Every week, dozens of trays of baked goods go out the back doors of Kat’s Bread Box, a thrift bread store in Rock Hill.
Up front, owner Kathleen “Kat” Lawrence runs a retail store that sells bread and other baked goods to the public at discounted prices. However, nobody pays for items that go out the back of the store, on Albright Road at Heckle Boulevard. And nothing is stolen. The bread and baked goods are all donated by Lawrence to help the needy.
The items are delivered by volunteers from the Knights of Columbus civic group, affiliated with York and Lancaster county Catholic churches. Based on Knights of Columbus estimates, up to 4,000 people at seven food pantries and three soup kitchens receive the baked goods each week.
Lawrence drives a second-hand delivery-type truck to haul bread to her store from a North Carolina bakery warehouse. Recently, the truck’s drive-shaft broke and the frame was damaged. Lawrence had to get a loan to fix the truck. That pushed her to the brink of closing the store last week.
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The Knights of Columbus drivers showed up and loaded the donated bread and danishes and cookies. Then, they dropped something off -- a donation of more than $2,500.
Lawrence tried not to cry.
“You saved the day,” Lawrence told Mike Radl, a coordinator for the Knights of Columbus Rock Hill who delivered the donation, along with other volunteers.
Radl said donations from Lawrence help people in Lancaster County, Clover, Fort Mill and Lake Wylie. When the volunteers recently heard that the truck bills had reached a point of possibly forcing Lawrence to close, they collected money at local and state chapters.
“We are just thrilled to be able to help you, the person who helps thousands every week,” Radl told Lawrence.
The Knights of Columbus volunteers talked about how the only way they can keep helping the pantries and soup kitchens with baked goods is to get donations. Bruce Hutchison of Lancaster told Lawrence that the Lancaster County donations have grown to assist hundreds of people each week.
“It is all because of you,” Hutchison told Lawrence.
Lawrence gave Hutchison a hug. She gave everybody a hug.
All this happened early Wednesday, before the store opened for business at 8 a.m.
Then the store doors opened, and a pair of guys came in to buy bread for a company Christmas event. The volunteers finished loading their trucks.
Lawrence filled the retail shelves with bread that can be had for a dollar or two by customers seeking bargains.
“Now we can continue to help people,” Lawrence said. “Christmas? It happened, right here -- a little early.”