Without a way to support his family, Matthew Burke found the humility to seek help.
Burke, a 13-year United States Air Force veteran, needed to feed his family as they were struggling to maintain their livelihood. Being homeless at one point pushed Burke to find a food bank.
He needed to provide for his wife and kids, but he didn’t want to bring them along, or reveal that they were struggling.
That’s when Burke crossed paths with Evelyn McKoy, the 77-year-old president of Blessed Hope Foundation of Newberry.
Every first and third Tuesday of the month, McKoy and her small group of volunteers help people like Burke get their lives back on track by handing them a bag of groceries to provide for their families.
McKoy operates two wooden food pantry sheds in the backyard of her home, where she feeds approximately 200 families every two weeks.
“They just cling to me like I’m a savior because they don’t have money to go into the store,” McKoy said. “What if this was my family? I would want somebody to help them.”
Opening up at 9 a.m., families wait in line to grab a tall brown bag filled with food in hopes to feed their loved ones for the upcoming week.
Blessed Hope has a serving size for regular, and large family sizes. Volunteers place canned goods, juice, meat, rice, cereal and more food as it is provided on a list hung inside the shed.
By noon, McKoy closes her shed knowing she has helped around 500 people (feed their hunger.)
Burke was in that group that arrived for support every two weeks. He was able to visit just twice, and it was enough to provide stability for his family to get going again.
But he wasn’t a hit and run consumer, he found a way to pay back.
“The first and foremost important thing is take care of my family. Once that was accomplished, I’m able to feed them and put a roof over their head, I came back to Evelyn,” Burke said. “One of the things that inspired me the most was her dedication and motivation to help others. I took a mission upfront and started growing fruits, vegetables, animals for these families. It all came by being inspired by Evelyn.”
In an effort to pay it forward, Burke founded 10 CAN Inc., which is a non-profit organization, that helps revive the lives of military and first responders. 10 CAN has their own farm, where Burke partners with McKoy at Blessed Hope, by providing harvested meat to hand out to families.
Blessed Hope’s food comes from the USDA, and out of their own bank for the foundation, which is why they rely heavily on donations.
But the foundation is serving more than they ever have after experiencing a setback when their original building was burned down by an arsonist in 2011. In addition to losing the building they were operating out of, Blessed Hope lost about 80 percent of their net income after the fire.
With no thought in her mind about retiring from what she’s doing, McKoy said she thrives on making the most out of Blessed Hope, not for her benefit, but for the well being of others.
“It’s a me, me, me world. What am I going to get out of it?” McKoy said. “Sometimes you don’t see the results of what you’re doing good then, but sooner or later it will come back to you. You’ll need somebody or something that somebody has, and because you did good, then they’ll do good.”