One day it was there.
The next, it wasn’t.
Closure of the food pantry in the former Christ Central building in Joanna hit the struggling community just that quickly, a caller told me recently. The SC Empowerment Centre was in the former school; then, they weren’t. Their director Allen Lawson told me - after a PC ceremony for the new physician’s assistants graduate students - that their lease was abruptly terminated. The building is said to be a potential additional location for Summit Classical School. My purpose here is not to question that; people can do whatever they want with their own private property.
My point is just, that leaves the SC Empowerment Centre homeless - again. They’ve had locations in Laurens and in the former Bell St. Middle School in Clinton, and they almost acquired the former Martha Dendy School. They’re not crying over spilled milk, though -- they were out at Squealin’ on the Square, at one point offering kids pictures with “a dinosaur”.
They are offering a program this Saturday at Vance Park in Clinton -- “Day of Hope” 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., free for everyone - games, food, music and more.
According to Facebook, they participated in a Neighbors of Martha Dendy landscaping project at the Clinton park. The City’s Public Works Department, Clinton Canopy and Clinton High Agriculture classes also have participated in a TD Green project at the campus/park.
Also, I saw postings the other day that the Centre will offer programs for young mothers and a seniors’ meal distribution out of Joanna Assembly of God.
The SC Empowerment Centre is a United Way of Laurens County agency. Lawson described some of their programs to the UWLC campaign kickoff luncheon. They teach young people - some of whom are at-risk for dropping out of high school - how to be entrepreneurs. One student has made a business painting tennis shoes; another success story is a professional model.
One thing I know, they’re a hard-working group. They painted classrooms when they were in Bell St. School. They affected significant repairs to the Christ Central building in Joanna. They partner with AmeriCorps.
They just can’t find “an anchor”.
Lawson wants a building, and he will entertain any offers, and he can’t pay rent. Philosophically, he’s opposed to - as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization - going in somewhere that will remove a tax-paying business/building from the center of Clinton. Rightly, he observes, with churches, parking lots, schools, an orphanage, parks, and the city hall-school district building, uptown Clinton is tax-challenged. It falls to the rest of the residential and business community to take up the slack.
But that’s a challenge that many non-profits face. Unfortunately, we don’t have a “one-stop-shop” for non-profits, medical clinics, food banks, youth programs, abuse shelters, substance recover, and such -- these are scattered all over Laurens County. And maybe that’s not a bad thing - we don’t have public-transportation buses, either, to get people to “central locations”.
We also do not have a business incubator and, here, the SC Empowerment Centre could excel. Lots of young people just need something to latch onto - if they don’t find it in school, they’re more likely to just drift away. But as Laurens Mayor Nathan Senn said to a group of students last Tuesday, “Your opportunity is here. We want you here.”
For our friends at the SC Empowerment Centre, “here” remains a work in progress.
(Vic MacDonald is editor of The Clinton Chronicle. The views expressedhere are his and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle.MacDonald can be reached at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org)