SCBMA, Connie Maxwell responding to challenges of keeping senior adults, children safe

South Carolina Baptists’ two benevolent ministries, the Ministries of Aging and Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, are being diligent in making sure the vulnerable populations of elderly and children in their care stay well during the coronavirus outbreak.

When SCBMA leaders learned the pandemic had reached South Carolina in early March, they immediately took action to keep all their residents and staff safe at Bethea and Martha Franks retirement communities. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines for residential care facilities were not only met but exceeded.

SCBMA began cancelling events on the two campuses, and a plan for restricting visitors to its healthcare and assisted living facilities was soon implemented. The CDC social-distancing guidelines include limiting communal dining or congregating in groups.

“I am so proud of our staff’s devotion to SCBMA residents over the last two months during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, we have seen very little change in resident health,” said Tom Turner, president and CEO.

“We know the extraordinary precautions and visitation restrictions have been difficult for residents, their families, and staff; however, I am so proud of our staff’s devotion to SCBMA residents during this time,” he said.

As the state continued to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, testing of all nursing home residents and staff members was necessitated in May. This additional precaution further ensures the safety of all those living and working in congregate settings and helps determine the full extent of the virus within nursing facilities.

At press time in mid-May, DHEC’s COVID-19 testing had not yet been completed at either SCBMA nursing facility.

SCBMA leaders express their thanks to residents, their families and friends, and staff for cooperation with the steps taken over the last three months. To mitigate the impact of restricted visitation, the SCBMA team is providing residents with technology to interact with their families online. At one of the communities, food service personnel have set up a grocery store for independent residents to shop for culinary needs.

“At times like this, we get to see faith in action and how we are truly a family, not only at our two campuses, but throughout Baptist life,” Turner said. “Baptists from across the state have contacted us to see if we need anything or if they can help us in any way.”

An empty, small rock tomb made by a child was a powerful reminder of what the ministry of Connie Maxwell is all about.

Connie Maxwell

All non-essential workers at Connie Maxwell are working remotely from home, while essential staff, who provide direct care to children, have been “our heroes,” said President Danny Nicholson. No cases of COVID-19 have been reported on its campus as of early May, he said.

Houseparents have been quarantined by cottages, and since school was cancelled, a great deal of effort and support has been exhibited by them to keep children on track with their school work.

“Creativity has been paramount in keeping the children engaged beyond their school work, and campus leaders have really risen to the occasion by creating socially distanced events,” Nicholson said.

Some of the ways in which Connie Maxwell has adjusted its ministry to children and families have included horse and carriage rides on Oasis Farm, building box gardens in cottage yards, and celebrating Easter by decorating front porches, and dressing up for “pictures on the porch.”

One particularly touching moment for Nicholson was when he and his wife, Debra, were riding through campus praying for the children, and they saw a humble construction of an “empty tomb” made with small rocks in the front yard of one cottage.

“I thought to myself, ‘This is what Connie Maxwell is all about: To help children find hope in the midst of life’s challenges!’” Nicholson said. “There have been moments of joy and glory in the midst of brokenness and suffering.”

Another socially distanced activity was the “Isolympics,” which provided a safe but engaging set of activities to encourage physical exercise and friendly competition between each cottage. “Again, those working on the frontlines with children have done an incredible job ministering to them during these times of uncertainty,” Nicholson said.

In lieu of in-person church services, Connie Maxwell’s pastor, Stephen Johnson, set up services for elementary, middle/high school, and adults to worship by computer with music, videos, and a message centered around the campus theme, “DECIDE.”

As with other SCBC ministries, financial support for Connie Maxwell has been influenced by the coronavirus’s effect on the stock market and the reduction of its endowment funds.

“However, the word ‘faithfulness’ has never been more meaningful to Connie Maxwell,” Nicholson added. “Even though we have been affected financially, the enduring commitment of so many saints and servants who have sacrificed through the years have ensured that we are strong and stable during these challenging times. Thank God for His faithfulness, and the faithfulness of those who love children and provide for their spiritual and physical needs.

“We need the continued prayers and faithful support of South Carolina Baptists,” Nicholson said. “It is the faithfulness of this dedicated people of God that has made such an eternal impact for over 128 years.”