A Season of Giving

Three Locals Who Give Back to the Community and How You Can Too!

Article by Rebecca Williams

Photography by Rebecca Williams and Gayle Bryan

Originally published in Aiken City Lifestyle

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the month of November is a great time to give back to the community. Aiken has a great support system for those in need. Here we highlight locals who are involved in the community and local charities, and can encourage our readers to get involved also.

Calvin Henderson embodies philanthropy.  When he sees a need, he won’t stop until it’s met. Calvin used his background in electrical and HVAC, to help our Aiken county youth not only by instilling his knowledge to them through teaching at the Aiken County Career Center, but also nurturing confidence and self-awareness that will last their entire lives. As he says, “Teaching mama’s babies to be the world’s greatest!” Trade jobs are not only needed but seem to be rising in popularity as the new generation is opting for less student debt and faster placement in higher-level employment. Calvin also gives back in his hometown of Edgefield, SC through Feedy Needy, a program that feeds over 200 elderly every Sunday with help from donations and volunteers. “The plated dinner we offer is more than just a home-cooked meal. It allows my team to converse with the lonely, present a smiling face to a stranger, and check on needs that would otherwise go unnoticed.” Calvin notes.  He also organizes a special needs prom for the community every year, which is an event that is not to be missed. Calvin is an example of how we can use our skills to enrich the community and help those in need, if you would like to help in any of his efforts feel free to reach out to him.

Karen Edwards has a family history of charity work in Aiken. Her parents Lloyd Olsen (who served on the Aiken City Council) and Crystal Olsen (who helped start the Aiken Country Gardeners Club) were advocates involved in the Salvation Army and Lions Club. Karen likes the aspect of “synergy” that aligns her endeavors. Not only does she, but work with the Salvation Army (she is also a member of their advisory board), she is involved with the Homeless Coalition and is the co-president of the Aiken Mid-Day Lions Club. Her garden club, Aiken Country Gardeners and the Garden Council are other ways she brings members together to meet the needs of our citizens.  These organizations come together to fight hunger through drives and prepared meals. The Salvation Army will be holding a Thanksgiving meal this year on November 24th, at 322 Gayle Avenue, Aiken from 12-2 pm, if you would like to volunteer or donate call 803-641-4141. The shelter at the Salvation Army now houses 35 residents. In addition to receiving shelter, they are also given hot breakfasts and dinners, as well as job placement. Another way you can give back this holiday season through Salvation Army is through the Angel Tree program which provides Christmas toys and clothing for families in need, as well as volunteering for the bell ringing effort. Karen is proof there definitely are enough hours in the day!

Our final spotlight lands on Jim Rhodes, a former engineer, who founded the Equine Rescue of Aiken along with his family in 2005. This 501C3 non-profit organization rehabilitates horses that are abandoned, donated, or confiscated. Jim Rhodes’ philosophy is that we were put on this earth to help others and animals.

The grounds of the Rescue are magical, or as Mr. Jim put it, reminiscent of the Kentucky foothills. Jim thinks of the Rescue as a “destination in Aiken”. The horses that call this place home are lucky, not only for the view, put the elite level of care. Volunteers come every morning to feed, clean, and groom them. The rescue also runs a children's program, Pony Pals, which works with around 70 children, as well as programs for the hearing impaired and active duty and veterans. The Rescue is open for tours six days a week and by appointment on Sundays. An organization this large relies heavily, not only on their loyal volunteers, but through monetary donations. Follow their Facebook page or visit aikenequinerescue.org to see some of the amazing transformations of their resident horses, ponies or donkeys and for events or donations. We are lucky to have Jim Rhodes in our community to shed light on animal treatment and responsible ownership.

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