Gift giving on holidays and other important milestones can be a source of joy for both the giver and the recipient. A gift can be thought-out and tailored for someone. Its intent can be articulated by a note. It can be monetary, allowing someone the freedom to choose what suits them best. A gift can symbolize bonds between people or be a simple gesture of goodwill. But beyond gifting objects or money, the gift of time becomes especially poignant around the holidays, when family and friends gather to share precious moments with ones they love. It seems that at these times the gifts themselves do not matter as much. And without these times, gifts would mean much less.
However, for many people, the gathering, the gifting and the peace of mind can be difficult. Though some might argue against having “peace of mind” during the holidays (understandably), we can at least be grateful for the roof over our heads and the food on our plates. Monetary constraints can hinder quality of life, health and opportunities. Sometimes people don’t even have a place to be. People all over the world experience poverty and our community in Charleston is no different. Below, for the consideration of you and your generosity, are a few local organizations that are helping to improve quality of life for people across our community, during this season and year-round.
One80 Place has been working to end and prevent homelessness in the Charleston community since 1984, when a group of concerned citizens noticed a growing population in need of shelter. Business, civic and religious leaders joined forces with Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. to gather resources and create Charleston Interfaith Crisis Assistance Ministry. Altbough the organization’s name has changed to One80 Place, its mission remains the same — with an expanded number of services.
These services address clients’ immediate needs as well as facilitate their housing process. Shelter and warm meals are offered alongside case management, an on-site health clinic, legal services, a culinary training program and more. Every client is assigned a case manager who provides guidance through barriers and assists in the development of a self-sufficiency plan, so by the time clients leave One80 Place, they can feel equipped for the future. And although clients are generally housed within two-three months, they have continued access to these resources for a full year. In 2018, a total of 980 people among families, single men and women and veterans left One80 Place with homes of their own and 256 guests gained employment.
There are various ways the public can get involved. Financial contributions are always welcome and go directly toward helping clients in need. But there are many opportunities to volunteer throughout the year and especially the holidays. You may sign up online to serve meals in the community kitchen — breakfast and dinner are needed most — and One80 Place regularly posts their needs on social media.
The Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic
Founded in 2006 by Drs. Arthur Booth and Charlie Davis, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic opened its doors to patients in 2008. Its mission is to understand and serve the health and wellness needs of the uninsured, low-income adults who live or work on John’s, James and Wadmalaw Island.
These initial dreams have become reality, with more than 4,300 Charleston area patients served since 2008. The clinic has also expanded to include residents and workers of Folly Beach, as well as hospitality workers on the Charleston Peninsula. In 2018, they moved to a newly built facility on Maybank Highway that nearly doubled the clinic’s patient capacity. More than 400 patients walk through the doors each month.
The Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic continues to grow and attract talented volunteer medical staff and assistance to join the current 140 volunteer doctors, nurses and support. Funded by the generosity of individual donors, grants from private foundations, community and religious organizations and local fundraising efforts, the Free Clinic has received $1.6 million given in-kind services.
The clinic’s goals are to remain the primary medical home for their patients, provide comprehensive healthcare and recruit and retain high quality volunteers all at no cost to patients. The clinic’s operation relies on donated time by retired and active physicians and nurses as well as interpreters and office volunteers. Individual monetary donations are always welcome.
East Cooper Community Outreach
East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO) was founded as an emergency relief effort in 1989 after the devastation caused by Hurricane Hugo. The organization has since widened its scope to eliminate poverty by serving as a permanent resource for the community with three main program areas: Basic Needs, Health Services and Empowerment.
ECCO helps individuals and thousands of families every year with a range of services including food, clothing, emergency financial assistance, special holiday initiatives, comprehensive medical and dental care, medications, counseling, educational opportunities including computer skills training, financial literacy workshops, job preparedness, an asset-development program and ongoing case management. Their approach is clearly all encompassing. Staff emphasize individualized support based on accountability and achievement through personal interaction with clients.
They work to provide safety net services for our low-income neighbors, while empowering them to create a better future for everyone. Mindful of each person’s dignity, all programs and services strive to guide clients toward self-sufficiency by way of equipping them with the tools they need. These programs reach the elderly, disabled, unemployed or underemployed, veterans, families in generation poverty and those experiencing situational poverty. The majority of clients live east of the Cooper River in Charleston/lower-Berkeley County or are currently employed in the East Cooper region.
In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, ECCO served 3,445 people across all households. There are various opportunities throughout the year to donate your time alongside more than 260 active volunteers and you can sign up online. During Christmastime, the Adopt-A-Family Program assists families with buying gifts for their children and Santa’s Closet is in need of volunteers through the month of December.
Charleston Port and Seafarers Society
The Charleston Port and Seafarers’ Society was formally organized as a 501(c)3 in 2001, though its venerable history in the Holy City starts way back in 1820. It is a Christian charity organization that welcomes and serves those men and women who make their livelihood in the port or at sea, no matter their background. They have since opened centers at the Wando, North Charleston and Columbus Street Terminals.
Each year, more than 65,000 seafarers arrive at the Charleston Port. Most crews consist of diverse persons, many from developing countries and vastly different cultures. One vessel can house up to three or four nationalities within a crew of around 25 seafarers. Many are lonely, away from home and their families for up to a year at a time.
Volunteers visit ships to provide fellowship to the crew members, offer prayer support, provide Christian and secular literature and free Bibles in many languages. Seafarers’ Society offers free access to telephones, Wi-Fi, computers, internet, transportation for shopping and visits to local churches. For seafarers who don’t have visas or shore passes and can’t leave the ships when in port, volunteers will shop for needed personal supplies.
On average, Seafarers’ dedicated team of 55 volunteers serves more than 800 ships— 5000 officers and 15,000 crew members — in the ministry centers every year. Volunteers annually log north of 7,000 hours of service to these men and women.
This is all made possible thanks to the faithful service of volunteer teams as well as financial support from donations and sponsors.
The organizations listed above are but a few local charities founded upon addressing the needs of our neighbors. The holiday season offers opportunities to donate both time and money and could inspire year-round giving, as these needs are always present.
The Charleston community is a generous one. While spending time with family during the holidays, let’s think about organizations that resonate with us. Many people in our community are in difficult positions and we have the chance to help. By donating to organizations like these, we can rest assured money and time are well spent. In these times, as in all times, let us be aware of our own good fortune, for the joy is in the giving.