St. Francis opens media center, celebrates volunteers, outreach


HILTON HEAD ISLAND — Every parish strives to serve the Lord through community involvement — to spread its time, talent and treasure to its neighbors. St. Francis by the Sea has found a perfect balance between these three ideals of stewardship.

The past year the parish has broaden the road on its successful journey to outreach. In its most recent happening, the parish opened a Catholic Media Center, a full offering of Catholic books, icons, medals, and rosaries.

“There’s nothing like it between Savannah and Charleston,” said Father Michael McCafferty, pastor, as he blessed the shop. The store is located down the road from the parish in the same small strip of stores as the St. Francis Thrift Shop.

When Joan Carey, pastoral associate, went in search of help to start the shop, the Daughters of St. Paul in Charleston had the answer — their Pauline Parish Media Centers program. In their order’s effort to evangelize through the media, they began reaching out to parishioners. Sister Margaret Kerry was recently named superior of the the group in Charleston and has worked with parish media centers in Philadelphia. The daughters sent shelving and bookcases and all the supplies needed to fill them.

In Hilton Head, Angie Beans, parishioner and store manager, organized volunteers. Together they will operate the store two days a week, Wednesday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Beans and her staff will keep track of what’s sold and contact the sisters in Charleston for replacements. The sisters with their already well-established relationship with publishers and manufacturers will order supplies for the St. Francis Media Center.

Carey said the parish doesn’t plan to make a profit from the bookstore, but just wants to be a service to the community.

“We want to give a good selection of material for [Hispanics],” said Father McCafferty. “We estimate there are about 8,000 Hispanics in the area,” which the church strives to serve on a daily basis. Through its Hispanic Office of Legal Assistance (HOLA) and its Community Service and Justice (CS&J) Commission, the parish helps the Hispanic population by answering questions about buying cars, moving them through the immigration process, providing funds for such things as bills, and offering vouchers for food, clothing, and furniture at the thrift store.

He stressed his pride in the parish’s Hispanic ministry program, which he said has grown in many directions. The parish welcomes 400 to 600 Hispanics each Saturday at the Spanish Mass.

Another successful endeavor

In the bookstore, a door leads to a storeroom, where behind another door is a furniture showroom. It’s a new section of the parish’s St. Francis Thrift Store. Behind the showroom is a warehouse of goods from treadmills to dressers to old barber chairs. There, volunteers receive donations, prepare them for sale, and send to the Salvation Army any goods they don’t use.

“Nothing goes to waste,” said Carey.

The thrift store opened a year ago with 5,900 square feet and today has about 8,000 square feet. Annie Petragnani, store manager since last June, has seen the store grow and uses her experience to run a top-notch retail business. With many fine items being donated, the store’s prices remain thrifty. And with a daily volunteer staff of 15 and the large retail space, the store grossed $250,000 in a year. Needless to say, the parish was able to repay its loan to the diocese in three months.

With profits from the store, the parish has started a twice-a-year process of taking applications for grants. The first grant of $10,000 was given to SAFE, Sewage Access for Everyone. Nearly $5,000 in vouchers for the thrift store have been provided to needy folks through the CS&J commission.

Father McCafferty said they don’t restrict their help to Catholics and have made it an interparish effort. Their Catholic neighbors, Holy Family and St. Gregory the Great, take part in the voucher program.

“We try to help each other to really make it an outreach,” said the pastor.

He said that beyond other expenses, profits go to the immigration office, which has helped as many as 50 to 60 people a day.

The parish’s welcoming spirit and joyful outreach would be nil without their volunteers. A recognition dinner was held last week in honor of volunteers and the end of the first successful year of the thrift store. About 150 people attended the dinner where Petragnani awarded Winnie Schweighart the volunteer of the year award. Winnie may often be found in the trendier boutique section of the thrift shop. “I love it here,” she says simply of the shop.

As sure as Hilton Head will attract beachgoers, St. Francis by the Sea will navigate the shifting sands to make a clearer path for their neighbors in need.

PHOTO: Volunteers Ellen Beauchamp and Joyce Konoval prepare items for sale in the thrift store.