Living on a dirt road in James Island, an elderly woman was in pain and needed her teeth extracted. It would take years for her to save up enough money for the dental procedure.
Determined to help, Judy Hinman, the director of senior outreach at Charleston Jewish Family Services, made some calls. Together, the Jewish Family Services and other local organizations pooled funds together to pay for the woman’s procedure.
“There’s a lot of unfortunate people here in this area and we have the ability to improve their lives,” Hinman said.
Lending aid to seniors is one of several ways that Charleston Jewish Family Services is helping the community.
The nonprofit, which was reorganized in 2013 under the Charleston Jewish Federation, consists of three staff members and a handful of volunteers trying to "repair the world." They provide senior outreach, mental health counseling, financial assistance and food distribution.
While many of their clients come from local synagogues, the nonprofit serves people of all faiths and backgrounds. The group operates under the federation's $1 million budget that stems mainly from grants and donations from trusts and foundations.
For seniors, the group conducts wellness checks, helps them navigate senior benefits and provides transportation to doctor appointments and other errands. Brandon Fish, who serves as the group's community outreach coordinator, said the group provided medical assistance to his ailing grandfather.
These services have become increasingly important as the number of seniors living in the Lowcountry continues to grow.
About 17 percent of South Carolina's 5 million residents are age 65 and older, according to the U.S. Census. For the city of Charleston, seniors make up almost 14 percent of the city's 134,000 residents.
Hinman added the group also connects them to food programs. This is critical because she has "a lot of seniors living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches," she said.
In 2014, 10.2 million older Americans faced the threat of hunger, according to the National Council on Aging. AARP recently ranked South Carolina 48th for food insecurity for adults 60 years old and older.
Jewish Family Services hosts food initiatives of their own. They have a food pantry stocked with milk, cereal, pasta, canned goods, oatmeal and kosher foods that conform to Jewish dietary regulations.
On Charleston's East Side, which is considered a food desert for its lack of grocery stores, they've hooked up with the Lowcountry Food Bank to give away 10,000 pounds of fresh produce.
In Summerville, they dished out 475 bags of groceries during two events with the Community Resource Center.
Center founder Louis Smith said many people rely on these sorts of organizations.
"You have a lot of people that are down and out," Smith said. "A lot of people depend on these organizations to make it."
The Jewish nonprofit is helping as many people as it can. In 2017, it provided housing, counseling, medical, transportation and other emergency assistance more than 500 times.
While they are glad to provide immediate assistance, their hope is to help move families beyond their struggles.
Sara Sharnoff Chesley, the organization's director, recalled a woman who was living in a motel. The family services helped her find a full-time job and get an apartment.
"That's the greatest success we can see is making long-term change for somebody," Chesley said.