“What we do is so beyond benefits.”
That’s how Chief Development Officer Stephanie McGuire describes the work of SC Thrive, an AARP Foundation grantee based in Columbia, South Carolina, that helps guide people through the complicated application processes for SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps) and Medicare Savings Programs (MSP).
The stakes couldn’t be higher. For many seniors, maneuvering through these processes can be the difference between putting food on the table and falling into poverty.
So it matters that, in 2022 alone, SC Thrive made it easier for about 10,000 older adults to apply for SNAP benefits and 2,350 people over 65 to apply for MSP. But there’s more to it than just filling out paperwork.
“We help people navigate through the system of available benefits so that they can live healthy, sustainable lives,” Stephanie says. “All of us come from backgrounds where we care for people, and that is our focus.”
One man in particular made an impression on the staff. He had lost a limb as the result of a motorcycle accident, and then was denied assistance to pay for his utilities and food because the amount he received from Social Security was four dollars over the income limit. Naturally, he was hesitant to try again, but was overjoyed to learn about the medical deductions he qualified for as an older adult. With SC Thrive’s guidance, he was able to apply for and receive SNAP benefits.
Janise Wright, SC Thrive’s Director of Engagement, knows firsthand the importance of access to all available benefits. “I’m a breast cancer survivor,” she says. “If I didn’t have these programs and health insurance, I wouldn’t have been successful with my treatment. So I have a passion for it.”
Janise’s experience working on Medicaid benefits for government agencies like the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Human Services further stoked her passion for helping others get the benefits they need.
During her time in government, she saw people who, much like the man who had struggled after the motorcycle accident, were denied benefits. “They never wanted to apply again because they were five dollars over the income limit,” Janise recalls. “And they said, ‘Well, where do I go next?’ And we were like, ‘Well, we don’t know.’ There was a void.”
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