FAIRFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) - For more than 15 years, one woman has been dedicated to making sure the needs of homeless children and families in the Fairfield County School District are always met.
"It started out small with just a few items, and then some of the churches heard about it and they started donating," said Belva Belton, the attendance specialist with Fairfield County schools.
Now Belton's Clothing Closet in Fairfield County is a go-to place for homeless families.
"I initially was getting clothes for kids, but then we found out that the families, as well, were in need and so we started taking donations for adults and kids," added Belton.
Belton has worn many hats for more than 20 years in Fairfield County schools, and she added the title of Homeless Liaison in 2002.
Four years ago she asked the district for a bigger place to house donations than just keeping them in her office. They allowed her to set up shop in the district's old alternative school.
"We had kids that were missing days," said Belton. "Once you can do research with why they're missing school sometimes, and some of the answers were actually clothing. They are not coming because they didn't have shoes or they didn't have clothing to wear."
Belton says this past year alone, 111 students were classified as homeless in the district. She adds the closet has served 87 families.
"I just wish we could do more," said Belton.
But those who know Belton say she does everything she can and then some. It's why they nominated her as a Community Builder and we set her up by thinking she was doing an interview about the program at the district office.
She knew something was up as soon as she saw Matt Mungo walk in the room.
"I know Y'all didn't do this!!" laughed Belton.
Matt Mungo shook Belton's hand, "I'm here because of your work with disadvantaged youth in the Fairfield County School system," he added. "You have been nominated and chosen as a community builder by Mungo Homes, and WIS, and you'll get a $1,000 check to the charity of your choice."
Belton shook her head in disbelief, "You guys are kidding!"
Belton knew Mungo's face when he walked in because he had just surprised her sister Gloria Thomas with the same award this month and Belton attended that surprise.
"The nomination committee got these a couple of months apart, and we had no idea that they were actually sisters and lo and behold they are community builders two weeks in a row," said Mungo.
It was a shock for the committee, Belton, and Thomas.
"For both of us to be in Fairfield County, and then sisters, and then get the same honor, I guess it was something to think is this really for real?" said Thomas, who got to return the favor and be there for her sister's surprise.
But this was for real and most certainly deserved.
"She has such a big heart," shared Rosyln Harrison who nominated Belton for the Community Builder award. "She knows so many people
and she's just willing to do anything she can to help the kids in Fairfield County."
Tax-deductible donations of clothes, furniture, and non-perishable food items can be made to the Clothing Closet in Fairfield County at any time.
Belton said right now they have a particular need for little girls clothes. To contact the district for more information visit: http://www.fairfield.k12.sc.us.