By TIM BULLARD
CONWAY — The look on the face of a jobless woman trying to feed her family; a homeless man in a tent accepts sacks of food; whether or not to choose life or an abortion, a mother makes the right choice; a Yugoslavian gets motel refuge.
Those were some of the anecdotes of volunteers for the Pee Dee Regional Office of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Charleston, who were honored for their service recently with a luncheon at Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach.
The assistance center, located at St. James Church in Conway, offers parish social ministries, consultation, children’s advocacy, education, crisis pregnancy support and seasonal farm worker outreach.
The volunteers honored included: Imelda Thorp, Russ Hilsher, Henry Reyns and Barbara DiAngelantonio, Alberta Wargus, Elizabeth Yourshaw, Teresa Powers, Jan Brunk, Ann Smith and Joan Samsel, all from St. James Parish; Mary and Hil Dura of Infant Jesus in Marion; and Hilda Hewitt of the Church of the Resurrection in Loris. Father ‘Rick LaBrecque of St. James and Msgr. Thomas Duffy of St. Michael Church in Garden City were also awarded certificates of recognition for their ongoing support to the services and programs of Catholic Charities.
“Thank you for the wonderful opportunities that you have given us, and most importantly, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to work with the blessed poor among us,” said Diane Bullard, regional coordinator for the Pee Dee, in a prayer. “It is important to me that your loved ones hear about your work,” she said.
Volunteers shared anecdotal memories, some bittersweet, some inspirational, about the clients who have come through the doors of an office which used to be a gym coach’s room and showers which were painted and renovated.
The office got rolling after the Hilshers donated a typewriter; now it has a computer, printer, fax machine and decorations of religious icons.
Volunteers became misty-eyed when remembering a miraculous $140 donation when coffers were empty and that exact amount was needed for a client. There were the spiders, mice, lizards, bugs, cats and stray dogs. A lizard was on top of the Christmas tree once; and the Reyns once threatened to saddle up and ride off on a family of spiders nesting above the computer.
There was the heartbroken widowed spouse whose dishes were given straight to a family who had lost everything — one volunteer shared the wonders of adoption to a pregnant teen considering abortion.
Statistics tell the story of 362 families in crisis pregnancies served since 1996; 944 families received food, 2,295 families received help such as shelter, transportation and medicine, and 603 seasonal farm worker families received assistance.
Clocking in more than 4,737 hours, the volunteers have contributed the equivalent of 28 weeks, not counting delivery and unplanned hours.
They have reunited families in desperate situations, licensed a nurse, helped with car repairs, given three cars away, provided tents for the homeless, given hundreds of blankets to outreach centers, purchased bus tickets, handed out fire extinguishers, sent baby toys to home day cares, suited boots for Red Cross relief workers, bought a uniform for a medical student, bought seven fishing poles (for family food sources), made 350 sewing kits, 150 runaway kits, 62 babysitter kits, 300 first aid kits and hundreds of welcome baby kits for new mothers, outfitted day-care babies with sunglasses, provided hurricane supplies for shut-ins and meals for a Hospice patient, purchased a truck load of sand for water drainage for a family that lives on a hog farm, coordinated a dental clinic for 37 kids, made insurance payments, distributed baby vitamins, offered hurricane relief through three storms, and provided a lot of diapers to infants.
More than 600 bookbags were filled with supplies for children before the school year, and the volunteers also staffed a ministry fair booth and supported outreach centers.
“You are with us for a reason,” said Bullard. “I know you all are the answer to the prayers of the poor in the Pee Dee. I know that our prayers are answered by being given the privilege of the interactions that we have every day with the needy. I know everyone here will agree that we truly get more than we give to the poor of the area.”
The volunteers spend a lot of time at the center helping people who are in need of food, goods and clothing. They sort donations, which are sometimes piled up outside the gym, and pick up items at regional parish offices. They also make deliveries and give client assistance of all types.
“I wish to extend my special thanks to all of you, the dedicated Catholic Charities volunteers, who are living the social mission of the Church,” wrote Bishop David B. Thompson in letters to the volunteers. “Whether providing direct services to the poor, sorting donations, furnishing transportation, helping migrants resettle, advocating for human life, developing new programs, or answering the phones, your contributions are invaluable. You have heeded the call to be the Salt of the Earth and season your community with the flavor of God’s care and compassion. May God bless and keep you.”
With 14,000 regional offices in the United States, Catholic Charities USA is the largest non-profit, private social service network in the country.