Social services agencies at forefront to care for needs

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Editor's Note: The Bluffton Sun was first published in January 1998. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary in 2018, we want to look at the past 20 years of history and changes around town. This is another in a series of articles about the changes we've all seen. Join us as we revisit the past 20 years.

The Bluffton community is a giving community, with countless organizations mobilized to fight hunger, provide shelter for the displaced, steady financial and emotional instability, promote literacy, assist those with special needs, offer legal advice and tax preparation, and so much more.

Human needs are not ignored, thanks to the dedicated staff and volunteers who make a difference in their neighbors' lives.

Here's a small handful of charitable organizations that have even active in Bluffton over the past 20 years.

Bluffton Self Help

Bluffton resident Ida Martin saw all around her the need for working citizens, the disabled and senior citizens to get some help in their lives, especially when a financial crisis paralyzed their situations. She worked out of her garage at first, back in 1987, obtained resources from family and friends, and sometimes knocked door to door for donations.

Bluffton Self Help was chartered in October 1988. As her grassroots movement gained traction, she moved the operation to a bigger space on May River Road. In 2011, the agency moved into its current location at 39 Sheridan Park Circle in Bluffton.

In 2016, BSH served more than 10,000 people and provided about $125,000 to 355 families in need of short-term emergency assistance.

Today, staff and volunteers make free food available whenever needed, provide toys at Christmas and school supplies at the beginning of each school year, among a long list of other social services.

Martin died in 2013 at the age of 90. Her legacy honors include the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Obama in 2011 at the White House, and many local awards.

"She reminded us that as Bluffton has grown and developed, there is another Bluffton that is still there that needs help," said John Orth past vice board chair.

Kimberly Hall is now executive director of the organization.

The Literacy Center

Beaufort County's only nonprofit literacy organization provides instruction in reading, writing, math and English speaking skills to more than 600 students ages 18 to 82 annually at six locations countywide.

Although it was founded in 1973 on St. Helena Island, the center's main headquarters has been located in Bluffton for the past 10 years.

Executive Director Pam Wall and her team of tutors and volunteers donated some 20,250 hours to the organization in 2017.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Bluffton

Founded 20 years ago locally, this organization lives by the motto: "Together, we are building a better Bluffton one child at a time." They mean it.

Twelve Bluffton-area schools transport almost 350 students ages 6 to 18 to the club at 100 H.E. McCracken Circle after school every day.

In the fun, safe and nurturing environment, these youngsters are guided in character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, sports, fitness and recreation.

Led by director "Miss Molly" O. Hornbeak-Smith since the beginning in 1998, the organization's popularity exceeds its ability to accommodate the 500 families who are on the waiting list to enroll in its programs. It's a space issue.

The nonprofit organization generates more than $1 million in revenue and support.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is as iconic as hamburgers, John Wayne and Route 66. Everyone knows the name, and many people have been directly helped by their humanitarian efforts in natural disasters, personal crisis and a host of other emergency situations.

In July, a family in Bluffton lost their home in a fire, and the Red Cross provided financial assistance for food, clothing and other essentials. Earlier in the year, another house fire in Ridgeland dislocated two adults and two children and the Red Cross was there to assist.

The Lowcountry South Carolina chapter, which serves residents in nine counties including Beaufort, provides vital services for disaster relief, health and safety classes, blood collection for hospitals, crisis counseling and storm shelters.

Its office in Bluffton at 59 Sheridan Park Circle is the local source for these services and more.

United Way of the Lowcountry

This organization's mission and vision statements are quite succinct: "To mobilize resources to solve human problems ... and to be the leading force for social change to improve basic needs, education, health and financial stability outcomes for the citizens of Beaufort and Jasper County."

United Way, which raised $2.4 million in its 2017-18 fundraising campaign, promotes positive change in the community by focusing on basic needs, education, health and family stability. The group's Helpline received 1,526 calls for assistance last year, 470 cases were provided in-depth advocacy, and 129 cases received direct assistance. It also provides financial assistance to many organizations and programs.

The organization was founded locally in the 1950s and has an office in Bluffton.

Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.

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