Friendship Place | 'Not just a program, but a relationship we build with members'
at a glance
MISSION | Friendship Place is a Christian organization that works to feed the hungry, provide job readiness training and creatively address the unmet needs of the Georgetown County community.
FOUNDED | 1998
LOCATION | St. Cyprian’s Outreach Center, 1905 W. Front St., Georgetown
VOLUNTEERS | Nine churches provide about 60 volunteers
Every weekday around lunchtime, needy residents trickle into St. Cyprian’s Outreach Center on Front Street.
They aren’t concerned with what’s on the lunch menu – they just need a hot meal.
They’ll find that nourishing meal here, and might discover a bit more - a kindness and friendliness that volunteers hope will help make them feel loved.
Serving comfort foods to those in need in Georgetown has been a cornerstone of Friendship Place’s mission since the agency was created in 1998 by a group of concerned residents.
But these free meals – prepared with love by hands of volunteers – come with a side of genuine hospitality and compassion. Standard buffet lines you typically see at community help agencies? Not here.
“It’s not a very relational thing. It’s like an assembly line,” Charlie Ball, executive director of Friendship Place, said of buffet lines. “If you serve someone, you interact with them. It’s an important part of the service aspect.
“We want to really focus on the relationship. You come in and act like a neighbor and we treat you like a neighbor. In the end, that’s just the right way to do it.”
Friendship Place brings that spirit of service – through its meals, shelter and jobs program – to the Tidelands Community Care Network, which was created by Tidelands Health in partnership with Access Health SC and The Duke Endowment. The network, with roughly 25 partner agencies, is comprised of health educators, state agencies, transportation providers, primary and specialty care providers and others who can help uninsured residents have access to medical care.
“It brings together a lot of different groups that we probably wouldn’t have a relationship with otherwise,” Ball said. “We get in our little silos…It helps us see the bigger picture.”
Being part of the network helps keep Friendship Place “plugged into” the health care world and has prompted the agency to change some of its meals to be healthier, Ball said.
The free meals no longer come with a sweet dessert, and organizers ditched the sweet tea for water.
“Nobody misses it,” Ball said. “It’s a very simple way to not contribute to the problem. It helps us take better care of our guests who come and eat with us. We don’t want someone with diabetes walking away with doughnuts.”
Many of the clients at Friendship Place have diabetes or another medical condition, and the Tidelands Community Care Network helps arrange for proper health care. Friendship Place wants its clients to have a medical home, which the network helps provide.
“Friendship Place and Tidelands Health have such a great synergy through the Tidelands Community Care Network to offer basic, needed services to the residents of Georgetown County,” said Kelly Kaminski, director of community health resources for Tidelands Health. “Friendship Place has taken specific steps to do its part to help people live healthier lives and is always looking for ways to do even more.”
In addition to offering free meals, Friendship Place helps roughly 30 clients a year get training for, find and keep a job through its Georgetown Works program.
This program goes beyond just putting someone in a job. It teaches participants needed skills and shifts their mindsets to know how to handle employment and a steady income. A Friendship Place coach keeps in contact with clients well after they land the job to help ensure they are successful.
“It’s not just a program but a relationship we build with members,” Ball said. “You can’t take a poverty mindset into money coming in.”