Messages from the Chair
Narendra P. Sharma, PhD
Chair, Board of Directors
For the past three year, NOC has provided valuable services through its Program Center located with the Bluffton House Apartment complex. Unlike the Program Center at the Oaks on Hilton Head, which operates out of three apartments that are owned by NOC, the Bluffton House Program Center uses one community social service apartment and one rental apartment. Such an arrangement relies heavily on a good working relationship with the apartment complex owners.
Bluffton House is now under new ownership and management, and sadly, NOC has been informed that it must vacate one apartment by August 31, 2013, and the other apartment by November 30, 2013, when NOC’s lease expires on that unit. NOC acknowledges the rent concessions it has received on these two apartments from the new company, Apsen Management of West Srpingfield, Massachusetts, and appreciates the company’s recognition that NOC is providing valuable support to the community in Bluffton House Apartments through its mission and outreach programs relating to education, health care, and workforce development. But Aspen’s decision to ask NOC to leave Bluffton House fails to take these social benefits into consideration. Rather, it is driven by the company’s financial considerations, specifically the loss of revenue resulting from not renting these two apartments, a loss of $20,000 to $25,000 per annum.
There are three important considerations:
- First, the consequences of NOC’s moving out of Bluffton House in the middle of the school year will be significant and costly to more than 200 children and families living in the Bluffton House complex. Pre-schoolers will no longer have access to a Program Center with their mother/guardians where they acquire learning skills and competencies to enter school. Elementary and middle school children will no longer receive homework support and tutoring, nor will they have access to computers and internet, so that they can master skills and acquire knowledge in math, language arts, and information. The combined effect of this will be that these children will continue to fall behind, and fail to meet school standards, remain in school, and graduate on time. When children do not participate in summer learning, such as that provided by NOC, they lose the equivalent of two months of learning acquired in the previous academic year. In addition, parents (mainly mothers), who are constrained by transportation and time, will no longer be able to walk to the Program Center and learn English. Most people in this neighborhood lack health insurance and access to health care; without health screenings the quality of life diminishes immensely.
- Second, NOC wants to build on the gains of past years that have been made in Bluffton House. More than 300 children (reflecting the dynamic transition of the neighborhood) have benefited through the education programs, which have shown positive impact as reported by the Beaufort County School District based on standardized test scores. In fact, Bluffton House students have made higher scores when compared to their peers in the school district. There are numerous stories of success and progress through various interventions of NOC and its partners. In health care, NOC has over the past three years screened more than 500 individuals living in Bluffton House. These individuals lack access to health insurance or continued health care. Through its social events and periodic public safety workshops, NOC has fostered stability and a sense of community in this neighborhood. NOC’s strong presence in the neighborhood and its connection with people are a strong deterrent to crime. NOC has also been a “connector” by bringing in other service providers (e.g., local schools, library, church groups, government service providers, and NGOs) and local volunteers. Through its reputation and results, NOC has portrayed a positive image for the owners and management team of Bluffton House. NOC’s presence in the neighborhood also attracts families who will bring stability and cohesiveness to the neighborhood. We want to build on this momentum and Aspen Management can be an important partner in this endeavor.
- Third, Aspen has asked us to look at other options outside of Bluffton House. We have completed this task and have found no feasible solution. Unlike the school system and other service providers, NOC cannot transport these children to another neighborhood. We do not have the capacity to add a transportation system since our development approach is based on a strong presence within neighborhoods and our connections with people. The location of our Program Center within the neighborhood is highly critical to our success.
We know that there must be a solution to this dilemma, and we are committed to finding an answer. The Greater Bluffton community wants us to find a solution and remain in Bluffton House. The gains we have made in Bluffton House benefit, both directly and indirectly, the local community at large. To this end, we will continue to pursue a satisfactory solution that does not compromise the interests of the families living in Bluffton House.