By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
CHARLESTON — Ten years of blessings — that is the view of administration, staff, volunteers and recipients of the 10th anniversary of Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Services.
Since 1989 the O.L.M. Outreach on Johns Island has offered the barrier islands emergency services to opportunities for self-determination and community development. Home repairs rebuilt more than houses, they rebuilt lives of homeowners and volunteer groups that came to share their love. Educationally, the center offers parenting programs, tutoring, cultural awareness, summer enrichment programs and mentors that have strengthened families and cemented relationships with schools and civic communities.
“All of these blessings find their strong roots in the dedication and rich talents of an exceptional staff, a supportive and knowledgeable board of directors, numerous committed and concerned volunteers, generous donors, supportive collaborators and richly diverse, special folks who allow us to enter their lives and their community,” said Sister Mary Joseph Ritter, director of the outreach.
The outreach celebrated its decade of tireless work Sept. 6-11. Dinners, an open-house, a health fair all marked the style of ministry that has become the hallmark of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy — they gave to others instead of patting themselves on the back.
“In recognizing the volunteers throughout the week, we all came to appreciate the tremendous services that they provide and how much they partner with us and all that they do,” Sister Mary Joseph said.
They also remembered Sister Mary Albert Greer, the original founder and director of the outreach who died April 6.
“One of Sister Mary Albert’s great loves was to reach out in service to those in need,” Sister Mary Joseph said.
The Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy established the outreach on Edenvale Road to serve the many people living below the nation’s poverty level on James Island, Johns Island and Wadmalaw Island. Hurricane Hugo turned the center into a distribution site for emergency items. After the storm cleanup, the staff began to create programs that focused on the needs of people and their community and not just the immediate crisis. The organization went non-profit in 1991 complete with a board of directors. Educational programs were added to the mission and the ministry soon outgrew its building. The service built and moved into the present center in 1992 to expand programs of education, housing and outreach.
“This week of celebration made me aware of the many blessings we have received,” Sister Mary Joseph said. She added with characteristic humility. “We are blessed in the numerous ways we have been able to be of support to our neighbors.”