Readers of today’s Post and Courier investigation into South Carolina’s persistently poor counties will get an unvarnished look into the daunting obstacles to a better life for many of our state’s residents.
The shortcomings in those 26 counties center around jobs, education and health care. Reporter Doug Pardue relates the stories of those who have a hard time making ends meet in places like Allendale, Marion and Colleton counties.
They include stories of gritty determination, of Allendale County parents who travel three hours a day to work at $9 an hour jobs in Hilton Head so they can take care of their children. He writes of the difficulties of achieving academic excellence in underfunded rural school districts where many residents live in poverty.
Mr. Pardue also tells us of about efforts under way — usually publicly underfunded — to make things better.
There is Melissa Buckner’s “Eat Smart” initiative to provide home-grown produce in Walterboro, aimed at combating the epidemic of obesity with healthy food.
And the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services, which provides free or reduced-cost health care to the poor. Its long record of success should encourage heightened attention to public health clinics throughout South Carolina by legislators who hold the state’s purse strings.
And Mr. Pardue acknowledges those enterprising South Carolinians who, having always known hard times, know how to make a living out of what’s available — as handymen, in cottage industries, even collecting recyclables.
Perhaps the most encouraging community effort he describes is in Florence, which has transformed itself into a comparative boom-town in the generally distressed Pee Dee region. Job training, economic development, industrial recruitment, and deeply engaged civic and higher education sectors all have contributed to its growing reputation as a can-do community.
One troubling story out of Orangeburg County recounts Will Workman’s inability to find local workers for his family farm. Instead, he turned to federally approved temporary foreign workers for the low-wage jobs.
Those and other stories in “Forgotten South Carolina” will further spur the debate over public education funding, Medicaid expansion and economic development.
And they serve as a reminder that the state’s prosperity is tied to the 26 poor counties trapped in economic difficulties that go back for generations.