A North Charleston nonprofit aimed at helping children in some of the city's poorest schools on Saturday will celebrate the grand opening of its first building in the community that it serves.
Beyond Our Walls, or BOWs, is opening a meeting place for parents and children on Harvey Avenue off Dorchester Road. The group first started organizing volunteers in 2004 with the goal of increasing involvement of parents and neighbors at community schools. The organization primarily serves parents and children who attend Burns, Mary Ford and North Charleston elementaries and the associated middle and high schools.
In recent years the group has helped organize Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts troops, volunteered at schools and partnered with the Charleston County School District on its Parent University program.
Earlier this year, BOWs board members decided to focus on opening a location to offer a meeting place for parents, children and volunteers.
"We know a lot of parents in the community work two jobs and can't get to (their child's) school because its during times they're working," said Joyce Nesmith, community volunteers coordinator for BOWs. "We want to be able to offer events and opportunities to come outside of the times that schools is open."
From a practical standpoint, Nesmith said having its own facility will allow BOWs to consistently host events without being dependent on the availability of a school or church. The Girl Scouts troop the group supported was discontinued this year because of issues finding a meeting place.
BOWs is planning to provide a half-day summer camp for low-income children at its new location. The new space will also allow the group to offer technology training and other services to parents on iPads it was awarded last year through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Brenda Nelson, director of community outreach for the school district, said Nesmith and her group have been a "consistent partner" for the district. Nelson feels a new building will make BOWs more accessible to parents, and perhaps serve as a meeting site for district initiatives, such as Parent University.
"I think having a facility will help," Nelson said. "It can be an extension with what we do with parent engagement."