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Bluffton Nonprofit Faces A Costly Downsize

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An empty apartment complex at Bluffton House used to be filled with children learning on computers, and getting help with homework after school.

The Neighborhood Outreach Connection (NOC) provides this service to underprivileged children in low income neighborhoods.

"We have pockets of poverty, low income minority housing here, and people need assistance. As far as education, we see it as giving people empowerment to succeed in life, and if we can do that with kids, it's tremendous," said Ally McNair.

However, the program will now downsize since the NOC says Bluffton House would not renew their lease.

"NOC has had to move out its two apartments and downsize into one," McNair said.

McNair says 70 children who live in the Bluffton House complex come to their two units to get help with school work, which in turn raises their grades and improves their test scores.

"Because of the help I'm getting here, I'm getting higher grades," said fifth grader Kevin Lopez.

Lopez's unit is directly across from one of the NOC units which will close.  He visited the now empty space in dismay on Sunday afternoon.

Brenda Deleon also reminisced in the bare unit. She is now in sixth grade, but remembers when she first came to get the help with school work.

"This is the first apartment that everything started at," Deleon said. "When I was in second grade, my mom found out about the program and she noticed that I needed help with the grades because I had very low grades."

The location was convenient for Deleon, too, since she says her family has no car to drive elsewhere for help. She says the computers are helpful, too, since she has no working computer at home.

Now Deleon worries that less children will get the privilege of homework help and computer access like she does, with the switch NOC will make from two units to one.

McNair says there will be 35 less children they can reach from just one apartment.

"I mean, this is going to change the outcome of the future for 35 children who won't be able to be with us anymore, and that's huge," she says.

The NOC first thought they would lose the units and be unable to rent in Bluffton House, period. McNair says about 200 residents, children, and parents rallied and petitioned the new complex owners to allow the program to stay.

The deal made was to rent one unit, different from the two the NOC previously occupied, at a rate of $1,000 in rent each month.

McNair says the fee will be difficult for the nonprofit to shell out each month, since there was no charge before. However, the most difficult thing will be to decide which 35 children they can no longer help.

While McNair says the NOC is still figuring how to make that decision, they are also looking to keep expanding their services to neighborhoods that will allow them to occupy a unit for free, such as some areas in the south end of Hilton Head Island, as well as in northern parts of Beaufort County.

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