Grant program helps rural communities

By Kerry Coffey

Rural communities around the state are getting help with critical issues facing their citizens from Clemson's S.C. Rural Communities Compassion Project. This effort channels grant funds and technical assistance to local nonprofits and faith-and community-based groups that develop and implement programs to address poverty, hunger, homelessness, at-risk children, victims and prevention of HIV- AIDS, families transitioning from welfare to work, and rehabilitation for addicts and prisoners.

Funding comes from a federal grant as part of the White House's Faith Based and Community Initiative, and is currently distributed to 31 organizations through the Clemson program. The Compassion Project also provides communities with expertise from Clemson faculty members for help with grant writing, financial management, volunteer recruiting, and numerous other areas of interest. This program has built collaboration among foundations, community organizations, and colleges.

Some of the partners include the Coastal Community Foundation, The Spartanburg County Foundation, The Self Family Foundation, The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Inc., SC Educational Television, USC Upstate, Technical College of the Lowcountry, Midlands Technical College, Beaufort Technical College, United Way of Greenwood & Abbeville Counties, First Steps, and the Christian Action Council.

“The recipients of these funds have already demonstrated an ability to serve their community,” said Richard Campbell, director of Clemson's S.C. Center for Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership. “The funds allow them to operate at a greater capacity, and the technical assistance provided by Clemson experts strengthens their effectiveness.” Some Compassion projects include:

The Manhood Academy Partnership (MAP) in Anderson addresses character development for male youth, ages 10 to 17. A project of Partners for a Healthy Community, MAP mentors young men and teaches them about fatherhood, responsibility, and the importance of education.

New Day Inc., of Spartanburg is implementing a pioneering approach to rehabilitate individuals suffering from mental illness. The Fountain House Clubhouse Model stresses the need for self-help through mutual support as group members seek to find jobs, places to live, and friendship, and to move toward independence and productivity.

Another project seeks to improve literacy skills for residents of Creeltown, a mostly Native American settlement in Colleton County. This effort matches recipients of the Reading for Jobs program with literacy tutors. The One Stop S.C. Workforce System then helps participants locate jobs, register for work, and seek unemployment insurance.

The Compassion Project distributes funds through the S.C. Center for Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership, a part of Clemson’s Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life. The project also conducts videoconferences that are broadcast to sites throughout the state. Videotapes of the training sessions are in every county main library, United Way, and First Steps Offices statewide.

For more information, call (864) 656-0201 or visit IFNL Compassion Project.