UNION — A facility that will help the less fortunate of Union County get jobs and become self-sufficient will get its formal opening at 11 a.m. Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Nikki Haley.
In a statement released this week, the Union County Chamber of Commerce announced that Haley will be attending the ribbon-cutting for the new “Meeting Place on Main” facility on Main Street in downtown Union. The ceremony will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m.
Meeting Place on Main is part of Trinity Baptist Church’s Channel of Blessing ministry which initially provided food and some other necessities to the less fortunate of Union County. Earlier this year, Rev. Neil Keisler, pastor of Trinity Baptist, said that the church was taking the next step in serving the less fortunate by expanding its Channel of Blessing ministry with Meeting Place on Main. Keisler said that Meeting Place on Main will focus on job preparedness for those who need help finding gainful employment. He said that the goal is to help the people the Channel of Blessing has helped through its food ministry become self-supporting by getting and keeping a job.
Keisler pointed out that 60-70 percent of the people helped by Channel of Blessing are ages 19-64, an age group which he described as working age. He added that there are jobs in Union County, but that the people being served by the church’s ministry don’t know how to get them and keep them, something the church hopes to change with Meeting Place on Main.
Meeting Place on Main will be located in the old Wm. McCall Studio at 111 West Main St. in downtown Union.The building was donated to the church by Jane Kirby and that church has been renovating it, an effort that got a big boost in March when it was awarded $30,000 by the Original 6 Foundation, an organization founded by Haley when she became governor in 2011.
According to its website (www.originalsixfoundation.com), Original 6 Foundation is “a resource to build bridges now for a better quality of life tomorrow for the residents of the communities that we serve. As she took office in 2011, Governor Haley sensed that many individuals and organizations wanted to assist South Carolina’s neediest communities, but they needed guidance to unite their efforts to make the biggest impact with their time, talents and treasures. She created the Foundation in 2011 to serve as a non-partisan facilitator, catalyst and funding mechanism to unite these efforts to improve these communities.”
The Foundation’s focus is on the counties of Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Clarendon, Dillon, Marion, Marlboro, and Union.
In March, the Foundation awarded Trinity Baptist $30,000 to be used to help finance the renovation of the old McCall Studio for use as the site of Meeting Place on Main. The grant was the result of a process that began in 2014 when Keisler became aware of the Foundation after hearing Haley speak of “welfare to workforce” during her reelection campaign. Keisler said that hearing this he sent Haley’s office an email about Trinity Baptist’s plans and received a response expressing an interest in them. Over the course of the next two years Keisler remained in contact with the Foundation, developing a relationship that lead to Channel of Blessing being awarded the $30,000 grant.
Keisler said Thursday that since then, the Foundation has awarded the ministry another $7,000 for a total of $37,000 or nearly 90 percent of the $42,000 cost of the renovation project. He said the balance of the project cost is being covered by donations and “lots and lots and lots of volunteer labor.”
When completed, Meeting Place on Main will include a shower and bathroom to help those being assisted by the ministry get cleaned up in order to enter or reenter the workforce. The ministry will also help them get a new suit of clothes suitable to apply for a job, go to a job interview, and go to work in.
In addition, Keisler said the ministry will work to bring in Human Resource managers from companies in the community to talk to those being served by the ministry about what companies are looking for when they are considering hiring a person, including their appearance. He said the ministry will also work on developing a mentoring program that will provide those being served by the ministry with one-on-one counseling and guidance.
In addition to Meeting Place on Main, the renovated building will also house a coffee and sandwich shop called “Common Grounds Coffee Shop.” The purpose of shop will be to generate revenue that will help offset the expenses of the ministry.
Common Grounds will provide light refreshments during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Anyone who would like to assist with the ministry and/or who wants more information can call Rev. Neil Keisler at 864-706-0481.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.