The Sustainability InstituteThe Sustainability Institute

By Katherine Richards

Veteran – Daniel, Navy


Navy, 1986-1992

From the snowy state of Minnesota, Daniel’s service in the Navy brought him to the more temperate climate of Charleston. At the end of his service in 1992, Daniel, understandably, felt no particular sense of urgency to put back on his winter wear. After deciding to settle in Charleston, Daniel utilized the mechanical skills he acquired in the Navy to delve into the metal production industry. Feeling unfulfilled and unstable by the slew of temp jobs he took through an agency, Daniel knew he needed more. “There wasn’t a steady paycheck nor a steady life”. In a turn of fate and help from the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), Daniel was introduced to the Sustainability Institute.

Returning back for a third term, he fits the description “Veteran” in every sense of the way. The VCC has helped Daniel rediscover his sense of responsibility and efficiency as he was motivated to “get to the workplace on time and get the job done effectively”. And it paid off. Six months ago Daniel was appointed as the Assistant Site Manager, and upon completion of his third term he plans jump back on the big yellow bus for technical school. To Daniel, sustainability constitutes “affordable costs and replenishable resources”. Aligned with his wholesome and modest nature, Daniel is passionate about the frequently overlooked fundamentals of life; “learning a good trade and creating a stable future”. In a sense, the Sustainability Institute paired with his role in the VCC have refueled a flame that has always existed within Daniel; ambition. Sustained as a replenishable resource, this flame has the infinite potential of powering a candle, a fire, or a nation. Small but mighty, one might say.

By Katherine Richards

Veteran – Marcella, Army


Army, 1982-2004

If there was a Golden Globe for community-involvement, the recipient without a doubt would be Marcella. As a trained medic, EMT, and the Safety and Occupational Health Manager for the Navy, she was back and forth between active duty and the reserves before her official retirement in 2004. Marcella happened upon the Sustainability Institute through a coincidental meeting at a yoga class with the Institute’s Development Associate, the lovely Miss Katherine Westmoreland Richards. One conversation later Marcella decided to get her own house retrofitted. After much involvement and fascination with the process, she decided to join the VCC. The VCC is an addition to unimaginably extensive list of things she’s involved in, the kind of list that makes you feel guilty for indulging in a dash of TV. Because while you’re catching up on Season 6 of The Office, Marcella is probably working the Citizen Information Line for the Red Cross, volunteering for the Lowcountry Emergency Response Team, or perhaps upholding her duties as Emergency Response Chairperson for her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. Just to name a few.

As one could imagine, Marcella can unquestionably be described as a social butterfly. Not only do her magnificently large wings help her to bring warmth and life to every flower she visits, they make her a well-connected woman. In the limited time she’s been working as a member of the VCC, only once has she worked on a house where she didn’t personally know the homeowners. Marcella passionately believes in the power of taking a few minutes at the start of each project to establish a relationship between the corps members and the homeowner. And the result? “You can physically see them exhale and relax”. This simple yet immensely impactful act embodies the Sustainability Institute’s very existence; the ability to create the personal connection that a larger corporate company cannot. Marcella has dedicated her life to sharing; whether it be resources, time, talent, or knowledge. Furthermore, she is passionate about sharing sustainably, which she defines as being able “to maintain and use more environmentally conscious materials”. At the end of the day, the engine behind the wonder woman more commonly known as Marcella, is her drive to “contribute meaningfully to the community”.  

By Katherine Richards

Homeowner – Mabel Graham

Mabel Graham

Upon entering her house, you can feel nothing but welcomed as a menagerie of colorful art and memories greets you in the decorated den. And of course the homeowner herself, Mabel, was no different. As the first homeowner to be interviewed by the Sustainability Institute, Mabel graciously sat down with us to tell her story. As told through the colors of Mabel’s roots seen throughout the den, Jamaica was her original home address. As the world-traveler that she is, her life’s work as a nurse eventually brought her to London where she met her husband, a Charleston native. In 1968, Mabel and her husband moved to Charleston and bought their first house. With three bedrooms and almost 50 years of memories, that house has been a home ever since.

While she had not heard of the Sustainability Institute prior to a friend from a local Baptist church recommending the Energy Conservation Corps, Mabel has been nothing but pleased with the work that the ECC members have done thus far. Her warm smile tells it all. In the week that they have been there, they have been working on insulating the roof and exposed areas such as windows and doors. Keeping Mabel in the loop with what they are working on, she has nothing but good things to say about them; “good manners and good men, a 10/10 job”. Excited and grateful to the members of the ECC, Mabel looks forward to her newly insulated home where she plans to continue adding to her years of memories.

By Katherine Richards

Veteran – Vincent, Marine Corps


Marine Corps, 1998-2005

A Baltimore boy with a big heart – meet Vincent. As a Marine Corps Vet, Vincent’s job took him all over the world; from North Carolina to Iraq, Japan, and Pennsylvania. Post service, he had a smooth transition back into everyday life, “they were two separate worlds with two separate sets of rules”. As most veterans hope to, Vincent returned home with a new sense of discipline, patience, and the ability to lead boldly. However, after a few temporary jobs and a period of homelessness Vincent was left dry of the drive he had when came home. And that’s when he found the Sustainability Institute. The VCC provided Vincent with exactly what it provides all its members, an opportunity. 

Not only does working as a representative of AmeriCorps give him a sense of pride, but every single skill he has learned with the VCC has been a new one. These newly acquired skills have scored Vincent an upcoming apprenticeship with local company, Energy One. New to the energy field but rapidly becoming a valuable asset to it, Vincent defines sustainability as “using the least amount of resources to make a large impact, being frugal, and being able to reach a plateau in life and maintain it”. And if that’s not a plateau enough, the VCC has enhanced this already humanitarian’s desire to volunteer and interact with the community more. “There’s a sense of fulfillment when you see a smile on a homeowner’s face”. To Vincent, helping others, mentoring youth, and empowering people isn’t a just pastime, it’s a passion. And if your heart is still intact in a solid state, hearing him express his love of children and his work with the Big Brother/Sister program will undoubtedly melt it. 

By Katherine Richards

Civic Places Panel

The topic of the evening was civic places on the peninsula. Civic places are areas where the public can gather as a community. They bring together
people of all area codes, ages and cultural backgrou
nds — tonight, we celebrated that.

Food and beverages were donated by 5church of Charleston.

The panel discussion topic, in conjunction with the opportunity to tour the newly revitalized 17th century trolley barn, now American College of Building Arts, dew in quite a crowd.

The panel featured some of the peninsula’s most creative thinkers, dedicated to creating ideal civic places and spaces for residents on the coast.

Jason Kronsberg, Cathryn Zommer, Michael Smith, Bill Eubanks, Seamon Whiteside, Ted Landsmark, and Julie Hensley were tonight’s panelists.

Each panelist has their own unique story, and offers something new and innovative to the peninsula.

Featured Panelists:

Jason Kronsberg is a landscape architect and the Director of Parks for the City of Charleston. The Department of Parks is responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and repairs of the city’s new and existing parks, playgrounds, green spaces, facilities, and buildings

Fun fact: The City currently owns and is responsible for 120 parks which consist of approximately 1,809 acres of parks and open space.

Julie Hensley is the Director of Planning and Resource Management of the Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission, South Carolina. Julie is responsible for all aspects of park master planning, long-range planning, land acquisition, facility design and land resource management.

Theodore “Ted” Carlisle Landsmark
s President Emeritus of Boston Architectural College (BAC) where he served from 1997 to 2014 and is currently the Vice President of Academic Affairs at the American College of the Building Arts. Ted is also a Board member of the Boston Planning and Redevelopment Agency.

ichael Smith
is the Executive Director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. Michael’s passion is to advance the art form of orchestral music to be a sustainable and integral part of modern society by holding onto traditions while blending in new traditions that reflect the times we live in. Michael was principal trumpet of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) from 2009 to 2013. He began his tenure with the CSO in 2006 as second trumpet. 

Bill Eubanks is the Creative Director at Seamon Whiteside (SW+) and is a founding member of the urban edge studio. His practice focuses on urban design and the charrette process. He became a Fellow of the ASLA in 2007 and a LEED Accredited Professional in 2009. Bill is President of the Ashley Bridge District Board, serves on the 10,000 Trees Committee, is on the board of the East Cooper Land Trust, and is a member of the ASLA Board of Trustees.
Meet Cathryn Zommer, Executive Director of Enough Pie. Enough Pie is a nonprofit that uses creativity to connect and empower our community in Charleston Upper Peninsula. Through artistic collaborations, creative placemaking, dynamic partnerships and civic engagementEnoughPie stimulates relationships through creativity by focusing on the process of collaborative creation.


This UPI gathering was sponsored by Bryan McElveen of Charleston EcoRelator.

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.

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Civic Places Panel