Bus station teams up with nonprofit to feed Lowcountry commuters

BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) — Hundreds of workers pass through the Palmetto Breeze bus station in Bluffton every morning and evening. They’re coming from as far as Walterboro, some Allendale and Hampton counties for work in Hilton Head and Bluffton.

With the long days at work and extra hours traveling, Palmetto Breeze and Second Helpings found a way to make sure the workers and their families don’t go hungry.

“They don’t have jobs there,” Laura Atkinson, the assistant general manager at Palmetto Breeze, “So they’re riding the bus two hours in every day to work on Hilton Head to work in the resort services area.”

At Palmetto Breeze, they wanted to do more to help.

“The assistant manager here called Second Helpings and said ‘We need to do something for the workers who are riding the buses 64 miles each way every day,'” said Margie Tomczak, a board member with Second Helpings.

Second Helpings is a nonprofit that rescues food that grocery stores throw away every day. They have 60 distribution sites where they give the food away to those in need.

Tomczak runs this one at Palmetto Breeze where every Thursday, volunteers from Sun City to Sea Pines fill bags for workers who change buses.

“We put a balanced bag together for every rider on the bus,” Tomczak said, “We have 240 people registered, but every week we do about 60.”

“As they get off, we check them in, we register them, we give them a bag of food. This is all balanced, there’s a fruit…there’s lettuce, canned goods, pasta, a potato,” she said.

Some of the groceries there that day were from food drives hosted by local businesses for Second Helpings as well.

“By the time folks get home from their workday, it’s fairly late in the evening and there’s really not time to go shopping and go get food,” said Mary Lou Franzoni, executive director at Palmetto Breeze, “For them to be able to take a bag of food home, I’ve heard people say ‘Oh great, now I know what I’m gonna feed my kids tomorrow.'”

Michael Jordan was one of those, “I take it home to my family because you know I have kids of my own and I like to just do anything positive for them and to keep them happy and smiles on their faces,” he said.

Another woman said, “This is the first time that I’ve been out here, so I’m thankful.”

The program is called “Fill the Need” and the partnership just won Outstanding Organization of the Year from the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

It started at Palmetto Breeze in October. They say their numbers will double in March when the warmer weather brings more work to the Island.

If you would like to donate food, money, a refrigerator, or volunteer with them, you can contact Tomczak at m_tomczak@roadrunner.com.

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