Students make push to end homelessness in Charleston

By Andy Owens
Published Nov. 18, 2013

When a group of Mount Pleasant middle-school students said they planned to raise $1.6 million for the homeless by selling recycled keys, a slight murmur rumbled across the room during the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon last week.

When the kids announced they had already raised $36,000 in a year and were planning on giving $5,000 to Crisis Ministries that day, the murmur was replaced by a gasp, and the group received a standing ovation.

Hundreds of professional philanthropists gathered at Trident Technical College in North Charleston to honor the Boeing Co. as Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist, Paul and Louise Kohlheim as Outstanding Individual Philanthropist, and Keys for Hope as Outstanding Youth Philanthropist.

The Boeing Co. has donated around $15 million since opening its 787 Dreamliner final assembly operation in North Charleston, said Vice President and General Manager Jack Jones.

The Kohlheims, who are typically behind the scenes of many philanthropic endeavors, have been giving financially and with time for many years to organizations such as Crisis Ministries, the American Red Cross, the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative and Social Venture Partners.

Keys for Hope Philanthropy Day Video
A video that played (see left) before the Keys for Hope kids took the stage showed them working around kitchen tables, making keys, working festivals and explaining their philosophy of giving and how they decided on Crisis Ministries.

“We’re raising money for Crisis Ministries, the local homeless shelter, and they do so much for the homeless, to help the homeless get back up on their feet,” said one of the members of Keys for Hope.

The group of middle-school students said when they were younger, they helped build a playground for homeless children. When they heard Crisis Ministries was building a new shelter on King Street, they wanted to help pay for the project.

The students didn’t want to just ask for donations, but wanted to make something that could be used and had value. They decided to take unused keys and recycle them into art, which can be used as decorations, ornaments, key chains and necklaces or, as middle-schoolers typically do, hung from book bags. The keys are sold at festivals and local retailers for $5 each.

“We thought of a key because it symbolizes home and shelter and hope,” she said.

The 2013 National Philanthropy Day luncheon is held each year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Lowcountry Chapter. The CEO of Metanoia Community Development Corp., the Rev. Bill Stanfield, offered the keynote address for the event.

Stanfield talked about what it was like to live with his family in the community he served in North Charleston. He said the one thing that perpetuates poverty in every community is isolation and transactional, rather than relational, giving.

He said working in a relational way has allowed him to discover gifts and skills that already exist in the neighborhoods he’s serving that can solve problems in those neighborhoods.

“If we don’t work to discover those things among the very populations we seek to serve, we rob them of the capacity to bring any sustainable change,” Stanfield said.

Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142 or @crbj.

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