Resource center opens in downtown
Thanks to the generosity of the Louis L. Smith family, Summerville residents now have a Community Resource Center.
The Center, at 116 West 2nd North Street, hopes to help the unemployed, undereducated and others in need, to obtain jobs, manage their finances and earn their GEDs.
Smith and his children – Letitia Boden, Pastor Dr. Gregory Smith and Jennifer Smith – have, he says, given a personal grant of $30,000 to fund the establishment of the center.
“A lot of people are saying things need to be done in Summerville,” says Smith, “a lot of things need to be done in the community. Well this is the time to do, instead of just talking.”
So, says Smith, he came up with the idea of a resource center.
“I am so excited,” says Smith with a huge grin. “Everything is falling into place and we have so much to offer.”
Smith is the executive director of the center. The center's outreach worker is Sylvia Williams who, says Smith, has gone door to door throughout Summerville District 1 to sign up folks who are looking for jobs. “She has signed up more than 40 all by herself,” Smith says, noting that there are now 100 in the center's database. This database will be used to help match job seekers with jobs.
The center's job resource counselor is Aletha Featherston who is also the office manager. There will also be a counselor for the elderly to help with such things as social security questions, heating questions and such issues that face the elderly in the community, says Smith.
The jobs services offered will include helping people earn their GED, the expunging of a criminal record, help with filling out job applications, help with using computers and access to job searches for free on the center's computers.
The center will offer a credit counselor, says Smith, noting that the area's less financially secure residents are often taken advantage of by check cashing places and easy loan establishments that can take up to a 500 percent fee.
Katrina Middleton will be the center's financial advisor and help people avoid predatory loans and high check cashing fees. There will be classes offered to help people raise their credit scores and maintain their finances in a healthy manner.
“Our goal is to educate our community to build, maintain and budget in order to create a comfortable and satisfying life style,” says Smith.
“It is important for people to understand that no matter where you are in life, you can have a healthy relationship with money.”
Smith says he has been in conversation with Margaret Rush, business development, M.B. Kahn Construction – which is managing the DD2 construction authorized by the bond referendum – and Kahn, and Rush specifically, is willing to work with the Center.
“She's agreed to come in and help us educate the community,” says Smith. “She has also agreed to have us become a major resource [and source of] skilled and unskilled workers for all the construction projects for the district.
“We will connect them [workers] with businesses that win the DD2 bids, connecting our people with area businesses,” says Smith.
The organization behind the center is called the Robynwyn Palmetto Civic Organization, says Smith. In addition to District 1, the organization is also working in St. George and Dorchester to include folks from those communities.
It plans to have a Grand Opening in October when his son – who has several weddings in the next month – and daughter – who is currently filming with A&E's Shipping Wars – are free to attend. In the meantime, the center is using the “soft opening” approach which will also allow it to smooth out any wrinkles in how things run.
And, there will be a chaplaincy program, says Smith.
“I have noticed that when there is a catastrophe in the community, there is no one to support them. Like when there is a shooting or a rape they need to have someone who can go and help.”
Smith says The Reverend Dr. Rayford Brown will act as the church liaison and coordinate church activities along with Pastor Major Bernard.
And, lastly, the Center has Mariela Meza, a Walterboro Spanish teacher, who will help with translation for those in the Hispanic community who might need help.
Also, said Smith, Rob Royce is a consultant to the project.
According to its website the Center eventually hopes to provide:
•Weekly Support Meetings
• Emergency Food Assistance
• Emergency Utility Assistance
• Job Readiness Assistance
• Interviewing Skills
• Resume Preparation
• Appropriate Business Attire
• Image Consulting
• Educational Services
• After School Program
• Homework Assistance
• Outsourced Referral Services:
• Residential Drug/Alcohol Treatment
• Key Offerings Mental Health Services - Emergency Shelter
• Rental Assistance
“We have applied for our 501 (c) 3,” says Smith, “but we have not received any federal funding or grants.”
“We are a family that feels the need to do something positive. We feel that people who have been given come back to their community to give something back.”
The Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It can be reached at 843-879-9508, via email at email@example.com or via its website at www.communityresourcecenterld.org.