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The Mission of Mercy

The Island Connection (Read the original article)
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
By Hannah Dockery

The island communities of Kiawah, Seabrook, Johns, and Wadmalaw are truly spectacular. From dazzling sunsets, to unique wildlife, to world class dining, the island communities of Charleston are unlike anywhere else. Perhaps what makes these islands so special is the deeply rooted community involvement. Residents and vacationers alike continuously commit their time and skills to better the surrounding areas and give back to their community.

Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach on Johns Island is one of the most well known nonprofit organizations in the area. Located just off the intersection of Main Road and Maybank, Our Lady of Mercy provides an array of community wellness programs. From literacy classes, to ESL, to after-school care programs, to quilting classes, Our Lady of Mercy seeks to foster self-esteem and self-development in the lives of those who need it most. The center also provides budgeting classes and parenting skills programs to provide individuals with tangible ways to better their lives and the lives of their children. Monday through Thursday, Our Lady of Mercy offers a dental clinic and other health services.

With the plethora of services provided, as well as a clothing bank and food pantry, it takes a lot to keep things at the organization running smoothly. A large part of that comes from volunteers, who care enough about their community to be an active part of its improvement. With only 28 full time staff, Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach relies heavily on its 300 volunteers. "Any involvement is something meaningful," commented Jill Ledford, who has recently taken over as Executive Director of Our Lady of Mercy.

Ledford's extensive experience in social work makes her a perfect fit to continue on the legacy of Sister Mary Joseph, pervious Executive Director of twenty years. After spending time working in Georgia and DC, Ledford made her way back home to South Carolina. "When I saw this job I thought, wow, they have a great agency and it's a great mission. There are a diversity of services offered and it really meets an important need in the community." Originally from Easley, SC, Ledford first came to the Johns Island area doing mission work in high school. "I told the board, it almost feels like I'm coming home again. This is where I got my start in social work."

Though she only started at Our Lady of Mercy on October 1, Ledford is already embracing the experience. "It's been great getting to meet the people that we serve, and feeling like my time and skills are well spent here," she commented. "The staff has been great as well. Everywhere I go, people comment on the great staff here. I just can't think of anything negative to say."

As the new director, Ledford is looking forward to examining the ins and outs of how Our Lady of Mercy works, and what changes can be made to make the programs even more effective and beneficial. "I am very used to going in and assessing an organization, and looking at how the work flows and what policies and protocols are in place," she commented. "We need to look at any gaps that the staff and volunteers identify, and figure out how we can put something together to fill in those gaps. We need to ask ourselves what plans we can put in place to address even more unmet needs."

As successful as Our Lady of Mercy Outreach is, there are always more needs that need to be met, more people that need to be served, and more time that needs to be dedicated. "Part of our job is letting the larger community know about those unmet needs and asking for their help in meeting them, whether it's by volunteering, donating food, clothes, or money. Everyone has a part to play."

Fortunately for the Johns and Wadmalaw communities, the part Ledford plays is essential. "I always knew I wanted to do something more than just have a job," she said. "I wanted to make an impact."