People warned Leolalinda Petinglay Plameras not to go to Crosland Park neighborhood in Aiken and not to buy a house there, but she wouldn’t listen and relied on her faith that it would all work out.
Her Agape Children and Christian Ministries has become an important afternoon tutoring and mentoring program for children in the neighborhood and has won Plameras, a nurse at Doctors Hospital of Augusta, the Frist Humanitarian Award from parent company HCA Healthcare.
She was one of three Frist Award winners honored earlier this week at the company headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., calling it “amazing” and a “blessing.” She also is quick, however, to share the credit with others in the Intensive Care Unit and elsewhere in the hospital.
“My co-workers, they help me in many, many ways,” Plameras said. “The award is not just about me. The award is just a representation of the love of Jesus through these children. I am just holding the award.”
The work in Aiken comes after decades of helping children in her native Philippines, work she had begun soon after graduating from college there. That was another a reason she won the award. Although some of her award money will go to those efforts, she would actually like to spread it beyond.
“I’m hoping and praying it is going to be global,” Plameras said.
Before she bought the house in Aiken, Plameras befriended some families in Crosland Park and walked the neighborhood praying, When she bought the house, it was riddled with bullet holes she had to patch and paint over.
Since then, particularly on Tuesdays, volunteers provide after-school tutoring and outreach to families, and offer services such as cooking classes, Plameras said.
“We have young mothers with their children also attending,” she said. “I have also the grandparents.”
They are also providing job preparation and life skills training – one volunteer shows the young men how to tie a necktie, Plameras said.
“We’re teaching them the practical skills,” she said.
All of it is guided by a deep faith. After the back door of the house was kicked in, Plameras said, God led her to see in the broken glass “the broken lives of children that you want me to tend.”
“Whatever you will in your purpose in my life just use me to keep them and embrace them and love them, no matter who they are because that is what God intends us to do, to love unconditionally,” she said.
It is no accident her ministry is called Agape.
“Agape is the highest love of all,” Plameras said. “Because of agape, I have garnered this award. That is why I always keep saying the highest glory and honor belong to the Lord. It’s not about me.”
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.