The small concrete slab that will serve as a basketball court doesn’t look like much, but Craig Currey has been coveting it for a decade.
The newly poured concrete is part of improvements made to the Transitions Homeless Center by the Class of 2022 of Leadership Columbia, an annual community outreach program through the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve been trying to get this basketball mat for 10 years,” said Currey, CEO of Transitions.
The Downtown Homeless Shelter at 2025 Main St. serves clients referred by partner agencies in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield, Chester, Lancaster, Newberry, York, Calhoun, Orangeburg, Bamberg, Allendale, Barnwell counties and Aiken. He applied for several years to be chosen as the Leadership Development Program’s Collaborative Classroom Project — seven to be exact, Currey said — but hadn’t been selected until this year.
“We were very happy. It’s a job to apply for this,” Currey said. in the past who begged me every year not to because she was doing the job and she thought we weren’t going to be chosen She’s gone now but I knew we would end up being chosen and that really been very helpful.
The Columbia Leadership class also pressure-cleaned buildings on the Transitions campus, beautified the flower beds in its courtyard, and repainted its day center and adult daycare centers. But it’s the future court, which has yet to install a basketball goal, that really signifies Currey’s progress.
“I’ve been trying to get this basketball mat for 10 years,” he said. “I had different groups lined up to do it. COVID wiped out the last group” that decided to focus on pandemic relief efforts.
Since opening in 2011, Transitions has helped move more than 3,207 people into permanent housing, served more than 2,178,600 meals from its on-site kitchen, and formed local partnerships with more than 55 community organizations. Its services extend beyond clients, as its adult daycare, which offers five hours of care per day, is open to the entire community.
Transitioning clients also have access to job and skills training programs, mental health and addictions counsellors, a clothes closet, and a health clinic. Leadership Columbia is helping add resources to the careers office and plans to add entertainment options to adult daycare, while a partnership with ColaTown Bike Collective is helping provide bikes – the primary mode of transportation for many customers – as well as padlocks and helmets.
“It’s a one-stop shop,” Currey said. “The goal is that if someone comes here, they don’t have to drive all over town.”
Nic Collins, Columbia Leadership Project Manager, has been a volunteer with Transitions for three years.
“It’s really cool to see other people in my community getting involved and having the same passion for the place that I’ve had for some time. It has been really rewarding,” he said.
Volunteering at Transitions has helped him realize that his customers are “ordinary human beings like all of us,” said Collins, whose day job is to sell valves and pipe fittings with Wolseley Industrial Group. “I think sometimes outside of these walls we forget that, and so it’s very rewarding and very encouraging to have our whole class here and to be comfortable and to be able to share these stories with their friends, their families and community members.
Meg Syms, marketing manager at Garvin Design Group, is also a member of the 2022 class of Leadership Columbia. She said working with Transitions had many memorable moments, including raising $800 through social media in two weeks, a total that equated to about $14 per donor.
“We’re going to be able to take care of a lot of things that were on their wish list,” Syms said. “It was a dream come true to be selected for the class project and then see it happen so quickly and have things happen in such a short time, I think for them it was really cool .”
The assistance comes at a particularly critical time, as Transitions customers are still struggling with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including rising inflation that has driven up the cost of daily living.
“Our workers still earn the same amount of money, but the rents have gone up a lot. The food went much higher. So what they need to live for a month has increased,” Currey said. “Initially (the pandemic) really hurt because the hospitality industry was shut down. Many of our people can find jobs in the restaurant industry. So it hurt us initially, but now they’re back in full swing, and so they’ve been hiring and our people are back to work there. We have a lot of people doing the cleaning, we have people in the call centers. We have people everywhere working in different jobs. Obviously, we want to offer them the best paying job possible so that they can break the cycle and get out of poverty and homelessness.
“A lot of people need part-time jobs. Some have disabilities but can handle a physically limited part-time job. We are always looking for these kinds of jobs.
Currey said Transitions has never turned away customers during the pandemic, but adhering to strict social distancing guidelines has forced creative solutions such as take-out boxes for all meals and wall shelves for clients can communicate with social workers.
Guests also spent more time outdoors, where they used renovated beds now bursting with rosemary and vines. “It looks better,” Currey said. “If the place looks better, it makes customers happier.”
Across the way from the yard, Currey envisions groups soon to be engaged in a lively hoop game – perhaps with a few famous participants.
“It gives clients physical activity,” said Currey, who has seen similar initiatives achieve remarkable results at the Chapman Partnership in Miami, where Miami Heat players including LeBron James when his NBA career took him in South Florida, visited occasionally. arrive.
“Customers would go nuts,” Currey said. “I think if we ever build that here, maybe we’ll bring the women’s basketball team or somebody in to do a demo.”
This article first appeared in the April 25 print edition of the Columbia Regional Business Report.
Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.