LAURINBURG – There were boxes of tissues on the tables at the Silent Samaritan Society’s luncheon with good reason — speakers shared stories of pain and healing after the loss of a child.
The society held its annual luncheon on Thursday to raise funds and awareness for Scotland Counseling Center. Just over 100 people packed the WR Dulin Center conference room to support the work the center does.
Each year the Samaritans emphasize a particular mental-health topic. This year’s theme was: Families of Strength Helping Families in Crisis. Five sets of parents who have lost children from toddlers to adults spoke about how they coped with the issues their children faced and how they managed grief after losing a child.
Scotland Counseling Center Director, Charles Wentz said attendance was the best he had ever seen.
“I hope people will take what they heard here and tell people that they can get help if they are hurting.”
Leaders of the society, Gary and Terry Gallman, welcomed visitors; and the invocation was given by Allyn McLean.
Clinical Director, Mary Neil Thompson introduced the program; The Loss of a Child: The Before, During and After. Thompson called the parents “a very brave group of people” for their willingness to share their pain in the hope of helping others.
Tanya Williams lost her son Jeremy to suicide in 2011 while he was still in high school. She described Jeremy as fun loving and adventurous but said Jeremy, known to friends as Scrubs, “carried a dark secret — depression.”
She recalled the final morning of Jeremy’s life and how he asked to stay home from school. She remembered calling him at lunch to check in and tell him she loved him. That was their final conversation.
Williams called grief a gift.
“Grief carries you to places you would have never otherwise been through,” Williams said. “It’s a very dark place, and the only way out is through.”
She assured the audience that healing does happen eventually with “lots of love and support” from loved ones and “a lot of work.”
Williams said she had learned through grief that it is important to take care of yourself and sharing each other’s pain “lessens your pain and theirs.”
She coped with her grief through Reiki-touch therapy, therapeutic massage, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and talk therapy.
“I highly recommend counseling after any devastating loss or tragedy.”
That sentiment was shared by the other parents who spoke — Charlie and Sissy Pittman lost their 27-year-old son, Seth, to complications from juvenile diabetes. Chaka Davis Smith lost her four-year-old Tristan to Jeune Syndrome.
Lynn and Jim Mason lost daughter, Ann Marie, to an automobile accident and Paula and Dewayne Jones lost their son, Dewayne Paul, to an accidental overdose. Each parent spoke about their different paths to healing.
The members and donors of the Silent Samaritan Society give of their time and funds based on the biblical story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke chapter 10. The Samaritan took care of an injured man from an enemy town. He spent time and money to care for an adversary and did not ask for recognition of his work.
Like the parable, the organization does not give nor ask for recognition of its supporters.
Charles J, who has been a supporter of the center since the early days said he got involved because it was a wonderful cause.
“It’s such a worthwhile agency and community service,” he said. “It serves a great need not only for counseling but health services in general.”
Though the group generally eschews recognition, the work of one longtime member was lauded. Jim Bumgardner was the impetus behind Scotland Family Counseling Center.
As a minister Bumgardner had referred many people seeking his help to counseling services in Fayetteville. He realized that there was a need for the service in Scotland County and reached out to Charles Wentz. Bumgardner served as chairman of the board for the society from 2006 – 2016. He continues to serve in an advisory capacity.
Current Chairman Whit Gibson presented Bumgardner with a plaque to honor his work.
Gibson called Bumgardner the “heart and soul” of the Silent Samaritans and praised his ability to “think outside the box.”
“He loves this; this is his ministry,” Gibson said.
Scotland Counseling Center was founded in 2007 as a once a week service at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church. It has grown to four full-time counselors and a seven-county service area primarily Scotland, Robeson, and Marlboro counties.
The center is affiliated with Scotland Health Care System and is supported by local churches and The United Way.
City Council member Dee Hammond attended the luncheon and said that after the hearing stories, she, as a United Way Board Member, was happy to continue to partner with the center.
“The counseling center provides a great service to this county because you do not have to travel out of town,” Hammond said. “Sometimes it’s hard enough to make it out of bed to seek counseling, and to know you have counseling in the county is a godsend.”
Scotland Counseling Center accepts all forms insurance and provides assistance to customers without insurance based on income and the number of people in a household.
Faith based and secular therapies are available at the request of the client.
To volunteer with the Silent Samaritan Society call 910-276-7011, or email Charles Wentz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scotland Counseling Center is located at 601 B Lauchwood Drive and is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169