Saundra and Michael Smith never saw it coming: the impact they would have on their community.
Five years ago, the New Life Deliverance Temple on St. Helena Island decided to start a ministry to distribute food. “We were two naïve little rabbits back then,” Saundra recalled, “just retired and looking to get involved.” Soon, the Smiths were handing out bags of food to 20 clients each month.
The couple then decided to offer continuing education classes on topics important to their neighbors. “We brought the community into us,” Saundra remarked. Classes on diabetes, hypertension, fire safety and mental health, taught by local organizations, brought a great increase in food bank visitors. But when COVID-19 ended the classes, the numbers dropped. “That’s when we realized that transportation on St. Helena was a problem,” Saundra said. “So we started delivering to seniors’ porches.”
One food distribution per month soon became a five-day-a-week meal delivery program, serving an average of 50 individuals each day. The Smiths found funding to purchase an old van, and soon Beaufort Memorial Hospital began preparing and donating the meals. This enterprise is about more than meal distribution: “We do wellness checks,” when delivering food, Saundra explained, and sometimes discover even more need, as when “we found 12 people living in a house that was only slated to receive two meals.”
The Smiths also added an after-school program, and proudly note that it has been picked up by Beaufort County. “Kids were sometimes more excited about the food than learning,” Michael said. The program provided more opportunities to get to know people in their community. And it uncovered more needs, like the family of five that was living in their car.
Today, the ministry delivers meals to seniors and children and still maintains their original mission: the food bank that distributes food once per month on the third Wednesday. They are grateful for all of the community support, including Second Helpings (which provided 13,533 pounds of food last year), Beaufort Memorial Hospital, and local restaurant Gullah Grub, along with grants and cash donations from local grocery stores. As they said in a recent Facebook post, “The cost of food is getting higher, but we are standing in the gap for our community.” The agency can be reached at email@example.com.