"For I was an hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in." - Matthew 25:35.
An outreach ministry that has served the needy with food, clothing and other necessities for three decades has not yet stopped its mission to assist those needing help the most.
It is a more of a calling than a chore for the volunteers who run the Cooperative Church Ministries of Orangeburg, more commonly known as CCMO.
What started out as a small effort among 13 churches to assist the needy in 1986 has grown into a group of more than 30 churches serving thousands.
It was the late Pauline Atwill, who was in charge of missions at St. Andrew's United Methodist Church, who decided to take the reins on what would eventually become CCMO.
The late Roy Mikels, also a St. Andrew's UMC member, was eventually given the OK to help run the organization, with past executive directors having included Brother Jeremiah O'Leary of the Order of the Brothers of St. Francis Xavier, Agnes Glover-Wells and most recently Barbara Troy.
Troy is serving as acting director after illness forced the 94-year-old Glover-Wells to step down.
Glover-Wells took the reins as executive director in 2002 and was honored for her unwavering service during a 30th anniversary celebration held April 26 at The Premiere in Orangeburg.
O’Leary said he was glad to have met Glover-Wells during the planning of the church ministry.
“It was a blessing to run into you in Orangeburg,” O’Leary said, noting that Glover-Wells “rose to the occasion” despite the ministry’s growing pains.
Troy said, “Ms. Agnes, you taught us well. God bless you. We love you.”
Glover-Wells said her service was a labor of love, despite the days she wanted to “disappear.”
“It has been a pleasure. I really have enjoyed it. ... I have given all I have. I’ve done the best I could,” she said, noting the nonprofit group has done "pretty well" in its outreach mission.
What began as a small effort became CCMO in 1988. Its dedicated volunteers, the oldest of whom is 103, have helped keep the organization going with a service that has expanded well beyond food to include the provision of electricity, fuel, furniture and, occasionally, bus tickets and motel rooms.
CCMO maintains a stock of clothing and a food pantry as well as a storage of furniture, cooking utensils, dishes, bed linen and other household items. A partnership with DPU and its Project Good Neighbor program has provided CCMO with the opportunity to expand its outreach to include utility assistance.
The project's funds come from donations made by DPU customers, who sign up to add $1 to $10 to their monthly bill. The money is funneled directly to CCMO, which then helps financially strapped individuals and families pay energy costs.
The organization also recognized its volunteers during the anniversary celebration.
"I don't think this community realizes what a jewel it has at CCMO. I don't think that the community really realizes what they do and all the work they do with the people who are oftentimes in very severe need," CCMO Board Chairman Pinckney Dennis said.
The nonprofit organization has been operating out of its present rent-free location at 899 Russell St. for 30 years. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The 5,000-square-foot building formerly housed the Holman Grocery Store.
The financial base for CCMO is its member churches, which contribute monthly to the ministry. While the organization does not depend on miscellaneous donations, they are welcome.
Dennis said whether it be the provision of furniture for burned-out families, food or utilities, CCMO stands ready to assist with the challenges of the needy. Orangeburg County is CCMO's main service area, but anyone in need is welcome to its services.
"CCMO helps in a lot of ways. It helps with medicine when people can't afford medicine. We help with travelers who may come here and get stranded. So it's a lot of things," the board chairman said.
James Bovian said CCMO assisted him with a light bill payment two decades ago, and he never forgot the generosity. He now donates back to CCMO, including clothes he can’t wear.
“They’re good people. Since they helped me, I just donate back. It’s a blessing,” Bovain said.
CCMO has from its inception through 2017 provided 200,069 individuals with food, 99,373 with clothing and 82,622 with other aid such as utilities, rent and medicines.
Troy, a 78-year-old retired school teacher, has been volunteering at CCMO since 2001. She said her goal is to continue serving the community.
"It does get stressful, but I pray hard before I come down. I try to be as positive as I can because the people have a need. It's not my job to determine why they're in that position or to critique them. I always say, 'What would Jesus do?' If we can help, we help," Troy said.
She said her team of volunteers is the lifeblood of the organization and more are needed.
Katherine “Kay” Hughes, 103, has volunteered at CCMO since it opened.
"What keeps me coming back is I enjoy the people. Who can beat that? I love everybody that comes in, no matter what they're doing," Hughes said.
She said while she gets "a little bit forgetful at times," she plans to continue volunteering.
Orangeburg County Councilwoman Ray Sabalis has volunteered at CCMO in everything from serving as a receptionist and filer to interviewer and bookkeeper.
"I walked in off the street. I was looking for something to do in the community and just walked in. They accepted me," Sabalis said.
The councilwoman said, "The people who volunteer inspire me every time time I come. Every person that comes into the place is treated with kindness and respect. Every volunteer is committed and you can tell they enjoy it. It's a great group of people to be with and a labor of love, for sure."
Bishop Hayes T. Gainey is pastor of Good Shepherd Community Ministries in Orangeburg, which helps to support CCMO. Gainey said the organization is blessed to have volunteers who are all different but remain committed to the same goal of serving others.
“CCMO is something that God has placed together. ... God always knows what we need. They have the right people in the right place to make it happen,” the pastor said.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD
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