Francis in the Dunes

A New Program in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

We’ve launched this new program to support school-age children and their families living in a public housing complex. We piloted the program in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in the summer of 2018 after our founder, Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, had been touched by the poverty she saw in this popular seaside resort.

Nearly a quarter of the residents of Myrtle Beach live at or below the poverty line. Fourteen percent of the residents are African Americans, and their poverty rate is nearly 40 percent. Among the Hispanic population, the poverty rate is even higher. The families we aim to serve have basic housing but inadequate resources to provide their children with quality groceries, clothing, and activities.

Francis in the Dunes, like Francis in the Schools, is based on the values of Francis of Assisi – universal respect, love, brotherhood, humility, and service. We began our new program by first providing these families weekly groceries, clothing and shoes, and birthday cakes or flowers.

We also arranged weekly outings for twenty-five to thirty-five children and their parents or chaperones at an oceanfront home made available by one of our sponsors. The half-day visits, modeled on our Francis in the Schools events, included games, crafts, cooking, music, dancing, and swimming. A rotating group of volunteers, many of them professionals in such fields as music, visual and culinary arts, jewelry design, and floral arranging, introduced new activities to the children every week – making each experience fresh and engaging.  

Ongoing Francis in the Dunes activities with the children and their families include providing them back-to-school backpacks and supplies, clothing outfits, and sneakers. Through partnerships with area businesses, the children and their families will also receive beds, bicycles, seasonal clothing, and other household and personal supplies throughout the coming year. Hair styling and haircuts have been donated by professional women’s hairstylists and by Beach Barbers of Myrtle Beach.

At the close of the summer outings, Dr. Conner commented, “Happiness is the birthright of all. We didn’t have to teach the children how to be happy. We just cleared away obstacles so they could claim their birthright.”

Francis in the Dunes hopes to continue clearing obstacles as the program deepens its involvement with the Myrtle Beach community.   We offer our grateful thanks to the White Pony Express (WPE) team and their Free General Store in Pleasant Hill, CA, for gifting us the high quality clothing we provide these families. The WPE team was so inspired by our work that they offered to pilot a partnership with us in Myrtle Beach, and we accepted!

Recently the White Pony Express was named the California 7 th Senate District’s “non-profit of the year" by Senator Steve Glaser. For more information on WPE, go to: WhitePonyExpress.org