Help Me Grow South Carolina has selected a pair of organizations from the Midlands and the Lowcountry to receive the first round of its network partner grants. Calhoun County First Steps and ICNA Relief Shifa Free Clinic will each receive a $10,000 grant in addition to becoming the first official members of the Help Me Grow partner network.

“We are so pleased to launch HMG SC’s partner network with these two first round grantees,” Help Me Grow SC State Director Jane Witowski said. “Both organizations truly understand the needs of the families in their communities, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them to make sure the developmental and behavioral health needs of young children are met.“

Help Me Grow SC launched a state office at South Carolina Infant Mental Health Association (SCIMHA) in 2020 with the intention of establishing a statewide network that will build capacity among communities to provide access to services for young children and their families. The network partner grants are designed to assist recipients in establishing, enhancing and maintaining a network of community partners providing child development services and resources to local families and community members.

“It means so much to be one of the first network partners,” Calhoun County First Steps Executive Director Virginia Newman said. “Calhoun County is such a small county, we say it’s a hidden county, because it’s surrounded by Calhoun and Lexington counties. Children and families usually get many more opportunities there. Partnering with Help Me Grow SC means that we’re small, but we are now going to get a chance to expand and expose our families to those same opportunities.”

Calhoun County First Steps works to assist families to help their children be healthy and ready to succeed upon entering kindergarten. Its focus of child development, early literacy and school readiness make it a natural partner as it serves children from birth through age five in Calhoun County, part of the Columbia Metropolitan Statistical Area that includes St. Matthews.

Shifa Free Clinic is located in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. and offers a number of services including primary care, prenatal, gynecology, pediatrics, dermatology, vision, dental and mental health from a renowned staff – all free of charge. It is part of the national ICNA Relief.

“We are very excited to receive this grant,” Shifa Clinic Founder and Medical Director Dr. Reshma Khan said. “This will open new avenues for us to reach the 0-5 year population and we are looking forward to using this grant for the betterment of the community. There are already a lot of plans and we are excited to now put them into action.”

Help Me Grow South Carolina is a cross-sector, systems-based approach that connects families to the resources they need to help all children thrive. It builds and maintains a network of community resources across sectors and coordinates services across the network. Established in 2008 as one of the first five state affiliates of a national model, HMG SC engages in effective outreach to ensure a consistent and best practice approach among child health providers and community-based organizations.

SCIMHA, the organizational home for Help Me Grow SC, promotes nurturing relationships for South Carolina’s infants, young children and their families. It is a multidisciplinary association of professionals that work to promote these nurturing relationships through resources, policies, and practices to foster healthy social-emotional development and wellbeing.

Help Me Grow will offer its next round of Network Partner Grant funding in Summer 2021.