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ART / CULTURE / STYLE / UPCOUNTRY SOUTH CAROLINA

Covered Girls

Ellen Hines Smith Girls’ Home in Spartanburg is a haven for displaced youth


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By Beverly Knight
JANUARY 28, 2013

Ellen Hines Smith Girls’ Home in Spartanburg is a haven for displaced youth

 

Caring for those least able to care for themselves has always been at the heart of the mission of Spartanburg’s Ellen Hines Smith Girls’ Home, which began in 1974. And the need is especially critical for girls and young women who are themselves the caregivers of a community.

The residential program provides around-the-clock care in a safe, home-like environment where girls can heal from abuse or neglect. A family-care component provides in-home assessment with a focus on crisis intervention, case management, and stabilizing families. The organization’s recent merger with The Children Shelter of the Upstate provides even more tools to aid this work.

“The goal is to combine the programs in a way that maximizes the strengths of both,” executive director Chamlee Loscuito says of the merger that makes it possible to serve more children and families in the Upstate. “We found there was nothing out there for families. Now the girls in the residential setting can go back into their homes and receive support there. Our services have come full circle—providing prevention, residential care, and home support.”

Loscuito, who has been with the Girls’ Home since relocating to the Upstate five years ago, cites alarming statistics for the area served. Among South Carolina counties, Spartanburg has the fourth-highest first-time victim rate. Success stories are many, but demand has grown even greater as high unemployment and the number of uninsured individuals place even more pressure on families.

“Volunteers and staff work tireless hours because they want what’s best for our community’s children. Staff is on call 24/7 for those who are in crisis. I am in awe of the time that people are willing to give,” Loscuito says of the 16 fulltime employees, 21 board members, and countless volunteers who give of their time to improve lives.

Michelle Rice counts herself as one of the success stories. The Roebuck native came to the Girls’ Home with her twin sister in 1995. A victim of child sexual assault, Rice had been abused by her mother’s boyfriend and had a baby when she was 10. Unlike her sister, she chose not to be adopted and lived in the home until she was 19. She left in 2002 to attend the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where she earned a degree in Criminal Justice.

Rice went on to earn a master’s degree in Public Administration and now works as a crime prevention coordinator in Orangeburg County, where she creates programs and training, teaches women self-defense, and works with at-risk kids.

“I like giving back because I know what it’s like to not have. It just makes sense to me,” Rice says. “I think my time at the Girls’ Home was instrumental in teaching me what family was supposed to be like. It prepared me to be a well-rounded individual. I believe you should stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready. The Girls’ Home prepared me to be independent.”

 

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