Orangeburg County, South Carolina, is one of the oldest counties in the nation. The largest community in Orangeburg County its the city of Orangeburg, which also functions as the county seat. Orangeburg and other towns throughout the county are relatively small with a focus on agriculture for the economy. The population of the county, as of 2016, is 87,903 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). Orangeburg County does have economic issues, with only 54% of the population aged sixteen years or older, both male and female, being active in the workforce. One major employer in the county is Husqvarna, which employs approximately forty percent of persons over eighteen who are in the workforce.
The economic challenges being faced in Orangeburg County are evident from a visual assessment of Orangeburg and other communities throughout the county. There are numerous abandoned homes, as well as evidence of a significant homeless population. Certain neighborhoods are nearly abandoned, with the number of abandoned houses outnumbering homes that are occupied. Many of the area’s homeless will sleep in public parks. There is also a significant lack of public transportation services available, with some residents inside city limits having to walk upwards of two miles to the nearest bus stop.
Orangeburg County as a whole also has a high youth population, with 22% of Orangeburg County residents being under eighteen years of age (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). However, there also appears to be a lack of visible youth programs, or even places of employment for the youths. However, Orangeburg County does have a relatively high graduation rate, with 84% of persons aged 25 years or older having graduated high school (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). The population of persons with a bachelor’s degree in the county is significantly lower, at 20%.
According to Itzhaky and York (2002), the two main focuses of social work involve collaboration and empowerment. Collaboration in this regard would involve identifying community leaders who are in a position to either inform or advocate for community programs and improvement, while empowerment would center on finding ways to strengthen the community on an individual level. Thus, empowerment might involve finding ways to improve the overall economic situation of Orangeburg County as a whole, while also finding ways to help those who are disadvantaged, such as the large homeless population.
The key informants that would best be utilized for Orange County would involve the following individuals, if possible: a city official from the city of Orangeburg, such as a council member, or if available, even the mayor. This person would be useful for examining the legislative and overarching community needs of Orangeburg, as well as providing insights on what would be required to enact positive change. A second key informant would be a professor of socioeconomics or related field from South Carolina State University, which is located in the city of Orangeburg. This individual would be able to provide research and an informed, academic perspective of socioeconomic conditions affecting Orangeburg, along with insights into how the Orangeburg community has been affected by state and national policy as a whole. A third key informant would be a human resources official from the South Carolina offices of Husqvarna, which is a power tool manufacturer that employs many Orangeburg residents in its Orangeburg County factory. This person would provide insight on the general labor conditions of Orangeburg, along with a description of skills that make individuals attractive to employers. A fourth key informant would be a longtime local small business owner, who could provide insight on how Orangeburg has evolved over the last several decades, while a fifth key informant would be a homeless person who can give insight on the local conditions that have contributed to his or her homelessness. A sixth potential informant might be someone who has recently moved to the area; this person could provide insights on how Orangeburg compares with other communities, including challenges faced when seeking employment in the area.
The skills that would be involved with contacting these individuals would vary, ranging from professional inquiry via letter, to a more casual, in-person approach. For the city official and professor, the best way to initiate contact would be with a professionally written letter. This would require writing skills. Both of these individuals will have limited time, so writing the purpose of contact should be done succinctly and with clarity. For the Husqvarna employee, a similar tactic could also be used, although this would ideally be followed up with an in-person interview and perhaps a tour. This request should be approached with honesty and openness, particularly because this person would be the least obligated to provide an interview. For the business owner, a more in-person approach would be helpful; this would be more casual but also friendly, and there should be a a willingness to engage the individual in a conversational manner. Finally, for the homeless individual, empathy should be demonstrated in initiating contact. The individual should be made to feel as if his or her concerns are being taken seriously, and the person’s viewpoints should be respected without appearing to pander to the individual. Thus, the overarching skills that would need to be employed would be strong communication skills throughout (Kirst-Ashman and Hull, 2017), including understanding of when and how to vary communication. All communication involving correspondence should be quickly taken care of, and both a positive attitude and approach should be utilized for all interviews or contact.
- Husqvarna. (2017). Official Site. Accessible at http://www.husqvarna.com
- Itzhaky, H., & York, S. (2002). Showing results in community organization. National Association of Social Workers.
- Kirst-Ashman, K., & Hull, G. (2017). Understanding Generalist Practice. Cengage Learning.
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2016). Orangeburg County. Accessible at https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/orangeburgcountysouthcarolina/PST045216