The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families (SCCFF) recently held a festive Bourbon and Barbecue fundraiser to celebrate 20 years of helping fathers and families across the state.

The well-attended event drew a crowd of nearly 400 who flooded the Central Energy building in the BullSteet District Thursday evening to celebrate and support the nonprofit organization.

SCCFF grew out of a statewide initiative launched in 1997 by the Sisters of Charity Foundation (SCF) in an effort to reduce child poverty by re-engaging fathers with families. Given its mission to provide the means for fathers to be great dads, SCCFF continually tackles issues that unintentionally keep fathers and children apart.

According to SCCFF President Karriem Edwards, within the past 20 years, the organization has impacted 25,000 fathers and 56,000 children in South Carolina. While many organizations provide parenting programs, SCCFF offers comprehensive and holistic programming to help fathers in every area of their lives, further cementing its mission to lift up children and families.

"Most resources are committed to helping moms, and ultimately our objective is really to help the kids, but the best way to help the kids is to empower the fathers to be in their lives protecting, providing, and loving," said Edwards. "Statistics show there are 408,000 kids in the state of South Carolina living in single-parent households, and most of us know that most of those single parents are single moms. So, if we can empower the dads in their lives, not only do they help the kids, they help the moms."

SCCFF offers struggling fathers the opportunity to engage in programs that help family resources, relationships, parenting skills, and job skills. These services are provided through partnerships with six local organizations spread over 15 locations which help SCCFF serve all 46 counties in the state.

"Research that will tell you that an absent father will affect areas of children's lives that have to do with teen pregnancy, with school, their future, living in poverty, and using substances," said SCCFF Marketing Manager Cristy Marshall. "And having a father present in their lives makes all the difference."

Backing the research, SCCFF states that more than 53% of participants experience positive parenting outcomes, and 78% of engaged participants leave programs prepared to live up to the responsibilities of being a father. Multiple studies have shown when dads are present and positively engaged, children thrive, families prosper, and communities are made safer and stronger.

Donna Waites, president of the Sisters of Charity Foundation South Carolina, said that the founding organization knew, based on research the family unit and the strength of the family was an indicator of a child's success in the future.

"Knowing that we wanted to break the cycle of generational poverty, we looked at what is it about the family unit, where does it break down, and the trend was father absences," said Waites.

Business owner Keito Jordan and former program participant, is one of many fathers who proudly credits SCCFF for helping him become the man and father he is today.

"After coming out of prison and growing up without my dad, I had my own issues, and I had to deal with my emotions," Jordan said. "At 22 years old, finding the program was the first time that I found something that I could be a part of, and I found men that I could connect to, and as a young man, I think for me and my life, I needed men. The program that's what it does. The fatherhood not only brings information that helps you become a father and a better man. It connects you with men that you probably might not be able to meet, depending on what community you come from or where you come from; so a lot of the men that I know now to this day from the fatherhood have allowed me to grow and mature," he said.

SCCFF has become the voice for fathers in South Carolina. Visit scfathersandfamilies.com to learn more about the organization.

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