Geneva Greene will always remember the little boy who came to the Valley Outreach Interfaith Center one day with an older woman.
“Are these really for me?” he asked after Greene gave him some school supplies.
Then she handed him some toys, and the boy was even more amazed.
“Do I really get to keep these?” he asked as his eyes grew wider and wider.
Finally, Greene gave the boy some snacks and other food.
“He looked up at me,” she remembered, “and he said, 'If I ever have to run away again, I'm coming here!'”
Greene, 66, loves to tell that story, even though it happened years ago, because it illustrates what the Interfaith Center is all about.
It's a place where people in need can get food, clothing, household goods and a variety of other items while struggling through hard times.
The Interfaith Center is located on Augusta Road in the Horse Creek Valley area of Aiken County. The towns served by the charitable organization include Bath, Clearwater, Graniteville, Langley and Warrenville. All are full of men, women and children who need a helping hand, Greene said.
“When the mills closed, people around here lost their jobs and, for most of them, that was all they knew how to do,” Greene said. “The closing of the mills and the big stores like Walmart ran off a lot of the mom and pop businesses.”
The Interfaith Center started as a food bank in August 1985. Two years later, the organization began using its current name and added clothes and food items to its offerings.
Greene has been with the Interfaith Center since its founding. At first she was a volunteer, but about 10 years ago she started receiving a salary. She's been called the Center's director, but Greene prefers to refer to herself as the organization's manager.
“When we first opened, I saw the need,” she said. “But then I realized that I needed it as much as it needed me. After all my kids were grown, it gave me a purpose, and that kind of still holds true.”
Gifts from churches and the community fund the Interfaith Center, which operates on a shoestring budget of less than $20,000 a year.
“Donations are down, and since we purchased our own building about eight years ago, we struggle to pay the bills during the months that the insurance and the taxes are due,” Greene said.
The Interfaith Center also has an ongoing problem with people dumping trash at its site.
“They take the good donated items and leave garbage bags with rotted food and dirty diapers inside,” Greene said.
However, Greene added, the worthwhile work that the Interfaith Center does and her close-knit group of eight or so loyal volunteers help keep her going through financial challenges and trash cleanups.
“We all enjoy the camaraderie,” Greene said. “We have a little breakfast get-together on Wednesday mornings, and we go out to lunch sometimes. We also get a good feeling from the people who appreciate what we do.”