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Lowcountry Community Action Agency, Inc. Receives National Recognition Sergeant Shriver Achievement Award

Finding employment for many customers, does not immediately alleviate the conditions of poverty, and many require the assistance to remove barriers that continue to hinder their sustainability. Moreover, extreme poverty is growing more common for children, especially those in female-headed households. As a result of loss of benefits, low wages, and unstable employment, many families struggle to get medical care, food and housing. Individuals with a documented disability also struggle to obtain and maintain stable housing. On a national average, monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment increased and accounts for 113.1% of a person’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly income.
Ms. Anna Thomas understands the scenario’s all to well, falling on hard times in the late 80’s as a single parent with two children. Ms. Thomas found herself and her children homeless and moved in Lowcountry CAA’s Homeless Shelter. Ms. Thomas did not know of the agency services, so became overwhelmed with appreciation with the opportunity afforded to her and her children. Ms. Thomas quickly set goals for her family and obtained employment and transitioned into permanent housing, in which she has maintained to this day.
In 2012, the agency posted a vacancy for an Emergency Shelter Director. Ms. Thomas inquired about the position and voiced her interest to lead the agency’s Homeless Shelter, and yes we hired her. Ms. Thomas first projects entailed building community and financial support. She informed the former, Executive Director, Ms. Arlene Dobison, before coming to the agency for assistance, she found it extremely difficult to gain access to mainstream benefits that could have assisted her in removing barriers. She has dedicated herself to ensure barriers are removed and shelter residents gained the necessary skills necessary to re-enter society and self-sustain. A great number of circumstances, like a missed paycheck, health problems or unpaid bills can force individuals into homelessness. In 2017, over 80 families, in which 37% were children, have obtained services such as, case management, tutoring, job training, financial management, budgeting, etc. that have assisted families in sustainability. Ms. Thomas has successfully re-housed families and they have retained their housing.
Partnerships with organizations such as Mental Health, Department of Social Services, Community Action Services, such as CSBG, LIHEAP, Head Start, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Realtors, Adult Education, Colleton County Public Works, Faith Based Institutions, Employment agencies, Community Residents, Girl Scouts, Goodwill Industries, IHG, Heritage Trust Credit Union, Colleton County School District, etc. have been focal in the success of Lowcountry CAA customers and the homeless population. An outpour of support continues, in the agency’s efforts to end homelessness. Ms. Thomas has gone through great lengths to build community support and leverage resources to increase access to benefits and services available to agency customers. Ms. Thomas is a great asset to the agency, has become a great presence in the community and continues to change the lives of Homeless Women, Children and Families daily.
Ms. Willie Rabb stated that Ms. Anna is really a God sent to the Shelter. She stated that she’s witnessed Ms. Thomas taking her personal money to purchase items that shelter clients needed, and it made her wanted to do more. Ms. Rabb also stated that LCAA, Inc., has a piece of gold in Ms. Anna Thomas, and that she hopes that she will be at the shelter for many more years to come.
Ms. Thomas stated that she was honored to accept the National Award, but also humbled because there are so many more in this Nation that deserve it. “Being in this moment of time, I wasn’t to shout out to all of those who are down and out, who are destitute, and have no hope, no voice, no vision; no food on your table, no place to lay your head, who don’t have the basic necessities of life. Don’t give up or give in because there is something in your area called Community Action. It will allow you to Look Up! Stand up! Move up! Speak up and Reach out, because the meaning is carved in the name: Community Action: It Works for us. If you utilize it, the mission that it symbolizes will ring true to those of us who are in need, and I promise that I will spend the rest of my life helping others to help themselves”, said Ms. Thomas.
Safe Haven Shelter tries to give its guests permanent housing options within 30 days of living in the shelter. Our goal is to transition people and help to ensure future stability, said Tara Glover, Interim Executive Director. Ms. Thomas works diligently with the families housed at Safe Haven, to ensure their needs are met. Ms. Thomas’ work ethics are enviable. Having someone like Ms. Thomas, as the Shelter Coordinator, makes a huge difference, in the community and for our agency, said Ms. Glover.
The shelter depends on the donations of the public to continue operating, including linens, clothing, food, monetary donations, and other items for its guests, said Glover.
The nation’s Community Action network – including 1,000 plus Community Action Agencies – are a robust, national, state, and local force, reaching children and families in 99% of America’s counties with life changing services that create pathways to opportunity and prosperity.
The Community Action network:
Connects individuals and families to approaches that help them succeed – including high quality education programs for children, job retraining for adults, stable and affordable housing for families, utility assistance for seniors, and so much more.
Promotes community-wide solutions to seemingly stubborn challenges throughout our cities, suburbs, and in rural areas – whether it’s the lack of affordable housing or the need to promote economic growth that benefits all families.
Shares expertise with national, state, and local leaders looking for evidence on what works to promote greater economic opportunity for children and families.

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