GRANITEVILLE — A new teaching, mentoring and medical facility for the unemployed and underprivileged opened Monday in Aiken County.
The 15,000-square-foot building was rendered useless after a 2005 train derailment and chlorine spill but is now refurbished to offer hope to an area still struggling after the tragedy.
Gov. Nikki Haley attended the ribbon-cutting at the 6 Hickman St. building Monday morning.
The Hope Center, a Christ Central Ministries facility, will be run by volunteers. Haley said Graniteville was a perfect example of neighbors helping neighbors.
“There is no amount of money that will give you the same reward as when you help a neighbor,” she told a crowd of 200 packed into the room.
The center will provide free health, dental and vision screenings. It will also offer educational programs focused on job readiness, general education diploma training, tutoring, certified nursing assistance training, culinary arts training, and industrial skills such as forklift training and introduction to blueprints.
Christ Central officials said they purchased the building after learning of the community’s need.
“They (the people of Graniteville) want to see their community transformed. They want to be a powerhouse again,” Pastor Jimmy Jones said of the town that was once a “great industrial area.”
The ministry began in Columbia in 1997 and spread to Aiken in 1999. Christ Central Aiken/Graniteville has more than 350 volunteers from at least 50 churches who work to reach the group’s goal of “neighbor helping neighbor to break the cycle of generational poverty.”
Haley said bringing a company to town is always good news but that such facilities are what prepare a town for companies by giving the residents the skills they need to apply and find jobs.
After the ribbon-cutting, the crowd had the opportunity to tour the facility, which included a full commercial kitchen and dining area, medical treatment rooms and a computer lab.