Eloise Mackey loves fresh fruits and vegetables.
Five years ago Eloise remembers living at the Palmetto House with her son Isaiah, now 13. Her family was homeless and greatly appreciated a home-cooked meal.
That year Eloise and Isaiah met Katie Stagliano, who was 9 years old at the time and had with her a 40-pound cabbage that she had grown at home. She wanted to feed the homeless people at the Palmetto House with it.
The Mackeys offered to help her cook the cabbage since it was so big.
“She made sure everybody was fed,” Eloise said.
After the cabbage Katie started coming to the shelter at least once or twice a week, Eloise said.
She would bring with her the fresh fruits and vegetables that Eloise loves so much – baskets of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, oranges and even apples, on one occasion.
Eloise remembers those apples being so delicious but even more so, she remembers how nice it was to have a young girl come to the shelter every week to bring food that she had grown herself.
“I was very amazed that she had taken the opportunity to help somebody else,” Eloise said. “It’s something that should be instilled in children – and she had it.”
The conditions for the Mackeys are better now. The Summerville family has a home, but does not miss out on a Katie’s Krops Dinner.
Katie’s Krops is an organization that has helped kids across the nation create and maintain more than 60 vegetable gardens, which have yielded thousands of pounds of fresh produce to feed people in need.
In 2010 the kitchen of the Palmetto House closed to non-residents and Katie, concerned about what would happen to the hungry people who came to eat at Palmetto House, started the tradition of serving her own dinners, called Katie’s Krops Dinners, all run by kids.
The most recent dinner was held Thursday night, when Bob Denomme, senior director of produce with Bi-Lo, presented the 15-year-old with a check for $66,000 to keep the organization thriving.
Denomme said it is rare for child organization to receive this kind of recognition.
“I can’t believe Katie could make this all happen,” he said. “It is just striking. I think kids want to help and they want to do this stuff.”
Eloise and Isaiah are faithful attendees at Katie’s Krops Dinners. Isaiah is now a volunteer with the organization and helps prepare and distribute food.
“It’s cool because I get to help other people and I get to help Katie,” Isaiah said. “I can never repay what she did for me. She was always helping us.”
Isaiah hopes to continue to pay it forward with the organization.
“I feel grateful that Katie lets me help,” he said.
Eloise loves that her son is now part of the organization and repaying the favor.
“He looks forward to every dinner,” she said. “It’s very encouraging to him and it makes him feel wonderful about serving other people.”
Katie’s parents, John and Stacey, also come to every meal and help their daughter run her organization. Katie’s “flagship” garden is the one she started at Pinewood Prep School, where she is in the ninth grade.
Stacey said there is a total of six Katie’s Krops gardens in the state alone.
She wants to establish a Katie’s Krops Dinner in every state in the nation.
“When we started this never did I think we’d be sitting here tonight, watching her receive a check for $66,000,” Stacey said. “She is a blessing.”
With that money Katie said she hopes to continue growing gardens and serving the hungry.
“I never in a million years thought the check was going to be that high,” she said. “We have a very big crew and a big Katie’s Krops family.”
Katie said 12 child volunteers were helping in the kitchen with last week’s dinner.
“My friends and my family are so very supportive to me,” Katie said. “I couldn’t do this without them.”