Berkeley Chamber Kicks off new program with Community Partners

(BERKELEY COUNTY, SC) — The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce through its Rural Initiative has spearheaded a new program – Berkeley Community Cares (BCC). This program is in partnership with our local agencies and organizations: Berkeley Community Mental Health Center; SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department; SC Dept. of Social Services - Berkeley-Dorchester Area Office; At-Risk Programs for Berkeley County School District; Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG); Berkeley Citizens Inc.; Lowcountry Food Bank; and Community Hope Impact Center. Starting July 21st at Cainhoy Elementary School from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon, the BCC will have its first distribution - these visits will be coordinated in the rural areas to provide resources such as food, wellness, and health services to the community.

“The Berkeley Community Mental Health Center is excited about the collaboration between Berkeley Chamber of Commerce’s Rural Initiative and area service agencies and organizations,” says J. Matthew Dorman, M.Ed., LPC, Executive Director, Berkeley Community Mental Health Center. “This Berkeley Community Cares program will bring to our most vulnerable and underserved valuable resources, access to information and services in an effort to promote wellness.”

Elaine Swain, Coordinator of At-Risk Programs for Berkeley County School District, shared “Coming together with community leaders is how we make sure our neediest students and families in Berkeley County get the resources they need to survive every day. The school district partners with Lowcountry Food Bank to serve homeless and at-risk families during the school year and now because of the Berkeley Community Cares initiative, we can provide support during the summer too. This partnership will strengthen the goals and initiatives of Berkeley Community Cares and ensure all who need food are fed.”

“Mobility is often among the greatest challenges our rural residents face,” said BCDCOG Executive Director Ron Mitchum. “Berkeley Community Cares presents a welcome opportunity for our agency to provide an invaluable connection through transit resources, in this case bringing needed support directly out to rural communities.”

“The Berkeley Community Cares Program is extremely needed in these uncertain times and captures our goal for our Chamber Rural Initiative which is ensure no person is left behind or disconnected from our community’s success” stated by Chris Stow, Berkeley Chamber of Commerce President. Stow stated “this is an all-inclusive program for our Chamber, and we will be asking members to contribute to our non-perishable food drives to help support this program. Our Chamber Board is thankful to all of the agencies and organizations that have come together and are dedicated to helping our citizens in rural Berkeley.”

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Rural Initiative has been a collaboration of organizations and agencies whose objective is to help support relatively less resourced rural citizens. Through this initiative, the Chamber gathered input from Berkeley County residents that showed a clear disconnect between the rural population of Berkeley County versus the more urban population. With the most recent pandemic, this divide has grown to show the disinvested, impoverished, declining, and challenged areas of the county. One major barrier where this divide is amplified is the access of basic healthcare services. Although comparable healthcare facilities exist in adjacent counties, many rural residents experience a disproportionate burden in accessing these facilities when compared to their peers in the more developed parts of Berkeley County. The COVID-19 outbreak is further disrupting the healthy eating that builds a healthy immune response, which is needed to help defend the virus. To protect vulnerable populations' access to healthy food is critical. Statistics show that food deserts tend to have residents who have higher poverty rates (Berkeley County, SC poverty rates of 34% - US Census), lower incomes, and higher unemployment.

For more information or if you wish to donate food items, please contact the Chamber at 843-761-8238 or info@berkeleysc.org.

About Berkeley Chamber of Commerce
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business in the greater Berkeley County area. The Chamber seeks to accomplish this vision by advocating for initiatives that enable businesses to grow, thrive and remain relevant and forward-thinking in an ever-changing world. The chamber exists to create a positive impact on our community. The Berkeley Chamber strives to be the unifying force that brings together and leads those who work to improve the quality of life in the Berkeley County region through business growth.
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