Fort Mill Care Center closing Aug. 1; Still looking for new home

joverman@fortmilltimes.comJune 14, 2013 

— After nearly six months of searching for a new building, the Fort Mill Care Center has come up empty.

The privately-run, volunteer-driven aid organization will close its doors Aug. 1. Officials hope to reopen the office portion of the center in September and provide help with utility bills and paying for prescription medications, but they haven’t found a building yet to house it.

Finding space that can also house the food pantry the center operates, which serves hundred of Fort Mill Township residents every month, has proved impossible, Director Carol Higgins said.

The food pantry will stop distributing food in mid-July. The center will stop collecting food after July 1.

Officials with the Care Center feel confident they can find a storefront office space to serve as the Care Center office, Higgins said.

The food pantry, however, will likely not reopen until the Care Center builds a new home. It is in the process of searching for land for a new center.

“We have to build. That’s the only solution. How long it will take depends on how long it will take to find land and raise money,” Higgins said.

She said the center does not yet have an estimate of how much it will have to raise to complete the project.

“We have no idea what it will cost to build, and we can’t know that now; It’s so up in the air,” Higgins said.

Clients who need assistance with food or utilities for the month of August should visit the Care Center in the last two weeks of July, she said.

The Care Center will also be unable to collect school supplies for the needy this year, she added.

Care Center officials had previously considering a building on Elliott Street, but later decided the property wasn’t suitable, Higgins said.

“We had to give up finding a ready-built place, so we’ve had to change,” Higgins said.

The Care Center has to leave its current location on Banks Street by Aug. 1. The property, owned by the Fort Mill School District, is slated for demolition. The district has allowed the Care Center to operate from the Banks Street facility for 14 years rent- free.

District officials decided in January to move all remaining district operations out of the Banks Street facility and into the former district office on Elliott Street to save money. The cost savings is an estimated $250,000 per year. The district hopes to sell the property after the building is demolished.

Higgins is concerned about paying rent and utilities on a new office space, especially at a time when the center hopes to raise funds for a new facility.

“My biggest concern is that our clients know what is happening and that our donors don’t abandon us. Our expenses are going up instead of down,” she said.

In May, the Care Center fed 800 people and distributed nearly 23,000 pounds of food. It provided $15,439 in assistance with utility bills and $3,423 to help pay for prescription medications.

While area churches help the Care Center with regular donations, none have the space to house the food pantry until the Care Center builds a new facility, Higgins said.

“They want to help, but the space is a major issue,” Higgins said.

Clients in need of food will have to find food pantries in other areas, Higgins said. Rock Hill has several that are operated from churches as well as Pilgrim’s Inn, a homeless shelter that also keeps a food pantry for the needy. But transportation to Rock Hill can often be an issue for clients, Higgins said. Many don’t have cars and have to rely on friends or neighbors for rides.

“It’s going to be a major hardship,” Higgins said.

There is a food pantry in Indian Land, but it is limited to serve Indian Land residents. Belair United Methodist and Faith Presbyterian churches in Indian Land host Second Harvest Food Bank trucks several times throughout the year, which distribute food to anyone with a valid ID.

No one else in Fort Mill is currently set up to provide that volume of food to the needy, Higgins added.

“I know of none,” she said.

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