By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
Charleston Halos is the mixed bag of Lowcountry charities. Since their founding in 1997 by Dr. Eve Spratt, their operations have been primarily funded by grants from The Sisters of Charity Foundation of SC, The Duke Endowment, and a smidgen of individual donations. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) child psychiatrist found a hole in access to public assistance for young victims of abuse/neglect in the tri-county area she wanted to patch.
The term ‘Kinship Care’ wasn’t coined by Charleston Halos (Halos) according to Kim Clifton, Executive Director, but it is the condition they work to improve. Though it is not readily recognized, the intuitive expression describes families circling the wagons to care for their own in hard times. The effort keeps kids out of foster care at a rate of 25-1 with Halos’ help, with 57,000 SC kids currently living with ‘kin’, meaning relatives or close family friends.
All too often, this means they’re living with grandparents or other family members already living on social security (SS) or otherwise living week-to-week. These fractured families often bypass the SC Department of Social Services with its built-in access to social services. Halos’ fills the gap with its unique combination of dedicated staff, and unique technology.
Benefit Bank Counseling is one several tools in Halos’ arsenal, says Clifton. The service includes the Benefit Bank Software System (BBSS), which enables Halos’ counselors to sift through benefits families have earned. Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANS) sometimes provides as much as $184/month/household, for example. The software can also test eligibility for veteran’s benefits people didn’t know they had earned, increases in Supplemental Security Income, and access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“Our staff and volunteers will also provide personal counseling for 6 – 18 months depending on how extensive or complex the situation is,” says Clifton, who is no stranger to good works.
The Savannah native is a graduate of the College of Charleston. She also has a Master of Social Work from Boston University with a spotlight on program planning and development, community organizing, and nonprofit administration. Clifton has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member on Whidbey Island, Washington and was a fundraising specialist in Guatemala, among other posts.
Fundraising is integral to any non-profit, and Clifton is good at it. Charleston Halos received a new grant in 2017 from the Victims of Crime Act to keep them going, and individual donations are always welcome. However, Halos is willing to work for everything, and manage to have fun in the process. The 7th annual Charleston Halos Oyster roast is one way you can help. It is scheduled for Oct. 14 from 4–7 p.m. at Bridgeside Blvd. in Mount Pleasant, rain or shine. Tickets are $45 in advance/$55 at the door. You can register by visitingeventbrite.com/e/7thannual-halos-oyster-roasttickets-48407920393.
December will see Halos annual Holiday Drive, which their website says is already in full swing. Halos reports 2,500 of their children have sponsors, but there is a general call for holiday gifts for these children. You can also sponsor a child entering the Kinship Care program toward the end of the year, which would mean a lot to someone going through so much change during the holidays.
To find out more, send an email to NyRe Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Early next year, Halos will host an appearance by The Duke Pitchforks scheduled tentatively for February 3 from 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the Circular Congregational Church,150 Meeting St. The Pitchforks are an award winning a capella group specializing in both contemporary hits and old favorites. The “Forks” will be joined by The Plantation Singers, another a capella/ percussion group with roots in the Lowcountry, specializing in gospel music.
Charleston Halos has helped 50,000 Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester county kids since 1997. For more information, visit CharlestonHalos.org.