By Noel Tillman
Charity and caring for one another do not stop because of religious, ethnic, gender or political differences. In Beaufort, Our Lady’s Pantry goes beyond offering immediate subsistence with health advice, food distribution, diet recommendations, and prayerful intervention or assisting with medical insurance, job searches and food stamps. Our Lady’s Pantry is located at 70 Carolyn Drive, near the Beaufort High football stadium on Lady’s Island and it is one group that is ensuring its work takes the steps needed to help the community.
The pantry is sponsored and supported by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston. The diocesan office is located in Columbia, SC, and has established goals that meet the diverse needs of many across the state.
More than 50 volunteers make it happen at Our Lady’s Pantry, and together they serve the poor five days a week, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Students from the surrounding middle and high schools often come in after school and over the holidays to assist the volunteers who travel from as far as Hilton Head, Yemassee, and Okatie. The only paid staff person is Pam Rice, the Regional Coordinator of the Lowcountry for Catholic Charities, and her day begins before the volunteers arrive and long after they leave.
Pam shared, “This program is truly ecumenical, and the helpers and recipients do not need to be members of the local parish, St. Peter’s. The volunteers, like those receiving assistance, are from different ethnic backgrounds and genders, and age groups range from 12 through 70.”
The criteria to receive assistance is prescribed by the Lowcountry Food Bank and stipulated by the federal government guidelines. It is based on the number in the family, the inclusive income and the food stamp benefits of everyone in the household. When patrons register, they must bring an up-to-date picture ID (i.e. SC driver’s license), a recent local utility bill confirming their identity as the head of household and the living address of the applicant’s ID. The patrons can return once every 30 days with their picture ID in hand.
Items distributed come from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Lowcountry Food Bank, individual and church donations, and Second Helpings, which picks up and distributes surplus food from local supermarkets and restaurants. Last year, the diocese provided the money to purchase 378,921 pounds of meat, produce, and non-perishable foods, while Second Helpings enhanced the pantry’s food allotment to the clients by 155,427 pounds.
The pantry’s recipients’ monthly pick up of food is allotted based on family members living at home. A single person would receive about 20-30 pounds of food, and a larger family might receive at least twice that amount. The grocery cart includes meat, veggies, fruit, bread, canned and non-perishables to feed that household for about 3 to 4 days. The financial value of the items is estimated to be between $35 to $100. Bagged items vary each month depending upon what foods are available.
Our Lady’s Pantry stands out among the many groups in the Beaufort area involved in food redistribution because it offers preventative nutritional and diet awareness information to clients. A person who is having weight and related health issues should not stock up on processed food items, sugar, and/or carb laden foods. Each person receives a physician prepared health handout that addresses specific health issue(s) that define the disorder, the symptoms, risk factors, treatment to get better, and specific foods to eat or not eat. Handouts address diabetes, high cholesterol, acid reflux, high blood pressure, pregnancy, and others problems.
During intake interviews, community members register for assistance, share their diagnosed illness(es), and a medical information handout is reviewed to ensure they understand how eating habits might exacerbate health issues, and what foods would improve their health.
Routine exercise is also pushed as part of the action plan. A special high weight-range medical scale was donated to the pantry by United Health Care to assist with screening information to encourage the client’s holistic monthly review toward wellness. All this health information encourages clients to “Eat Well to Be Well”.
Pam Rice shares numerous stories about improved conditions because of these interventions. One man came into the pantry with acute gout in his hands and feet and was counseled and given the appropriate handout. He returned to the pantry opening and closing his fist with great speed and ease and said, “Do you know how long it has been since I could do this?”
Another with migraine headaches could only get relief by getting a shot. She was given the appropriate handout and returned saying, “They’re gone! They’re gone! My migraine headaches are gone!” Others have lost 20 plus pounds over 2-3 months and expressed their appreciation because someone cared. Pam says she also cares for the spiritual needs as well, and prays for and with clients before a surgery or upon the death of a loved one.
All these stories help to emphasize why compassion and caring knows no bounds. Wellness works at Our Lady’s Food Pantry.
Compassionate Beaufort Communities (CBC-SC.org) collects and shares stories of kindness by the many non-profit, charities, churches, and individuals that make a difference in our Beaufort area.