ANDERSON, S.C. — The community of St. Mary of the Angels Church here helped raise money for the nearby Clean Start program to purchase a building to offer its services valued by the homeless: taking showers, washing clothes and getting help with other needs.
On April 15, Aubrey McNeil, OFM, pastor of the church, presented a check for $35,000 on behalf of The Catholic Church Extension Society to Clean Start Hygiene and Resource Center, also of Anderson. He is shown in the photo at right with Pati Brosche, chair of Clean Start’s board, left, and Norene Smith, Clean Start’s operations manager.
The donation was part of a seven-month fundraising campaign. Another $40,000 came from local churches, civic groups, individuals and businesses.
“Thanks to the Extension Society and other generous donations from many area churches, businesses, civic groups, and individuals, Clean Start was able to successfully complete its recent campaign fund goal of $75,000 to purchase the building on Townsend Street that it can now call home, according to parishioner Rick Bismack.
Clean Start’s 3,600-square-foot building on Townsend Street is approximately five miles from the church which helped establish Clean Start more than three years ago. The facility offers the homeless and marginalized a facility to take showers, get laundry done, find new and used clothing, get a haircut or shave and use the mail and phone services, as well as complete other tasks.
“We started the campaign last September and it was a one-time effort to raise the $75,000 to purchase the building to better secure the ministry,” said parishioner Tony Soignoli, who was chair of the parish’s building committee and faciliator of the campaign to raise money to purchase the Clean Start building.
St. Mary’s, St Joseph’s Catholic Church, and the local Knights of Columbus were major contributors, according to Rick Bismack, chair of the parish’s communications committee and photographer for St. Mary’s.
Open three days a week, the facility is credited with helping clients find clean clothes to wear on job interviews, make important contacts, and connect with other social services.
St. Mary of the Angels started the Clean Start program after deciding that, though the area seemed to have enough homeless shelters and soup kitchens, it had no centrally-located service for clients to shower and take care of basic needs.
Clean Start grew out of “the concern and energy of a small faith-in-action group called JustFaith, an exercise promoted by Holy Name Province,” according to Soignoli.
Soignoli said the building needed to satisfy five requirements:
• Be affordable
• Be in a location accessible to clients
• Be close to other services such as the soup kitchen
• Be a building easily converted to meet the program’s needs
• Be a site acceptable to all involved
Soignoli said, “According to our bylaws, the only permanent member of Clean Start’s board is the person who holds the position of pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church.”