Pickens County Dream Center Offers a Hand Up

From the outside, the Dream Center of Pickens is a building that gives no clue as to what’s inside. Some probably guess that it must be cool and quiet within. But the Dream Center is much more than a building, but the builder of a better community through education, empowerment, and spiritual growth.

There is always a way, where there is a will, and when troubled minds can’t see the path to success ahead and no roadmap exists to sobriety, or a magical compass to recovery, the Dream Center strives for solutions.

Executive director Chris Wilson and her husband were looking to serve beyond the four walls of their church. After a couple of years of prayers, meetings, and reaching out to local businesses, they put in a bid for Simpson Academy, a 45,000 square-foot school building that had been mostly vacant for several years.

In October 2013, with a generous donation from a local car dealer, Toyota of Easley, the 18-room building with an auditorium and a gymnasium was purchased with cash. Oher founding sponsors include Benson Ford, Blue Ridge Electric Co-op, and Nalley Commercial Properties.

Today, the Dream Center “exists to encourage, educate and empower people in need through the love of Jesus Christ,” according to its mission statement.

Since its opening, the Dream Center’s dedication to meeting the physical and spiritual needs of individuals and families each month has been phenomenal. Through its various programs, ministries, and activities, the Center serves 75–100 people daily, meeting different needs ranging from homelessness to hunger to unemployment, offering resources such as food, clothing, toiletries, and other necessities to alleviate poverty in Pickens County. 

Services at the Dream Center include free classes such as proactive parenting, a ladies’ Bible study, financial literacy and budgeting, resume writing, and much more. The center also houses seven other nonprofits including a food bank, a teen outreach center, a soup kitchen, and a dental clinic for Pickens County residents in need. 

Walk-ins may have different needs including homelessness, hunger, and unemployment, and volunteers are available to listen to their stories and determine what assistance or guidance is needed. The center offers emergency items such as food and clothing, and some non-emergency items such as help finding employment, gas cards or bus tickets are offered through referrals to other programs. The center’s philosophy, though, is to give a “hand up instead of a hand-out,” so while emergency assistance is offered, clients are encouraged to take the classes and earn non-emergency items such as gas cards. 

Another opportunity for clients to earn assistance, says office manager, Petrina Matonis, is through one of the center’s most progressive and exciting services, which opened in Christmas of 2013. The program allows parents in need to earn “Dream Dollars” to purchase new Christmas gifts from the Santa Shoppe instead of depending on outside organizations to provide gifts.

Parents may earn Dream Dollars by attending free classes such as budgeting, parenting, resume writing, and health and exercise. Once they complete the required classes, participants can go shopping in the center’s Santa Shoppe to purchase their children’s gifts with Dream Dollars. In the first year of operation, the Santa Shoppe served 528 individuals.

In collaboration with the schools, the Dream Center also offers parents the opportunity to earn Dream Dollars by attending their school’s family literacy night, parent night, or parenting classes offered by Title 1 schools. Over 1,500 parents are projected to participate in 2016.

The Dream Center Resale Store, located at 5553 Calhoun Memorial Hwy, Easley, offers gently used clothing, household items, sporting good, jewelry, and furniture. All proceeds support the ministries of the Dream Center.

For an opportunity to become a partner, volunteer, or donate to the Dream Center, and more information, visit www.dreamcenterpc.org.

Photos courtesy of the Dream Center.

Article by Yvonne Vinson