotional items as well as a small monetary incentive for completing activities, tracked through the IncentFit app. Other town initiatives to promote employee health include health and wellness fairs, fitness challenges, a Weight Watchers at Work program, and a lunch and learn series. Leaderboards highlight individual employee efforts.

The program costs $25 per employee per year. The Employee Relations Committee and Wellbeing Committee developed the program. Support and marketing for the program come from the town's insurance provider and the town's communications office.

The town has counted 69% of employees as participating in the program. Since implementation, healthcare costs for the town have risen just 1% compared to an industry average of more than 6%.

Contact Martine Wolfe-Miller at mwolfe@tompsc.com or 843.884.8517.

City of Newberry
Attendance in the City of Newberry's summer youth recreation program had declined in recent years due to resident travel limitations and registration costs. The Mobile Recreation Program eliminated those difficulties, bringing free, accessible recreation opportunities to parks throughout the city.

The Mobile Recreation Program takes place weekdays for six weeks during the summer, with the Newberry Housing Authority providing free lunches for participants. The program uses games and activities like ping pong, foosball, air hockey, cornhole and sidewalk chalk, allowing children of all skill and ability levels a chance to participate. The van used to transport the program's equipment is an old Newberry Police Department transport van, painted with vibrant colors and branding. The Newberry Arts Center partnered with the program and created "Art in the Park" Fridays.

In 2017, the program counted 71 unique children participating, which grew to 135 by 2019.

Contact Elyssa Haven at ehaven@cityofnewberry.com or 803.321.3607.

City of Orangeburg
The City of Orangeburg's athletic fields are generally more than 45 years old and spread throughout the city. The city's leaders developed the vision of a state-of-the-art, consolidated recreation complex on North Road to serve residents, Orangeburg's universities and the broader region.

The 80-acre complex has nine baseball fields, 1.9 miles of walking trails, two picnic shelters and green space. The facility is also the only municipal complex in South Carolina to have all-LED lighting and ball tracking.

Funding for the sports complex came from local accommodations and hospitality taxes, the County Capital Project Sales Tax, SC Department of Transportation "C" funds and private funding. The Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities assisted with funding for utility infrastructure. The project cost $18 million, and less than $5 million remained in debt by the time it opened. The complex features available space for future expansion.

Contact John H. Yow at jyow@orangeburg.sc.us or 803.533.6000.

Town of Saluda
Saluda's historic Art Deco theater, built downtown in 1936, once regularly featured movie showings. But it was abandoned and began deteriorating in the 1980s. The community did not want to lose the landmark attraction, one of a few surviving examples of its kind, and set its restoration as a long-term goal.

In 2017, the Saluda Historical Society, with help from the Town of Saluda and SC National Heritage Corridor, completed an extensive renovation. In 2018, the town received a Hometown Economic Development Grant from the Municipal Association of SC. This allowed for updated audio, video and lighting equipment.

In December 2019, the theater began showing movies again. Now, the Saluda County Chamber of Commerce and the town plan monthly movies, concerts and other entertainment in the space.

Contact Thomas Brooks at brooks@townofsaluda.com or 864.445.8752.

City of Simpsonville
The City of Simpsonville took several steps to improve its residents' engagement with their government, including investing in a community relations specialist position. The community relations specialist helped the city expand its social media presence, revamped its website and launched an e-newsletter. Also, a new branding initiative, complete with a steering committee and stakeholder meetings, allowed the city to replace its outdated logo and tagline with a more fitting brand for the city.

With the new "Simply Home" branding, the city took ownership of what had once been a derogatory nickname, "Simpleville." The "Simply Home" tagline allows for related hashtags in social media like "#SimplyDelicious" and "#SimplyConnected." The new version of the Simpsonville website features better mobile browsing and a streamlined Freedom of Information Act request process.

The city's operating budget funds the salary of the community relations specialist position. Accommodations taxes funded the contract for branding creation and will support new signage in the city. Website improvements came from the operating budget.

Contact Dianna Gracely at dianna@simpsonville.com or 864.967.9526.

Town of Summerville
Summerville's population and its need for government services are surging, yet phone calls to municipal officials are decreasing. To overcome these communication challenges, the town launched multiple new digital communication tools.

A branded Town of Summerville mobile app allows users to report nonemergency issues — things like potholes, storm drain clogs, abandoned vehicles or graffiti — and then check on the town's response. The app also provides information on town events, meetings and job postings. The Town of Summerville launched a new website to allow users to submit applications, pay fees, register for recreation activities and receive alerts from a mass notification system. The site is also integrated with the app.

The town's public information officer served as the project manager for the new website features, while the IT director was the project manager for the app. Alert notification subscribers grew to nearly 3,000, while app users grew to around 10,000.

Contact Mary Edwards at medwards@summervillesc.gov or 843.607.2294.

City of Sumter
Teen Sumter is a yearlong career and employment development program targeting youth ages 13 – 19. Its participating students build life skills that will help them with future economic independence and gain awareness of the opportunities the Sumter community can offer. The program helps with summer employment, paid college tuition and after-graduation job placement. Four programs make up the overall effort, including Emerging Leaders, the Youth Leadership Forum, Youth Apprenticeship and Youth Employment.

The Teen Sumter effort is funded in part by a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant, the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce, more than 200 community partners and local schools, the City of Sumter and Sumter County. Participating community partners provide employment opportunities as well as mentorships, job-shadowing opportunities and other resources.

The programs graduate more than 500 youth ambassadors a year, and leaders plan to increase that number to 2,500 annually.

Contact Shelley Kile at skile@sumtersc.gov or 803.795.2463.

City of Wellford
The City of Wellford saw the need for better connections between its residents and the police officers who serve them. Leaders wanted to improve trust and have residents see the Wellford Police Department as more than just a ticket-writing organization.

The city's public engagement initiative includes community meetings and community fun days, featuring cookouts and games in different parts of the city. Planning for the events built partnerships with local businesses and churches.

The police department also changed officer uniforms to make the officers more approachable, using well-marked police patches and an absence of tactical gear. The department enhanced the markings on police vehicles to make them more visible.

The campaign efforts resulted in more discussions between residents and officers and more crime tip submissions.

Contact David Green at dgreen@wellfordpd.com or 864.431.5285.

Town of West Pelzer
The GRAND Galley, located in the Town of West Pelzer's council chambers, supports emerging young artists and gives the town a way to celebrate the people who are contributing to the Upstate's culture.

The gallery opened inside the town's new municipal center in 2017 with the support of a resident artist. It takes advantage of a space that often goes unused outside of council meetings, and it works with Anderson University and Furman University to find local artists to highlight. Volunteers handle setup, tear down and promotions of exhibits covering a variety of mediums like watercolor, charcoal, painting and sculpting.

As a result of the gallery, more residents have attended council meetings, and they have come to see the gallery outside of meeting times. The town gained news media attention and local businesses have seen some customer increases.

Contact Blake Sanders at bsanders@westpelzer.com or 864.617.0347.