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Bluffton Community Soup Kitchen Serves an Ever-Expanding Community

Volunteer chefs, ready for the afternoon rush.

A typical Monday at the Bluffton Community Soup Kitchen (BCSK) is a whirlwind of activity. Volunteers arrive at 7 am to prepare 400 hot meals.  Soon, three Second Helpings trucks arrive from Bluffton and Hilton Head, bringing produce, breads and meat. They are met by more volunteers, who quickly assemble an outdoor food pantry.  Still more volunteers – “our ‘boots on the ground’,” as Executive Director Constance Martin-Witter describes them, stream in to pick up meals for delivery in Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties.

Second Helpings Executive Director Marcus Tanner and board president Mary Ann Bell joined Martin-Witter’s team of volunteers on a recent Monday to help package the hot meals and work in the food pantry.  They were thoroughly impressed with the efficiency of the operation, and the care that was taken to ensure that the food was attractively presented.  “It’s an important way to show respect to the recipients,” Martin-Witter explained.

By 1 pm, the Campbell Chapel AME Church parking lot was full, as families waited their turn to “shop” the food pantry.  Within the hour, about 70 families filled bags and boxes with food.  Nearly all of the food at the outdoor food pantry comes from Second Helpings – a total of 368,709 pounds in 2021.  BCSK adds fresh fish every Thursday.  The pantry serves about 500 people per week, including locals as well as people from Beaufort, Estill, Walterboro and Savannah.

BCSK was founded by Martin-Witter’s mother, Ida Martin, in 2010.  Mrs. Ida, as she was known, was recognized by President Obama with the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2011.  The agency has grown quickly in the ensuing decade, from 50 meals on a Monday to 400 today.  They also expanded the food pantry to two days per week.

Martin-Witter leads the volunteers, plans the menus, does the shopping for the hot meals, packaging, and supplies, writes grants, and handles countless other details.  She says that, without the Second Helpings’ deliveries, they could not afford to feed so many of Bluffton’s hungry.

Gloria Gadson has volunteered with BCSK since day one.  “The need brings me back,” Gadson said.  “People are so grateful, and that keeps me going.”

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