It’s been nearly a year since the Fort Mill Care Center had to move into a temporary building, and the facility is still looking for a suitable home.
The Care Center, a not-for-profit organization that helps Fort Mill Township residents in need with everything from food to help paying for utilities and prescriptions, is working with a realtor, but hopes a building owner who’s a good match will step forward, Director Carol Higgins said.
Not long ago, the center was close to acquiring a building on Elliot Street but the deal fell through.
“We were negotiating to but the property and we thought we had it,” Higgins said. “We even went to a lawyer and drew up a contract, but the owner decided to go with a different offer.”
The center, which for years had been anchored rent-free in what used to be a Fort Mill school complex, had to move in August after the district put the property on the market. The building was razed over the winter.
Although the deal fell through, Higgins said, the experience will help with the search for another property. “On the up side of it all, we learned a lot,” she said.
Higgins said she’s grateful to town officials for their input during the search, including zoning and permitting information, that will make it easier for the center to move quickly next time it identifies a potential site. She singled out Code Enforcement Officer Wayne Hunter, Engineering Director Paul Mitchell and Assistant Town Manager Joe Cronin for their help.
“They all went out of their way to explain what we needed to do and were all extremely helpful,” she said. “I can’t say enough how cooperative the city was, taking the time to help us out.”
The Care Center has a building fund that was started 10 years ago. Donations are converted to certificates of deposit in a local credit union.
Higgins wouldn’t say how much the center has to work with other than “it’s substantial – enough for a down payment,” but she wants those who donated years ago to know the money eventually will be used to fund a permanent home.
“It’s important that anybody who donated knows that money is still there, and when we’re ready to move, we have a down payment and we have a commitment from the bank (for a mortgage).”
Finding a building that could accommodate a large food pantry and other needed space is preferable, but Higgins said a facility could be built from scratch if a suitable parcel is found. Ideally, the center needs an acre of land and a 5,000-square-foot building, Higgins said.
In the meantime, the center is making do in a much smaller space its renting near downtown. The biggest losses from the previous location, Higgins said, are the institutional-sized refrigerator and freezer that allowed the center to store and give away produce, meat, dairy and other perishables.
“It’s a little crowded, but the problem is the pantry. We have a lot less space, but the churches have really stepped up and helped. With no refrigeration though, we can only give away nonperishables. We can’t do turkeys at the holidays anymore.”
Still, the center is giving away approximately 8,000 pounds of food a month. “We’re doing what we can,” Higgins said. “We’re still making a difference.”
The center, last year named an “Angel” organization by the state because nearly all its revenue – 97.6 percent – is used to provide services, was honored in the S.C. State House last week.
Higgins and other center officials received a proclamation presented by District 26 Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill.