Nonprofit A Second Helping Feeds Ocean Isle Beach
This local nonprofit offers vacationers a way to pay it forward with leftover food.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Genie Leigh Photography
When Bill Spier started collecting unused, leftover food from departing vacationers in Holden Beach more than 11 years ago, he had no idea of the trend he would start.
Before he and his wife, Phyllis, bought a summer home in Holden Beach, Spier was a vacationer from Charlotte. Knowing that many families in Brunswick County live below the poverty line and don’t always have the means to put sufficient, healthy food on the table, he realized what a waste it was to throw away food they didn’t consume during their vacation. So he started a program called A Second Helping.
Originally a lone crusader, now he not only has the assistance of volunteers from Holden Beach Chapel and Sharon United Methodist Church, but he has also inspired volunteers to start A Second Helping Ocean Isle Beach program.
Spier, 82, was contacted by Ocean Isle Beach residents Rebecca Powell and Teresa Garratt earlier in the year. The women explained they would like to duplicate his Holden Beach project on Ocean Isle Beach. With the foundation set, volunteers were rounded up and the commitment to help the needy was realized. “Once I heard about what Bill was doing, it was just something I knew I was supposed to do,” Powell says.
Powell and Garratt, and their husbands, Jimmy Powell and Neil Garratt, wanted to extend the Second Helping project as a way to pay it forward. “The difference in lifestyle between Ocean Isle Beach and other parts of the county are drastically different,” Rebecca Powell says. “We just wanted to remind those fortunate enough to live or vacation at Ocean Isle Beach that others aren’t as lucky.”
Between mid-June and Labor Day weekend, a Second Helping at Ocean Isle Beach sets up every Saturday morning from 8 to 11 am. They have two drop off locations on the island to accommodate traffic flow: the east end of the island in the parking lot of the Museum of Coastal Carolina at 21 East Second Street and the west end at the Cross on First Street just to the right of the pier, staffed by volunteers Steve and Marie Turner.
“We accept perishables and nonperishables – anything that’s unopened,” Powell says. “Some of our families never get fresh foods like milk, vegetables and even meat, so we’re excited when we can collect those unused items.”
The food collected at the Ocean Isle Beach locations are picked by Brunswick Family Assistance and The Food Pantry, which package and deliver the food straight to those in need.
June 4 was the official start date of the Ocean Isle Beach location of A Second Helping, and a successful start it was. Volunteers collected enough food to feed 15 families in just three hours. “People genuinely want to pay it forward,” Powell says.
A Second Helping has collected more than 170,000 pounds of food since 2005. And with the higher than average unemployment rate in Brunswick County, the number of people needing food services will likely continue to increase until the economy improves, which makes the expansion of A Second Helping in Ocean Isle Beach even more important.
Seventeen percent of residents in Brunswick County use the Brunswick Family Assistance (BFA) services. In a typical year, the BFA food bank provides for nearly 5,000 households and 16,434 individuals. According to the BFA, the percentage of Brunswick County residents living below the poverty level, (income of $23,050 for a four-person household) was 17 percent for the period 2009-2013. The national average was 15.2 percent. The poverty rate of children was significantly greater. For children under the age of 18, the poverty rate was 26.3 percent and 29.9 percent for children under the age of 5. The poverty rate for those 65 and older was 5.7 percent. In addition, 67 percent of all children in grades K to 12 in Brunswick County receive free or reduced-cost meals because of low family incomes.
Having access to adequate and nutritious food is especially important over the summer months for Brunswick County children because they aren’t getting the free breakfast and lunch every day like they receive when school is in session. “And it’s not just children and families that need the food,” says Garratt. “The county has a large disabled population forced to live on fixed incomes, and they often have to decide between paying a bill or eating.”
In addition to the Ocean Isle Beach location, the pay-it-forward message of A Second Helping is extending along the southeast coast to Emerald Isle and Topsail Beach, and even to Colorado.
“USA Today picked up a story on A Second Helping that was published in the Charlotte Observer, and I heard it inspired someone in Colorado to start their own version,” Spier explains.
Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach have similar collection programs as well. Resort towns along the South Carolina coast like Edisto Beach have also been motivated by A Second Helping’s model to collect food from departing vacationers.
A Second Helping also accepts cash donations with 100 percent of the proceeds used to purchase food. Every dollar will buy 5 to 8 pounds of food. So if vacationers and locals alike don’t have leftovers, they can still help make an impact on the community. “We’re thankful to local restaurants, churches, rental properties, and the Ocean Isle Beach concert series for helping us promote the project to visitors,” Garratt says.
Spier sets up in the Holden Beach Chapel parking lot just 100 feet from the bridge from 7 am to 12 pm on summer Saturdays. His collection is distributed to the needy through Sharon United Methodist Church and Holden Beach Chapel.
He remembers fondly how he came up with the name for the project 11 years ago. “The good Lord just whispered A Second Helping in my ear, and all of a sudden, it came to be,” he says.
Want to help?
Donate the unopened, unexpired food you didn’t use on vacation, or make a donation to help feed the hungry in Brunswick County.
A Second Helping Holden Beach
7 am to 12 pm
Holden Beach Chapel parking lot, Ocean Boulevard
A Second Helping Ocean Isle Beach
8 to 11 am
Museum of Coastal Carolina parking lot, 21 E. Second Street
The Cross on First Street (just to the right of the pier)
For more information, see secondhelping.us.