Gussie Toney, a constant volunteer for the religious nonprofit organization Christ Central, opened the front door to the organization’s Aiken office Tuesday morning and promised life-altering changes will be made for anyone who walks through it.

“They do not leave this building without getting what they need,” Toney said as she and over 10 other volunteers readied food boxes that will to be given out to nearly 100 families during a two-day period. 

The food distribution project is just one of the many abundant services the organization offers daily, and just one way it builds up the people it helps.

Christ Central, an organization with both Aiken and Graniteville locations, has a simple but effective way to help those in need throughout the Aiken community. 

“We meet people where they are, but not leave them where they are,” sums up Judy Floyd, director of Christ Central. 

With the help of over 350 volunteers – all of whom are scattered throughout 20 other ministry programs within Aiken and Graniteville – the organization strives to encourage people to take the next step in getting their lives in order, both practically and spiritually. It does so by meeting not only residents’ most basic needs, food and clothing, but also their more advanced needs such as education, job skill training and prayer. 

These resources act as a needed boost rather than a handout, Floyd specified, and ultimately allows the people to reach their personal goals through hard work and education. 

“We want to give people hope,” Floyd said. “Our motto is: ‘Health in our hands and hope in our words.’ So we try to do that.”

Hope Center School

A first step in this life-altering process starts with the outreach-stimulating independence through its Graniteville Hope Center school, located at 3 Hickerman St.

The school teaches essential 24-credit hour programs such as culinary arts, engineering technology, information technology, and even paralegal work though three trimester periods.

The school also offers a six-week nursing aide training course, introduced last fall, and offers scholarships to help participants pay for the $600 course, as well as a free Fast Track GED program, providing a second chance for people who have dropped out of high school to complete any necessary requirements.

“[When] people come in to get those skills, it helps them get a very well-paying job, not just an entry-level job,” Floyd said.

Classes for the school’s Aiken location are located at the Christ Central North Campus, 1411 York St., in the River of Life Education Building and meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Classes for the school’s Graniteville location at the Hope Center meet every Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon.

For its younger participants, Hope Center in Graniteville offers Kids Klub, a ministry for at-risk youth ages 5-17 on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, and an after-school mentoring program that meets Tuesday and Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m. 

The Hope Center School can be reached at 803-393-4575.

Basic necessities

As Christ Central’s participants better their education, they also have access to basic necessities.

The outreach holds weekly food distributions every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Aiken office location, 3605 Richland Ave. W.

The outreach additionally offers seasonal clothing vouchers that can be used at the Christ Central’s thrift store, the Bridge, located beside its office location. 

All proceeds from the store are used to support programs that help further spur Christ Central’s mission, Floyd said.

Some needs, such as utility billing or prescription refills, are directed to other organizations such as Area Churches Together Serving (ACTS) or other area churches due to Christ Central not having available funds to assist with these kind of needs, Floyd said, but the outreach does not ever try to turn anyone away.

In terms of medical needs, the outreach offers a $35 eye clinic service every third Wednesday of each month from noon to 5 p.m. at the Hope Center. 

Looking ahead

Christ Central does not want to stop its mission to help the Aiken and Graniteville, Floyd said, but will continue needing support from the community.

Volunteers are greatly needed in order for Christ Central to continue its work, and they can contribute to the organization no matter their religious denomination, she said. 

To volunteer for Christ Central, fill out the form on the outreach’s official website at christcentralaiken.com. Interested parties may also contact Christ Central at 803-644-0705 for its Aiken location and 803-393-4575 at its Graniteville location. 

Immediate needs include mentors and teachers for the education programs and other fields, such as drivers or “prayer warriors,” are available as well. 

“It’s really wonderful when people are willing to come together for the benefit of the community,” Floyd said.

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