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Jericho Project cuts ribbon Oct. 23

Jericho Project cuts ribbon Oct. 23

    10.24.19 | Academics Community Inventive learning by Ed Welch

    The Jericho Project was officially opened with ribbon cutting ceremonies Oct. 23. Dr. Todd Voss, Southern Wesleyan University president, along with Elaine Thena, director of the Pickens County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs (PCBDSN), cuts the ribbon being held by Dr. Lisa McWherter, left, Jericho Project Committee member and Anderson County Disabilities and Special Needs Board (ACDSNB) member; Pat Schamberger, second from right, Jericho Project resident; and Mary Burts, right, quality assistance coordinator for PCBDSN.

    The Jericho Project was officially opened with ribbon cutting ceremonies Oct. 23 at the new facility, located at the western edge Southern Wesleyan University’s Central campus.  

    On hand for the ceremonies were Jericho Project committee members, along with representatives from Southern Wesleyan University, Pickens County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs (PCBDSN), Anderson County Disabilities and Special Needs Board (ACDSNB), architect Michael Sheriff, chambers of commerce from Clemson and Easley, and other community leaders.

    Symbolic of the walls of Jericho in the Bible, the Jericho Project is a place where walls separating citizens with disabilities and special needs from the surrounding community are coming down. The Jericho Project is about preparing its residents to live more independent lives, while being part of a greater community dedicated to life learning experiences.

    The first seven residents, known as “friends,” moved into The Jericho Project in August. This collaboration of Southern Wesleyan with disabilities and special needs boards in Pickens and Anderson Counties, along with the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, also includes nine Southern Wesleyan students who are there to offer mentoring and other assistance.

    PCBDSN Director Elaine Thena praised Southern Wesleyan for “opening their arms” and being actively involved in planning for The Jericho Project.

    “We presented this idea to the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs and they supported us. We were thinking going along that it was going to be more than we planned it to be. It’s changing people’s lives for the better, and that’s what it’s all about,” Thena said.

    “It took five years for us to get where we are now, but it’s all worth it,” said Mary Burts, PCBDSN quality assistance coordinator, who has worked on programming for The Jericho Project from its beginning. “They are in the community; they are riding Catbus; they are on campus; everybody has been so receptive, and we appreciate it all.”

    Burts added that programs are continuing to be developed for Jericho’s residents, and, looking out over yet-to-be-developed portions of land surrounding the first phase, looks forward to being able to welcome more residents in the near future.

    Jarrod Smith, one of the friends residing at Jericho, has been actively involved in classes, chapels and other activities on campus, in addition to his job at Pioneer, Southern Wesleyan’s dining service. Smith hopes that The Jericho Project will inspire similar places in other areas.

    “I’ve been enjoying it ever since I moved in,” Smith said. “The new environment, being part of a Christian campus and making some new friends – I love every bit of it. I’ve shared a lot of laughs and good times with people.”

    Pat Schamberger, who also resides at Jericho, divides her time between Southern Wesleyan’s campus and working second shift at a local business.

    “I like Southern Wesleyan. I’m happy here,” said Schamberger. Residents work either in town or at Southern Wesleyan when they aren’t attending class, chapel or athletic events.

    Dr. Todd Voss, president of Southern Wesleyan, said, “It’s not just our friends who are excited but also our college students – maybe more so! Our goal was always that this would be sort of a test to see if we could make this a national model.”

    Dr. Chris Confer, Southern Wesleyan’s vice president for student life, feels that students are learning from their friends at Jericho and “are walking away with way more than they expected.”

    Dr. Lisa McWherter, one of The Jericho Project’s founding committee members, said “To see and hear from The Jericho Project residents, both friends with special needs/abilities and students about their experiences thus far, is so much more than rewarding—it’s deeply moving and immensely fulfilling. Truly, we really are all more alike than we are different.”

    The Jericho Project is designed to house 11 residents with disabilities and/or special needs and nine Southern Wesleyan students – with one four-bedroom unit, seven two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units, each with fully ADA compliant restrooms, kitchens and laundry areas. Also included is a training/meeting room and a quarter-mile walking trail. Opening this housing represents the first of three phases, where in the future more housing will be constructed. Pickens County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs (PCBDSN) manages the facility, built on land provided by Southern Wesleyan.

    Details, including information on supporting The Jericho Project, can be found at jerichoatswu.org. For information about donating to The Jericho Project, contact

    Southern Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered, student-focused learning community devoted to transforming lives by challenging students to be dedicated scholars and servant-leaders who impact the world for Christ. For details about degree programs, go online to swu.edu.

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