Sarah Schreiner's good deed started as a favor to a friend but grew to be much more.
They were both wives of recently retired Marine Corps officers, enchanted with their last career stops on an island near Parris Island.
The friend needed help delivering hot lunches to people around Beaufort. It was for those who were sick, old, disabled, poor, alone -- maybe all of the above -- and could not prepare a meal for themselves.
That was 33 years ago. On Wednesday, Schreiner will run her weekly route for the last time. She said that at almost 84 years old, she's retiring to spend more time with her three great-grandchildren.
She leaves calling it a "great joy," with no idea how many miles, how much gasoline or how many hours she has invested in the lives of others.
Her husband, Charles, and their daughter and grandchildren have helped. And that is how Schreiner saw her favor grow.
"It's been rewarding, especially to take along my grandchildren," she said. "They saw need, and they learned compassion. You can't do a job like that and not feel a tug of compassion. That's going to carry over to when they grow up."
Schreiner delivers for the Mobile Meals program, part of the HELP of Beaufort organization. With financial assistance from churches, individuals, the United Way and others, its 40 volunteers delivered 17,763 meals last year in Beaufort and Port Royal and on Lady's Island. It is one of several organizations that offer this service around Beaufort County.
Mobile Meals, now directed by Beth Wallace Moon, began in 1973 when the Women of the Church at Beaufort's First Presbyterian wanted to put their faith into action. Someone saw the idea working well elsewhere, and it was an immediate hit in Beaufort.
Thirty women signed up, one for each day of the month, said the first coordinator, Kitty Harley. The meals were prepared at the Jarvista Restaurant, and Coburg Dairy donated the drinks.
Becky Trask said she and the late Martha Baucom made the first deliveries to seven clients identified by the Department of Social Services. Trask is still delivering meals, on fifth Mondays.
The church supported it financially, and eventually HELP of Beaufort, a private social services provider that also originated in the church, took over. For many years, the meals have been prepared at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
The quick in-home visits five days a week often blur the line between the giver and the receiver of help.
Schreiner said her most cheerful client is a young woman who has lost both legs to diabetes.
Harley recalls serving a disabled woman who crawled to get around her house. When volunteers asked what else they could get for her, the woman responded, "Oh, I've got two of everything I need."
"They taught us a lot," Harley said.
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