‘We want to be a blessing to someone’: Lake City schools, organizations work to put food on tables for Thanksgiving

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 7:00 PM EST
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LAKE CITY, S.C. (WMBF) - In the Pee Dee, organizations that work with kids on a regular basis want to make sure they get a good meal next week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Keeping kids engaged and out of trouble is a primary focus at the Lake City Boys and Girls Club, but partnering organizations also want to ensure families don’t have an empty dinner table on Thanksgiving.

“When we can go home to our homes and we can go to our covers, we can go to our refrigerators, and we pretty much can pull anything out that we want to pull out,” said the Director of the Lake City Boys and Girls Club Stormey Gillens.

Those simple tasks are what he said are sometimes taken for granted. As Thanksgiving day approaches, he’s ready to help where he can.

“We want to be a blessing to someone,” said Gillens. “I know that we may not be able to touch every family, but at least we can touch a couple of families.”

Gillens said this year staff at the facility is currently serving more than 70 kids, and adds this time of year is crucial to identify families dealing with food insecurity.

“I think it’s important for not only to ensure that kids stay out of trouble but that they also have a good meal for the holidays,” he said.

Community partners like the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice want to do just that. Prevention and Intervention Coordinator Vanessa Stevenson said one initiative got its start in 2017 to honor fallen police officer Greg Alia.

Now the organization Greg’s Groceries will sponsor 10 family boxes filled with non-perishable food items.

However, Stevenson said it’s not just about the food.

“When they get out of school, that’s when kids commit the most serious offenses, so we partner with these after-school centers so that they will have these things to deter them from becoming involved with DJJ,” she said.

Other service groups and community organizations that will help families with hams and turkeys include the Florence School District 3 staff, Royal Arch Masons Circle #30, Prince Hall Masonic District #9, and Prince Hall Masons District #2.

It’s something volunteer Joseph Cameron said brings him joy.

“The biggest thing I would like to see Thanksgiving is all families happy, celebrating, sitting at a dinner table together as a family, I would love to see these things happen again,” said Cameron.

As other parents pitch in where they can for the kids, Gillens said he’s hopeful to give back throughout the remainder of the year.

“Thanksgiving is only one day, but we also trying to see whether we can do something to be able to help them out throughout the holiday season as well.”

The families will pick up the Greg’s Groceries boxes on Tuesday along with a ham or turkey followed by a full Thanksgiving dinner for families as well in the evening.