Let’s help teach them to fish

I know where I’m sleeping tonight. And so do most of you. It would be nice if everybody could say that, but in Pickens County, they cannot.
Years ago, when our first child was still a baby, we stood in the front yard and watched our home containing everything we owned burn to the ground. We lived in a rural area, and the fire truck wasn’t coming. We had no fire insurance. We were left with our lives and the clothes hung on the clothes line.
olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddFowler’s former high school agricultural education teacher came to our rescue and offered a place to live for a month to give us time to get ourselves together. It was a challenging time, but we were fortunate in that Fowler was employed and we had a car.
In our very own county, there are 1,900 school age children who are homeless. That’s not counting the rest of the family. They’re often hungry. The figure is shocking.
We have single mothers with children who camp out, bounce from relative to relative if there are any in the picture or live in cars, if they own one. We have veterans whose lives have been shattered by war.
In this county, as in many in the state without mass transportation, car ownership is the last vestige of security a family may have.
One major illness, death, job loss or loss of child care can mean the difference between whether or not you can feed your children or put them to bed in a home instead of a car.
Some families in these situations stay fairly transient, because the biggest loss of all would be to lose their children. So they hide out in plain sight.
There are many fragmented efforts made in attempts to help families in these situations. Most address one or more of the consequences of being homeless. But few if any have a plan to change the circumstances causing homelessness.
Until now. Family Promise of Pickens County is a year old now, and the organization is helping people change their lives.
It’s a clear demonstration of the old proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Friday night, Cardboard Box City a first-time fundraising event for the homeless in Pickens County, will happen in Gateway Park next to Clemson Presbyterian Church in downtown Clemson. It’s sponsored by Family Promise of Pickens County, a nonprofit with volunteers from more than 14 churches of different denominations. Family Promise screens families and offers shelter, job training, food, transportation and counseling to homeless families. They help with finding affordable housing and in other ways to give families a way out of despair and into new lives where hope replaces desperation.
Anyone who wants to help can rent a space on site in Cardboard Box City and spend the night in a cardboard box of their own design. Although a space rents for $500, no amount of money will be turned down.
Schools, church groups, businesses and community organizations are all involved, putting together enough support to sleep in a box in the city.
A local businessman, who wants to remain anonymous, has challenged area businesses to sponsor a box home in Cardboard Box City. He has pledged $5,000 if his challenge is answered.
It’s not too late to get your name in the pot. If you don’t have time to build a box, there are some loaners on location. You can register online or at the site.
Meals on Wheels will be on hand running a public soup kitchen from 6-7 p.m. And there will be other special events before everyone goes to sleep.
For more information. visit or contact the event leader, Tom von Kaenel, at (864) 643-9197 or