EASLEY — Rachel McQueen is on a mission to help the homeless in and around Pickens County — but she needs your help to do it.
The 12-year-old seventh grader at Gettys Middle School told The Sentinel-Progress she was “horrified” when she discovered families were living in their cars and in tents near her home.
“I just wanted to do something, but I wasn’t sure exactly what to do,” she said. “My teacher, Mrs. Doud, told me the first step in any project like this is research — so that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Rachel’s father, Chris McQueen, is encouraging his daughter’s quest.
“She has the biggest heart, she just wants to help and she doesn’t understand why more isn’t being done to help these people,” he said. “Frankly, neither do I.”
Chris and Rachel both said they weren’t sure of all the “legal loopholes” they needed to to jump through before starting their own non-profit — they didn’t even have a name for it yet.
But that wasn’t going to stop them from jumping right in.
“What I want to do is collect new or gently used clothes and food for them,” Rachel said. “Hats, coats, sweaters — things like that. And canned food or boxed food. Things can be stored without a refrigerator and easily made.”
And that’s just the start …
Additionally, Rachel said she wouldn’t stop until Pickens County had a homeless shelter and a three-meal-a-day soup kitchen.
“There isn’t a place where you can go and sleep for the night if you don’t have a home,” she said. “And I know there’s food banks and stuff, but a lot of these places are only open once a week or serve only one meal a day. It’s not enough.”
Chris echoed his daughter’s statements adding his frustration at large, empty buildings sitting empty in Easley when they should be “re-purposed,” he said.
“Look at that old Gettys building, or the (Easley) Mill,” he said. “There’s a ton of old building s out there that could be converted for use as a homeless shelter. This could be a situation where the the work and renovations — or a large portion of it — could be completed by the homeless themselves.
“I was homeless at one time, I’ve slept under many a bridge,” Chris said. “Trust me, they have skills. A lot of them are working — or would be if they could just find a job.”
Chris said he thought a large portion of the homeless in the area had just found themselves in a financial situation they couldn’t handle.
“There’s a lot of people I know who live paycheck to paycheck and are one emergency — one accident, one illness, one surprise bill — away from losing everything,” he said. “It’s a house of cards.”
But rather than give donated items to an established charity or foundation, the two say they’ll be delivering the goods directly to the people who need it. In person.
“It’s a cut out the middle-man kind of thing,” Chris said. “It’s also a way to know that your stuff is going directly to the people who need it most.”
The McQueens say they will be hand delivering collected goods four times a week.
For those looking to donate, items may be dropped at The Sentinel-Progress office during regular business hours at 714 S. Pendleton Street, Suite D, in Easley.
In addition, Chris McQueen has built a donation box in front of his house at 429 Pelzer Highway in Easley.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.