"Show the children respect and that they, too, are important."
Along with raising eight children and earning her bachelor's degree in social work in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Lucille Puckett, now 38, started an afterschool and summer enrichment program for underprivileged children and youth in her apartment complex.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Lucille: I work with at-risk children of all ages, even the young at heart.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Project P.A.C.T. Ready (Preparing Adolescents for a Challenging Tomorrow), located in the St. Paul Apartment Complex Community Center in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Lucille: This program was an after school and summer enrichment program for at-risk children ages 6-16 in the St. Paul Complex and surrounding area. It worked to provide a safe haven for this population as well as to help empower and impact their lives, both academically and behavioral. The children, parents, school, and the community all can benefit if they take advantage of the opportunities before them.
What inspired you to get involved?
Lucille: Living in the community, I saw the need to reach out to the children, and upon talking to the school system and finding that less than 20 percent of the school-aged children were on a basic level, I felt a great desire to help motivate and empower the children with the key to their future: EDUCATION. I enjoy children, and we have such a wonderful connection, so I put the two together to help make a difference in this underprivileged community. Education and fun are a path to a brighter and positive future.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Lucille: I first became involved by showing the children respect and that they, too, are important. A smile goes a long way. I started selling little treats from my apartment and became the friend to a lot of little hearts. After being told that I could not sell anything, I thought that there had to be another way, so I ran for president of the Resident Council and won. My first order of business was to start a positive program for the children because they had nothing to do but seek negative activities. Even though I had a lot of support from the parents and school, I had even more opposition. Being a social work major, I decided to advocate for the need of these children.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Lucille: The best thing about my experience was to see the improved grades, changed attitudes and behaviors, and to know that the children were safe. Also, the smiles on the children’s faces.
What is/was the hardest part?
Lucille: Being a parent, full-time student, and program director of 52 children. Trying to find resources and reliable support was a daily challenge that we faced, but it was by the Grace of God that we managed.
What was the biggest surprise?
Lucille: The biggest surprise for me was the number of children that attend on a daily basis, and their eagerness to be there and learn. I was told that in prior years, different organizations and people had tried to have a similar program, and the children would not come.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Lucille: I have learned that great things do come in small packages, and no matter how hard things get, to not give up because someone needs me to FIGHT! for the children. These experiences have changed my life by the lives that I impacted.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Lucille: Stop thinking. DO IT!!! You are NEEDED.
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