Mickey Davis and her husband Norton have been spending their winters in Myrtle Beach for the past decade.
“Because it’s winter and there are less tourists here, I notice the unemployment,” she says. “And because of the unemployment, I noticed the lack of food. My son is a food director for the Burlington, Vermont schools, and for years he’s heard about the kids who go home after their lunch on Friday and don’t eat again until Monday when they come to school. And the same thing happens in South Carolina.”
As a career, Mickey was involved in social work, so she’s always tried to help others in one capacity or another. When she first started coming to Myrtle Beach, she decided to start a food collection box at Ocean’s One Resort, where she stays for the winter. She notified her friends in the resort so they could spread the word, and when the box was full, Mickey would deliver it to the Myrtle Beach chapter of the Lowcountry Food Bank. The box is still there, arriving the first week in December or so, when Mickey gets to town.
“Across the country, 1 out of every 7 people need a food bank to get the extra food that they’re missing,” she says. “That’s a lot of people.”
Mickey decided to do more. She began a small craft show in the hotel, which is still held every December. Instead of asking people to pay money to be in the show, the vendors bring food donations for the Food Bank; attendees bring food donations as their admission ticket.
“There had also been a small craft show at another hotel that I had participated in as a vendor for a couple of years,” Mickey says. “When the hotel canceled it, I decided that I would start my own to benefit the Food Bank. I didn’t know anybody, but asked around and was referred to the Rec Center in the Market Common.”
Because it was a non-profit event and Mickey was asking for the space for free, she contacted the town supervisor for assistance, asking the city to co-sponsor the event with her. She was approved almost immediately. She began advertising for vendors, and at the first show she secured sixty-five crafters.
“After the first fair, the Rec Center gained the notice of people who had never known it was there,” she says. “People began booking the space to host their own private parties, weddings, and functions. Within two years, the rec center was open full time. I was so pleased that they benefitted from the craft fair being there because they were so generous in supporting our cause, donating their space, printing all our flyers, and even donating free coffee.”
The craft fair grew exponentially with each passing year, as more and more people turned up, eager to participate in the cause.
“The second year we got two rooms,” says Mickey. “And last year we had the entire building with 105 vendors. Each year we ask for food donations from the vendors who participate, and of the people who attend. We also collect money.”
Mickey asks people to bake or bring food for attendees to enjoy as they peruse the fair. The snacks are available for a donation; the monies are given to the Food Bank as well.
Last year’s craft fair drew over 1,500 people who donated 5,492 pounds of food and $2,000 for the Food Bank.
“On the fifth annual, we also collected pet food,” Mickey says, “because we found out that if people have pets, they will share their food with them so the pets don’t starve. And that attracted all the pet lovers to us.”
Mickey is continuously touched by the generosity of the people she meets in helping to support this cause.
“I was in my hotel and met a woman who was there on vacation. When I told her about what I was doing, she went out and purchased $300 worth of food, and then sent us a check for $500 when she returned home. ‘Because it’s for a great cause,’ she said.”
“We find the people here are so friendly and so nice, and we have so much fun when we’re here and enjoy it so much, we just want to give back to this community,” Mickey says of her work. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to help people and be able to get the community involved to help. Everybody likes to participate because it’s a feel-good kind of thing.”
Mickey is eighty-one years old, and now that the event is established and going strong, felt that it was time to enlist the assistance of a younger generation in making the fair happen each year. Nancy and Alex Smith, residents of Myrtle Beach, have taken over the running of the event. Mickey will continue with the advertising, and they will coordinate the rest of the show.
These are the months when people think about giving back, and the first week in December is when you can expect to see the donation box in the lobby of Mickey’s hotel.
Mickey hosts the craft fair in February because the middle of winter is a time of year when donations are needed just as much but happen less. She hopes to see you there. And is taking applications now for vendors.