Charleston stake helps feed local families by partnering with public agencies

Members of the Charleston South Carolina Stake recently helped more than 1,000 families in a large-scale food distribution event by partnering with public agencies.

Some 1,000 free food boxes were distributed to needy families and individuals in the cities of Charleston and North Charleston on Saturday, July 11. For the event, called the Lowcountry Food Distribution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partnered with two local police departments, the Charleston Mayor’s Office and the Salvation Army.

Local authorities helped get the word out to residents through their communication channels, including social media. Local news media also promoted the event on their social media platforms.

Volunteers from the Charleston Stake hand out food boxes on July 11.
Volunteers from the Charleston Stake hand out food boxes on July 11. Credit: David Goltra

The project started with Charleston stake members, who donated more than 21,000 canned goods. Each ward was assigned certain items, like jars of peanut butter and cans of tuna and chicken, that were included in the boxes. Because of COVID-19 restrictions and health concerns, the donated food was collected in drive-through, drop-off style at several locations throughout the stake. The food was warehoused at the North Charleston Coliseum, a 14,000-seat public arena where sporting events and concerts are normally held. 

The 21,000 items were boxed, put onto pallets and loaded onto delivery trucks by volunteers from the Church and the partner agencies under a tight deadline. Each box contained a week’s worth of food for three adults. The Bishop’s Storehouse in Salt Lake City also donated food items for the event.

On July 11, the boxes were distributed simultaneously at two locations where police set up drive-through lines. Cars had lined up for several blocks before the event began. Drivers were asked a few eligibility questions, then proceeded to areas where volunteers loaded the boxes into the vehicles. Many recipients waived and thanked the volunteers before driving away.

A few people drove up on bicycles and rode away balancing the food boxes on their cycles. 

“Watching the recipients get the food boxes made me feel thankful for the opportunity to serve my community and hopefully help someone that may be struggling right now,” said David Goltra, the Charleston stake communications director, who was pivotal in organizing the event, securing the warehouse and getting city officials involved.

Food boxes assembled at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Food boxes assembled at the North Charleston Coliseum. Credit: David Goltra

Laura Anderson, the Summerville 3rd Ward communication specialist for the Charleston stake, played a key role in coordinating the food relief effort. “As I saw the cars line up and the food boxes given out,” she said, “I had an overwhelming feeling of pure joy in realizing we are doing good this day.”

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, who helped hand out food boxes along with Charleston’s Police Chief Luther Reynolds, said: “It was a truly inspiring display of compassionate outreach during an unprecedented time for our citizens. I’d like to commend the [Church] for their remarkable work assembling hundreds of volunteers to bring food relief to thousands of our citizens.”

Hundreds of the food boxes were also driven to local neighborhoods where volunteers handed them out. The boxes were also given to local food pantries and other churches for distribution.