December 1993

Lila Mae Brock

Community Leader

Lila Mae Brock

Lila Mae Brock has dedicated her life to the upward mobility of other people. Her efforts have led to the acquisition of food, clothing, and shelter for many of the less fortunate citizens of Greenville. In 1938, a time when the United States had not yet recovered from the Great Depression, she and her husband James moved to the Southernside area of Greenville. For a while the move seemed productive. The Brocks were hardworking. She was a lunchroom operator at East North Elementary School. He had two jobs – one full-time at the Union Bleachery and the other part-time at the post office. They instilled in their children ideals of excellence and achievement. A proposed highway through Southernside in the mid-1960s led to governmental neglect. “Why save a dying community'” was the attitude. As the community deteriorated due to federal and city neglect, Lila Brock did not allow the unemployment, empty lots, dilapidated buildings and homeless people to lessen her resolve to make improvements. Liquor, prostitution and drugs were common on the street, but Mrs. Brock wouldn’t leave the community. She began to work relentlessly for a community center, the first phase in renovating the neighborhood. After five years of struggle, her dreams were realized and the Southernside Community Center opened in February, 1982. Mrs. Brock had to work form the “bottom up” to acquire staff for the center. The first year, she received some donations form churches to operate the center but the bulk of bills were paid with her Social Security checks. “I always had a desire to help people,” she says. “I always wanted to be a foreign missionary. But I found the need was just as great five blocks from Main Street as it was in Africa.” With phase one accomplished, Mrs. Brock was successful in getting the federal government to invest in low cost housing for the area. The Southernside community received a grant form HUD to build 68 units for the elderly and handicapped. Because of Mrs. Brock’s dedication, these units were named Brockwoood Apartments. Moderate income housing was built with low interest loans and families moved back into an area that had appeared to be beyond hope. Today, as the director of the Southernside Community Center, Lila Mae Brock continues to improve the standard of living. The Southernside Center operates a noon meal program which feeds 1,600 homeless people and senior citizens each month. Special programs for youth include Boy and Girl Scouts, supervised recreation programs, an education program in which young people are taken to Furman University to receive one-on-one tutoring each Monday, and a daily after-school tutoring program. She tells students, “You can never succeed in life if you don’t reach back and help somebody else. Never be selfish or self-centered.” Her philosophy is, “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.” She has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Governor’s Order of the Palmetto and the Jefferson Award.