Bundled in knit hats and rain-soaked jackets, the line of people snaked around Tricounty Family Ministries’ cafeteria past folding tables and out the door down Rivers Avenue. From elderly in wheelchairs to newborns tucked in their mother’s coats, the sheer mass of humanity was overwhelming. If I observed too long, my throat would catch. So I used my task as a distraction. Carefully plating Jim N Nick’s biscuits for some of the 2,000 people who attended last year’s Tricounty Family Ministries’ free Christmas brunch was the only way I could avoid tearing up. The reality of what I was seeing was just too much.
This is the story Conde Nast has yet to write. Our award-winning County is home to a population of 14.9 percent who live below the poverty line. Underneath our carefully crafted veneer there are hundreds of people in this county who go without. Hundreds who would wait in the rain for an hour and a half, holding their squirming children’s hands and escorting their elderly family and disabled friends, to experience the brief reprieve of a warm, nourishing holiday meal.
The magnitude of the need in the Lowcountry didn’t hit me until I greeted a small boy in that buffet line.
“Can I have two biscuits?” his tiny voice dared to ask. His mother shot him an appalled look. But when I answered “Of course,” you would have thought I’d just handed him a winning lottery ticket.
What state must a child be in to be that thrilled to get a bonus biscuit?
I say all this not to brag. I wasn’t at last year’s Christmas Brunch as some masquerading hero. To be quite honest, the only reason I ended up there was because I wrote about Tricounty Family Ministries’ dire need for a walk-in cooler in my story, “Walk-Ins Welcome.” As part of our coverage, City Paper volunteered to create a Go Fund Me account to raise money to buy the soup kitchen the giant fridge it desperately needed, but that was the extent of my agreement. Sure, I’d write about the soup kitchen and mention the crowdfunding campaign, but I had serious doubts our little story could garner enough interest to raise the whopping $20,000 needed to buy the walk-in.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of over 200 people, Tricounty Family Ministries got its new refrigeration system installed nine weeks after our story ran. And for the past year it’s helped serve 45,000-plus meals.
But a walk-in doesn’t solve hunger. It’s not a home, it’s not a job, it’s not childcare or medical attention or mental health programs, either. It is but one element within Tricounty Family Ministries’ range of services, and the need is still so great.
TFM’s new Executive Director Delores Dacosta says she expects another 2,000 people at this year’s Christmas Brunch on Fri. Dec. 22, maybe more. To put on the event, 75 plus volunteers will work from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. to serve the 400 pounds of smoked ham, 80 gallons of mac n cheese, and 60 gallons of mashed potatoes to all who attend. It’s a logistical challenge and a pricey one at that. To make the brunch happen, they need at least $17,000.
But that’s nothing, right Charleston?
On behalf of the City Paper, and in partnership with Feed the Need — a nonprofit coalition of chefs dedicated to helping feed the hungry at area shelters — I’d like to invite you to donate to our Tricounty Family Ministries Christmas Brunch Go Fund Me campaign. The money raised will not only go toward the meal, it will help provide a coat and toy for every child, in addition to hygiene goods as well as a turkey and Christmas dinner fixings for each person who walks through the door.
“The worst thing that can happen is to watch a child not get anything for Christmas,” says Dacosta. “That’s heartbreaking. We strive to make sure our families can come together for fellowship, enjoy fine food, and songs. This helps to add a little bit of joy to their lives.”
A moment of joy that, with your help, can begin with a biscuit.
To donate, visit gofundme: Christmas Brunch for the Hungry.