FORT MILL — Erica Hughes lost her job last week.
Even when she had a steady paycheck, she and her 9-year-old needed help occasionally from the Fort Mill Care Center with groceries and utility bills. Now that she’s lost her only source of income, the assistance from the Care Center is more important than ever.
When the Care Center closes its doors indefinitely on Aug. 1, Hughes isn’t sure where she’ll turn for help.
“I don’t know where I’ll go. This is the only place around here,” she said.
On Monday, Hughes pushed a full grocery cart through the parking lot of the Care Center. She stopped to pull a cupcake out of a grocery bag.
“They give you good stuff for the kids here,” she said.
The Care Center has been searching for a new building for six months. The privately run, volunteer-driven organization has to leave its current location on Banks Street because the property, owned by the Fort Mill School District, is slated for demolition.
Care Center officials hope to reopen the office portion of the center in September and provide help with utility bills and paying for prescription medications. They found a potential space to lease, but are still in negotiations, director Carol Higgins said.
The center has been unable to find a building with space for a food pantry comparable in size to the current pantry, which occupies more than 3,000 square feet. However, the space it is considering has 1,200 square feet that could be used as a small food pantry.
“It means we will be able to open the food pantry but it will be very, very limited,” Higgins said.
“So, a few canned goods and some personal items you can’t get with food stamps. It will be a fraction of what they are getting right now, but it’s better than nothing.”
Higgins said that Care Center officials plan to work with area churches on a plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for clients, which the Care Center typically organizes each year.
“We just won’t be able to do it without any refrigeration or staging area. It takes a lot of space to put together 300 bags of groceries. We absolutely won’t have the space for it,” Higgins said.
Cynthia Davis said she “doesn’t come often” to the Care Center for food, but frequently needs assistance with utility bills. When she stopped in on Monday morning, they told her about the plans to shut down temporarily and reopen the office space in a new location.
Davis said she isn’t worried about the food pantry shrinking. Getting help with utility bills is more important than food for her family, she said.
“I’d rather have the help with utilities because you can always find something to eat,” Davis said. “You can always eat peanut butter and jelly.”
But for some families, the reduced food pantry may be a hardship, she said.
“It’s going to make it rough because some people are still struggling a lot with the economy,” she added.
Some help can be found via the Second Harvest Food Truck, which makes rounds in the community throughout the year. Its next stop is scheduled for July 8 in Indian Land, at Belair United Methodist Church on Shelley Mullis Road. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The food truck is open to residents from any community, not just the Indian Land area.
Care Center officials were scheduled to meet Tuesday morning to discuss the lease. Go to www.fortmilltimes.com for updates.