Church and Project H.O.P.E. provide Thanksgiving dinners for Midlands seniors

Retired Richland County deputy sheriffs and others making deliveries

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Saint David’s Episcopal Church in northeast Columbia provided 65 Thanksgiving dinners for seniors across Columbia and the Midlands, Wed., Nov. 17, with approximately 35 percent of the senior recipients being shut-ins, though nearly all are erring on the side of caution and staying home, like last year, because of the COVID pandemic.

St. David’s Church coordinated their efforts with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s (RCSD) Project H.O.P.E. (HELPING OUR PRECIOUS ELDERLY), an RCSD program that services approximately 650 elderly citizens, countywide, with everything from replacing light bulbs and smoke detectors in homes to educating seniors about ongoing telephone scams.

“This year with COVID still a very real threat and with some supply shortages in grocery stores, we are here to try and get wanted-and-needed food items to those who might not be able to get them for themselves,” said RCSD Lieutenant Tom Amaro, director of Project H.O.P.E. “We want to make sure that everyone is taken care, that no one is alone, and that all will have a Happy Thanksgiving while looking forward to the Christmas season. I believe these meals and a visit from one of us will go a long way toward that.”

The meals and easy-to-prepare food items were purchased by the church’s parishioners and packed by volunteers in large heavy-duty gift bags. The bagged items included canned sweet potatoes; canned pineapple; green beans; corn; dressing and corn muffin mixes; boxed macaroni and cheese; cranberry sauce; Jell-O; apple sauce; and desert mixes for cakes, cookies, and brownies. In some bags, specifically requested items like chips and candies were included.

Canned hams, purchased outright by the church, were included with – but separate from – each bag.

Food was collected Wednesday morning by Project H.O.P.E. volunteers, all of whom work either full-time like Amaro or part-time for RCSD, including eight retired RCSD deputies. The members of Project H.O.P.E. loaded the items in their vehicles and headed out for two days of delivering meals to senior residences in Eastover, Gadsden, Hopkins, the Broad River Road area, Dutch Fork, Northeast Columbia, and downtown.

“Our elderly are among our most precious resources,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “Through our own Project H.O.P.E. and generous churches like St. David’s, we are striving to bring some sunshine and a happy Thanksgiving into the lives of those who have already given so much to all of us.”

Saint David’s Church has been delivering Thanksgiving dinners through Project H.O.P.E. for at least five years.

– Pictured are members of Project H.O.P.E. and others at St. David’s Church.