Beyond “helping people get through the day” with food and clothing since 1989, Helping Hands of Georgetown County has an expanding dental clinic and is a partner in a collaborative employment program that placed 72 people in jobs in 2016.
Executive director John Bush describes the primary mission of Helping Hands as being two-fold, compassionate care with food, clothing, financial help with utility bills and dental care, plus the “time to change” aspect of helping people be employed in sustainable wage work.
In Georgetown Jobs Connection, financially supported by the Black River United Way, Helping Hands of Georgetown, Inc., partners with A Father’s Place, Palmetto Goodwill and recently Friendship Place. BRUW awarded the partnership a renewable grant of $50,000.
“We are working hard” to place 85 people in jobs in 2017, Bush says, and he is optimistic the goal can be met. Helping Hands also has a life skills program for 15 women, helping them learn personal growth skills that will sustain stability and independence for themselves and their families. A Father’s Place has a similar program for men.
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Helping Hands was started by 17 churches, recognizing that they could better meet the needs of Georgetown County residents by working together. The organization is much like similar nonprofits in Horry County, including CAP (Churches Assisting People) in Conway, Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach and North Strand Helping Hand. The organizations are not connected, however, other than the names.
In the Helping Hands dental clinic, over 20 dentists volunteer on a rotating basis, Bush said. “In the last nine months, we’ve added restorative care.” The latter are provided by retired dentists. In 2016, a total of 382 uninsured patients were served. They received 288 extractions, 77 cleanings and 17 restorative procedures such as fillings.
“We have a vibrant food pantry,” Bush says. “It’s something to see.” Nourishing food was provided to over 2,000 households in 2016, including 400 Thanksgiving meals. Food is provided for three days; seniors and disabled persons may come to the pantry once a month, others four times a year.
Helping Hands has a total annual operating budget of $500,000. On the first Palmetto Giving Day earlier this month, Helping Hands led more than 30 Georgetown County nonprofits, collecting $81,000. Four entities provided incentives totaling $32,500. Fundraising, such as Palmetto Giving Day, provides 45 percent of Helping Hands income, individuals 18 percent and foundations 22 percent.
Bush joined Helping Hands two and a half years ago, coming to Georgetown from Raleigh, N.C., where he worked for faith-based charities, including Step Up Ministry, which focused on employment and improving life skills. He was born in Kobe, Japan, where his physician father was a medical missionary, and moved to the United States as a high school student.