Elnora Taylor knows that the Rev. Clementa Pinckney's spirit was smiling down from heaven on Saturday.

The morning was blessed with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s as volunteers from Emanuel AME Church's congregation and the community gathered in a fellowship hall to serve food to the homeless. It was the same room where Dylann Roof carried out the June 2015 mass shooting in which Pinckney and eight other worshipers were killed.

A jury recommended the death penalty at the end of his trial on Tuesday. Roof was formally sentenced on Wednesday. 

The homeless feeding, now in its second year, sprung from a health fair that was started by the late reverend, Taylor said.

The church member and retired registered nurse said she felt called by God to take what he started and turn it into a broader initiative, now called the Clementa C. Pinckney Outreach Ministry. 

"He was a man of passion, grace and love," Taylor said. "He just loved to work out in the community, so I'm here trying to fill his big shoes."

Saturday's homeless feeding also included a health fair, a selection of free clothing, blankets, shoes, and two registered nurses offering health advice and blood pressure checks. 

The nurses, Lily Cabading and Carolyn Whaley, said they had people coming up to them all morning for a blood pressure check and asking questions.

Cabading and Whaley said they provided information about the symptoms of stroke, and the importance of taking prescribed medications, diet and exercise. They also offered information about facilities where those in need could receive essential treatments, such as Harvest Free Medical Clinic at 1670 Dry Dock Ave. in the Charleston Naval Complex in North Charleston. 

"We hope that other organizations, such as churches, get involved with feeding the homeless and underprivileged," Whaley said. "We need to have more outreach."

The Rev. Eric Manning, the current pastor at Emanuel, said this kind of outreach is a natural and essential part of the church's mission.

"It's important that we continue to sow seeds of love," Manning said.

For Henry Norman Hopkins, a 71-year-old Army veteran who lives at a retirement home in downtown Charleston, feeling that love has been a godsend during a trying time.

Hopkins' eyes welled up with tears and his lips trembled as he spoke about a friend from his time in the Army who recently committed suicide.

"I think they're very strong," he said, looking around the fellowship hall as volunteers served food and people chatted over meals.

Tyrone Mack, a 48-year-old homeless man, said he extended his blessings to Pinckney's family and the families of the eight other victims, and that his heart was filled with good feelings after coming to the church. 

Feeling the compassion of Emanuel's members and other volunteers was inspiring, Mack said.

"We gotta keep on moving things forward," he said. 

With the event in full swing and people filling the fellowship hall, Taylor took a moment to reflect.

Pinckney's spirit has been a strong presence, she said.  

"No more than last week, he told me he's going to give me the strength to carry on," Taylor said. "Let's do more from our hearts. (God) wants us to feed the poor, clothe the naked and strengthen the weak when they are torn down because you never know what's going to happen to us in this lifetime."

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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