| Program: || PRO Hampton County (Pride Respect Opportunity), Varnville, SC |
| Contact(s): || Peggy Parker, Executive Director, and Kathleen Myers, Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director: (803) 943-3620 |
| Purpose: || To foster pride, respect and opportunity for all Hampton County citizens by empowering the community to work together for an improved quality of life and by encouraging communication, collaboration and volunteerism |
In 1996, PRO Hampton County, a county-wide, grassroots Healthy Communities Initiative, was started at Hampton Regional Medical Center. As part of this initiative, seven democratic community forums were held, each averaging 200 attendees. During the forums, local citizens agreed to address four key community issues: 1) inter-group relations; 2) health and life styles; 3) education; and 4) economic development. Task forces were created to address these issues and 14 projects were originated.
Currently, PRO Hampton County sponsors several ongoing projects which directly impact race relations. For example, the Study Circle Program gives its participants an opportunity to talk openly and honestly about race relations. The program currently operates in five different towns throughout the county and has led to the creation of a Veterans Study Circle Group, which gives past participants of the Study Circles Program a chance to continue their dialogue on race relations and deal with the issues in more depth. This group meets once a week, for two hours at a time, over a five week period. The program enables community members of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds to explore the issues of race and form lasting friendships. In addition to the two programs aimed at adults, PRO Hampton County also provides a Youth Racial Conference, which allows young people from grades three through eight to explore these same issues. The conference is facilitated by adults but planned by young people. During last year's conference, "Where's the Love?" Unity Conference, the young people engaged in group discussions and unity building exercises, wrote poetry and essays, performed skits, sang songs and worked on a creative collage about racial harmony. During the closing ceremony at the conference, groups of the young people presented their ideas about how to improve race relations in their schools and communities. PRO Hampton County also sponsors several projects to reduce race related disparities in the areas of health, education, economics and family planning. The Diabetes Connection Project, for example, helps people with diabetes and those who are at risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is a disease most prevalent in the black community, which makes up 52 percent of the Hampton County population. The program includes an educational component to raise awareness, offers free screenings by health care professionals and coordinates information booths run by various agencies and businesses which offer free supplies. The program has also coordinated a diabetes support group.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
PRO Hampton County has grown from a small organization, comprised of a handful of volunteers working from their kitchen counters and home offices, to an organization comprised of 1,000 volunteers and a full time staff. The PRO Hampton County Study Circles groups are currently in their second programmatic cycle in five towns in the county, and a second Youth Racial Conference is being developed in response to the excitement generated among the youth and their parents by the first conference. As a result of the work of PRO Hampton County's Inter-group Relations Task Force, the County Council passed an Anti-Discrimination Resolution. The South Carolina Christian Action in Public Policy Award was bestowed upon PRO Hampton County. The Diabetes Connection Project has screened hundreds of people and continues to grow. The Healthy Cities/Healthy Communities Foundation awarded PRO Hampton County with the honor and distinction of being a national model for the Healthy Communities Initiative, which is being implemented across the country. PRO Hampton County's Healthy Communities Initiative has enabled disenfranchised communities to make decisions for themselves and to become empowered.