Wednesday, July 2, 2014
One sign that Georgetown County is still feeling the effects of the economic downtown can be found around lunchtime at Friendship Place in Georgetown.
Every Monday through Saturday, anywhere from 60 to 100 people arrive for a free meal. Four times a week it’s a hot meal; twice it’s a bag lunch.
The range of ages of diners is toddlers to senior citizens.
Friendship Place also runs an emergency pantry on Fridays.
The bag lunches are extremely popular, said Kelley Brinson, program manager for Friendship Place, which is located in St. Cyprian’s Catholic Church on Front Street.
“The bags go really fast,” Brinson said. “Everybody knows if it’s a bag day, get here early.”
Bags usually include a canned vegetable, a can of soup, peanut butter and jelly, pasta and sauce, cereal, oatmeal and tuna.
The most popular hot meals are meatloaf and baked chicken. The first diners to get baked chicken usually get on their cell phones to alert their friends, Brinson said.
Jim Harrelson is the food coordinator and cook. A former Army cook for 22 years, he’s been volunteering at Friendship Place for nearly nine years.
He plans the meals about a week in advance, based on whatever donations are on hand. Regular donors include Outreach Farm in Pawleys Island and local farmers.
A fairly new source of donations is renters on Pawleys Island. Several real estate companies collect non-perishable food items left over when renters return home and a volunteer collect the donations and delivers them to the Georgetown facility.
Friendship Place is also a member of the Lowcountry Food Bank, which means Brinson and her staff can collect donations from local supermarkets. The Food Bank coordinates a collection schedule among nonprofits, and tells Brinson which store to go to and on what day.
Volunteers arrive every day around 10:30 a.m. to set up the dining room for lunch which starts around 11 a.m. Everyone who comes to eat is personally served their meal by a volunteer.
Once lunch is finished, usually by 12:15 p.m., volunteers then help clean up in the kitchen.
Volunteers come with church groups or by themselves. One volunteer travels from Pawleys Island every day a hot lunch is served. An International Paper employee gives up his lunch hour once a week to help serve.
Jenni Giltmier, director of Children’s Ministries for Grace Waccamaw Church, which recently became a part of Christ the King Waccamaw, frequently brings members of her group to help serve.
“We were looking for a place we could come every week,” she said. “There’s always something we can do here.”
Giltmier said the kids need to see how other people live in the county.
“It opens their eyes to see things they would normally not get to see,” she added.
Zoe Dear, Julianna Dunlap and Avery McMillan were with Giltmier during a recent visit.
Dear said it made her sad to see children in the dining room. She’s never had to worry about whether there would be dinner in her house, she said.
“It makes me feel grateful for what I have,” she said.
“We’ve never experienced the need of hunger,” she said.
The Grace Waccamaw group really likes to serve, according to Brinson.
“They get really excited about doing this,” she said.
A recent donation of more than 500 cans from Georgetown Middle School has stocked Friendship Place’s pantry for now, but donations are always needed, said executive director Charlie Ball.
Friendship Place accepts donations of non-perishable food items, household items and money and is always looking for volunteers.
For more information go to www.friendshipplaceinc.org.