Serve & Connect celebrates third year

This week marks three years since Columbia-based non-profit Serve & Connect launched Greg’s Groceries, a program that provides police departments with boxes of non-perishable food to share with individuals and families in need.

Greg’s Groceries is named in honor of Greg Alia, a Forest Acres Police Officer killed in the line of duty in 2015 and the late husband of Serve & Connect CEO and Founder, Kassy Alia Ray. Greg’s Groceries was launched by Serve & Connect in 2017 on Greg’s birthday – August 23.

Serve & Connect initially launched Greg’s Groceries in partnership with the Columbia Police Department and the Swansea Police Department. In the last three years, more than 45,000 meals have been delivered by police to individuals or families in need and 21 police departments across the state have participated in the program.

Each Greg’s Groceries box has enough food to feed a family of four for a week, which may meet an immediate need for a family and provide police with an alternative option for supporting under-resourced communities.

“The Greg’s Groceries Program is an important and impactful community resource readily available to Columbia Police officers to use when they identify a family or individual in need of essential non-perishable food items,” Columbia Police Department Chief W.H. “Skip” Holbrook said. “An equally important outcome part of this program is assisting officers in building trust and relationships with some of the most vulnerable citizens we serve.”

Serve & Connect partners with Harvest Hope Food Bank to implement the program. Boxes are packed at Harvest Hope Food Bank sites and distributed to police departments throughout South Carolina.

“Partners like Serve & Connect are crucial to Harvest Hope’s mission and reaching our neighbors in need,” said Wendy Broderick, Harvest Hope CEO. “Greg’s Groceries has been fundamental in helping us reach communities where the need is great through law enforcement officials. We are grateful for this partnership that allows us to continue our mission of building a hunger-free tomorrow.”

Data from the first three years of the program indicate 88 percent of recipients of Greg’s Groceries agree that the program builds trust with police. Additionally, 100 percent of police surveyed agreed the program helps to foster new connections with the community and increases the number of resources available for community policing.

“Greg said that for every one negative story we hear in the news, there are thousands of positive stories happening every day between police and community,” said Ray. “Through Greg’s Groceries, we are able to spread small acts of kindness between police and community and enhance police departments’ ability to implement effective community policing practices.”

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