May 16, 2011

Letter to the Editor: Sisters Making South Carolina Better

In 2011, the three foundations of the Sisters of Charity Health System celebrate their 15th anniversary. In note of this milestone and all the work that came before it, Tom Keith, president of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, penned the following letter to The State, which published it on May 16, 2011.

Sisters making S.C. better

In 1937 a group of Catholic nuns mortgaged their Motherhouse in Ohio and traveled to Columbia to establish a Catholic hospital. What started as a request from then-Charleston Bishop Emmet Walsh to the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine has developed into a thoughtful array of ministries responding to community needs in Columbia and throughout the state.

In 1996 the sisters used funds obtained through the sale of half of the hospital to create the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, to address community challenges at the core of poverty. (The sisters since have bought back this half and wholly own the hospital.)

This year, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina celebrates 15 years in philanthropy: 15 years of strategically using resources to reduce poverty; 15 years of practicing collaboration, compassion, courage, justice and respect to fulfill its mission.

The foundation has provided financial support in all 46 counties, awarding more than 1,400 grants worth more than $42 million — more than half of that in the Midlands — to nonprofit, faith-based, academic and governmental organizations. These funds have been leveraged to account for $21 million in additional resources. Through its Carolina Academy for Nonprofits, the foundation also has provided training and technical assistance to hundreds of nonprofit staff and volunteers at no cost.

And the foundation has helped start several new organizations to meet targeted needs and foster collaboration. It was instrumental in the creation of the S.C. Grantmakers Network and has aided in forming the S.C. Center for Grassroots and Non-Profit Leadership at Clemson University, the S.C. Afterschool Alliance and the Fatherhood Policy Project Office. The S.C. Center for Fathers and Families was created in 2002 as an outgrowth of our Fatherhood Initiative, which works to strengthen relationships between low-income fathers and their families.

With the vision that families in South Carolina have the resources to live out of poverty, the foundation serves as an advocate for the poor. Through community listening sessions, representing the interests of the underserved to elected officials and serving as convener, the foundation is a voice for the poor in our communities.

None of this would be possible without the vision of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine; a group of women who through faith risked their home to begin a new journey here in South Carolina. Their legacy will continue through their ministries and with the lives they have touched.

Thomas C. Keith
Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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