Deputies’ Thanksgiving mission: Bring hot meals and warm hugs

Sheriff’s Capt. Kaynnera Capers delivers a hot meal to Vermella McClain of Lamar. PHOTO BY BOBBY BRYANT

Sheriff’s Capt. Kaynerra Capers delivering hot Thanksgiving meals. PHOTO BY BOBBY BRYANT

Capt. Capers, left, with Sheriff Tony Chavis & others helping to deliver Thanksgiving meals. PHOTO BY BOBBY BRYANT

Loading the vehicles. PHOTO BY BOBBY BRYANT

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

It’s about 9:15 on Thanksgiving morning, and Capt. Kaynnera Capers is driving a Darlington County Sheriff’s Office vehicle toward Lamar. In the back seat are boxes containing dozens of dinners – each packed with baked turkey, yams, green beans, snack cake and a roll. Capers has a list of names and addresses, compiled by local agencies, of the elderly residents who’ll be receiving these Thanksgiving meals. He’s one of about 20 deputies and 12 community volunteers helping prepare and deliver about 500 of these meals in the fourth year of the Sheriff’s Office’s “Operation Love Thy Neighbor.” A Summerton native, Capers was raised by his great-great-grandmother, who lived to the age of 107. “So I have a heart and passion for senior citizens. … There’s a lot of places, a lot of agencies, that are serving meals a few days before Thanksgiving, but there’s nobody out there checking on these seniors on Thanksgiving Day.” A little earlier, as sheriff’s vehicles were being loaded with meals, Sheriff Tony Chavis explained how and why the operation works. “We find out who’s there by themselves and who’s going to need a meal. I’ve received several phone calls saying, ‘I’m by myself. My family can’t come (because of the pandemic).’ They don’t want to contaminate Mama, Grandma, Great-Grandma. So we’re going to bring them something to eat.” “This is a way that we can give back,” Chavis said. “We’ve put out thousands of meals over four years’ time. … When we started this four years ago, it was about being in the community, having that community relationship. … We’re not here just to lock everybody up.” Today, Capers’ main mission is Lamar; others are making rounds in other areas. At first, his luck is pretty good, despite some difficulty making out faded street numbers on mailboxes. Capers’ first delivery is to Olline Simons, who’s delighted to see both the deputy and the meal. He wears a face mask as a COVID-19 precaution on this delivery and the others he makes. Some people on his list either don’t seem to be home or can’t come to the door, but he catches Vermella McClain at her house with other family members, delivers her meal and hugs her. After some more deliveries and attempted delivers, the Lamar area gets smacked with a drenching downpour of rain. This is a problem. The heavy rain makes it harder to make out street numbers. Capers, who didn’t wear a jacket because the weather seemed fine starting out from Darlington, is getting soaked on each attempted delivery. The weather is slowing everything down. He decides to ask for some help from Lamar Police Chief Carl Scott, who is working at the town’s Police Department on Thanksgiving. Capers drives over to the police station, ducks inside, and soon returns to get a box of meals from his vehicle. “Thank God, they’re going to help us with our meals,” Capers says. He still has another box of dinners he needs to deliver to some residents scattered around the county in other areas, and all the deputies are aiming to have their deliveries made by lunchtime. “In Darlington County, it’s really a big family,” Capers says. “We’re neighbors. When the morale is high, we believe that crime itself can be low.”

Author: Stephan Drew

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