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Jimmy Garner and Yvonne Harper, director of Upstate 50

Jimmy Garner and Yvonne Harper, director of Upstate 50

Fifty Upstate: Making a difference for Spartanburg County seniors

Paul Nunez feels like he’s “with family” when he visits the Middle Tyger Community Center each week.  

He and his wife, Aracely, take part in activities coordinated by Fifty Upstate for aging adults in Spartanburg County.  

“We come because we like the people,” Nunez said. “We have a lot of fun, and we are treated well.”  

On the other side of the county at Pacolet’s T.W. Edwards Community Center, Jimmy Garner enjoys visiting with friends several times a week. They have become an important part of his life.  

“Everyone here is concerned for one another,” Garner said. “I don’t know what I’d do if this wasn’t here.”  

Social Engagement and Active Learning 

Fifty Upstate is a collaborative nonprofit designed to promote social engagement, active learning, and physical and emotional nourishment for local adults ages 50 and older. It is housed within the Spartanburg Regional Foundation.  

The Foundation has served as the fiscal agent for Spartanburg County senior services programming since 2015, managing funding for partner organizations that provide key support:  

  • The Spartanburg County Parks Department manages a team of staff members who coordinate activities at seven community centers located throughout the county.  

  • Spartanburg Regional Transportation Services shuttles seniors to and from the centers.  

  • Mobile Meals provides nutritious lunches for homebound seniors.  

Funding for these services comes by way of a grant from the Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG). Based in Greenville, ACOG administers federal and state funds that support local governments and other organizations in six Upstate counties. Its focus areas include advocacy for senior citizens.  

Building on Spartanburg Regional Foundation’s existing partnership with ACOG, Fifty Upstate was launched in late 2018. It is led by a board of diverse community leaders. The Foundation continues to provide support as the fiscal agent, and Yvonne Harper began work in early 2019 as Fifty Upstate’s first director.  

“I really love letting people know that there is something out there for them,” Harper said. “And it’s so rewarding to hear from seniors – some of whom have been widowed and spend a lot of time alone – who say things like, ‘This is just what I needed.’”  

Room for Growth 

This spring, ACOG awarded Fifty Upstate the grant to coordinate senior services in Spartanburg County through 2024. Because funding is tied to the number of seniors who participate, there is room for growth, Harper said.  

In 2018, 439 seniors took part in activities and meals at community centers. Another 253 received meals at home. Harper is excited about spreading the word about those who have benefited and helping to get more seniors involved. She has been meeting with business groups, churches and civic organizations to raise awareness.  

“We are grateful for all of our partners and for donors who support these essential programs,” Harper said. “Seniors in our community – and it is a growing population – have done so much for others. They have raised families, run businesses, taught in schools or worked in health care. Many are military veterans. Senior citizens deserve kindness, friendship and support.” 

To provide information on services and locations – along with other resources that seniors may find helpful – Harper has led the development of a new website: fiftyupstate.org.  

Meanwhile, Spartanburg Regional Foundation has established the Fifty Upstate Fund to enable philanthropic support of expanded services for the county’s aging population.  

 “Through Fifty Upstate, we have an opportunity to make a tremendous difference in their lives,” Harper said. “I’m excited about what we can accomplish as we continue to work together.” 

To donate to Fifty Upstate, visit regionalfoundation.com.