Tough times for Midlands woman prompts pay it forward outreach

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Economic analysts indicate there are signs of an economic turnaround in this country. But, with unemployment rates at or near double digits in several states, including South Carolina, people are still looking for ways to turn their own personal economic corners.

Meredith Good recently opened a new chapter in her life. The Columbia woman and her husband fell on hard times, lost a business, then rebounded. Now she's sharing what she learned to get through those tough times.

"You don't have to be destitute to ask for help," said Good. "If bills are just a little funny this month it's okay to ask for help."

Good, a nurse by trade, now helps people in a different way, dispensing food and life lessons out of a small storage unit on Garners Ferry Road called The Food Boutique. All she asks is that the people she helps get involved.

"I don't think we were really made to receive all the time i think we were also made to give," said Good.

The motto at The Food Boutique is "pay it forward," and there's plenty of it to go around. They provide a listening ear, solutions to problems, and the tools to solve them. Extreme couponing classes are pushed along with positive lifestyle changes.

Also, Good gives people information on the blossoming homesteading movement in the Midlands. People can learn to grow their own food through partnerships with Columbia's City Roots urban farm.

"I think it's really important that we require people have some responsibility in that giving process," said Good.

Brana Wallace is an example of what this new twist on charity is all about. At one point the Columbia mother turned to Good for help, now Wallace is part of the outreach process as a volunteer.

"You can never bank on being alright and it's good to have a place you can go when you know you need help."

Columbia author and financial consultant Karen Jenkins knows the story. She was once a victim of downsizing, now in business for herself, Jenkins helps others navigate rough economic waters before a crisis hits.

"It's better than sticking your head in the sand and pretending you're not in that position. But, it happens to everybody," said Jenkins. "We have to look at our budget. We have to assess where we are. We have to look at within my budget things I'm normally spending on, what can be cut out?"

Jenkins points out those are lifestyle shifts people don't always think about even when facing a personal crisis.

The Food Boutique pushes that same brand of self help and Meredith Good hopes the message can someday grow out of a small storage unit and change even more lives in a big way.

"In this economic climate it's just so important for us to take a look at our traditional forms of giving," said Good. "We have to say is this really working? Maybe it was working back then. But is it working right now?"

The Food Boutique has several partnerships with Midlands businesses to help support their efforts. To find out about some of their upcoming events and ways to get involved click here.