RaGina Saunders, owner of North Charleston’s Scott’s Grand Center and founder of the Soul Food Alliance, believes everyone deserves to eat. That’s why she’s opened a pay-what-you-can restaurant in her catering banquet hall.

“The area is in need,” she says of her Dorchester Road neighborhood. “There’s a huge lower income area across the street and behind the building. A lot of those people are on fixed incomes and everything they get is going to keep the roof over their head. There’s nothing left in the refrigerator.”

For a time Saunders’ family would give away free leftovers to area neighbors, but then she heard about nonprofit organization One World Everybody Eats. The program, founded by Denise Cerreta in 2003, helps food vendors open pay-what-you-can eateries and now Saunders has opened her own — Destiny Community Cafe (5060 Dorchester Road #320). 

“We started the Monday after Easter,” Saunders says. Beginning this week, however, the cafe now has regular hours Mon.-Fri., noon to 2 p.m. And diners really can pay as much or as little as they have.

“One, we didn’t want to just be a charity case,” explains Saunders. “People want the opportunity to pay. They might have a dollar or two and they don’t want to feel like charity. We want to give them a hand up instead of a hand out.”

And no amount is too small. “One lady was embarrassed. She gave my mom a dollar and 14 cents,” says Saunders. “She said, ‘This all have.'” But Saunders wants to encourage guests that that’s OK — that’s what the cafe is there for. Destiny Community Cafe is set up as a buffet. Diners can select their food through the buffet line, then at the end they’re given an envelope to place their pay so there’s no transaction that could be cause for shame. 

Since launching in April, Destiny Community Cafe has operated completely out of pocket, but now they’re beginning promotions and accepting donations. “We’re looking for volunteers,” says Saunders. “And we’re really strict on food donations. No dairy, no canned food. We work with the Park Circle farmers market or get vegetables from Johns Island.” The goal is to serve the underserved what everyone else has access to — locally-grown delicious meals.  

To inquire about donating food or volunteering, call (843) 926-0513.

Love Best of Charleston?

Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.