BLUFFTON SELF HELP AND THE LITERACY CENTER MERGE
“Samantha” was a single mom of three children, working two jobs, struggling to make ends meet. She would visit Bluffton Self Help to utilize the food pantry to provide fresh, healthy food options for her family.
But when her car broke down and she needed help seeking rental assistance, she ended up talking with Bluffton Self Help’s Education and Resource Center manager, Barbara Bowers. Her life changed with financial planning and one impactful conversation that went some-thing like this:
“What do you want to do professionally?” asked Bowers.
“To be a nurse, but I can’t do it,” said Samantha, which is a pseudonym.
“Not only can you do it, but we will be with you along the way,” Bowers said.
Executive Director of Bluffton Self Help, Kimberly Hall, said Self Help “quickly matched Sam with a mentor for guidance, encouragement and support and supported her enrollment in Technical College of the Lowcountry.”
“If it weren’t for Barbara, I couldn’t do this. She was the first person who told me I could. I cried. I can do it,” said Sam.
Thanks to a recent merger between nonprofits Bluffton Self Help and The Literacy Center, more people will receive the basic education and training programs to meet the growing needs of the economically at-risk in Beaufort and Jasper counties.
The merger will promote educational programming, adult literacy services, GED preparation workforce training, and career readiness.
In a news release, Literacy Center Chairman Don Brashears said, “We both have deep roots in our communities and a strong desire to do whatever needs to be done to lift neighbors out of at-risk situations and empower them to improve their lives.”
In an interview Hall said, “We have over 30 years of deep history in the heart of Bluffton and partnering with The Literacy Center we now have a combined 80 years. It is an alignment of core values and passion for the community.”
With the merger, the organizations will have four locations in Beaufort and Jasper counties—two in Bluffton, one each in Hilton Head and Hardeeville.
Bluffton Self Help said six in 10 households in Beaufort County and three out of four in Jasper County are not earning a living wage and are “just one mishap away from a financial crisis.”
“It’s important to help our local community to reach their true potential, to have quality of life and to earn that livable wage,” Hall said.
Hall joined Bluffton Self Help four years ago, but her own passion for this type of work began during her childhood.
“I lost my parents when I was young,” Hall said. “But organizations were there for me. I learned it is important to be there for people not just in crisis but when life happens. This job, it’s personal.”
Brad Steele, executive director of The Literacy Center, said in an interview that the merger will bring two “legacy organizations” together.
Bluffton Self Help was founded in 1987. The Literacy Center was founded in 1973.
“I saw that our DNA and cultures were so much alike,” Steele said. “We could not have picked a better partner.”
Steele said the added locations will help The Literacy Center reach more people. He expects TLC to have more than 400 students this semester and by 2022 he hopes to have 500 to 700 students in the program. He said another benefit is having the addition of about 20 more tutors through Bluffton Self Help.
The Literacy Center also plans to add a Certified Nurse Assistance program next year. Steele noted about 65 percent of those who attend TLC are women ages 25 to 44.
Said Hall: “We are excited to have the courage to make it happen, and it has been a seamless transition because one thing we both have in the forefront is the clients and community.”