The Rev. Tony McDade says he could not have helped as many homeless families in Greenville over the years without grants from the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.
As executive director of the Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network, he works with 42 religious congregations to provide emergency and transitional housing.
His organization is just one of the many that have been helped by the Sisters of Charity foundation, which has assisted thousands of needy people statewide since it was established in 1996.
According to figures released by the group, it has given out 2,110 grants totaling $59 million for health, education and social service programs in all 46 South Carolina counties.
The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
Tom Keith has been executive director of the foundation since it started, and he describes the effort as a challenging but wonderful quest to reduce poverty and its effects in every corner of the state, from struggling urban neighborhoods to the smallest rural communities.
“The work has been humbling and gratifying,” Keith said. “For me, it’s more than just the job. It’s a passion and a ministry grounded in the Catholic values that are important to the sisters. They have enabled us to go out and do work that needs to be done in South Carolina. We’ve been able to be creative and make a difference with their support.”
Keith is proud of the wide variety of programs that the foundation funds each year. Those who benefit from grants range from soup kitchens, literacy programs and dental clinics to large, varied ministries such as those offered by the Felician Sisters in Kingstree. He said the group has also established a solid network of contacts across the state that enables it to quickly learn about needs and provide grants in emergencies, including the devastating floods that hit the state in October 2015.
“The work looks different from grant to grant, but in the end it’s all about changing things for the better in communities around South Carolina,” he said.
The foundation has also established four initiatives of its own to help specific groups:
- The Fatherhood Initiative was the first, founded in 1997 to help strengthen the relationships between fathers and their children, and reduce the number of absent fathers statewide. In 2002, the foundation established the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families. In 2014-15, the initiative worked with 1,581 participants, impacted more than 3,400 children, and helped 544 men find jobs
- Collaboration for Ministry Initiative, launched in 2003, works to support and sustain the ministries of Catholic women religious around the state, and also helps the sisters network with each other and share ideas.
- Immigrant Families Initiative, created in 2014, focuses on promoting the health, well-being and economic mobility of immigrant, mixed-status and refugee families in the state. So far, it has invested more than $220,000 in these efforts, including programs that reach out to migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
- Kinship Care Initiative, also started in 2014, helps thousands of people in South Carolina who are raising non-biological children, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and family friends.
McDade said grants from the foundation have benefited his organization’s partnership with Homes of Hope, the largest provider of affordable housing in the Upstate.
“The foundation is very clear about their mission. They invest wisely and they want some return on the investment in ways that are significant,” McDade said. “They’re not just putting a Band-Aid on problems. They’re making sure that we get some long-term benefit out of the work we’re doing. Because of the grants we’ve received, families we serve can often literally go from living out of their cars to living in homes of their own.”
Keith said he is looking forward to the future.
“The work is so gratifying and I’m happy to have worked with the people that have joined us in the fight,” he said. “Our main focus is still going to be trying to help lift families out of poverty across this state.”
Top photo provided: A family from the HALOS program, which is a grantee of the Sisters of Charity Foundation’s Kinship Care Initiative, snuggles together in a file photo from HALOS.