community empowerment center
 

City Departments

community empowerment center

West Columbia Community Center

754 "B" Avenue

West Columbia, SC 29169

803.739.6238


"Striving to Make a Difference In Our Community"


In 1998, West Columbia established a Community Empowerment Center in the Lakeview Education Center, a former middle school situated in a low-to-moderate income neighborhood. Through the Center, now located at 754 "B" Avenue, the City provides outreach programs to citizens who need assistance because of disabilities, childcare constraints, unemployment or impoverishment.


The Center implemented tutoring services and parenting classes. It sponsored special events including Halloween and Christmas parties for at-risk young people. The Center also sponsored community involvement efforts such as Thanksgiving food baskets for shut-ins and a winter coat drive for needy citizens.


Partnerships have been developed with several businesses and charitable organizations, including Columbia Farms, Sickle Cell Anemia Association and God's Helping Hands. The Center enables diverse outreach programs to be merged into centrally organized efforts. It takes away barriers for citizens to contribute their talents and skills to enrich the lives of people in need.


The Food Pantry is perhaps the City's most significant on-going community support effort and is managed by the Community Liaison. To receive food from the pantry, a person must fill out an application that assesses the financial status and level of need. A log is maintained to track the number and type of people helped. The Community Liaison spearheads food drives three times a year to replenish the Food Pantry. Local school are targeted in March and city businesses in June. The Thanksgiving season food drive, from September through November, involves schools, businesses, churches and civic groups to provide food for the pantry and for the Thanksgiving Basket Give Away.


The Back-to-School Bash, an outgrowth of the parenting classes and tutoring program, is held in September to provide school supplies to needy children. The event is held in a city park and co-sponsored by many businesses in West Columbia that contributed food, drinks and cash donations to help kick off the new school year. Children receive bags of school supplies containing paper, pencils, pens, crayons, rulers and other items.


Volunteers at the Community Empowerment Center separate the supplies into age categories and bag them. The school supplies are purchased from the local school district warehouse with funds provided by jury duty pay donations. This unique program is designed to support the City's community-based prevention and intervention programs aimed at the at-risk youth. The program is the first of its kind in South Carolina and allows jurors, by completing a form, to donate their jury pay of $10 directly to the At-Risk Youth Prevention program. Each $10 donation buys school supplies for two children.


West Columbia's Empowerment Center enables the City to provide a variety of services to assist low to moderate-income families, create new programs to address social problems and serves as a focal point for community activities.


The Empowerment Center coordinates many diverse outreach activities into centrally organized efforts. New programs are being developed because meeting space is now available for participants. We offer opportunities for individual citizens to contribute their talents and skills to enrich the lives of people in need. Many church and civic organizations have linked their charitable efforts with the Center.


Residents, businesses, schools, civic and church groups directly aid citizens in need and by doing so, bring help and renewed hope to people in need.


Sandra Nieves, a Community Liaison person, who is a former community oriented police officer, staffs the Empowerment Center. She works directly with individuals and at times, whole neighborhoods, to develop and implement strategies to strengthen families. She develops projects, services and outreach programs for people coping with problems caused by crime, poverty, unemployment and other risk factors.


programs

Thermal Winter Drive

The winter clothing and coat drive was established because many citizens, especially children and the elderly, were found to be in desperate need of decent winter clothing. Sweaters and coats are collected through schools, women's church circles, community organizations and individuals. Donations are accepted at the Community Empowerment Center, the West Columbia Fire Department and West Columbia City Hall.


Easter Fun Day

The Easter Egg Hunt was established approximately eight years ago. Children from the community are invited to participate. The children hunt for plastic eggs, which are then exchanged for the real thing. The following activities are provided at this annual event.


  • Hot dogs and Drinks
  • Games
  • Raffle (Easter Baskets)
  • Face Painting
  • Music

Back to School Bash

Created to help kick off the new school year for needy children, this annual event is co-sponsored by many businesses in West Columbia who contribute food, drinks and cash donations. Volunteers gather at the Community Empowerment center to separate the supplies into age categories and bag them to meet the needs of grammar, middle and high school students. Held in a city park, children receive a bag of school supplies containing paper, pencils, pens, crayons, rulers and other items. These supplies are purchased through the local school district warehouse with funds provided by jury duty pay donations. This unique program is designed to support the City's community-based prevention and intervention programs aimed at the at-risk youth. The program is the first of its kind in South Carolina and allows jurors, by completing a form, to donate their jury pay of $10 directly to the At-Risk Youth Prevention fund. Each $10 donation buys school supplies for two children.


Halloween Bash

Established seven years ago, the annual Halloween Bash is geared to keeping children off the streets and in a safe environment on Halloween night. Up to 400 children have participated in this event. The following activities are provided:


  • Food
  • Games
  • Music
  • Dance Contest
  • Costume Contest
  • Face Painting
  • Fortune Teller

Thanksgiving Baskets

Established seven years ago, food is collected from community residents, civic groups, churches and businesses. The first year 65 families were provided with food baskets. The program has expanded to serve over 90 families during the holiday season. Home deliveries are provided to shut-ins and the elderly residents.


Community Clean-up

The Adopt-A-Street program was established three years ago. Students from Brookland Cayce High School's Character Club Kids and Teen Companions participate in a project to clean up major streets in West Columbia three times a year.


Adopt-A-Child Star Tree

At the beginning of the holiday season, a Christmas tree decorated with gold stars bearing the name, age and gender of a child is placed at the West Columbia Fire Department. Residents, churches, civic groups, and businesses are encouraged to choose a needy child's star, purchase a gift for the child, and attach the star to the gift. Santa presents the gifts to the children at the annual Christmas party held for this purpose. The party provides food, games, and entertainment to needy children.


Food Pantry

The Food Pantry is perhaps the City's most significant on-going community support effort and is managed by the Community Liaison. To receive assistance from the Food Pantry, a person must complete an application to assess the financial status and level of need. Among the recipients are young children, elderly and disabled persons. The Police Department's COP Officer and the Victim Assistance Officer distribute food to families experiencing crisis situations such as illness, unemployment and domestic violence. Four major food drives are sponsored each year to replenish the Food Pantry. The following groups are actively involved with the food drives.


Brookland Cayce High School Character Club

George I. Pair Elementary School

United States Postal Service

Chamber of Commerce

Setzler & Scott Law Firm

Boy Scouts of America (local troops)

Girl Scouts of America (local troops)

Residents of the West Columbia Metropolitan Area


If you would like to volunteer time, skills, help with any programs, or donate items of food or clothing, please call:


sandy nieves

Sandy Vergara-Duarte

Community Liaison, Habla Español

803.739.6238 - Office

803.609.2244 - Mobile



DONATIONS ARE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE


Awards

United States Post Office - Partnership, 1998

Neighborhood Declaration, 1999

ICMA - Carolyn Keane Award, Programs for the Disadvantaged, 2000


gold divider line