SUMMERVILLE — What started as a three-month initiative has turned into more than six months of distributing food and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizers in charge of the distribution, the Community Resource Center Summerville, say the crowds and the need during the pandemic has only grown.
The biggest help has been the volunteers.
"Our network of 200-plus volunteers has been amazing," said Louis Smith, the director of the center.
On Friday, the center hosted a special recognition event in Hutchinson Square for some of those volunteers. They included airmen of Joint Base Charleston's 437th Aerial Port Squadron.
The team was presented with a custom wood plaque to commemorate its months of service to the Dorchester community.
As of this week, the center has distributed more than 70,000 boxes of groceries through each of its headquarters in Summerville and North Charleston. This was accomplished through the support of dozens of returning volunteers.
Lt. Col. Dain Kleiv said he couldn't be prouder of the team of airmen for their community service. The project falls right in line with the Air Force's core values. One is service before self, Kleiv said.
Kleiv said the logistics team delivers humanitarian and combat supplies worldwide.
On a daily basis, they work to supply aircraft. Helping with the food giveaway furthers that skill set, he said. It also made them the perfect group to help.
"It's giving back to the community that gives so much back to us," he said.
Drive-up giveaways take place in town on Mondays at the Summerville YMCA with the help of the Lowcountry Food Bank. Smith said the servicemen and women have consistently offered support to the giveaways.
During Smith's presentation to the team, he said he is overwhelmingly appreciative for what the airmen have done. The center usually tries to give out at least 1,000 boxes of groceries in a week.
"These airmen helped us reach that goal," Smith said. "I am proud of our Armed Forces."
Kleiv said he is especially appreciative of Staff Sgt. Timothy Morin, who has led and organized the team during the food giveaways.
Morin said the Dorchester community supports Joint Base Charleston on a routine basis.
"It seemed like a good opportunity for us to step up," he said.
There wasn't a big difference between the work his team does on a daily basis and the giveaways. The thing that surprised his team the most was the number of people in need.
Hundreds of cars typically line up to receive help. The most fulfilling part, Morin said, was knowing they helped keep a family fed.
"It's an awesome opportunity," he said. "There's lots of airmen out there doing this."
Those wishing to support the Community Resource Center can call 843-530-6473 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the start of the pandemic giveaways, the center has also recognized others, such as the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, for helping. Ronne DeCanio, a resident and longtime friend of Smith, said it's incredible to see the amount of work the center has been doing.
She said a lot of people would be struggling without the additional support.
"I know that for a fact," she said.
The center has also given out around 100,000 baby supplies and more than 2,000 school supply kits. Volunteers like the airmen have been instrumental in all of this, Smith said.
"They were here in excessive rain and excessive heat," Smith said. "That's why we honored them."