EASLEY — For those who work with SHINE (Stop Hunger in Easley), there is a satisfaction of giving a hand up to those in need.
While the gaps in the ability to help are a source of frustration, they are also a sign of opportunity for others to help those less fortunate.
Board member Bryan Owens related a story of a boy who recently passed through the soup kitchen’s doors as an example of where other organizations and community outreach programs could have made a difference if a concerted effort were made by everyone involved.
The young man came in for a meal, fried chicken on this particular evening, and made several trips back through the line for more.
At the end of the meal, the boy asked if he could wrap up another piece of chicken to take home, which is not unusual, but, based on S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations, SHINE is prohibited from doing so.
For those volunteering to feed the hungry, there was a certain amount of disappointment in not being able to send the child home with just a little more to eat, but that doesn’t mean the situation could not be addressed through a coordinated effort.
“It wasn’t cookies or cake the young man was eating. It was chicken, protein, something he needed and obviously had not had in some time, but the regulations we’re regulated by don’t allow for food to be taken,” Owens said. “Here is where one of the food banks or other organizations at work here in the county could provide food to be taken home and eaten there. There are several organizations out there who could have provided some of the food needed, but there just isn’t the coordination needed. And honestly, we have been here 12 years and not many people know we are here or what we actually do.”
Operating out of The Dream Center in Easley, SHINE provides meals to those in need between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. When they know of other needs of the patrons, they attempt to point them in the right direction.
On average it is estimated between 70 and 100 Pickens County residents pass through their doors to receive a hot meal. Of those who do receive meals through SHINE it is estimated 30 percent are seniors and 30 percent are families with children. SHINE also provides a shuttle service if needed.
The need for volunteers and organizations to coordinate efforts for those in need continues even after 12 years.
“The problem is out of sight and out of mind here in the community. Most of those are homeless or need assistance for even a meal are not right out front here in Easley or Pickens County,” said Beverly Hawkins, a SHINE board member. “When we have people come in, we talk to them, and try to figure out if they have a need and then try to point them in the right direction to get the services they need. Ultimately, we are providing a hand up not a handout.”
Not only do those involved with SHINE get a sense of satisfaction providing assistance, it has been a learning experience and even spills over to families and friends, which is another reason SHINE feels more should become involved as individuals, families, and even church and civic groups.
“It’s been an experience for me, watching my boys work in the kitchen and the impact it has made on them. It has changed their heart and the way they see those who need help and makes them more aware of how they view others,” said Kevin Lovell, chairman of the board for SHINE. “Them seeing my steps working here has changed the whole dynamic for them and made them very aware of how important it is to be here for others who have a need. They have a new understanding and are grateful and gracious even serving drinks.”
Seeing the numbers of people in Pickens County on a daily basis who are “hidden” from plain view on most days, has made an impact on the lives of those who volunteer, but it also reveals a side of Pickens County most never see.
“From the first day I began volunteering, this has been a big eye opener for me. Before I became involved I didn’t see the people who were homeless or going hungry, because in Pickens County it’s just not right in front of your face,” Owens said. “Now, after time spent here, I have a much higher awareness of what’s going on now and even my family has learned from it. We have 300 people here who touch a lot of people in this community, but we need more.”
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.