Gloverville outreach serving more with less

Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss: Dee Roper (left) and Demond Sullivan unload supplies for the food pantry at the Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center in Gloverville.

GLOVERVILLE—Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center was a hive of activity on a recent Wednesday morning, as it is on most mornings. 

People stood in line for the food pantry, which runs three days a week. Workers and staff members unloaded canned goods and other supplies from trucks. Inside the main building, senior citizens arrived for a daily activity program run by the Aiken County Council on Aging. In another set of buildings, volunteers assisted people seeking aid for a variety of needs. 

Staff members of Catholic Charities want the public to know that every day is like this at the center. It is busy and requires a lot of help.

The food pantry, senior program, GED classes and other ministries that help people in the area continue to operate and are serving more clients than ever before. 

Officials at the outreach said it has been a challenge to keep the ministries running since the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul left Gloverville two years ago after nearly 40 years of service. They were the last of a long line of women religious who had operated the center since it opened in 1939. Their role was to help the people in need who live in the string of little towns known as Horse Creek Valley. 

In 2017, Catholic Charities took over, and since then donations have slowed and the number of volunteers has dwindled. 

“We still have all the same programs, but I think there was a misunderstanding that because the sisters left, everything was going to close,” said Joely Leguizamon, administrator at the center. “We’re working to maintain the relationships that the sisters built around the community, and we are seeing an increase in the number of people we serve, especially the homeless and grandparents who are now raising their grandchildren.” 

Leguizamon said the food pantry serves about 75 families per week, and the need is going up because it has become harder for area residents to find nutritional, reasonably priced food since the Valley’s only grocery store closed down. 

In January alone, the center distributed 4,910 pounds of food to those in need. So far this year, 71 people have received help with utilities. The GED classes are nearly always full, as is the senior program. 

Volunteers are crucial to the Valley ministry, but it can be hard to recruit people to work there because of its location, said Deacon Ron Anderson, regional coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Midlands. He and Leguizamon said workers are especially needed for the food pantry, and also to work at a new clothing closet they hope to launch in the next few months. 

Beech Island resident Addie Dunbar is the kind of volunteer who keeps the center running. Three days a week she answers phones, helps in the food pantry and schedules appointments for clients. She said the center helped her with a utility bill shortly after she lost her husband in late 2017. 

“They treated me with such respect here when I came for assistance, and I decided that day that I was going to come back and help where I was needed,” Dunbar said. 

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