LIBERTY — With winter weather closing in rapidly, some local students took the initiative to raise awareness and a means of helping the homeless fight the frigid temperatures on the horizon, taking to cardboard boxes to represent the homeless community in Pickens County.
Haley Neely and a group of seniors took on the issue of the homeless as part of their Future Farmers of America (FFA) charitable efforts, hoping to raise awareness and much needed blankets to be distributed to the needy in the Pickens County community.
The all day demonstration was held from 9 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Pickens County Career and Technology Center.
Oddly enough, it was out of the mouth of a babe that raised her own awareness.
“There was a little boy named Logan who realized people were freezing outside because they didn’t have a home to go to. He and his parents prayed no one would suffer from being outside, that they stayed warm, and that’s when they started to collect blankets,” Neely said. “I was approached about making this a part of our community service projects and it was decided it was a great idea. We decided to sit out in cardboard boxes to get everyone’s attention and have them ask questions.”
Neely discussed the need for awareness, not at the exclusion of blankets, as there is a notable problem with homelessness in Pickens County but no one seems aware of it.
“We want to collect blankets and raise money to help those who truly need it, but there are so many people who have no idea how much of a need there is,” Neely said. “There are so many in our community who don’t know or realize there are people who don’t go home every day to a warm home, they live in the street or in their cars without a home to go to and we just want to make a difference.”
Neely has done her research and cited some statistics residents of Pickens County may not be aware of including the following:
• South Carolina ranks 9th among the 50 states in poverty.
• South Carolina ranks 27th nationally in child poverty.
• South Carolina has a food insecurity rate (not knowing where the next meal will come from) of 14.1%.
• In 2014 there were 10,820 homeless students in South Carolina.
• In 2014 there were 5,040 homeless adults in South Carolina.
Neely said there was a goal to raise some 500 blankets to be distributed with collections ending Dec. 14. Those interested in donating can drop off their blankets at the Pickens County Career and Technology Center or contact Neely at 864-252-5006.
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.