St. Martin de Porres awarded $63,000 grant


COLUMBIA St. Martin de Porres in Columbia has won a $63,000 grant from the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.

The award will go to improving the elementary school’s curriculum, from updating textbooks and resource materials to providing the school with new multimedia computers, said Sandra Leatherwood, St. Martin’s principal. “This will be the shot in the arm we need to get our curriculum back on track,” Leatherwood said.

The 62-year-old school has been showing its age in recent years, and a lot of time and money has been devoted to its maintenance, Leatherwood said. “When it’s a choice between the building and the curriculum, you have to choose keeping that roof over your head,” she said.

The inner-city school serves not only children from the Columbia area but children from Orangeburg and Sumter as well, Leatherwood said. “We pull kids in who need a school where they are valued and appreciated,” she said. “We meet that need.”

“It’s a good opportunity for us to impact early childhood education in an African-American, Roman Catholic environment,” said Tom Keith, executive director of the Sisters of Charity Foundation, about St. Martin’s grant. “They do phenomenal work with what they have. We’re just thankful to be able to minister to them.”

St. Martin’s was one of six groups to receive nearly $700,000 in grants from the Sisters of Charity Foundation Oct. 9. The $85-million foundation was created in 1996 after the Sisters of Charity, who owned Providence Hospital, sold 50 percent of their interest in Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation. Foundation grants target poor and underserved South Carolinians, especially those in the area served by Providence Hospital. The Sisters of Charity has given out over $2 million in grants since they began awarding them in March.

Other awards went to Carver Elementary School, which will receive $100,000 per year for three years for its Success by Six reading readiness program, provided it meets annual evaluation criteria; $180,000, also to be paid out over three years, to the S.C. Center for Family Policy to develop collaborative, community-based reforms in the juvenile justice system; $45,000 to Family Honor Inc. of Columbia, a chastity-based sexual education program; $50,000 to Santee Lynches Community Development Corporation in Sumter, to provide economic development opportunities for low-income residents in that area; and $35,000 to Anderson Interfaith Ministries in Anderson to assist welfare mothers making the transition to work.

Leatherwood, a 20-year teaching veteran who is in her first year as principal at St. Martin’s, plans on getting a lot of mileage out of the school’s award. “The grant will mean we will be able to continue the high quality of education that is the goal for our children,” she said.