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Food drive puts school back at the center of the community

St James Santee St. James-Santee Elementary Middle School has become the site of monthly food drives for the Awendaw and McClellanville communities.

Families line up hours before distribution begins to wait for the much-needed food items. The food drive not only serves a need but builds a relationship with the community.

Dennis Muhammad, a Charleston County School District Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Officer, was concerned about the lack of attention rural schools receive.

St. James-Santee principal LaCarma McMillan and Muhammad brainstormed ways to bridge the school, district, and community gap. The result was a food drive sponsored by the North Charleston Community Resource Center. The first food drive was held in July 2020 to serve those needing a hand up during the pandemic. Over 200 families were served that day.

“It's important to educate and nurture the whole child,” said Principal McMillan. “Since July, St. James-Santee has hosted seven food distribution events to serve the Awendaw and McClellanville communities. The school works in partnership with the International Longshoreman’s Association organization, North Charleston Resource Center, and Lowcountry Food Bank. Each event has served between 200 to 300 families.”

The Community Resource Center supported the first five food drives by sharing the food they receive from the Charleston Food Bank. The number of families in need continued to rise, and the Charleston Food Bank agreed to take on the effort organized by Muhammad and the FACE office. The effort has been so successful that it will now be expanded to CCSD District 23 and possibly District 9. 

“We’re servicing a big need out there, and we’ve made great strides in terms of improving relationships,” said Muhammad. “We’ve received positive feedback from the recipients as well.”

Over half of the staff at St. James-Santee volunteers to box and distribute the food. Many are familiar with the families they are serving, which helps build upon the connections being made. 

“The FACE team is always looking for partnerships we can forge that will serve our schools,” said Muhammad. “I would encourage entities to embrace the nearest school to them and ask the principal what they need and provide if you can.”

Muhammad believes that the food distributions can connect the community back to the schools.

“I hope the distributions at St. James-Santee show the community that the school cares, the staff cares, and the district does cares,” said Muhammad. “We will continue to do everything we can, particularly through the FACE office, to bridge the gap with our parents and families. We are not in the food business, but we are still in the service business, and that means servicing our schools and community.” 

“It is a pleasure for us to serve our community,” said McMillan. “Students are the heart of our work!”

For more information, contact the Office of Strategy and Communications at (843) 937-6303.