FLORENCE, S.C. – The Rotary Club of Florence awarded $20,000 in grants last week to four local charities.

Mercy Medicine, House of Hope, Lighthouse Ministries and SNAC each received $5,000 grants.

“With the outbreak of Covid-19 and the strain on our community, there was an effort this year to focus our grants on assistance to families with emergency needs, food and medical care,” said Blake Pate, the president of the Rotary Club of Florence. “We are all going through a trying time, and we wanted to have a greater impact in very specific areas.”

The grants were supplemented this year from the Rotary Club of Florence’s Centennial Celebration, vastly increasing the club's charitable giving. The club hoped for as large an impact as possible.

“In addition to our grants, the Centennial Celebration allowed for us to contribute a large sum to the Rotary Foundation in an effort to help with the relief efforts worldwide,” said Pate, who owns and operates the Chick-fil-A franchise outside Magnolia Mall.

The Christ-based Mercy Medicine Free Clinic provides free health and dental care to qualifying residents of Florence and Williamsburg counties who meet certain income thresholds and have no health or dental insurance.

The clinic is supported entirely by grants, donations and in-kind services from McLeod Health and the MUSC Health-Florence Medical Center, in addition to other private providers.

The donation will be used to purchase $4,000 of life-sustaining drugs for Mercy’s patients along with a $1,000 purchase of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines with accompanying tubing and masks.

These devices are always in demand, said Wayne Jackson, Mercy Medicine’s executive director. Mercy Medicine also provides any prescribed medications free of charge to any of its patients.

“The clinic is extremely grateful for this very generous contribution from the Rotarians especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jackson said. “The clinic does not test nor treat its patients for the virus, but its fundraising ability, like other nonprofit organizations in the area, has been severely hampered,” Jackson said.

The House of Hope is no stranger to caring for the homeless during emergencies. Long cold snaps, extreme heat and hurricanes can be some of the toughest times for the homeless.

“But the COVID virus is a new challenge for staff and guests,” the nonprofit organization said in a written statement. “Even during the worst emergencies, guests and staff feel safe inside the shelters. Now, even once guests are checked in, the feeling of safety and ease isn’t fully there.

“Also, the longest cold snap doesn’t last for more than a couple of weeks. This emergency has already gone on for seven weeks, and the end isn’t yet in sight, causing stress and unease for everyone.”

The House of Hope has taken several steps to keep the community healthy. Outdoor showers have been added, so anyone in the community can come and shower without checking into the shelter. At the Courtney McGinnis Graham Community shelter, an outdoor sink has been added so guests can wash their hands during the day. And everyone washes before checking in.

Recently a guest wrote this to the staff at the Courtney McGinnis Graham Community shelter:

“I am truly grateful for all that you have done for us. Thank you for giving us a safe place to stay and food to eat. I leave here with joy in my heart because of you all.”

But the duration of this emergency has taken a financial toll.

“Due to the uncertain financial times, several larger givers and foundations have been forced to take a step back, and that’s what makes the gift from the Florence Rotary especially meaningful and timely,” the written statement said. “The House of Hope is so grateful for this gift to help continue to serve the homeless of the Pee Dee Region.”

Lighthouse Ministries Executive Director Cecilia Meggs also alluded to hard times.

“The events this past month have been very unsettling for us all,” she said. “This deeply concerns me because we know that there are so many families out there who are scared and concerned.Concerned about the spread of this virus, concerned about their jobs, concerned about their mounting electric bill, concerned about paying for their rent and medication.

“Nevertheless, Lighthouse Ministries is on the front lines responding to the most critical needs. We have served this community for 25 years; we know how to take care of these families.”

Lighthouse Ministries is there for the community in any way it can be, Meggs said.

“The governor has mandated that there be no evictions or disconnections of utilities during the shutdown, but bills are still due,” she said. “So even though families might not be evicted or have their utilities disconnected today, once the suspensions are lifted, we will see a surge in families needing help, because their bills are not forgiven.

“Our plan is to meet this surge.”

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