The Sustainability InstituteThe Sustainability Institute

By Katherine Richards

Last night was perhaps the craziest one on the Upper Peninsula events yet. St. Julian Devine Community Center hosted a fun, family-friendly UPI gathering focused on CommUNITY, a message resonating throughout Charleston following the attack on Emmanuel AME Church in 2015. unnamed-14

The UPI event was in partnership with Charleston Promise Neighborhood,a local non-profit that has a mission to ensure all Charlestonians are engaged in their community, and to ensure every child is on track to graduate high school with the necessary abilities. CPN is located in the unnamed-13Upper Peninsula on upper Meeting Street.

The focus for the night was to bring together like-minded individuals on the Upper Peninsula, committed to uniting together in the face of tragedy. A message of unity is essential to the family oriented atmosphere Charleston is famous for.

Speakers of the night included Samantha Sammis, Sherrie Snipes-William, and Jay Bell.

Samantha Sammis is the Executive Director of Loving America Street, a group committed to demonstrating a love of Christ through community service. Loving America Street operates Laundry Matters, the only remaining laundry facilitator on the East Side.

Sherrie Snipes-William is the Executive Office of Charleston Promise Neighborhood, a long time ally of CharlestonUP. Charleston Promise Neighborhood’s mission is to ensure every child in the neighborhunnamed-15ood has the supports they need to thrive.

The Sustainability Institute’s Energy Conservation Corps representative Jay Bell was also in attendance, updating residents on the status of the corps members and explaining SI’s ECC Program, how it benefits at ri
sk youth and veterans, and how the community benefits from their work.

A jump castle, arts and crafts with Enough Pie, basketball and snow cones kept the little future neighborhood leaders entertained.

A delicious variety of grilled chicken, ribs, burgers and hot dogs were available for everyone to enjoy.  A  local church helped to coordinate the selections, and had one of their members, a UP resident, prepare the meal. unnamed-16

This CommUNITY gathering was sponsored by BoomTown. A special thanks to Nina Magnesson, who does an awesome job representing the interests of this local online real estate company

Attendees were encouraged to participate in a survey to offer ideas for future projects and gatherings. The results are as follows.


The Upper Peninsula Initiative is a public-private planning effort managed by the City of Charleston and the backbone organization, The Sustainability Institute.

For more information, please visit or email

Photos by Stan Foxworthy Foxworthy Studios.

*UPI is a community centered, neighborhood oriented planning initiative, created with the needs of the areas it serves in mind. The results of any survey conducted do not use empirical methods of data collection, and are not necessarily reflective of the community at large.

About krichards
Katherine Westmoreland Richards holds a dual-degree for International Business and Management and published an acclaimed research thesis on energy in the Netherlands. Katherine's passion for energy continued as she worked in Ecuador to help create sustainable business solutions for a reserve in the rainforest. Katherine now works on development at The Sustainability Institute and uses her experience and passion to continue to develop a sustainable Charleston.