GREENVILLE—Unforeseen blessings have emerged at the Mother Teresa House amid the disruptions from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“One blessing has been our strengthening of ties with our community partners to help us place those in need with shelter and programs they need,” said Chris Loewer, director of the Mother Teresa House at Our Lady of the Rosary.
Mother Teresa House issues referrals to agencies in the community who are trained to aid the unemployed and underemployed gain the skills needed to land jobs.
A number of people have approached the ministry in the past few months seeking help in finding employment.
“We’ve probably had 10 or 15 people in the last couple of months who have asked, ‘Do you have any way to get me employed?’” Loewer said.
Since opening in 2013, the ministry has served thousands of people, he said. In 2019 alone, they assisted nearly 4,000 disadvantaged people in a variety of ways.
Then-Deacon Ron Meyer started the ministry with the backing of Father Dwight Longenecker, pastor. The parish bought and refurbished what was a rundown mill house in an economically depressed neighborhood near the church.
In addition to employment referrals, the ministry, through volunteer nurses and physicians, provides basic health screenings, with referrals for additional appointments and treatments.
“We tell the people we serve that we’ll take as many steps as they’re willing to take themselves,” Loewer said.
The Mother Teresa House also works with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Our Lady of the Rosary and at other parishes in the Upstate, providing screening and referrals for temporary housing, food and clothing assistance, as well as crisis and rehab assistance.
As a result of the pandemic and the resultant social restrictions, Loewer, who became the Mother Teresa House director 18 months ago, has initiated virtual meetings each Monday, bringing together leaders of like-minded ministries and relief agencies in the Greenville area for coffee, tea, and talk.
“Part of what we do involves getting the different agencies to know who we are, even if it happens 99 percent of the time via a computer screen,” Loewer said. “We literally talk about taking care of the homeless people in our community.”
The various agencies are helpful because they frequently have direct connections with those in need.
Though the COVID-19 restrictions have afforded Loewer and others the time to share information and ideas, Loewer said the irreplaceable value lies in what the volunteers bring to the ministry.
“The hardest part about the pandemic is not doing in-person appointments, which means our volunteers have not been able to interact with our guests,” he said.
“We continue to reach out via phone, working with other agencies, as well as continued direct outreach to the homeless, (but) it’s our volunteers who really make Mother Teresa House special,” Loewer said. “They greet everyone with a smile. They see Jesus in everyone they meet, and to serve them is to serve Him.”