Knowing that January is National Poverty in America Awareness Month, Debra Henderson wanted to help people struggling in the Lowcountry.
As information services librarian at the Bluffton Branch Library, she wanted to raise awareness about the poverty that is often unseen in the Lowcountry. She also wanted to encourage others to get involved.
Henderson decided to organize a drive for Bluffton Self Help, which could then distribute items to people in need.
Through the end of January, the library will be collecting items for Bluffton Self Help. Henderson said the organization has requested a variety of items, including: size 4 diapers, baby wipes, new socks and shoes, coats of all sizes, shampoo, Band-Aids, hand lotion, body lotion, toothpaste, shaving cream or gel, Q-tips, Kleenex, paper towels, toilet paper. Henderson also suggested donations of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
“The library is here to serve the community for life, learning and leisure,” Henderson said. “These are things that are really important for people in their everyday lives. And right now, so many people are hurting. I was really just flabbergasted when I found out the stats through Bluffton Self Help about what’s happening in our community – and this is before the latest information came out with the inflation figures.”
Some of the statistics Henderson learned from BSH are:
• 6 in 10 Beaufort County neighbors and 3 in 4 Jasper County neighbors are “one flat tire away from crisis.”
• At the beginning of 2022, $57,000 was the livable wage for our area; based on newer data, that number is now $75,000.
• 36% of homes in Beaufort and Jasper Counties are sub-optimal, meaning they lack plumbing or complete kitchens, or it is overcrowded, and multiple families live together.
• At-risk categories: Poverty (less than $25,000 annual income), 14% in Beaufort and 24% in Jasper; vulnerable ($25,000-$50,000), 18% and 28%; insecure ($50,000-$75,000), 20% and 16%.
• Families in poverty are living in sub-optimal housing and are food insecure. They receive food stamps/government assistance. As many as 30% have children under 18.
• Vulnerable families are scraping to get by, they are one flat tire from crisis. Often faced with impossible choices between their rent, medicine or food.
• Insecure families may have a little savings, but an illness resulting in lost wages or a large household expense will cause stress and disruption to their life.
Henderson said Bluffton Self Help also requested snack donations, which they will distribute to all the Bluffton public schools. On the organization’s list are the following: baked apple chips, Skinny Pop popcorn, Nature Valley oats and honey granola bars, Nature’s Bakery whole wheat fig bars, pretzels, Goldfish, BelVita Breakfast Biscuits, low-sugar juice boxes and bottled water.
If the drive goes well, Henderson said, the library might plan additional events for Bluffton Self Help.
“We live and work in a beautiful area, which can mask the fact that our community is in crisis,” said Danielle Dekruif, marketing and communications manager for Bluffton Self Help. She said that 50,000 households in Beaufort and Jasper counties are not making livable wages.
Dekruif said the organization’s mission, which is “to bring our neighbors from surviving to thriving,” would not be possible without the community and partners such as the Bluffton Library.
The library is “helping to not only meet the basic needs of our neighbors but they are keeping the conversation going about what poverty looks like in the Lowcountry – a conversation that affects us all,” Dekruif said.
Donations can be dropped off inside the library between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Library staff will deliver the donations to Bluffton Self Help throughout the month of January.
For more information about Bluffton Self Help, visit blufftonselfhelp.org.
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.