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'Good Samaritans' are here to help

| Friday, Feb. 24, 2006

A good samaritan is a person who voluntarily offers help and compassion in times of trouble, and with this in mind, naming the new help center that is opening in Mt. Pleasant was a cinch.

The Good Samaritan Center will hold its open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Everyone is welcome to stroll through the facility and learn how the center can help area families and individuals in need. Board members and volunteers will be on hand to answer any questions about the facility and its nature.

The goal of the center, located at 15 Eagle St., is to help educate the less fortunate in the area by helping them realize the options and resources that are available to them.

"We're looking to give these people a better life," said Susan Peachey, operation director of the center. "We're here to explain that there are many resources to help improve their lives."

Peachey explained that one of the focal points is to let people know that there is somewhere they can turn for support and help.

"We want them to know that we are here to listen," Peachey said. "We want them to realize that they are not alone and that we will help them to be OK."

However, the mission of the center is not to merely provide a quick fix to a person's dire situation, but to educate that person and support him/her through the process of self-improvement.

"We are willing to do things to help people, but the key word here is 'help,'" Hartman said. "We want to help them, but they have to be willing to help themselves. We are not going to put a bandage on a serious injury."

Steering them in the right direction is another of the center's goals.

"We want to help provide the resources that people need to improve their lives," Hartman said. "Many times they have the resources to get from step "A" to step "B," but by the time that they get to step "C" they become frustrated with the system. We want to help get them through the steps that they need to be more self-sufficient."

Consultations can be scheduled at the center, with the staff preferring to meet on a one-on-one basis, opting for personal interaction over telephone calls.

"We really encourage people to come in," Hartman said. "We'll gladly set up appointments. We want to do as little as possible over the telephone."

Hartman added that the center will be staffed by trained volunteers and stressed that everyone will be guaranteed privacy and confidentiality.

Since September, the center, which previously had served as a parsonage and a girls group home, has seen masses of volunteers working together to bring the dream of a help facility to reality.

The volunteers have given the entire downstairs of the facility a face-lift, installing donated carpeting; painting, sanding and polishing floors; and cleaning, to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

"Whoever comes through that door needs some kind of help," Hartman said. "And we have a group of volunteers who really care."

Future plans for the center include after-school programs, classes and possibly a clothes closet. The group is receptive to ideas from the community.

"We are always open to new ideas and how we can help people live better lives," Peachey said. "We want to address the needs. We hope for people to be able to help themselves."

After Saturday's open house, the center will be open for regular hours beginning Monday. Hours of operation will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.

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