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Spartanburg Opportunity Center volunteers helping the homeless 


Spartanburg Opportunity Center brings innovative approach to challenges of homelessness

On a recent Friday afternoon, Stephanie Farmer was at her volunteer post inside the gymnasium of the City of Spartanburg’s former Northwest Recrea-tion Center on Saxon Avenue, checking in homeless men and women who had come to use the facility’s locker room showers and sinks.

The recreation facility, decommissioned since 2020, today is home to the Spartanburg Opportunity Center, and, in addition to washing off and brushing teeth, homeless community members come here to receive mail, enjoy snacks and get a break from harsh weather. There’s also a laundry service and a closet where guests can select items of donated clothing, and heavy-duty plastic bins are available for storing personal belongings.

Not long ago, Farmer was on the other side of things at the Spartanburg Opportunity Center. Fol-lowing legal troubles and a bout with drug addiction, she found herself facing homelessness, living in a tent for a period of time. The center provided support for her, including case management services that enabled Farmer to secure housing.

“If it wasn’t for this place, it wouldn’t have happened,” she said.

A new strategy takes shape

Complex and entrenched community challenges call for innovative, collaborative solutions.

So in 2018 and 2019, leaders in Spartanburg came together to discuss new avenues to address the multifaceted and growing issue of chronic homelessness. They considered the many struggles homeless people face—from day-to-day needs such as hygiene and adequate clothing to longer-range concerns including employment, healthcare and, of course, housing.

Recognizing the many different dynamics at play in addressing homelessness, the United Way convened the Spartanburg Homeless Taskforce along with the City of Spartanburg, OneSpartanburg, Inc. and Spartanburg Inter-faith Hospitality Network (SPIHN) to explore new, sustainable solutions for some of Spartanburg’s most vulnerable residents.

An opportunity arises

Born of that collaboration, in 2019 the taskforce launched a pilot program aimed at helping the homeless: the Spartanburg Community Center.

Homeless community members can visit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The center is managed by SPIHN, which has worked with other faith-based organizations to provide shelter and other support for homeless families since 2005.

“Unconditional love”

Basic services help homeless people get through the day, and case management helps to put them on a path to new opportunities. But as much as anything, Rutherford said, the center gives people a sense of self-esteem and hope.

“When you see someone come in who’s dirty and disheveled, and then they go into the clothing closet to get a new shirt or pair of pants, get a shower, and then they look totally different – that’s why we do this,” she said. “We’re giving people hope. They’re getting unconditional love. We have people say, ‘Thank you – no one’s ever cared about me so much.’”

“When you see someone come in who’s dirty and disheveled, and then they go into the clothing closet to get a new shirt or pair of pants, get a shower, and then they look totally different – that’s why we do this,” she said. “We’re giving people hope. They’re getting unconditional love. We have people say, ‘Thank you – no one’s ever cared about me so much.’”

Bobby Young, who has been intermittently homeless for several years, starting visiting the Spartan-burg Opportunity Center soon after it opened. Like Farmer, he decided to become a volunteer. “This place gives direction and hope,” he said. Case managers, Young said, provide basic but invaluable services – things like understanding government paperwork or filling out applications for food stamps. “A lot of people are at a standstill, and the center helps you move forward,” he said.

Rutherford is pleased that some who benefit from the program decide to give back by serving as volunteers. she said.

Potential to expand services

The Spartanburg area has seen its local homeless population grow over the years. Rutherford estimates that there are as many as 600 homeless residents in the county. 

For its part, the City has taken an active role in addressing challenges associated with homelessness. For example, in 2020 the City created a new staff position: homeless outreach and education coordinator. Olivia McIntyre serves in the role, and, as she put it, “My office is the street.” She provides information to homeless people about community health resources, job opportunities, and relief services. She also works to coordinate and support community groups and volunteers who want to provide meals or clothing for the homeless.

Additionally, the City’s Homeless Court, established in 2019, works with local law enforcement to encourage participants to receive and complete treatment and rehabilitation programs in exchange for the dismissal of the fines associated with a criminal offense and, in some cases, the dismissal of an offense.

Rutherford also credits the City for leasing space at the Northwest Center rent-free, with the organization responsible only for a portion of the cost of the property’s utilities and maintenance. She added that the City recently used federal COVID-19 relief funds to purchase new laundry machines for the center.

With continued support from the City and other partners, Rutherford be-lieves there’s potential for the Spartanburg Opportunity Center to do even more for homeless residents. Plans call for the creation of a multi-use classroom to provide financial literacy, job training, life-skills development and cultural offerings.






BridgeWay groundbreaking ceremony


BridgeWay Station breaks ground in Mauldin

 Hughes Investments, Inc. and the City of Mauldin hosted a Groundbreaking Ceremony on April 8 to commemorate the commencement of construction at BridgeWay Station, an immersive master planned, mixed-use development in Mauldin. The Honorable Henry McMaster, Gover-nor of South Carolina, United States Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman William Timmons, Greenville County Council Chairman Mauldin Mayor Terry Merritt were among those in attendance. 

BridgeWay Station will be a multi-phase, mixed-use development. In addition to the 500,000+ square feet of surrounding condominiums and office space previously developed by Hughes Investments, the first phase of development will include: 

• 68,939 square feet of retail 

• 210,824 square feet of residential 

• Approximately 73,000 square feet of office 

• Approximately 81,000 square feet of institutional development 

• 24,691 square feet of plaza and pavilion public space; and, 

• 5+ acres of parks connected to the Swamp Rabbit Trail 

Future phases of development on the approximately 80 acre site may exceed 2,500,000 square feet. With a focus on parks, plazas, towers, fully utilized rooftops, outdoor dining, and outdoor entertainment space, Bridge-Way will meaningfully cultivate the most successful, safe, and highly desired components of large-scale, mixed-use developments to create a pedestrian-oriented, vi-brant community. 

“From the beginning, we understood that being patient as the area grows would best serve the community and Upstate with a dynamic, new mixed-use development rather than an industrial park as originally planned,” said Phil Hughes, President and Founder of Hughes Investments, Inc. “The unique old world architecture will be expressed in multiple buildings with retail, office, residential, institutional, entertainment, restaurants, and public parks connected to the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Our goal is to create a ‘sense of place’ that is fun for everyone.” 

BridgeWay Station will be the first New Town Center development in the Upstate. Beyond a diverse tenant mix, and through public/private partnerships, the development will offer unique placemaking architectural elements, fueled by local developer insight combined with international inspiration. The development will create thousands of new jobs, including over 1,000 new jobs in its first phase, and will serve as a catalyst for economic empowerment, boast new entrepreneurs, and create a highly desirable civic destination. 

The significance of these actions can only be measured in the impact to a community where the market has long been underserved and underdeveloped. With nothing else like it, Hughes Investments, Inc. and the City of Mauldin hope that Bridge-Way will enrich the lives of its residents as well as visitors from all corners of the city, state, region, and beyond. “The City of Mauldin is pleased to partner with Mr. Hughes in planning and collaboration of this development,” said Terry Merritt, Mayor. 

During the Ground-breaking Ceremony, Mayor of Mauldin, Terry Merritt, unveiled the architectural design of the new pedestrian bridge that will span I-385 and connect the Swamp Rabbit Trail to BridgeWay Station. The construction of a .25 mile section of trail that will connect existing walking paths along E. Butler Road to the pedestrian bridge is nearing completion. The City is exploring additional trail routes to extend the trail to Simpsonville, Fountain Inn, and beyond. 

“This new town project of BridgeWay Station will greatly serve many of the region’s untapped re-sources and demand. As well, it will and has already brought multiple new opportunities for indirect investment and development,” added Taft Matney, Mauldin City Council. 

Hughes Investments, Inc. has worked with Street-Works Studio to define an integrated and immersive Master Plan. McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture and Eric Brown also helped in important ways to create this impactful architectural design. Harper General Contractors will utilize unique construction techniques to efficiently erect the 6-story buildings. Construction will begin immediately. Leasing is underway with several leases already signed and exciting an-nouncements forthcoming. Phase one is expected to be completed in Q4 2022. 

BridgeWay Station and the City of Mauldin’s pedestrian bridge are located at 1000 BridgeWay Boulevard (formerly Centerpointe Boulevard), Simpsonville, SC 29681. 

Hughes Investments, Inc. was founded in 1990 by Phil Hughes to create places of lasting value for quality tenants. Phil and his team have served the Upstate of South Carolina for over 30 years by providing smart, quality growth in ways that serve the local community. Phil and his team have been integral to the successful development of downtown Greenville and its sustainable growth. Hughes Investments develops office, retail, industrial, multifamily, medical, and mixed-use properties, specializing.





Garden ready: Tips for Spring vegetable prep and planting from Clemson University

Having fresh produce available at any time is easier when you can grab it straight from your own garden.

Home gardening is not a new trend, but it’s continued to pick up steam in recent years, with the pandemic bringing a new level of interest to the subject. Everyone has the ability to plant a garden, regardless of space – an herb box makes for a perfect addition to any windowsill option. Vegetables can be grown in a variety of ways, from traditional in-the-ground planting and raised beds to pots and yes, even straw bales.

The first step to building the vegetable garden you’ve been waiting for is to start with a few basic questions:

Who will be doing the work (tending the garden)?

Will the garden be a group project with family members or friends who will work willingly through the season to a fall harvest, or will you be handling the hoe alone in between camping and swimming? Remember that a small weed-free garden will produce more than a large, weedy mess.

What do you (and your family) like to eat?

Although the pictures in the garden catalog look delicious, there is no value in taking up gardening space with vegetables that no one eats. Make a list of your family’s favorite vegetables, ranked in order of preference. This will be a useful guide in deciding how much of each vegetable to plant. Successive plantings of certain crops, such as beans, can be harvested over a longer period of time and increase your yield. As you plan, list recommended varieties and planting dates.

How do you plan to use the produce from your garden?

If you plan to can, freeze, dry, or store part of the produce, this will be a factor not only in planning the size of the garden but also in selecting varieties. Some varieties have much better keeping quality than others. Care should be used in choosing the seeds, making sure the varieties you select are adapted to your area and intended use.

How much space is available and what is proximity to water source?

How much area can be converted into usable garden space, and how much garden do you need? Do not plant more garden than you need.

How close is the water source? Make sure your garden has an accessible water source, whether you can set up irrigation or simply drag a hose over when the inevitable dry weather arrives.

Once you’ve answered the above questions and determined what you are going to plant, plan your garden out on paper before planting – showing the arrangement and spacing of crops, grouping plants by the length of growing period. Remember, place tall and trellised crops on the north side of the garden so they will not shade the shorter vegetables.

Now that you’ve planned out your garden, it’s time to plant. You can start with seeds or transplants (purchased at your local home and garden store), keeping in mind that you want to plant after the last freeze in your area.

Additional Tips

– Keep your garden as small as possible to cut down on unnecessary work.

– Get a soil test to determine the nutrients in your soil. A fact sheet with details on soil testing can be found on the HGIC website.

– In South Carolina, gardens should receive at least six hours of direct sun each day (leafy vegetables can tolerate partial shade; vegetables that produce fruit, such as peppers and tomatoes, must be grown in full sun).

– Avoid planting your garden close to or beneath trees and shrubs because shade and the competition for nutrients and water may reduce vegetable growth.

– Plants grown for their leaves or roots can be grown in partial shade.

For additional tips and information please visit the Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences web page.

Prepared by Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.