From disaster recovery efforts following October 2015 flooding, Black River United Way started an affordable housing initiative with a goal of 2,300 housing units by 2017.
“We’re in the data collection stage,” BRUW director Lucy Woodhouse said, with 18 organizations meeting quarterly. Georgetown and Williamsburg counties “are not in a good spot” in terms of meeting low-income housing needs. “The whole point, from my perspective, is that we need to do something differently.”
Affordable housing was added to the BRUW disaster recovery initiative after the 2015 flood and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 highlighted the number of substandard housing units.
In situations of pre-existing conditions, for example, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) walks away from disaster recovery assistance. Georgetown and Williamsburg counties received a much lower percentage of FEMA grants for repair and rebuilding because of pre-existing conditions.
The S.C. Disaster Recovery Office has taken a different view in allocating $126 million in federal disaster recovery money.
“It’s been a great thing for our state,” Woodhouse said.
The DRO is repairing or rebuilding 2,000 S.C. houses, about 500 in Williamsburg County and 200 in Georgetown County.
The Winyah Bay Long Term Recovery Group has an Unmet Needs Committee that has reviewed 51 cases and pledged $142,481.70. The Winyah Bay group includes BRUW, Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity Georgetown County, and Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery. Georgetown County has 132 open cases related to the 2015 flood, with 328 closed; Williamsburg has 190 open cases, 572 closed.
The ultimate goal of the affordable housing part of the initiative is to “create 2,300 safe, secure and sanitary housing units for individuals currently living in substandard housing or in need of affordable housing by 2027.”
Another major initiative of BRUW is 3rd grade reading, “to ensure 100 percent of 3rd graders will be reading at grade level” after completion of 3rd grade. In kindergarten through second grade, “children are in the classroom learning to read. After that, they are reading to learn,” according to a 2014-2017 Program Impact Report.
Through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Georgetown County children have received 105,039 books; 2,561 youngsters through age 5 have completed the program, and 1,323 are currently enrolled in DPIL. In the past school year, 153 students were in the Growing Great Readers Americorps Program. Their achievements are impressive – 144 students improved their reading levels and 81 improved to on or above reading grade levels.
“That’s huge,” Woodhouse said.
Growing Great Readers Americorps Program is in five elementary schools again this school year, and additionally in day care centers. Building on experiences last year, the Americorps tutors may be able to “reach many more children.” Classroom teachers have a couple of minutes a day with individual kids struggling to read. Provide tutors for those kids “and look what happens.”
BRUW again this year, on Nov. 9, will partner with United Way of Horry County in United to Read. For an hour, 300 volunteers will read to 6,000 children in kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms in the three counties. United to Read has the potential of attracting volunteers for helping children with reading, similar to the Growing Great Readers Americorps Program.
BRUW has started its annual fundraising, with delivery of material for company drives and two direct mail campaigns. BRUW skipped a formal kickoff after employers expressed that option. BRUW has a budget of about $700,000, including grants and the community drive.
“The goal to us is different,” Woodhouse said. She hopes to raise $350,000 to $400,000 through payroll deduction and community contributions.
“At the end of the day, this campaign belongs to the community. We can raise only what the community is willing to give,” Woodhouse said. If more can be raised, new programs can be funded. “We’ve got lots to do.”
Black River United Way
Affordable housing, disaster recovery, fundraising information contact Lucy Woodhouse, phone 843-546-6317, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Reading initiative, United to Read contact Yolanda McCray, phone 843-833-8310, email email@example.com
Housing Action Council members include the BRUW board, Georgetown Sheriff’s Re-Entry Program, Waccamaw EOC, Coastal Community Foundation, Tri-County Housing, Southern Baptist Men, Bethel AME, Grand Strand Housing and CDC, Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation, city of Georgetown, S.C. Community Loan Fund, United Methodist Church, Habitat for Humanity, Waccamaw Regional COG, Greater Bibleway Church Georgetown, Summers Roofing, Georgetown Housing Authority, S.C. Community Economic Development council.