Carowinds cleanup is homeless residents' chance ‘to give back’

September 15, 2013 

— Special to the Fort Mill Times

For months, the community has responded to calls to help the local population. On Saturday, homeless residents, including some who live in a campsite in the Carowinds area, gave back.

They joined a group of volunteers from a ministry that has been offering a variety of aid in a trash sweep of a section of Carowinds Boulevard. The volunteers included Skip Frankenfield, who’s the unofficial, but undisputed, leader of the campsite. He was joined by homeless residents named Myron and Pam, among others.

“Being homeless is a humbling experience,” Myron says.

“But, the Lord works in mysterious ways.”

The other volunteers who showed up to pick up litter included Bruce McKagan and Kim Vinesett. Both said they are just hoping to make a difference in their neighbors’ lives.

McKagan arrived with Egg McMuffins and coffee for everyone.

“No thanks, I’m on a diet!” Frankenfield said as McKagan handed out the food. Everyone shares a laugh.

Pam’s smile is particularly radiant, because she is smiling with her brand new teeth. Until she was fitted with dentures this week, Pam’s teeth looked, by her own admission, “like a vampire.” Though her mouth is still sore, she pecks at her muffin and laughs along with everyone else.

Though everyone is having a fun time, the event is a very important part of the homeless outreach work that Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries is performing in Fort Mill.

“It started with the ROC Rides program that we run every Thursday,” Vinesett said, referring to the Rock Hill-based organization set up to serve homeless residents. “We pick up homeless people and connect them with food and services in Rock Hill. But, we thought ‘Why can’t we offer more here in our own community?’”

Discussions are underway trying to open a ROC office in Fort Mill.

“This event is really important,” McKagan says, “Because sometimes the homeless feel like they’re begging and taking from the community. This is their chance to give back.”

Once the group is assembled, McKagan outfits everyone with orange vests and trash bags.

“Orange isn’t really my color,” Vinesett jokes, “Do you have something in pink?”

They break off into teams and collect trash in the shadow of Carowinds Amusement park.

Myron talked about how he became homeless.

“After my wife died I started taking care of my mother with Alzheimer’s,” he says, “When she passed in March of last year, they had a judge order the estate auctioned off for nothing.”

With nowhere else to go, he moved to Charlotte where he used to be an electrician.

“Well, I couldn’t get my old job back because of the recession,” Myron says, “I couldn’t find any work, so I found myself camping out in a patch of woods across from Carowinds.”

He points to the location from the median of Carowinds Boulevard. He now stays in an old van in a camp with Frankenfield.

But for all his troubles, Myron remains optimistic.

“Look at this,” he says. He shows me a bit of trash he has collected from the side of the road.

It is a thin slip of paper from a fortune cookie. It reads, “Things are never how they seem. It’s not that bad!”

Myron smiles.

“Ain’t that the truth?” he says.

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