By Jessica Brodie
NICHOLS—Thanks to the hard work and cooking skills of 300 volunteers in the Florence and Marion districts, hurricane victims in Nichols are getting much-needed funds to help rebuild their devastated town.
Nichols, in the Marion District, was devastated in October after Hurricane Matthew swept through, causing the Lumber River to overflow and flood the town. Nearly every home and business in the town was damaged, making it one of the hardest-hit areas in the state.
Their devastation got a bit more relief this month because of a huge chicken bog fundraiser hosted by Cooks for Christ.
Cooks for Christ served up 8,200 plates at $7 apiece Feb. 16, donating more than $63,000 to the Town of Nichols Relief Fund.
Henry Brunson, member of Latta UMC, Latta, who founded Cooks for Christ, said 300 volunteers from all denominations stepped up to help with the drive-thru style fundraiser, held at West Florence Fire Department. A $4,000 bake sale also helped the effort. Cars were backed up for a half-mile waiting to enter the fire station to pick up plates. Plates could be picked up in Mullins, also, and large deliveries were made to locations like Conway.
“I love my Lord, and we want to help build the Kingdom and serve Him any way we can serve,” Brunson said on why he and his team give so much for others, noting that he just wants to be able to show others the same love and blessings God has given him. “I cannot tell you how much love and blessings He has shown me. I just want them to see Christ in me.”
Brunson started the group in 1984 at the paper mill in Florence, where he worked for more than 38 years. Then the ministry was much smaller and called We Care; Brunson would organize periodic meals for employees and people in need. In the early 1990s, Brunson stepped up the effort to help the sister and brother-in-law of one of his coworkers, who were struggling to pay their bills while fighting cancer. The group eventually changed its name to Cooks for Christ because, as Brunson said, Christ holds the ministry in His hand, and he wanted to put Christ at the center.
Today, the ministry holds about eight cooking fundraisers a year for people facing various needs in the Florence, Dillon, Latta and surrounding areas, usually from cancer-related medical bills.
“As Christians we are supposed to serve any way we can and enjoy it,” Brunson said—and enjoy it they do.
“Watching the Cooks for Christ operate, I was reminded that love is a verb,” said the Rev. Tim Rogers, Marion District superintendent. “How we feel doesn’t matter much if it doesn’t translate into action. I suspect that the author of James would have been overjoyed to see so many disciples of Jesus giving their time, energy and money to help a community in need.”
Since the news broke about the devastation in Nichols, countless people have helped with prayer, supplies, donations and other disaster response work, including December and March work blitzes there by the South Carolina Conference of the UMC with nearly 400 United Methodist volunteers.