Water has flooded the Horry County Council on Aging’s North Main Street office three times in four years, but today the office was flooded with goodwill, food and hard work provided by a team from Food Lion.

About 20 store managers, project managers, retail specialists and strategy specialists from as far away as North Carolina and Virginia revived the building that was severely damaged in Hurricane Florence.

“They donated $26,000 to fix this building and then sent people to help do it. By all rights and purposes this building probably could have been torn down,” HCCOA deputy director Elaine Gore said.

But her attachment to the building, after 32 years of working there, was so great she carved out a small space for herself and moved back in.

When the Food Lion workers left Friday the building was all set to serve as a distribution center for the HCCOA and its shelves were filled with Saltines, chicken noodle soup, tomato soup, peaches, green beans, peas, stuffing mix, beef stew, chili, dried pinto beans, canned chicken breasts, peanut butter, strawberry jelly, dry milk, grits and rice.

The food will help feed the 380 seniors who enjoy five meals a week, provided by the HCCOA.

Actually Gore says her miracle all started with peanut butter. When a Food Lion employee came into the building to ask if the HCCOA wanted peanut butter, she took a game-changing look around.

“She called me two weeks later and said, ‘If I gave you $25,000 do you think you can save your building?’” Gore remembered.

Joel Smith with Food Lion said Friday’s blessing for Horry’s seniors is part of the company’s Food Lion Feeds program that is on track to provide one million meals throughout the company’s ten-state territory. The company doesn’t stop with small goals like a million meals. Its ultimate goal is to provide one billion meals by 2025.

“That’s a lot of meals,” Smith said, adding that it’s disappointing to know there’s that much hunger out there. Food Lion is trying to build partnerships with schools, food banks and churches to educate people about hunger “because if people really understand the numbers out there about who’s hungry, more people will step up to help,” he said.

At this point, five pantries are undergoing overhauls, but they have 105 more to go.

“Ending hunger is a big deal,” Smith said.

Johnny Shelley, an Horry County Council on Aging board member, donned a Food Lion t-shirt and went to work on the building and its grounds because, he said, he loves senior citizens.

“There’s going to be hundreds of seniors that will get meals because of this,” he said. “It’s a blessing to me they’ve helped us with this.”

Conway City Councilman and HCCOA volunteer Shane Hubbard was also at the scene.

“We really appreciate Food Lion, not only giving this donation, but helping us improve the look of the City of Conway,” he said.

Although the building has flooded repeatedly, Gore says there’s no need to worry about that any longer. They’ve flood-proofed the building with terrazzo flooring and brick around the bottom of the inside walls. If water comes in again, the only thing it can hurt is about $7,000 to $8,000 of sheetrock.

“Everything in the building is portable. We have a two-hour plan to get out,” Gore said.

HCCOA staff has been temporarily working out of an office at the Clemson Extension, but the nonprofit agency has bought a building on Mill Pond Road that its officials plan to transform into an administrative office.

“We’d have never been able to spend money on this building…It’s like manna from heaven,” Gore said.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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