FORT MILL — It has long been a dream of Mary Baker’s to have a community center in Fort Mill for her Serving Meals Ministry to call home.
As the ministry has grown, the plans for that center have taken shape and Baker says she is ready to put them into action.
“We are willing to be the leadership, we’re willing to do the work,” Baker said. “We can take responsibility to run the center but now the leadership needs representatives from the public, town council, and county, to get the facility.”
Serving Meals Ministry has provided hot meals weekly to the Paradise and Riverview communities in Fort Mill since 2007. They also have recently begun serving meals to the homeless population of Fort Mill and help them meet a variety of needs, from shoes to batteries to hygiene products.
“There hasn’t been one day we haven’t been working on it since we found out about them,” Baker said.
Right now, Baker’s home serves as the base for Serving Meals Ministry. Volunteers cook in their own homes and donated items for the ministry, including food and clothes and other necessities for the homeless are stored primarily in Baker’s home. The focus for a center would be to have a kitchen to cook in and serve from, Baker said, but given enough funding and space, she would like to have a warming center for the homeless or needy to come to in the winter months and a cool place for them in the summer.
Baker has eyed several properties in the area. Rent will cost between $3,000 and $3,500 per month at least, she said, not including utilities.
She’s focusing on properties in town, she added.
“I want a location that’s not off the beaten path. I want to be in the Town of Fort Mill, so close to people that when they don’t have gas they can walk to our building and get some type of assistance, food, clothing, shelter, education. That’s the assistance we want to give them,” Baker said.
She emphasizes that she has no interest in putting the center in a residential area.
“I do not want it in a neighborhood. It has to be in a commercial area. I will not invade someone’s home. I don’t want a soup kitchen in my neighborhood so I wouldn’t expect anyone else to want it in their neighborhood,” Baker said.
While Serving Meals has operating funds, the ministry does not have a building fund, Baker said. That’s where she hopes the public will step in.
“I hear people saying what we need to help the homeless, but mostly we just need someone to take responsibility. We are willing to do the leadership work. We just need help with the financing,” she said.
The support of the community and town officials is going to be essential to the project, she said.
“We would be stronger working together than one person working by our self,” Baker said.
Chad Williams, one of Fort Mill’s representatives on the York County Council, said he is “definitely in favor” of a center in town that would aid the needy and homeless.
“When you’re taking care of your community, that’s a good thing,” he said. “To pretend like there is no problem, I think that’s not a good thing. I wish her well.”
More details about the plan would be important to consider before making a decision, said town Councilman Nathan Blythe.
“I think it’s like anything else. We have to know the location and details of the plan and what we’re looking at. But I think there is a time and place for everything,” he said.
For more information about Serving Meals Ministry, call Baker at 803-230-4009.