A nonprofit group worked with the Orangeburg County Department of Social Services to make the local office more comforting to children during difficult times.

The “Lily Pad” revealed Wednesday includes new furniture, an activity wall, gaming system and books designed to welcome children into the office.

Orangeburg County DSS Director Charlene Nimmons says the space is more colorful, bright and comforting for children.

“When a child first comes into care, the first thing they see is this office, so it gives them a little safe space. I think the room itself brings a lot of peace,” Nimmons said.

“I was so full of emotion because it just looked like a different room. Our kids can really relax in here,” she said.

She is also proud of the upgrades to the observation room.

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“Our case managers don’t have to sit in the room with them. The parent and the child or children can have the opportunity to talk freely without staring right at them,” Nimmons said.

The renovations were made by Lily Pad, a nonprofit organization run by Benjamin and Jennifer Tice.

“We would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Tice for bringing this project, Lily Pad, to DSS in Orangeburg. It’s going to benefit the kids in our communities and in our county. We’re just so grateful for Ms. Nimmons and her staff to be working with you all. God bless you and good work,” Orangeburg Country DSS Advisory Board Chairman Andrew Johnson said.

Lily Pad operates with the goal of improving facilities across South Carolina to create a “comfortable and relaxed environment” for children and families during visits, Jennifer Tice said.

The comfort of the room may help children have hard conversations and receive tough information, Benjamin Tice said.

“Whether it’s receiving hard information from attorneys, or that kind of thing, those can be very traumatic experiences for a child. So, for them to be able to be in here, it kind of helps them receive it,” he said.

He said caseworkers can also use the space “just to take a break, change the scenery, and relax.”

“You guys are working incredibly hard with large caseloads, and that’s not lost on us,” he said.

The Orangeburg County DSS facility is their 21st Lily Pad site. They intend to renovate South Carolina’s 46 county foster care offices and six adoption offices.

“This means a whole lot to our family personally, to be able to do this for you. It’s not just us as individuals. It’s a whole group of people and volunteers from our state and our local communities who have donated financially and donated their time to make this available for the children in your care,” Jennifer Tice said.

“Our organization does not intend to just put the room in and peace out. We are here to help you,” she said.

Lily Pad plans to continue assisting the facility by maintaining the spaces and replacing broken items.

The first Lily Pad was funded through crowdsourcing in Greenville. Now, the nonprofit receives funding through individuals, grants, foundations and businesses.

“This is not only a South Carolina problem,” Jennifer Tice said.

The organization has been contacted by 20 different states and two other countries eager to implement the idea in their facilities. They plan to prioritize South Carolina facilities before considering expansion.

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