Remarkable Women Finalist: Ragina Scott Saunders

Lowcountry's Remarkable Women

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – News 2 is honoring Remarkable Women who live, work, and volunteer here in our community.

James Island native Ragina Scott Saunders, founder, and owner of Destiny Community Café, is serving up healthy and delicious free food, and a full helping of hope.

Saunders says everybody eats when they come through the doors of Destiny Community Café in North Charleston.

“We’re South Carolina’s only pay what you can café where people can pay whatever they [can] for their meal, or they can volunteer in exchange for their meal,” she said. “However, during the pandemic – right now – we’ve been just feeding folks without having them do the volunteering.”

The main concept, according to Saunders, “is to treat everybody with dignity, have healthy food as much as possible. We try to do organic if we have it available, and people pay what they can afford.”

Saunders said that she was inspired by Jon Bon Jovi and his wife when it came to the café.

“On the weekends, we would see people in the dumpster, or in the trash up front getting food, and we would invite them in and make a meal, treat like family with dignity,” she said.

“One night I was like ‘Lord there has to be a better way to do this.’ I found this organization, One World Everybody Eats, and Jon Bon Jovi is up in New Jersey, and he has a pay it forward concept. I researched that, and I got to meet him and his wife. I came home and started putting it into place.”

The nonprofit operates as part of One World Everybody Eats. There are no menus or prices. Meals are provided for the under-served community.

“We don’t discriminate against anyone. You dine with dignity, and it’s been six years now.”

Saunders says the need has intensified due to the pandemic.

“We fed over 2,000 people when the pandemic first started, and then on a normal basis we do 600-something a week, and we’re still only part time. The numbers are high,” Saunders said. “We’ve been going into communities, and doing curbside drop-offs as well. We’re on the 211 directory with Trident United Way, so people are able to call and ask for the nearby place still serving. We have veterans come in. We’ve had people who have never been in a hunger situation before come in and got meals from us.”

The cafe also works to help those in need find resources. Saunders says, “We started doing delivery curbside. I’ve fed some folks for eight months straight and it’s turned into another ministry from feeding them to helping them get resources to pay the light bill, pay the water bill. We had families that (are) living in the dark, getting water from next door. Now we’ve started packing bags of groceries so once they eat a hot meal here they also can take a grocery bag.”

Food is donated by local farms, non profits, and community partners. Whatever comes in the door goes into the pot.

They also have an urban garden, which helps to provide peace and food that’s not only good, but good for the mind, body, and soul.

“I feel that God called me to do this, and you can’t tell God no. I’ve had many days when I got up in the morning or leave here at night, and my feet are swollen, back hurting, but I get up and do it again,” she said. “I don’t get paid to do it. I struggled. I know what it’s like to share a 99-cent meal with your kids because that’s all that you have in the ashtray. I’ve been there. When people come here, sometimes they do confide in me, sometimes they don’t. I just feel this is my calling, and I feel it will help make the community better.”

Saunders went on to say, “When they read my obituary one day, those generations I’ve helped and parents I’ve helped, it will pass down. Too much bad stuff you see and hear in the world. I think each one of us can play our part to make it better. God can take things you’ve done in the past and give you a new start. I think helping my community is my new start, helping people in my community is my legacy.”

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