Whose Greenville is This Anyway?

How would you answer “Whose Greenville is this anyway?”  What role do we have in responding to the challenges persons face in acquiring consistently secure, affordable, sufficient housing?

The vision of a community working together to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive points to an answer of “Who counts?”  One meaningful answer is that everyone counts as we seek to assist them on their transformative journey to self-sufficiency.  The Greenville Housing Authority had 9,411 families waiting for housing with 75% of those earning an extremely low income in November.  Greenville County Schools identified over 600+ students who were homeless in 2015.  What does this say about who counts as citizens of Greenville County?

Greenville has a housing crisis with a deficit of 2500 affordable rental units.  Rents have been consistently rising for the past 15 years in relation to incomes, especially for those earning $20,000 or less a year.  Another serious problem is how and where affordable housing is placed which translates into the supply of units that remains is geographically concentrated in the weakest markets and typically not near jobs.

Just as Greenville succeeded in transforming downtown, parks, greenways and infrastructure we now have the opportunity to mobilize and create a full and healthy housing ladder as a priority.  United Ministries’ programs which are focused on adult education and employment, crisis assistance and homeless services can lead the way for sustainable progress for the lives of those we serve but also for our greater community.  Affordability challenges have begun to extend well above the bottom of the income ladder.  It now reaches the middle of the incomes ladder, including teachers and service-sector jobs.  We must continue forms of education that challenge the way persons think about economic issues related to housing such as self-sufficient wages, parenting and child care, transportation, and access to healthcare.  The economic prosperity of Greenville and focus on reinvestment in quality of life has tilted us away from equity which if left unaddressed means that those who are most vulnerable will continue to be jeopardized even further.

What can you do to offering healing and help?  You can advocate for a thoughtful public policy response by attending the December 12 meeting of City Council at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall on the 10th floor.  You can also participate in ongoing conversations about the causes of homelessness and inadequate housing in Greenville.  These are the next big questions that need to be addressed honestly and openly when we discuss racial and class segregation.  The health and vibrancy of Greenville rests on the strength of people like you answering the questions “Who counts? And whose Greenville is this anyway?”

Susan McLarty is Mission Outreach Coordinator for Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chair of the United Ministries’ Congregational Relations Committee, and Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Greenville Homeless Alliance.

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United Ministries Announces New Identity


United Ministries, which recently joined forces with the Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (GAIHN), has announced the new identity for the merged organization. One of the area’s leading nonprofits, United Ministries will retain its name but has adopted a new logo and overall brand identity for the agency. The new identity reflects its efforts to bring the community and resources together to transform the lives of those in Greenville who are striving to achieve financial stability and self-sufficiency.

“Our new brand aligns with our mission to serve and empower those on the transformative journey to self sufficiency,” said United Ministries’ Executive Director Tony McDade. “The icon represents our three focus areas of Education and Employment, Crisis Assistance and Homeless Services. We provide compassionate care for those who are in crisis now but go further by opening up opportunities for our clients to thrive in the future. The integrated and relationship-oriented nature of these services and our role as a catalyst to help people move forward are vividly depicted in our new brand.”

The new identity was revealed at an event held just a short walk from United Ministries at Zen in Downtown Greenville on September 22nd.  At the event a United Ministries’ program participant, Jameice Robison, shared the compelling story of how her life and that of her four little girls has been transformed through the work of the organization. Jameice and her family benefited from temporary housing provided though GAIHN as well as United Ministries’ assistance with pursuing further education and obtaining stable employment. She is now on a path to become a registered nurse, which will allow her to adequately provide for her family.

“I don’t know where we would be right now without the help of GAIHN and United Ministries,” said Robison, as her four elementary aged daughters looked on.

At the celebration event, United Ministries was presented with a proclamation signed by Mayor Knox White naming September 22, 2016 as United Ministries’ Transforming Lives Together Day and encouraging all citizens to get involved in the work of the organization. The proclamation was presented by Councilmember Gaye Sprague.

“Our new identity relates the synergy of our organization, which has been strengthened by the joining together of United Ministries and GAIHN,” explained Alan Marshall, Chairman of the Board for United Ministries. “The connectedness of the logo’s elements conveys how as a leading Greenville nonprofit we bring together people, resources and organizations to affect positive change in the lives of others. It also symbolizes how our programs work together with one feeding into another, forming a seamless connection through which clients can conveniently access United Ministries’ many essential services.”

“The new tagline emphasizes that we cannot make changes for our clients, and perhaps they alone cannot achieve their goals,” shared Ethan Friddle, the organization’s Director of Programs and Operations, “but that working together, their lives can be transformed.”

Volunteer and staff leaders at United Ministries worked with local marketing and public relations firm DNA Creative Communications to craft the new brand identity and messaging. The Community Foundation of Greenville and the United Way of Greenville County have both supported the agency’s recent merger and rebranding efforts.

Recent GED Graduate Motivated by New Program that Provides Jobs

Amber Carver square cropAmber Carver says that during her recent journey, she has gone from having nothing to having something.

When Amber was in 11th grade, she was making good grades and on track for graduation. When her mom unexpectedly became ill, Amber stayed home to care for her. She missed too many days of school and didn’t have the money for summer school, so she never finished high school. When her mom lost her job due to her illness, the family also lost their home. Unable to make it on their own, Amber and her mother moved in with her grandparents.

After her mom’s surgery in 2014, Amber and her mother were able to find temporary jobs that paid $8 an hour. It was enough to help her grandparents, but not enough to be self-sufficient. When her temporary job ended, Amber began searching again for employment. Without a high school diploma, finding a job with a livable wage was difficult.

Amber’s mom told her about United Ministries’ Adult Education program, and she came to United Ministries for help earning her GED, or high school equivalency diploma. When she was unable to pass the reading test, she became discouraged and gave up. A few months later, she learned that South Carolina had lowered the passing grade for the GED, so she decided to try again. This time, she not only passed the reading test, but she also learned about a new program offered at United Ministries that provides participants with jobs.

The Manufacturing Apprentice Program, a collaboration between United Ministries, Human Technologies, Inc. (HTI), and the Greenville County Workforce Investment Board, offers participants the opportunity to obtain a full-time manufacturing job with benefits while preparing for their GEDs with United Ministries. Once participants earn their GEDs, their positions convert from temp-to-hire to permanent.

Amber says that obtaining the full-time job at Bosch Corporation was the biggest motivator for finishing her studies and earning her GED. She says that the Manufacturing Apprentice Program motivated her with structured goals, and that United Ministries’ volunteers and staff provided her with the skills and guidance to make her journey successful. “Volunteer Judy helped me a lot with math,” she says, “And Hannah provided good guidance about what to work on.”

As a result of earning a livable wage, Amber and her mother have moved into their own home. Amber helps her mom with groceries and with the bills.

Amber enjoys her job at Bosch and says that the people she works with are really nice. She thanks United Ministries for providing her with this opportunity: “My life has changed a lot. We went from having nothing to actually having something”.

Income Generation Provides Pathway to Stability

Karen crop“Sometimes there is no support system; it’s just you and your grind,” Karen Tisdale says this is one of her favorite quotes. A lot of people she knows are struggling financially, so she says it’s up to you to change your situation and to make it what you want it to be. And that is just what she is doing.

Karen came to United Ministries’ Employment Readiness program because she and her husband were struggling to pay all of the bills each month. After raising three boys, Karen decided to re-enter the workforce to supplement her husband’s steady income. She told her employment counselor, Liz Murphy, that before her children were born, she used to love making jewelry.

Liz recognized Karen’s gift for jewelry-making as the missing piece in her family’s financial stability puzzle. Liz says, “In Employment Readiness, counselors help people search for jobs on a daily basis and know a lot about where to find quality openings. However, another important piece of the puzzle that sometimes gets overlooked and is income generation. It’s often difficult for program participants who lack a degree beyond high school to obtain a steady job with full-time hours. However, it is possible for these participants to supplement a part-time job or a spouse’s wages through various methods of income generation.”

Karen decided to start making jewelry again to sell. She uses semi-precious stones and wraps them with copper wire to create unique statement pieces. The extra income helps Karen balance the budget every month and maintain financial stability.

Karen says, “I want to thank United Ministries and Liz Murphy for all of their help, encouragement, and the time that they spent to help me realize my own potential.”

A sample of Karen’s jewelry is below.  You can contact her at karentis22@hotmail.com for more information.


Bon Secours to be Title Sponsor of United Ministries’ Transformation Walk

According to Alex Garvey, the Senior VP of Mission for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Catholic health care has always viewed hospitals as a reflection of the communities they serve. “We believe that the all-encompassing ministry of healing doesn’t stop at the hospital walls,” he says. The call to serve God’s people in the community is part of the inspiration behind Bon Secours’ title sponsorship of the Transformation Walk.


Alex Garvey square cropAlex was born in a Bon Secours facility a few blocks from his home in Ireland, where he first became familiar with Catholic health care. He has spent nearly 20 years working in the health care ministry, having recently moved to Greenville to lead the Mission team for Bon Secours.

With his characteristic vivacity and dynamism, Alex describes the ebb and flow of ministry, “Ultimately, we believe that God calls through God’s people. We are always called, and we respond.” Bon Secours St. Francis Health System recently completed a health needs assessment to determine community needs. One of the top three identifiers in the community was homelessness due to mental health issues. Bon Secours will now begin a clinical matrix to address the needs identified.

Alex says the opportunity to work in tandem with United Ministries is very exciting. Not wishing to duplicate services or re-invent the wheel, Bon Secours supports local agencies that are doing a phenomenal job of addressing community needs.

The principles behind United Ministries’ Transformation Walk fit well with Bon Secours’ hands-on approach to ministry. Alex keeps the guiding image of Jesus as he bent down, scooped up the dirt, spat in it, and rubbed it in the eyes of the blind man. He explains, “At Bon Secours we don’t say, ‘Oh, we open our door to all people.’ We go out into the community and bring people in. We don’t say, ‘We’re a welcoming institution.’ That’s not good enough. You have to go out to where the people are. And that’s what the Transformation Walk does. You’re walking; you’re physically taking people through the footsteps of the community. There’s no more hands-on than that. That’s such a ministerial and sensory understanding of the sometimes marginalized and forgotten community.”

The Transformation Walk raises awareness about poverty in Greenville by taking participants on a three mile route in downtown Greenville past agencies that serve poor and homeless people in our community. The event provides funds for job skills training, adult education, financial stability programs, emergency assistance, interim housing for homeless families, and homeless day shelter services. United Ministries’ 27th Annual Transformation Walk, presented by Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, will begin at Fluor Field on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. For more information and to register, please visit http://www.TransformationWalk.kintera.org.

The Transformation Walk is made possible through our sponsors, including: Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Batteries Plus Bulbs, Bostik, Carolina Power, Don Pilzer Law Firm, South Carolina Tel-Con, GSA Business Report, SunTrust, BlueCross BlueShield of SC, Bobby and Becky Hartness, CRH Properties LLC, Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, Greenville Business Magazine, Greenville Health System, Michelin, Reynolds Investment Management, Roy Abercrombie, ScanSource, Secured Advantage FCU, Smoak Public Relations, Alan and Kathy Marshall, Bank of Travelers Rest, Carolina Belting Co., Citgo, Community Foundation of Greenville, Covans Insulation Co., Custom Component Sales Inc., Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd P.A., JHM Hotels, JTEKT Automotive South Carolina, Metal Chem Inc., NAI Earle Furman, Ralph and Becky Bouton, and Southern First Bank. For information on sponsoring, please contact Rebecca Ragland at 864-335-2614 or rragland@united-ministries.org.

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GED Graduate Finds Vocation in Metallurgy

I first met Steve Jant when he joined our GED program in 2009.  The GED was a huge challenge for him, and he studied on and off with us for four full years.  After he graduated in 2013, he went to Greenville Technical College, where he struggled with introductory college level work.

Steve stopped by United Ministries recently to tell us about his new vocation.  He is now studying metallurgy, the branch of science and technology concerned with the properties of metals and their production and purification.  He speaks with energetic confidence about all the parts of the industry, from mining to pellets and slabs to a finished product.  He told us about his labs at Greenville Tech, working with all kinds of furnaces, and dealing with issues of the hardness and workability of the metals.  He now works at Five Star Carbide Cutting Tool Technology and is learning about machining metals where flutes and rake angles are important.  At Greenville Tech, his labs will be about writing his own programs to perform the operations he does at work.

During our conversation, I was impressed with how far Steve has come academically and with the enthusiasm he expressed for both his work and study.  When I praised him for his new-found confidence, he responded, “Don’t get me wrong…I have my days of frustration, too.”  This let me know how far he has really come.  He now faces his challenges with so much more assertiveness and grace than he did seven or even four years ago.

Ken Christy, Adult Education Academic Counselor

One Plus One Can Equal Three

Just over a year ago, I received a call from Tony McDade, Executive Director for Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (GAIHN) asking if we could meet with Ethan Friddle, Interim Director of United Ministries, to hear and discuss an idea. I recall the words


being part of our conversation. After first discussing the two organizations and their complementary strengths and unique challenges, we agreed GAIHN and United Ministries have a long history of collaborating to address poverty and homelessness issues in Greenville County. Both organizations were birthed by congregations and today share many overlapping supporters who are dedicated to finding ways to help people and families in our community. I and many others had a real sense that this idea this was worth serious consideration. The “what if” developed into the boards and staff of both organizations working in tandem over the course of many months delving into the question of merging. A feasibility study facilitated by Rochelle Williams with Gather Consulting concluded in late January with a unanimous decision by both boards recommending a merger. A new math equation emerged summing up the goal a merged organization.

can equal three!

There was mutual respect, collective wisdom and shared excitement of everyone involved as we saw the benefit of the new organization positioned to be a leader in the effort to create lasting change for those in our community that are working towards sustainable independence. The joining of the two agencies focused on creating a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive in Greenville.

Since the formal announcement of the merger, I continue to hear and see people on a daily basis in our community who agree and share my excitement for a new entity. As you and I think about the growing, vibrant and beautiful community around us, I hope you also share the vision of a merged organization. Together we can work towards ensuring that everyone in Greenville can be part of creating a stronger community. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity ahead as an organization seeking to provide efficient and cost effective services for the homeless and others striving to emerge from poverty. There is no time more exciting and important as now for you and me to participate in helping one plus one to equal three.

Susan McLarty, GAIHN Board Member
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GED Graduate Returns to Share Success

We’re always so delighted in the GED program when our graduates come back to tell us how happy and successful they are in their lives. That’s certainly the way we felt when Raydale McJunkin, a 2006 graduate, surprised us when he came in to tell us about his life after graduation. Ten years is a lot of time that we needed to catch up on!

Raydale definitely has a special place on our wall of GED graduates. When he graduated, he was one of our graduate speakers. The Greenville News did a major story on our 2006 graduation and featured Raydale in their story. There is a large framed picture of this story, with a picture of Ethan presenting Raydale with his certificate, on our wall at the Learning Center. So, when Raydale suddenly appeared, it was quite an exciting event. We were definitely anxious to hear about all that had gone on in his life in the past ten years.

Raydale’s relationship with United Ministries began one day – over ten years ago – when he and his wife came to our Emergency Assistance program to ask for help with a utility bill. They received help and were also referred to our GED and Employment Readiness programs to help them with financial stability. Raydale earned his GED through our program and then, with the support of Employment Readiness, went on to get his CDL license and then on to enjoy a lengthy and rewarding career with some well-known trucking companies. His work and the people that he met through his work as well as the financial security that his work provided had greatly enriched his life and the lives of all in his family.

An injury caused him to have to leave his truck-driving career, but he had moved on to a new career working in human resources for a local company, training their new employees. He loved his new work and talked about how much it meant to him to be able to train and motivate the company’s new employees and to then see them become successful in their new jobs. He talked about how great his life is now and remembered his life before his GED, when his wife would cry because she didn’t know where their next food would come from or how they would pay their bills. Now they were financially secure, comfortable, and happy.

Then Raydale started explaining why he had come to see us. He wanted to thank United Ministries for all of his happiness and success. Having watched students succeed over the past thirteen years, I understood that, of course, the students accomplish their own successes. We certainly teach and support and care, but our students’ ultimate successes come from within them. Our major role is to believe in them until they can believe in themselves. So I began to explain this understanding to Raydale. He was the one with the abilities, the determination, and the work ethic. His reply was stunning, and he had such a depth of understanding of his own life and the impact that United Ministries had in helping him change his life. He knew what the help and support had meant to him in his life because, he said, his life had been so dark and United Ministries had turned on a flashlight for him so that he could find his way. He had certainly found his way, and we’re all grateful and proud of all that Raydale has accomplished. We’re also very grateful for his unique explanation of what United Ministries is all about.

Janey House, Adult Education Academic Counselor

My Mom Goes to Science School

“My mom goes to science school!” Elvia overhears her six year old son proudly telling his friends. Elvia chuckles to herself, not bothering to correct him that she is really just studying for her GED through the United Ministries’ Adult Education program.

As a wife and mother of three young children, Elvia has a busy life caring for her family, helping with the PTA at her son’s school, attending church, and studying for her GED. As a teenager, she had to drop out of high school to help her mom care for her seven brothers and sisters. Now she wants to be a good role model for her children and declares that “Dropping out is not an option for my kids!”

As she studies for her GED, Elvia knows it will open many doors for herself and her family. She hopes a GED will help her get a job in the medical field to supplement her husband’s income and ease the financial pressure on her family. She has already obtained her silver WorkKeys® certificate which is required by many health care employers, including Greenville Health System. Now she is focusing all her attention on the GED. She has already passed two of the four subjects on the GED. Although math is the hardest subject for her, she knows she can conquer it with the help of United Ministries’ staff and tutors!

Hannah Thompson, Adult Education Assistant Program Manager

Brrr…It’s Cold Outside

Josalin Betts, a senior citizen on a fixed income, came to United Ministries to receive assistance with her Duke Energy electric bill. Because it had started getting colder, she began using more power to heat her home. When she received her electric bill, it was a little higher than she expected, and she could not afford to pay the full amount of the bill.

Ms. Betts’ electric bill is generally around $80.00. Because she began using her heat, her bill is now around $140.00. She had never heard of United Ministries and did not know what services we provided or what programs were available for seniors. I explained to Ms. Betts what services we offered in Emergency Assistance, including our HEAT program, which is available to seniors during the winter months.

United Ministries was able to pay her entire electric bill and take away her worries of how she was going to pay it. She was very thankful and appreciative. She said she didn’t know there were places out there that could help seniors the way we were able to help her.

Rosaline Golden, Emergency Assistance Program Assistant