Islanders Helping Islanders
J.I. Outreach keeps moving forward under new Executive Director
By Charlie Morrison
To live on James Island is to live in a tight-knit community, one in which people take care of their own. The Island has struggled to unify on an official, governmental level, in effect creating a void when it comes to providing services to the Island, particularly to the needy. Many organizations have done their part to help fill the void created by the lack of consistent island governance, organizations whose goodwill has transcended the municipal ambiguity.
James Island Outreach is a great example of such an organization. The James Island based non-profit has been fighting the good fight of combating poverty on James Island since the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and with newly hired Executive Director Pastor Joseph Barbour now holding the reins, the future looks bright.
James Island Outreach provides relief to those in need whether it be for food, medicine, help with the utility bill or counseling. The non-profit is fully funded through donations and public support. The organization is managed by a Board of Directors, operated by a paid Executive Director, Barbour, and staffed by an army of volunteers, primarily from the 18 churches that officially collaborate with the organization. The collaboration is non-denominational. “It’s very seldom that we can come together like that,” says Barbour of the partnership. “It’s a community affair.
“This is James Island helping James Island, and that’s basically what we’re here for. No one leaves here without food. We give assistance to everybody that comes in for free, even if they’re from out of the area.”
If James Island Outreach can’t provide someone with the service they need, they connect their client with someone who does. The organization partners with over 140 different agencies such as the Trident United Way, the Human Needs Network, and the Salvation Army, to deliver relief services to James Island’s needy. “If we can’t help them we’ll try to find a source that can help them,” says Barbour.
As far as Barbour, he applied for the position of Executive Director after former Director Ruth Brown stepped down after eight years on the job. Barbour left James Island Outreach’s Board of Directors to apply for the job.
“I’m from James Island. I know all the pastors, I know all the Principals, I know the guidance counselors, and I know a lot of the business community,” says Barbour. “I’ll go into the Piggly Wiggly, the Bi-Lo, the Harris Teeter, you can be assured they’ll know that were here and we need help.”
And while James Island Outreach’s roots run deep on the island, community awareness remains one of Barbour’s top priorities going forward. In that vein, the organization recently held a luncheon for current and potential partners to outline the state of the organization and its future goals. “Our biggest challenge right now is trying to get the community more involved. My objective is to go out in the community and make them aware that were here. Some churches didn’t know about us, so we’re still now reaching out,” says Barbour.
Municipal support for James Island Outreach is noticeably absent, save for the now-defunct Town of James Island, which helped prop up the group financially. “They’re all aware that we’re here and that we have a need, but we’ve had no help from either the City or County of Charleston to date,” says Barbour.
Aside from the religious community, support for the organization comes from area schools, particularly with respect to food drives. “The kids are fantastic, whenever we have a food drive, we hear about the kids going home to their pantries to clean out,” says Barbour.
Barbour says James Island Outreach is a good and worthy place to put your or your company’s charitable contributions. “A lot of people want to help locally, and that’s the thing, they don’t even know where to go,” he says. “We’ve been getting a lot of support from individuals within the community. It’s nice to get one donation, but we’re looking for partners, someone to partner with us and share the vision that no one on James Island go home hungry.”
Depending on the level of financial support they receive, Barbour and Outreach’s Board of Directors have big plans for the future. The group’s goal is to operate a hot soup kitchen a couple of days each week.
James Island Outreach’s next fundraiser is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. The group presents “A Taste of James Island’s Churches,” a culinary collaboration of a dozen participating churches. Each church will have some of their more epicurean members on hand serving up free portions of their respective dishes, with music to be provided by various gospel and praise groups, and entertainment for the children. The event is free of charge, but organizers request attendees make some kind of donation. A Taste of James Island’s Churches will be held Saturday, April 21 from 3-6 p.m. at James Island Christian Church, located at 12 Sawgrass Road.
For more information on James Island Outreach, go to the group’s website at http://www.JIOutreach.org (currently under construction), or call the organization at 762-3653.