Optimists learn about children’s shelter

Founded by its namesake in 1972 and located in Lexington County, Nancy K. Perry Children’s Shelter is the oldest institution of its kind in South Carolina. The Optimist Club of St. Andrews-Irmo has partnered with the Shelter for several years and heard an update from Ryan Taylor, the Shelter’s Director August 12.

The Shelter serves as a safe haven for children who have been removed from their homes by state agencies. The circumstances leading to those removals can be emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; abandonment, or a volatile family atmosphere.

At the Shelter, the children who can be anywhere from infancy to 18 years old, are immersed in a loving family atmosphere. In addition to the Taylor, there are houseparent couples who live in the shelter 24/7. There are 14 beds in the facility, and the Shelter serves from 85 to 100 children per year. Over its history, more than 5,000 children have spent time there.

While at the shelter, the children are not merely housed and fed. They also are exposed to educational, cultural, recreational, and religious influences. The children attend schools that are within the shelter’s school districting. They also attend church services that are led by the house parents. 

After an interview process which includes a thorough background check, volunteers are matched with shelter needs where their talents and interests can be put to best use. To paraphrase Taylor’s remarks, if a person shows enough interest, there will certainly be a volunteer role that will fit.

In 2021, the shelter initiated an in-home service, staffed by a therapist. The goal is to work through the circumstances that prompted the child’s removal in hopes of re-inserting him or her back into the family. So far, therapists have been able to stabilize and mitigate the family dynamics of eight households.

DSS and Lexington County account for 50 percent of the funding for Nancy K. Perry, the balance coming from an assortment of businesses, churches, individuals, service clubs, and grants.

Pictured are Optimist Club President Mike Myers, Ryan Taylor, and speaker host Roy Powers, who gave the speaker a copy of the Optimist Creed.