Bluewater Horizons renovation

Two workers with Bluewater Horizons, an S.C. Community Loan Fund borrower, renovate an affordable housing complex on Rebecca Street in North Charleston. The S.C. Community Loan Fund was one of 10 organizations nationwide to receive a $1 million grant in the inaugural Communities Thrive Challenge. Provided/S.C. Community Loan Fund. 

A Charleston-based nonprofit that finances affordable housing, community projects and locally owned businesses in South Carolina has been awarded a $1 million grant.

The South Carolina Community Loan Fund is one of 10 recipients of funds from the inaugural Communities Thrive Challenge, an effort from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to boost low-income populations. They were selected from a pool of more than 1,800 candidates nationwide. 

The groups, which are scattered among nine states and Puerto Rico, include a Bronx-based nonprofit working to keep at-risk youth out of prison, a West Virginia group trying to break the cycle of generational poverty in Appalachia and a community land trust working with disenfranchised settlements in San Juan. 

The S.C. Community Loan Fund was first founded to finance affordable housing in the city of Charleston. Later, it expanded in both area and mission, serving statewide and financing the development of business and community projects. The group also supports projects that improve access to food and promote economic growth in underserved areas. 

Since 2004, the group has financed over $49 million in loans leading to the completion of about $330 million in community development projects across the state.

"In South Carolina, $1 million has the ability to have a deep impact," said Anna Hamilton Lewin, the S.C. Community Loan Fund's incoming CEO. "This grant will help us have the organizational capacity to do what we need to do." 

Over the next three years, Lewin said, the S.C. Community Loan Fund expects to receive loan requests of almost $59 million. 

The organization takes a holistic approach to lending by providing technical support and resources for borrowers as they pursue their projects, Lewin said. A strong focus is also placed on boosting minority-owned businesses. 

"Receiving this caliber of grant is a testament to what we do and the commitment of our team," Lewin said. Of all the challenge applicants, about half a percent became grantees. 

The challenge took place over a period of six months. Registration and applications were due in June, and each application was peer-reviewed by other applicants. High-scoring contenders were then invited to submit a second application. 

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The applications were evaluated on four criteria: the group's impact on the community it serves, the potential to scale up its efforts, group's relationship with the community and the commitment of the group's leadership. 

From a group of 20 finalists, the 10 grantees were chosen after on-site visits, interviews and additional review of their applications.

During the on-site visit in Charleston, they made stops at local S.C. Community Loan Fund-supported projects, like the business organization Lowcountry Local First and housing facility One80 Place. 

A video released by the Rockefeller Foundation about the S.C. Community Loan Fund features two other Lowcountry projects: Hollywood's new town hall facility and Charleston community development organization P.A.S.T.O.R.S., Inc. 

This is the first time the Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative have partnered to offer the Communities Thrive Challenge. 

While the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation has been operating for over 100 years, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was formed recently, in 2015. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, founded the philanthropic group with a focus on scientific research, education and equal opportunity. 

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and employment. She is also the author of the weekly Business Headlines newsletter. Before moving to Charleston, her byline appeared in The Boston Globe.