Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

For This South Carolina Nonprofit, Community Runs Deep

At SC Thrive, people like Stephanie McGuire and Janise Wright connect older adults to benefits and so much more.


spinner image Stephanie McGuire SC Thrive Grantee

“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.”

spinner image Couple Holding Heart Illustration for Caregiving

You have the power to change the lives of seniors in poverty

1 in 3 older adults struggle to meet their basic needs. Your gift can help seniors secure good jobs, get the benefits they've earned, and stay connected to their communities.

Make a Gift

Get Notified

Sign up for our email list to be notified of future grantmaking and Request for Proposal (RFP) opportunities. 



Since joining SC Thrive, Janise has been determined to fill that void. She recognized an opportunity to do just that when a staff member at the local library called her. “They said, ‘Janise, there’s this gentleman who comes to the library and he really needs benefits. But the problem is that he doesn’t have a phone, he doesn’t have internet, and he walks here. Is there any way that you can help him?’”

There was. Janise dedicated herself not just to helping that one person but to having a greater impact across the entire community. From that initial contact, a program was born: SC Thrive now hosts “Benefit Days” at the library, where patrons can learn about all the programs available to them and how SC Thrive can help them get assistance.

“Clients are not just numbers,” Janise says. “Clients are actual people who have feelings and who have struggles. I struggled, too. It’s personal to me.”

Considering that the latest census data shows 26% of the overall population and 10% of older adults living below the poverty line, the Columbia metro area needs people like Janise and the rest of SC Thrive’s committed, passionate staff. Not only do they assist individual residents, but they also reach deep into the community, creating relationships and building a network of people who are helping each other live better.

But SC Thrive’s most enduring accomplishment may be the way it’s transforming misperceptions about federal and state benefits. “There are a lot of myths out there,” Janise notes. “Working with the senior population, they always think that the government is going to take something away from them if they apply. That’s what’s so important about the work that we do. We try to make sure that we’re educating people and that they understand the facts. We’re dispelling those myths and getting these people the services that they need.”

Like Stephanie McGuire says, SC Thrive’s work goes beyond benefits. Above all, it’s about empathy. As one SNAP applicant put it, “I feel like you actually see me and you’re not just talking through me.”

AARP Foundation Grants Program helps older adults to secure the essentials.

Read more stories about how our programs have helped people find hope, and about the volunteers who give so much of themselves to help others. 

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

Get Notified

Sign up for our email list to be notified of future grantmaking and Request for Proposal (RFP) opportunities.