Charleston businessman donates $50,000 for child and family programs

Mayor Joe Riley and the city of Charleston won the Outstanding Achievement City Livability Award from the United States Conference of Mayors.

A Charleston businessman has donated $50,000 for three programs that aim to boost public safety by helping children and families, and improve the community’s relationship with police.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley announced Wednesday at a press conference in City Hall that Jerry Scheer had made the donation for: Camp Hope, a program that strives “to keep children from becoming the next generation of tragic statistics;” Friday Night Lights, a program that offers free activities for families; and Turning Leaf, which attempts to reduce recidivism among incarcerated parents.

All of the programs concentrate on personal and social responsibility, health and behavioral expectations while providing unique life experiences.

The programs helped the city win the prestigious Outstanding Achievement City Livability Award from the United States Conference of Mayors. The city received the award June 20 at the group’s annual meeting in San Francisco, but Riley and Police Chief Greg Mullen were unable to attend because they were dealing with the aftermath of the June 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church.

Scheer kept his comments brief, offering praise to city staffers who do the work. “It takes 12 or 15 seconds to write a check,” he said.

Mullen said there was great value to both police officers and community members in improving relationships between the two. “I tell my officers that after they retire, they won’t remember the big drug bust. They’ll remember the time they spent with these children.”

Riley said the award means a great deal to the city. But it also means attention will be drawn to some very successful programs. “These programs are replicable,” he said.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.