Sumter Volunteers recognize 3 for community contributions

Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 3/3/19

With the addition of three local women to its Women's Honor Roll of Sumter County, Sumter Volunteers Inc. brings the total number of outstanding women on the roll to 120 for their outstanding contributions to their community. This year the …

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Sumter Volunteers recognize 3 for community contributions


With the addition of three local women to its Women's Honor Roll of Sumter County, Sumter Volunteers Inc. brings the total number of outstanding women on the roll to 120 for their outstanding contributions to their community. This year the organization recognizes Kipper Ackerman, Sarah Peake Bradham and Danielle Gahnz Thompson.

Jo Anne Morris, executive director of Sumter Volunteers, said the public is invited to a 3 p.m. induction ceremony and reception for the honorees on Monday, March 4, at the beginning of Women's History Month, at the Swan Lake Visitors Center.

The national celebration of Women's History Month began 41 years ago as Women's History Week, an educational project aimed at schools in Sonoma County, California. By 1981, Congress had passed a resolution making National Women's History Week official. In 1987, national recognition of women's contributions to history had grown so much that Congress expanded the celebration to a month - March, Women's History Month.

The month has been observed in Sumter since 1991 under the leadership of the YWCA of the Upper Lowlands. In 1993, Sumter Volunteers established The Women's Honor Roll of Sumter County to recognize women who have made outstanding contributions to the area's culture and history. Twenty women were honored posthumously that first year, and Lady Banksiae roses were planted in their honor on the pergola in Volunteer Park, formerly located at the corner of North Magnolia and East Calhoun streets.

Since 1994, 100 more have been honored, and a permanent rose planting has been established on the Sumter County Civic Center grounds on West Liberty Street to serve as living monuments to all of those honored, Morris said.

In addition, their names are listed on the Honor Roll of Outstanding Women of Sumter County, which hangs in the foyer of Patriot Hall in the Sumter County Cultural Center on Haynsworth Street. Names are added to the list only during Women's History Month.

In the year 2000, Sumter Volunteers combined the tradition with a Bicentennial Salute to Women of Sumter. For the first time, four outstanding women's organizations were added to the honor roll along with two famous women from Sumter's past, Natalie Delage Sumter (Mrs. Thomas Sumter Jr.) and Angelica Singleton Van Buren, President Martin Van Buren's daughter-in-law, who acted as White House hostess during his term, 1837-1841.

The recognition service was held at the Sumter Opera House for that special salute that honored all 60 women and groups. Roses were planted in the Bland Garden of Swan Lake-Iris Gardens.


Kipper Ackerman was born and raised in Dalzell. She is married to Curt Ackerman, also a Sumter native, and is the daughter of Hank and Sandi Edens of Dalzell. She began her music studies in piano at the age of 5 and harp studies at the age of 10. Mrs. Ackerman continued her studies in piano and harp after graduating from Thomas Sumter Academy and pursued her collegiate education at Presbyterian College in Music Education and graduate work at Winthrop University. Curt and Kipper have three children, Eliza, Laura Ruth and Sam Ackerman. Eliza is currently attending Presbyterian College and pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education, and Laura Ruth and Sam attend Sumter High School and Alice Drive Middle School.

After teaching in York County, Mrs. Ackerman moved home to Sumter and began her career as a middle and high school choir director. She spent 14 years directing music programs in Sumter School District 2 and Thomas Sumter Academy. She has served as the choir director at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Dalzell United Methodist Church and is now a member of The Church of the Holy Comforter and serving there as choir director.

Since moving home to Sumter, Mrs. Ackerman has enjoyed her time serving the community in the Sumter Junior Welfare League, Sumter Art Association, Woman's Afternoon Music Club, United Ministries, Sumter County Museum, Alice Drive Middle School PTSA, Sumter High School Orchestra and assisting Kingsbury Elementary School with the installation of its harp ensemble.

After leaving the classroom in 2011, unaware of what would soon follow, Mrs. Ackerman was led to share the peace and healing that comes from the harp. After spending time sharing harp music with patients at Tuomey Healthcare System, now Prisma Healthcare System, she formed a ministry called The Sounds of Grace, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Sounds of Grace now serves the community of Sumter and surrounding areas by providing peace and healing through music in health care and hospice facilities and in special needs classrooms.

Most of her time with The Sounds of Grace is spent playing the harp for patients at Prisma Healthcare System - Tuomey, Agape Hospice patients, special needs students at Alice Drive Middle School and Sumter High School, and traveling with speaking engagements all over the Southeast to share the message of peace and healing through music.

As a professional harpist, she stays busy providing music for weddings, funerals, church services and dinner parties. Mrs. Ackerman enjoys her career in ministry and is honored to serve her community, but she believes that her biggest joy comes from being Curt's wife and mother to their three children.


Sarah Peake Bradham moved to Sumter County in 2002 when her father, Brian Peake, became reverend of Mayesville Presbyterian Church. After receiving a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts from the University of South Carolina in 2010, Mrs. Bradham began her professional career as an insurance agent and farm service manager for McLean Marechal Agency in Florence. While working for the agency in Florence, she was first introduced to the Christian charity Feed My Starving Children. After volunteering with her coworkers to pack meals at a church-sponsored MobilePack for two years, she was inspired to introduce this food packing event to the City of Sumter.

After having brought the vision of hosting an event back to her home church of Mayesville Presbyterian, she and the small congregation raised $22,000 and recruited 500 volunteers that packed more than 100,000 meals in the inaugural Sumter Feeds My Starving Children MobilePack in August of 2014.

After the success of the first event, Mrs. Bradham brought together leaders from many different Sumter churches, businesses and community organizations to expand the Sumter FMSC committee to more than 35 community members. Since inception, the committee has hosted five events and enlisted the help of 6,200 volunteers from the Sumter community to pack more than 1.2 million meals. These meals were sent to missionaries and orphanages in many countries around the world and has fed 3,373 children for an entire year.

As chairwoman of the Sumter Feeds My Starving Children Committee, Mrs. Bradham has brought people together from all corners of Sumter for one common goal: Serving God's people by feeding starving children around the world in both body and spirit.

Mrs. Bradham was recipient of the 2018 Edith Myers Volunteer Extraordinaire Award and a 2017 recipient of the Care and Kindness Volunteer Service Award given by the Evening Pilot Club. In 2015, the Sumter FMSC Committee was recipient of the Mayor's Community Service Award presented by the City of Sumter.

Mrs. Bradham and her husband, Chris Bradham, live in Mayesville. They have two girls, Mollie (5) and Emily (6), and are awaiting their third little girl in July.


Danielle Gahnz Thompson was born and raised in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. She worked in the local paper mill to pay her way through college, graduating from the University of Wisconsin with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Not long after finishing school, she realized the North was not for her anymore, and she made her way down South to find her home in Sumter.

Mrs. Thompson has been committed to improving Sumter for more than two decades now. In 2008, she left a successful career in real estate and development, where she was an accomplished real estate appraiser, developer and Realtor. Since then, she has built businesses that have transformed downtown Sumter, beginning with Hamptons restaurant.

After the success of Hamptons, Mrs. Thompson continued to invest in downtown Sumter and opened the Sidebar restaurant. In addition, she has recently completed the renovation and relocation of Hamptons to Main Street and is financially invested in the new Hyatt Place Downtown Sumter, which opened in April 2018.

Mrs. Thompson is also committed to improving the community as a whole. She has contributed tremendously to creating and sustaining jobs as well as reinvesting into the community with the creation of and involvement in several major fundraising events, including Oktoberfest, Derby Day, the Microbrew Festival and Sip and Stroll. These events have raised and continue to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for organizations such as United Ministries and the United Way.

She is an ambassador for Sumter's success and an essential part of its continued improvement.

For more information about Sumter Volunteers Inc., the Women's Honor Roll of Sumter County or Monday afternoon's ceremony and reception, call Jo Anne Morris at (803) 775-7423.