There's been no better a barometer for the economy lately than the Fort Mill Care Center, which is trying to cope with a staggering uptick in clients.
With nearly three months left in the year, the care center has helped close to 800 families and new families are coming in every other day for food staples and other services, according to Jan Arnold, who runs the center's food pantry. To date, the care center has given away 160,000 pounds of food and $13,000 worth of assistance. Last year, when the center reported a sharp rise in requests for assistance compared to 2006, the center's 12-month total was 100,000 pounds of food and $10,000 spent on assistance.
Because of the demand, the care center is concerned about having enough resources to meet everyday requests, let alone provide meals for the rapidly approaching holidays.
Recently, Arnold said, the families coming in for help are markedly younger then they have been in years past.
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CeCe, a Fort Mill resident who asked that her last name not be published, has been getting help from the center for about a year.
"If not for them [the center], then people would not get any help." CeCe said. "The people are good here."
The care center covers all of Fort Mill Township, including Indian Land. Services for eligible clients include money for prescriptions, utilities and rent and school supplies.
"Everyone who comes to us is screened to make sure they need our help. The Care Center tries to make sure our resources are shared fairly across the board," Arnold said.
She said the donations were plentiful until September, but dropped off as demand increased. Arnold said one reason why is that residents who helped keep the care center stocked are now facing their own economic crisis because of unemployment and a spike in the cost of living - especially fuel costs.
"I was surprised at just how much I spend on gas," she said, adding that it is "hard to donate with prices rising."
Because the care center relies solely on donations, Arnold said no donation - whether in food, cash or household supplies - is too small.
"It feels good to know that you have helped make a difference whether you can afford to donate one pound or 100 pounds," she said, adding that when the center gets cash donations, "97 cents of every dollar goes to the community."
There are several local fundraisers coming up to aid the center, including Rock the Pantry, a concert featuring local high school bands and other musicians, and food drives organized by the Nation Ford High dance team and local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts groups.
Bi-Lo, which offers free turkeys to customers based on the amount of total purchases, agreed to give the center any that are left unclaimed.
Want to help?
Rock the Pantry is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16, at St. John's UMC, 130 Tom Hall St., Fort Mill. Admission is $5 and two canned goods.
To donate directly to the Fort Mill Care Center, call 547-7620.