Francis in the Dunes
Following Francis founder Dr. Carol Conner maintains a home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. On her daily walks, she saw poverty amid affluence and learned that forty percent of the city’s residents in this popular resort area live below the poverty line. She asked Following Francis volunteers to select a neighborhood with children that might welcome our program – and Francis in the Dunes was born.
The program was launched in 2018 with weekly groceries for the families and summer outings for the children living in a housing project, modeled after Francis in the Schools outings. As volunteers came to know the families, they became aware of other needs the program could meet. Today it provides these families with groceries, clothing, beds, and other necessities, and bikes, school supplies, and gifts for the children.
Nearly a quarter of the residents of Myrtle Beach live at or below the poverty line. Fourteen percent of the residents are African Americans, and their poverty rate is nearly 40 percent. Among the Hispanic population, the poverty rate is even higher. The families have basic housing but inadequate resources to provide their children with quality groceries, clothing, and activities.
Dr. Conner emphasizes that “When children are removed from the outer difficulties they encounter in their daily lives, the innate joy, love, and happiness at their core instantly springs forward. They are free to claim their birthright of happiness.”
To foster this freedom, Francis in the Dunes organizes weekly summer outings for the children at an oceanfront home where they swim and surf in the ocean and take part in games, crafts, and musical activities. They’ve also enjoyed an outing to Brookgreen Gardens, a beautiful sculpture garden not far away.
In August of 2019, Francis in the Dunes organized a week-long field trip to Washington, DC, an experience thirty-four children and their chaperones will remember all their lives.
Weekly field trip outings at an oceanfront home offer games, crafts, cooking, interactive science and nature projects, music, dancing, and flowers, as well as ocean swimming and surfing. A rotating group of volunteers – including many professionals in the fields of music, visual and culinary arts, jewelry design, and floral arranging – introduce the children to new activities so their experience can be constantly fresh and engaging.
In August 2019, 34 children and their adult chaperones journeyed on a week-long field trip to our nation’s capital. We planned a first-rate schoolchild’s once-in-a-lifetime outing to Washington, DC. Like all children everywhere, our guests imbibed and profited immensely from a rich and inspiring educational experience.
At the end of our first summer in 2018, the children and parent chaperones visited the award-winning sculpture garden and zoo at Brookgreen Gardens, the beautiful 9,000-acre preserve about twenty miles south of Myrtle Beach.
When children are removed from the outer difficulties they encounter in their daily lives, the innate joy, love, and happiness at their core instantly springs forward. They are free to claim their birthright of happiness.
Gifts from the Heart
During the school year, children in the families we serve receive free breakfasts and lunches at school, but not during the summer.
From the time school lets out until the start of the new school year, we deliver bags of groceries with fresh produce, dairy, and meat to each family every week.
And other gifts
Throughout the year, we deliver household supplies and personal items to the children’s families. Local businesses have helped us provide beds, bicycles, seasonal clothing, and more. Our partnership with White Pony Express greatly expands the amount of seasonal clothing, shoes, and other items we can deliver.
Before the start of the school year, the children receive back-to-school supplies, clothing, and sneakers. Professional women’s hairstylists and barbers have donated their services to help the children look their best for school.
“Children can’t learn if they’re hungry, sleep on the floor, or don’t have proper clothing.”
– Dr. Conner
Myrtle Beach, SC
Francis of Assisi created the first living nativity nearly 800 years ago, in Greccio, Italy. Francis’s nativity scene became so popular that similar presentations spread throughout Italy, and then to other countries.
In honor of the namesake of our programs, we periodically offer Living Nativities for the community. On December 21, 2019, a Living Nativity was created in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at a park called Gardens-by-the-Sea for the surrounding community. We called it a Manger-by-the Sea. Actors portrayed Mary, Joseph, Jesus, angels, the wise men, and shepherds. We had baby llamas, lambs, sheep, goats, a donkey, cow, rabbits and more!