By Jessica Brodie
BISHOPVILLE—For the past 21 years, Good Samaritans for All People has been helping people in need with Christmas gifts, school supplies, furniture, clothing, food and other donated items.
And as the God-led ministry begins its 22nd year of service, founder the Rev. Eddie Thomas thanks Jesus and a committed core of volunteers for keeping it strong.
Thomas—a retired United Methodist pastor who also has a Purple Heart from service in the Vietnam War, two Bronze Stars and numerous other military awards—began the ministry with his wife, Corine, when he pastored the three-point Brookgreen Charge in Murrell’s Inlet. The ministry moved where the Thomases moved: to Bennettsville, and then since 2000 in Bishopville. Today, it comprises 28 men over four counties, all volunteers, and brings together several denominations all working together for the good of the community.
“We put it all on prayer and trust in the Lord,” Thomas said.
Over the years, Good Samaritans has garnered support from a number of United Methodist clergy and district superintendents, as well as church members, including Dr. Lem Carer, Dr. Ed McDowell, Dr. John Holler, the Rev. Tom Rogers, the Rev. Telley Gadson and many more.
The day the Advocate visited, in late November, Thomas and his volunteers were handing out free Thanksgiving turkeys to people in need behind the football field at the old Bishopville high school, where they store furniture, clothing, food and other items donated by people and churches throughout South Carolina. They were also gearing up for a massive Christmas giveaway, which was held Dec. 19.
“There are not a lot of economic opportunities, so we primarily deal with folks with low income or no income,” said the Rev. Raymond Cook Jr., who serves as vice president of Good Samaritans as well as pastor of the North Sumter Charge. “Our main focus is to make sure children have something for Christmas.”
Good Samaritans receives donations from local businesses and citizens in the Bishopville, Sumter and Hartsville areas. To lean more or to get involved, contact Thomas at 803-459-4989.