“We all have a role to play. If we can unite people with and without means, then philanthropy becomes good work.”
Reverend Cheryl Adamson, a Waccamaw board member, has sat on both sides of the funding game, working as a member of our Grants Committee and a nonprofit leader for many years. Born with a “helper” personality, her life is a testament to what you can build when you simply follow your calling.
Raised in Conway by parents who were both teachers, Cheryl studied at the University of South Carolina and started medical school at MUSC before leaving to move to D.C. with her husband, who was an Army physician.
It was in D.C. that Cheryl began her career in public health as a lecturer at the University of Maryland. However, that was also when she began to consider ministry as a career. Cheryl recounted how sitting in her car prior to lectures, she would daydream of preaching instead of teaching that day’s lesson plan.
Nevertheless, upon her return to South Carolina, Cheryl continued her public health career as the Director of HIV/AIDS Education for DHEC near the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. But fast forward 18 years, and at the age of 46, Cheryl preached her first sermon and began divinity school at Duke the following year. She founded Palmetto Missionary Baptist Church a few years after that and today, at 63 years old, marks the nine-year anniversary of the church and its outreach ministry, Palmetto Works Community Development Corporation.
“Everything we do is geared towards helping people do what is most appropriate for their age,” Cheryl explained of Palmetto Works’ philosophy.
“We don’t have any people to waste.”
The nonprofit’s holistic approach to helping people from cradle to grave has started summer enrichment programs, a teenage leadership academy and a jobs training program, CHOPS, geared towards returning veterans and people coming out of prison.
“I am most interested in those nonprofits in our community who are about the business of rebuilding people’s lives,” shared Cheryl. On Waccamaw’s Grants Committee, Cheryl is still learning a lot as she goes on out site visits to meet with grantees’ board members, staff and clients.
Working in philanthropy, Cheryl gets to examine the nonprofit sector through the same holistic lens she applies to community development work as she blends her experiences on both sides of the table. We’re grateful for her service and look forward to working with Cheryl again in 2016!