Neighborhood Outreach Connection may soon close in Bluffton

Published: Aug. 6, 2013 at 10:07 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2013 at 10:32 PM EDT
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BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - A Bluffton organization is fighting to keep its doors open.

New management at the Bluffton House Apartments is asking the Neighborhood Outreach Connection to leave.

It's a typical Tuesday at the Neighborhood Outreach Connection. One by one, kids come through the door.

Students such as 11-year-old Genesis Aviles benefit from the free tutoring.

"They mostly help me with my homework which is math because math is really hard for me and it's my weakness," said Aviles.

More than 200 kids at the Bluffton House Apartments participate in the NOC.

It's the brainchild of Dr. Narendra Sharma.

"If you empower an individual in a community, they become more self-reliant and independent. Otherwise, all we're doing is we're housing poverty here," said Sharma.

The Neighborhood Outreach Connection also provides free health screenings and business skills classes to residents at the Bluffton House Apartments.

But the group's future remains uncertain now after new apartment management wants them to vacate the premises.

Sharma said Bluffton House is a low-income Housing Tax Credit property.

And because NOC provides free services to the community, South Carolina law prohibits the organization from paying rent.

We reached out to the company that manages the apartment complex, Aspen Square Management, but have not heard back yet.

Parent Carina Lopez said the NOC is vital because it takes the kids off the streets, away from drugs and a life of crime.

"I'm sad that a company, maybe not from Bluffton doesn't see the need to get integrated into our community, in the fabric of our community, to help children like this," added Lisa Sulka, Town of Bluffton Mayor.

"Without the NOC, I mean I wouldn't be able to get good grades on tests," said Aviles.

"The NOC is showing results, we're showing impact, that's why it's so important for us not to lose the momentum that we have here in Bluffton House," said Sharma.

He and many others hope their circumstances will change soon.

The NOC must vacate one apartment by the end of August and then the second one on Nov. 30.

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