More than 500 people lined up outside Tricounty Family Ministries on Wednesday to be treated to a barbecue lunch provided by Iverson Catering.
Every Wednesday, a local restaurant or catering company donates a meal as part of the Charleston's Chefs Feed the Need. Started by Charleston Grill general manager Mickey Bakst, the program has 52 restaurants and caterers involved in giving back to the community.
Volunteers from St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and St. Barnabas Lutheran Church dished out plates of barbecue pork, pasta salad, coleslaw and ice tea to hungry diners.
The hearty meal is a rare occasion for visitors, many of whom cite the poor economy as the main reason they don't have enough food. It also gives them a chance to see old friends.
Judy Long, who is on Social Security disability, said, "It's nice to have a special meal and get out of the house to talk to people. My budget is real tight and this helps."
Families and friends chatted and ate on shady picnic tables outside and occasionally got up for seconds.
Susan Hanshaw, CEO of Tricounty Family Ministries, said they feed up to 400 people every day, but the numbers grow to more than 500 when the Charleston chefs cater.
Iverson Catering normally would have charged at least $7,500 for the catered lunch, but they donated everything free of charge, said Tara Elliot, sales manager.
The economy and lack of jobs are also what brought volunteer Elizabeth Blanton, a junior at Wando High School, to Tricounty Family Ministries. After unsuccessfully searching for a job, Blanton decided to spend her summer volunteering.
"It's a lot of fun and helps me feel better," she said. "I get to show love and give out a good meal."