Two local nonprofit organizations have partnered in a shared mission to enhance the quality of Orangeburg County by providing fresh, affordable food to communities who need it most.
The Cooperative Church Ministries of Orangeburg, or CCMO, and FoodShare Orangeburg joined forces to distribute food boxes in Orangeburg's Nix-Stilton community on Thursday, one of eight distributions which will be conducted across the county through the beginning of November.
"In July, CCMO was awarded a grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation COVID-19 Fund. This grant is designated for food, utilities, rent and medicine. CCMO has organized countywide food distributions in Vance, North, Branchville, Santee and Orangeburg," CCMO volunteer Ray Sabalis said.
Sabalis and CCMO Board Chairman the Rev. James Vigen, along with members of the Nix-Stilton Community Improvement Organization, were among those who converged at the corner of Stilton Road and McLaine Drive for the distribution of 110 boxes of food staples and 100 boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables.
CCMO provided the food staples, while FoodShare Orangeburg provided the boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables.
"The grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation was for $15,000 for food, $20,000 for utilities and rent, and then $2,500 for medicine," Sabalis said.
FoodShare Orangeburg Board Chairman Jim Johnson said that the nonprofit was also provided a grant to fulfill its two-pronged mission to assist local farmers in being more successful and to get fresh fruits and vegetables to people in rural communities and food deserts.
"We applied for a One SC grant this summer to distribute food to the folks that need it. We did the produce side, and CCMO kind of the dry goods/canned goods side. It (the grant) was enough to do over 800 boxes," Johnson said.
Sabalis said, "I would like to acknowledge Jay Cox, the manager at the Piggly Wiggly on Columbia Road, who has done all of the food purchasing for us. When you're shopping for this much food, you just can't go into the grocery store with a shopping cart. So he has ordered all the food for us. They have been just been a fabulous partner in this."
Vigen, the former pastor of Orangeburg Lutheran Church, said he cares about his community and has been driving CCMO's newly donated truck all over for food pickups and deliveries.
"We're so grateful to Ray, who got this special grant. Of course, CCMO has been passing out food at our new location for quite some time, but not everyone can get there. Not everyone knows about it," Vigen said.
"So that's one of the values of this outreach. We're also getting the people to understand who CCMO is. People who didn't get food today, they could still go down to CCMO and get some food," he said, noting that CCMO, however, no longer accepts or gives out clothing.
"We just didn't have the capacity for that in the the new location, but we're continuing to do the other things we've done like rent assistance, utility assistance and food," Vigen said.
Application requests for assistance with utilities, rent or medicine must also be done in-person.
CCMO is located at 2570 St. Matthews Road next to the county's YMCA and Council on Aging facilities.
Vigen added, "We're just so happy that we got this grant because every time we go out, we're providing both fresh vegetables and canned goods. We have 110 of each. Each time we go out, we're giving necessary food and vitamins to 110 families."
Sabalis said the food distribution efforts would also not be possible without help and support for individuals and groups within the community, including Cornerstone Community Church, which provides volunteers who assist with unloading food purchases and packing food boxes
Nix-Stilton CIO member Harry Govan helped organize the effort for his local community.
"This is great. It's a very positive impact for the community. I'm hoping we can begin a relationship with CCMO because this is very impactful for the community. We're here to do whatever we can do for the community," Harry Govan said.
State Rep. Jerry Govan was also on hand at the food distribution. He said food distribution efforts are needed, particularly as many individuals are struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think it's outstanding. CCMO has been a long-standing entity that has provided services to those in need in Orangeburg County. I remember it going back to the days of Roy Mikels and others. To see Ms. Sabalis and other carrying that legacy on is just fantastic," Rep. Govan said.
"It's needed. As we look across the state, a lot of people don't realize how this pandemic has affected the population. The cost of food really has gone up. So these efforts of food redistribution projects have really met a tremendous need in not only this community, but across the state and nation," he said.
The legislator added, "They've stepped in and filled a great need, and I hope that we're able to continue these kinds of efforts."
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