This Sunday will mark the beginning of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week in Kershaw County. In recognition of the week, United Way of Kershaw County partner agencies and local food banks will host several events to raise awareness of hunger and homelessness in Kershaw County
The week will begin with a community food drive which will benefit Kershaw County food banks such as Mt. Moriah’s soup kitchen.
“We (Mt. Moriah Church) started the soup kitchen in 1983 and we are open two days a week,” community food drive organizer Jennie Mitchell-Greene said.
Greene says the food drive will benefit community food pantries by providing them with non perishable food items. The first food drive will be held Sunday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Food Lions located in Camden and Lugoff. The following Friday and Saturday, a food drive will be held at the Piggly Wiggly and IGA grocery stores in Camden, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Greene says the community can participate either by giving monetary donations or purchasing food items in the grocery store to give to volunteers who will be outside of the stores.
Another food pantry which will benefit from the drive is Food for the Soul which has recently opened to serve the community seven days each week.
“We started on Aug. 4 to be open 4 days a week … we saw such an overwhelming need… now the shelter is open no matter what.” Food for the Soul Director Darlene Thomas said.
Thomas also said she’s seen a rise in the number of people coming to use the emergency shelter service.
“In Aug. we had 176 stays,” she said. “In Sept. we had 281 and in Oct had 431 stays … We are seeing a huge amount of people coming in, I think the increase of poverty in Kershaw County is affecting a lot of people.”
In addition to the food drives, New Day on Mill transitional housing will recognize the tenth anniversary of the shelter during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week by hosting an open house on Tuesday Nov. 15 at 1207 Mill Street, Camden. New Day on Mill serves as a women and children’s shelter.
“Since May 2006 through May 2016, we’ve served 149 clients, a total of 58 households. Over 85 percent left homelessness and moved to permanent housing. Over 90 percent left making more money than when they moved in,” said program director Harriet Reid. “Since we only have five cottages, we can’t house everyone who comes through our doors, but we can spend time with them and talk about other options. We refer to other agencies in Kershaw County like Food for the Soul and Mental Health America.”
Reid says she hopes to meet supporters as well as educate the community about the shelter.
“At our open house drop-in, we hope to educate people about the problems facing some of our homeless families as well as different stories of prior residents as we guide them through one of the cottages. We’ve received a lot of support from our community and we could not have done it without the help of our citizens and churches. I hope to see them here to thank them for all their work and prayers,” Reid said.
On Friday Nov. 18, a ribbon cutting for the United Way of Kershaw County Nutrition Center/Mobile Food Pantry will be held marking the start of the mobile Food Pantry program. The public is invited to attend the ribbon cutting and lunch.
Food Pantry Director Nicholas Julian says the main purpose of the program is to provide healthy, nutritious meals to those who live in “food deserts” where it is difficult to get fresh produce and healthy foods. Julian says there are approximately 18,000 county residents who live beyond a food access point.
“Food access points are a huge concern for the county,” Julian said. “We will make the food boxes and take them to the distribution sites where they will be distributed by the volunteers to the community. We are using My Plate and DHEC guidelines to create two weeks’ worth of meal plans per box.”
In order to qualify for the program, recipients must receive government benefit and express a need.
On Nov. 17 the partnering agencies will host a candlelight prayer vigil at the Food for the Soul soup kitchen at 6 p.m. located at 110 East DeKalb St. Camden.
For more information about Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, contact the United Way of Kershaw County at 432-0951.