Andrew Dys

From stolen Rock Hill donation jar to homeless shelter: Emily’s House fundraiser Friday, Saturday

Emily Elkins’ last wish before she died of cancer in March was to create a transitional emergency homeless shelter for families.
Emily Elkins’ last wish before she died of cancer in March was to create a transitional emergency homeless shelter for families. HERALD FILE

The last wish of Emily Elkins – the Rock Hill teen who died of cancer in March – moves forward Friday and Saturday with a fundraiser for what will be called Emily’s House.

Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene, which jumped in to help Emily’s dream of helping homeless kids and parents come true, will host a food sale, music event and more Saturday at the church at 998 Dunlap Roddey Road in Rock Hill.

Every penny will go to the nonprofit Emily’s House, a transitional emergency homeless shelter for families that is still in the planning stages but was Emily’s dying wish.

Barbecue will be cooked and delivered all day Friday for $8 a plate. On Saturday, there will be more food all day, gospel singing at 11 a.m and 4 p.m., kids’ bounce houses, raffles for a 50-inch TV, and more.

You can buy a knitted honeybee for $5 – Emily’s nickname was “Honeybee.”

“Emily was a special girl – the kind of person we all should strive to be,” said Jonathan Pannell, senior pastor at Emmanuel. “She always put others before herself, even when she was sick. She showed what it means to care for others and dare to make a difference in the lives of people.”

Emily died at 16 after battling cancer for more than three years. She became well known after The Herald’s coverage of a thief who stole her donation jar from a Rock Hill convenience store in 2012. Emily said from the beginning she would have given the man the $70 in the jar if he had just asked.

The thief later got 15 years in prison – but Emily forgave him.

In the years after that theft, tens of thousands of dollars in donations came flowing in, and Emily gave it all away to charities that help children and the homeless. She teamed up with clergy and civic groups and Winthrop University’s basketball teams to collect money and toys for children. She sponsored Angel Tree toy events and ran toy collection drives so huge that tractor-trailers were needed to cart all the stuff.

She gave blankets and clothes to the homeless. She gave away every penny that was given to her so that homeless children could smile and live with dignity.

“Emily made me proud to be her dad every day of her life, and she still makes me proud,” said Paul Elkins. “She showed us all how to act. How to help people.”

The response from the church and other people wanting to help the nonprofit Emily’s House foundation has been overwhelming, Emily’s mother, Annie Brakefield, said. The hope for Saturday is that even more people come out to make Emily’s House a home for the homeless.

“People have truly been wonderful in the same giving spirit that Emily showed,” Brakefield said. “So many people want to help make this happen. They want to make sure that what Emily worked for happens – and it will.”

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •

Want to help?

Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene, 998 Dunlap Roddey Road, Rock Hill, is hosting a fundraiser for Emily’s House homeless shelter this weekend. All proceeds will go to construction of the shelter. Raffle tickets will be on sale all day and online.


▪ Barbecue plates will be sold starting at 11 a.m. $8 per plate. Delivery available for large groups.


▪ Barbecue sale starting at 11 a.m. until the food runs out. Delivery available for large groups.

▪ Fundraiser runs from 11 a.m. through the afternoon, with kids’ activities, food, refreshments, raffles and more.

▪ Gospel singing at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.


▪ Call the church at 803-328-2134 or go to

▪ Email Ashley Pannell at or the Rev. Jonathan Pannell at

▪ Facebook: Search for Emily’s House Fundraiser.