Pleasant Valley Connection
“This is the community’s building. Whatever the community wants to see here, this is what we do.” - Leda Young, Executive Director
Summer 2021 was a spirited time at Pleasant Valley Connection. Youth and teens attending Elite Summer Enrichment Camp enjoyed swimming, skating, STEAM activities and 4-H, as well as visits from professionals speaking about careers and a conservation program provided by Greenville Water. With calls coming in from parents wanting to enroll their children, fall promised to be just as busy.
“This place is buzzing,” says Executive Director Leda Young. “What makes us most excited is that the kids are happy just being kids after being isolated. With the help of the Community Foundation and others, we’ve been able to plan engaging activities to revitalize them and help make real-life connections to what they are learning.”
During the pandemic, PVC closed for a time and shifted to providing basic needs, becoming a distribution center for food. With safety measures in place, the organization reopened with smaller numbers for summer camp. Then what had been an after-school program became a full-day hub for students to attend virtual school with staff members tutoring and monitoring assignments.
“We realized it was critical to have some sense of normalcy for the children,” Young says. “The families trusted us so much, some kept their children in the program when school opened back up.”
The virtual hub was a lifeline for Saliah Smith, 12, and her family. Her mother, Maxine Wilkes, is an essential worker, and needed a safe place for her daughter to stay during the school day. Grant funding for essential workers covered her tuition.
“That was a huge help for us and relieved a lot of pressure. It’s truly been a blessing in our lives,” Wilkes says, praising Young’s leadership. “The future’s so bright for the whole community because of her.”
Now a rising seventh grader, Saliah participates in PVC’s Talented Tenth Teen program. Community Foundation grants of S25,000 in 2020 and $12,500 in 2021 helped cover expenses for the teen center, including the salary of the new director, Devette Green. Finding the right person for the role was essential, Young says, to take the program to the next level, achieve measurable results and transform the lives of young people.
Saliah has thrived in the program. “Our director wants us to have fun, but she makes it educational at the same time, so you get benefits from things you enjoy doing,” she says.
Saliah was one of three Pleasant Valley students selected to attend a summer Teen Leadership Conference through Clemson 4-H. She’s excited to meet new people and learn skills, and thinks it’s a good opportunity for her future. She’ll be attending with a good friend, and Young looks forward to seeing what the young ladies will bring back from the experience.
“They’re both very bright students,” Young says, “This leadership opportunity will probably be the beginning of many for them.”
In addition to programming for young people, the center fills other needs in the Pleasant Valley community, and is a meeting space for local events. Senior Action, whose activities at Pleasant Valley were on hold during the pandemic, will resume meeting in September 2021.
To better serve residents who lacked a convenient place to buy fresh produce and often relied on dollar stores for grocery purchases, PVC leaders organized a farmer’s market in November and December of 2020. In April 2021, they kicked off the new growing season with a plant sale and brought the monthly Greens and Things Market back again in May, giving families access to healthy vegan food.
“This is the community’s building,” Young says. “Whatever the community wants to see here, this is what we do.”