SC Department of Mental Health News Release

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2003

Contact: John Hutto, PIO

DMH Volunteer Receives National Acclaim

Columbia, SC – South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) volunteer Lurie Foster has been named a “Daily Point of Light” by the Points of Light Foundation, Washington, DC.

According to the Points of Light Profile, Foster (Point of Light # 2398) was recognized for his “55 years of service to the citizens of Columbia as well as the entire state of South Carolina through the SCDMH.  He was the first volunteer for the Crafts-Farrow State Hospital.  He began his service many years before the Volunteer Services Office was established.  When he retired in 1981 after 37 years of service to the Department of Mental Health, Foster was acutely aware of the special needs of the mentally ill and had already begun his ‘volunteer career’ that continues to expand to this day.

“In 1948, Foster began organizing dances for residents at Craft-Farrow.  Monthly, he would bring in a jukebox at his own expense for the Wednesday night dances.  In addition, he assembled a quartet to sing in the auditorium to the patients on Sunday afternoons for spiritual enrichment.  Foster, however, is best known as “Mr. Santa Claus.” For 50 years, from 1952 until 2002, he donned a Santa suit and spent the day delivering gifts and greeting each of the patients.  Even his family understands that his special friends come first on this special day because many of them have no family and no one to visit them.

“Foster’s volunteer work expanded to include work as a volunteer van driver for the Mental Health Association in Mid-Carolina, along with Crafts-Farrow State Hospital.  He drove a van weekly to transport patients to a local church for social activities and then on to the grocery store for a special time of shopping.  In addition, Foster took Community Boarding Home residents to physician appointments, shopping and furnished other transportation needs.

“Although Foster has a special affinity for mentally ill persons, he does not limit his volunteer work to just those individuals.  He is also an active member of Zion Canaan Baptist Church and is presently President of the Senior Usher Board and has served as President for the past 35 years.

“Foster has been selected as the 1983 Volunteer of the Midlands, Crafts-Farrow Volunteer of the Year and South Carolina Department of Mental Health Volunteer of the Year in 1985.  In 1986, Foster was also recognized as one of the ‘Four Coachman’ who provided transportation for the mentally ill. He also received the Jefferson Award in 1993.” 

Mr. Foster was nominated for the Points of Light Award by Alyce Kemp-DeWitt at Bryan Psychiatric Hospital, Columbia, SC.  The South Carolina Department of Mental Health gratefully and proudly acknowledges the contributions of its 9,100 volunteers statewide.

The Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network “engages and mobilizes millions of volunteers who are helping to solve serious social problems in thousands of communities.  Through a variety of programs and services, the Foundation encourages people from all walks of life – businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, low-income communities, families, youth, and older adults – to volunteer.”

National Volunteer Week is April 27 – May 3.  For more information about National Volunteer Week or about Lurie Foster or about volunteer opportunities with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, please call Sue Perry at 1-800-763-1024 or Alyce Kemp-DeWitt at 803-935-7871.

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