By PAUL A. BARRA
SUMTER — A parishioner of St. Jude’s Church, who began and operates a ministry to migrant workers, was recognized by the state in January for her work.
Alice Ingram was presented with the 2002 Farm Worker Advocate/Volunteer Award from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). It was the first year for the statewide award, designed to recognize one person annually who dedicates his or her own time to helping migrant workers. For the state official who nominated Ingram, the choice for the seminal award was obvious.
“When the word ‘volunteer’ comes up, I can’t think of anyone who exemplifies it more than Alice,” said Mary Ruschky, who is secretary of the S.C. Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers Commission and administrator of the Migrant Division of the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Ruschky has accompanied Ingram on some of her visits to migrant camps and farms over the past five years and has seen with her own eyes the efficacy of the awardee’s work.
“Alice does this for one reason, to offer help and hope to those in need. The workers trust her and confide in her because they perceive that she has no ulterior motive. They love her,” Ruschky said.
Ingram cradles babies, helps mothers prepare food and takes old workers to the doctor, Ruschky said. The Hispanic ministry, which Ingram and two other women founded and which has now become a committee of St. Jude’s, takes up enormous amounts of time, according to another fan of the Sumter woman.
“Alice is an incredibly hardworking person. She works tirelessly for the migrants,” said Tracy Kroll, coordinator of Catholic Charities for the Midlands and a member, with Ingram, of TEAMM (Task Force for Ecumenical Action for Migrants in the Midlands.). Both she and Ruschky hope that the award will boost similar efforts in other parishes in the state.
“This publicity may prompt other lay people in parishes to start Hispanic ministries. The Hispanic population in our state has been increasing for many years and suddenly people are starting to become aware of their needs,” Kroll said.
Alice Ingram herself expressed “total surprise” at the award announcement. She is honored, she said, and happy for the ministry team at St. Jude.
“It’s nice to get this recognition by being part of this wonderful team we have,” Ingram said.
She believes she was selected for Ruschky’s nomination because of a particular character trait she admits to: “I’m the nosy one. I want to get to know the people in the camps.”
Not taken in by her modesty, Ruschky called Alice Ingram “a very, very special lady.” Apparently, the State of South Carolina agrees.