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'Jesus calls us to help each other': Churches, groups providing hearty Thanksgiving meals

Community organizations and churches throughout The T&D Region will be serving up hearty helpings of love and blessings this week.

The Thanksgiving meals will begin Wednesday at Williams Chapel AME Church. Several groups and churches are also offering meals on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot of cooking. We’ve had good support from the business community, individuals, our pastor and church,” said Bennie Brown, a member of Williams Chapel AME Church.

Williams Chapel’s Thanksgiving meal will be served from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the church, which is located at 1198 Glover St., Orangeburg.

A worship service will be held at 11 a.m.

“We invite folks that generally come and attend the service. We will receive them right after. We’ll be glad to serve anyone else who comes, too,” he said.

The menu will include turkey, baked chicken, ham, rice, string beans, sweet potato casserole, macaroni, cake, pies and tea.

The Thanksgiving meal is an extension of the church’s soup kitchen, which runs every Friday and serves hundreds of meals to the less fortunate. Last year’s Thanksgiving meal served more than 700 people.

On Thanksgiving Day, seven churches are coming together for the annual Thanksgiving Feast and Praise event. It will be held from 11 to 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. The event is free and open to the public.

Norma Sells, a member of St. Paul’s, said the event is open to everyone from those who may not have family to celebrate the holiday to the elderly who may not have anywhere else to go.

“All are invited. If somebody doesn’t have anywhere to go – and there are people that don’t – then they’re invited also,” Sells said.

Turkey and dressing, rice and gravy, green beans, macaroni and cheese and desserts will be among the items served up.

Sells said the event has been a success.

“We’ve been well pleased. It’s what we’re called to do. Jesus calls us to help each other, and I think it’s a bonding together of the community,” she said.

Participating churches include First Presbyterian Church, Cornerstone Community Church, Unity Fellowship Community Church, Kingdom Life Ministries, Cedar Grove Baptist Church, New Mt. Zion Baptist Church and St. Paul’s UMC.

Other groups are also demonstrating their love for their communities on Thanksgiving.

Denmark resident Mary Polasky, who attends Denmark First Baptist Church, is a member of one such organization: Feed My Sheep Ministries. The 12-year-old ministry is a coalition of several Denmark churches and members of the Denmark-Olar High School class of 1983.

Polasky said the ministry will be holding two community Thanksgiving Day lunches.

“We want to reach out to the community to let them know that Christ loves them and we love them, too. We reach out in love, giving them food and clothes. But we are also there just to give them a place to go and feast on Thanksgiving Day,” Polasky said.

She added, “This is open to everyone. It can be someone that’s just lonely and by themselves, or an elderly person who is by themselves. It can be a family that just doesn’t want to cook. We welcome anyone to come. We just want to reach out in love to give back to the community because we’ve been blessed so much.”

The first community lunch will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at St. Phillips Holiness Church, Olar.

Call Denmark First Baptist Church at 803-793-3690 for more information. Shuttle bus service will also be available by calling 803-571-0400.

Another community Thanksgiving Day lunch will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Denmark-Olar High School, Heritage Highway, Denmark. A clothes give-away will also be held, along with bags of nonperishable food items.

Call Denmark First Baptist Church at 803-793-3690 for more information. Shuttle bus service will be available by calling 803-571-0400.

Turkey and all the trimmings will be served. Polasky said more than 1,200 plates have been served since Feed My Sheep Ministries’ inception in 2006.

“We give God all the glory because it’s amazing that we give that many people that much to eat. It’s amazing to see the people that come out. It’s also open to students from Voorhees that don’t go home for the holidays,” Polasky said.

“We have people from other counties come, too. We give God all the glory because it wouldn’t be possible without him,” she added.

Up to 400 people are expected to be served through a Thanksgiving meal to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church of North at 405 Stafford Ave.

The meal will include turkey and dressing, giblet gravy, candied yams, green beans, a roll and banana pudding, along with tea or lemonade.

The Rev. Rick Jones, pastor of North First Baptist Church, said this is the fourth year the church has served the meal.

“We have a lot of people in our community that struggle, and it’s just our way of reaching out and making sure that everybody has a Thanksgiving meal if they want to come,” Jones said. “We do deliver to the shut-ins from our church and other churches around if they let us know how many they need and have someone to come and pick them up and deliver them.”

He welcomes individuals to come eat and fellowship at the church.

“We have a fellowship hall set up, and we can sit about 80 to 90 at a time. We can set up more chairs, but that’s usually sufficient. It’s just a good way to reach out to the community,” Jones said.

First Baptist Church of Orangeburg will also provide a Thanksgiving meal for the community at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

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Denmark to obtain legal counsel in wake of class-action lawsuit over use of HaloSan in well

DENMARK – Denmark City Council voted unanimously Monday night to authorize the mayor and the administrator to obtain legal counsel to defend the city against a class-action lawsuit brought against it by a group of residents over the use of the chemical HaloSan in one of its wells.

The action was taken by the council after it met in closed, executive session to discuss a legal matter.

The complaint filed by the residents describes HaloSan as “a disinfectant used to treat pools and spas” that is not approved by the EPA to disinfect drinking water. The lawsuit alleges Denmark had not “regulated the dosage of HaloSan in the administration process or filtered such water before distribution.”

Some Denmark residents, many of whom attended Monday's council meeting, believe the water is to blame for health issues they've experienced. Over the years, several of them have come to Denmark City Council meetings carrying bottles of rust-colored water from their taps to show officials and to question the quality and safety of their drinking water.

More than 50 residents attended Monday's meeting following a report by CNN that the city, with approval of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, "was adding a substance to one of four wells, trying to regulate naturally occurring iron bacteria that can leave red stains or rust-like deposits in the water. The substance, known as HaloSan, was not approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to disinfect drinking water."

The CNN report noted that several experts contacted said they could not find another instance where HaloSan was added to a drinking water system.

Bamberg, D-Bamberg, last week told The Times and Democrat that he and Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, met with DHEC officials to determine how the decision was made to use the non-EPA approved product in drinking water. He said he would call for a special committee to investigate why HaloSan usage was allowed. 

At Monday's council meeting, Johnnie Ruth Rosa, a 30-year resident of Denmark, said she and others first brought in discolored city water to show Denmark officials in 2010. She said the water was unsuitable to bathe in, wash clothes in or drink, adding that many of the citizens had rashes from the water. Rosa 

She said former state representative Bakari Sellers contacted Earl Hunter, the commissioner of DHEC at the time, regarding the water quality. Many of the citizens had rashes from the water, Rosa said, adding that she has lead in her blood even though she has not used the city water for more than 20 years.

“Denmark’s water got the name ‘Denmark tea’ because it was so dark," she said.

Rosa asked how the city had used $490,500 it received several years ago for water system infrastructure.

“We had three phases in the water system. We had two new wells. The second well was found to be contaminated," Mayor Gerald Wright told her. "Less than a year later, it was shut down. We went back to the Cox Mill well at that point.”

“At that point, we purchased water directly from Bamberg, piping (it) between the cities. It was there to service an industrial park. They provided water. When our new wells were completed, we no longer had to use that,” Wright said.

The mayor added, “Those two wells provided an adequate supply. The third one was a back-up. They are all running appropriately. It would be asinine on our part not to do that."

“I use water from the city supply every day. We are going to make sure the water is of high quality. We are going to use every method to do that,” he said.

David Bell, a citizen and veteran, said, "I am not sure I am involved in this water issue or not. I recovered from a surgery. I put a jacuzzi in to help me … . Now, my whole right side is in deep pain, and there is no visible injury.”

Bell continued, “I survived the military and war. The past eight months, things have been going downward. I heard some stuff (about the water) and wanted to see if somebody had the same kind of experiences."

“We will try to assist you to see what the problem is,” Wright told him.

Councilman Calvin Odom told the citizens,“As a lifetime resident and former educator, I must say when you are doing your reading, if there are 30 pages, you cannot tell the story by reading the first three pages.”

“A lot of us are not seeking solutions. We are seeking payments," Odom told them.

Wright added, “We have followed procedures by an agency in the state that has the responsibility to regulate water systems in this state. There are things that we test on a frequent basis - monthly, quarterly and semi-annually.

“In addition, we have self-testing, which we send to labs for analysis. When there is something we need to address, we have dealt with it expediently."

Councilwoman Hope Weldon said, “I spoke with DHEC on Friday. They said they would come (to this meeting). They changed their mind.”

“DHEC told me we needed to get in touch with Region 4 of the EPA in Atlanta, Georgia,” she continued.

From there, she said she was referred to a special assistant to the director of the EPA in Washington, D.C.

“He referred us back to the Region 4 office," Weldon said.

"They are going to get back with us."

Floats scarce after change; Saturday's 4 p.m. parade in Orangeburg still has plenty of interest, entries, chamber leader says

A change in the Orangeburg County Christmas Parade left some people scrambling to find a float.

St. Matthews-based Southeastern Floats says it will not be able to serve Orangeburg’s parade this year due to a change in the parade's traditional date.

"I am sorry I will not be able to do Orangeburg," Southeastern Floats owner Denver Wright said. "We don't have anything available for the Orangeburg parade.”

The Orangeburg County Christmas Parade's date was changed from its traditional Sunday to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.

Wright’s company has been sending 17 to 20 floats to the Orangeburg Christmas parade every year for at least the last decade. Groups tend to book the floats up to a year in advance.

"Orangeburg's Christmas parade has been for 10 years plus on Sunday," Wright said. He said there were plans to hold the parade on Sunday, Dec. 2, so he booked a lot of floats for other parades on Saturday, Dec. 1. And then the parade’s date changed.

People in the parade “may have a float but they will not have it from Southeastern Floats," he said.

Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 High School for Health Professions interim Principal Johnny Murdaugh says the school planned to enter the parade, but the date change had it scrambling for a float. Murdaugh said the school has used Southeastern Floats in the past.

“We had one (float) booked since the summer,” Murdaugh said. The school looked for an alternate parade company in Charleston, but couldn’t find one.

Instead of a float with 10 students, the school will have Miss High School for Health Professions riding in a car.

Orangeburg’s Trinity United Methodist Church usually enters its Boy Scout Troop 190 and Childcare Learning Center into the parade using floats from Southeastern Float Company.

But not this year.

“When I made the calls there were none,” said Renee Hamilton, church administrative assistant.

When asked if not being in the parade is a disappointment, Hamilton simply said, “yes.”

The change was made by the parade committee in the middle of October.

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President Reyne Moore said the date change was made “with the intention of supporting other holiday events in the area as well as the parade.”

Other events include the towns of Norway and Holly Hill having their parades earlier in the morning on Dec. 1 and The Bluebird Theater having its holiday children’s show after the Orangeburg parade.

Outdoor entertainment venue Yonder Field has a Christmas event -- its inaugural Lowcountry Christmas Extravaganza -- at the Bowman Yonder Field complex on Sunday, Dec. 2, during the time the Orangeburg County Christmas Parade has traditionally been held.

"The committee’s concept was to provide folks with several options to be out and about in the entire Orangeburg County community that day," Moore said. "They also wished to have the parade as a dusk/early evening parade so that the floats and vehicles would have holiday lights to create a magical experience."

Moore said the chamber has received a handful of calls and emails regarding parade details.

"We realize that the changes taking place are inconvenient for some so we’re going to give them the opportunity to bring their specific concerns to the committee for review for the 2019 parade planning," Moore said. "As a change under my leadership, I will be sending out a parade committee notice in February via a press release to all local media outlets to get feedback and input on the parade from the community."

Despite the date change, Moore said groups continued to sign up for the parade including local bands, community organizations and businesses. She said there will be local performers and vintage antique vehicles as well as Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Moore is confident the parade will turn out well.

"We look forward to a wonderful parade this year and an even better, more collaborative effort to the parade planning for 2019," she said.