What a year for Leadership Greenville Class 46. There is an adage, “many hands make light work,” and this statement was certainly evident in the support provided to Fresh Start Team’s Soteria Kitchen renovation project. This community service initiative entailed renovating the kitchen and dining area at Soteria House, a transitional residential facility for men released from prison, located just north of Greenville, South Carolina, in Travelers Rest.
The effort was coordinated by Leadership Greenville team leaders Kimberly Bailey, senior project manager with Brasfield and Gorrie, and Brandon Scott, project executive with DPR Construction. Other individuals from the AEC industry on our 21-member Fresh Start Team included Jonathan Garvin, McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture; Kevin Greene, Trehel Corporation; and Julia Tat, Fluor.
We were humbled by the contributions exceeding $109,000 in value from the numerous building partners who provided services at a reduced rate or in-kind donations to our financial donors who gave so generously. Our team members provided many hours of sweat equity and financial support as well. The Greenville office of Brasfield and Gorrie not only selected Soteria as their community organization to support this year but also provided volunteer work hours to the project.
When our class first met in mid-2019, we were all eager to learn about the community we aimed to serve and forge long-lasting relationships with fellow team members while actively fundraising for our projects. The monthly classes proved interesting and allowed us the opportunity to become more knowledgeable about how various agencies work together to support our community. The poverty simulations were incredibly impactful, as were the tours of correctional institutions, where we heard some touching and inspirational stories.
Our fundraising efforts were going well, as was the planning for our big event at the Wyche Pavilion in April. Named “One Greenville One Give,” this event would, for the first time, include all three project teams working together for a bigger purpose. Shirts had been screen-printed, items donated for the online auction with many vendors confirmed. Each group was excited to come together and celebrate Leadership Greenville and the organizations we were supporting.
Then Covid-19 threw a gigantic wrench in the works, and a mad scramble ensued to find alternate plans. Our Fresh Start team dug deep, worked together, and managed to raise additional funds without an in-person event. Lockdown was a challenging time, especially when coordinating final installations at the Soteria house in Travelers Rest. Our team members had already completed the demolition and prep, and some incredibly generous building partners graciously offered up many in-kind services for the cause.
Now, how does the Soteria organization feed three meals a day to a group of 10-15 people while the kitchen and dining area are being renovated? It isn’t easy; however, we pulled together once more and found people who were willing to donate meals, collect them and deliver while remaining socially distant – we sincerely appreciate all those involved in this endeavor.
“From the very first day we were in here, chipping up the old tile thick-set mud bed,” said Brandon Scott of DPR Construction, Fresh Start team member. “That’s not fun work, it’s hard! The number of people that were in here using whatever tool they could get their hands to help was incredible.”
The expansion of the Soteria dining area and gathering space adjacent to the kitchen was demanding; however, we are excited to announce that despite the challenges associated with the pandemic, the project is now complete! The renovations provide an efficient kitchen workspace as well as a more open floorplan design. A vital element of the project was to deliver a physical and visual connection from the meal prep areas that would flow into the dining and gathering space. A long-term food storage area was included within the scope of work, featuring a dedicated pantry to provide a more efficient storage solution with easier access.
The project scope included many elements, ranging from renovations to new beds and furniture. Throughout the space, the design highlights the craft of the Soteria at Work individuals. The kitchen prep island counter, the figurative and literal “heart” of the kitchen, is a butcherblock fashioned from reclaimed wood. The Soteria residents made the barn doors featured throughout, created from repurposed materials as well. These elements are the focal point accents within the space that adds warmth and character to the surrounding areas.
“My overall impression of the team, I think about that a lot,” shared Jerry Blassingame, Founder of Soteria. “I wanted to brag on them because this was a high-level project that included fundraising, construction, and monthly meetings – but everyone was so accommodating, they knew my name, and they involved me. We got a new library, a new laundry room and were able to get 16 new beds and furniture for our living room. We got half of our facility renovated, and it was such a blessing, we are so thankful.”
From the generous donations we received for the kitchen renovation project, our team was also able to purchase new furniture and new beds and bedding for the residents. It’s clearly understood this has been an unprecedented year on many levels. The project could not have moved forward had we not received such an outpouring of support from our in-kind and financial donors to make this a highly successful project.
To view our Fresh Start Team Soteria project video, please click here.
About Soteria | Soteria House
Soteria is a non-profit prison ministry and mentorship program founded in 1999 by Jerry Blassingame, who understood the challenges facing those who leave prison firsthand, having once been incarcerated himself. That understanding led Jerry to found Soteria to help individuals re-enter society by teaching them life skills, helping them rebuild themselves, and providing a way for them to give back to their community. At their core, Jerry and Soteria are committed to ensuring these individuals have the confidence, skills, and opportunities to avoid returning to prison. Soteria’s approach has proven extraordinarily successful: the average recidivism rate in South Carolina is 31.8 percent; but Soteria’s rate is 4 percent. Over the last 20 years, Soteria has positively impacted the lives of over 5,000 previously incarcerated individuals.
About Leadership Greenville
Leadership Greenville is the Chamber’s premier 10-month leadership development program designed to develop informed, committed and qualified leaders for Greenville County. By taking an intensive look into the issues affecting the area, Leadership Greenville prepares and motivates participants to provide quality, dynamic leadership. The program has graduated over 2000 alumni since 1973, many of which have served in key positions, including school board, city and county council seats, members of Congress, judges, and business leaders.
Thank you to all who have contributed to the success of our Leadership Greenville 46 project!
• Tami Miller, Leadership Development Director, Greenville Chamber
• Brian Boughner, CFA, CMT, Parallel Financial (Team Mentor)
• Jerry Blassingame, Founder, Soteria (and the entire Soteria team)
Our In-Kind Donors
Bonitz Flooring Group
Brasfield & Gorrie
Builders First Source
Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery
Golden Strip Glass
Holder Electric Supply, Inc.
HummingBird Shutters and Blinds
Jennings Dill, Inc.
S. H. Carter Development, Inc.
Southern Door and Plywood
Southern Painting & Maintenance Specialists, Inc.
Our Financial Donors
Amchan Family Charitable Trust
Brasfield & Gorrie
Canal Charitable Foundation
Community Foundation of Greenville
Greenville Federal Credit Union
Ann and Bob Cullen
Jami and Timothy Emory
Laura Anne Hofler
Robert Hughes III
Sydney and Ed Taylor
Rick and Pat Timmons
Ashley and Neil Tuck