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Appeal Spotlight — Clean of Heart

The new Clean of Heart facility in the old Good Shepherd Church in Columbia is not quite a spa, but it sure can seem that way to those experiencing homelessness or anyone else who goes a long time between showers and fresh clothing.

“If I had to give up my hot shower, that would be hard,” Darryl Williams said. Perhaps that is why he volunteers for Clean of Heart, a program of Catholic Charities of South Carolina that offers the homeless a relaxing shower and laundry service.

“It’s a pretty rare thing,” he said, but it’s a perfect opportunity to evangelize. “I think it is essential that the Catholic Church have highly visible ministries in the community, outside the walls of the church, and Clean of Heart is an excellent example of that. It creates many important educational and ministry volunteer opportunities for parishioners, and that also is important,” he said.

That is why some of the funds from the Bishop’s Annual Appeal flow to Catholic Charities, which then filter to Clean of Heart.

Darryl washed and folded laundry and cleaned showers for about a year or two. Now he pitches in any way he can: picking up litter, changing light bulbs, doing minor repairs or even keeping up with supplies.

He just wants to serve.

And Teresa Maybay sure is glad. She is the site coordinator for Catholic Charities of the Midlands. She said Clean of Heart had about 50 volunteers before COVID-19 hit. Since then, she said the program relies on “a good, solid 20 to 30 people.”

They like their new digs in the old church. Teresa said they started renovating the old church three years ago, and Clean of Heart moved in April of 2021.

“We have three showers, three washers, three dryers and two bathrooms,” Teresa said.

Clean of Heart also gives clients food bags before they leave. Teresa said the bags are filled with protein snacks, fresh fruits and crackers. She also said Knights of Columbus members have pitched in to make sandwiches, and each bag now gets three sandwiches.

Many of those in need come in drained and careworn, but leave clean, fresh and filled. Before they leave, Teresa said, they must make an appointment to return.

“People were just hanging out” at the old facility, Teresa said. “With appointments, there is not so much loitering,” she added. “It keeps everything cleaner. And now we know how many to expect, so we can plan our volunteers.”

Teresa wants to do more to help those who come in for a shower. She wants to give them hope. She wants an area in the old church that offers a chance to sit down, talk to clients about their situations and try to bring people out of homelessness.

She senses hope for some, for those clawing and striving for a better life. Hopefully, they won’t need Clean of Heart services for long, but Teresa is realistic about homelessness.

“Some people, that’s where they want to be,” she said.

And for them, Clean of Heart goes all out, offering a quiet place to sit, relax and lay their heads back.