As the kitchen of a Meeting Street building crowds with close to 100 people, volunteer Wayne Weart reflects on a time when they weren't able to host the event indoors. 

What started as a group of college kids wanting to feed the homeless has since evolved into a multi-night event with volunteers from various churches.

God's Hot Dog Ministry is now held almost daily. Church volunteers share fellowship with the community while serving a free evening meal to an average of 60 to 70 people. 

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently found South Carolina's homeless population has decreased by more than 20 percent. But that doesn't mean the homeless community isn't in need of resources. 

Weart, one of the ministry coordinators, said the hot dog dinner is one of the few places where the Charleston homeless community can get a free evening meal. The ministry is also open to the general public, he said, so participants don't necessarily have to be homeless to get a free meal.

"We don't care who comes," he said.

Having worked with other organizations in Charleston that cater to the homeless community, Weart said the ministry has been a good fit for a lot of people since it allows for them to minister to the community. 

Beginning with East Cooper Baptist Church, the ministry includes volunteers from Miles Road Baptist Church, St. Matthew's Lutheran Church and Eastbridge Presbyterian Church. 

The event took off more than 10 years ago when a couple of college students who attended East Cooper Baptist Church felt compelled to serve their community more directly after hearing a challenge from a speaker. The speaker argued that if they really cared about the world, they would take their work directly to the streets. 

After that, the program started with the students establishing a hot dog stand and giving out free hot dogs once a week on Meeting Street.

Weart, who has been with the ministry for 10 years, said when the church got connected, more nights were added.

"It's gone from one night a week to seven nights a week," he said.

Today, volunteers aren't only giving out free hot dogs. They give free clothing and hygiene kits, too. They also give flu shots to the community and first-aid services since it can be difficult for the homeless to connect with health care providers. 

"And we treat whatever we find," said Allan Woods, a local certified EMT working with the ministry. 

Woods said he sees the ministry as another avenue to show the community they care.

Though they have moved the program indoors, Weart emphasized that may not be the case forever. He said there is a chance they might lose access to their current building at 529 Meeting St. considering all of the surrounding construction. He said they have at least one year promised at their current location. 

Warren Westerberry, who's been a participant since 2016, said even though the ministry has done great work, he believes more could be done if the volunteers were able to acquire greater resources.

"I would love to see more done, even here," he said. "But this is an awesome ministry." 

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