Sisters of Charity Foundation continues to fight poverty

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.

Provided: Sister Roberta Fulton, SSMN, principal of St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia, works with a student.
Provided: Sister Roberta Fulton, SSMN, principal of St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia, works with a student.

“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.