Do you know how many homeless live in the small city of Greenville, South Carolina? According to the Greenville Homeless Alliance, there were more than 3,000 homeless people in Greenville County from 2019 to 2020. Greenville has the third-highest number of homeless people among the counties in the state of South Carolina, with 1,148 of the homeless consisting of children. Due to the ongoing pandemic, this number has increased. Bright Lights Greenville – a new, local nonprofit – aims to change that.
Bright Lights Greenville was started by the Farrell family – Mark and Shannon, Mary Kate, Connor, Evan, and Maggie. As a foster family, they had seen the pain, fear, and starvation that many children had experienced – experiences quite similar to those endured by many homeless in Greenville. Originally, Bright Lights Greenville started as merely a method through which they hoped to brighten the day of the homeless. They began by giving out a small care package containing food, cleaning necessities, and toiletries, along with a motivational Bible verse to let them know that they are loved in times of stress and doubt. They kept these little bags in the front seat of their car to hand out to any homeless person they drove by in the Greenville area.
For years they continued to hand out their care packages. However, since the summer of 2020, Bright Lights Greenville has blossomed and grown. They have partnered with Triune Mercy Center to package about 50 hygiene care packages each month. These hygiene kits are now complete with shampoo, conditioner, razor, lotion, deodorant, washcloth, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, and a motivational Bible verse. Bright Lights Greenville buys, packages, and brings the hygiene bags on the first Sunday of each month to Triune Mercy Center where they are distributed to the homeless.
Bright Lights Greenville has grown from a kitchen-table idea into an expanding nonprofit. They have applied for tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) and are awaiting the final decision from the IRS. Recently, Bright Lights received notice that they had won a $1,500 grant from Global Youth Mobilization. This grant has helped them to launch their website (www.brightlightsgreenville.com) where others can support them and learn more. After two months of the site being launched, Bright Lights Greenville reported almost $2,000 of combined income. While the journey has been long, Bright Lights Greenville is not looking back. They continue to support the homeless and further their mission of tackling poor hygiene among them. You can find them on Instagram @bright.lights.gvl!