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A Story of Hope.

Hope Whitlock, an inspiration for A Place for Hope's call to service.

"Hopie", (friends and family !!), was indeed the motive the founder of A Place for Hope, Donna Berry, intuitively felt, leading her to drive into a community of which she knew nothing.  Never been there...not a clue as to why she was there at all...except maybe for the dreams. So, how did this Human Resources professional wind up in a place filled with both the savage  'survivalist'  status quo of abject poverty in the mindset of all who go here, and ask the questions one asks about the universal meaning to anything in a place that almost fell off the map?  With her own elderly mother in tow, Donna drove to a location that she instinctively knew was part of her 'inner vision' which repeatedly told her to seek this place out...and to help the folk living there. She found herself at Hope Whitlock's door, took a leap of faith and knocked. The conversation went something like..."...hello, I know you don't know me, but my name is Donna, and I dreamed of this place"...to which was replied "...that wasn't a dream, honey...God gave you a vision..." They have been good friends ever since.

Mrs. Whitlock was raised the daughter of Chester, SC sharecroppers. She tells us that she worked in the cotton fields most of her life. That memory, she states, is not a happy one.
She is glad to be "out of the fields." She adds wood to the stove in her living room. Joining us in the warmth are several grandchildren, nieces and nephews, in-laws, and neighbors.

Mrs. Whitlock is the mother of seven. She and her husband moved from the cotton fields of Richburg, SC to Rock Hill in 1963. Her four-room home was built by hand from discarded building materials and by whatever means necessary by her late husband. Decades later, ripped screens, broken glass, rusted discarded appliances, and desperate poverty was the landscape. The children see and learn...and try to survive. The residents sleep in shifts because of the limited space in the home. Hope's house is the heart of the Blackmon Road Community, where folks in need stop for a bite to eat, or a drink of water from the tainted well on Archer Drive, or a moment's rest. The door of her home on Blackmon Road is always open.

A steady stream of children, mostly small, and many her own grand-children or great-grand-children, gather around the small wood-stove today. It's about this imagery and its long reaching implications that make compassion, patience and devotion the order of the day. And, amidst all this, these young faces tell of the "hope" only a toddler can believe or comprehend.

 

A Place for Hope's mission is one of helping people.

 

The Blackmon Road Community, 'just this side' of Rock Hill, SC, is one of the poorest communities in South Carolina. Through no fault of their own except, perhaps, that they were born poor, many of the residents of the Blackmon Road Community continue to live in third world conditions. They live without indoor plumbing, bathrooms or showers, without trash pick-up, without paved roads, and without street lights – effectively, without the basic material necessities we have come to expect in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

For years the Blackmon Road community (some still refer to it from its late 40's-50's moniker "Trash Pile Road") has been on the border between the city of Rock Hill and York County, invisible and ignored...and less than a mile away from the center of a growing and bountiful city, teeming with resources. The year is 2011...nearly ten (10) years since our mission had began, and yet...there are homes and dwellings that remain in need of urgent, basic human services.

In terms of access to water and sewer infrastructure, healthcare, and basic human services, the Blackmon Road Community has been designated by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control as being the "most severely underserved community in the entire state".

We find this situation to be fraught with a myriad of complex issues, too broad in scope and too many, to try and address them all on this page.  We are shamed in this, the land of opportunity and hope, as we see our fellow Americans...our sisters and our brothers and their children and grand-folk living in the searing pain and uncertainty that the life of generational poverty brings with it. There are  infants, school-aged children and teens who live in the Blackmon Road Community, and the dozens of children of extended families who, more often than not, spend their days and nights in the care of the adult family members living in the community.

These children are part of a cycle of poverty that we have the capacity to interrupt and change, by offering support and access to basic social services. They need the kinds of structural support, educational programming, and psychological increase in the spiritual, political, social, and economic strength of individuals and communities. It involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities. that will provide them with the self-esteem and community-building activities to truly believe that their lives can be different, that they can be anything they want to be in this world through commitment, hard work, dedication, and an equal opportunity to pursue their dreams.

And, we need your help.
 

                               

                   These photos of Blackmon Road were taken between 2002-2005

              

 

 

Below Photos: Jim Stratakos

 

 

 

 

Photo below Tom Aggeles 2003