Organization aims to be a community and service hub for families
Dating all the way back to 2020, Spartanburg County District Three Schools began community conversations in Pacolet around what to do with one of their school buildings that was planned for closure. Many years of planning resulted in the incorporation of a new non-profit organization, the Benjamin E. Mays Family Center, charged with serving Pacolet and surrounding communities.
“We are thrilled to welcome Jerry Rice to lead this new organization,” says Reed Brown, Chair of the Board of Directors and a resident of the Goucher community which will also benefit from the center. “We believe Mr. Rice has the perfect blend of experience and skills to make this a success,” he stated.
“The Board of Directors has worked hard to get the organization this far, and much of that work has included determining what services will be most beneficial for the people of Pacolet, and planning toward making those services a reality,” shared Leverne McBeth, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. Ms. McBeth has worked tirelessly over the last several months to communicate with potential partner organizations and assess with the boardand community what might be possible.
“I look forward to getting to know the people of this community, and to providing such needed services out of a building with such an important history,” Mr. Rice said. Originally, the school was built as the consolidated school prior to desegregation, serving African American students in Pacolet. The school’s pupils voted to name the school after civil rights leader, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, who was born in Greenwood, SC. It was the first building to be named in his honor. In 1970, after integration and the school closing, it was reopened as the Middle School of Pacolet.
“Pacolet is a desert in terms of early childhood supports, so the Mary Black Foundation has supported the center getting off the ground. We are thrilled to see the Board of Directors has hired an Executive Director and look forward to seeing what comes next,” said Molly Talbot Metz, President and CEO of the Mary Black Foundation. According to the Early Development Instrument, over a quarter of children in Pacolet entering school each year are vulnerable or at-risk in all five domains of school readiness (physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development and communication and general knowledge). Further, census data shows that the low infant birth rate in Pacolet is nearly three times the Spartanburg County average.
The Benjamin E. Mays Consolidated School Alumni initiated conversations with the Spartanburg County Foundation early in this process, wanting the building to be a resource for all individuals in the surrounding areas, and wanting the legacy of Dr. Mays to live on in that building. “It has been a joy to partner with this community, helping to mobilize resources to meet the needs. That is the work that a community foundation is charged to do,” said Ashley Whitt, Vice President of Grants and Community Impact at the Spartanburg County Foundation.
Mr. Rice shared that he hopes to see the center support the youth and families of Pacolet and create community there. He shared this is in line with one of his favorite quotes from the late Dr. Mays: “A child must learn early to believe that she is somebody worthwhile, and that she can do many praiseworthy things.”
Mr. Rice has experience in a wide range of community serving organizations from pastor to program director to executive director. He is passionate about grassroots efforts, about engaging with communities, and seeing youth reach their full potential. Mr. Rice has relocated to the area with his wife of 36 years, allowing them to be closer to two of their three children (and grandchildren), and to enjoy rural life in the Upstate. More about the center may be found on the website (www.benmaysfamilycenter.org).
An open house and programming is coming late this summer or early fall. Join the mailing list through the website and stay up to date on things related to the organization.