Clinton, S.C. – A small food bank in Clinton which routinely delivers extra groceries to specific families in need received a boost this month through a large donation by students and staff at Clinton Middle School, and the help of the middle school students led to Christmas season assistance for dozens of families in Clinton and Laurens.
“We have a lot of connections with Clinton Middle School,” said Leslie Holden, who is a Lydia Presbyterian Church Food Bank co-director with her cousin, Dianne Easter. “I have a daughter in the Junior Beta Club there, Dianne is a retired teacher at the middle school and one of our Lydia Food Bank volunteers, Megan Jones, also has children there.”
Easter contacted Janna Wood, the CMS Junior Beta Club faculty advisor, and Wood offered the canned goods from the fall food drive to the Lydia Food Bank. It also included items from the school’s unfinished can drive last spring.
“It was going to be just the Beta Club, but then it became school-wide, and there were also donations of toilet paper and cleaner and soap,” Holden said. “The students gave about 400 cans, and then the custodial staff at the school had a second food drive and collected about 50 more cans.”
The group is getting more help from several other small churches which passed on grant funds from the PCUSA’s regional Trinity Presbytery. The regional organization has been providing churches with small grants designated specifically for outreach needs during the pandemic, and Holden said it’s allowed them to buy more items to meet the greater needs this year.
Unlike many food banks, all donations at Lydia Food Bank are actually delivered on a regular basis to specific groups across the county. Right before Christmas, volunteers wore masks and took food bags, paper products and Christmas cards to the 70 residents of Hanson Circle Apartments in Laurens, the dozen residents of the Franklin Street Apartments in Laurens and about 35 families in the Lydia community which the food bank serves each month.
Holden said the food bank is always a result of the work of many churches in the area. Lydia Presbyterian is part of the Laurens County Cluster of Smaller Membership Churches, and Holden said she has learned since working with the food bank that having few members doesn’t mean a congregation can’t make a positive difference in a community.
“On average we usually have about 10 members for church, but since COVID hit we are usually down to about six people on Sundays,” Holden said.
Throughout the year Lydia members bring canned goods for the food bank, and regular contributions come from Bethany Presbyterian in Clinton and Todd Memorial Presbyterian in Laurens. Additional pandemic-relief funds were also passed on by other small churches.
Lydia pastor Rev. Herb Codington said some of the grant funds are continuing to meet general emergency needs, and those have been much greater this year.
Due to these small churches working together to compile their resources, Codington said, so far more than $10,000 has been used to help with food shortage and emergency needs for Laures County residents.
“Oftentimes the church tends to circle the wagons when things get hard, when what we need to do is work harder to meet needs outside the church walls,” Codington said. “That’s what these folks at Lydia and many other churches in the area are doing.”