"The greatness of a community is most accurately measured
by the compassionate actions of its members."
Coretta Scott King
Talking about mentoring with Barry Walker, Councilman, Irmo Town Council, SC Congressman Joe Wilson, and Susan Adams, NeoLife
Teresa Bridgers, Palmetto Mentor, with Sonny Bridges from the National Mentoring Partnership and Summer Taylor, USC Student Volunteer Coordinator
Palmetto Mentor's Grand Opening!
With Kerry Powers, Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce, Rep Chip Huggins, and Alex Salmon, AllState Insurance in Irmo
As a young girl growing up in Camden, SC, I did not have a mentor figure in my life. My father suffered from what we now know as manic depression with paranoia and schizophrenia, and he was frequently absent for months at a time. When he was home, he self-medicated with alcohol and was unstable and even aggressive at times. By the time I was in middle school, our home was split by divorce and even more uncertainty. My older siblings were leaving home to pursue college and their own lives, my mother was using alcohol and drugs and was away for days at a time with her latest boyfriend. She remarried twice while I was in high school and both marriages lasted less than two months each. I felt like an outcast in my own home, alone, unwanted, unloved, and cast off as an unwelcome nuisance.
Craving some form of stability and security, I married very young, at the age of 19, which didn't last but a year. Again, I was left disappointed and heartbroken when he was unfaithful and uncommitted to our relationship. I remarried at the age of 22, and we quickly started a family, I was enjoying a stable home and church life, and I was very content being a wife, homemaker, mother, and home educator.
Although I was saved by God's grace early in my life, I had always looked to the wrong things to sustain my hope and faith. I depended on the acceptance and love of others to feel adequate and worthy. God wasn't done with me yet!
So by Fall 2009, I had been homeschooling for twelve years, active in my community and church, and worked hard for my family. My marriage had been difficult for many years and I was crumbling underneath the pressure to keep the "perfect" appearance of a stable, loving, Christian home. I held steadfast to the belief that my identity and worthiness was contingent on my duty and responsibility to fix everything and make everyone else happy. My husband had found someone else and filed for divorce. With no education, no job skills, no work experience, and seven young children, I could not even afford an attorney to get child support or alimony. I was now going back to school, working two part-time jobs, living under the poverty level, and I still could not afford subsidized rent. "What you meant for evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Genesis 50:20) In my own personal walk with Him, God is using all of these experiences to teach me a lot about perseverance, endurance, forgiveness, strength, and accepting others, and He is now opening opportunities for me to share my story with others.
Now my children are quickly growing up and flying strong, and I am blessed to be able to experience God's Grand Exchange - "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3) so that He may be glorified. I am entering into a new stage of life, more confident, secure and capable in the strength of my Lord and in my identity as His child, saved by His grace and an heir to His kingdom. The Lord has laid upon my heart to fearlessly share with others His love, grace, and everlasting kindness, and compassion through His work in my own life. The outpouring of gratitude and joy that I have from witnessing His greatness firsthand is overflowing.
I want to give hope and peace to those who are most vulnerable and looking for purpose and a future in their own lives. Helping young people find their way is my passion, because, especially when they are going through tough times, they often struggle to stay focused on goals that can help them towards achieving success at a pivotal stage in their lives. Palmetto Mentor was borne out of my desire to help young people realize their intrinsic value and reach their full potential. Our present circumstances do not define us! Each and every one of us is justified, worthy, and accepted not because of what we do, but simply because God created us and Jesus shed His blood so that He can be with us til the end of time. God wants us to use our challenges here on Earth to come together, build each other up, and encourage and strengthen each other right where we are to become the extraordinary individuals that He created us to be to glorify Him!
"Bear one another's burdens." Galatians 6:2
"Encourage each other and build one another up." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
"Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." John 13:34
Founder of Palmetto Mentor