Food, Shelter, Hope 2013
The Riviera at Charleston Place was positively buzzing with excitement during the VIP hour before Food, Shelter, Hope. The Lowcountry’s who’s who chatted over cocktails and enjoyed stuffed mushrooms and miniature crab cakes while keeping an eye out for the evening’s guest of honor, Chris Gardner. Gardner, whose life serves as the real-life inspiration behind blockbuster film The Pursuit of Happyness, is an entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and single parent who overcame the odds and homelessness to fulfill his dreams.
Gardner popped by the cocktail hour before leaving to prepare for his speech, and the anticipation mounted as partygoers filed up the stairs for the talk. They were greeted by a table bearing popcorn and candy, and guests filled up before finding a seat. Soon Tom Crawford took the podium to introduce Chris Gardner and the preview to the major motion picture The Pursuit of Happyness.
Gardner was greeted with an emotional standing ovation from the auditorium, to which he playfully responded, “Hey, hey, hey! Every time I get a reception like that, I always have to say, ‘Will Smith is NOT coming!’” Everyone laughed and settled into their seats, and Gardner opened up by sharing insights and thoughts on the film before launching into the heart-wrenching and heart-warming details of his personal journey and encounter with homelessness.
“How do you become homeless?” Gardner asked. There is a whole class of working individuals that Gardner refers to as “white collar homeless”, and he proceeded to tell his tale. “In my case, was it drugs? No. Was it alcohol? No. It was something much more deadly: it was life,” Gardner explained. His story, struggles, intense love for his son, and ultimate triumph left hardly a dry eye in the house by the time Gardner’s talk drew to a close.
The audience came to its feet with loud, enthusiastic applause, but Gardner wasn’t done. After gently shushing everyone, he announced his gift of $10,000 to Crisis Ministries. Everyone cheered loudly, and couldn’t help feeling inspired as they headed into the dinner and live auction.
Food, Shelter, Hope benefited Crisis Ministries. Founded in 1984 out of a soup kitchen in Grace Episcopal Church, Crisis Ministries strives to end homelessness and hunger through providing food, emergency housing, case management, primary health care, legal services, employment services, and veteran services.