Bertram Rantin

Rantin: Band strikes up gift for homeless

A Midlands-area band is hoping to make life better for many of the area's homeless and working poor.

Heart'NSoul, a 10-member ensemble, will present $5,000 tonight to The Cooperative Ministry, an organization that helps those in need regain independence through job-assistance and other support programs.

Heart'NSoul was formed 2 1/2 years ago by a group of lifelong musicians who saw an opportunity to give something back to the community. The band is a registered nonprofit and donates all of its proceeds to charity.

The Cooperative Ministry donation, which will be given at Shandon United Methodist Church, is in memory of Ron Barrett, a former band member and local attorney who passed away in October after a short illness.

Since Heart'NSoul started performing about 1 1/2 years ago, it has helped raise more than $500,000 for local charities.

"We expect to see that number grow exponentially over the next couple of years," band member Marion Brown said.

In the coming year, the band has committed to the American Red Cross Ball and fundraiser, American Heart Association fundraiser, and Project Pet's Annual Fur Ball Moonlight Gala.

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University of South Carolina psychology associate professor Bradley Smith has been recognized for his efforts to increase literacy among S.C. elementary and middle school students.

USC's Writing and Reading Achievement Program, which Smith oversees, received the 2009 S.C. Literacy Champion Award from the S.C. Education Oversight Committee during recent ceremonies at Irmo Middle School. The award recognizes the Writing and Reading Achievement Program's efforts to improve education in grades K-12.

The student-initiated service-learning program offers instruction and motivational support to students who need to improve their reading and writing skills.

"Most of the credit for this award goes to my students and opportunities made possible by the University of South Carolina's support for service-learning and student-initiated research," Smith said.

"This is a shining example of what students can accomplish if they are given the right resources and opportunities."

The S.C. Education Oversight Committee is dedicated to reporting facts, measuring change and promoting progress within South Carolina's education system.

The USC Writing and Reading Program is offered in Challenging Horizons after-school programs in several districts, among them Richland 1, Richland 2 and Lexington-Richland 5.

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Midlands-area Bi-Lo stores are joining others statewide to fight hunger this holiday season.

The stores are holding a Fill the Truck event through Dec. 26 to support Harvest Hope Food Bank.

Stores will be selling Hunger Relief bags for $5. The pre-packaged bags are filled with items most often requested by the food bank, including macaroni and cheese, beans, soup, dry spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and tuna.

For more information about how to help fight hunger, call the food bank at (803) 254-4432.

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