One SC Fund receives $1.5M from Duke Endowment; Sumter, Lee, Clarendon organizations using money to support residents in pandemic

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The One SC Fund: COVID-19 Response will continue to serve South Carolinians affected by the coronavirus pandemic after receiving $1.5 million from the Duke Endowment on March 23. This "second gift" from the private foundation is the single largest gift the One SC Fund has received, bringing their total contributions to $2.75 million.

The funding has been distributed to 93 nonprofits in the state which provide essential services in their respective communities, such as in Sumter, Clarendon and Lee counties.

Many nonprofit organizations in the tri-county have used these funds to support residents in critical need of food assistance, education support, child care, rent and utility assistance and health care. As of Jan. 15, more than 695,000 individuals have been served through the fund.

From April 2020 to Jan. 15, the tri-county utilized funding from the foundation, with Sumter County receiving $88,941, Clarendon County receiving $32,940 and Lee County receiving $51,011.

The United Way of Sumter, Clarendon and Lee Counties was one of the organizations which received $75,000 last May from the One SC Fund.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck last spring, United Way board members transitioned funding toward basic needs of those severely affected by the pandemic in the community.

The organization partnered with several agencies in the area to provide food and shelter assistance but said a major issue in the community is residents who have fallen behind on rent and utility payments. Residents are struggling to pay their rent or utility bills, with some owing an average of $1,000, according to Mindy Popovich, president of United Way of Sumter, Clarendon and Lee Counties, who has spoken to multiple other agencies.

"Utility and rent assistance have become the biggest issue in our community," Popovich said.

United Way also received an influx of calls during the pandemic from residents who dialed "211," a confidential referral and information helpline that helps those in the communities get essential services and assistance. In January 2021, 58% of calls to United Way were for electrical assistance, she said.

CareFirst Carolina, an independent supporting foundation of CareSouth Carolina which serves Lee County, was another organization which received $75,000 from One SC last May. Mark Sobiski, foundation director of CareFirst, was pleased to use those funds received from the foundation to provide a variety of services in the community. He said their biggest challenge is finding the right places to assist in Lee County.

The organization has used last year's funding for services such as food distribution, transportation, emergency medication and personal protection equipment and said they have targeted more of their funds toward the at-risk population.

"Our mission is to try to improve the lives of the people in the communities we serve," Sobiski said.

Almost a year later, these nonprofits and more have continued efforts in raising money and can apply for the first round of 2021 grants needed to provide for those still being impacted by the pandemic. A majority of the One SC Fund: COVID Response grants will be made to minority and people of color organizations embedded in communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic, according to a press release.

"We need any kind of financial assistance people are willing to give at this point. We have shifted all of our focus to basic needs, but we need more," Popovich said.

Grant applications are currently open for Priority 1 counties through March 31. For more information, visit www.YourFoundation.org/OneSCGrants.