Pictured above Rev. Nicky Wilson passing out meals. All photos by Calvin Reese, Millennium Magazine.
Hundreds of senior citizens across the Midlands were provided free meals thanks to the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center and former USC football star Darian Stewart. Stewart, who plays safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, got involved at Brookland Baptist Church while playing for the Gamecocks.
The Stewart Standouts Foundation, Inc. donated meals for seniors who are members of the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center (BLEC), James B. Adams Senior Center and other elderly residents of Columbia. The meal program is the result of a partnership that launched on Tuesday, April 28. The meals were being distributed via drive-thru pick-up from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the BLEC in West Columbia or delivered to members who are homebound. Meals are also being distributed at Brookland Baptist Church’s Northeast campus in the Summit.
Darian and Whitley Stewart are the CEOs and founders of the Stewart Standouts Foundation. The SSF a non-profit, organization, founded in 2014 and based out of Charlotte, NC was founded on the premise of providing resources to under-served communities.
Darian Stewart is currently a 10-year veteran of the National Football League (NFL). He was a standout performer with the University of South Carolina from 2006-2009. Stewart was a starter for the Denver Broncos when they won Super Bowl 50 in 2016.
Darian Stewart developed a bond with Brookland Baptist Church as a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina. The relationship has endured for more than a decade since he left the Midlands to launch his highly-successful professional football career. Stewart and his wife Whitley have provided financial support for numerous causes that empower and enrich communities in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. and in other cities through the SSF.
“It is our absolute pleasure to provide meals for the seniors at the BLEC and those from neighboring communities in Columbia during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Darian Stewart. “It was extremely important to my wife and our foundation that we lend support, when possible, to help those in the greatest need. Charles Waddell, deputy athletic director at the University of South Carolina, connected us with the BLEC which is closely aligned with Brookland Baptist Church. I have roots with Brookland Baptist Church from when I played for the Gamecocks. These seniors have proud legacies as the matriarchs and patriarchs of their families. They represent Columbia’s ‘Greatest Generation.’ We were eager to support this initiative after our first conversation.”
“We are extremely grateful that Darian and Whitley — through the Stewart Standouts Foundation — chose to address a critical need for the senior population during this unprecedented crisis,” said Dr. Cindye Richburg Cotton. “COVID-19 disrupted our schedule of youth and senior activities. This includes the lunch program and food pantry which primarily provided nutritious meals and healthy non-perishable options for our seniors. It truly was a tremendous blessing that Charles Waddell was aware of our programs through the BLEC’s relationship with Dr. Charles B. Jackson Sr., pastor at Brookland Baptist Church’s main campus in West Columbia and Dr. Chris Leevy Johnson, pastor at BBC’s Northeast Campus in The Summit. The joyful expressions on the faces of the seniors when they pick up their meals reveal just how much this means to them. We cannot thank Darian and Whitley Stewart, the SSF, and Mr. Waddell enough for their incredible support.”
Dr. Cotton is the Executive Director of the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center, which provides cultural, educational, and recreation and spiritually-uplifting programs for seniors and youth. The BLEC is located on 1218 Batchelor Street, West Columbia, S.C.
Rev. Charles B. Jackson is the pastor of Brookland Baptist Church.