SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Music filled the walls of First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg Wednesday to start a mission filled with hope.
“This is a non-denominational event and we know that across religions, there’s a very basic tenant – love your neighbor as yourself,” said Dr. Dawn Bingham, Faith Summit on Child Poverty Co-Chair.
Leaders say Spartanburg’s youngest neighbors are struggling.
That’s what prompted the two-day Faith Summit on Child Poverty led by First Presbyterian and the Spartanburg County Foundation.
“Our data, it really exceeds the state and the nation when it comes to the number of children living in poverty,” said Mary Thomas, Spartanburg County Foundation Chief Operating Officer. “We can’t sit back and be complacent when the data is telling us that we’ve gotta sound the alarm.”
The Racial Equity Index found more than 45% of children in Spartanburg are living in poverty.
In the county, it’s one in four children.
“We can’t ignore that,” Thomas said. “This is our future. Our children are our future.”
The study also shows black people are three times as likely to live in poverty as whites.
“Shows that there’s still a lot of work left to be done in Spartanburg to bring people at the table together,” said Dr. Bingham.
The summit’s first day included a historical timeline of what events officials say brought Spartanburg to its current state.
“Shows how poverty started in Spartanburg, what the roots of it are,” said Dr. Bingham.
Local leaders looking back as they look ahead towards change.
“Figuring out what’s the best role for the faith community to play in partnership with the public and the private sector and of course the nonprofit sector,” said Thomas.
Thomas added that their goal is to bring concrete change through smaller steps at first, because this issue didn’t happen overnight so the solution can’t either.
While working to end child poverty, First Presbyterian Church Reverend Dr. Thomas Evans made another call to action.
“To not just go and try to help, but to offer friendship – real friendship,” he told the congregation.
The second day of the summit is from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday.