Since she was evicted from her Charleston apartment six months ago, Priscilla Polite and her five children have bounced between homeless shelter beds and brief stays with relatives.
The 37-year-old single mother has no steady job and few prospects for finding one. With little money in her pocket, it's about all she can do to feed and clothe her kids, who range in age from 4 to 14 years old.
Polite and her children were grateful for a chance to share a warm holiday meal Thursday morning, courtesy of a free Thanksgiving banquet organized by Without Walls Ministry. They were among more than 500 people served by a small army of volunteers at Hampton Park. This is the fourth year the feast has been held there.
Dozens of volunteers from area churches served up heaping plates of traditional fare, going through about 50 turkeys, 30 hams and gobs of fixings. Guests musicians serenaded the crowd with hymns and inspirational songs while other volunteers played games with children, handed out free groceries and winter clothing.
"This is just wonderful," Polite said. "It's just nice to know there are people out there who care about us."
Before noon, volunteers had already given away some 500 blankets and winter coats.
"I just thank God for this and the opportunity to see his hand in bringing everyone together like this," said Clayton Heineman of Hope Assembly of God, who helped coordinate the event. "Help is just coming in from so many different directions."
Heineman said it was amazing how the event came together. Early in the week organizers were short on desserts, and the vans they were counting on to ferry needy people to the event broke down. Word went out that assistance was needed and help came pouring in. By Thursday, organizers had been loaned two buses and four vans, he said.
"This is truly a blessing," said the Rev. Alma Dungee, president of the North Central Neighborhood Association. "We have such a great need. We truly do."
Danny Lhota, a 46-year-old homeless man, couldn't agree more. A carpenter by trade, Lhota said he lost his home three months ago after the company he was working for shut down and took his job with it.
"There aren't any jobs out there now, so I've been just living in the streets," he said, shaking his head. "This here today is beautiful. It's about togetherness."
Cora Memminger, an 80-year-old East Side resident, dressed in her Sunday best for the event. She is retired and living on a fixed income, and times have been very tight. She didn't even have enough money to get to New York for her niece's funeral Thursday.
"It's very hard," she said. "So this is great -- the best. I just thank God they are doing this."
Cousins Hayley Cassidy and Danielle McGregor, both 12, were among those who gave up part of their Thanksgiving to help out at the event. They didn't regret that a bit.
"This really opens your eyes -- wide open," said Hayley, a Mount Pleasant resident. "You feel very thankful for what you have and it makes you just want to help them."
Isle of Palms residents Lisa and Rusty Denman had similar sentiments. "This a real chance to share hope with people and fellowship as well," Lisa Denman said.