Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Several weeks ago, the Moultrie News ran an article entitled “Fighting to stay,” profiling the very real struggle of one local family fighting their way back from losing their home.
It told the story of Johns Island native Henry Richardson, a father of six with one on the way, working hard to keep his head above water, and Joanne Sarver, an East Cooper nurse who rallied the community in order to help her neighbors in need. Thanks to the generosity of readers and the efforts of Sarver, things for Henry and his family are starting to look up and in the upcoming week they will settle in to their new home.
To date, Sarver and the Sunshine for Sammy charity that she founded have received approximately $4,000 in donations. This money has gone to cover the down payment on a new home for the Richardsons, but the community has also contributed in other ways. Local mothers have collected clothing for the children, a washer and dryer were donated, and the family was able to obtain a new dining room table.
“We got a fantastic response from the community,” said Sarver. “Through the article, lots of people learned not only about this particular family, but I think the community who reads the Moultrie News had a very eye-opening experience. We consider Mount Pleasant to be a beachside community where there is a substantial amount of wealth and affluence and I think that people in need are often forgotten because you just don't see it as much. They are sort of the forgotten population.”
After hearing of the Richardsons' difficult situation from a close friend whose child was a classmate of the Richardsons' son Sammy, for whom the Sunshine for Sammy charity is named, Sarver decided to do something about it.
“We knew two things for sure,” Sarver said of her and her friend. “We knew that this family was in crisis and that somebody needed to do something. From that point, we agreed that this situation should never happen in this community. We have too much. We just have too much for this to exist.”
Sarver understands that not everyone in the area is blessed with an excess of cash, but she does understand the community's access to a vast amount of resources. “We are resource-rich people,” she said. “And that doesn't mean that everyone in Mount Pleasant is financially rich. I don't mean that. But we are resource rich. We have a lot at our disposal.”
The exceptional thing about Sarver is her willingness to act. While most people are willing to identify problems in their community, she took the initiative to right what she saw as wrongs.
After hearing of the Richardsons' problems from her friend, Sarver went out on a limb and contacted Sammy's teachers. As a complete stranger to Sammy and his family, Sarver recognizes the fact that she must have seemed off the rails when she reached out. “I told Sammy's teacher, ‘I know you must think I'm insane and I'm a complete stranger, but these children and their parents live in a community that can help them,” Sarver said.
From that point, Sarver was able to speak to Sammy's family directly and establish a personal relationship with them that continues to today.
Sarver told Sammy's mother on their very first meeting, “There are people who want to love on you and love on your family ... I know where you're at today, but I am going to work very hard to make sure your tomorrow is different.”
And from that day forward, Sarver has managed the Sunshine for Sammy fundraising efforts. “People have continued to call me and say, ‘Can they use this?' My garage right now has quite a lot of stuff in it.”
But now that Henry and his family have found a new home, Sarver and her husband see no reason why their charity efforts should come to an end. The two are considering establishing their own nonprofit foundation under the name Sunshine for Sammy to help those in crisis. “The overarching truth in my eyes is that if people as common as we are can make a little bit of a difference, how much more can we do,” said Sarver. “Life happens. It happens to all of us. One minute, you're perfectly fine and then the next somebody has cancer. One minute, you're fine and the next you've been in a car accident. The Sunshine for Sammy foundation will serve as a bridge from a crisis to a solution.”
Sarver understands that many people are ready to help those in need because they have faced hard times themselves. She says the charity won't just be in place to assist families. The charity will aim to help all those in need get on the right track.
Sarver can be contacted at 502-379-0336. Or visit www.youcaring.com/sunshineforsammy.