With many people out of work, confined to their homes and lacking basic necessities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bluffton Community Soup Kitchen has stepped up its efforts in recent months.
Since 2011, the soup kitchen, located at Campbell Chapel AME Church, 25 Boundary St. in Old Town, has provided hot meals for the sick, elderly, homeless, shut-in and poverty-stricken members of the community. In 2014, the soup kitchen opened a weekly food pantry.
Bluffton Community Soup Kitchen director Constance Martin-Witter is thankful for all the caring people who donate their time and money to the organization. She's also grateful to the Bluffton Police Department officers who help with the food pantry five days a week.
"It's a community-town initiative," Martin-Witter said. "Everybody is helping to make this happen, and hopefully it's going to positively impact the lives of many of our community members."
The nonprofit organization has recently expanded its food pantry hours from one to five days a week. It also has launched a six-month project called Hot Meals 'n' Hot Stuff.
Thanks to grants from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, the soup kitchen is now able to provide more hot meals, as well as "hot stuff," such as toilet paper, soap and hand sanitizer, to residents of Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties.
Free hot meals are available for delivery every Wednesday. The soup kitchen delivers meals to about 160 individuals between Hilton Head Island and Callawassie Island every week.
Boxes of "hot stuff" are available for pickup on Saturdays at the Bluffton Boundary Cultural Arts Center, located at 21 Boundary St. Those in need may call or email Martin-Witter to schedule a pickup time.
The soup kitchen has partnered with churches in neighboring towns to get the "hot stuff" boxes to the people who need them most. Volunteers have delivered hundreds of boxes of supplies to churches in Pocotaligo, Sheldon, Hampton and Estill. Martin-Witter would like to get even more churches involved in the initiative.
When she started buying items for the "hot stuff" portion of the new project, Martin-Witter ran into a problem. Since there has been a shortage of supplies, some stores have limited the number of items customers are able to purchase.
Martin-Witter, who is a board member of the local nonprofit A Call to Action, spoke to the organization's president, Nate Pringle, who helped find a solution. Pringle reached out to some of his business contacts and was able to get the Dollar Tree stores in Bluffton and in Northridge Plaza on Hilton Head to sell the soup kitchen items in bulk.
"This is truly an example of neighbors helping neighbors," Martin-Witter said.
The outdoor food pantry is held at 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the church. Shoppers should arrive at 12:30 p.m. to get a number in line. Everyone must wear a mask and gloves, which will be available for those who don't have their own. Shoppers will have their temperatures taken at check-in, and anyone with a temperature of 100 or higher will be given a prepared box of food to prevent the spread of germs.
To volunteer with the soup kitchen, call 248-390-1798 or email email@example.com. Visit blufftoneats.org to donate, and check out the soup kitchen's Facebook page for updates.
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.