As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact families worldwide, organizations in the South Carolina Pee Dee area partnered to address the growing concern of hunger and food insecurity within the community. The SC State University 1890 Extension Pee Dee Region, Harvest Hope Food Bank of Pee Dee and volunteers from Hamer Church of God and the Chesterfield, Dillon and Marlboro Advisory Council organized to provide much-needed meals for area individuals and families. Over 150 families received fresh and nutritious foods via mobile distribution. The event was held on May 28 at the Hamer Church of God in Dillon, SC.
“The overall event was a huge success. We were able to provide food [boxes of non-perishable items, fruits, vegetables, bread and deserts] to 157 families in need,” said Deborah Hardison, regional director for the Pee Dee Region. “As a native of the region, I am aware of some of the challenges rural counties face. In an already improvised community, like Dillon County, which ranks first in the region for the highest number of low-income families, the onset of COVID-19 created a “perfect storm.” Hunger and food insecurity are significantly impacting counties in the families even greater. With this in mind, 1890 Extension sought an opportunity to provide a solution by working with other organizations.”
The Chesterfield, Dillon and Marlboro Advisory Council helped to connect Stan Rankin, pastor of Hamer Church of God, with the 1890 Extension Pee Dee office. Rankin provided his facility, volunteers and transportation services for the food. Harvest Hope of Pee Dee provided the food.
“It was a blessing to be able to work together with organizations like 1890 Extension and Harvest Hope to provide relief for the community,” said Rankin. ”Cars were backed up for almost a mile as they waited patiently to receive food items. That serves as an indicator there is a need within the community during trying times caused by the pandemic. We want to continue to do more outside of these four walls [at Hamer Church of God], and continue to work with organizations like 1890 because we can do so much more working together,” said Rankin.
“In a time where unemployment is at its highest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for each organization to come together to be a resource for the community was critical,” said Pee Dee Branch Director of Harvest Hope, Nicole Echols. “Each organization played a key role in the success of the mobile food distribution as 1890 Extension provided the resources, Hamer Church of God provided the facility, and we [Harvest Hope] were able to provide the food items.”
Harvest Hope Food Bank is South Carolina’s largest food bank, providing over 50,000 meals by distribution to food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens to those in need in the Midlands, Pee Dee and Upstate areas. The Pee Dee Harvest Hope region serves Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Lee, Marlboro, Marion and Sumter counties.
“We at the Pee Dee office are very passionate about what we do. We believe that any assistance to our community is needed and appreciated,” said Hardison. Hardison plans to continue to partner with community organizations, agencies and individuals to host other mobile food distributions.
For more information on the mobile food distribution event or future events in the Pee Dee region, contact Deborah Hardison at (843) 456-5174, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit scsu.edu/1890.aspx. For more information on Harvest Hope visit www.harvesthope.org/.