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Sisters of Charity using resources to reduce poverty in SC through advocacy and action

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Charleston Promise summer program helps students who need it most (copy)

Heather Holmes, an Oakland Elementary School teacher, and kindergarten student Traevon Hartwell work on a phonics lesson at a summer program for kids in grades K-3 that Charleston Promise Neighborhood is hosting.  The nonprofit received funds from Sisters of Charity to continue addressing poverty in areas of education. File

Charity and nonprofit groups helping people in need understand that poverty must be addressed from a variety of angles. 

Family Promise of Beaufort County, for example, works first to provide housing for homeless families before then helping them to obtain employment, learn budgeting skills, and eventually become self-sufficient.

"The financial management piece is important," said Family Promise Executive Director Lynda Halpern, but, "you need to make sure their basic needs are taken care of first so you can go to step two.”

Sisters of Charity Foundation recently awarded $359,500 in grants to 46 nonprofits that are working to make life better for people experiencing poverty. The nonprofits are working to reduce poverty in three ways: meeting people's immediate needs, breaking the cycle of poverty, and working to change systems that are considered drivers of poverty. 

“Nonprofits throughout the state are using these grants to create a path for positive, groundbreaking work that strengthens families and communities experiencing poverty," said Foundation President and CEO Tom Keith.

Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System, founded in 1996. Since its inception, the foundation has distributed more than $75 million to more than 3,000 nonprofits working to reduce poverty in the lives of individuals and families in the Palmetto State.

Two million South Carolinians, or 41 percent of the population, are poor or low income, according to the Poor People's Campaign, an anti-poverty initiative led by the Rev. William Barber II.

Children are suffering as a result.

According to the annual Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, South Carolina ranks No. 41 in child wellbeing, when considering four factors: the state's economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

The struggle to make ends meet has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Long lines at food-distribution sites have become a common sight. A number of nonprofits who work to help those in need have seen an uptick in the number clients. 

One of the organizations working to tackle poverty in many communities is Charleston Promise Neighborhood.

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The organization works alongside the Charleston County School District to provide programs at four high-poverty elementary schools: Chicora; Mary Ford Early Learning and Family Center; James Simmons; and Sanders-Clyde. Sisters of Charity, which has supported Charleston Promise's efforts for three years, is helping to fund Charleston Promises' school-based health clinics.

Health services, done in partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina, are using telehealth due to the pandemic. 

The faith group also supports Charleston Promise's family engagement work that includes conversations on STEM concepts, or online visits to the Charleston Aquarium.

"Sisters of Charity is providing the financial resources for us to continue to deliver those services," said Sherrie Snipes-Williams, CEO of Charleston Promise Neighborhood.

The Lowcountry organization understands that issues of poverty and educational success are often related. The four schools supported by the group are filled with "idealistic, bright students and compassionate educators who need additional support to accelerate academic performance," Snipes-Williams said.

Charleston Promise looks to prepare the "whole child" by exposing them to opportunities beyond the walls of the schoolhouse, in addition to providing health care access that will help lessen health and educational disparities.

But while the organization is hoping to break the poverty cycle within communities, it is also working to meet people's immediate needs during COVID-19.

Earlier this year, Charleston Promise offered families grocery store gift cards. It  has also partnered with nonprofits to provide utility and rental assistance, meal boxes, face masks and other items.

Not all nonprofits have seen a growth in clientele. Family Promise, the Bluffton organization that provides temporary shelter for families, is currently hosting a family of six, and awaiting COVID-19 test results for other potential clients. Earlier this year, the group anticipated an influx of people, but that wasn't the case, Halpern said.

"Nobody can seem to put their finger on why that is," she said.

The organization has, however, seen a dip in funds. Support from Sisters of Charity is more important now than ever, Halpern said.

Reach Rickey Dennis at 937-4886. Follow him on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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