Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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ECCO turns 25: From temporary relief to permanent solutions

MOUNT PLEASANT—When Hurricane Hugo hit 25 years ago, it ripped a swath of destruction hundreds of miles wide, shearing off entire forests and revealing pockets of poverty that had previously been hidden.

Members of the largely affluent community said it was as if the storm blew the scales from their eyes and they saw for the first time the extreme conditions in their midst.

Christ Our King Church and its pastor, Msgr. James Carter, immediately jumped into action, opening an emergency relief center in the parish school that became the only distribution center for food, water and clothing in the area.

At first, it served to help people recover from the category 5 storm but even after the emergency was over, the outreach remained to address the community needs.

Msgr. Carter recalled the shock he and others felt when they first saw the daily conditions revealed by the storm.

“There was a lot of devastation, but the real awakening was when we went out to some of these small little communities out here, people were living in tents ... what we discovered was that while there was a great deal of devastation as far as Hugo was concerned, that devastation was there before,” he said.

Marge Del Bene, who’s been part of the effort for 25 years, still gets emotional when she recalled the people she met, living in shacks with no electricity, running water or sewer.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “[Hugo] brought it all out. I didn’t know there was even any poverty in Mount Pleasant, and it was right there in front of my eyes. It was really a rude awakening.”

So from the rubble of Hugo, came new life for East Cooper.

Originally called United Relief Ministries, the outreach moved briefly to a vacant building in Jaber’s Market, drawing long lines of people in need and making it clear a permanent solution was needed.











In 1990, East Cooper Community Outreach was officially incorporated as a non-profit, a board was commissioned and a permanent building purchased.

The next year, the group opened a dental clinic, began counseling services, and offered financial assistance and home improvements. They were on their way.

In 1993, a prescription assistance program began and plans started percolating for a new building, which was opened on Six Mile Road in 2003.

Over the next years, with the new location and space, some big partners joined the effort, including St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities immigration services, MUSC Family Medicine Clinic and CARES Emergency Medical Clinic.

Jack Little, executive director since 2005, said they have evolved from an organization that gave people what they needed — food, prescriptions, clothes — to a program that teaches people to take control.

For example, the Out of Poverty Initiative begun in 2007 looks at the root causes of generational poverty and addresses ways to tackle and overcome it.

“ECCO’s been very successful,” said Dr. Victor Del Bene, current board president. “It’s progressed from being a safety net service to actually trying to help people help themselves; to get out of the situation they’re in.”

There are plenty of success stories from which to draw.

One that stands out for Little is Sally, an unemployed mother of two trying to recover from an abusive situation. She enrolled in the Getting Ahead workshop and landed a job. Each day, she found a way to arrive at work despite no transportation, and was soon promoted to assistant manager.

Impressed by her work ethic and support of other participants, Sally was chosen as the recipient of a donated car, which came from another lady who once was a struggling single mother.

Little said the GED program, empowerment classes, and mentoring for at-risk children have all been successful, adding that 75 percent of participants have reached goals and are showing they can make a change.

Looking at all they do, it’s hard for those involved to cite one program as the most successful, because they all work together, but one that earns a lot of kudos is the dental clinic.

When it first started, the dental program only provided extractions, but has grown to a restorative practice.

“It means the world,” Little said. “Fixing their teeth gives them a lot of self-confidence. It doesn’t just help them feel better about themselves, but be more successful with their lives.”

The medical clinic and nurse practitioner program are also cited as highly effective, noting that they address individual health issues and create diet and exercise programs to make successful changes.














“We’ve really come a long way, but we’ve got a lot more to do,” Little said.

Coming up, Msgr. Carter said they would like to establish a satellite program in Cainhoy. He said one of the biggest needs there is teaching young people a trade so they can find jobs, and he is hopeful they can partner with Trident Technical College on this goal.

Mrs. Del Bene said they must reach young people in order to end generational poverty through education, noting that well-paying jobs call for a needed skill or a degree.

Another future goal for ECCO is to send clinic personnel to outlying areas like Cainhoy to assess people’s medical needs, and set up a transportation program so they can come to the clinics for treatment, Msgr. Carter said.

Ultimately, ECCO would love to achieve its original goal, which will require continued teamwork and community involvement.

“The whole idea was to eliminate poverty, and I hope in the next 25 years, there will be some way to do that,” said Dr. Del Bene.

Watch the anniversary video.


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The Catholic Miscellany: ECCO turns 25: From temporary relief to permanent solutions -- East Cooper Community Outreach timeline


People & events


Giant Yard Sale
GOOSE CREEK—Immaculate Conception Church will hold its annual Giant Yard Sale on Oct. 4 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The church is located at 510 St. James Ave.

Yard sale
HANAHAN—Divine Redeemer Church, 1106 Fort Drive, will hold a yard sale on Oct. 18 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. featuring food and vendors. Vendor tables available for a limited time. Call (843) 554-5278.

Book sale
JOHNS ISLAND—Holy Spirit Church, 3871 Betsy Kerrison Parkway, will hold its annual book sale on Oct. 17 with a “First Choice Preview“ from 2-6 p.m. Cost: $5, includes refreshments. Free admission Oct. 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hardcover books $3, paperbacks $1.

Craft fair
MOUNT PLEASANT—St. Benedict women’s group will hold a craft fair Oct. 25 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Oct. 26 from noon to 4 p.m. The church is located at 950 Darrell Creek Trail. Details: stbenedictparish.org.

Polish American dinner/dance
CHARLESTON—The Polish American Club will host its fall potluck dinner/dance on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at Gage Hall, 4 Archdale St. Cost: $10 each, children free.

Bioethics and End-of-Life Issues
CHARLESTON—A workshop on Catholic understanding of human dignity and moral discernment will be held Nov. 1 from 9 a.m. to noon at Roper St. Francis Hospital. Registration: Michael Acquilano, (843) 853- 2130 ext. 231 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Pregnancy services
HILTON HEAD—The Pregnancy Center & Clinic of the Low Country, formerly Crisis Pregnancy Center, a ministry of St. Francis by the Sea Church, provides free services for pregnant women/families in Beaufort/Jasper Counties, including prenatal care to those in need. No prerequisites required. A mobile clinic serves patients in Bluffton and Hardeeville. In 24 years, over 20,000 women/families have been served, 3,440 prenatal clients and a minimum of 1,378 babies assisted to have healthy birth outcomes. Call (843) 689-2222.


Chocolate festival
AIKEN—St. Mary Help of Christians School, 118 York St., will hold its 25th annual Chocolate Festival on Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school grounds. The event features a photo booth, the Swing, a rock climbing wall, bake sale, the Chocolate Carousel, concessions, international food, a used book sale, and more.

Workshop on bioethics and life
AIKEN/COLUMBIA/FORT MILL—A workshop on Catholic understanding of human dignity and moral discernment will be held Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Joseph gym in Columbia; and Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Philip Neri Church center in Fort Mill. Register with SC Catholic Conference, Michael Acquilano, (843) 853-2130 ext. 231 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Blue Mass
COLUMBIA—Knights of Columbus Assembly 2902 will host a Blue Mass and reception on Oct. 11 at 5:15 p.m. in St. John Neumann Church, 100 Polo Road, to honor the work of law enforcement, firefighters and rescue personnel. Details: (803) 348-1260.

Rosary rally and picnic
AIKEN—An America Needs Fatima (americaneedsfatima.org) rosary rally and picnic will be held Oct. 11 at noon at St. Gerard Church, 640 Edrie St. Bring a chair, and dish to share. Call Marge Glauser, (803) 649-7408.

Glee club concert
COLUMBIA—The Notre Dame Glee Club will hold a free concert on Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Peter Church, 1529 Assembly St. The all-male choral group will perform a variety of music from sacred to barbershop melodies. Sponsored by the Columbia Notre Dame Club, in coordination with the University of South Carolina’s “Festival of Spirituals” program.

Single, Single Again
AIKEN—Single, Single Again will host an All Hallowed Eve Ghost Walk and Illusion Show in Living History Park in North Augusta on Oct. 25. Details: Carla Noziglia, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or Karen Perry, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or Jeanne Shanks, (803) 663-3839.


Arts and crafts festival
PAWLEYS ISLAND—Precious Blood of Christ women’s club will hold an arts and crafts festival Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Oct. 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. rain or shine in the parish center, 1633 Waverly Road. Event features a bake and casserole sale, used book sale and more. Call (843) 237-3428.


Public Square Rosary Rally
SIMPSONVILLE—A Public Square Rosary Rally sponsored by America Needs Fatima will be held Oct. 11 at noon at St. Mary Magdalene Church, 2252 Woodruff Road. It is in reparation for sins and offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to pray for the conversion of the United States.

Engaged Encounter weekends
SIMPSONVILLE—Engaged Encounter weekends will be held Oct. 11-12 in English, and another in Spanish, at St. Mary Magdalene Church, 2252 Woodruff Road. To register, visit cee-sc.org. Details: (864) 232-1222.

Notre Dame Glee Club
TAYLORS—The University of Notre Dame Glee Club will perform Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Prince of Peace Church, 1209 Brushy Creek Road. Musical selections range from Medieval to African- American spirituals. Advance tickets, $10 each or $40 per family. Proceeds will benefit Our Lady of the Rosary Church Capital Campaign, charities of Ancient Order of Hibernians and Notre Dame Club of Western Carolinas. Contact: Charlie Bathon, (574) 261-2293 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Magnificat Ministry
AUGUSTA, GA.—Magnificat, a ministry to Catholic women, will host a breakfast on Oct. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at St. Joseph Church hall. Sister Joan Rodriques of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, a Franciscan contemplative charismatic order, will be the featured speaker. For ages 18 and up. Cost: $10. Priests and religious free. Reservations required. Send check with name, address, parish, and contact information payable to Mary, Our Mother Chapter to Betty Gill, 2317 Norton Court, Augusta, GA 30906. Postmark by Oct. 12. Please do not bring young children. RSVP: (706) 793-7174.

PEOPLE & EVENTS includes items of general interest and events that are open to the statewide community. To send a notice, please include time, date, location address, city and contact email and/or phone number with area code. Items are run at the editor’s discretion and publication or frequency is not guaranteed. Send notices at least three weeks in advance of publication date to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For details visit www.themiscellany.org and click on submit news.



Co-op volunteers find that helping others is a joy across the ages

ORANGEBURG—Kay Hughes is 99 years old, only a few months shy of turning 100. Many people would not blame her if she stayed home to rest.

Instead, three mornings a week Hughes climbs into a car with Agnes Glover, executive director of Cooperative Church Ministries of Orangeburg, and the two women head out for another day of helping needy people.

Hughes is one of several members of Holy Trinity Church in Orangeburg who volunteer at the outreach, which was started in 1988 and now serves more than 2,000 families a year from Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

The ministry office is located in a 5,000-square-foot building that used to be the Holman Grocery Store on Russell Street, and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Clients receive food, clothing, assistance with utility bills and medications. Household items such as furniture, utensils and bedding are available for people left homeless by fires or other disasters. The ministry also pays for motel rooms, bus tickets, gas and other needs when possible.

None of this could happen without regular contributions from 32 area churches. Catholics work alongside United Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, AMEs and members of non-denominational churches. The outreach also receives donations of money and supplies from the community, plus food from area Walmart and Bi-Lo stores.

Holy Trinity played a major role in starting the project. The idea sprouted from the work of the late Peggy Atwell, from United Methodist, who started serving soup and cornbread to hungry people back in the ’80s. Xaverian Brother Jeremiah O’Leary  who served at Holy Trinity at the time, saw a need for more outreach in the community and worked with clergy and lay people from other area churches to lift the cooperative off the ground.

Hughes and others from the parish have been there almost since the doors opened. She has done a little bit of everything at the outreach, and especially enjoys working in the front office with clients.

“I’m in love with this place, I guess,” she said. “I love what I’m doing. I’d rather be here to help people than just sit at home. It’s just so important to me to be able to talk with the people and do what I can to help them. If I make it to 100, I’ll still be here!”

Pam Phillips, a registered nurse, checks blood pressures on Wednesdays and offers health information to clients.

“One of my passions is to help those in need,” Phillips said. “Your heart just goes out to people when you hear their stories. I’m able to answer some of their questions and hopefully help them get some of the care they need.”

Elizabeth Douglas and Gloria Woodruff spend most of their time sorting and giving out donated clothes. Tom Woodruff drives a truck to pick up food donations from Walmart. All three are in their 80s and have been volunteers for more than 20 years.

“It’s just a blessing to be able to get up, get out in the morning and help people,” Mrs. Woodruff said.


The waiting is the hardest part

One thousand people in South Carolina are waiting for a life-saving phone call.

They need a donated kidney, liver, heart, lungs or other organ, and they join 125,000 others nationwide who are also waiting for a suitable donor.

These people are why advocates for donation, including the recently crowned Miss South Carolina, urge everyone to sign up.

Robert Keeder, a member of St. Peter Church in Columbia, knows how important it is.

Keeder is best known in the Midlands as the “Adopt-a-Turkey” man because he coordinates massive Thanksgiving and Easter meals for the homeless and needy each year.

For the past two years, however, he has also been a primary caregiver for longtime friend Danny Belk, 64, of West Columbia. Belk was first diagnosed with kidney failure in 2011 and placed on the regional donor list in the fall of 2013.

Pam Corley, the goddaughter of Keeder and Belk, helps him with things like cooking and transportation to doctor’s visits.

“I’ve known Danny for more than 40 years and it’s hard to see him like this,” Keeder said. “He’s not a selfish person in any way and he has always been the giver for others. As his friend, I’m just trying to help in any way I can. It’s a challenge because you never know what to expect each day.”

The Catholic Miscellany: 'You've got to have faith in God as the number one thing. If you don't, you might as well give up the fight.' Read more about organ donation at www.themiscellany.org.Belk was five hours away from a transplant on Aug. 9 at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston when he received devastating news: Doctors had found cancer cells in the donor kidney.

“It felt like a sucker punch, but on the other hand we know what to expect now,” Belk said, listing the positives of the trip.

That outlook is how Belk deals with his condition. He goes through 10 hours a night of home dialysis and constant waiting and searching for another donor. Some living donors have volunteered but don’t meet the criteria. He keeps a bag packed so he can report to MUSC within hours.

Belk’s experience isn’t uncommon, according to Tracy Armstrong, CEO and executive director of Donate Life South Carolina in Greenville. Many people who need transplants are called once or twice before they receive a match that works, she said. That’s why it’s important for people to sign up to be donors. Currently, 1.4 million South Carolina residents are on the organ donation registry, but not all of them will meet the qualifications for successful donation.

Belk was able to continue working as the president of Agape Senior Care in Columbia until March.

Now, he tries to get out of the house every day to run errands or have lunch with friends. He also plays and walks with his beloved cocker spaniels, Hunter and Miss Lillie; and can occasionally make a trip to Edisto Island, one of his favorite spots. He said a support group for transplant patients is also a huge blessing.

“You have to surround yourself with people who love you and support you, because if you don’t all this can take over your mind,” Belk said. “It’s important not to stay in your room or in bed. I try not to look at the dialysis machine during the day. I just don’t think about it.”

Prayer sustains him. Friends keep him in their prayers, add him to prayer chains and lists, and send him Scripture passages and prayers through text messages.

“You’ve got to have faith in God as the number one thing,” Belk said. “If you don’t, you might as well give up the fight.”

To learn more about organ donation and how to register to be a donor, visit www.donatelifesc.org.


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