The doors open at 9 a.m. at Rock Hill's Project Hope crisis ministry, yet people were arriving by 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, hoping to get help.
One of them was William Gosnell.
"I lost my job," Gosnell said. "I have rent to pay, other bills; food is where I come up short."
He left with cereal, meat, bread, rice, potatoes. Enough to live on for a while.
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With Thanksgiving just a week away, many people are stocking pantries to get ready to feed families and friends. But for others, Thanksgiving is just another day.
Charity food pantries and crisis centers that help the poor keep the lights on - where donations are down and need has skyrocketed in the rotten economy - are at times the only source of food or money for people in need any day.
Those places help every week of the year.
"We have so many people in here some days that we have to close early," said Bo Coleman, chairman of Project Hope. "We have the highest demand for services we have ever had."
People sat Wednesday in the busy waiting room at Project Hope. White and black, young and old, they were united by one thing - poverty.
"I got laid off," said one woman. "Nothing to eat for me or my kids."
A couple brought a utility bill with a balance of $120. Their cut-off date?
"Thursday, tomorrow, we won't have heat or lights," said the husband.
They sat next to Marilyn Thomas, 56, who worked as a nurse's aide, a cook, in day care centers, until arthritis put her on disability.
"My power bill is $240, and I have until next week to pay it or I will be in the dark, in the cold, Thanksgiving Day," Thomas said.
On the other side of Thomas sat Wilhemena Cosom. Thomas and Cosom met Tuesday at another help agency where they were hoping to get a few dollars for utilities.
That's how the truly broke have to work it: A few dollars here, some there, keep the lights on. Cosom has a car, so she offered to pick up Thomas Wednesday and bring her along to Project Hope.
"I'm 62 years old, I worked until I was disabled, and I have to make it on $900 a month," said Cosom. "From that I have to pay my car, gas and insurance, rent. Food and medicine. The light bill. That's why I am here today."
She showed the notice that has a disconnect date of Friday.
"If I don't pay this bill, I will be in the dark, and no heat either," Cosom said. "But God is good."
But faith alone does not pay bills or provide food. Project Hope and other crisis assistance centers do both.
Those places depend on churches, private donations, grocery stores, other big-hearted groups and people to serve others.
At Project Hope this calendar year, about $100,000 has been given out for utilities, heat, lodging and medications.
The crisis ministry has helped more than 2,200 families with food.
Still, the demand is rising.
The need is so large, said George Kelly, assistant treasurer of Project Hope, that the agency has had to cut the amount of assistance for each person - so all can have some.
"It is all we can do to give a utility $30 toward a person's light bill that might be four or five times that," Kelly said. "But we will keep on."
At Project Hope Wednesday, one woman teared up as she explained that she lost her job as a lab technician when the economy soured, and she had to ask for help for the first time for her and her family.
Another woman walked in and waited. She has three kids, 11, 12 and 18. Her overdue bill for electricity was $175.16.
"I always worked until I became sick," she said. "I applied for disability but haven't gotten it. My husband lost his job when his employer cut jobs, and he just got something else but it is minimum wage."
These people are among the countless in this area who "put aside pride," as Marilyn Thomas put it, and asked for charity.
And Project Hope stretched that food Wednesday. They put out all the breadstuffs - the only perishables - on a porch table and urged people to take them. Volunteers brought in boxes of food, which went out just as fast.
In the back of the building, volunteers interviewed the desperate, and some small checks were written to pay for utilities or kerosene or emergency medications.
Then the doors closed, to re-open today.
A line, waiting.
A new batch of those awaiting Thanksgiving - and its overflowing tables for so many of us - in the cold and dark with an empty refrigerator and a stove that will not work because there is no electricity to turn it on.
Want to help?
No matter where you live, people in poverty need you. Here are some places in our communities that offer help and accept donations. Many serve people who live within that area’s school district boundaries. Call first to check hours and days of operation:
United Way of York County – 803-324-2735
Feed the Hungry Ministries – 803-417-3881
Pilgrims’ Inn – 236 W. Main St., Rock Hill, 803-327-4227
Project Hope – 411 Park Ave., Rock Hill, 803-328-8000
Salvation Army – 119 S. Charlotte Ave., Rock Hill, 803-324-5141
Fort Mill Care Center – 513 Banks St., Fort Mill, 803-547-7620
Clover Area Assistance Center – 1130 S.C. 55 East, Clover, 803-222-4837
PATH – 204 Raille St., York, 803-684-3992
Tender Hearts Community Outreach – 511 Kings Mountain St., York, 803-684-3132
Turning Point – 112 Gadsden St., Chester, 803-581-0219
Utility providers also accept donations directly from power bills that are used to help the needy to keep service from being disconnected. Ask your provider about getting involved.