Sustaining Way is a community based nonprofit that uses education, collaboration, and advocacy to create sustainable, caring and equitable communities for current and future generations. In order to accomplish this mission, Sustaining Way’s demonstration and educational site, Annie’s House, is located in the Nicholtown community at 60 Baxter St, Greenville just off the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Current programs and projects include:
Annie’s House demonstrates the feasibility of living more sustainably. Food and energy costs create a burden for many. Sustaining Way seeks to leverage partners to improve food access, education opportunities, and home energy efficiency, bridging the gap between people care and environmental stewardship. This demonstration site is our base of operations and food grown here is distributed through our programs.
Community Coordinator Program
Community coordinators are in rotating positions and live at Annie’s House and lead programs. During their time at Annie’s House, the coordinators develop relationships with residents and work to understand and meet community needs in a sustainable manner. They do this either through direct support, such as giving away or selling produce at a discounted price or by connecting residents and community organizations to other partners.
Steward Youth Program
The Steward Education Program provides a sustainability-focused leadership curriculum for youth. Coordinators facilitate opportunities for topic experts to teach and mentor participants. The Steward Fellowship Program provides paid development opportunities for high school-age youth at Annie’s House and within the surrounding community. Additionally, our Steward Leader Program is an intensive program that provides hands-on education and mentorship to the youth that has a passion for sustainable community development and desire to drive change in their community.
Community & Backyard Garden Program
Sustaining Way launched a Backyard Garden Program to increase local, fresh food access in Nicholtown. Backyard gardens can address accessibility and affordability concerns related to healthful, seasonal, and culturally significant foods. Through a living classroom of a backyard garden, individuals learn experientially about the environmental benefits of a more localized food system. Individuals also can attend Gardening Workshops that will connect them to other participants. This network of Backyard Garden participants fosters a culture of sustainable gardening and a strong community network of resource sharing
Covid 19 Response – Meals and Masks Distribution
As the economic fallout of COVID-19 took its toll on the Nicholtown Community, Sustaining Way teamed up with the Nicholtown Neighborhood Association and Project Host, a nonprofit that feeds the hungry in Greenville, to provide emergency assistance to residents. Our collective efforts work to ensure that any community member in need can pick up a free nutrient-dense prepared meal, fresh produce, staples and face masks.
Energy Home Visit Program
Sustaining Way launched the Energy Home Visit Program to support residents in Nicholtown in reducing energy bills and energy consumption. This program offers free home energy efficiency evaluations and basic upgrades to homes. Those in the program are also advised and connected to additional resources to further reduce energy usage.
Sustaining Way’s asset mapping project is an engaging, visual display of the community resources and assets serving the Nicholtown community. The map developed in collaboration with the Nicholtown Neighborhood Association will include resources for small businesses, faith, food, housing, crisis assistance, education and employment, health, recreation, financial, social justice, environmental and energy resources.
Additionally, Sustaining Way offers monthly open house educational events and weekly volunteer and service learning options. With over 60 community, business, academia, and other philanthropic, non-profit partners, Sustaining Way is working to improve the lives of residents in under-served communities.
Sustaining Way is the 2021 recipient of the ForeverGreen Award for Environmental Equity and Justice and has received the 2019 “Angel Award” by South Carolina Secretary of State for fiscal stewardship. To read further, visit our website at www.sustainingway.org.
The mission of the Alston Wilkes Society is Rebuilding Lives for a Safer Community. Founded in 1962 by the Reverend Eli Alston Wilkes, AWS began its service by working with currently incarcerated individuals to provide them the tools and resources needed to become productive members of their community. Since that time, our programs have grown to include at-risk youth and adults, Veterans and their families, and those currently or formerly involved with the justice system.
AWS operates a high-management youth home, four Residential Reentry Centers, two transitional facilities for homeless Veterans, eight statewide community service offices, and two offices providing Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF). These programs and facilities provide counseling and assistance to our clients that include housing counseling services, personal financial planning, transportation services, income support services, and legal services.
Our high management youth home works with children who are referred by approved State agencies and are transitioning back to a familial setting. As with all our facilities, individual, group, and family therapy sessions are offered to our residents. The children attend school locally and also have GED, trade, and technical school programs available to them. They receive 24-hour supervision from our staff, who are trained in providing therapeutic care to children. In the year 2020, this program was able to assist 45 children with family reunification.
Alston Wilkes’ residential reentry programs partner with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to assist individuals returning from federal incarceration as they transition back to their community. Our residential reentry centers provide housing, food, and intensive case management to residents as they work to secure employment. Research has shown that the number one cause of recidivism is financial insecurity, and the counseling provided by our facilities help keep South Carolina among the nation’s leaders in reduced reoffender rates.
The Community Service programs operated by AWS provide similar services to individuals who are currently incarcerated or have recently returned from incarceration in State facilities. Community Service offices are located throughout South Carolina, and our Community Service Coordinators also assist the homeless and at-risk populations in their community. By offering these services, we are able to reduce crime in our community by lowering recidivism rates and helping our clients become law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.
Our two Veterans Facilities are located in Columbia and Greenville and are partnered with the VA to help provide housing and care to homeless Veterans in South Carolina. These facilities also provide After Care assistance to ensure that the Veterans who have completed our residential program are able to maintain the security and stability they need to remain self-sustaining and productive members of their community. Over the past year, our transitional facilities have helped 155 homeless veterans get off of the streets in South Carolina.
One of the core beliefs in our agency is that the “golden rule” will always lead you in the right direction. When we work to give members of our community a second chance, we’re offering them the same support and care that we would want offered to us. The success of the Alston Wilkes Society is measured by how we meet our responsibilities to clients, volunteers, investors, partnerr agencies, and each other. To learn more about the Alston Wilkes Society, please visit alstonwilkessociety.org or call 803-799-2490.
The Honorable Jeff Duncan, U.S. House of Representatives, South Carolina District 3
You can watch the remarks from Congressman Duncan in the session video here.
Cheryl Garrison, Launch Greenville – Launch GVL is a partnership program between the Greenville Chamber of Commerce and Greenville County Schools to connect high school junior and seniors to offer paid career opportunities. This is to create a talent pipeline for employers and allows students to clarify their career goals while making money.
How many students are in each cycle? Anywhere between 20-40
Are there kids who are doing virtual work to adjust to the times? Some companies are doing hybrid but most want the student to have a connection to the work space.
Businesses face a lack of available talent with the skills needed to meet ever-evolving employment demands. Unemployment and labor force participation rates are low. Continuing workforce challenges require creative solutions. LaunchGVL is one such solution.
LaunchGVL connects business, industry, education, and youth. LaunchGVL was born in 2017 when a Greenville County Schools (GCS) high school principal approached Greenville Chamber leadership about facilitating connections between area businesses and students. LaunchGVL operationalizes this concept across sixteen Greenville County high schools, four career centers, and adult education.
LaunchGVL is part of Greenville County School’s work-based learning (WBL) continuum. WBL provides work experience integrated with identified core academic coursework, career and technical education curricula, or electives to support strong secondary and postsecondary education opportunities. WBL encompasses internships, co-ops, youth apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships. Students enhance their knowledge, technical skills, and 21st century work skills through participation in supervised, paid, work-based learning experiences that are not possible to replicate inside classroom walls, preparing them to enter the workforce, military, and/or pursue postsecondary education.
LaunchGVL, while young, is gaining brand recognition. Youth economic mobility and post-secondary skill development is improved through paid WBL opportunities. The LaunchGVL website provides easy access for business to engage and for students and parents to view positions. Once registered, companies complete paperwork with Greenville County Schools. Recruitment of students takes place year-round with interviews held several times throughout the year.
According to Forbes Magazine (and Pew Research), today’s young adults (between the ages of 15-21) are the least work-connected generation in decades. They are much less likely to have had a paid summer job or to have been employed in the last year compared to every previous generation for which data exists. Students need to connect earlier with employers to ensure successful engagement in and completion of their high school education. This positions the student for additional success as they launch their educational or career journeys.
The Greenville Chamber’s vision is of a globally competitive Upstate economy where businesses succeed and people prosper. Despite the affluence and economic opportunities in Greenville, too many of our citizens are not enjoying prosperity. This year in Greenville County Schools, 59.8% of students are pupils in poverty. Let that statistic sink in. To break poverty cycles and increase labor force participation rates, businesses, education entities, and citizens need to find new ways to engage and LaunchGVL is one such option.
Economic mobility is a clearly identified issue in Greenville County as presented by Raj Chetty’s Equality of Opportunity Project. This national study found that a child born in Greenville County to the bottom quintile of family income has only a 4.7% chance of reaching the top quintile. For a black child, that chance is less, only a 2.9% chance, and for a black male, it is even less with only a 1.9%. Young people beginning their lives in poverty in Greenville have a much more difficult time in reaching economic parity with the mainstream. The development of post-secondary skills can help mitigate this disparity.
LaunchGVL directly helps students network with business/industry representatives, increasing their social capital. All LaunchGVL experiences are paid. Many high school students must work to meet financial needs. Participants are often able to continue work with their placement companies after high school and, sometimes, during college and beyond. Furthermore, employers are increasingly seeking new hires that have this valuable experience.
For the student, WBL strengthens career awareness, workplace readiness, and personal development. Experiences are structured to give the student extensive practice in applying fundamental technical and practical knowledge as well as developing skills needed to create a career mindset for a lifetime of growth and development. Former LaunchGVL students recently shared the impact the program had in their lives.
“I learned many skills I wouldn’t have anywhere else. Experience is the best teacher.” Chloe Penaflor
“I will never forget the experience and how amazing it was to feel a part of something larger than myself.” Jay Smith
“I help conduct research, do reports and spreadsheets and graphics for the effluent flows for the facility systems. The different responsibilities at ReWa as the Business Continuity Services Intern have helped me learn how to be an adult and having those social skills is something I can definitely take with me into my career as a climate change analyst”. Kennedy Williams
For employers, connecting with students early allow them to train their future workforce today, create a pipeline of talent, to help meet current and future employment needs.
“We have 6 students, 4 in production working with CNC machines and the other 2 are in maintenance. We have been impressed with all the students and highly recommend other companies get involved with the program”. Dan Martin, plant manager at ABB Mechanical Power Transmission
LaunchGVL has grown steadily with 68 companies hiring 193 students since summer 2018. Several students have been hired full-time upon graduation while others have continued employment long-term. We track wages earned by students and are putting systems in place to follow students long-term to determine impact.
The Greenville Chamber Foundation supports students, employers, and the education process by removing barriers to employment. Generous grants have been received from Bank of America, Truist, and United Way. Accelerate (Greenville Chamber’s private sector-fueled economic development initiative) supports LaunchGVL as a key component of its talent and workforce strategy.
This year, two Greenville Chamber programs began a new partnership. LaunchGVL and Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) graduate companies have come together to give Opportunity Youth the chance to connect with minority, women, and veteran owned businesses to create both employment and mentorship opportunities. We are excited about the positive outcomes this new initiative within LaunchGVL is providing.
The goal is to grow both student and employer participation in LaunchGVL. WBL is a heavy lift for all involved, but the impact is well worth the investment. By continuing to connect business and non-profits with students, we have a unique opportunity to create an ecosystem of on the job learning that begins in high school and extends to college and beyond.
We encourage all businesses in the region to consider providing an opportunity now for their future workforce. To learn more about LaunchGVL, go to www.launchgvl.org or contact Dr. Cheryl Garrison at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be a part of growing a greater Greenville through LaunchGVL.
Sara Carter, Program Coordinator from CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center, lead the conversation with LeKesa Whitner of Start:Me Spartanburg and entrepreneur Tamika Thompson. LeKesa hears pitches and stories from many business owners, so she has a great perspective on how to stand out. Tamika is the owner of Beyond this February, a Black women owned independent bookstore that prioritizes Black stories year-round. Tamika has been a finalist in the Start:Me and Leap program.