The Silent Samaritan Society is not one of the most well-known philanthropic groups around, but its members prefer it that way.
The Society will hold its third annual gathering at noon on March 7 in the W.R. Dulin Center on the campus of Scotland Memorial Hospital.
The gathering is open to all interested in learning about or supporting the center and is free of cost. The Rev. Dr. James L. Morgan, president of the Morgan Foundation, will be the keynote speaker, and lunch will be provided.
The group is composed of friends of Scotland Family Counseling Center, a nonprofit organization providing faith-based counseling services for those suffering from depression and anxiety, parenting and marital issues, grief, substance abuse, and career issues and job loss.
The center was initially conceived by the Rev. Jim Bumgardner, former pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church and current board chair, who found himself at a loss to help some members of his congregation.
“I was referring people and sending them to Charlotte, Fayetteville, Lumberton, and I thought there must be a better way,” said Bumgardner. “I felt like so many of the people who came to me needed a higher level of expertise. The simple fact that we have grown so fast just points out the need in the Scotland County area.”
The center began in Nov. 2007 as a one day per week service on the second floor of Laurinburg Presbyterian Church. Since then, it has grown into its own office on Medical Drive, where it serves clients every weekday and is now affiliated with Scotland Healthcare System.
Although the center takes a faith-based approach to guiding people through difficult times, clients are accepted regardless of their creed or lack thereof.
“We go from the principles of faith, but a lot of people come in and we don’t push that down anybody’s throat,” said Bumgardner. “If faith is important to them and they want that to be part of the discussion, it can be, but we don’t push that on anybody… We take them where they are.”
The event is typically attended by some 75 people, and this year’s society goal is to raise $25,000. Monies raised by the society are directed to the operating costs of the Scotland Family Counseling Center and to its client aid fund to provide services for clients who may not be able to afford them. Last year, members of the Silent Samaritan Society provided for 1,558 hours of counseling to 1,100 clients.
“For those who choose to contribute to the Silent Samaritan Society, there is no personal recognition – effectively all contributions are made anonymously,” said Charles Wentz, a Licensed Professional Counselor and director of the Scotland Family Counseling Center. “One person told me not long ago that this is a crazy way to raise money. But it has worked well for us. We believe that this counseling work is a mission and ministry of God and our collective faith is an active part of the total program.”
“It’s all based on the parable of the Good Samaritan,” added Bumgardner. “The Good Samaritan stops and helps a man in trouble when two other folks didn’t and he took the man to get help and he paid the innkeeper money and he did it quietly and humbly. That’s what we’re based on: we don’t broadcast who gives or what anybody gives.”
This year’s gathering will be held in honor of Cheryl Wood, a center counselor who died suddenly in December. The gathering will also serve as a formal introduction of Mary Neil Thompson, a Licensed Professional Counselor employed by the center since September.