Women Giving of Spartanburg include Project HOPE among Grant Recipients

Women Giving for Spartanburg announced its 2018 grant awards at its annual meeting this week. This year, the organization gave a total of $196,642 in financial assistance to seven local nonprofits.

Angels Charge Ministry will receive $25,200 to open a third Home of Hope; Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Upstate will receive $22,192 to fund Bigs in Blue & First Responder Mentoring; Mental Fitness will receive $31,450 to build depression prevention modules for the SHARPEN app with mental health and suicide prevention experts and other local professionals; Northside Development Group will receive $25,000 to fund a Reading Nook at the Franklin School; Project HOPE Foundation will receive $37,000 to construct a playground designed to improve life for children with autism; Spartanburg Art Musuem will receive $20,000 to develop technology that will enhance teaching; and TOTAL Ministries will receive $35,800 to purchase and install an outdoor freezer that will be accessible from inside the food pantry.

“Announcing our grant awards is always the highlight of our year with Women Giving for Spartanburg,” Chairwoman Susan Jeffords said in a statement. “This is what we are about. There are so many nonprofits doing wonderful work in our community, and through our collective giving framework, we are able to support their efforts.”

The group’s grants committee requests grant proposals from local nonprofit organizations each year for innovative projects focusing on areas highlighted by the seven Spartanburg Community Indicators Project areas. After review, site visits and a grants showcase, members vote on the organizations to receive money.

Membership is open to any woman in the Spartanburg community. Annual dues are $550 for junior members (ages 35 and under) and $1,100 for regular members.

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.”

Murals Brighten Greenwood Campus


When artist Rebecca Salter Harrison first walked into the Greenwood Project Hope campus building, she noticed a lot of empty, white walls.

Harrison came to the campus at 133 Merrywood Drive, site of the former Merrywood Elementary School, to do a commissioned art project – to create colorful murals on some of the walls.

Project Hope Foundation serves people coping with autism spectrum disorder. Established in 1996, there are now several campuses, including the one in Greenwood. 

In 2016, Project HOPE Foundation entered into a collaboration with Greenwood Genetic Center – Helix & Hope – combining science and services, and began offering center-based applied behavior analysis therapy to clients in a multi-county area.

Read entire article here.

Autism Center to open in Greenwood

For the first time, Greenwood will have a center dedicated to providing services, therapy and education to children with autism.

Project Hope Foundation is a nonprofit based in the Upstate that focuses on offering services to children and families affected by autism with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy and a wide range of support services.

About two years ago, Project Hope was looking to expand its services in South Carolina, and already had a few places in mind -- Aiken, Charleston and Columbia -- but after meeting with several community leaders, it set its sights on Greenwood.

Lisa Lane and Susan Sachs, co-founders and executive directors of the organization, said Dr. Steve Skinner, director of the Greenwood Genetic Center, first started the talks to expand to Greenwood and brought with him about 25 representatives and community leaders to the table.

"When we walked into that room, we were astounded," Sachs said. "He had people from the school district, the Genetic Center, from Lander, from Piedmont Tech -- this entire team of people that wanted to hear about what we were doing and see how they could partner with us to provide ABA services in the Greenwood area."

The Genetic Center has already started partnering with Project Hope, and Skinner said the desire is that their partnership will grow.

"They're helping us with research and then we're trying to help them with evaluations and patients we receive," Skinner said. "We see so many families in Greenwood with autism -- we were able to connect them with a family that was very impressed and excited about what they were doing in the Simpsonville-Greenville area, and wanted to help bring it here."

Project Hope has already contributed to the Genetic Center's research on autism by sending in blood samples of people with autism as well as people who don't have autism.

Currently, autism is diagnosed by studying the child's behavior, generally after 3 years of age. Skinner said the goal is to develop a blood-based test that can identify if a child has autism at an earlier age. 

"Autism is a broad spectrum," Skinner said. "Some of them will be in regular classrooms, some of them will be in different types of structured classrooms."

Greenwood has not had a center dedicated to providing ABA therapy, and Skinner said children who need those services previously had to travel out of the county.

"Autism is common. It occurs now in one in 68 children, or one in 42 males. So it affects a large segment of our population in general -- almost every family is affected somewhere in the family," Skinner said. 

Unfortunately, this means the centers that do provide therapy for children with autism often have a long waiting list, and Skinner said a key part of ABA therapy is starting it at a young age.

"That's the tragedy of having these long waiting lists -- you identify a patient at 3 and say 'Yes, you have autism, yes, you need ABA services, but good luck trying to find it because we don't have any therapists or we don't have any in your area.' And so they wait three, four years and they're missing critical times in their early childhood development," Skinner said. "So having that locally and having, hopefully, a program that can train more providers who will provide even more therapy is critical to a successful outcome of autism."

A family who chose to remain anonymous purchased the old Merrywood Elementary School building and donated it to Project Hope to use as a facility earlier this year, and the center is expected to be up and running by September.

Lane said the center's primary focus will be providing ABA therapy to clients.

"This therapy is different from what many people think of when they think about therapy -- it's a way to teach skills to children on the autism spectrum and to replace problem behaviors with appropriate, alternative behaviors," Lane said. "So it's teaching, and you can teach almost anything using these strategies, but it's intensive -- so you do it a total of 25 to 40 hours each week."

The Greenwood location will start off serving a few clients all day, but Lane said they hope to grow and have various schedules suited to the children's needs. 

Right now, Project Hope is in the process of hiring two to three therapists, a lead therapist and a board certified behavioral analyst to work at the Greenwood location full time when it opens in September.

"It is a fee-based service, but we take insurance clients and there's some Medicaid money that comes for clients," Lane said. "There are options. There are gaps in funding -- our reimbursement rate is not the same as our cost of services, but we work hard to fill those gaps."

Skinner said the Project Hope expansion is not only a major asset to Greenwood, but also to South Carolina. 

"It's a big step," Skinner said. "I think this has the potential to have a significant impact helping families, but actually something that could be a major service provider for the state."

Self Regional Supports Project HOPE Foundation

Self Regional Healthcare donated $100,000 to Project HOPE Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families. The funds will go towards opening an innovative center of services for children with autism in Greenwood fall of 2016.

In this center, Project HOPE Foundation will provide the best evidence-based treatment for autism, run behaviorally-based group sessions, and hold training workshops for families and professionals. While this program will be new to Greenwood, it is based on Project HOPE Foundation's 20-year history of services in the Upstate.

Project HOPE founders Lisa Lane and Susan Sachs say that one-on-one Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism will start in Greenwood this fall. “We have been wanting to bring our services to Greenwood for some time,” said Susan Sachs. “There is a need for programs in Greenwood for children with autism and it just all seemed to fall in place at the perfect time. We now have a building, we have a plan and we are very ready to move forward with the next steps.”

“Through our therapy program, we restore lost dreams,” said Lisa Lane. “ABA therapy is incredibly effective. If started before age three, 86% of the children we serve are able to mainstream into regular classrooms.”

Jim Pfeiffer, President and CEO of Self Regional Healthcare, said, “The exciting news is made even more so with the Genetic Center in close proximity working on a test to achieve early diagnosis of autism, a service that often results in regulated behaviors for children with the disorder. Self Regional is proud to be a part of the wonderful new addition that will help so many children and families.”