Bluffton resident Justin Cheesman deftly multitasks.
He’s a physical therapist, a partner in a local company that provides online marketing services for small businesses and now, most importantly, is fundraising for a decimated village in South Africa whose families are starving because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His latest journey in life began last summer when he and his wife Katy visited George, South Africa, on a mission trip for two weeks for Cornerstone Church here. They met a leader of the Life Community Services (LCS) there, who then visited the couple in Bluffton last fall.
Here’s what happened in the following months:
“In the early weeks of the quarantine, they were feeding 150 people three times a week,” he said. “Now it’s ballooned into 1,500 a day, three times a week. The need is greater now.”
So, armed with his business acumen and marketing tools, he helped his new friend publicize the village’s plight on social networks.
“If someone doesn’t have access to food, and they’re hungry and can’t learn, can’t work and go out and be everything they should be … I need to feed them,” he said. “The poverty is rampant. Like 50 percent. The generational poverty cycle is never broken.”
In Bluffton, he’s been fundraising for the cause.
The effort here is called “Stand in the Gap,” and for every $100 donated, Cheesman pledges to run a 5K race. He has been delivering.
He’s run in 39 5K’s here and raised more than $6,000, all of which goes into a secure third-party account that is forwarded to the LCS in South Africa.
After every race, he posts a video of it online. It’s catching on. “We’ve been able to grow the awareness in South Africa Life Community Services,” the New Jersey native said.
Cheesman said that friends from his childhood that he hasn’t spoken to in years, Little League teammates, and many others have seen the posts and contributed to the cause.
“Now, it’s been incredible,” he said.
Much of his effort is faith-based.
“As my faith grew, I realized how fortunate I was. … I realized there were many that weren’t so fortunate,” he said.
His goal is to get LCS up and running again after the shutdown and to ensure families have food to eat on their barren tables. He has also been talking to people in the Lowcountry about their food needs and how he and his company can help.
For more information about the fundraising campaign, visit givenagain.com/cc/stand-in-the-gap–the-fight-against-covid19. For more information about the African charity, visit lifecommunity.co.za.
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.