Project HOPE Executive Directors Speak on Greenwood Panel on Civic Engagement

It can be “frustrating.” It can be “lonely.” But, as panelist Susan Sachs put it, “I can’t imagine a life if service were not part of it. I don’t know what the meaning would be.”

Sachs was one of four who spoke at Lander University Wednesday night. The Panel on Civic Engagement was organized to show students and the Greenwood community that “citizens must and should do much more than show up on Election Day,” host and Lander professor Ashley Woodiwiss said.

In a country where few bother to show up on election dayespecially young adults, that comment may have seemed unlikely to resonate with the audience.

Sachs disagreed.

“This is exactly the kids of audience we need to be speaking with,” she said. “People who’ll heard our message and say, ‘I can do that. I want to do that.’”

The panelists were selected to demonstrate the variety of ways and means of serving one’s community.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, a Republican, is now a leading proponent of free-market solutions to climate change. To that end, he hopes to convince 25 House Republicans and 15 Senate Republicans to support “meaningful climate action” by 2022.

The Rev. Christopher B. Thomas, director of the Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site had his own goal: Create 100 African American school teachers from Greenwood County.

Lisa Lane and Sachs, co-founders of the Project HOPE Foundation, detailed the incremental progress they have made in making Applied Behavior Analysis, an effective, yet expensive, therapy for those diagnosed with autism, widely available.

“The reason that we came to this level of civic engagement is because we’re moms,” Sachs said. “This was trust upon us.”

Each of the panelists described their work as filling a void, stepping in where nobody else would, not even government.

The panel was one event in a series titled “Achieving the Promise: Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” funded in part by SC Humanities.

Part of the inspiration for the series, Woodiwiss said, is the concept of “new localism” discussed by scholars Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak.

Woodiwiss said the panelists’ actions exemplified this new localism, which is defined by is transcendence of partisanship.

“The posture is that of the citizen who sees others different from them not as foes or combatants but as fellow citizens,” Woodiwiss said. “They have one shared identity: love of their local community.”

Project HOPE Gala: An Evening of HOPE

Project HOPE Foundation hosted their annual gala and auction, “An Evening of HOPE,” at the TD Convention Center on April 29. Project HOPE Foundation is a local nonprofit organization that provides a lifespan of services for the autism community across the Upstate and throughout South Carolina.

To view or purchase any photos from the event, visit our photographer, Spencer Stanton's, site by clicking here.

Evening of HOPE Gala at TD Convention Center promotes autism awareness

An Evening of HOPE held at the TD Convention Center in Greenville was a night to raise funds for autism and to open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential. The evening began with a cocktail hour and guests enjoyed a beautiful sit-down dinner, auction items and stories of hope. Guests left the event with a greater awareness of autism, a better understanding of Project HOPE Foundation's lifespan of services and a strong sense of making a difference.

Event photos can be viewed at

Photos by Spences Stanton Photography.

Autism diagnosis leads Simpsonville family to Project HOPE

Becki and Tommy Plumer felt that something wasn’t quite right with their son, Jack, early on.

At 18 months old, he couldn’t link his words together, his mom said.

Then he had trouble grasping a crayon.

And he couldn’t engage socially with people.

Eventually, their sweet little boy was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and their search for help led them to the Project HOPE Foundation.

“It's been a blessing for us,” Becki Plumer said. “He has just thrived with this program.”

The foundation provides services to more than 200 children with autism including education, support and individualized applied behavior analysis therapy. It also offers social groups and other programs for adults.

The nonprofit was co-founded in 1996 by Lisa Lane and Susan Sachs — now both executive directors — after their sons were diagnosed with autism and services were hard to come by.

Lane said that with the condition now affecting 1 in 68 children, the need for Project HOPE’s services is more critical than ever.

“Literally hundreds of children are waiting for services, and that number is growing every day,” she said.

“Unfortunately, most funding sources do not cover the cost of providing autism treatment," she added. "We rely on the generosity of our supporters to be able to provide these life-saving interventions for children, youth, adults and families who are living with autism.”

One of the foundation’s major fundraisers is An Evening of Hope, a gala event that begins with a cocktail reception, dinner, and live and silent auctions followed by music and dancing.

The auctions include items such as two tickets to see “Hamilton” at the Peace Center with dinner and hotel, two VIP passes to watch a live filming of America’s Funniest Videos in Hollywood with airfare and accommodations, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and a hot tub from Hot Springs Pools & Spas.

Last year, the event raised more than $1 million. This year’s event is being held on April 28 at the TD Convention Center.

“Last year’s Evening of Hope gala was a phenomenal success,” said Sachs. “We are always amazed at the generosity of this community. As an organization, we know that every minute matters and every dollar counts. "We hope to once again raise lots of dollars so that we can provide many more minutes of service.”

The Plumers, of Simpsonville, spent three years on a waiting list to get Jack into Project HOPE, Beckie Plumer said. And while they waited, Tommy, a vice president at Synnex Corp., launched a golf tournament to benefit the school.

Since Jack, now 11, began going to Project HOPE three years ago, he’s made incredible progress, his mom said.

“At HOPE, classes are so small. It’s only eight children and a teacher and assistant,” she said. “They can pinpoint where he needs to be."

Socially, she said, Jack is now able to understand other people's facial expressions and vocal tones and engage with them. And academically, he's making great strides, improving in writing and math especially.

"He is a completely different child," Plumer said. "At HOPE, he gets understanding and support. We'll stay as long as we can."

For tickets to An Evening of Hope, go to

Project HOPE Children's Play featured in Index Journal

A little more than a year ago, Jill Ginn’s son, Luke, was unable to speak or eat solid foods.

Luke, 4, falls on the autism spectrum, and learning and interacting with others can be a challenge.

On Wednesday, Jill watched as Luke took the stage and spoke in front of a crowd of people during a play put on by Project Hope — something she said would have been hard to imagine not long ago.

“Since he’s been here, they potty trained him within one day,” Jill said. “It’s been amazing. He speaks in full sentences. He doesn’t read, but he memorizes the pages every three days so they have to change his books every three days. It’s just amazing. I don’t know what we would have done without them.”

As part of the production, Luke and 13 other children on the autism spectrum, sang, danced and spoke to the crowd of loved ones who gathered at Project Hope.

Project Hope, a nonprofit that specializes in helping children with autism, opened its Greenwood location in September 2016 at the former Merrywood Elementary School site.

Jill said since it came to Greenwood, the organization has been a godsend for her and her family.

“I don’t have enough good things to say about them here,” she said. “It’s been a complete blessing. I’m thankful.”

Niki Porter, the Greenwood clinic coordinator, said the play gave the children a chance to showcase their progress to their loved ones.

“I think what sometimes happens is, with these kids in other situations when people don’t know how to get them through stuff like this, they don’t really get to participate,” Porter said. “That’s something we try to avoid. So we try to showcase everyone’s individual talents. Even if they’re just sitting up there and smiling, that’s an improvement for a lot of our kids. They wouldn’t have been able to be in this room because of all the stimulation a year ago.”

The children began rehearsing the play about a week and a half ago, Porter said, starting with listening to the music and gradually learning the motions and lines as they progressed.

Porter said she was impressed with their performance Monday and happy they had the opportunity to demonstrate their progress to their families and friends.

“Today’s performance was the best they’ve ever done, and that’s something you can’t prepare for, especially when you have parents around, because you never know what they’re going to do,” she said. “But all of the kids were rock stars.”

Amber Kneece, whose 4-year-old son Coby also participated in the play, said watching the performance was an emotional experience.

“It’s a joy just being able to see him sit on stage and say some words,” Amber said. “When he started at Project Hope, he was completely nonverbal, so it’s been such a blessing.”

Porter said she hopes to make the play an annual event.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it again next year,” she said. “And then we’ll see some of the kids who had smaller parts this year will have bigger parts next year or who were speaking less this year may speak more next year or whatever it may be. We’re just trying to grow on our progress every single year, because for every child, a milestone for them is going to be different.”

Project HOPE FeatureD in Town Carolina

Hearing a child say, “Hello!” or witnessing them hug a sibling are not typically moments worthy of celebration. But these small yet profound actions motivate Susan Sachs and Lisa Lane, co-founders and executive directors of Project HOPE Foundation, to work tirelessly to support families with children on the autism spectrum.

“We have the privilege of being reminded every single day that ordinary moments can be absolutely extraordinary,” says Lane. “We see children enter our doors with no ability to connect with the world and we watch them transform into part of a classroom family. We see desperate, lost parents recover hope for the future.”

This labor of love originally began out of personal need. After doctors diagnosed their sons with autism, the two friends could not find a program in the Upstate that allowed the boys to practice skills they were learning at home in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.

Read entire article here.

Twenty Years after founding of Project HOPE Foundation, the mission continues

Lisa Lane and Susan Sachs hadn’t planned on starting a nonprofit organization and a school two decades ago, but they couldn’t find the programs needed by their young sons, newly diagnosed with autism, anywhere else.

“There’s nobody as determined as a mom with a child in need,” Sachs said. “You’ll do anything.”

So they started the Project Hope Foundation and a small preschool where children with autism and neurotypical kids attended classes side-by-side.

“It was supposed to be a temporary thing,” Sachs said.

Today, the school and its offshoot, the HOPE Foundation, serve about 300 people in the Upstate a day and are raising money to construct a permanent home in Greenville.

“It’s a mission now,” Sachs said.

Lives turned upside down

Read more here.

2017 Hope Gala

Autism can sometimes be devastatingly dark ... but we are determined to bring light through our range of services. To fund these services, we rely on generous people like the 530 who attended our Evening of Hope gala on Saturday. Want to see what these dollars are important?  Take a look: