You would think that having a full-time job, plus a part-time job, would keep
the Rev. Marquis Townes busy enough. But somehow, with the help of his family, he's found a way to also make a difference in the lives of children with special needs. And in a small way, the residents and staff of Eden Terrace in Spartanburg, S.C., are helping him do that this holiday season.
Marquis' full-time position is serving as pastor of Destiny Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C. Two nights a week, he works from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., handling maintenance for Eden Terrace. About a year ago, he and his wife, Paula, completed a 10-month training program to certify the family's home as a Therapeutic Foster Home for the Greenville office of the South Carolina MENTOR program.
So far, his family has taken in eight foster children, one or two at a time, all of them dealing with mental health issues, medical conditions, or both.
How does he manage to do it all? Marquis credits the "power and the beauty" of his family.
"Anyone who knows me will tell you, if I'm not talking about the Lord, I'm talking about my family," he said. "Taking care of these kids has been a family effort."
Everyone in the Townes family pitches in. When the children come home from school, Marquis' mother, Edith Townes, 88, a retired tutor and daycare provider, helps them with their schoolwork. His son, Vincent, 24, gives the kids music lessons, and his other son, Stephen, a college student, plays sports with the kids or takes them to games. His wife, Paula, who also works full-time, enjoys teaching sewing and embroidery skills to the girls who have stayed with the Townes family.
"We make sure every child will leave us with something with her name stitched on it," Marquis said.
Despite his nonstop schedule, Marquis – or "Preacher Mark" as he's called at Eden Terrace – impresses others with his energy and work ethic.
"He's just so personable," said Cindy Hughes, Eden Terrace's Executive Director. "He does all the things nobody else wants to do, yet there's always a smile on his face. There's no negativity." Marquis handles a variety of tasks as the need arises: painting, cleaning carpets, assembling furniture, and more.
He first came to the community by way of his son, Stephen, who worked at Eden Terrace a few years ago. Shortly after the tragic mass shooting in 2015 at a church in downtown Charleston, S.C., the community invited Marquis to lead a prayer service with residents and staff members. Several Eden Terrace staff members attend Marquis' church. Eventually, that led to the part-time job.
Moved by Marquis' story, Eden Terrace has chosen his family for its "What Could You Do with $1" project. Staff presented a donation of $1 per resident and staff member, plus additional money that Eden Terrace staff, residents and family have chipped in.
Marquis says he plans to use the donation toward a TV set and video games for the children's bedroom.
"The video games that my sons played are out-of-date and broken!" Marquis says. "But having the TV and games will give us a tool to help motivate the kids to behave properly."
In considering ways to use the "What Could You Do with $1?" money, staff members heard six different ideas. But it was the Townes family's inspiring story that brought tears to their eyes.
"When Marquis told us his story...there was no hesitation," said Cindy. "We knew this was what we had to do."