By: Kaelyn Cashman
Serving neighbors in need, Greer Relief & Resources Agency has been a landmark in Greer for more than 80 years.
“I get a lot of joy from the idea that what I do has the potential to better someone’s life,” said Tyler Edmond, RENEW program coordinator. “I try to create classes with our Neighbors in mind, classes that are both beneficial and relevant to their lives.”
For example, on Jan. 18, Greer Relief will be partnering with Sharonview Federal Credit Union to bring the community a course titled Auto Buying 101.
“The class will take a look at how to determine the amount you can actually afford, the importance of preapproval, leasing v. buying, and more,” Edmond said. “We feel that this class will benefit our community and positively impact the lives of those who attend.”
One of the biggest challenges, she said, is getting to know the area and the people served.
“Everyone wants to hit the ground running when they take over their position, but to do so requires some level of familiarity,” Edmond said. “I have been very fortunate that the Greer community has been so welcoming.”
“Our Neighbors are everyday people who, like all of us at some point, just need some help,” she said. “I really do love getting to hear their stories and seeing where I can be of help to them.”
A native of Columbia, Edmond came to Greer Relief about five years ago through the AmeriCorps VISTA program and the United Way of the Piedmont.
“What I’m looking forward to the most this year is the start of our community garden,” Edmond said. “This is coming to fruition through a partnership with one of our gardening instructor, Andrew Padula of Padula’s Plants and Gardens.”
“The space will allow us to offer a hands-on element to our gardening classes, and all the produce grown will be given out to the community,” she said. “Currently, we are in the early stages of the planning now, but we are thinking big.”
Padula, a RENEW instructor for sustainable gardening, is joining the project as the designer and overseer.
“I have an organic based nursery in the area,” Padula said. “That’s what I actually do for work; I do garden design and landscaping and chemical free gardening.”
“It’s going to be one of those processes that we’re going to do one step at a time,” he said of the community garden. “The overall point of the garden is to make it a perennial food crop garden. If we focus the plants that are going into it to be on the perennial side, that’s more of a long-term, sustainable garden.”
The garden will be located outside of Greer Relief along the length of the building.
“It’s where the refrigerator is,” Padula said. “It’s going to be within some gated areas. Some things that we’re considering as far as the design goes is to do some vertical gardening because of the limited amount of space.”
“The goal is to design a self watering system with rain barrels, so it’s off the grid so to speak as far as taking care of it,” he said. “The goal of the garden is to have year-round sustainability and also to be used for teaching. I’ll be using the garden as a hands on teaching tool when I’m teaching classes.”
The plan is to have the garden ready for planting by late spring or early summer.
“We’re at the very beginning stages of it,” Padula said. “I’m looking forward to getting the garden started.”
“I think it’s a nice addition,” he said. “I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
Padula has about eight to 15 people in his classes that he teaches about once or twice a month.
Greer Relief has also established a new partnership with Empire Ltd. Studio., and the owner James Carter will be allowing RENEW rewards to be spent in his store starting in February.
“RENEW rewards are vouchers given at the end of each of our classes,” Edmond said. “RENEW rewards can be redeemed through our RENEW shop, which has gently used and brand new donated items.”
“They can also be spent at Sharon’s Closet at Greer Community Ministries, our Food Co-Op (done in partnership with Loaves & Fishes and Greer Community Ministries), or they can be saved to use to participate in our Christmas Morning Shoppe in December,” Edmond said. “Adding Empire Ltd. Studio to this list will open so many doors for those in the community who are seeking employment or just want to look their best.”
Classes, which are scheduled based on the availability of volunteers, focus on financial stability, job skills, mental wellness, and physical wellness, and RENEW classes are available to anyone, regardless of location. Those who are interested can find the latest classes online at www.greerrelief.org/calendar.
“The program is always looking for volunteer instructors who wish to share their talents and passion with the community,” Edmond said.
Founded in 2015, RENEW is designed to improve the quality of life and nutrition of neighbors in need through opportunities to learn and develop skills that will set them on a path of healthy living.
Greer Relief has many other services areas in addition to the RENEW program.
About Greer Relief
According to the organization, Greer Relief exists to transform neighbors in need to neighbors who thrive, by providing services to eliminate poverty and help neighbors overcome barriers for success.
Greer Relief is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, and the service area includes Greenville and Spartanburg counties, focusing many services in Greer, Taylors, Duncan, Lyman, and Wellford.
Prevention is at the core of Greer Relief’s mission.
In 1936, in the depth of the Great Depression, Greer citizens founded Greer Relief to help prevent their neighbors from starving and freezing, and they have continued to fight hunger and homelessness in the community.
Today, the agency intervenes when crisis threatens a family’s life using proven practices that meet needs and offer solutions to alter each family’s trajectory.
Christmas Morning Shoppe
The goal of the Christmas Morning Shoppe is to provide neighbors in need with Christmas gifts for their family under the tree.
In turn, this event prevents them from either spending their limited resources on gifts or going without completely.
This incentive program allows qualifying parents in need to earn Christmas gifts for their children, instead of depending on organizations that provide gifts through one way giving.
Parents are required to attend free classes through RENEW to earn a shopping appointment.
The Christmas store is housed at a donated facility, staffed by volunteers, and stocked with popular new toys and gifts which are generously donated by local churches, schools, corporations and individuals.
Case management allows Greer Relief professionals to assess each client’s unique situation and formulate a plan for maximum efficacy in their lives.
Because of this one-on-one approach, Greer Relief is able to maximize confidentiality and lower the chances the client will find the need to return to them.
After assistance is provided, Greer Relief attempts to match the client with other resources and agencies that can then further assist clients in overcoming their current difficulties.
The need for financial relief is assessed by case managers and is offered to cover utility bills, rent, mortgage and prescription medications.
Relief may also include food vouchers and/or emergency call-only cell phones.
Greer Relief supplies food for neighbors in need who qualify for this assistance.
The food pantry houses nonperishable foods as well as household items.
Commonly requested items include:
Boxed meals, such as mac ‘n cheese and buttered noodles
Canned soups, vegetables, meats, and more.
Canned holiday foods
Grooming products, like soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste
Paper goods: toilet paper, paper towels, plasticware
Warmth: heaters, blankets
Greer Food Co-Op
Greer Relief has partnered with two other non-profit organizations, Greer Community Ministries and Loaves & Fishes, to form The Greer Food Co-op.
Individuals are eligible for membership if they are currently a service recipient and if they have difficulty obtaining enough food for their household.
The Greer Food Co-Op funds provide for a Co-Op Coordinator, who is also a Co-Op member, to facilitate and run the meetings.
Greer Relief is responsible for leadership and operations.
The Greer Food Co-Op meets every two weeks for two hours to unload, sort, and distribute donations and to learn life skills from local professionals.
Holiday Food Programs
The Thanksgiving Dinner Food Box provides a Thanksgiving meal for low-income and homeless individuals and families who might otherwise have no opportunity to celebrate the holiday.
Some Thanksgiving meals may be delivered to people’s homes.
The Christmas Dinner Food Box provides a Christmas dinner for families in need.
Greer Relief provides financial assistance to neighbors in need so that they may remain in their homes.
Through case management, Greer Relief volunteers assess what underlying causes contributed to the current circumstances and refer neighbors in need to the best resource to improve their predicament in the long term as well as the short term.
Further assistance comes from Greer Relief and/or other community organizations.
The J. Verne Smith Center houses a number of community relief organizations only steps away from their offices.
The case manager works with neighbors to identify steps toward independence.
Greer Relief offers a centralized process of applying for programs and resources such as food assistance, health coverage, home energy assistance and much more.
VITA: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
This program offers free tax help to low-to-moderate income individuals and families who cannot prepare their own tax returns.
Certified volunteers receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country.
VITA offers free electronic filing with the program running annually from February to April.
There are many ways for volunteers to make an impact for Greer Relief—some of which don’t even require going out of a daily routine.
Donate Money: Give funds to Greer Relief programs; donations of any amount are accepted. Volunteer: Give time and help the agency receive food pantry items, welcome guests, and more.
Host a Benefit: Host a fundraising event on behalf of Greer Relief.
Hold a Drive: Raise money or items through a personal network, company, school, etc.
Advocate: Invite a Greer Relief representative to speak to a group and other creative ways to spread the word.
Sponsor an Event: Support one of Greer Relief’s major events.
Spread Christmas Cheer: Support the Christmas Morning Shoppe and spread Christmas cheer to neighbors in need.
Get in Touch: Reach out via the contact form and let Greer Relief know ideas to get more neighbors helping neighbors.
Safety Net Assistance
Safety Net Program (food, financial assistance, household, etc) are limited to residents of Greer, Taylors, Duncan, Lyman, and Wellford.
Completed applications are accepted during assistance hours: Mon.-Fri. 9-11 a.m. and Mon., Tues., Thurs. 1:30-4 p.m.
Assistance is limited to residents of Greer, Taylors, Duncan, Lyman, and Wellford. Proof of residence is required.
Then once the Assistance Application is complete with supporting documents, they will be accepted at the Intake Desk.
Then a Case Management Appointment is scheduled to discuss what they can do to help.
The J. Verne Smith Center houses Greer Relief as well as a number of other agencies devoted to serving residents of Greenville and Spartanburg Counties.
Each agency has specific guidelines as to service area covered from the Center.
The J. Verne Smith Center is the one-stop location in Greer for state and non-profit health and human service agencies, such as DSS: Department of Social Services of Greenville & Spartanburg Counties; SNAP (Food Stamps) is working to end hunger and improve the health of low-income people by helping families buy the food they need for a nutritionally adequate diet (848-5380); Greer Free Medical Clinic, adult services for low/no income and no insurance (232-1470); and the Department of Health & Environmental Control, WIC is a nutrition program that provides health education, healthy foods, breastfeeding support, and other services free of charge to South Carolina families who qualify (848-5355).
Greer Relief is led by a volunteer Board of Directors, a small dedicated staff, and key volunteers.
Greer Relief has been a program partner of the United Way of Greenville County since 1964 and United Way of the Piedmont since 1986.
Apart from support provided through the United Way, Greer Relief depends on the generous support of others.
Greer Relief receives funding through high-impact grants and community support.
Greer Relief was founded in 1936 by Greer residents who desired to help neighbors facing difficult circumstances.
In 1991, the J. Verne Smith Center was established by then SC Senator J. Verne Smith, who saw the need for bringing services to the people and asked Greer Relief to take on the responsibility of managing the program.
The one-stop center was founded with funding provided by state agencies and the City of Greer, and has served the community as a hub of job, health, family, disability, and emergency services since that time.
The J. Verne Smith Center initially opened with three agencies: Greer Relief, Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC), and Greenville Department of Social Services (DSS).
Today, two expansions and a renovation later, the original three agencies and Greer Free Medical Clinic offer services from The Center.
Each agency maintains unique hours of operation and service areas.
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