Sonny’s Safari

Sonny Sutton, the recently hired Administrative Data Assistant to the Grants and Programs department, had his first experience with site visits for Open Grants finalists last month. After finishing over 40 visits, he got a good idea of what our grantees do for the community and what the Foundation does for our donors.

Grants and Programs Staff visit every organization that applies and qualifies for one of our competitive grants programs to ensure that the money our donors entrust in us is being given to organizations that are operating efficiently and effectively. These visits build the Staff’s community knowledge bank and also help build connections throughout the community.

Sonny’s Safari began in July and involved four weeks of travel, knowledge gathering, excitement, and fun. Here are his thoughts on a few organizations he visited.

Veterans on Deck is an organization that specializes in therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD and, more recently, women who were sexually assaulted while serving in the military. The program allows veterans go out together on a sail boat and do all of the sailing themselves. The idea is that they will begin to come to terms with their experiences and cope with the stress through sailing, which can be stressful and difficult work. Sonny said, “this program is a great way for veterans to get together and know they aren’t alone in their struggles. The need for these services will most likely explode in the coming years as more soldiers rotate out of combat, so it is essential that these programs continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of our veterans.”

WINGS for Kids fills a vital need in the community by offering after-school programs that help children in low-income households develop social and emotional intelligence. The programs help kids learn to behave well, make good decisions, and build healthy relationships. After sitting with one of the groups of children, Sonny was pleasantly surprised by how much interaction and team building was going on within the group. “All of the kids I met were very friendly and polite and excited to meet new people. It’s definitely a lot different than when I was in elementary school-in the best of ways.”

Our Lady of Mercy Outreach is an organization that helps indigent Johns Island residents with food, clothing, medical and dental needs, education, and many other things. “I was impressed with how well they had done in such a poor, rural area. The food pantry was fully stocked, the clothing area was full of nice clothing, and their medical and dental services are top notch. The facility is absolutely gorgeous and they offer outstanding services from dental to medical to education-basically everything you can think of all under one roof. The Outreach is a great resource for people that don’t have many options.”

Charleston Academy of Music is a place for young kids to get together and play music. These children come from low-income neighborhoods and, without CAM, would have no other way of learning to play the violin, cello, and other orchestral instruments. “These kids are given this opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise have, and they are excelling. The first and second graders that I saw were just amazingly talented.”

Ronald McDonald House is a place where families with a child diagnosed with cancer can live while their child is undergoing treatment. It is a place that feels like home, which is so important during times of great stress. The different families are going through the same things and can draw support and strength from each other. “It just has a real sense of community behind it–all of the families have a child going through the same thing, so they all get along and have a built-in support group.”


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