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Our History



The Literacy Center’s story begins in 1973 at the Franciscan Center on St. Helena Island, where a group of Roman Catholic sisters and some concerned citizens recognized that many local children were struggling with reading and writing. As they got to know the children better, they discovered that the children’s parents faced the very same literacy challenge. What began as an effort to better the education of these children quickly evolved into the first adult literacy program in Beaufort County.


1973: The organization was founded on St. Helena Island


1977: Hired first coordinator and employees


1980: Participated in the State Department of Education’s pilot program for the Adult Reading Campaign


Mid-1980’s: Partnered with United Way


1986: ABC and PBS ran a campaign that shed light on the national adult illiteracy issue and created increased awareness of the problem in the Lowcountry, which led to growth of our program


1986: Partnered with Beaufort County Adult Education


1987: Opened Hilton Head training center


1989: Partnered with Beaufort County Adult Education to provide evening English language instruction for immigrants at Hilton Head High School


1990: Continued influx of immigrants led to the development of English for Speakers of Other Languages program


1992: Friends of Literacy fundraising support group founded to act as informal ambassadors to the community


1995 – 1999: Student enrollment grew from 159 to surpass 700 students per year


2002: Received accreditation through ProLiteracy America


2007: Launched Cooks & Books, our signature fundraising event


2008: Opened main headquarters in Bluffton


2010: Received Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Civitas Award for outstanding non-profit organization


2012: Received South Carolina Association of Non-Profit Organization’s Erin Hardwick Award for Non-Profit Excellence for 2011


2014: Received The School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina’s South Carolina Annual Literacy Award for its “significant impact on the lives of adults in Beaufort County.”


2020: Awarded two honors, including the new Stepped Up to the Plate Award for its COVID-19 response, by the Department of South Carolina Adult Education (SCAE). TLC was also recognized with the Facility Enhancement Award for improvements made to its learning centers on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton. In addition to the two awards, eight of our tutors —with a combined total of 125 years of service— were inducted into the SCAE‘s Hall of Fame.


2021: Bluffton Self Help and The Literacy Center, have merged in a joint effort to dramatically expand the availability of basic education and training programs in order to meet the growing needs of the economically at-risk in Beaufort and Jasper counties. Building upon more than eight decades of combined experience serving neighbors, the merger will promote educational programming, workforce training, career readiness and access to vital resources – essential services to break the cycle of poverty and the barriers to self-sufficiency.


Throughout the years and through many changes, our mission has remained true: to equip adults with the reading, writing, speaking and math skills they need to be successful at home, at work and in our community. Since 1973,.


The Literacy Center has helped almost 10,000 adults reach their literacy goals. As Beaufort County’s only nonprofit literacy organization, The Literacy Center is proud to provide instruction in reading, writing, math and English speaking skills to adult learners in Beaufort and Jasper Counties.