The Uptown Sertoma Club recently announced the 2019 Service to Mankind Award recipient. The Service to Mankind Award is the top recognition award that a club can give to a non-member. The award is based on an individuals’ contributions to the community.
Dr. Gloria Close, founder of CAST – a summer camp for children who live in area motels in Spartanburg county is this year’s recipient.
Dr. Close started CAST, which stands for Care, Accept, Share, Teach, in 2015. CAST was born when Gloria, then a guidance counselor for Spartanburg’s School District 7, learned that one of her students had been living in a motel for several years. From there, Gloria discovered that many more students and parents were stuck in motels. Some of these families had lived in the same room for over three years and lacked the financial means to obtain their own apartment or home.
CAST started as a summer camp for these motel children. The three-week camp was and still is, hosted by First Presbyterian Church, and gives these kids the chance to experience places for the first time, like a farm, the Chapman Culture Center, playing golf with First Tee, and playing
in the park. CAST has blossomed into much more than a camp. Through a fund at the Spartanburg County Foundation, donations can be made to CAST, which allows Gloria and her team of volunteers to assist these families in obtaining affordable housing and a job. When a family is ready to transition to their new home, Gloria posts on Facebook seeking donations of household items and her loyal friends come through with needed supplies. Children who attend CAST’s summer camps receive school supplies, clothes, and shoes for the upcoming school year, and another pair of shoes at Christmas. CAST also offers mentoring, enrichment programs and other activities throughout the year.
Spartanburg County has the 5th highest number of homeless people in South Carolina. But families who live in motels aren’t considered homeless. They’re invisible. Forgotten. In 2017, Spartanburg’s District 7 had 260 children classified as homeless, which included students living in motels. Since 2015, CAST has helped multiple families move out of these motels and into their own place. One former motel resident said this about Gloria: “you really have no idea of the impact that you have on people’s lives. You literally change lives and I thank you for it.”
CAST is just one of many contributions Gloria has made to Spartanburg. She’s served as a board member of the Association of Junior Leagues International, the Children’s Trust of South Carolina, the Salvation Army, the Piedmont Area Girl Scouts, and was President of the Junior League of Spartanburg. Additionally, she was a founding board member of the Boys and Girls Club and currently serves as the Executive Director of the Citizens Scholars Institute, a Spartanburg County Foundation initiative. The Spartanburg County Foundation honored Gloria for her work with CAST by awarding her the 2017 Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change.
The Uptown Sertoma Club is honored to present Dr. Gloria Close with the Service to Mankind Award for identifying many needs in our community, creating solutions, and rolling up her sleeves to get the work done. We thank Gloria for her dedication to the children of Spartanburg.