Beaufort News

Bluffton to donate land as Self Help plans to grow sixfold

Bluffton Self Help, a nonprofit organization, plans to construct a building six times the size of its current headquarters after the town agreed Tuesday to donate part of a 5-acre tract on S.C. 46.

Self Help workers say the number of people they provide clothing, food and financial assistance to -- more than 22,000 a year -- has overwhelmed their location on May River Road, also town-owned property that once was the location of the Bluffton jail.

The group has worked out of the 1,000-square-foot building since 1993. Board president Peter Bromley said the building can only comfortably fit 10 people at a time. But on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, when Self Help hands out food, more than 100 people wait in a line stretching out the door in all kinds of weather, he said.

Congestion has led to delivery trucks bumping into parked cars and concerns for safety, he said.

Donations also exceed the building's capacity, and the group rents pods and other storage space to store items such as Thanksgiving dinners for more than 300 needy families and Christmas gifts for more than 1,000 children.

Bromley said the crowding at the current location -- a mix of unsorted clothing, cans of food and residents seeking private counseling for financial assistance -- hinders the organization's mission.

"Donors come in with donations, but we have no place to put them, and it limits us accepting fresh food donations," he said. "To really safely and efficiently serve our clients, it's time for a new building. It's been time for a few years."

In a closed session at the Nov. 9 Town Council meeting, council members authorized town manager Anthony Barrett to enter an agreement with the charitable group to donate the land. Self Help will pay for the construction.

While final plans for the new headquarters aren't complete, board member and building chairman Tray Hunter said the group will divide the future 6,000-square-foot building into food pantries, clothing storage and private areas where volunteers can counsel those seeking financial assistance.

Hunter said preliminary estimates indicate the new headquarters, to be built near the Hargray Communications building, will cost more than $775,000.

Bluffton Self Help will pay for the new building through grants and a fundraising. The organization needs to raise more than $600,000 and hopes to start construction by the middle of next year.