The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina funds hope in South Carolina by supporting projects that address poverty every day in our State. We not only invest in organizations that help reduce poverty, we’ve started some of our own initiatives to help tackle some of the biggest challenges we see. Creating a path for positive groundbreaking work that strengthens families and communities experiencing poverty and laying the groundwork for social change through new initiatives.

Immigrant Families Initiative

South Carolinians who were born abroad make multiple contributions to the state’s economy sharing business, leadership, education, labor and other skills. Representing nearly 5% of the state’s total population, immigrants are one of the fastest growing segments of the state’s population, the majority coming from Latin America, followed by Asia and Europe. These newcomers bring tremendous strengths despite adverse circumstances a large number face who live in low-wealth communities. In order for South Carolina to compete economically, culturally responsive services are needed for immigrant and refugee families to excel and thrive.

Integrating immigrants and refugees yields tremendous benefits for South Carolina, ultimately contributing to shared prosperity and economic vitality for all. Rooted in the Foundation’s mission and core values of compassion and courage, the Immigrant Families Initiative launched in June 2014 dedicated to enhancing the health, well-being and economic mobility of immigrant, mixed-status and refugee families. Working to lift families out of poverty, we invest and leverage strategically, convene stakeholders and form intentional alliances supporting community-driven efforts to build inclusive, welcoming places for new South Carolinians. We have invested more than $400,000 to organizations serving families struggling to make ends meet across the state. Recognizing that communities flourish when all members feel they belong, we welcome and embrace New Americans who strengthen the communities we care deeply about across South Carolina, a place they consider home.

The Immigrant Families Initiative seeks to improve the health, well-being and economic mobility of first and second generation immigrants, mixed status families and refugees working alongside our grantees, community stakeholders and philanthropic partners by achieving the following results:

  • boost resources of families living below 200% of the poverty line to meet basic needs of a safe, stable place to live, access to enough food, affordable health coverage and quality child care;
  • build inclusive, welcoming communities increasing social capital of newcomers;
  • employ two generation strategies to strengthen and support families;
  • improve educational outcomes from early childhood to postsecondary educational pathways;
  • enhance workforce and career skills for family-sustaining employment or entrepreneurship;
  • support DREAMers positioning them for success and next generation leadership;
  • bolster efforts to obtain citizenship, naturalization or other legal statuses;
  • increase civic engagement to strengthen communities and create social change.

Funding in this category is only for strong nonprofit organizations whose work aligns with our mission and two or more of the above targeted results we seek to achieve. Each applicant must present a solid, established plan for measuring their goals, outcomes and results to demonstrate targeted impact. We partner with nonprofits willing to collaborate, share emerging ideas and promising practice models for potential replication. We welcome opportunities to dialogue and partner with other funders for greater leverage and deeper grantmaking impact.

Immigrant Families Initiative Timeline

2016:     Refined grantmaking focus and strategies establishing eight areas of impact to improve the health, well-being and economic mobility of first and second generation immigrants, mixed status families and refugees; supported the 2nd Annual Farmworker Institute with nearly 80 representatives from more than 25 agencies in April; Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter presented on the Immigrant Families Initiative in Austin, Texas at GCIR’s 2016 National Convening and 25th Anniversary Celebration in May; Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter presented at the New Americans Task Force Region IV gathering in Atlanta in June, Chynna A. Phillips wrote a symposium report summarizing the gathering in July; awarded eight Immigrant Families Initiative grants totaling $175,000 to serve South Carolina’s immigrant and refugee populations in June; released public policy statement supporting immigrant families impacted by the tied decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Texas v. United States, a the deadlock decision which left in place a lower court decision halting the implementation of expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) in June; Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter moderated panel for Assembly of Catholic Foundations on focused on the complex intersections between immigrants, refugees and human trafficking while highlighting outreach efforts in South Carolina with representatives from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston Immigration Services, Lutheran Services Carolinas and the South Carolina Immigrant Victims Network in June; convened Immigrant Families Initiative grantees from across the state in September; completed Immigrant Families Initiative Grantmaking Impact Report for 2015 in August; supported 10 PASOs Community Health Workers participation in the 6th Conference on Immigration to the US South totaling 86 attendees through the Arnold School of Public Health Consortium for Latino Immigrant Studies at the University of South Carolina in October; immigrant speaker shared perspective with nonprofit and foundation leaders in Carolina Academy workshop led by Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter entitled, Leading Bravely, Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in November.

2015:     Sponsored release of Hold On To Your Dreams calendars highlighting the issue of tuition equity for South Carolina immigrant youth; provided grant to support the development of a pro bono legal program to assist eligible unaccompanied minors residing in South Carolina; invited by the White House Office of Public Engagement and attended President Obama’s Town Hall Meeting at Benedict College; hosted the National Immigration Forum stakeholders meeting in Columbia on Immigration 2020 in March; launched the South Carolina Farmworker Institute Inaugural Summit and Networking Event with sixty representatives from more than twenty agencies statewide in April; sponsored Access Summit 2015 which included the release of the report, Access: Serving Immigrants in South Carolina, in partnership with the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina in May; awarded eight Immigrant Families Initiative grants totaling $107,210 to serve South Carolina’s immigrant and refugee populations in June; Young Immigrants in Action presented to the Foundation’s Board in June on their journeys and the injustice of tuition inequity for undocumented young adults; met with representatives from the Mexican Consulate and more than thirty other South Carolina stakeholders focused on issues that migrant and seasonal farmworkers face in South Carolina in June; presented to the Assembly of Catholic Foundations on immigrants and refugees in June; held Listening Session with Student Action with Farmworkers in July; convened Immigrant Families Initiative grantees from across the state in September; South Carolina immigrant families highlighted in September the Migration Policy Institute report Health and Social Service Needs of US-Citizen Children with Detained or Deported Immigrant Parents; invited to join The Administration for Children and Families Region IV Task Force focused on New Americans in September.

2014:     Began elected service on Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) national Board of Directors in January; hosted the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation along with other local funding partners to discuss the Puentes Project/PASOs in January; presented to the North Carolina Farmworkers Institute on our partnership with Student Action with Farmworkers in April; launched Immigrant Families Initiative in June during National Immigrant Heritage Month and awarded six Immigrant Families Initiative grants totaling $112,041; released the Research Brief, From Sun-Up to Sun-Down: Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers in South Carolina written by Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter in July and conducted interviews on brief with the Catholic Miscellany, the Post and Courier and EFE; supported the City of Columbia in passing a resolution to welcome unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children and to support comprehensive immigration reform in August; attended GCIR’s national convening in Nashville, Tennessee in May; convened first round of Immigrant Families Initiative grantees from across state in September.

2013:     Released Research Brief, Latino Immigrant Families in South Carolina in March written by Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter; hosted Federal research study team’s visit to South Carolina in June as they conducted interviews on the implications of immigration enforcement activities on the well-being of children in immigrant families; held Listening Session with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) to learn about the work and contributions of migrant farmworkers in July; hosted the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network; co-sponsored funders briefing on the impact of immigration reform in the Southeast with The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in October in Arkansas.  

2012:     Conducted Listening Session with twenty-five Latino Puentes Community Ambassadors through PASOs in June; shared research, best practices and lessons learned supporting immigrant families at the 2012 Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF) 43rd Annual Meeting in Charleston in the session The Changing Face of the South: How Grantmakers Can Support the Rapidly Growing Immigrant Population with The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in November.

2011:     Began examining the Latino population demographic data as an outgrowth of the 2010 Census data and continued to listen directly to the experiences of Latinos from across the state through conversations with grantees.

2010:     First grant awarded to PASOs, additional grants awarded to PASOs in subsequent years; conducted Listening Session on Johns Island with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Center focused on Latino families in April.

2006:     Stephanie Cooper-Lewter presented to Foundation President on the unmet need of Hispanic families in South Carolina highlighting the Hispanic growth in South Carolina and challenges faced (i.e. poverty, housing, health care, etc.).

2001:     Foundation awards first grant Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF); additional grants awarded to SAF in subsequent years.

To learn more about the Immigrant Families Initiative, contact Dr. Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, Vice President of Initiatives and Public Policy at (803)254-0230 x 24 or

Research Brief March 2013