Former homeless woman opens donation center to help others

Dec 29, 2014 6:56 PM by Charlene Cheng

"I've been throughout the community and I've seen people in tough spots, the same spot I've been in. Living on the streets, trying to figure out where I'm going to eat at," Lerlean Graham said.

For her, it all started with a simple desire to give others a "hand up."

Since mid-December, she's been running a donation center in Anderson.

"The people that walk through the door. It's not stories. It's the situations that they're in right now that's hard on the heart," Graham said.

Anybody can walk through the door, and leave with an armful of clothes, blankets, tents... whatever's been dropped off.

Graham says she's been floored by the generosity of the community. They've now received so many donations that they've had to open up additional rooms at the center to store all the items.

"Anyone comes through the door with things for us has always asked if there's anything else that they can do," she said.

That spirit of doing more is a re-occurring theme.

In one exchange, Graham offered a homeless woman a warm meal and a nap in the back room.

The woman declined, saying that it's more important for her to get back out to panhandle.

But others are grateful for any help they're offered.

"A lot of people, they look at us and they turn their noses to us. They seem to think all of us homeless people are on drugs. Not all of us are on drugs. Some of us are truly struggling," Anthony Baxter said.

Graham's daughter saw him camped outside of Walmart last night, and gave him a pizza and clothes.

Today, he's at the center, cleaning up as a thank you.

"For the holidays and stuff, I sit there holding my dog and I cry and stuff and say one of these days, I'll have my family back," Baxter said.

In the meantime, people like Graham are just trying to help him get through this cold winter.

"There's a need to help people, and I'm willing to do it with any help from anybody that wants to get involved," she said.

The donation center currently has a need for warm weather clothes and tents.

It's located at 3050 Ventura Street in Anderson, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.


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