KNOW2 2020 End of Year Report
Written By Teresa Spires
2020 – a year that many will be happy to see end – was tough. These times of stress, uncertainty and change help us to remember how important community really is to our present and our future. KNOW(2) does vital work for the citizens of Cherokee County and this work continued through the pandemic and national Census. Your investment in KNOW(2) helps us continue the mission of connecting individuals and organizations to develop a positive culture of learning and good health for personal success and civic prosperity.
KNOW(2) is a connector for good pulling together volunteers, leaders and experts to address community needs in focus areas like economic success, public health, education, family & youth, and special projects like the national Census.
KNOW(2) empowers people with programs like the Neighborhood Ambassadors, BGEN, Fit2gether, the Honorable Rufus H. Foster, Jr. Scholarship program at Spartanburg Community College (SCC), and Eat Smart, Move More.
KNOW(2) helps Cherokee County become more prosperous and helps measure that success with benchmarks like the Community Indicators.
While the pandemic slowed many efforts and prevented our annual celebration event – the Night at the Oscars, our work continues. With local investments and support, we plan to expand current efforts in program development and community connection in 2021. As we look back on our efforts and successes in 2020, we also look forward to new opportunities in 2021.
In 2020, KNOW(2) completed our 4th review of local community data benchmarks. These community indicators were reviewed and published along with a new report on community health. Both reports were prepared by the Metropolitan Studies Institute at USC Upstate. They are available by contacting our executive director at Teresa.firstname.lastname@example.org.
KNOW(2) is also working with our Eat Smart, Move More public health task force on a Vision for Health strategic plan. This work is in partnership with the South Carolina Office of Rural Health’s Blueprint for Health program, which has provided capacity building training to our team developing stronger leadership on public health initiatives and efforts to create strategies encouraging healthy eating, active living, smoking cessation, poverty reduction, youth empowerment, and other efforts to promote a healthier community now and in the future.
As part of this effort, our team is working with Foodshare SC on the development and launch of a hub in 2021, which will allow and encourage residents to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables by purchasing a wholesale box of these items every 2 weeks. The Foodshare boxes will be $15 cash, $16.25 by credit card, or 5 SNAP dollars and will include 20-25 pounds of fruits and vegetables. More information will be coming soon about this exciting opportunity.
KNOW(2) also oversaw the work of the local 2020 Census Complete Count Committee. Census Completion was a team effort with many nonprofits, government agencies and local volunteers pitching in. Together, we managed to get Cherokee County in the top 15 in South Carolina for self-reported completion. Activities included multiple efforts to reach low response areas, raffle prizes for people who had completed the Census, and a Census Day event.
Building consensus, compassion and trust at all levels of the community is an important component of KNOW(2). Both our business generator, BGEN, and our Neighborhood Ambassador program rely on people working directly with others in relationships built on common understanding and mutual respect. Change in our community is very much a person-to-person effort that recognizes, respects and cares for those most at-risk, while working to improve the lives of everyone.
Our Neighborhood Ambassadors, a coalition of African American volunteers focused on improving the lives of Cherokee County’s most at-risk citizens, includes over 200 volunteers. In 2020, the coalition encouraged school-aged children through after-school tutoring; mentored at-risk youth during school lunches; fed children when school was not in session; distributed books and school supplies, encouraged parents to get their GED or other training, sponsored inspirational and informational speakers, and created celebrations to make life more special for children in poverty.
The Neighborhood Ambassadors have many success stories from feeding hundreds of school children during the summer and the COVID 19 pandemic to men and women who have completed their educations to local children who are now working on college degrees or have completed school and are now working and giving back as Neighborhood Ambassador volunteers. Neighborhood Ambassadors build trust and show compassion while supporting people where they are and working to bring them out of poverty and into more fulfilling and productive lives.
In recognition of this community-driven effort, the Neighborhood Ambassadors program was named a finalist for the Innovision awards this year and Dr. Carol McFadden, program director, was named an Unsung Hero by Ten at the Top.
Our business generator, BGEN, focuses on business development in the downtown area by providing space, resources and coaching to start-ups businesses, freelancers, creatives and the mobile workforce. This entrepreneurial community and small business mentoring program is led by experienced entrepreneur Brian Zigelheafer.
In 2020, Zakary’s Coffee Shop graduated from BGEN into its own space in the downtown. Pretty Please Custom Eats and Southern Roots Soap Company both started operations. Multiple other small businesses also continue to operate from BGEN as they grow, learn and prepare to be successful long-term operations.
BGEN is also expanding with renovation of the back section of the building scheduled for completion by early 2021. The new space will allow private office-based operations in the back with retail space in the front. Virtual memberships for small businesses who need coaching, but not space are also available. More information and applications are available at www.know2bgen.com.
The Honorable Rufus H. Foster, Jr. Scholarship at the Spartanburg Community College (SCC) is a joint KNOW(2), SCC and Cherokee County government effort to encourage more local residents to get the training and education they need to be successful in today’s workforce. This scholarship encourages people to explore training opportunities, which encourages them to apply to SCC and for federal funds, such as Pell Grants. About 85% of local SCC students are 100% federally funded. Approximately 60 students have used the scholarship funds since the program began in 2010 with about 7 needing these funds in 2020.
KNOW(2)’s work though gathering data and people, encouraging change, prompting a growth mindset and building opportunities for all will lead to more a more prosperous Cherokee County. From our Neighborhood Ambassadors encouraging youth to stay in school and mentoring first-generation college students at Spartanburg Community College to developing and supporting start up businesses to ensuring that every resident counts in the national Census effort, KNOW(2) is at work. To continue this work and the long-term results our community needs and desires, we need your help…
Your investment of any amount will support our most at-risk families, continue efforts to develop new businesses downtown, encourage healthier eating and more active living, and provide the building blocks for personal and community prosperity in Cherokee County. Please consider making a gift to help us continue this valuable work.
Teresa H. Spires