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Carolina Youth Development Center still serving Lowcountry families after 230 years

NORTH CHARLESTON — South Carolina's oldest nonprofit continues to meet the needs of Charleston area families centuries after its founding, even amid a pandemic that has impacted the organization's funding.

This year marks the 230th anniversary for the Carolina Youth Development Center, established in 1790 as the Charleston Orphan House. The group has survived wars, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and now weathers the ongoing coronavirus as it aims to be a refuge for families in need.

"Through it all, our doors have remained open," said Beverly Hardin, the center's CEO.

The organization has continued to expand its services and today offers safe housing for children, educational support and career readiness services. The family services organization reaches over 900 children and their families each year.

The center recently opened a new facility in North Charleston that will provide individual and family-based therapies, as well as community-based prevention services.

CYDC

Carolina Youth Development Center opened the family support center Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Brad Nettles/Staff

The Family Support Center, in the George Williams Building on the organization's North Charleston campus, was sparked by the group's desire to help restore broken families.

"This building will serve as a safe space and a place for healing for our community for years to come," Hardin said.

At an October ribbon cutting, North Charleston Councilwoman Rhonda Jerome applauded the organization in reaching its milestone. She noted the group home is of personal significance. Jerome volunteered at the center as a Girl Scout leader many years ago.

"I know for a fact it's been here a long time," Jerome said.

Part of the reason it was important for the organization to push forward with the new support center was the protests against social unrest that unraveled across the Lowcountry over the summer, Hardin said.

CYDC

Carolina Youth Development Center CEO Beverly Hardin speaks at the opening of the CYDC family support center Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Brad Nettles/Staff

The demonstrations took an emotional toll on many families, she said, and the center will help people dealing with such burdens.

Like many nonprofits, the center saw a decline in donations after being forced to call off fundraisers due to the coronavirus. 

But two "coronavirus angels" contributed large gifts, of $150,000 and $90,000, to enable the organization to break even by the end of the year.

“It just allowed us to breathe a little bit," Hardin said.

In addition, dozens of Lowe's employees helped render $50,000 worth of renovation work on the building that would serve as the family center.

Another company, Cummins Inc., provided $55,000 to help establish the new facility. The company, which has a North Charleston site, focuses its corporate responsibilities on three priorities it feels are important to healthy communities: environment, education and equality of opportunity.

CYDC and Cummins have worked together for many years. Cummins supports the center with its automotive lab, where young people pull apart old cars and put them back together.

"We believe an organization like CYDC is critical to our community," said Cummins Inc. employee Anthony Parrish, who serves on the center's board of directors.

The pandemic and new legislation have caused a drop in the number of children being housed at the North Charleston nonprofit. 

The Family First Prevention Services Act will force the center to become a facility that serves higher-needs children. Additionally, school closures forced by COVID-19 has led to a dip in the number of youths at the group home, as most of the organization's referrals come from teachers.

Normally, the group home would have about 40 youths. It now houses 24.

Those who want to give and support the center can do so online at cydc.org.

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

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