2020 All-America City Finalist – Sumter, SC

Team Sumter is proudly represented by a diverse group of individuals from all areas of the community – civic organizations, service agencies, businesses, churches, schools, and others – offering equal representation for every citizen. This entire team plays an integral role in the overall health, safety, and welfare of the community with initiatives ranging from community beautification to more complex social problems.

The city uses formal and informal processes to identify common goals and solutions to help meet diverse community needs. Sumter’s diversity is reflected in representation on City and County Councils and abundant services are offered in both English and Spanish. As shown in their highlighted projects, Team Sumter has made it a priority to include traditionally marginalized populations as it works towards an improved quality of life for all residents.

Healthy Bodies
According to research, 32% of Sumter County’s population was overweight or obese, and 15% of citizens reported that access to health services was a problem. This lack of access has been largely remedied by the establishment of Tandem Health, a federally qualified health center that combines a wide range of affordable care with community outreach.

Tandem Health locations are purposefully situated near area bus stops, where reliable, low-cost transportation is available. Tandem also accepts all insurances and offers a sliding scale discount to eligible patients to ensure that finances are not a barrier to treatment.

With the issues of accessibility and affordability largely addressed, citizen-led groups shifted their attention to prevention initiatives.

Several farmer’s markets have been established in former food deserts and the Friendship Community Garden, located in a predominantly minority low-income area, allows residents to tend to free garden plots, with unused produce being donated. Exercise opportunities are also being expanded with the addition of four new parks and improvements to 20 others.

Obesity is also being addressed through the “Healthy Weight and Your Child” program, which focuses on nutrition education to encourage healthy eating habits, and physical activity to promote an active lifestyle.

The program involves both parent and child in education, healthy food choices, and physical activity. The physician-referred program, available in English and Spanish for children ages 7-13 with BMI in the 95th percentile or higher, consists of 25 bi-weekly and weekly sessions held at the local YMCA.

Healthy Minds
Sumter County has an extensive network of mental health services, from inpatient treatment facilities to community-based support groups. Local government works with health care providers, public agencies, civic organizations, and faith groups to facilitate mental and emotional well-being and provide community support for people facing mental or behavioral difficulties.

Population-Specific Interventions Include: 

Students: Sumter’s public-school district employs school psychologists to coordinate services and work one-on-one with troubled students. The district also operates Brewington Academy, a self-contained alternative program for students whose disciplinary problems prevent them from learning in a traditional setting. Students have access to tools such as the Shout Back Lab, a computer program designed to identify violent or suicidal tendencies.

Seniors: Project CheckMate addresses the social isolation faced by seniors who live alone. The project consists of regular in-home visits, household safety assessments, general assistance in household maintenance and much more.

Veterans: Comprehensive mental health services provided at Shaw Air Force Base consist of individual and marital counseling, educational classes, relaxation interventions, psychological testing, psychiatric services including medication, command consultations, and traumatic stress response.

The Sumter Family YMCA’s “StrongMIND” program helps veterans manage PTSD by promoting positive thinking habits. This 12-week program incorporates breathing and yoga exercises, aerobic activities, and strength training.

Individuals Struggling with Addiction: The Sumter Behavioral Health Services (BHS) provides a continuum of care for substance abuse and related issues. Individual and group counseling address depression and anxiety, trauma and PTSD, marital or partner issues, family issues, grief and loss, and anger management.

Affordable and Humane Housing
Stable, affordable and humane housing is a basic human need and a community priority in Sumter. Programs available to those in need include:

  • United Ministries operates a 26-bed emergency shelter for families in crisis. Meals, showers, and laundry facilities are available.
  • YWCA of the Upper Lowlands offers a Safe House to families experiencing domestic violence. The emergency shelter offers a supportive environment focused on healing.
  • Oxford Houses provides transitional housing to recovering alcoholics and addicts.
  • The Sumter County Disability and Special Needs Board operates 22 residential facilities.
  • The Sumter Veterans Council is developing a transitional housing program for veterans to empower those in need, as they move from active duty to civilian life.

In addition to these services for the housing insecure, Sumter is dedicated to improving the overall housing environment through these projects:

  • The Sumter Pride program provides demolition assistance to owners of vacant houses that are hazardous or hopelessly deteriorated. Once demolished, the vacant land belongs to the owner and can be sold or used for new construction.
  • STEP (Santee-Lynches Tenant Empowerment Program) reduces the burden of housing costs for citizens who seek short-term assistance while pursuing educational goals or workforce development training.
  • The Affordable Housing Program helps with the up-front costs of home ownership by constructing stick-built houses for qualified applicants who contribute one percent of the purchase price.
  • The Restore program assists qualified applicants with home repairs and maintenance.
  • The Sumter Veteran’s Council helps veterans remain independent, healthy, and safe in their own homes by offering various services.

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