Sonshine Club of Spartanburg is called a safe haven for adults with special needs. It started with its first “Super Saturday” on May 28, 2011, in the dining hall of Spartanburg First Baptist Church.
The founders were Larry and Tammy McCullough, and Eric and Joanna Swanson. Both couples were motivated to create this special ministry by Tammy’s sister, Teresa, now deceased, who “had special needs and a heart for God.”
Larry McCullough continues to serve as the director, with help from Brian Harris, assistant director and pastor of Clifton First Baptist Church. McCullough said, “We are a faith-based day camp for adults with special needs — those who function well in a group setting and who require minimal assistance.”
The Sonshine Club meets on the first and third Saturday of the month at the Spartanburg First dining hall. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a typical Saturday meeting began with a light breakfast, prayer, praise and worship, and a Bible lesson. McCullough said, “They worship like no other.” Harris added, “There are no inhibitions. There is nothing like Sonshine worship.”
Lunch is catered, and following the meal, the group enjoys arts and crafts, music therapy, recreation, and various other activities. Each Super Saturday runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but with COVID restrictions, they are doing a Facebook live event beginning at 10 a.m. with prayer, worship, and a Bible lesson. They plan to resume in person activities as soon as possible.
Harris said, “We call the experience a one-day mission trip, and we invite groups to come and serve with us at Sonshine Club.” The ministry is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit housed at Spartanburg First, but welcomes other evangelical denominations.
One of the benefits of Sonshine is that it gives caregivers a break. Harris pointed out, “One of the greatest ministries of Sonshine Club is respite for the caregivers of our friends. We take joy in giving them time to get things done and have some down time while their loved one is safely involved in worship with us.”
One caregiver said that Saturday was the only day she had for rest and relaxation. A parent whose son attends the Sonshine Club said that the people who work there are “caring, loving people. I know my son will be safe there.”
Harris said the club’s vision for the future is “to plant other Sonshine Club ministries in other communities. Statistics show that the special needs community is too often overlooked in our churches, and we hope to help fill that void,” Harris emphasized.