(l-r) Women in Unity food pantry Volunteer Edith Callaham shares a smile with Bertha, aged 83. Bertha began visiting the food pantry for help after a severe allergic reaction left her medically fragile and struggling to make ends meet.

83-year-old Bertha’s eyes sparkle as she talks about her favorite recipe for cabbage soup. “I don’t cook by a recipe – I make my own recipes,” she says proudly. “And it tastes so good!”

Bertha moved to rural South Carolina from New York two years ago to be near family after a medical emergency left her health fragile. A severe allergic reaction that ended in surgical intervention means she must now take medication to manage her allergy. “It was scary,” she remembers. “My doctor says I am lucky to be alive.”

After the move, Bertha struggled to make ends meet on a limited fixed income in a new town. Then, she found help at the Women in Unity food pantry in Edgefield, SC. “This helps me keep food in the pantry. Food is expensive here, much more than in New York,” Bertha says. “Coming here helps save a dollar; we get bread, canned food, even greens!”

Women in Unity was founded in 2000 as an after-school homework center for elementary children. But it didn’t take long for CEO Essie Nicholson to see that the kids needed more than educational help.

“We found out that the children needed food. When a child tells you they are hungry, that will blow your mind,” Essie remembers. “You can’t do homework when you’re hungry. I knew right away we needed to do something about this.”

The agency turned to Golden Harvest to receive food for the kids they serve. After adding snacks to their after-school program, the agency began distributing food to families when they realized that children struggle with hunger at home, too. “A lot of parents don’t have transportation, or the parents are working and the kids don’t have enough food in the house,” Essie explains. “Help is very much needed. That’s why we thank God for Golden Harvest.”

The ministry quickly grew from feeding families into a full-fledged mission to feed the community as the agency discovered more and more local people struggling with hunger. “You never know who really needs help,” says Essie. “Seniors have the greatest need, and disabled people; that is mostly who we serve.”

The agency now serves 90-100 people every month at a food distribution on the third Monday of each month. “They definitely love the fresh produce,” says Essie of the people who visit for help. “They are so appreciative. They will say, ‘I’m so glad you did this because we really need it.’”

Essie’s drive to serve comes from firsthand experience of what it’s like to face an empty pantry at the end of the day. “I used to be in the same place. I had money to pay bills and get medicine, but not enough left over for food,” she says. “Something has got to go. I had to choose- food, or medicine.”

“I didn’t have Golden Harvest so I could get food when I was growing up,” Essie says. “I want to make a difference in the community and there’s people that are hungry. When I make them happy, I’m happy.”

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