Compassionate Beaufort Communities: A vision for compassionate service in Port Royal

in Voices by

By Laura Nehf

We all know people who begin one career and transition into another.  Often these transitions are the result of a feeling that talents or skills are better suited in a new direction.

But what if that feeling was the result of a heartfelt call, or vision, to become a pastor? Moreover, what if that call required you to move your career from your hometown after more than 30 years to a new community and launch a service ministry clothing the needy and feeding the hungry? How many of us would heed or act on such a call?

Such was the vision and response of the Rev. Anne Bridgers of Port Royal United Methodist Church. A happily married wife and school teacher in Ridgeland, SC, for more than 29 years, Anne Bridgers heeded a call to a life of ministry and compassion after her husband passed away in 2009.  Less than two years after his death, Anne’s call had been verified by the Methodist church and she had completed every required entrance test for her pastoral ministry — including psychological, financial, educational and vocational exams. She continues her studies at Duke University Divinity School.

Upon her installation as a Methodist pastor in July, 2011, Anne (now Rev. Bridgers) was appointed to the Port Royal United Methodist Church in the Walterboro District. In 2012, after witnessing first-hand members of the surrounding community search for clothes and food for their families, Rev. Bridgers asked the women of her church to help the community by establishing a free clothing ministry known as “Phoebe’s Closet.” Donated clothes, shoes, baby items, school uniforms and household goods are assembled by the church’s women volunteers. The formerly one room “closet” is now expanding to three rooms full of daily necessities and is open on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon for the needy.

Not long after establishing Phoebe’s Closet, Rev. Bridgers and her welcoming volunteers once again responded to a community need, this time, hunger.   At first, they were distributing 650 pounds of food a week to those in need.  Now, every Friday morning, more than a dozen volunteer assistants meet the Second Helpings truck in their church parking lot and immediately set to work to distribute 2,000 pounds of food to more than 50 waiting recipients, some of whom have been patiently standing in line since 5:30 a.m. The recipients, in turn, share what they receive with their families, elderly neighbors who are house bound, children without parents, and military families without sufficient resources, nearly 400 people each week.  True to her calling, Rev. Bridgers does more than hand out food. She says a greeting prayer with the recipients, asks about their health and well being and seeks assistance for those who ask for help with medical or other needs.

How fortunate for the Port Royal community that Anne Bridgers heeded her call.

If you feel a call to serve or assist, Rev. Bridgers and her team could use your help.  Phoebe’s Closet is located at the Port Royal United Methodist Church, 1602 Columbia Ave., Port Royal, SC. For more information, contact the church at 843-524-2005. They especially need small shampoos, soaps, baby diapers, toilet paper, and paper towels. The Friday feeding ministry can always use assistants.

Come be a part of a compassionate life.

Compassionate Beaufort Communities (CBC-SC.org) collects and shares stories of kindness by the many non-profit, charities, churches, and individuals that make a difference in our Beaufort area.