For six years, churches and volunteers have provided free dinners, prayers and community support for hundreds of residents of Beaufort's Northwest Quadrant neighborhood on Friday nights at Washington Street Park.
But lately, the number of volunteers for the dinners has dwindled, so organizers are looking for new ways to sustain a vital ministry.
The Parish Church of St. Helena and Carteret Street United Methodist Church, the latter of which also provides bagged meals every Thursday in the park, are still providing the service. Six other churches once took turns serving meals but have pared back their involvement.
But the need has not diminished, and filling empty bellies is only part of what the volunteers do. Through the years, they have bonded with dozens of people who attend regularly. They've taken the sick to doctors' appointments in Charleston, arranged free treatment from local dentists, helped fill out tax forms and donated bikes to disabled men.
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These are not mere financial transactions. These bonds entail friendship, stewardship and spirituality. These are relationships between neighbors, not between service-providers and clients. And this is the essence of community.
Church organizers hope businesses and nonprofit organizations will pitch in to keep the dinners going. We hope they are successful because the human bonds created nourish more than just bodies.