Friendship Place offers food to the hungry and other services that give a hand-up, helping to move Georgetown County people in need from crisis to stability.
In 1998, a group of concerned citizens met at the St. Cyprian’s Outreach Center to discuss the unmet needs in the county. After finding that there were few services to address hunger and homelessness, the program began in 2000, taking over and expanding a small feeding program offered by the nuns of St. Cyprian’s.
Located in the St. Cyprian’s Center at 1905 Front St. in Georgetown, Friendship Place feeds close to 100 hungry people every Monday through Saturday.
To the staff and volunteers at Friendship Place, a nonprofit Christian organization, these people are much more than numbers; they are individuals with their own unique circumstances and needs, and are treated as such.
“There are no buffet lines at Friendship Place,” said Executor Director Charlie Ball. “That’s very important to us. We want to talk with our clients and get to know them.”
Providing meals is just one way that Friendship Place is helping the hungry, homeless, unemployed, underemployed and others who are down on their luck. Behind some of the area’s most scenic places, there are people living in pockets of poverty where Ball and others involved with Friendship Place are striving to bring hope and a hand up.
“We try to help them with what they need, not what we think they need,” Ball said
Ball, a full-time employee, and three part-time employees make up the staff at Friendship Place, where the board of directors and the many people who help keep the charity going are volunteers, mostly from local churches and civic organizations.
Friendship Place, a United Way Agency, is also funded by donations from individuals, civic groups, churches and foundations.
Ball said they try not to duplicate any programs or keep doing the same thing over and over. They strive to come up with creative and cost-effective ways to help people move beyond needing assistance, he said.
Following an application and background check, Friendship Place provides emergency shelter in local motels for people in crisis. It also provides transitional shelter for 30 to 150 days in a five-bedroom house in collaboration with the Georgetown Housing Authority.
While staying at the home, guests must be working and actively developing plans that will lead to self-sufficiency. Sponsors from area businesses or organizations help by giving hands-on support and mentoring.
“Last year was one of our biggest years that we’ve had to provide emergency shelters,” Ball said.
Volunteers from Georgetown churches help with the feeding program. In a different program that helps people in the Waccamaw Neck with utility bills and other services, Friendship Place works in coordination with churches in the Waccamaw Neck Ministerial Association.
In 2009 and 2010, the organization saw an increase in the number of people who needed help with rent and utilities, mostly due to job loss.
“Sometimes it was just a one-time thing and they got over the hump. Now we’re trying to work more with people who live in chronic crisis,” Ball said.
Assistance for some may consist of putting plastic over windows to save energy, helping create budgets or new strategies for living.
Getting to know the clients and their problems is imperative, Ball said.
“You’ve got to prove to people that you really do care about them,” Ball said. “We look at each client individually and try to help them to move on without assistance.”
Friendship Place has helped many individuals and families with job security by providing education opportunities, and is now focusing on the Certified Nurses Aide program. That program pays the full two-year tuition and other costs associated with training at Horry Georgetown Technical College for applicants who meet the requirements.
In an effort to meet the needs of its clients, Friendship Place provided shuttle service for the uninsured from Georgetown to Smith Medical Clinic in Pawleys Island.
It also has a food pantry and relies on donations and food drives for the food.
Reach PEGGY MISHOE at 365-3885 or email@example.com.