Basket Brigade saves Thanksgiving for many

The Charleston Basket Brigade provided Thanksgiving meals for 3,300 Lowcountry families in need.

The Charleston Basket Brigade, local nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is honored to have provided 3,300 Lowcountry families in need (approximately 20,000 residents) with Thanksgiving meals. For the last several months, the brigade has been receiving donations from local businesses, community sports teams and even children going door to door raising money. Hundreds of volunteers came out to the Charleston Area Convention Center Exhibit Hall C on Monday, Nov. 24 from noon to 6 p.m. to help unload food off of the trucks and assemble the 3,330 boxes which held the meals. Then on Tuesday, Nov. 25, hundreds of volunteers arrived at the Convention Center before 7 a.m. to continue to unload food, assemble meals and deliver the meals to the families in need.

The brigade was founded by local residents Pam Hartley and Michelle Scarafile in 2008. The first year, the duo fed 75 families, and with community support the effort has grown to serve thousands each year. Over the past seven years, the brigade has served 4,339 families in need (approximately 86,034 people).

Hartley said, “Our mission is to bring the community together to serve our neighbors in need. It was incredible and brought tears to my eyes to see so many new faces come out for our volunteer effort this year.”

It only takes $30 to feed a family of six and every penny donated is utilized to purchase food. Each family receives a box of food to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal, including a 10-12 pound turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, fresh rolls, butter and a pumpkin pie. Inside the box is an anonymous letter that reads, “This comes to you from someone who cares about you. All we ask is that you take care of yourself well enough to be able to do this for someone else one day.”

Countless local businesses and groups came out to help move food off trucks, assemble meals and deliver meals, including Boeing, Gwynn's of Mount Pleasant, Trident United Way Women's Leadership Council, West Ashley High School wrestling team, Michael Kors, Girl Scouts and Teaching Others to Reach Others (TORO) to name a few. Children as young as four were moving empty boxes into the assembly lines. Numerous families, individuals and concerned citizens all came out to help their neighbors in need. One special volunteer and U.S. Navy member, Joe Fiori, drove the forklift and unloaded every single palate of food off of the trucks from noon to 6 p.m. on Nov. 24 and started again bright and early at 5 a.m. the next day.

Not only were businesses volunteering, but also raising money to feed these families as well. Local cooking store The Coastal Cupboard raised over $4,200 during their Charity Knife Sharpening Event from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. Daniel Island Real Estate raised $4,800 among their real estate agents. Mount Pleasant Pitt Street businesses raised over $4,200 during the Share the Harvest event on Nov. 20. Sisters Elyse and Kayla Pardus went door to door in their neighborhood over the past few months and raised $5,500. The Charleston Sports and Social Club raised $1,700 at one of their kickball matches. Gwynn's of Mount Pleasant donated $10,000. Crews Chevrolet donated industrial recycling bins for all of the cardboard food boxes. People donated checks, change and any dollar amount they could in the spirit of giving those in need a Thanksgiving meal.

Scarafile added, “The brigade's motto is ‘When a community comes together to make a difference, magic happens,' and that is exactly what happened. We're not just on a mission to provide people with food, but to give them the experience of the Thanksgiving holiday. The holidays are about cooking the meal together and sitting down together to enjoy it and be thankful for all of the world's blessings.”

In addition to all of the incredible community support, the brigade partners with Carolina One Real Estate, Communities In Schools, Momentum Marketing and Bi-Lo to successfully execute the effort.

Hartley said, “Bi-Lo was our angel. Their donation of time, effort and money was just incredible and we couldn't be more thankful.”

As the exclusive food partner, Bi-Lo delivered all of the food to the Convention Center, handled logistics and provided the Charleston Basket Brigade with a sizable donation. Momentum Marketing (Hartley's company) provides public relations, marketing and event coordination assistance. For the fourth year in a row, the Charleston Area Convention Center donated a 25,000-square-foot exhibit hall space that served as a central staging area for meal assembly and delivery.

Communities In Schools (CIS), an award-winning nonprofit dropout prevention organization that serves 13,200 at-risk students in 28 Charleston area schools, locates the families in need that will receive meals. CIS volunteers mapped out detailed routes for volunteers to deliver meals to every family's home.

Scarafile added, “Mapping out routes to every family's home can be tedious. But the ladies with Communities in Schools go above and beyond to help with this process and make sure that we have the correct information for every family.”

Carolina One agents and staffers helped lead the brigade's fundraising effort, in addition to the hundreds of community volunteers who donated and volunteered to assemble and deliver meals. Their fundraising partnership is invaluable to the brigade.

The Charleston Basket Brigade is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. Individual and corporate donations are tax deductible can be made online at www.charlestonbasketbrigade.com. All major credit cards are accepted and 100 percent of the donations go towards buying food.