SUMTER, S.C. — Cultivating life-changing relationships is the goal of a Sumter nonprofit.
The By Name Project serves food and clothes to people in need on the first and third Saturdays of every month.
"People feel a certain way when you call them by name," Executive Director Adam Anderson said. "We try to go the extra mile where we know people by name. We feel that’s really important."
Volunteers set up a trailer filled with clothes and collect food donations from community members to give out at a park near downtown at 305 Dingle St.
"We’re actually out here because we care about these people and we want to pour our hearts out to them," Anderson said. "We exist to serve and love the community by addressing immediate needs and knowing people by name so that we can cultivate life-changing relationships."
Administrator Renee Robbins said that not only does the nonprofit change the lives of the people they serve, but volunteers also learn valuable lessons.
"It gives you an insight into how other people live and it helps develop your empathy," Robbins said.
It’s more than just giving out food and clothes to people in need, though. Everyone who shows up puts on a nametag.
The volunteers like Shan Dugas learn the names of the people they’re serving and they form relationships with them.
"It lets them know that you care," Dugas said. "'Cuz everybody wants somebody to talk to them and know them by name, right?"
"A lot of times when someone’s living in a survival mode situation, they don’t get that," Robbins added. "They don’t get that dignity of someone calling them by name. They don't even get eye contact a lot of times. How does that make you feel when no one will ever look at you or call you by your name?"
John Birch, who's received food and clothes in the past, said that when he stops by the trailer, he feels known.
"It makes me feel like I’m somebody, you know? That they can recognize and call me by name," Birch said. "Respect them, they respect me. It’s just a joyful thing and I’ve been blessed."
The By Name Project takes new and gently-used clothing and monetary donations. To donate or volunteer, visit TheByNameProject.org.
"The way I see it, God loves us and knows us all by name, knows every hair on our head, so I want to be an imitator of that and love people the way that I see that he loves me," Anderson said. "I love encouraging them, and I love seeing their eyes when we call them by name."
"When we get to that point where we’ve been consistent enough to gain a relationship with them and strengthen that relationship and they realize that we care and we’re not just out there just because of the clothes," Anderson added.
Robbins said that, in the future, she hopes the organization can expand to secure a physical location and paid employees.