As the Fort Mill Care Center makes plans to close for at least a month and makes long-term plans that include downsizing their food pantry, area food pantries are preparing to step in and assist Care Center clients.
“We’re here, we’re available. If people need help, we are ready,” said Major John Edmonds with the Salvation Army in Rock Hill.
The Salvation Army in Rock Hill serves York, Chester and Lancaster counties and has a food pantry stocked with nonperishable food items. Right now, he said, the pantry is fully stocked but he cautioned that the influx of clients he expects from the Fort Mill area will deplete resources quickly.
The Salvation Army is located at 119 South Charlotte Ave. in Rock Hill, approximately 8.5 miles – or a 20-minute drive – from the Care Center’s current location on Banks Street. The distance from Fort Mill is going to pose a “significant problem, no question about it,” said Care Center Director Carol Higgins.
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“A lot of our people do not have a car. They rely on friends. Their friends will take them to Fort Mill, but not all the way to the Salvation Army. And even people with cars don’t have money for gas,” Higgins said.
Higgins said she hopes churches will use their vans to organize transportation to and from the Salvation Army. Edmonds also said car pooling will be essential.
“Obviously some people won’t have transportation, but they may be able to ride with a neighbor or friend. Think about your neighbors. Schedule appointments and ride together,” Edmonds said.
In Indian Land, Belair United Methodist Church has a food pantry open twice a month for Indian Land residents.
Right now, it serves approximately 70 families every two weeks. The news of the Care Center’s plans to close temporarily and downsize its food pantry concerned organizers of the Belair pantry, who expect they will see an increase in demand as a result. The Fort Mill Care Center serves all Fort Mill Township residents, including clients from Indian Land.
Belair organizer Shirley Mooney said she isn’t sure how the pantry will meet extra demand. While Belair would like to increase its reach beyond Indian Land residents, the program is limited, Mooney said. The church has limited space for storage and donations are low right now, she said.
“We have absolutely no facilities to handle that many people,” Mooney said.
“We won’t turn anyone away if they come but we don’t know how to handle many more. I wish we did. I really wish we did. I think it’s such an important mission, but we’re just so limited in space.”
The Care Center has been searching for a new building for six months. The privately run, volunteer-driven organization has to leave its current location on Banks Street because the property, owned by the Fort Mill School District, is slated for demolition.
Care Center officials hope to reopen the office portion of the center in September and provide help with utility bills and paying for prescription medications. They found a potential space to lease, but are still in negotiations, Higgins said.
The center has been unable to find a building with space for a food pantry comparable in size to the current pantry, which occupies more than 3,000 square feet. However, the space it is considering has 1,200 square feet that could be used as a small food pantry.