Creating Welcoming Communities in the Upstate

    Creating Welcoming Communities in the Upstate

    At World Relief Upstate SC, we believe in welcoming and loving refugees and immigrants in the Upstate as our own and are eager to show hospitality to strangers from all backgrounds and countries.  Part of a nationwide network of resettlement offices, we opened our doors in Greenville in 2015.  Since that time, and in partnership with churches and other organizations, we have welcomed over 500 refugees to the Upstate.  We have seen an increasingly diverse group of refugees coming through our office, with seven different countries represented in our resettlement numbers over the last three months alone.  Most recently, we have had the opportunity to welcome a small number of Afghan families to the Upstate for the first time.  While the Afghan crisis is arguably the most urgent, it highlights a broader refugee crisis in which over 27 million individuals have been forced from their homes.  This is the highest number of displaced people since the end of World War II.

    These displaced people are refugees who had to flee their home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution for their faith, ethnicity, or other element of their identity.  These are individuals who spend years waiting in transitional countries, such as refugee camps or neighboring cities, while the UNHCR and US Government conduct extensive vetting, including biometric checks, interviews, and health screenings.  We recently welcomed four families from the Democratic Republic of Congo who had spent an average of 16 years in refugee camps waiting for the chance to start a new life.  Many of the children have only ever known life in a refugee camp.  After this waiting process, they are finally invited by the US Government to start a new life in the Upstate, and that is when we step in.  Even before welcoming these families at the airport, we set to work in three primary areas: resettlement, employment, and education.


    Over the past three months alone, our resettlement team has provided direct services to nearly 70 refugees.  Through their work, we are able to help families and individuals secure affordable housing, apply for government benefits, obtain initial food and furnishings, and access appropriate healthcare. Through this support, our new neighbors are able to find their bearings and begin planning for a self-sufficient future.


    We have also built up a network of local business partners, connecting refugees with job opportunities that align with their background.  Not only does this allow for refugees to work and provide for their families, it is also helping meet a significant staff shortage in multiple sectors.  For example, we recently established a partnership with SC Works and the Upstate Workforce Board to enroll our clients in a Russian-speaking Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program. We are proud of four participants so far who have earned their CDL through this collaboration and are able to start a new career.


    With over 60% of our recent arrivals being under the age of 18, we have been reminded of how important successful integration into the local school system is for the families we serve.  Through our School Impact Program, over 30 refugee children have been connected with local schools in the Upstate since the beginning of the school year. By working directly with parents, students, and teachers, we are able to ensure each child receives the support they need to thrive academically and socially in their new schools.

    We do not do this work alone, however.  This is a community effort, and we have been so encouraged by the outpouring of support from businesses, churches, schools, and individuals over the past year.  This was most recently highlighted when over 50 individuals and 10 organizations contributed to our Welcome Home Campaign in support of Afghans, Sudanese, Congolese, Ukrainians, and other nationalities who are making a new home in the Upstate.  Together, we can create a community of welcome.

    Brandon Baughn

    World Relief Upstate SC

    Office Director

    TATT Announces Recipients for The 2021 Elevate Upstate Grants at their Annual Celebrating Successes Event

    TATT Announces Recipients for The 2021 Elevate Upstate Grants at their Annual Celebrating Successes Event

    Greenville, SC [November 19, 2021] – Ten at the Top (TATT) hosted their 11th Annual Celebrating Successes event, presented by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, yesterday November 17th at Greenville Convention Center. At this event, five finalists for the 2021 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants presented their projects on enhancing community vibrancy across the Upstate.

    Hughes Investments contributes at least $10,000 per year to this program, with two recipients each year receiving $5,000 to support a new vibrancy initiative in the Upstate. The program began in 2013 in conjunction with a series of Community Vibrancy Workshops hosted by Ten at the Top. Since the inception of the grants program, Hughes Investments has contributed nearly $100,000 to community vibrancy initiatives across the Upstate.

    There was a total of five finalists selected to present amongst the 19 applications that were submitted for the two grants available this year. At the event, each of the finalists presented a brief overview of their initiative before the 2021 recipients were selected by the committee and announced.

    The two recipients of the 2021 Elevate Upstate Grants were the City of Belton and the Italian American Club of Greater Greenville.

    The City of Belton was selected for their Belton’s Downtown Sounds Project, which will bring music and food to the Downtown Belton four times during the summer of 2022. Each of the four events will include local bands and food trucks.

    The Italian American Club will be hosting their first-ever Italian-American Festival on Main Street in Fountain Inn. The one-day festival will include food & drink vendors, craft vendors, live music, dancing, and carnival rides. The area will be decorated with appropriate Italian décor to set the tone and atmosphere.

    In addition to providing the two $5,000 grants, Hughes pledged to contribute $1,000 to each of the other three finalists if they move forward with their project. The other finalists were the United Way of Anderson, Conestee Nature Preserve and the Honea Path Planning Committee.

    “Creating vibrancy in Upstate communities is such an important part of making this region a leading place to live and raise a family,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top. “The Elevate Upstate Grants is a great way to grow vibrancy in the region. All five finalists presented exciting projects and it was a tough choice for the selection committee. I am excited for the projects to be implemented in 2022.”

    Representative Rita Allison, the recipient of the Burdette Leadership Award, along with Neal Workman and Clemson University, recipients of the Welling Award for Regional Collaboration, were also recognized as a part of this event.

    About Ten at the Top

    Comprised of public, private and civic leaders from across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to connect and encourage regional collaboration through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to foster collaboration and strategic planning to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow. For more information, visit


    TATT Honors Three Upstate Award Winners at their Annual Event

    TATT Honors Three Upstate Award Winners at their Annual Event

    Greenville, SC [November 18, 2021] – Ten at the Top (TATT) hosted their 11th Annual Celebrating Successes event yesterday, November 17th, at the Greenville Convention Center. During this event, Representative Rita Allison, Neal Workman, and Clemson University were honored for their contributions to enhancing the Upstate region. Allison received the Burdette Leadership Award while both Clemson University and Workman were recognized with the Welling Award for Regional Collaboration. 

    Celebrating Successes is an annual event presented by BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina. Ten at the Top annually hosts public forums, workshops, and other events across the Upstate on issues of regional significance with the overarching goal of building consensus, encouraging regional thinking, and enabling leaders to set aside parochial priorities in order to address critical challenges and visualize opportunities for the future. 

    This marks the sixth year of the Burdette Leadership Award, which is given in recognition of Carol Burdette, the first female chair of Ten at the Top. This award honors women who have both served and led across the Upstate. Previous recipients of the Burdette Award are Dr. Fay Sprouse, Beth Padgett, Minor Shaw, Dr. Becky Campbell, and SC Representative Chandra Dillard. Allison is currently in her second stint as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives having originally served as the representative for House District 36 from 1993 to 2002. She was reelected to the seat in 2008 and is currently the chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee. 

    The Welling Award for Regional Collaboration, named after Ten at the Top founding chairman Irv Welling, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated longstanding involvement in encouraging collaboration across jurisdictional and stakeholder boundaries. Previous recipients of the Welling Award include Erwin Maddrey, Phil Hughes, GSP International Airport, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Michelin North America, Dean Hybl, Minor Shaw, Carol Burdette, Rick Danner, Terence Roberts, and Bobby Hitt. 

    Workman, the founder of Trehel Corporation, was recognized for his decades long service to collaborative organizations across the Upstate. He has been a member and officer for multiple Chambers of Commerce in the region and was involved in starting the Oconee Economic Alliance. Workman is also a founding board member of Ten at the Top and served as the second chairman of the organization in 2012-2013. 

    Founded in 1889 as a public land-grant university in South Carolina, Clemson University has long been a catalyst for collaborative partnerships that enhance economic vitality and quality of life across the Upstate region and state of South Carolina. In recent years, efforts including the creation of CU-ICAR and partnerships with the Greenwood Genetics Center have increased the role of Clemson as a leader around key Upstate issues. In addition, the graduate program for City & Regional Program was instrumental in providing Ten at the Top with data and guidance when developing the Our Upstate Vision created during the first two years of the organization and still used today as part of TATT’s strategic plan. 

    “Last year’s event was virtual, with a different spin on it as we honored unsung heroes, so we are incredibly grateful to honor these deserving award recipients in-person. These leaders are very important to our Upstate community, and it is a privilege to recognize their hard-work, leadership, and commitment to our region at our annual event,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top. 

    About Ten at the Top 

    Comprised of public, private and civic leaders from across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to connect and encourage regional collaboration through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to foster collaboration and strategic planning to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow. For more information, visit 

    Circles Greenville County

    Circles Greenville County

    Circles Greenville County empowers families to exit poverty by providing them with tools, community resources, and relationships that enhance their lives and give them the support needed in order to thrive. Circles Greenville County is a chapter of Circles USA and was brought into the Greenville community through a partnership between SHARE Community Actions and Buncombe Street United Methodist Church in 2015.  SHARE is a nonprofit Community Action Agency serving low-income households in Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee Counties for more than 50 years.

    Many believe poverty is just a lack of wealth, but at Circles, we know poverty is also isolation — a lack of meaningful relationships and support. Circles is based on research which shows low-income families must have strong social capital and human connections across class lines in their communities in order to exit poverty.  We offer a community that provides individuals and families the emotional support, accountability, mentorships, and resources needed to help them utilize their strengths and overcome barriers in order to reach their goals.

    Circles is unique in that it is not a service or benefit program.  It is a community-wide solution to help support people out of poverty and begin the end of the cycle of poverty in the Upstate.

    Become an Ally and join hands with us to end the Cycle of Poverty!

    An Ally is a volunteer from the community that supports a Circles Participant, which we call a Circle Leader.  As an Ally, your job is to listen, ask questions, make suggestions and provide encouragement.  You’ll help Circle Leaders use their unique gifts and skills to reach their goals, and Circle Leaders will help you have a better understanding of poverty in your community.

    Allies participate in training that exposes them to the realities of poverty and systems and gives them skills to navigate relationships and cultural differences.  After training, Allies are matched up with a Circle Leader and become mentors to this individual or family. These relationships are supported by a staff member called the Circles Coach, and a community of volunteers, resource teams, which surround the Leader and their Allies with resources and aid.

    Allies use their life skills and knowledge to help Circle leaders navigate through situations and barriers they may have never previously encountered, but the ally has experienced. Common situations that allies help with are budgeting, negotiating a raise at work, interviewing for a job, learning how to improve credit, or buying a home.

    Other volunteer opportunities with Circles are also available!

    Ally Testimonials:

    R.W.- “You get to do life with someone and watch them work harder than they ever have, and accomplish more than they ever thought. You get to see God transform these people’s lives over the course of this time. It is a privilege to be there, and to witness that, and to watch them grow into what they hope to become.”

    B.M.- “Circles has exposed me to economic and social circumstances which I knew existed, however, I now realize I did not really understand all the personal implications of generational poverty until I got in the Circles Program.  Money alone will not break the cycle, it takes a community.”

    G.K.- “Prior to Circles, I knew poverty from an intellectual perspective. Certainly, I cared; I gave and I prayed for those in need.  Circles connected me to poverty emotionally. Now, I’ve made a life-long friend with my Circle Leader… a friendship that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

    Would you like to get involved?  We need Allies in Greenville and Anderson Counties.

    Circles Greenville is hosting virtual informational sessions for the community and we would like to invite you to participate.  In these sessions, you will learn about Circles and how our program works, get to hear from volunteers and participants, ask questions.

    To register choose a date and click the link below…

    *November 18th 6:30pm-7:30pm

    *November 30th 12:30pm-1:30pm

    *December 8th 6:00pm-7:00pm

    *December 10th 1:00pm-2:00pm

    Moving past one family at a time…

    A solution to poverty exists.  Circles Greenville believes the ultimate responsibility for poverty or prosperity in our community rests not only in the hands of individuals but within all sectors of our community.  By engaging all segments of our community, people learn to see each other differently and to think in new ways about poverty and how to eradicate it.  Our model focuses both on what individuals can do to change their situations and on what society can do to remove the barriers that stand in their way.

    The South Carolina Children’s Theatre

    The South Carolina Children’s Theatre

    The South Carolina Children’s Theatre

    By Margaret Butler

    Take a stroll in downtown Greenville and you will see a vibrant array of new restaurants, businesses, and bustling construction sites. It’s clear that Greenville is growing and South Carolina Children’s Theatre is at the forefront of this growth. Led by the efforts of longtime Executive Director, Debbie Bell and Artistic Director, Matt Giles, SCCT’s focus on providing high-quality, multi-generational, and inclusive theatre makes it a company to watch.

    SCCT has been impacting the lives of children since 1987. But most recently, the Theatre’s new multi-purpose venue, located at 153 Augusta Street, is making a huge mark on our community. With full-scale productions, professional theatre education and outreach, and thriving programs for schools, SCCT should be on your radar if it isn’t already.

    South Carolina Children’s Theatre has an extensive selection of upcoming offerings, appropriate for all ages and interests. Now is the perfect time to get involved at SCCT.

    2nd Stage Performance: Holiday Shenanigans with Jef!

    Holiday Shenanigans with Jef! rings in the festive season with eye-catching spectacles and endless giggles. With impressive miming, juggling, clowning, and tricks, Jef’s show will put kids of all ages into the holiday spirit. Be ready for lots of audience participation and festive sing-a-longs!

    Acclaimed variety artist, Jef Lambdin has performed at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC; Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, SC; the Very Special Arts Festival in Pembroke, NC; The Ocrafolk Festival on Ocracoke Island, NC; and The Children’s Festival in Hampton, VA. Jef has been praised for his ability to “zero in on the child who needs a lift,” his “boundless talent” and his “creativity with his routines.” Education Director, Betsy Bisson, says “We are thrilled to welcome Jef to SCCT because his physical comedy is largely accessible to everyone, regardless of age or experience – it’s proof that you don’t have to grow up to be an adult.”

    Holiday Shenanigans with Jef! has two public performances on December 1st and 2nd at 4:30 PM at SCCT’s Younts 2nd Stage, located at 153 Augusta Street. 2nd Stage Performances are an excellent way for young audiences to dip their toes into live theatre. Performed in a smaller, more intimate venue, children and families can enjoy high-quality performances at a lower price point of only $12 per ticket.

    This lively and engaging introduction to performing, perfect for grades K3 and up, should not be missed!

    Educational Offerings

    Beyond productions, SCCT has a robust theatre education program. SCCT is currently enrolling for their Winter Mini-mester, a short 6-week session of specialty classes, beginning on January 9th. Traysie Amick, Principal Teaching Artist at SCCT sees the immense value of Theatre arts training for children. “It helps develop confidence and group-problem solving skills and provides a new context for students to explore their artistic side outside of family and school settings. Our Mini-mester is a great way to get a taste of the creative ways we approach learning without a major time commitment.”

    SCCT is also the forerunner of Technical Education classes in the Upstate. Technical Theatre classes are led by industry professionals who have taught and worked everywhere from Flat Rock Playhouse to Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. “Our new facility provides an opportunity for students to get involved behind the scenes. Not all students like to be in front of the spotlight, but may find a creative outlet with our Technical Theatre offerings” says Betsy Bisson, SCCT’s Education Director.

    To learn more and register for Winter Mini-mester classes, as well as Winter Break Workshops, visit their website.


    Of all upcoming SCCT programming, perhaps most anticipated is the Tony Award-winning Musical, Annie. Set to take place on SCCT’s stage from Nov. 26th-Dec. 19th, this classic Depression-era story of a young, spunky, and optimistic orphan has stolen the hearts of audiences across America since its Broadway debut in 1977.

    Producing Annie is “deeply special” for SCCT, who had to postpone opening their new facility due to COVID. Artistic Director Matt Giles says, “Annie is the story of finding home and finding where you belong.” And what better story to celebrate SCCT’s own homecoming?

    Annie, co-directed by Matt Giles and Betsy Bisson, showcases the skills of nationally acclaimed radio talk-show host, Mike Gallagher (Daddy Warbucks), SCCT alum and previous Annie in the company’s 2008 production, Kenzie Wynne (Grace Farrell), and current SCCT talent, Ayden Woo (Annie.) The cast of 29 plus one dog, will knock your socks off and get you humming along to the memorable tunes of “Maybe,” “Hard-Knock Life,” “Tomorrow,” “N.Y.C.” and many more.

    Tickets for Annie are $22 and the show runs for 13 performances, leading up to Christmas. Make sure to reserve your seats soon, as tickets are selling fast!

    It Doesn’t Stop There!

    SCCT is abuzz with activity and continues on after the new year with productions of Robin Hood, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in The Hat, and The Sound of Music, plus a plethora of exciting classes, workshops, and 2nd Stage Performances. There is always something going on at SCCT so make sure you tune into their website and social media outlets for updates or subscribe to their eblasts.

    South Carolina Children’s Theatre 153 Augusta Street


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