The Wellness House Project

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Services, Inc.
City & State:
Johns Island, 
South Carolina
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

to offer educational, health, housing and outreach services to those in need on James, Johns and Wadmalaw Islands in Charleston County, South Carolina, and the Neighborhood House in Charleston, while encouraging and supporting self sufficiency and self-esteem.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Services, located on Johns Island, South Carolina, used a gift of Microsoft Office software it received through TechSoup to enhance its visibility in the community, transform its development capacity, and create a new state-of-the-art Wellness House, a free clinic that provides dental, prenatal and women's health service to area residents living in economic poverty.

Background of the Organization

On September 11, 1989, Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Services, Inc. opened as a non-profit organization, addressing the needs of the economically disadvantaged residents of James, Johns and Wadmalaw Islands, suburban and rural communities in the Charleston, South Carolina, metropolitan area. The Outreach’s services began as an offshoot of the community-wide work of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy. This order of religious women was established in 1829 in Charleston and has a long history of service to this community, particularly in the area of healthcare.


Gradually, the Order divested formal control of the Outreach. In 1991 the Outreach received its own 501(c) (3) status and established an independent, self-perpetuating Board of Directors. This independence carried over to the Outreach’s financial affairs as well. Initially, the Sisters of Charity contributed funds annually to pay the administrative expenses of the Outreach. Later, they donated a lump sum of money to the Outreach to establish a Reserve Fund. The income from the Reserve Fund now pays the organization’s administrative expenses.


At the outset, the Outreach staff assessed the needs of area residents through discussion groups and door-to-door interviews, meeting personally many of the 25% of the regions’ residents living below the poverty level. Seeking more than temporary solutions to the effects of impoverishment, the Outreach created programs focused on the needs of the whole person and their community, not just immediate crises.


Over the years, services offered have grown to include pre-natal and women’s health care, dental services, home repair, a food bank, advocacy, social work, emergency financial assistance, parenting programs, literacy and GED classes, after-school tutoring, summer camp, cultural experiences, and instruction in English as a second language. All of the individuals served are economically disadvantaged; most are members of minority groups, predominantly Hispanic and African-American. Poverty in this geographic area is among the worst in the United States, and the Outreach is committed to serving all individuals regardless of class or creed in a way that enables self-sufficiency and encourages systemic change.


Based on long experience, the Outreach has distilled its services down into three main areas: direct aid (food, clothing and modest financial aid), education, and wellness services. Each of these areas enhances the other two, a synergy that yields results greater than the sum of its parts.


The Outreach currently has a staff of 26 and an annual operating budget of $1,300,000. However, significant community support, in the form of volunteer participation, program partnerships, financial contributions and item donations, allow the Outreach to have a much larger community impact. Almost 200 people volunteer in one capacity or another at the Outreach. In 2008, the agency provided services to over 11,000 individuals. Some of the agency’s volunteers are past or current service recipients.

Outline of the Project

Because the Outreach, as the organization is known, needed to make a "quantum leap" to meet the needs of the community, it decided to embark on a major initiative, the Wellness House Project. The goal of the project was to expand the organizations capacity by 1) enhancing its visibility in the community, 2) attracting a vastly expanded group of financial supporters, and 3) building a new Wellness House. The new facility would replace a 1,500 square foot double-wide trailer with a 5,000 square foot state-of-the-art medical and dental facility.

New software was essential to this project for the following reasons: 1) the project's written communication requirements were extensive, 2) community education efforts required pictorial presentations, 3) grant applications required integrated office software, 4) financial reporting required enhanced spreadsheet usage, 5) new staff required to complete the project needed new integrated office software.

The gift of Microsoft Office software allowed the organization to complete a plethora of tasks associated with the Outreach’s expanded needs. Among many examples are the following:

  • foundations received financial reports and projections created in Excel
  • potential donors and web browsers viewed presentation created in PowerPoint
  • gift solicitations were created and mailed in Word
  • staff created reports and documents using all of the integrated components of Office.

As a result of this gift, the Outreach accomplished the following:

  • it significantly enhanced its visibility in the community
  • it conducted its first capital campaign, raising over $4.6 million in less than 2 years
  • it created a new Wellness House, that has increased dental, prenatal and women’s health services provided by 65% in its first year of operations
  • it enhanced its development capacity, creating new annual giving and planned gift programs and attracting a total of 1,300 financial supporters.

We were a small organization with a big need, and this gift of Microsoft Office software allowed us to meet the challenge we faced. Thank you!

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology
Project Image