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Meet Aaron Comstock

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aaron Comstock.

Hi Aaron, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My name is Aaron Comstock and I began my non-profit “Uplift Charleston” in 2018.

I’m from Ohio but moved to Charleston in 2014 after living in the Philippines for a year. While there, I saw extreme poverty and it affected me deeply. I grew to know many very poor families that attended the church I help build in the mountains of Mialem and my neighbors. I still donate boxes of clothes and goods to them as well as $ to help those I know there in need.

That experience changed me as I came to Charleston. I saw extreme poverty here too and knew I could try to make a difference. I could help the many people I saw living on the streets where the concrete served as their beds. I taught in Title 1 schools and saw these neglected communities were in great disrepair. I cared about my students living in these areas and on a small level I donated to these communities for a few years. From 2015-2018, I did this on my own but eventually wanted to make a bigger impact.

I became an activist in the Charleston area after the murder of Walter Scott and the Emanuel 9 tragedy. I became involved with other groups wanting to make a difference in our community but there were mainly meetings and a lot of talk going on but not a lot of action. Action that actually made a difference in our communities for the people that were suffering there.

That inspired me to create Uplift Charleston in 2018. In 2 weeks we had over 1000 members join our Facebook group. We then began a Twitter and Instagram account to get the word out about our efforts to advocate for and bless the homeless and those in need while gaining support and volunteers. On a bigger level, I wanted to bless these communities with more assistance. I wanted to create a community to bless our community.

Seeing my efforts online through pictures and videos, many began to join us and volunteer. I was able to get many local businesses to partner with us as they accepted our donations so we could collect them weekly. Other businesses joined us and volunteered to show up for our Sunday “Blessings” as well. Blessings occur in these neglected communities where we set up tables and hand out free donated clothing, bedding, hats, shoes, hygiene, backpacks, food, etc.

Blessings began in the 2 hardest hit areas in our community. I began a partnership with Potluck in the Park which serves food weekly at Conway Park in downtown Charleston every Sunday at 1 pm. I had first set up there before and passed out clothes etc. alone but now we go as a group.

We serve over a hundred people every week at our Blessings, giving out over 2 truck loads of donations on average. I also served in North Charleston where I started my efforts at the Super Stop bus stop and DSS parking lot on Rivers Avenue a few years earlier.

We now split our Blessings between there and Downtown by going every other week to each location. I also serve food at this location when I get donations after weddings I DJ and they donate their leftover food for this in need.

Some volunteers cook for us and serve the prepared food as well. Sometimes local restaurants and food trucks will do the same. Food rescue is very important to me. Those we serve love getting these amazing meals that they’re not used to getting. It means a lot to them.

Weekly, I and other volunteers will pick up donations of clothes, food, and hygiene products and bring them each Sunday to our weekly Blessing or our community-funded storage unit. My garage has also become a temporary storage place for these items from time to time. It’s a large undertaking but I can’t thank our amazing volunteers for all they do to make this mission to bless our homeless a reality.

A sad part of our story is when we speak to so many individuals and families in need or who are homeless and who are looking for help. We get so many messages for assistance, it’s disheartening. Too often we cannot help them. We try to recommend places for them to go get help but too often the resources are dried up. Maybe it’s for food or clothes or for information on housing, or for specific needs, we can help meet.

It’s an honor to feel they can reach out to us and that we can do what we can to assist and bless them. Any needs and info are posted on our social media accounts to inform others about what we are doing and how they can help. Charleston has responded beautifully!

We grew exponentially during the pandemic when our efforts were seen through our social media accounts as we served the community during that difficult time.

For around 12 months, I drove around our communities 5 to 7 days a week for 8 to 12 hours a day. During that time, I was picking up so many donations from people around the Lowcountry in order to get them to the people living on the streets who did not have access to these vital items because of the pandemic.

Through the transparency of our social media posts, the support was pouring in and we have grown to now over 14,000 followers in the Lowcountry. We confide to not only serve those living on our literal streets but head out into the wooded areas where we see so many homeless camps in need of essential items we can provide for survival. It’s all possible because of this wonderful movement we’ve started together.

Although we are proud of our efforts to perform these Band-Aids to help our homeless friends survive, our ultimate goal is now to solve homelessness in the Lowcountry. We hope and pray that we can encourage lawmakers and elected officials to realize that this is a serious situation in their communities. We hope they will help us solve homelessness.

I always had a problem with “Charleston Strong” because it truly never felt real. I wanted to show that we can unite with compassion and show what it truly means to be Charleston Strong because we show it weekly through our efforts. We come from all different walks of life and many different beliefs to unite and bless Charleston. We don’t let political views divide us but we show what true community strength means by coming together despite differences to bless others without judgment.

We don’t judge those we serve. We simply show them we care about them. That we love them as Christ commanded. We show them they exist and they matter to us even though others may pass on them. They’re our friends. We see them and love them anyway. I believe that can make our community, state, and country a better place. We act and serve because it’s the right thing to do when those in our community are suffering. We don’t just talk the talk but we walk the walk.

We are so happy to see so many more groups now taking action. When I started this group, I did so because I saw too many people and groups talking about action but not acting. Now, I saw dozens of new groups all over the Lowcountry serving those in need and it’s wonderful to see.

I truly believe that Uplift Charleston had a small factor in inspiring them to begin these efforts and it’s such a great honor. It’s now our collective job to encourage our elected officials to combat poverty and end homelessness so this suffering in our communities will end. That’s our hope and prayer.

On another note, Uplift is also a small movement circulating around the country. We now have groups in other major cities like Dallas, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. We hope that this will continue and we can make an impact not only in our local Charleston community but all around the nation.

Finally, I was so honored to have received the Lowcountry Jefferson Award for the month of June 2022 and the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor Award at the 2021 Spotlight Awards from the Angel Alliance in Charleston. To be recognized for my passion is a truly humbling experience.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It is not always a smooth road when serving the community, especially when you are serving the forgotten and people who some think are not worthy of help. Sadly, there is a lot of hatred towards people who are homeless.

Too often people will blame them for their situation or look down on them and think of them as members of our community who are not worthy of love or respect. There has been some backlash in those areas from community members, elected officials, hate groups, and local police departments. Many times when we try to serve in our community we have been pushed around so that we are not able to serve in the areas that are in great need.

Luckily, we have adapted and have continued to serve in areas where we are not always welcome. It’s also a struggle because there are so many people in need and there are just not enough resources for them. Too often, our Homeless friends will contact agencies and either be told they have nothing for them or be shuffled around from phone number to phone number until they give up.

It is a struggle and it is frustrating but we always want to show love to our homeless friends so they don’t give up because they know that someone does love and care for them. That there are people in their community who are here to help him survive in any way that we can.

The biggest struggle we have had so far has been convincing local elected leaders throughout the Lowcountry that it is their duty and obligation to serve the homeless. Too often, our demands are ignored. It seems that no matter how many council meetings we attend or emails that we write, no one responds with words or actions to truly help our homeless friends.

It is frustrating because these elected leaders are the ones who can truly solve homelessness with their ability to enact laws, zoning laws, and ordinances that could help our homeless friends get off the streets. We pray they’ll actually help us solve homelessness one day.

That we can all come together to make that a reality. In the end, it’s a choice and we pray they’ll choose to work with us to solve homelessness.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’m a music educator and have taught music in public schools and at the university level for 16 years. Music is my true life passion. I also have a professional DJ company and enjoy entertaining the Lowcountry with singing and music on a weekly basis.

For 20+ years, I have loved sharing my passion for music with others through performance. I’ve performed all over the country and world in choirs, glee clubs, operas, Cappella singing groups, and as a soloist. I guess when I’m passionate about something, I make it ingrained in my life.

Same as my passion for travel and doing the things that makes me happy and fulfilled. There are simply too many things to mention but those who know me know what they are. I have a big heart and care about so many things and I’m proud of that that does set me apart from others, although it can be a blessing and a curse.

What are your plans for the future?
When it comes to the future of Uplift Charleston, our plans must be to solve homelessness. Like a wise friend once told me recently, we don’t want to be doing the same thing 20 years from now and have made no impact to solve the problem that we are so passionate about.

My prayer is that we not only help our homeless friends survive and show them the love and compassion that they deserve but also create a system in the Lowcountry where homelessness ends. This must be what we look forward to. Sure, there are many people who choose to be homeless.

We will always serve them too but for those who don’t want to be homeless, we must make that a reality. We hope to online to grow, inspire more volunteers to lead and join our efforts, and also continue to inspire other groups to be formed so we can collectively make a bigger impact here.

I have so many more ideas and initiatives to create in purser to serve our homeless friends and I’m so excited to get them going and make them successful. I’m just so inspired and grateful for the many volunteers we have who share my passion.

It means so much that they see what Uplift Charleston has done and can do and is willing to dedicate some of their free time to our efforts. It’s a wonderful and humbling feeling. I can’t thank them enough. On and ever upward.

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