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Orangeburg mayor seeking to reopen Samaritan House homeless shelter

“The Samaritan House is going to get back up and going again."

Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler offered these words less than a week after Orangeburg's transitional homeless shelter - Samaritan House - closed in May 2016.

More than two years later, the Samaritan House at 1580 Middleton St. remains closed, but Butler says he is "confident" that under his guidance the shelter will reopen.

In fact, he says it will reopen sometime before the end of the first quarter of 2019.

"We are moving," the mayor said when asked about the efforts to reopen the facility. "I believe it is something the community wants."

The Samaritan House was established in 2001 to provide lodging and a way for people to rebuild their lives.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cut funding for transitional homeless housing programs. HUD officials had decided to shift focus and invest dollars in permanent housing programs. The HUD money provided about 80 percent of the funds the Samaritan House received annually.

At the time, the Samaritan House Board attempted to raise money to keep the facility open, but that effort was unsuccessful.

Because of the lack of funding, the shelter closed its doors on May 31, 2016 after being open for 15 years.

Now, Butler says a new life is ahead for the shelter.

Currently, he is searching for 12 individuals who would be interested in serving on the new Samaritan House Board, and letters have been sent to perspective board members. When open, the shelter would be operated by the board.

Thus far, Butler said he has received four commitments from people willing to serve on the board.

The former shelter board was officially dissolved in early October of this year.

First Citizens Bank currently holds the mortgage on the building, which went into foreclosure because under the legal arrangement, the Samaritan House was supposed to remain operational as a homeless shelter until 2020, the mayor noted.

If the shelter is reopened as a transitional homeless shelter through 2020, Butler said the bank will end up deeding the property back over to Samaritan House without the need for it to be purchased.

"What I am trying to do as the mayor is to help pull it together," he said. "I am trying to open it to operate as a homeless shelter until 2020. By then, hopefully we will be operating and fully financially stable so we can continue the homeless shelter."

Butler estimates it will take about $550,000 to reopen and operate the shelter for two years. He said he will seek funding from a number of sources including HUD, Sisters of Charity, private donations and both the city and county councils. In addition, Bamberg and Calhoun counties will be asked to contribute since individuals from there will probably be staying in the shelter as well.

No money have been raised thus far, but the mayor says he is giving about $5,000 of his own money to get the fundraising campaign going. He said he is hoping individuals will respond to his challenge to support the shelter.

"Once we get the board on ... we are going to be asking people to give," Butler said, noting the effort to reopen the Samaritan House is something he has personally taken upon himself as mayor and not as part of Orangeburg City Council. Butler has a background in social work.

"Our homeless population is growing," he said.

According to the United Way of the Midlands, the number of homeless in The T&D Region is typically between 55 and 65 individuals at any given point in time.

"What is most important is at night when the weather becomes inclement and very cold," Butler said. "It is very important that every citizen has a warm place to lay their head, to take a bath and have a good meal."

Brenda Williams, one of those who have agreed to serve on the shelter's new board, said, "I have been so upset since the Samaritan House closed that we don't have a place for the homeless in our community. We certainly have to do better."

"We have to think about the least of these," she continued. "It is about to be winter. I can't believe we don't have a place. People don't eat and don't have shelter."

Williams said she believes the community as well as the county and the city should support the shelter financially.

"I am committed to helping the mayor," she said.

Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said the county does see the need for a homeless shelter in light of the growing local homeless population.

"Under Mayor Butler, we have made strides with the city and the county working together," Young said. "The county would be willing to work with them (the city) to get (the Samaritan House) back open."

Butler said the shelter would not only provide people a place to stay but would also provide its own services to enable individuals to seek a job and to be productive citizens.

"We don't want people coming in and staying there," he said.

Social security, social services, veterans and unemployment services will all be housed at the shelter, the mayor said.

Butler estimates the shelter would require at least five to six paid staff and will need volunteers as well.

When reopened, the Samaritan House will provide room for about 40 to include men, women and families.

Those wishing more information on the campaign to reopen the shelter or to make a monetary donation toward the effort are asked to call 803-533-6000.


Local
top story
Williams leaving Lone Star; founder selling restaurant, doesn’t expect changes

SANTEE -- A “slice of old, Southern Americana” could soon change ownership, but it will continue to share its historic charm with diners and visitors into the future.

This will be Lone Star Barbecue and Mercantile’s last weekend under Pat Williams’ ownership.

Selling Lone Star “was something I thought about doing for a long, long time," Williams said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it. I put myself into it."

"The atmosphere, the setting and the ambiance was just all a dream come true with the project I wanted to do," he said.

Lone Star, which is located on Santee State Park Road, has potential buyers but the sale has not been finalized, according to a press release issued Monday by Williams.

Lone Star opened in July 2001 as a place where people could enjoy good food in an early 1900s setting.

"It is a slice of old, Southern Americana that people don't see anymore," Williams said.

Part of its charm comes from the buildings that were moved to the site from Calhoun County’s Lone Star community, which was once known as Auburn. They were moved to the site in 2000.

“The Green Store" was an old, tin-roofed building which had peeling paint and no electrical wiring. It was a general store in the Lone Star community that was restored to its original use. The back of the building now includes a restaurant/buffet line and kitchen.

Original counters and showcases can still be found brimming with merchandise dating back to the Great Depression, when mules and wagons and steam locomotives represented the primary modes of transportation.

The store has antiques such as pot-bellied stoves, cracker jars, meat scales and cheese cutters.

The former Lone Star Post Office has a vintage Coca-Cola sign of an engineer sipping a Coke on its side. It appeared in the movie “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” that was filmed in the area.

The old Shuler Store, which was located four miles below Santee on U.S. 301 South, is also showcased. It serves as a dining hall and is connected to the old general store by a breezeway.

The Old Dantzler Store, which sat on U.S. 15 south of Santee, is also included in the Santee village.

Also connected by a breezeway, it is used as a social hall for activities, including parties and civic club meetings. A small kitchen and a door leading into a courtyard are among its amenities.

An old-style smokehouse, with old meat hooks, was part of the Old Dantzler Store and serves as its backdrop.

Guests from all 50 states and from 50 foreign countries have dined at the restaurant, according to the release.

Williams said the restaurant and store have taken virtually all of his weekends. He estimates he’s been at the restaurant about 42 out of the 52 weekends of the year.

Combined with his real estate business and farm in Springfield, Williams says it was time to slow down.

"I need some more personal time with the family," he said.

Williams' three daughters all grew up around the restaurant, and one of his sons, Chris, was going to school in New York as a chef. Chris returned to South Carolina to become the chef at Lone Star.

Today, Williams has 17 grandchildren.

"It has been a family thing," he said. "But no matter how good your health is, time runs out for everybody. I have other things I need to do and want to do."

His son has gotten into the commercial and farmland real estate business in recent years.

"We both agreed it was time to move on," Williams said.

He said he has been told by the potential owners that they plan to operate and run the store just as it has been with the same antiques, decor, live entertainment and family buffets on Sundays.

"I am sure they will do things to their liking and make some adjustments as they go along and learn the business and clientele," Williams said.

Williams said the decision to sell was bittersweet.

"My wife asked me a month or so ago, 'When you sell, are you going to cry?” he said. “I might. I have thoroughly enjoyed the clientele and the diners. I love the music and the atmosphere and the quaintness."

"I will miss it," he said.

Lone Star will continue a holiday tradition with several popular bands performing this Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the long weekend.

"Hopefully, a lot of our friends will come out and visit before the changing of the guard," Williams said.

For more information about the restaurant and store, call 803-854-2000 or 803-515-3938 or visit www.lsbarbecue.com.


Crime-and-courts
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Robber going to prison; police say man used rope-like object in store attack

A Santee man will serve nearly 15 years in prison after admitting he robbed the Elloree Family Dollar. Police say he wrapped a rope-like object around the manager’s neck and demanded money.

Trevell Garner, 22, of 259 Jack Branch Road, Santee pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including kidnapping, second-degree burglary, strong-arm robbery and third-degree burglary.

Circuit Judge Ed Dickson sentenced Garner to 10 years in prison for the burglary and robbery charges and an additional five years for kidnapping.

Dickson gave Garner credit for having already served 281 days at the Orangeburg County Detention Center.

As part of Garner’s plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed the charges of grand larceny and malicious injury to real property.

Garner originally faced an armed robbery charge, but pleaded guilty to the lesser included charge of strong-arm robbery.

Garner’s kidnapping and robbery charges stem from an incident on Feb. 1, 2018 where he robbed the Family Dollar located at 6406 Old Number Six Highway in Elloree.

Elloree Police Chief Shawn Murphree said the robbery occurred at 8:30 a.m. when the manager was stocking shelves.

Garner entered the store, found the manger and demanded that she give him money.

“He put a rope, a piece of string, some type of rope object around her throat and drug her off the aisle,” Murphree said.

The two got into a physical struggle and the manager was able to free herself, Murphree said.

Garner forced the manager to the front of the store where she emptied the cash register and safe.

Garner then fled the store and within 30 seconds, Elloree Assistant Police Chief Earl Kinsey arrived at the scene.

In just under an hour, law enforcement officers arrested Garner on Railroad Avenue.

Garner’s burglary charges stem from two incidents, one on Jan. 18, 2018 and the other on Jan. 29, 2018.