Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Scott Hinkle’s Place Called Hope

Scott Hinkle

In November of 1995, I was interviewed for the position of Executive Vice President of the North Mecklenburg Chamber. I was at the time the Executive Director of a small low country South Carolina Chamber.  After interviewing with the search committee comprised of Chamber leaders, I was offered a position effective January 2, 1996.  While I was not to begin my employment until January, I was asked to attend and participate in the Chamber’s in-town planning retreat, my other Chamber permitting.

It was there I met a young man who would have a profound impact on my personal and professional development, as well as forge a bond that would help change the face of our community and region.  We were divided into small groups and there I met the editor and publisher of The Lake Norman Times – Scott Hinkle.     Scott was a “Tarheel” and I was a “Gamecock” and each would debate the coveted moniker of which school could legitimately call themselves “Carolina.”      I was also a right wing conservative republican and Hinkle was a left wing liberal democrat.  However, our mutual love of history and politics would seal our friendship.  We were both passionate about issues and we found we both agreed that the spirit of capitalism, entrepreneurship, and free enterprise should always trump the role the public sector plays in our local economy.
I will always recall sitting down with Scott and sharing with him an idea for a Chamber publication that could tell the story of our organization.  He then expounded on the premise with excitement and eagerness and the Lake Norman Chamber Quarterly was born.     As a York County, South Carolina native, I had a difficult time getting my hand around the significance of the term “North Mecklenburg” and felt we were losing marketing potential by not utilizing the greatest resource available – Lake Norman.  Why not change the name of the Chamber to reflect that strength?

While it seems so insignificant today – changing the name of the Chamber was a huge step for the Chamber.  It took real political courage to carry that message and convince the old guard to adapt to a new branding for our association.  I’ll never forget when I asked what he would do if the older, more established Chamber and community leaders balked at this new initiative.  Scott reflected for a moment, and then replied, “Quite frankly, I’ll say it’s the lake stupid!” he said with his sly grin.     The announcement of our name change was one of many small but yet significant challenges Scott dared tackle.  He reveled in being the watchdog for the interests of citizens and businesses through his editorials and while I would never say “he kept an elected official honest” he served notice that he would call their hand on anything he felt was not in the best interest of our community.

Scott Hinkle adored Bill Clinton and felt while President Clinton had his faults, he had led us through an era of economic prosperity.  Scott would often tickle me by giving his best Bill Clinton impression.  Scott would poke out his lower lip and bite on it just a little. Then with a deep sullen look, point out his fist, clenched tightly with his thumb sticking out, and in a southern, croaky, Bill Clintonesque voice say, “I still believe in a place called hope.”

This past month, we lost a dynamic community leader to a massive stroke.  While there are no subdivisions bearing his name; no bridges or roads named in his honor; and likely no schools named in his memory, Scott Hinkle perhaps did more to give us a sense of community than anyone else that has ever lived and worked at Lake Norman.    He was my chairman, he was a mentor, and he was a very dear friend.  I’m fortunate to work at a Chamber he helped build at a lake he so loved.  We are a much better community because of Scott. We work, we live, and we visit in a place called hope and for those who don’t get it… “It’s the lake stupid.”

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Greatest Gifts

Christmas has always been a special time for me.  When I hear a Christmas tune on the radio, whether it’s Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole, I cannot help but recall how each Christmas we would gather at my grandparent’s homes in Rock Hill.  My grandmother Russell would have worked all week in preparing pastries and other baked goodies. The air was filled with the scent of her hot buttered biscuits and French apple pie.  Her Christmas albums played in the background as we all gathered in the den. The grandchildren, spying the pile of gifts under the tree, guessed what might be in theirs.  After the festivities, we would pack up and head over to my Grandmother Feemster’s where we would start all over again.  You always saved room because it was another large helping of turkey with all the fixings and likely a fresh baked pound cake with her special icing!

Christmas is also special because of the occasions I had to work with local civic groups to bring joy and happiness to someone less fortunate.  On one such occasion, I was in Sumter, South Carolina assisting the Sumter Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) and a good friend named Doug Griffin in a project called the Christmas Shopping Tour.

A couple of dozen kids from single parent and out-of-work families were taken on a shopping tour and given $50 to buy anything they wanted. Each of us took a child and paid for their purchase.  In 1990, this token amount went a long way to brighten a Christmas for a needy child.  After the tour, Doug gave several of us a ride back to his house during which time we shared our experiences of the day.

However,  the story Doug shared will always remain with me.  He gave his little boy the $50 and off he went tearing through the local Target store.  In just a few minutes he appeared with a single pair of shoes which accounted for his $50.  Doug asked if this was really what he wanted instead of a toy or game?  Wouldn’t he prefer a football or something to play with?  Indeed, there had been no mistake –  this was what he wanted. Doug then examined the shoes carefully and noted not only were they much too big for the child, but they were women’s shoes.  When Doug inquired about this, the child looked up and said, “They’re for mama.  She needs some shoes and can’t afford to buy them for herself.”

The car was awfully quiet as all of us thought about what that child had done. After a few moments of silence, we asked what happened next?   Doug related that he asked the cashier to wrap the shoes up in some decorative wrapping paper and went back in the store where he asked the child to purchase something for himself.  While the child appreciated Doug’s generosity,  he seemed to beam with joy that he had done something special for his
mama.

This Christmas season, when many will be gathered with family and friends, others will not only go to bed without exchanging gifts, but will go to bed hungry.  Many of our area civic clubs are working hard this Christmas season to bring joy to those who need a helping hand.  Our Kiwanis club helped with Christmas in Davidson and delivered turkey dinners just a few weeks ago to the needy.  The Optimist and Lions have their Christmas tree lot and the Rotary has had their Christmas Shopping Tour.  Other civic clubs are still making plans to lend a helping hand and the Salvation Army’s bell will ring throughout the day and night at many high profile shopping centers. 

Merry Christmas from Bill, Abbie, Gipper, & Murray

Please consider making a generous contribution to these and other clubs who work so hard in our community.  The funds these clubs raise will go a long way to help those who need it most.

Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , , | Leave a comment