‘Love Project’ fills closed Laurinburg school with free food, Christmas gifts and more

State - Regional

LAURINBURG, N.C. (WBTW) — Thousands of people in Scotland County were treated to free food, toys and household essentials on Saturday.

Tables covered in goods and boxes stacked up the walls were donated. The organizers of the “Love Project” said they wanted to make sure the families of the border belt have a merry Christmas.

“We just want them to know that no matter what they are going through, no matter what they have done, God hears and God answers,” Dr. Jeremy Mays, president of Healing Waters Ministries, said.

Mays and his wife, Niki, run the ministry in Tennessee. For more than a decade, they have visited traveled across the country for holiday giveaways as part of the Love Project. Mays said more than 50 churches across nine states donated throughout the year.

“Knowing that a lot of people were praying for God to send them someone who could help them get Christmas for their kids, God used us to answer those prayers and it feels awesome,” Mays said.

Mays said more than 200 volunteers traveled to Laurinburg for the event. He said he expected to serve at least 2,500 people but that there were enough supplies for 5,000. When local leaders heard about the plans, they had parts of I.E. Johnson Elementary, which closed in spring 2020, cleared out to give the Love Project a venue.

“What better place to put it than this one that we are working to transition into a community resource center?” Scotland County Commissioner Darrel Gibson, Jr. said.

“It looks easy,” Chief Darwin Williams of the Laurinburg Police Department said. “Today looks like it was put together well. It took a lot of hard work.”

Dozens at a time waited in the auditorium while Mays preached to them. They were then given toiletries and other household essentials before filling up a shopping cart with food, toys, clothes and more in the gym.

“A lot of people don’t understand how bad it has been since COVID came along last year. Children are suffering,” Sandra Smith said as she waited to pick up gifts for her daughters and other children in her neighborhood. “They need food, they need shelter, they need clothing, and they need love. Love is the most important thing.”

Mays said the group hopes local organizations can learn from them and put together similar events.

“We’re trying to spark the vision in the places we go to start their own love project,” Mays said.

The giveaway lasted until 5:30 Saturday evening.

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