6Foundation Program Director, Donna Waites, and Communications Associate, Lydia Royals, visited one of the Foundation’s CMI grantees, Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center, Gloverville, S.C.  to learn about its successful programs that serve the poor of Aiken county. While visiting, they met with Sister Catherine Marie Lowe, DC, Director, and Melanie Hutto, Head Math teacher for the Center’s GED program.

2The Center sits in Horse Creek Valley, which “during the Great Depression was the second largest pocket of poverty in the U.S.,” according to the Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center website. The 18-mile stretch along the Valley is composed of several old textile mill towns. This is part of the reason for the Valley’s poverty; since the last mill closed down in 2006 and left many without work, the area has been in more need than ever.

The lack of resources in the area is why the Center is so important to the community. The Center meets the needs of the poor, sick and elderly members of the community. The Emergency Assistance Ministry “provided assistance to an average of 22 households per month in 2014,” according to the Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center December 2014 newsletter. If the Center cannot directly provide a needed service, it reaches out to its network of individuals and agencies to resolve the issue.

5In addition to providing crucial assistance for the community, the Center also offers a successful afternoon GED program. These GED classes are full with over 44 students per night. The GED classes are offered two nights a week year round.

Unlike many other GED programs, the Center continues to run throughout the summer. The GED program is supported in collaboration with the Aiken County School District and other agencies, organizations and grants.

The GED program prepares students to take all five components of the test including mathematics, Language Arts-Reading, Language Arts-Writing, Science and Social Studies. In addition to earning their GED certificates, students can also earn their WorkKeys certificates.

“Many students have gone on to Aiken Technical College and are working on degrees in various fields. One is in the Engineering program, one is studying General Education and one is in the nursing program as Texas Technical College,” according to the Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center December 2014 newsletter.

Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center runs through the direction of Sr. Catherine Marie, a few employees and numerous volunteers. Through the hard work of these individuals the Center is continuing to make a difference in the Aiken community.