Before author Richard Lupton came to Myrtle Beach to tell area organizations how to avoid doing the kind of charitable work that makes things worse for the people they are trying to help, Glenn Duke was part of a group trying to feed the homeless.
After Lupton’s appearance a couple of weeks ago at First Presbyterian Church, sponsored by the city of Myrtle Beach and the Waccamaw Community Foundation, Duke continued doing what he had been, much as he always has.
Lupton wrote “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help and How to Reverse It.” He has been doing charitable work for four decades.
Duke attended Lupton’s presentation and said the author made some good points. But he was mostly unmoved.
“He’s done some good things. He’s done it on the corporate level,” Duke said. “It wasn’t like this. This is grassroots.”
As he spoke, Duke was tending to the garden in a plot of land provided by Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Myrtle Beach.
He was joined by Bobbi Blaine, Richard Hopkins and David Novy. The garden was the brainchild of Nathan Maier and its upkeep is a partnership between Grand Strand Community Garden Committee and Food Not Bombs.
Duke and the others have been feeding the area homeless on weekends for several months. They say they’ve been forced to move around because of city ordinances. During the meals, they’ve seen men arrested for being drunk in public and others moved for sleeping.
Lupton said charities should not do for others what they can do for themselves and must recognize the difference between an emergency need and structural problems. Volunteers also must be mindful that the work they are doing is more about helping other people get better rather than about the good feelings it creates in the volunteers themselves.
Blaine scoffed at that charge.
“This is a lot of work,” she said. “I would have quit a long time ago if there weren’t so many hungry people.”
“If I wanted to feel good, I’d be sitting on the beach with a book in my hand and a cat in my lap,” Hopkins said.
His fear is that Lupton’s message will convince people to stop helping those in need.
“It has the potential to feed the right-wing, anti-charity thing, even if that’s not what [Lupton] meant,” he said.
Myrtle Beach city attorney John Pedersen said he understands the group’s fear but disagrees with the assessment.
It is about becoming more effective at charity, he said.
“It is probably the approach that we would take if we were dealing with a problem with a family member,” Pedersen said. “I think this concept is an honest recognition that if you continually sustain someone in an undesirable situation, like homelessness, then the reality is that it becomes increasingly difficult for that person to rise out of that undesirable situation.”
There have been discussions since Lupton’s speech among churches about changing the way they look at their support for charitable organizations, but “it’s a bit early to tell what changes come about as a result of this dialogue,” Pedersen said.
It’s not too early for Duke. The group will continue raising money through yard sales, accepting donations, such as the one they received from Mill Grove Farms in Georgetown, and they’ll continue planting cucumbers, peppers, corn, beans and basil.
The weekly meal giveaways to the homeless will go on.
“If you are hungry,” Duke said, “we’ll feed you.”
Contact ISSAC J. BAILEY at 626-0357, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.com at @ijbailey or @TSN_IssacBailey.