Some Lowcountry lawmakers wanted to kick off the new year right—by helping others who are less fortunate start 2013 a little brighter.

On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of volunteers gave out food and clothing in front of Charleston public housing on Meeting and Harris streets.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, who said he grew up less than two blocks away, sponsors the event along with other state lawmakers and community leaders.

“The way to show that I care about people is to always come back to my roots and back to the people who for whatever reason fell on bad times as to try to better understand their needs on how we should represent them,” Gilliard said.

Women, men and children picked out coats, pants, shirts and shoes and carried away bags of what they could get. One man, who did not want to be identified, closely examined a light brown coat with a small tear on the sleeve. “I really needed this coat,” he said with a smile, as the coat fit perfectly.

While the event started 11 years ago in an effort to help homeless veterans, it has expanded over the years to help others in need.

“When you look at people who are homeless, I was amazed at a young age to find out that these are educators, these are veterans. These are people who have knowledge. They’re like us,” Gilliard said.

Another sponsor, Without Walls Ministry Director Gordon Cashwell, stores the extra clothes and goods that are collected so they can be provided to people in need throughout the year, said state Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, another sponsor of the event. In addition to Ford, Gilliard and Cashwell, sponsors included state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, the Rev. Edward McClain and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Ridgeland.

Participants included 9.12 Project group, local churches and church organizations, neighborhood and community groups and Charleston Convoy of Hope.

Among the volunteers was a group of seven Boy Scouts from Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston. Their Scout leader, Jerome Rhett, said the same group of boys who helped at last year’s event returned. “They need to give back,” he said. Rhett hopes it builds their character.

Pastor Jonathan Mole of Refreshing Word Church, who made opening remarks during the event, was one of many volunteers hoping to hand out an intangible gift — a little faith and hope for the new year.

“Quit feeling depressed, down and out,” Mole told the crowd. “This is not your end.”

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or