Serving the community for decades
In 1987, Bluffton resident Ida Martin recognized a great need that was not being met for working families and senior citizens in the area, and so began Bluffton Self Help, which was chartered a year later in October of 1988.
The Literacy Center was founded at the Franciscan Center on St. Helena Island, where a group of Roman Catholic sisters and some concerned citizens recognized that many local children were struggling with reading and writing. As they got to know the children better, they discovered that the children’s parents faced the very same literacy challenge. What began as an effort to better the education of these children quickly evolved into the first adult literacy program in Beaufort County.
ABC and PBS ran a campaign that shed light on the national adult illiteracy issue and created increased awareness of the problem in the Lowcountry, which led to growth of our program
The Literacy Center partnered with Beaufort County Adult Education
The Literacy Center opened its Hilton Head training center
Bluffton resident Ida Martin recognized a great need that was not being met for working families and senior citizens in the area, and so began Bluffton Self Help
Bluffton Self Help is chartered
The Literacy Center partnered with Beaufort County Adult Education to provide evening English language instruction for immigrants at Hilton Head High School
Continued influx of immigrants led to the development of English for Speakers of Other Languages program
The Literacy Center’s student enrollment grew from 159 to surpass 700 students per year
The Literacy Center received accreditation through ProLiteracy America
The Literacy Center opened main headquarters in Bluffton
Bluffton Self Help moved to a new building conveniently located in Sheridan Park, Bluffton. Over the years, the agency’s location changed and at one point was located in the former police station/jail in Old Bluffton
The Literacy Center received The School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina’s South Carolina Annual Literacy Award for its “significant impact on the lives of adults in Beaufort County.”
As the Town of Bluffton continued to grow so did the need. Bluffton Self Help opened the first Beaufort County Education & Resource Center to provide a place neighbors could access computers, support with job searching, and connect with local and government resources
Bluffton Self Help got hunger relief on the move with their Mobile Food Pantry to help break down barriers of transportation. A van provided by grants through Palmetto Electric and Belfair Community Foundation
Bluffton Self Help and The Literacy Center merged in a joint effort to dramatically expand the availability of basic education and training programs in order to meet the growing needs of the economically at-risk in Beaufort and Jasper counties. Building upon more than eight decades of combined experience serving neighbors, the merger will promote educational programming, workforce training, career readiness and access to vital resources – essential services to break the cycle of poverty and the barriers to self-sufficiency.
Bluffton Self Help launched its Path Forward Initiative announcing a five-year strategic plan including a brand refresh and capital campaign to build the first of its kind Community Resource Village.
Mrs. Ida Martin
“When I moved there, there was nothing in the Town of Bluffton, it was a very small town and there was not even a filling station, there was not even a bank where you could put your money, not anything. So I saw the need. And people started coming to me and asking for things and I started giving it to them. And then one day I followed a young family home who did not have anything …. in their refrigerator, they only had one bottle of water and five little girls. I went out and purchased groceries for them and really it started right from there, from that one family.”
Mrs. Ida Martin, 1923 — 2013
In 1986, Bluffton’s Ida Martin opened a nearly empty refrigerator in the home of a single mother with five children and immediately filled it and that’s how her dream for a better future for her community began.
Martin got on the phone with leaders of Bluffton churches that were providing charitable services to bring their work under one umbrella. That small act of kindness also began to fill a hole in the Bluffton community. People needed help, but there was no single organization to pull it together.
At that time, nearby Hilton Head Island had a wonderful organization whose mission was to provide assistance to islanders in need, but nothing was available to help Bluffton residents when they had a financial crisis.
Ida Martin recognized a great need that was not being met for working families and senior citizens in the area, and so began Bluffton Self Help, which was chartered a year later in October of 1988. The name Bluffton Self Help fit the organization’s mission, and it fit the woman who got it going and helped it keep pace with Bluffton’s incredible growth, particularly over the past several decades. As the town and surrounding area boomed, so did the need for emergency financial help, food, and clothing.
Initially working out of her garage, Mrs. Martin obtained resources from family and friends and sometimes went door to door. Clothing was donated and food was obtained by driving to the grocery stores on Hilton Head Island and picking up outdated food items.
From her garage, Bluffton Self Help moved to the barely 900 square foot old police station on Highway 46 in Old Town Bluffton, and eventually to over 6500 square feet in Sheridan Park.
Martin retired as director in 2005, but never left the organization, continuing to serve on the board and help connect the group to the community. One of Mrs. Ida Martin’s key strengths was her ability to recognize that no matter how down and out someone might be, they still deserve our respect and care as one of God’s children.
“She reminded us that as Bluffton has grown and developed, there is another Bluffton that is still there that needs help,” said John Orth past vice board chair. “She told us not to give things away just for the sake of giving them away but give them with a piece of your heart so the dignity of the person getting them is preserved.”
Her work did not go unnoticed. In 2012, she received the Alice Glenn Doughtie Good Citizenship Award from the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and was placed on the town of Bluffton’s Wall of Honor.
Most notably, in 2011, she received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Barack Obama at the White House. The nation’s second-highest civilian honor recognizes Americans who perform “exemplary deeds of service.”
We could never find another Mrs. Ida Martin, but fortunately, we were touched by an angel with Mrs. Martin, and the community is better for it.