To Alex Garvey, PhD, the mission of our ministry is literal.
When our mission as a ministry says, “improving the health and well-being of our communities,” those are instructions to Alex. As the vice president of mission for the St. Francis Health System in Greenville, SC, he recognizes that “health and well-being” doesn’t always translate to physical health. In fact, serving the community outside of a clinical sense is the result of a team committed to helping the whole person.
“It is the mission that drives the work, and it is the kindness and compassion of our team that brings it to fulfillment,” he says.
Alex also understands that no one achieves anything alone. A key component for his mission team is not only to collaborate with one another, but also to identify and leverage like-minded community partners who work with them to bring projects to fruition.
This approach is especially evident in three of their current projects: human trafficking, providing access for people with disabilities to enter the workforce and affordable housing.
Some of these projects include:
- A second home for women who have survived human trafficking. Currently under renovation, this facility will be a safe haven for 12 women and its creation is a result of internal and external resources. The mission team leveraged a grant from the Bon Secours Foundation and challenged community partners to match it. Jasmine Road, a local housing-based restoration program, is providing staff, while behavioral health providers and medically assisted treatment for opioid use is also funded by our foundation. Additionally, local police departments, emergency departments, courts and judges work in step by referring women to their programs.
- Project Search, a local collaborative effort between Greenville County Schools, South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation and the St. Francis Health System, is a nine-month employment training program for young adults with developmental disabilities who are transitioning from high school to work. In its fifth year, Project Search recently transformed its classroom into an employment opportunity center that can host 20 interns with funding from our foundation, while it boasts a 90 percent full-time employment rate.
- Property purchased to allow 46 new houses to be built for people who can no longer afford housing in Greenville. The mission team invited Mercy Housing to join their market, who then used political, social and community contacts to identify and purchase the property where the homes will be built. Additionally, the team works with Habitat for Humanity to fund demolition of abandoned drug houses and other housing projects.
However, outside of all the work that his team accomplishes with partnership from the community, Alex feels pride in being part of a team that puts in the hard work to realize a goal that makes a difference in the lives of the people around him.
“It never fails to amaze me that, when a small group of people share a common vision, how mountains can be moved,” he says.
While the fruits of those labors are not always tangible, sometimes they’re overwhelming. He recalls a time he spoke to a mother of a Project Search intern who immediately gave him a big hug and began to cry upon meeting him. She explained that when her son was born, he was non-verbal and his parents had never heard him say a word. But the evening before, he walked into the kitchen and said to them, “Guys, I’ve got a job!” She added that it’s the only time she’s ever seen her husband cry with joy.
“I could feel the presence of a loving God in our midst,” he shares. “It’s all about God’s people taking care of God’s people.”