In what has become a pre-Thanksgiving tradition in the Charleston area, thousands came together for the annual "Feeding the Multitude" event to share fellowship and their cultures on Johns Island on Saturday.
Nearly 1,000 volunteers from more than 30 churches on Johns and Wadmalaw islands pulled together this week to provide a free Thanksgiving-style feast for nearly 2,000 in the fourth annual event at St. John's Parish (Episcopal) Church. Volunteers also took meals to 200 people who are unable to leave homes and leftovers to Crisis Ministries.
The Johns Island event started when the church volunteered for a Feeding the Multitude event, started by local Rev. Dallas Wilson, in Charleston five years ago. The church decided to bring the concept to the island as a way to break down the barriers, especially between congregations composed predominantly of whites, African Americans or Hispanics, and unite to serve the island's less privileged populations.
It has worked, said this year's coordinator, Claudia Boyce.
"The vision was, take this to our own community,' said Boyce. "The first year we had 12 churches. Now we have over 30. And we all come together as a community. While the main objective of course is to serve people and give them a wonderful meal, it has been so great for community relations."
A key component of bringing people together, she added, is providing live entertainment from across the spectrum of age, race and culture. Saturday's entertainment included a steel drum band from Haut Gap Magnet Middle School, gospel singers, spiritually-minded magician Rhett Rudolph and a children's Latin dance troupe from Holy Spirit Catholic Church on Yonge's Island.
Feeding the Multitude has spawned another effort by the churches, bringing the Convoy of Hope to Johns Island for the first time on Dec. 10, according to LRP Ministry Pastor Mary Stoney, who is president of the Sea Island Alliance of Ministries.
Stoney said the Convoy of Hope will feature free medical and dental help, hair cuts, family portraits, information on jobs and groceries. It will be similar to three other Convoys held on James Island and in Charleston and North Charleston.
"We want to let people know we're here for them," said Stoney, adding that she thinks churches on Johns Island are more cohesive than other parts of Charleston. "Johns Island has the most churches that have come together and united under one aspect, to help the community, and cooperation and coming together for fellowship. It's been one wonderful thing after another."
Among the multitude enjoying a meal on a warmed up Saturday was Amy Sanchez, who brought her three children, two nieces and a nephew -- ranging in age from 12 months to 15 years -- all of whom had just finished eating and were ready for dessert.
"The food is great. We enjoy the fellowship and love to hear the music," said Sanchez, who lives on Johns Island but attends Victory Baptist Church on James Island. "We're going to hang out a bit before we go home."