Updated: Dec 12, 2020
RaGina Saunders- mother of two, Gullah Geechee descendent, outreach warrior, and Soul Food Chef. Her presence lights up the room, demanding respect and kindness for all, and her story proves why.
Community. A fellowship many search their whole life to obtain, and still, never grasp the true power it has to change lives for the better. RaGina knew otherwise. Birthed into modest circumstance, RaGina's bright and talented mother, single-handedly raised her two daughters. She worked as a cook at a seafood chain restaurant, instilling in her daughters a love for food and hard work. There were times RaGina remembered crashing on extended families couches, wearing hand-me-downs, and eating warm meals served by local friends. Community uplifted RaGina's family; it provided solace despite rigged disadvantage. Through Community, RaGina witnessed faith, hope, and love, three grounding personal values that would eventually be the founding blocks of Destiny Community Cafe.
From 16 on, RaGina worked countless jobs from Business in Computer Software to Human Resources to independent sales and T-Mobile franchise ownership. All the while, she continued to reach people from these unique spaces, usually through homemade comfort food. The consistent positive feedback on her cooking inspired her to open a restaurant downtown, which thrived until an unfortunate flooding incident forced closure. Yet even still, the love for community and food persisted, so with family support and countless volunteers, RaGina founded Scott’s Grand Reception and Corporate Center in 2011.
Something was still missing. She saw it in the teenager searching through the dumpster, the neighbor’s friend desperate to provide a family dinner… her community felt forgotten. It was starving. RaGina started to research and stumbled upon One World Everybody Eats, a national community of cafes working to increase food security for all by providing a local approach to our global hunger crisis through a pay-what-you-can nonprofit restaurant model. Food and community all in one? Her calling became clear.
After an inspiring interaction with Jon Bon Jovi in New Jersey, RaGina's vision of servitude and soul food manifested as Destiny Community Café (DCC), which officially opened in April of 2015. This café remains the only pay-what-you-can restaurant in South Carolina and the only one in the United States providing Gullah Geechee soul food. With an infinite support system and an “all are welcome” delivery, the Café has and continues to expand outreach opportunities. Located in a food desert shopping center, the sole mission remains providing nourishment in the most desolate places, with Gullah flare of course. DCC frequently partners with other local non-profits to ensure the community is served. During COVID-19 this summer, DCC offered a plant-based meal program for local youth which substituted the much needed school lunches and aided the pandemic hunger crisis efforts. DCC's most recent venture was a partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina’s Urban Gardens program, in which it transformed the shopping center planters into community gardens, which will host emotion-based garden therapy, café Gullah Geechee inspired foods, educational gardening lessons, and much more.
RaGina's community vision is not over. If lucky enough to meet her, the embrace she provides and the passion she exudes promises an everlasting effort to serve. Her words heavy with hope still ring, "Over time, I’ve learned you don’t need much to serve the many. Just a warm meal sprinkled with a little love. That’s what community should be."