Meet Lisa Buie: Offering a Helping Hand
By Leslie Moore
We’ve all heard the saying that good things come in small packages, and that is surely the case with Lisa Buie, Myrtle Beach resident and Counselor at Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach on Mr. Joe White Avenue. Lisa’s kind heart and tireless dedication to helping local residents in need have made her a much-loved figure known simply as “Miss Lisa” to those she serves. The day I visited with Lisa, this busy agency had seen 156 people with a variety of needs, and according to Lisa, this is about average. Helping Hand offers emergency assistance with rent, electricity, vouchers for bus tickets, prescription medications and much more, as well as running a food pantry. The agency is a non-profit supported by local churches, foundations, individuals and fundraisers.
Please tell us about your work.
I’ve been working here for 20 years; I started out as a volunteer when my youngest daughter was not quite a year old. I was a stay-at-home mom and found out about Helping Hand through my church, First Presbyterian in Myrtle Beach. One of the front desk volunteers couldn’t work anymore, and I filled in. Eventually, I became a board member, again through my church. After my children were older, a full-time counselor position came open, and I was hired.
I have so much respect for this agency and how it’s run. People think we see mostly homeless people, but that’s not the case. About 80% of our clients are people who live paycheck to paycheck and fall through the cracks of the system. When you live like that, one little thing can throw you behind. Our clients are hard working people, and that makes me feel good about what I do. We help them with groceries, power bills, etc. We’ve even helped people with automobile repairs, bus tickets, gas…the list goes on and on. We also refer people to other agencies when we can’t help them.
A lot of people move here thinking it will be easy to find work, and they don’t realize that most jobs are seasonal and lower paying. Even if they can find a job, housing is so expensive it’s difficult to make ends meet. We’ve seen twice as many people in the last seven or eight years. Last year was our busiest year ever, and this year is the same so far.
We do help homeless people as well. They can get mail here and apply for assistance. People think that we are a part of the Community Kitchen because we’re in the same building, but we are separate agencies. The Community Kitchen serves a hot breakfast and lunch every weekday to everyone, while Helping Hand provides a three day emergency supply of groceries to people in a short term crisis situation.
How do you screen people?
We ask a lot of questions. And, our agency is a part of Charity Tracker, software used by many local charities. All clients must present some form of identification and give us the address where they are living or staying. There are several other agencies like ours in the county, and this helps us to make sure they are going to the correct agency for where they live. It also helps us identify people who are trying to abuse services by going to agency to agency to receive help. With such limited resources, people who do this could really be depriving someone who truly needs help. The screening process can be emotionally and physically draining. In a ten minute time period, I might go from getting a big hug from someone I was able to help, to getting screamed at because I wasn’t able to say what someone wanted to hear.
What do you need?
We always need donations of non-perishable food and, of course, monetary donations are very important. Local churches take turns having food drives for our pantry, but there is such a great need.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am married with two grown daughters; my husband is a CPA. My oldest is a special education teacher, and my youngest is still in college at Clemson. I grew up in Oxford, North Carolina, near Raleigh, but I moved here the day I graduated from high school and lived here during the summers while I went to college at UNC Chapel Hill. My mother raised us alone after my dad died, and I know what it’s like to have little and work hard. I think that’s why I love my work so much.
After I graduated from college I wanted to be a sports reporter, but I think I was about 20 years too early. Back then, all the sportscasters were men. I did work as a reporter for the Sun News covering high school football games before I was married.
My husband and I both love sports. I am an avid Tarheel fan and he loves Clemson, but really we love all sports. There was a Tarheel game on the day we got married, and I was ten minutes late walking down the aisle because the game went into overtime!
How do you deal with the stress?
I laugh a lot. I love my work and the people I work with. We have a good time together – our volunteers are amazing and so dedicated.
Contact Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach at 843-448-8451.
About this writer
- Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.