Kingstree, SC, is home to roughly 3,097 people, and 37.11% of them live in poverty. Many properties in the community are in desperate need of repair, but residents simply don’t have the funds to invest in home-improvements. One resident commented, “I could barely walk on my porch.”
Wanting to improve the standard of living and provide dignity for their neighbors, the Felician Center applied for and was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Sacred Heart Charitable Fund of the Sisters of St. Francis in Denver, CO, which will be distributed in three phases. In addition, to commemorate the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Felician Center in August 1992, the board has approved an additional $30,000 to further the project.
Work on the properties is intended to do more than beautify the neighborhood. Many of the homes along this 1.5 mile stretch are in need of repairs in order to make them safe for the residents. The funds will be used to repair and replace stairs, railings, doors, mailboxes and ramps to properties in need. In addition, local contractors are hired to do the work, fulfilling the sisters’ commitment to invest the money into the local economy.
The local government, including the mayor, town manager and county supervisor, have supported the project by waiving all building permits and providing additional trash pickups as needed. They will also provide assistance with tree trimming in the spring.
Volunteers, including those from the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church and Kingstree Presbyterian Church, helped with painting, pressure washing and some yard work. Dr. Tiffany Wright, county supervisor, also pitched in during phase one with a team of 15 Williamsburg County government employees.
In order to qualify for the home improvements, residents must attend quarterly meetings and conduct an outdoor cleanup of their property. They must pass an exterior site inspection before they can submit a waiver and application to see if they qualify for funding. Felician Center board members review applications, assist with meetings and conduct home visits.
Each household that attends the quarterly meetings receives a takeaway to help improve their home. For phase one, they went home with rakes, work gloves, fire extinguishers and weather stripping kits to help prepare their homes for colder weather. After phase two, residents were given autumn wreaths to decorate their new doors.
Seventeen properties received improvements in phase one and 19 houses received new doors in phase two. One neighbor expressed his gratitude, saying, “Thank you for replacing all those rotten boards and for repairing the loose wood on the guard rails … this project was God sent.”