The Springs Close Foundation is changing its focus.
Traditionally, the foundation has provided funding to qualified nonprofit organizations that focus on recreation, the environment, education, community service and health.
But as unemployment rates climb and the economic crisis continues, organizers announced Monday it will begin to only accept grant requests from nonprofit groups that help local residents with basic and emergency needs such as shelter, food and medical assistance.
"Everything is focused on these emergency needs right now," Foundation President Angie McCrae said.
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"It was a well-thought out decision, not a hard decision because this is what needs to be done. I'm very proud of the board of directors for making this decision."
The foundation also is changing its grant process to allow nonprofit organizations to apply for funding throughout the year, instead of just twice a year as they have done previously.
The Springs Close Foundation serves Chester and Lancaster counties and a portion of York County. It has operated for more than 65 years and contributed nearly $100 million to charities and nonprofit programs in the region.
The Fort Mill Care Center will continue to receive money from the foundation because it meets the foundation's new criteria on assisting residents with basic needs and the flexibility in applying for additional funds will be helpful, said Care Center President Judy Smith.
The Care Center operates strictly on donations, so officials there don't know from week-to-week whether they will have enough food and money to hand out to families in need.
"Today we are OK. Tomorrow, we don't know. [The flexibility] definitely would help us ," Smith said.
"We've already had four or five new clients just today. Most days, we are getting four or five new families. The economy has really been hitting us."
McCrae said she expects the majority of grant requests to come from Lancaster and Chester counties, where unemployment figures are soaring above 15 percent. York County's latest unemployment rate is 12.7, according to the S.C. Employment Security Commission.
"We're going to be working with all kinds of groups, but we don't want to leave Fort Mill out because there are poor people in Fort Mill," McCrae said.
"They are hurting because they lost their jobs. They don't have any way of getting medical care or food for their families."
The Springs Close Foundation will honor all existing grants through 2009, McCrae said, including grants to the Fort Mill School District for continuing education programs.
At the end of the year, however, those grants will be suspended until the foundation's board decides to go back to their traditional requirements.
For more information on applying for funds through the Springs Close Foundation, call McCrae at 547-2002.