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Food for the soul: Pay-what-you-can café welcomes everyone

Ragina Scott-Saunders (center) runs Destiny Community Cafe in North Charleston. (WCIV)

What does a community mean to you? Is it a place? Is it the people?

For one Lowcountry woman, it’s a spirit. It’s a destiny.

Something special is cooking in North Charleston.

A one of a kind café, sandwiched in a nondescript strip mall.

"The spirit is really here of love and kindness and we want to show that example in the world today," said Ragina Scott-Saunders, owner of the café.

Scott Saunders saw a community in need.

"I found people in the shopping plaza going through trashcans in the morning looking for food. It got to the point all the folks that came here during the week didn’t have a lot of money but they needed a good home-cooked meal,” said Scott-Saunders

Three-years ago, she opened her non-profit Destiny Community Café.

“I founded a non-profit network called One World, Everyone Eats. It’s made up of like-minded people that want to help people and it helps to know I’m not the only person," said Scott-Saunders.

The recipe to the cafe's success is that people pay what they can or volunteer time for their meal.

"When someone comes here and they are struggling, I'm encouraged that they see the light when they volunteer here, because they say, ‘Ms. Ragina we go in the kitchen and you don’t have hardly anything and you put a meal together.' To them, it’s a miracle but I guess I’m getting used to making a miracle meal,” said Scott-Saunders.

There are never too many cooks in her kitchen and never too many guests in her café.

Even though Ragina scrapes by, the blessings overflow. She operates strictly on monetary donations.

"I know we cried when we opened it. Our address was at the top of the envelope and in the middle of it. There was an anonymous cashier's check for $2,000. We have never seen anybody give that kind of money and not tell us who they were. They also left a nice note to tell us to keep doing what we were doing," she said.

Ragina says her faith is tested daily, but she says it has never been stronger.

"I don’t care if you worship the spirit, the universe, the earth, or the flowers. There is still love and you got to give that love out and when you share it you receive it back. I hope more of that is spread about in the world because we have gone through so much," said Scott-Saunders.

Her guests are no different.

"I've had people who come here that get $5 of food stamps. What do you do with that in a month ? " asks Scott-Saunders.

They cook together, eat together and pray together. She prays that the community will see the same light and serve up a plate of goodness.

"We always work hard for what we do. I encourage people to do the same. My grandparents raised me that way, but this is a community effort so I am asking the community to please to reach out, experience it and see for yourselves. I don’t have to tell the stories they can see the stories."

The story a familiar one. The fish, frozen catfish. The 2 loaves of bread, Hawaiian roles. Where everyone is fed and no one is turned away.

The cafe owner doesn’t take a salary and the majority of the food is donated.

The café is open Monday-Friday from 1-3 p.m.

The café is located at 5060 Dorchester Road.

Everyone is welcome, and it’s why Ragina Scott-Saunders is this month’s Jefferson Award winner.

To nominate someone for the Jefferson Awards or to read about past winners, click here.


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