More than 20 people from one of the county's most blighted communities came out to ask the York County Council to reconsider supporting a nonprofit that provides services to the cluster of residents living just southeast of Rock Hill's city limits.
Residents and supporters of Blackmon Road, a county neighborhood without adequate water and sewer services, asked county leaders Monday night to reconsider supporting A Place for Hope, a nonprofit formed in 2001 to help the neighborhood's residents.
The nonprofit provides programs for neighborhood children, many of whom are excelling in school and other areas as a result, said Taja Hawkins, a 2011 Winthrop University graduate and youth coordinator at A Place for Hope.
"These children are my life," Hawkins said. "I believe in this place. I believe in these children."
Ernestine Kirk, a wife of a veteran and resident of the community for more than 30 years while working and raising her son, said the support will help continue adult literacy programs and help children "grow and prosper," she said.
"We are the only charity that you cut off completely," said Mary Hoppman, the nonprofit's executive director since June.
Councilman Bump Roddey urged the council to support A Place for Hope because in this year's budget, the county already pledged to continue supporting other agencies at reduced levels.
A Place for Hope asked the county for matching funds for an infrastructure grant and was denied. Later, it asked for $10,000 in operational support, which the council also denied.
Roddey argued that the county could meet the organization's request easily. A Place for Hope still has $7,200 of unclaimed money that the county allocated to the nonprofit last year. He asked the council to add $2,800 to that figure to fulfill its request.
Councilmen Bruce Henderson and Eric Winstead both argued that the role of government shouldn't be to give to charities, that churches should do it.
When his motion failed for lack of a second, Roddey made another: to cut all support for outside agencies. That motion also failed. Roddey left the meeting immediately after the vote.
"I'm ashamed to sit on a council that feels this way," he said outside the council chambers. "We get all this rhetoric about get it from the community - let's tell (all the other outside agencies) to get it from the community."
Why A Place for Hope was "singled out" was a question the council failed to answer, contends Donna Berry, the nonprofit's founder.
"They could have approached it a little differently," Councilman David Bowman said after the meeting. The nonprofit could have reached out to the council's individual members, he said.
But it's a "credibility issue when they've got $7,200" of unclaimed support, Bowman said, an argument Winstead echoed.
County Manager Jim Baker said after the meeting that the organization can apply for the $7,200 left over from last year's budget.
In other action Monday, the council gave final approval of its plan to redraw York County's seven districts to balance uneven population growth over the past decade and to protect the percentage of minorities in each district.
Two NAACP representatives, Rock Hill's Melvin Poole, and western York County's Terence Murchison, asked the council to reconsider the plan, arguing it doesn't account for minority growth.
The plan must be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department before taking effect.