Harris Teeter volunteers work at the Lowcountry Food Bank

Volunteers assemble 2,000 Thanksgiving meal bags in early November. Harris Teeter and the Lowcountry Food Bank partnered to assemble and deliver the bags to needy families throughout the region. Gregory Yee/Staff

Thanksgiving is more than just a big bird on the table, relatives on the sofa, and football on the TV. It’s also the season for giving – to each other, to our places of worship, to our community.

Once the James Island County Park’s Holiday Festival of Lights is on, so is the season for special worship services across faiths and food donations for those who need it. There are opportunities to volunteer, and ways to engage on social media. Even Mayor John Tecklenburg is getting into the spirit at James Island Outreach’s Community Thanksgiving Service on Sunday. He will be singing “Amazing Grace” against the backdrop of multiple choirs.

No matter what your interest, you can find a way to join in the community spirit. The state Secretary of State's office has made it easy to find out which charities use more of their donations to serve their clients by issuing his annual Angels and Scrooges list of organizations that either use their money wisely, or not.

For instance, the Lowcountry Food Bank uses almost 98 percent of their donations for food, with only 2 percent going to overhead. The organization notes on its website that one in four children go hungry in our community. It serves 10 coastal counties in the state and aims to distribute more than 24 million pounds of food each year.

Or the International Primate Protection League in Summerville, which provides the only sanctuary for gibbons in the United States. It ranks high on the angels list with 84 percent of its donations going toward services or to help other animal groups.

"We work very hard," said Shirley McGreal, founder. "We give so much money to other groups."

Just how effectively the league uses its funds has been borne out by Hurricane Matthew, which heavily damaged the league's Summerville sanctuary, where more than 30 rescued and unreleasable gibbons are housed in a network of large enclosures and runways. Most of the recovery work has been done by staff with huge helping hands from volunteers.

The sanctuary is one of the few in the world. Gibbons are critically endangered so the league works hand-in-hand with rescue operations in more than 30 countries, focusing on smaller efforts where the money given goes a long way, McGreal said. The league secures and releases grants, as well as encouraging other organizations to do the same.

If you want to volunteer, the Charleston Basket Brigade needs volunteers to deliver dinner to families in need. On Tuesday, it will give out Thanksgiving meals to 3,500 families in need, which is about 21,000 people. Routes have been planned, and drivers are needed to help deliver the turkey dinners that will feed five to six people. The meals will be ready to go starting at 7 a.m. at the Charleston Area Convention Center Exhibit Hall. Get there early to help.

On social media, #GivingTuesday will be celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as people are encouraged to donate to the charity of their choice. Last year, 700,000 people participated, donating $116 million worldwide. It's increasing in popularity since it follows Cyber Monday.

During the holiday season, Blackbaud estimates that charities will receive about 25 percent of their budget as people open their hearts and wallets. Surprisingly, they say that most donations will be given the last week of the year, with the most happening on Dec. 31.

With all this in mind, here’s a list of this year’s Angels and Scrooges. The Angels spent the highest percent of their donations on their services, the Scrooges, the least.

And check out our listing of Thanksgiving week events. 


Aiken Performing Arts Group Inc., Aiken: 82.7percent

Dot's Kitchen of Westminster, Westminster: 85.4 percent

Free Medical Clinic of Darlington County, Darlington: 97.8 percent

Hope Inc., Rock Hill: 90.6 percent

HospiceCare of the Piedmont, Inc., Greenwood: 92.1 percent

International Primate Protection League: 83.9 percent

Lowcountry Food Bank Inc., Charleston: 97.7 percent

Pajama Program Inc., New York, NY: 92.0 percent

Speak for Animals, Greenville: 87.8 percent

Teen Angels, Little River: 91.2 percent


Charitable Organizations

Caddy for a Cure, Inc., Coral Springs, Fla.: 34.1 percent

Center for American Homeless Veterans Inc., Falls Church, Va.: 27.3 percent

Committee for Missing and Abused Children Inc., Lawrenceville, Ga.: 10.8 percent

Law Enforcement Education Program, Troy, Mich.: 28.3 percent

National Cancer Assistance Foundation Inc., Daytona Beach, Fla.: 24.0 percent

Purple Heart Services Inc., Annandale, Va.: 18.8 percent

The New Hope Foundation Inc., Nashville, Tenn.: 27.9 percent

Veterans Relief Network Inc., Dyer, Ind.: 33.4 percent

Professional Fundraisers

McCall Development of Charleston LLC, Charleston: 1.1 percent

Palmetto’s Children Thrift Store, Columbia: 0.8 percent

Reach Stephanie Harvin at 843-937-5557 or on twitter @sharvin101.

Editor, writer, photographer. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter - sharvin101