People & Places with Pierce: Agape Chocolates

In an unassuming storefront right in the heart of downtown Graniteville, one man stands alone in his chocolate factory.

James Stefanakos, owner and creator of Agape Chocolates, explains: “I really wanted to bring really good chocolate to the Aiken area. Our chocolate is not like your run of the mill chocolate bar. It’s really rich. It’s got a great flavor. We use a lot of local ingredients.”

Chocolate is one of those simple things in life that makes you feel good. You’ll feel even better biting into an Agape Chocolate bar knowing that you’re helping others.

Ann Visintainer, director of marketing at the Golden Harvest Food Bank, says: “Out of the blue they approached us and said hey, we want to help kids and we have this great idea to start a chocolate company and donate some of the proceeds to help kids in need.”

“One in four children approximately lack access to nutritional food on a regular basis here in the CSRA, and I wanted to do something that gave back to the community,” added Stefanakos.

“The backpack program works to bridge the weekend meal gap as we call it to provide a bag full of shelf stable and child friendly food to kids in need every Friday during the school year,” said Visintainer.

“My oldest daughter Mya was going to school at Byrd Elementary,” said Stefanakos. “I was having lunch with her one Friday afternoon, and I noticed a little kid when nobody was looking they quickly grabbed a bag of apples off their tray and stuck it in their pocket. I later learned that was that child’s only meal that night. That basically broke my heart.”

“The kids are incredibly grateful,” added Visintainer. “A lot of them can’t wait to get their meal pack on Friday.”

“I got moved to leave my career as an engineer and start up a chocolate company,” said Stefanakos. “Since July 1, 2015, we’ve fed approximately 30,000 children nationwide with the bulk of those right here in the CSRA.”

The former engineer turned chocolatier now builds hope for kids in his community and beyond one delicious chocolate bar at a time.

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