Lend A Hand With The Charleston Basket Brigade
The secret to living is giving.
Close friends Pam Hartley and Michelle Scarafile began The Charleston Basket Brigade in 2008 with a commitment to bring the community together to provide Thanksgiving meals for families in need in Charleston, SC. “When we found out that there were children going to bed hungry right here in Charleston, we knew we had to do something about it,” said Hartley.
The Basket Brigade concept was inspired by Anthony Robbins, whose foundation feeds more than two million each year. In the first year, the duo fed 75 families. In 2009, they recruited more volunteers and the effort raised over $12,900 to feed 430 families. In 2010, the effort more than tripled raising $48,840 and feeding 1628 families at Thanksgiving. Overall, with the help of thousands of volunteers and donors, the group has raised $63,990 and fed over 12,000 people in the Lowcountry.
2011 promises to be a record year for the brigade. The North Charleston Coliseum (with the support of the Mayor’s office) is donating 25,000 sq. ft. of space to serve as a central staging area for assembly and delivery. A local non-profit organization called Giving Back Cheer is hosting a holiday soiree in honor of the basket brigade to raise $20,000 in November 2011. “Our goal is to raise $100,000 and to feed 20,000 residents this year,” said Hartley. “And with the assistance of so many incredible organizations and community members, that is a real possibility.”
Hartley and Scarafile met in 2006 during a leadership seminar held by Robbins and became fast friends. In 2008, Scarafile brought the idea to create a basket brigade to Hartley and they both quickly got into action. “I knew that Pam and I could really make a difference here in Charleston. When the recession hit, we knew that so many were impacted here locally,” Scarafile said.
This fundraiser would not be possible without the commitment of Carolina One Real Estate, Communities In Schools, Piggy Wiggly, Momentum Marketing and many caring friends, families and community members. “It only takes $30 to feed a family of 4-6 at Thanksgiving and we get donations from many sources, including friends and family members that live out of state,” Scarafile said, “$30 goes a long way.”
100% of funds raised are utilized to buy food. The $30 meal includes a 10-12 lb. turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cranberry sauce, a pumpkin pie, fresh rolls and butter. Each family receives an anonymous letter inside the basket that only states “This comes to you from someone who cares about you. All we ask is that you take care of yourself well enough to be able to do this for someone else one day.”
2010 was a bench mark year with the introduction of the Piggly Wiggly Facebook fundraiser, initiated by Hartley. Piggly Wiggly agreed to donate $1 per new fan for one week and the response was overwhelming. After seven days, Piggly Wiggly had 3,898 fans – more than double the company’s preset goal. The Facebook fundraiser created a groundswell of support from folks across the globe – even as far as Australia. “We’re so grateful to Piggly Wiggly and everyone across the globe that participated in the Facebook Fundraiser,” added Hartley, “It’s social proof that when a company gives back to the community, people truly ‘like’ that company for it.”
Christopher Ibsen, Director of Marketing for Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company said, “When you combine a grassroots fundraiser with a compassionate community and put it all together into the social media blender, great things can happen!”
Hartley, Scarafile, and more than 800 Carolina One staffers, agents and event volunteers raise money, assemble the meals at preset staging areas and deliver meals to the families the Tuesday before Thanksgiving each year. Communities In Schools, a non-profit organization with 17 counselors in schools throughout Charleston and Berkeley Counties, locates the families that will receive donations based on need and maps out directions for delivery. Piggly Wiggly provides discounts on food, boxes, and coordinates delivery of the food to staging areas throughout the Charleston area. Momentum Marketing (Hartley’s company) provides public relations and event coordination assistance.
The responses from families that receive a basket from the group are overwhelmingly appreciative and oftentimes tear-filled. One parent said emphatically, “Oh thank you, thank you so much, prayers really do get answered.”