SUMMERVILLE -- The woman sat in her truck crying before she went in. Sixty-four years old, never out of a job, now she was about to ask for help with food from a small, rural church she doesn't attend.
Inside she is greeted by the light in Gladys Edge's eye. Quit it, Edge tells her, only half-kidding. "You come into here crying and you cause me to cry."
The next person into God's Kitchen at Murray United Methodist Church stumbles a moment at the door. Edge turns and shakes her head.
"Anybody who trips over something coming into the church, I have to charge them $10," she says, gently ribbing. The woman looks up almost frightened, then smiles. People keep coming in, carrying a toddler, leaning stiffly on a cane, shuffling with eyes squinting sightless and hands out in front. Sometimes the line stretches out the door.
Edge leads them one by one into the food pantry, where she and other church volunteers stock a box of food. She thinks about the food store that turned down her plea for supplies, telling her food banks make people lazy.
"You know," she says, "there's some people in Summerville who don't think hunger is going on."
Edge won't tell exactly how old she is. She doesn't drive, so day after day she gets rides to stores looking for sales or donations, or to other churches, to ask members for their help. Maybe the most remarkable thing about her is, she's not all that unusual.
She is the sort of everyday person who makes up the soul of the Lowcountry -- quietly doing what they can to meet a need that grows in the recession as the means to help shrinks.
"I don't know that anybody would recognize she is a hero in the community. But golly day, if we had more people like her everyone in the community would be much better," said Art Rooney, a Bethany United Methodist Church member, in Summerville, who came to help at the kitchen with his wife, Helen.
Edge is down to earth. She lives with "the meanest dog in the world, but he's got a lawyer," in a home that might be more modest than the homes of some of those asking for help. "You're here today. I may be here tomorrow," she says. She can be abrupt and no-nonsense, looking someone in the eye who's lying about their need and telling them off.
But she won't say no. She makes sure a modest food and clothes pantry in an off-to-the-side church keeps a big hand out to people in her community.
"Whatever it takes. She's an extraordinary person. She always there," said fellow church member Sara Grant.
Edge hasn't had it easy. She was forced to retire early from work at a center for mentally and physically disabled people when she was attacked by a client and severely injured. All her life, though, she has wanted to work helping to feed people. She helped form God's Kitchen after an older acquaintance took in six grandchildren at the death of their mother, then half-starved herself to care for them.
Edge's persistence helped turn the pantry from a tiny, congregation-stocked effort to a community-wide endeavor. When someone coming for help tries to thank her, she turns it gently aside.
"You know, I get thanked every day when I get up, because God gets me up," she says.
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