By Maria Gurovich for The Island Connection
Johnny Mae Benjamin spends her days singing the Gospel of the Lord. Whether she is in her church or volunteering at The Neighborhood House, she lives her life singing God’s praises. Johnny Mae is an Evangelist and a missionary at Grace Cathedral on Rutledge Avenue, and when called upon, she helps the pastor prepare the lessons for Sunday service. About three years ago, Johnny Mae received another calling— to volunteer at The Neighborhood House. She says, “I felt that I wanted to give back to the community because God has blessed me.”
Born and raised in the Eastside of Charleston, Johnny Mae went to the local schools and graduated from Charles Albert Brown High School in 1967, now the Trident Technical College downtown campus.
Johnny Mae has three sons who all live in the area and three grandchildren. Her eldest granddaughter attends university in St. Augustine.
Johnny Mae’s service to her community is built on a solid history of compassion. She worked in the dietary department at MUSC for over eleven years. She also spent many years working in various daycares in the area. Her favorite thing to do is to “cook in the kitchen all by myself,” she says. She also loves sewing and reading.
In addition to volunteering with The Neighborhood House, Johnny Mae also volunteers at Riverside Health and Rehab. She enjoys reading to the seniors there. “I’m compelled by God to give back”, she says when asked why she enjoys volunteering. “I am 67 years old and have lived in Charleston my whole life and I have never seen so much homelessness in this area. Growing up on the Eastside near the Neighborhood House lets me give back to people I grew up around. Some people acknowledge me, and some don’t but that’s okay. If I can give just one kind word to someone that could lift them up for a few days and it might just make a small difference.”
Johnny Mae volunteers in the kitchen of The Neighborhood House with Vonceil on Tuesdays and in the clothing room on Thursdays. Her advice to someone thinking about volunteering is to “Just try it” and that “It’s important to find the right fit for you so you may have to try a few different jobs before finding the right place”.
Johnny Mae feels that she can give back by helping people who just need a small lift up. “People want to reach higher” she says, “but they need a hand to grasp onto.”
Volunteer Spotlight is a column in The Island Connection highlighting members of the community who give their time to help others. If you know of a volunteer who deserves the spotlight email email@example.com. If you’ d like to get involved with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach and make a positive change in someone’s life contact Maria Gurovich via phone 843.559.4109 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.