When it comes to the latest trends in women's apparel, there's no better place to shop till you drop than Downtown Chucktown. And if you're searching for the finest threads in Ridgeland, look no further than Copper Penny - the Lowcountry's go-to shop for anyone that has a passion for fashion.

We have been dressing women in Ridgeland for over 34 years and offer upscale designer collections curated with a Southern eye. Here, women from around the United States discover sophisticated, effortless beauty for every season. Whether you're looking for a sassy new dress to impress that special someone or the perfect outfit for your next vacation, your options are endless at Copper Penny.

With easy-to-find locations close to Ridgeland's hottest spots, our curated selection of the newest, most popular women's clothing lines reflects the effortless glamour of Ridgeland. Whether you're a tidy professional or a fierce trend-setter, our goal is to help you find the perfect look for your own unique style. With designer brands like CK Bradley and Holst & Lee on hand year-round, finding your new look is easy and fun when you visit Copper Penny.

Our clothing lines give ladies a refreshing mix of one-of-a-kind authenticity with real wearability, allowing them to shine with confidence and style all year long. So, go ahead and spoil yourself - you deserve to look like a million bucks!

Areas Near Our Stores

Find the Perfect Dress to Impress

Diamonds are pretty and all, but honestly? Dresses are a girl's best friend. Dresses are fun, comfortable, and versatile. At Copper Penny, they're also fashionable and cute. We have a huge selection of women's dresses in Ridgeland, SC, from stylistic sheath dresses to drop-waist styles that will make your girlfriends jealous.

We offer several styles and shapes from which you can pick. Not sure what style fits best?

It all starts at the waist:

 Boutique Clothing Ridgeland, SC
 Boutique Dresses Ridgeland, SC

A-Line Waist

These dresses are made to fit your waist and then gradually flare out towards the hem. A-line dresses are excellent for minimizing thighs, hips, and midsections while pulling the eyes to your bust. This style of dress is a great fit for almost any body type. There's a reason why so many brides settle on A-Line dresses for their big day! With plenty of varieties, this is a kind of dress that you can wear again and again.

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 Cloths Shop Ridgeland, SC

Empire Waist

Like the A-Line style, empire dresses are made to fit through your bust. Rather than creating a distinctly angular shape like the A-Line, the Empire style flows from the bust down. This is another kind of dress that fits many body types. From curvy to apple body shapes, the Empire draws focus to your bust and minimizes everything else. For lovely ladies on the shorter side, this style defines your silhouette, especially if you choose a maxi length dress.

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 Cloths For Women Ridgeland, SC

Drop Waist

A throwback to the roaring 20's style flapper dresses, Drop Waist dresses look best on lean, athletic bodies that don't have too many curves in the hip area. The key to pulling off a Drop Waist style dress is to ensure that it's not hugging you. This dress is best worn when it is able to hang freely on your body.

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Once you know the kind of waist that fits your body type, it's time to find your shape. A few of our most popular dress shapes include:

Fit & Flare Dresses in Ridgeland

Any clothing store for women in Ridgeland, SC, worth its salt, will have plenty of fit & flare dresses for you to try. This common-shaped dress is one of the most popular on the market, mainly because they look great on every woman, regardless of age or shape. A timeless choice, fit & flare dresses fit through the bodice and flare out just below your hip. This helps develop a balanced, slimming silhouette for most women. If you want to accentuate your best assets and hide everything else, ask our experienced fashionistas to show you some the most popular fit & flare dresses at Copper Penny.
Time to start doing your happy dance! Fit & flare dresses have very balanced proportions, making them a true winner for every body type. Women with athletic builds love this dress for the extra curves. Women with apple-shaped bodies love how fit & flare dresses define their waistlines. Because this dress already looks like an hourglass on the hanger, it will be a natural fit for ladies with such a figure.
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 Clothing Stores Ridgeland, SC
 Fashion Stores Ridgeland, SC

Shift Dresses in Ridgeland

Shift dresses are typically rectangular in shape and tend to be comfy and forgiving since they aren't fitted. Also called a column dress, the shift dress is a great choice for polished professionals needing a conservative, fashionable outfit for work.
These dresses look fabulous on women with athletic, lean shapes and women with an apple-like figure. This kind of dress doesn't work well with a belt, so ladies with an hourglass figure may not be able to show off their curves in a shift. Try pairing this dress with a nice pair of heels for a beautiful new look!
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Wrap Dresses in Ridgeland

Wrap dresses are one of the most popular styles on the market, because they give ladies of most shapes and sizes a flattering, fashionable dress option.
If you have an hourglass, apple, or generally curvy body shape, you're going to love wrap dresses. This style of dress offers a natural waist while placing emphasis on your bust. Wrap dresses give you a balanced silhouette and, with a knee-length fit, are great for any type of color or style, both day and nightwear.
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 Fashion Boutique Ridgeland, SC

Timeless Tops for Every Style

Unless you're feeling extra sassy, chances are you're wearing a top at this very moment. Tops are garments that cover the top half of your body. At Copper Penny, we have an endless selection of tops in a wide range of styles - from basic tees to blouses and everything in between. If you're looking for the highest quality women's tops in Ridgeland, SC, you just hit the jackpot!

With that said, finding the right top for the right occasion is easier said than done. However, at Copper Penny, we make finding the right top fun. Whether you're looking for a top that makes a statement or you need a classic button-down for a subdued style, we've got your back. We only carry the most popular tops from the best brands and designers around the world.

 Ladies Clothing Ridgeland, SC

Here are just of our most popular tops:

 Online Boutique Ridgeland, SC

Women's Poplin Tops in Ridgeland

Sometimes called broadcloth tops, poplins have classic characteristics and are often woven with an over/under weave. This kind of weave gives more substance to your top while also giving you room to breathe. Poplin shirts are typically soft and smooth, and are great for everyday business attire, some formal occasions, and for certain ceremonies. Sweet and feminine, our Bruna poplin eyelet bib top features ruffles at the sleeves and an eyelet lace yoke at the front. Pair your poplin with your favorite pair of shorts or jeans for a contemporary, relaxed look.

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Boutique Ridgeland, SC

Women's Wrap Tops in Ridgeland

Great for wearing solo or layered over a camisole or tank top, wrap tops are lightweight, versatile, and great for many different occasions. Wrap tops go well with jeans, maxi dresses, and high-waisted jeans or trousers. Our V-Neck Wrap SLV Top by Jayden is uber-popular at Copper Penny and the perfect choice for dressing down or dressing up. The choice is yours!

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 Boutique Clothing Ridgeland, SC

Women's Off the Shoulder Tops in Ridgeland

For a dose of feminine fashion, be sure you add an off-the-shoulder top to your everyday wardrobe. A casual, sexy choice, off-the-shoulder tops have unique necklines that cut across your upper arms and chest, leaving your shoulders bare. The result is a flirty flash of skin, which elongates your neck and gives a relaxed, "daytime casual" look. Our Nola off-the-shoulder top pairs perfectly with shorts or even a flowy skirt and is hand-woven in Spain using Jacquard fabric.

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 Boutique Dresses Ridgeland, SC

Women's Tank Tops in Ridgeland

Who doesn't love a good tank top?! Tank tops are lightweight, versatile, and equally great for lounging in the yard or running errands on weekends. Tank tops lend an air of simplicity to your outfit and can be styled in endless ways. Take our Velvet Heart Victory Tank, for instance. This tank is a refreshing update on our classic sleeveless tank top, complete with fray details and a scoop neck. Throw in the fact that it's machine washable, and you have a wardrobe winner.

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Having trouble finding the best top for your size and style? As the most trusted women's clothing boutique in Ridgeland, SC, Copper Penny has helped women discover new looks in the Lowcountry for more than two decades. We take pride in providing a personalized, boutique experience for our customers. If you have questions, give us a call or swing by one of our locations. We would be happy to give you our professional opinion.

Until then, here's a quick guide you can follow to help you find the right fit for your women's top in Ridgeland:

How to Find the Right Fit for Your Women's Top

When choosing a women's top for your outfit, you have to consider how comfortable, confident, and beautiful you will feel. The best way to feel your best in an outfit is to make sure it fits correctly. To get started, you'll want to take your measurements. For most women's tops, the best areas to focus on are your hips, waist, and chest.

  • Hip Measurements: Measuring your hips is fairly easy. Take your measuring tape and use it to wrap around the widest area of your hips.
  • Waist Measurements: Take your measuring tape and place it at the very top of your hip bone. Wrap it all the way around your body. Try to keep your measuring tape in line with your belly button. For the most accurate measurements, stand up straight and breathe normally.
  • Chest Measurements: For an accurate chest measurement, take the end of your measuring tape and place it on the fullest area of your bust. From there, wrap the tape around your body, under your armpits, and around the blades of your shoulders. Then, wrap the tape tightly from the back of your body to the front, where you started.
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 Cloths Shop Ridgeland, SC

Need help measuring? Swing by Copper Penny and ask one of our friendly sales associates to help you out! While you're there, don't forget to check out our huge selection of women's tops in Ridgeland, SC.

Contact Us

Looking to take your style to the next level? You can also get in touch with a personal stylist directly from our website. With a personal stylist by your side, you can find stunning looks for specific occasions, using comfortable clothing in your favorite colors and cuts. Copper Penny is your one-stop-shop for fashionable, fun, fabulous designer clothing in Ridgeland. But don't take our word for it – come see for yourself!

Latest News in Ridgeland, SC

Jasper Co. expecting huge turnout for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade

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RIDGELAND, S.C (WTOC) - The Jasper County parade will take place in Ridgeland marching through the main streets of this town Saturday morning in what one organizer says could be one of the biggest parades this place has ever seen.

“It is a joy to see older people come out to see the MLK parade, even though it might be a little chilly, but just to come out and know the Dr. King paved the way for us and to come out and enjoy the festivities and everything in the parade,” Kenneth Rivers said.

He says these festivities have been going on for three decades, and Main St. could have up to 100 entrants marching down it this weekend, including...

“Marching bands, dance teams, churches, organizations.”

The organizer emphasizes it will be good for something positive to bring the county together, as they celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rivers tells me the ever-so-important start time for this parade is 10 a.m.

Copyright 2023 WTOC. All rights reserved.

TICO sparking industry with EV solution

TICO, located in Ridgeland, SC, is sparking industry with emission-free, electric vehicle (EV) solutionSpecial to Bluffton TodayAt TICO, you can feel the energy pulsing through the plant. It seems….electric.And soon, it will be electric.Terminal Investment Corporation (TICO) began in 1946 as an inter-city bus transportation business by the Booker family in Savannah, Georgia. Over the next seven decades with two generations of family at the helm, the business evolved.In the early 1970...

TICO, located in Ridgeland, SC, is sparking industry with emission-free, electric vehicle (EV) solution

Special to Bluffton Today

At TICO, you can feel the energy pulsing through the plant. It seems….electric.

And soon, it will be electric.

Terminal Investment Corporation (TICO) began in 1946 as an inter-city bus transportation business by the Booker family in Savannah, Georgia. Over the next seven decades with two generations of family at the helm, the business evolved.

In the early 1970s, Randall S. “Randy” Booker, chairman and CEO of TICO, recognized an opportunity and developed a concept through which TICO could own and operate its tractors and lease them for port operations. This would allow the ports to have continually dependable vehicles without the burden of owning and maintaining them. TICO began building tractors to move containers around at the nation's busiest ports.

"This innovation has proved to be a critical aspect in the successes recorded by numerous ports,” according to TICO’s website.

“We are a pretty unique business,” said Mallery Pindar, TICO’s director of sales, marketing and commercial development. “Our products were born out of necessity.”

TICO’s leadership looked for a location and found it in Ridgeland. Booker said recently, “We selected the Ridgeland site in 2004 because we saw long-term value in the rural workforce concept. Today, with the largest private workforce in Jasper County, we are immensely proud of the men and women who drive a culture of safety, quality and productivity.”

In 2008, TICO entered the retail market, selling to businesses and industries that were also in need of specialized vehicles. “The tractors were built by people who not only run them but also understand the customer support side.”

This has led TICO to become the second-largest provider in the industry in a relatively short time, said Pindar. The majority of TICO’s annual production volume is sold through its growing North American dealer network, with the balance of production being National Fleet Accounts and TICO’s internal port operations.

“Our dealer networks are critically important,” said Pindar.

Like electricity, the company isn’t sitting still. “While we are second at the moment, we have a world domination scheme,” he said with a smile.

That includes the introduction of an electric version of their tractors. TICO teamed up with Volvo-Penta to create a new model, the TICO Pro-Spotter Electric.

The Pro-Spotter Electric is an emission-free electric vehicle (EV), powered by Volvo Penta’s electric driveline, according to company promotional documents. “Full battery capacity can be reached in 40 minutes with a 150-kW charger. The design delivers faster acceleration, instant torque, improved efficiency and optimized utilization of energy. Additionally, the Pro-Spotter Electric was designed with the operator in mind for enhanced comfort and a better driving experience.”

“TICO is pairing customers with approved charger vendors so the technology does not restrict the end-user to a proprietary charging solution (unlike some of our competition), rather uses the CCS-1 standard charging protocol for the US,” said Pindar.

Booker added, “Our success in the market validates and drives the capital investments we are committing to future growth. Our team is gearing up to embark on full production of electric trucks in the next successful chapter of TICO Manufacturing.”

The new electric vehicle was showcased on Feb. 27 in Orlando, Florida, at the Transportation and Technology Exhibition. Orders are now being taken.

Daryl Berryman, senior director of engineering, research & development, and quality said, “The demand for electrification is in all the markets and applications we support. It’s the natural evolution of transportation and goods movement. With our partner, Volvo Penta, we’ve developed the best and most efficient EV solution for our customers. The new product has the benefits of eliminated fuel costs, reduced maintenance, and improved uptime.”

Pindar said the move to electric vehicles is four-fold. “First, there is a lot of regulatory pressure and some states are taxing industries to reduce their emissions. Second, some of our customers are leading the charge for sustainability and having a cleaner fleet. Third, there are subsidies being offered to purchase electric vehicles. And fourth, diesel engines are increasingly more complicated and costly to build. If our customers can get great funding and less operating costs, then this an obvious ‘win-win’.”

TICO leadership didn’t want to rush into a new product. “We wanted to hold out for the best solution,” said Pindar. They didn’t want to create a product that was put together piecemeal. They wanted something special that would combine ''TICO’s tractor design with the electric Volvo electrobility technology and driveline.''

The real spark was in 2020 when TICO met with Volvo Penta. Volvo was founded in 1907 and is headquartered in Goteborg, Sweden. Volvo acquired Penta in 1935 and Volvo Penta has been part of the Volvo Group since then. It provides complete power systems to the marine industry, power-generating equipment, and similar industrial applications.

In 2021, TICO and Volvo Penta formed a full partnership. “It has been a transformational partnership,” said Pindar.

“Volvo Penta has a vision to be a leader in sustainable power solutions, and TICO is a very important part of this transformational journey,” said Darren Tasker, vice president of industrial at Volvo Penta North America.

“Partnering with TICO on our project to introduce an emission-free, electric terminal tractor leverages Volvo Group technology and Volvo Penta’s experience and full-system approach to the electric driveline — from development to installation — and TICO’s manufacturing capabilities and extensive customer service and support. We are growing and innovating together to secure market position and achieve a technologically advanced powertrain portfolio.”

“Volvo has proven technology,” said Pindar. “We use all Volvo components plus the support.”

“It is important to know that our trucks are not just being redesigned. This is a proven driveline solution,” said Pindar.

Locally, the new product line is having an impact. “We have beefed up our engineering resources. We’ve had to staff up to build the prototype vehicles. We will have changes in our assembly line – tooling and staff training.”

The expansion of the facility is being determined. “This facility will build about two times as many vehicles in near future as we did this past year,” said Pindar. “We are doubling our production.”

“The high-voltage components will be installed by select, highly-trained employees,” said Pindar.

Currently, there are about 300 employees working at the Ridgeland facility.

“TICO has invested in the people of our region, providing great job opportunities while manufacturing a state-of-the-art vehicle,” said Kay Maxwell, Vice President of SouthernCarolina Alliance, the regional economic development organization representing Jasper County and six other counties. “We are proud of the role that TICO plays in their industry sector, and now we have even more to tout in Jasper County as TICO has brought more innovation to the table in the EV market.”

Jim Grooms, chief operating officer, said, “TICO Manufacturing is excited about adding an Electric Terminal Tractor to our existing lineup of industry-leading products. EV benefits are far-reaching, benefiting the environment and customer operations. Our workforce is energized by the new challenge of building an electric vehicle and to be a part of providing such an important capability to the marketplace.”

"The change has been complex but we are getting there as a team,” said Pindar.

“It’s an exciting time to be on our TICO teams,” he said. “TICO has something special going on. Growth is off the charts. We are a force to be reckoned with in the terminal trucking industry.”

Laura J. McKenzie is a Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) volunteer with SouthernCarolina Alliance, a 7-county regional development alliance in South Carolina.

Updated: Ridgeland mail mystery. Where are the letters, bills and packages?

At first, Michelle Sands was missing mail a few days a week. But things spiraled downhill to the point where the Lowcountry business owner filed three separate complaints this year with the U.S. Postal Service regarding missing and inconsistent mail delivery out of the Ridgeland post office.Sands’ company, Advanced Lift Solutions, has received its mail at a mailbox in the FedEx Copy and Shipping Center in the Riverwalk Business Park for the past eight years. Sands said she normally receives an average of three pieces of mail eve...

At first, Michelle Sands was missing mail a few days a week. But things spiraled downhill to the point where the Lowcountry business owner filed three separate complaints this year with the U.S. Postal Service regarding missing and inconsistent mail delivery out of the Ridgeland post office.

Sands’ company, Advanced Lift Solutions, has received its mail at a mailbox in the FedEx Copy and Shipping Center in the Riverwalk Business Park for the past eight years. Sands said she normally receives an average of three pieces of mail everyday. However, since February, there have been periods where there is no mail for several days at a time.

Sands filed the complaints via email and the USPS toll-free number. She was given numerous reasons for the mail delay, such as COVID-19, short staffing and recent retirements. Sands received confirmation via email or phone call that her complaints were ultimately closed.

“I’ve made trips to the post office to complain and only received excuses,” she said.

Yet the days between mail deliveries have grown since she filed the last complaint in October.

Ruth Morris and Jennifer Williams, managers at the mail center, have reached out to USPS officials, filed several complaints, and received responses and apologies from officials, but the service continues to be sporadic.

Morris also added, “They put our mail on hold without our permission.”

“We have had to decline customers who request to ship packages via postal service because we do not know if the USPS will pick them up,” said Williams. This has hurt the business.

“They try to deliver the mail at night, after we’ve closed,” she continued.

Other Ridgeland businesses confirmed this is not an isolated issue.

“We’ve actually asked all of our vendors to email our bills because we aren’t getting them in the mail,” said Cindy Malphus of Rosco Industrial Supply.

Last week, Malphrus confirmed her company had gone over a week without receiving mail. In recent days, however, Rosco said the business started receiving mail daily.

Both Sands and Malphrus said that the mailman once assigned to their route is no longer on the route, and when mail does get delivered, it arrives in the evening after their businesses are closed.

Residential customer Carolyn Kelly said her mail service declined a few months ago after her carrier retired. “She was great and would bring the packages right to the door.” Kelly said she has gone up to five days without mail, but in the last two weeks, it has improved.

Tristan Swartz, assistant manager of PJ’s Coffee, located half a mile from the Ridgeland post office, also said that the mail arrives late there. “I think they are understaffed and overworked,” he said of the post office.

When asked about the claims of missing mail, Ridgeland postmaster Tonya Williams, declined to comment. Instead, she offered the name and number of the USPS Communications Specialist Nikki Johnson.

During an initial phone call to Johnson, she said she would not comment until the claims could be investigated. Additional requests for comment and clarification went unanswered.

After initial publication of this report earlier today, the U.S. Postal Service reached out by phone to respond to questions regarding delivery, and staffing.

According to U.S. Postal Service Strategic Communications Specialist Nikki Johnson, businesses like the FedEx shipping center in Ridgeland have what is known as a central box unit, where mail can be delivered after hours. “If the business is closed, the carrier has access to the CBU.”

Johnson confirmed that there has been a staffing constraint at the Ridgeland post office, but more staff has been brought on board in the last two weeks.

“The area has grown and the volume has increased.” Johnson said. She further explained the Riverwalk area is the last on a very long route, it is 30 minutes away from the post office, and the carrier has other stops along the way.

“We are asking the people in the community to be patient,” Johnson said. “The mail carriers are out there delivering mail, but the times may vary and it may not be when they (the customers) want.”

Additionally, Johnson offered, “I am extending an apology to the community for any inconvenience. We take pride in our mail delivery service. And in the midst of this very busy season, the employees are working tirelessly to service the customers and to meet and exceed the expectations of service at the Ridgeland post office.”

Johnson also advised that should anyone be looking for an opportunity to work for the USPS, they can check the career website for openings in the area, which updates every Tuesday.

This story was originally published December 22, 2023, 11:05 AM.

Three seeking two Ridgeland council seats, mayor running unopposed

There will be three candidates for two seats in the Nov. 7 election in the Town of Ridgeland. Current Mayor Joey Malphrus will be running unopposed, according to town officials.There will be several precincts open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.Those voting in the Ridgeland 1, 2, or 3 precincts will cast ballots at the Kingdom Touch Ministries Gymnasium, 6714 Tillman Road in Ridgeland.Those voting in the Grahamville 1 and 2 precincts will vote at the Mt. Carmel Baptist Center Fellowship Hall, 3376 B...

There will be three candidates for two seats in the Nov. 7 election in the Town of Ridgeland. Current Mayor Joey Malphrus will be running unopposed, according to town officials.

There will be several precincts open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Those voting in the Ridgeland 1, 2, or 3 precincts will cast ballots at the Kingdom Touch Ministries Gymnasium, 6714 Tillman Road in Ridgeland.

Those voting in the Grahamville 1 and 2 precincts will vote at the Mt. Carmel Baptist Center Fellowship Hall, 3376 Bees Creek Road in Ridgeland.

Current Town of Ridgeland Mayor Joey Malphrus first took office in 1988 and won two more terms afterward. He resigned in 1999 when he was elected probate judge. He was elected mayor again in 2011 and took office in 2012. He is currently seeking another term unopposed.

The two seats up for election in the town were vacated following the resignations of council members Chris Dubose and Grady Woods. The two councilmen's seats were up for re-election in November before the two resigned ahead of the election.

Dubose resigned Aug. 1, stating he was moving out of the area. He served for more than 10 years.

Woods, who served for 18 years on council, sent a resignation letter to the town dated Aug. 3. Woods did not provide a specific reason for his resignation. But according to records of a July 11 Beaufort City Council work session, he applied for the Beaufort Historic Review Board. He told Beaufort officials in July that he now resides in the City of Beaufort.

The three candidates filing for the two open council seats are Bill Fishburne, Johnny L. Jackson Jr. and Libby Malphrus.

Fishburne has lived in Ridgeland for the past eight years. He is a general contractor and has operated Coastline Construction Services, LLC for the past 40 years. He has also served as chairman of the Ridgeland Planning Commission for the past five years. He and his wife, Beth, have one son, William.

"I am concerned for Ridgeland and I am running because I believe Ridgeland can be the community those living there remember," Fishburne said. "Growth is inevitable, but we can grow responsibly. We need to have the best tools available to make it community friendly for everyone."

Jackson has been a resident of Ridgeland for more than 50 years and is an insurance agent at Jackson Insurance Agency, LLC.

"If you look at Ridgeland, nothing seems to be getting done," Jackson said. "I am running because there are not many businesses and I want to know how I can help the town to grow. I want to leave the town better than I found it."

Libby Malphrus has been a Ridgeland resident for 20 years and is an assistant program director of the genetic counseling program at the Medical University of South Carolina. Malphrus and current Mayor Joey Malphrus are not related. She and her husband, Deak, have one daughter, Grace. She also serves on the board of directors at Thomas Heyward Academy.

"Jasper County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state and the housing developments coming in are overwhelming," Malphrus said. "I am running because Ridgeland needs long-term goals, better communication with its citizens and transparency. Social media is a benefit and it could be used to help the town promote its events and any current information. We need to keep the community involved."

Critics slam filthy, crowded Jasper animal shelter as county seeks outside help

National and local animal advocates agreed this week to work with a Jasper County animal rescue group to improve its operations after months of community complaints about overcrowding and poor conditions at the organization’s Ridgeland center.The advocates convened at the Jasper Animal Rescue Mission on Monday afternoon, walking through the county-owned building and suggesting fixes for a safer, more sanitary facility for the 300-plus animals, volunteers and employees. The meeting was organized by Jasper County officials....

National and local animal advocates agreed this week to work with a Jasper County animal rescue group to improve its operations after months of community complaints about overcrowding and poor conditions at the organization’s Ridgeland center.

The advocates convened at the Jasper Animal Rescue Mission on Monday afternoon, walking through the county-owned building and suggesting fixes for a safer, more sanitary facility for the 300-plus animals, volunteers and employees. The meeting was organized by Jasper County officials.

For months, volunteers and former rescue mission board members pushed Jasper County to address concerns about the shelter. Volunteers and former board members told the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette that dogs and cats are left in their own feces, cages are stacked three-to-four high, water bowls are full of algae, and soiled laundry is piled feet-high. They describe the building as “unsafe” for workers and animals, with a rat infestation.

During a July Jasper County Council meeting, Jeanne Francisco — speaking on behalf of the group pushing for change at the rescue mission — presented photos of the group’s facility to council members and detailed what the group says is the building’s unsanitary conditions.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” Francisco told council members. “Right now, the safety of the staff, the volunteers, potential adopters, visitors inside and outside this county is in jeopardy.”

She asked the council for help to address the facility’s problems. The mission leases the county-owned building for $1 annually.

Rose Dobson-Elliot, the county’s director of engineering services, said Monday she hoped shelter staff takes advantage of the resources offered. Dobson-Elliot was tasked with handling complaints about the rescue mission.

Among those assessing the mission on Monday was Steve Carriere, Florida State Animal Response Coalition manager. He said the issues identified could be remedied, and he offered temporary volunteer help, suggestions for sanitation and sick animal isolation, and training for the mission’s staff.

Officials of the Hilton Head Humane Association and Beaufort County Animal Services provided advice on tackling the overcrowding that the rescue mission’s executive director, Caitlyn Schake, said has been unavoidable because she cannot turn away cats and dogs brought in by county animal control officers.

“It’s time to fix this before it gets worse,” Carriere said.

On Monday afternoon, over 100 dogs were housed in wire cages or crates outside or in the back of the building, and smaller dogs’ crates were stacked atop each other. Boxes of scooped feces sat outside several of the larger cages. A few of the dogs darted inside a fenced area that was strewn with toys and debris.

An estimated 150-200 cats were spread across the property and facility. Some lounged in beds, others freely walked outside or leapt onto roofs, and dozens were inside the building, with some sectioned off into smaller rooms.

Toward the front of the building — its hallway lined with filled dog crates — food bags, blankets and other donations were piled high. In the back, soiled laundry was heaped near the washer and dryer.

Schake, who’s been at the helm for nine years, said a shortage of staff and resources makes it difficult to keep up with the bursting population while also consistently deep-cleaning parts of the building and creating barriers between sick and well animals. A rescue mission worker estimated seven staff members are at work on a normal day.

On a typical day, the mission will get between two and 15 animals, Schake said. Anywhere from zero to eight animals leave the facility in a day. Currently there is no set animal capacity for the mission.

“How many volunteers would you need?” Carriere asked Schake. She estimated five, and Carriere said it was possible to provide her with that temporary help.

In October, six of the mission’s board members resigned, according to a former board member.

Robin Artz, a former vice president of the board who left during the summer, said in a resignation email that the board was not holding themselves “accountable to the animals.” Artz described conditions that included water leaking through the floor and ceiling, mold, and rats. Further, Artz detailed animals in crates upon crates upon crates — “they need space to run and not sit in a 4x2 crate up on another crate,” she wrote.

“Conditions of the shelter are horrendous to say the least,” Artz’s July email read. “There are volunteers, mostly elderly individuals who are putting their health at risk by giving of their time. Most importantly, we are putting our own employees and animals at risk for disease, illness or worse. WE [sic] owe the humans that help us and the animals more.”

Along with a shortage of staff, Schake said Monday the mission’s financial resources were less than its Beaufort County counterpart. According to its most recent 990 tax form, the mission’s revenue was $457,000 in 2022, with expenses at $460,000. Dobson-Elliot said the county contributed $185,000 that year. The nearly half-million in funds is meager compared to the Hilton Head Humane Association, which raked in over $3 million in 2021, according to its most recent 990 tax form.

Beaufort County, with 191,748 people, is also much larger than Jasper, which has 30,324 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

To increase funding, Carriere advised accepting any donation large or small and applying for grant funding. Local animal advocates suggested pushing for support at county council meetings and holding fundraisers to better engage the community.

Dobson-Elliot said she would work with county animal control to ensure the mission had “breathing room” to work to keep its animal population down.

While she could not provide an immediate timeline for when to re-assess the mission’s conditions and the steps to take from there, Carriere said if the shelter staff embraces his suggestions and accepts the temporary volunteer help, changes are typically seen within three to four weeks.

This story was originally published November 15, 2023, 9:30 AM.

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