As the Faith in Action Outreach Coordinator of a downtown church, I am often in the position to help folks in need of shelter, food, or clothing. I get calls from single parents looking for help with school clothes for their children and from families in need of a place to stay the night. Inmates recently released from the Greenville County Detention Center pass our church when walking toward Main Street—they often stop to ask for food or, in the winter, a coat. The Corners of Your Field program, which provides us with Miracle Hill Thrift store gift cards for those in need in return for our church’s giving to Miracle Hill, has been a wonderful resource for us.
Children Take the Lead in Giving
After learning about the program, Christ Church decided to hold a clothing drive to provide underwear for those in Miracle Hill’s shelters, and, most recently, our children in Vacation Bible School took on the Yellow Bag Project as their outreach mission. The kids gave out yellow bags to our parishioners after church on Sunday and encouraged them to fill the bags with gently used clothing and return them the following week. The children also collected gently used clothing all week from their closets at home. Each morning during VBS, they brought in their bags and tossed them into large rolling bins, which were bulging by week’s end. We collected nearly 3,200 pounds of items for Miracle Hill. In return, Christ Church received thrift gift cards that we can now offer to people who come to us seeking help.
For a tangible lesson to go along with the collection, we sent the 4th through 6th graders to the Miracle Hill Food Warehouse and Pete Hollis Thrift Store to volunteer. They helped stock shelves, hang clothes, straighten bookshelves, and unpack donated food. This giving project made a big impression on our children, and we hope it will help shape their view of the importance of helping the community and will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Our partnership with Miracle Hill continues to grow in other ways as well. I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the Greenville Rescue Mission and talk to several staff members. I told them of a young man named Brian who was in trouble and needed their help. They explained to me that if I wanted to bring Brian in to take a tour and meet them, all I had to do was make an appointment. I went back to my office that afternoon and started making calls to locate Brian and coordinate a time for our appointment. The following day, we went together to the Rescue Mission, and Brian sat down with Counselor and Case Manager, Jason Cochran, to share his story.
Brian’s Struggle to Overcome
Brian lived in Greer most of his life. He spent his childhood in unstable housing, living for a short time at Shepherd’s Gate with his mom and siblings, and then in the Miracle Hill Children’s Home. While his father served several years in jail, his mother, who suffered from bipolar disorder, raised four of her seven children mostly on her own and eventually gave her three younger children up for adoption so that they’d at least have a chance at a decent life. On Brian’s second day of middle school, a serious car accident almost ended his life. He spent months in recovery and never again returned to school or even obtained a G.E.D. He was diagnosed as bipolar and struggled to stay on the medicines that kept him stable. He lived in deep family poverty and never obtained the life skills he needed. With all of these factors, it has been difficult for him to find regular employment.
Then, about a year and a half ago, his grandmother’s house was condemned, and it became a crime for him to set foot on the property of the only stable home he’d ever known. He was arrested multiple times for trespassing for trying to sleep in his own yard. He continued to stay near the old house—sometimes on a friend or relative’s couch, but often sleeping under an overpass at night. He’d been caught up in terrible fights, eaten from trash cans, and self-medicated through alcohol and drugs. He was exhausted and kept apologizing for his personal hygiene and appearance.
Jason listened and asked questions. Then he began to describe what it might look like for Brian to stay at the Rescue Mission and how his life might change for the better. He explained that the staff take a holistic approach and really try to ensure long term success through regular mental health care, G.E.D. classes, help getting work certification, and help finding a job. Jason offered Brian a shower, a snack, and a spot in the program. Then he helped him start the intake process and begin a journey toward success.
I left Miracle Hill Rescue Mission that day knowing that it would be a long road for Brian to travel and that there is no guarantee he would succeed. Three days later I received the news that Brian had not made his bed check. His personal pain is great, and bad habits developed over a life time are so hard to break. But I continue to feel a deep sense of hope for Brian, for others like him, and even for myself. I am now better equipped to help because I’m familiar with this wonderful resource offered to the homeless in my community. I look forward to continuing to work with Miracle Hill as a community partner. And I want to encourage everyone to donate their used items to Miracle Hill and participate in the Corners of Your Field giving program.
For more information about Corners of Your Field, contact John Fiedler at firstname.lastname@example.org or (864) 235-6113.
Blog post submitted by Debbie Rice, Faith in Action Outreach Coordinator at Christ Church Greenville. Debbie can be reached at email@example.com or (864) 282-3108.