RIDGELAND, SC (WSAV) – The Antioch Educational Center in Ridgeland helps thousands of people in rural areas of Jasper, Hampton, and Southern Beaufort County every year. Thanks to a grant, they will be aiding even more people, one ride at a time.

The agency started a decade ago with the plan to help with job placement in Jasper County.

But quickly they determined there was much more to do.

“Quickly we found out when we start over 10 years ago that there was a need more pressing than training job preparedness,” said Jackie O’Bannon, Antioch Executive Director.

That’s when the center became all-purpose.

It began providing school supplies and a study area for kids and is now the largest provider of the “backpack buddies” program in the entire Lowcountry.

The agency also helps with rent and food for those in rural areas who are in need.

There are many with an average family salary of just over $30,000.

“It is a close community and when one hurts, we all feel it,” said O’Bannon.

That hurting is especially felt when it comes to food. The need for meal and grocery help quadrupled when the Pandemic hit.

Through monthly meal giveaways and weekly food banks in four different locations, 200 people are able to put meals on the table.

“There’s no other alternative as far as I can see. Serving your fellow man is what it’s all about,” explains Clarence Brantley, a food recipient.

“It’s a great honor, it’s a blessing to have them around,” said Henrietta Hamilton. “It is given them a new day. It’s really almost words that cant describe them. They have been a great help to our community.”

17 different faith-based institutions help the agency, as well as thousands of personal donations from people, mostly from Hilton Head Island.

Thanks to those giving people, Antioch is able to provide aid to three counties all without Federal funding.

“Not a lot of community-based agencies they just focus their research on other areas,” explains Ivan Brantley. “To focus on the community and actually providing is a wonderful thing.”

The biggest need for many is affordable child care and transportation to their jobs, many of which are on Hilton Head Island.

The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry is doing its part to help Antioch with that transportation need.

Community Foundation of the Lowcountry: https://cf-lowcountry.org/

The Foundation just gave the Center a $110,000 grant to buy two vans. Those vans will transport 50 people each trip, and make four trips a day to the Island.

The goal, to make it a cheaper “express route” to Hilton Head. Saving people nearly $20 a week, a large amount for someone making $300 in the same time period. A trip which will also save parents hours of travel, and get the home much faster.

“It automatically improves the quality of their lives,” said O’Bannon. “They are there to meet and greet their children, they are there to prepare meals, to help with homework, help with aging parents.”

“No one here wants a handout, everyone wants to be self-sufficient. everyone I come into contact with, no one wants to be in need, so this is a win-win situation.”

The Antioch Education Center is also part of a community Thanksgiving dinner with several local churches.

It will take place on Thanksgiving Day from 2 pm-5 pm at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church on Bees Creek road.

The hope is to give away more than 600 dinners to folks in need.

If you would like to learn more about the Thanksgiving dinner, Antioch, or make a donation yourself. https://antiochedc.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/the.new.aec/