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The year the oleanders died and the fig vine turned brown, the previously invisible brotherhood of displaced people began appearing in Charleston's church vestibules and shop entryways. For the first time, local leaders realized that the Holy City—despite its outward appearance as a clean and comfortable place to live—had a homeless population desperate for warmth amid the frozen flora. And so in 1984—a year of unusually cold temperatures—the doors of St. Julian the Divine were opened to provide temporary relief to the inhabitants of the cardboard shanties located in the shadow of the Cooper River Bridge.
On Thursday night, as Crisis Ministries marked its 25th year of service, Mayor Joe Riley remembered that the first supper at the shelter offered little more than Nabs and doughnuts—an earnest mistake. Today, guests of the interfaith shelter are given wholesome food, counseling, legal advice, employment assistance, and more.
"No one was born to be homeless—we were born to thrive," declared Mayor Riley as he addressed the guests gathered at the Wickliffe House for the Food-Shelter-Hope party. As Linda Ketner, one of the shelter's first volunteers, prepared to present the mayor with a token to commemorate the inaugural Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for Compassion, the roar of a passing jet silenced the crowd. Without missing a beat, Linda pumped her fist and said, "That sound? That's Boeing! And they're coming!" The crowd roared in appreciative response.
The award was bestowed upon Jack Hoey, but he was flanked by a cadre of similarly dedicated nominees: Barry Gumb, Evelyn Henry, Ernestine Simmons, and Dr. Glen Quattlebaum along with Dr. Johnny Weeks (a pair of doctors who work in tandem to treat guests of the shelter).
After nearly an hour of programming (video and live remarks by several people), the live auction began; however, there were no items—no trips to exotic places, no shopping sprees, no botox packages. Instead, auctioneer Doug Warner offered one-hour training credits to benefit guests of the shelter at the cost of $100 per credit.
By 9 p.m., guests were slipping past the gate, into the crisp night—an unusually early retirement for the fete set. Staff, volunteers, and board members were beaming. More than $115,000 had been raised by the "non-auction auction."