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Hundreds line up for free food and toy giveaway in South Boston

Event organizer: “People are hungry, and it’s our responsibility to do what we can”

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. – A Christmas food and toy giveaway attracted a crowd to a South Boston strip mall Sunday afternoon.

The group God’s Final Call and Warning partnered with South Boston’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church to create a free market with pantry goods and holiday gifts.

“With COVID-19, you’re talking about people who are in need,” said Ralph Rhyne of God’s Final Call and Warning. “Some are desperate.”

“People have lost their jobs. People are hungry,” said associate pastor Fred Betts of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. “We feel it’s our responsibility to do what we can.”

Rhyne said the event had enough supplies for 500 families, but hundreds of people lined up outside of the temporary store as soon as the doors opened.

“I didn’t expect the lines to be as long as they are,” Betts said. “I think it speaks to how the need is greater than we anticipated.”

Despite the large crowd, Rhyne did not put a cap on how many items each family could take. He said that’s because some families have larger needs than others.

“They can pretty much have what they want,” Rhyne said. “Some had nearly more than they could carry.”

The customers included Philyn Knight, a South Boston mother who found wrapped gifts for her daughter and new appliances such as an Instant Pot.

“I appreciate it, it was very needed,” Knight said. “It’s a blessing for them to help the community.”

Rhyne has a similar free giveaway planned in Danville Tuesday evening. He and Betts say they’re extremely proud of how their first giveaway went.

“It’s such a delight because it speaks to the greater need,” Betts said.

“Your heart feels warm because you’re helping people,” Rhyne said.