Dear Community Colleagues,

The J. Marion Sims Foundation continues a journey that we started in 2016. We intend to listen, reflect, and act collaboratively to strengthen the communities we serve, together with our partners. Last year, we began a comprehensive community engagement effort that revealed your views about the assets of our region. You also told us about areas that need collective attention in order for current and future generations to thrive.

We heard from you that being close to family, a “small town feel,” and the faith community make our region special.  You also told us that there are areas that, if improved, can make our community even better. And we intend to act on your feedback.

Based on the community’s input, the J. Marion Sims Foundation Board of Trustees identified a new strategic direction for the Foundation. This means that you will likely hear about new or changing initiatives at the Foundation that reflect this new strategic direction and help us act on what we heard from the community. These include:

Supporting and building a healthy community – Based on a healthy community framework, the J. Marion Sims Foundation will serve as a catalyst to illuminate issues, convene, fund or support organizations who work together to support a more vibrant, healthy community. Through research, we have identified 11 healthy community indicator areas: Art & Civic Engagement; Early Childhood Education; Faith Community; Fresh & Nutritious Food/Healthy Living; Green Space, Clean Air, & Water; Health Care Access; Healthy Economy; K-12 Schools and Education; Supporting & Strengthening Families; Transition to Adulthood; and Transportation Access.

What’s coming next: Much like a doctor takes a patient’s vital signs, the Foundation is working with partners to identify key data which help us track the health of our community. You’ve told us what matters most to you within these 11 indicator areas, and also where you wish the community would focus so we can become even stronger. Look for more information about building a healthy community and measuring our progress. Also look for our programs and grantmaking to be aligned with building a healthy community.

Helping youth successfully transition to adulthood – In an effort to ensure our youth are prepared for citizenship, work, and/or postsecondary education, the Foundation will work with partners to implement evidence-based programs which empower youth to lead, grow, and experience success. We will work with all sectors to promote a quality of life that encourages youth to stay in Lancaster County, Fort Lawn, and Great Falls, South Carolina.

What’s coming next: To help students bridge to young adulthood, you told us you need “real world experiences,” education, mentors, and work. Look for news soon about ways we are joining with our partners to support the post-secondary transition area. We also look forward to supporting new interns in our offices and apprentices in the community during the summer of 2017. A youth grants committee will help us fund innovative education grants preK-college beginning in May 2017.

Elevating philanthropy: The Foundation will act as a catalyst for positive change by working to elevate the voices and assets of all who work, play, learn, and live here. We look forward to joining with communities and partners to build a positive future designed by and for residents. We believe that philanthropy is sharing knowledge, joining forces, and leveraging resources from all sectors in order to transform our community.

What’s coming next: We are working to convene partners, invite storytelling and history sharing, and inform conversations with current community data. Place-based dialogue and events such as “What Do You Love About Your Community?” and Give Local Lancaster empower individuals to get involved and are examples of elevating philanthropy. Creating opportunities for everyone to get involved in shaping the future of our community allows us to proudly share the journey.

Building Foundation infrastructure: As we demonstrated in 2016, we want to expand our engagement with the community. We hope to do our part to deepen dialogue within our communities, so as to strengthen and support the kind of collaboration that builds capacity in our towns and cities. We will use community data and indicators to make decisions, measure progress, and illuminate issues that are important to those who live or work here.

What’s coming next: Our 2016 community engagement was just the beginning. We commit to listen, reflect, dialogue, and act together on issues that matter to you. As part of that effort, we are bringing a new strategic partner to our region. Starting this month, the Orton Family Foundation will introduce the national Community Heart & Soul process to you. Heart & Soul is a broad and deep resident engagement approach to transforming communities. You will hear about this opportunity in the coming weeks and months as we support communities ready to tackle and design their own futures.

Healthy communities are robust and vibrant places to live, learn, work, and play — where all people work together for the common good. The best communities have broad citizen participation. Together, we can continue to build resilient communities where all people reach their full potential. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We look forward to working with you to support and transform our community.



Robert K. Folks

Chair, Board of Trustees

Susan W. DeVenny

President & CEO


We envision the communities we serve as places where all people join together to build on community assets for current and future generations, and where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 


800 N White St.

Lancaster, SC 29720

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 818

Lancaster, SC 29721

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