Governor Sanford Took a Chance

Tue, 2011-03-15 09:51 -- athompson

It’s the best state program you’ve never heard of. It’s a powerful demonstration of what dedicated people who love their country and their communities can accomplish. It’s a textbook example of how public-private partnerships and innovative approaches can really work. It works without spending a penny of scarce South Carolina tax dollars.

And it’s all because Gov. Mark Sanford took a chance.

Back in the mid-1990s, Gov. Carroll Campbell established the S.C. Commission on National and Community Service to oversee state and federal grants that would encourage local communities to design and run AmeriCorps programs. AmeriCorps is a national service program providing opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve their country through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups.

Subsequent administrations did not have the same priorities as Gov. Campbell, and by 2007, after the program had been shifted around to a number of agencies, it was languishing in a forgotten corner in the Department of Education. Gov. Sanford realized that the problem lay not in the idea but in the execution. So he ordered that the program be privatized and placed under the United Way Association of South Carolina. And that has made all the difference.

This year, more than 750 AmeriCorps members address critical needs in communities all across South Carolina. They are working in schools as tutors and mentors, helping families develop critical financial skills, helping the uninsured find low-cost health care services, and helping South Carolina stay prepared for a disaster or emergency.As Gov. Sanford leaves office, there have been scores of articles analyzing his legacy. But Mark Sanford’s belief in the power of communities, the power of volunteers and the power of the private sector may be his greatest legacy of all.

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