THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Traditions: A first-hand account of falling through the cracks
By Emily Topper
It can be the woman in the neighboring pew at church or the man waiting at the same red light on the way to work. Hard times don’t play favorites.
That’s what keeps Paula Ford going. The chairwoman for Good Friends of Georgetown County knows that the nonprofit is often the only one able to provide financial assistance to a family going through crisis in Georgetown County.
“We have families that fall between the cracks and can’t get help from anywhere else,” Ford said. “We’re there to help those families. All of us have a time when we run into a crisis and we just need a little extra boost to get through.”
The nonprofit’s sold-out annual fundraiser, the Good Friends Holiday Luncheon, was held Thursday at DeBordieu Club. Responsible for raising about $50,000 for the Friends each year, 100 percent of the proceeds for the nonprofit go directly to the cause.
“We have had months where we’ve run out of money,” Ford said. The organization helps about 32 families per month, from assisting with rent to paying an overdue electric bill. “The more money we take in, the more families we can help.”
At the luncheon, guests and Good Friends benefactors heard stories of the anonymous families they’d helped over the last year.
Tracy Bailey, an educator, spoke from the perspective of a woman who had been helped by Good Friends, one who faced losing her home, her job and caring for her sick daughter.
“I’ll call her Marilyn Green,” Bailey said. She said that one day, Green was told the house she’d been renting for two years was being sold and that she and her four children would have to find somewhere else to live.
Walking around the tables of luncheon attendees, Bailey brought Green’s financial struggles to life.
“Where are we supposed to go? What are we supposed to do? Tears filled my eyes and I had to sit down. I started to pray like everything depended on God, but I worked like everything depended on me.”
Bailey said Green’s phone call about losing her home came at a time when the family was already struggling. She said that Green’s daughter had been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. After having to go to one hospital visit after another, Bailey said Green was let go from the job she had for over 10 years.
“Over the last year, I spent two weeks in the hospital every month. Every time she had to be at MUSC, I had to be at MUSC because that’s my baby. So here I am, no job, no place to stay, my baby is struggling and fighting for her life. I felt like I was in a big, deep hole and the hole kept getting bigger.”
It was then, Bailey said, that Green finally reached out to the Department of Social Services.
“You might be thinking, ‘Why didn’t you go to DSS right away?’ I’m not one of those people that wants to ask for a handout. I want to provide for my kids. I wish I wasn’t in this position, but it happened and I had to ask for help.”
Green was put in touch with Good Friends, who approved funds to help with first month’s rent on a new house. For the first time, Bailey said, Green felt like she finally had some hope.
“I felt like I wasn’t by myself, like I wasn’t fighting alone.”
As Bailey walked through the luncheon crowd and shared Green’s happy ending, audience members dabbed at their eyes. Bailey shared Green’s gratitude:
“And then immediately I started thanking God, because I know that you didn’t have to help me. You didn’t have to come together to help me. It had to be God that touched your heart, and you had to have compassion for someone like me.”
For Ford, the stories are a reminder that the organization is making a difference in the lives of Georgetown County residents.
“To be able to go to these families and talk and hear them just touched me heavily,” Ford said. “We’re doing a good thing. As I sit with these families I thought, ‘God has blessed me so much.’ And he calls us to share those blessings with others.”
Ford’s husband, Dwight Ford, volunteers each year as one of three Santas who greet guests and collect contributions.
“I’ve been volunteering for about 13 years,” he said. “There’s so many people that need our help. This is just one little thing that I can do. It’s been an amazing experience, and it gets better each year.”
Libby Insley, a Good Friends board member, said that the organization often pitches in as families are faced with one final financial burden they can’t overcome on their own.
“We do one-time things to help people, but it’s amazing,” Insley said. “Sometimes, it’s the one thing that’s the last straw that might push them over the edge. It just really helps.”
Although the group holds just one fundraiser annually, donations can be sent year-round to Good Friends at P.O. Box 667, Pawleys Island, S.C. 29585.