Alumna Teams Up With Alumnus Mayor to Aid Survivors of Domestic Violence

By Kate Colwell and Na'Tasha Jones

Identifying a population in need
The Tri-County area of Charleston, South Carolina has more than 700,000 residents, but few available beds for emergency victims of the 36,000 reported incidents of domestic violence each year. South Carolina frequently ranks among the worst in the nation for number of murders of women by men, with a rate of double the national average. Furthermore, while domestic violence murder rates across the country have fallen an average 64 percent, in South Carolina, the rates have remained constant.

THRIVE SC, We Are Georgetown
Photo courtesy of Georgetown alumna and THRIVE SC Founder Mackie Moore.

One Georgetown alumna is working hard to turn those numbers around. Mackie Krawcheck Moore (C'86) is founder and executive director of THRIVE SC, a nonprofit that provides holistic services, resources, and the first transitional housing community for survivors of domestic violence in South Carolina.

The focus of THRIVE SC is twofold—to improve care for those who have suffered, and to decrease rates of domestic violence, state- and nation-wide.

On a personal basis, THRIVE SC aims to equip survivors of violence with tools to build emotional and financial independence. Working with partners, the organization teaches women money management and job skills while offering job placement and parenting classes. The organization also provides access to long-term public housing, legal services, victim's advocacy, and legislative lobbying.

At the public policy level, THRIVE SC advocates for tougher laws and stricter sentences for perpetrators of domestic abuse. Moreover, since no standard state or national model exists for domestic violence recovery facilities and programs, the organization is developing a "best practice standard" to define compliance with legal, ethical, health, and programming requirements.

Becoming a woman for others
A native of Charleston, Moore attributes her passion for philanthropy to her time as a Georgetown student.

"Growing up in Charleston, I saw my parents donating to various charities, but both worked full-time and raised four children, so they weren't able to volunteer their time. It just wasn't a model that I was familiar with," Moore said. "When I got to Georgetown, I saw this spirit of giving and volunteering and it was truly inspiring."

Moore's interest in social justice also grew as a teaching assistant for Rev. Otto Hentz, S.J., an associate professor of theology at Georgetown well-known for his Problem of God class.

"I learned a lot from him. He was a great mentor and gave so much of his time to helping others. I developed friendships with him, Father Walsh, and Father McSorley, who accompanied me to my first peace march. I was moved and inspired by my mentors' passions for social issues."

Meeting the people behind the statistics
Many years later in 2013, after moving back to Charleston, Moore became director of development for an emergency domestic violence shelter called My Sister's House. There she first gained perspective on the true scope of the problem in her locale. Moore learned about the urgent need for housing, resources, and legislation, particularly for women and children who have survived abuse. With few places to turn, victims' options are often limited to living in the streets or returning to their abusers.

"It didn't take me long to realize that the domestic violence situation in the Charleston Tri-County area and in all of South Carolina is dire," she said. "I saw women and children being turned away because the shelter was full, or because victims did not meet the stringent requirements necessary for residency."

After gaining experience and researching innovative programs around the country, Mackie broke out on her own and founded what is now THRIVE SC.

"I was determined to tackle domestic violence issues and to provide relief, support, and hope for victims who truly want to move forward and desperately need proactive support," she said.


Mayor John Tecklenburg and Mackie Moore, both Georgetown alumni, cut the ribbon at the opening of THRIVE SC's first shelter. Photo courtesy of Mackie Moore. Gloria Gaynor is a member of the THRIVE SC Advisory Board. Photo courtesy of Mackie Moore. Gloria Gaynor's organization, IWillSurvive.org, partners with THRIVE SC. Photo courtesy of Mackie Moore.

 


Finding help from Hoyas and celebrities
Moore knew she could not tackle the problem alone, but she did not have to—when her organization was in need, the Hoya network came through. THRIVE SC has seen an outpouring of support not only from the local community and businesses, but also from her fellow alumni from Georgetown—three of whom serve as members of the THRIVE SC Board of Directors and one of whom is an Advisory Board member (see sidebar to learn more).

Hoyas on the THRIVE SC Board of Directors


Col. Joseph Garcia (EML’07) – Board chair, executive vice president of SUNY Empire State College, and former CFO for The Citadel Military College of South Carolina

Sandra Clemens (McMahon) Mayo (SFS’97) – president of Vision 360 Consulting, LLC; former director of Georgetown University Leadership Seminar and director of the Fellows in Foreign Service program; former director of graduate studies and faculty affairs for Georgetown University

Melissa Maddox-Evans, (C‘92) – CEO of Charleston County Housing & Redevelopment Authority, general counsel for the City of Charleston Housing Authority, and former chairperson for the South Carolina Bar Voices Against Violence Committee

Mackie Moore (C’86) – founder and executive director of THRIVE SC

Hoya on the THRIVE SC Advisory Board


Colonel C. Anthony Pfaff, Ph.D. (G’12) – research professor at U.S. Army War College

One of the organization's biggest supporters is an old family friend, Charleston's Mayor John Tecklenburg (C'77). Moore supported Tecklenburg during his run for mayor because she admired his stances on social issues, justice, and civil equality. Tecklenburg showed his support for Moore and her work by promoting the cause and cutting the ribbon on THRIVE SC's first shelter location. His wife, Sandra Tecklenburg, has joined THRIVE SC's Board and is working closely with Moore addressing the epidemic of violence in South Carolina.

The mayor, who was raised as a Catholic, attributes many of his own values and his life's direction to the Jesuit principles he came to know so well at Georgetown.

"I would love to see the need for a facility like this go away," he said. "But the problem still exists, so we'd like to work on reducing domestic violence and supporting the victims in a very compassionate and helpful way. We want to offer the best assistance and work to create the best facilities possible."

Moore has also secured some star power help along the way. Stephen Colbert, her longtime friend and host of The Late Show, helped with marketing and solicited donations to THRIVE SC with his Twitter account. Most recently, Moore has found a partner in philanthropist, author, singer, and abuse survivor Gloria Gaynor and her organization IWillSurvive.org, named after her hit disco song. Gaynor features THRIVE SC as the only national charity for domestic violence to donate to while shopping on her organization's website, and she now serves on the THRIVE SC Advisory Board.

Creating a safe space to grow
Since starting a temporary housing shelter for four to five people out of a warehouse 2015, the organization has grown rapidly, and now provides programs, services, and alternative housing solutions for survivors in the Tri-County area. With more resources and a greater reach, THRIVE SC has reached the need and means for an innovative new space. Thanks to the generous donations of 10 acres of land and 50 forty-foot shipping containers, the group is currently developing a residential community for female survivors, their children, and—unique to the state—their beloved family pets. The first phase, to open in March 2018, will house 12 to 15 women, and future development will serve up to 70 women and children.

Unlike traditional shelters, THRIVE SC will offer independent, non-communal living by replacing traditionally shared living spaces with modern, individual efficiencies constructed of recycled, solar-powered shipping containers. THRIVE SC feels that providing personal living space helps residents and families heal and reclaim dignity and self-worth after enduring harsh rules in other shelters, such as strict curfews, surrendered earnings, and expulsion for missing an appointment. Unlike emergency shelters, which have a 60-day stay limit, the new location will allow survivors to stay for up to a year.

This facility will offer group and private counseling, yoga and meditation, childcare, and 12-step meetings for survivors recovering from substance addiction. These programs and services, coupled with ample time to allow for healing, rest, and recovery, aim to prepare survivors to begin rebuilding their lives as healthy and productive members of society.

The new facility will also employ a "healing farm" model, which provides survivors with a healthy, nurturing atmosphere in which to grow strong in body, mind, and soul. THRIVE SC believes that eating food fresh from the garden models good nutrition and healthy eating habits for parents and kids. Willing and able-bodied adults can also choose to work tending flowers and organic vegetables, cooking, cleaning, or giving childcare, in exchange for a weekly stipend.

"Our vision is for the haven to become an economically self-sustaining program that provides a reliable source of revenue for our agency, while offering survivors small business training and micro-enterprise opportunities," Moore said. "Harvesting produce, arranging floral bouquets, and making and selling bath and body products will help survivors develop new skills and experience, as they strive to find healing and to rebuild their lives."

THRIVE SC recently launched a $3 million capital campaign to raise funds for the project. Donations go directly to providing housing and resources for survivors of abuse. To make a donation, please visit www.thrivesc.life/donate.html.