Members of Grace United Methodist in North Augusta go out of their way to visit church receptionist Ida Jane Moore.
All of the more than 1,800 members know they'll be met by Mrs. Moore with a warm smile and friendly greeting. The 76-year-old mother of three has edited the church bulletin, answered phones and taken dictation at the church for 31 years.
Members of the congregation describe the North Carolina native as compassionate and warm.
"She's got this ability to offer a compliment to anybody that walks in her office," said Beverly Blevins, longtime friend and director of children's ministries. "People have commented that they find excuses to come to the church just to see Ida Jane."
The graceful, silver-haired woman has worked with Grace's past six ministers, weathering the church's tough times and her own, while also enjoying its highlights. She has been known to speak with members for hours, even while working. Now, after serving as the church's recordkeeper and administrative assistant for more than three decades, the snappy receptionist has become an inseparable part of Grace United Methodist.
"It's involved having compassion, caring for people and helping people," Mrs. Moore, a self-described family person, said. "I really and truly - as far as my work goes - have been blessed. I enjoy meeting and being with people, and that's what this job calls for. My memories of friendship with staff and members has just been wonderful."
Mrs. Moore and her husband, Floyd, attend Fairview Presbyterian Church, but she still calls Grace her second home.
She was there for Grace in 1983 when fire, caused by a lightning bolt, destroyed the church's sanctuary. The day after the fire, she was at the 639 Georgia Ave. location trying to salvage church records.
"It was devastating to watch," she said. "But we had some strong ministers who pulled us through that. We had old people, young people and just everybody out there helping out."
Members of Grace returned the favor in 1994, honoring Mrs. Moore on her 25th anniversary with the church. The senior minister, the Rev. Thurman Anderson, called Mrs. Moore into his office. She was surprised at being greeted by previous ministers she had worked for at the church and by a room full of flowers and gifts.
In November 1999, Mrs. Moore and Grace suffered again. After undergoing open heart surgery, Mrs. Moore missed work for six months.
"People would ask questions only Ida Jane could answer," Ms. Blevins said. "We called them `Ida Jane questions."'
It wasn't easy for Mrs. Moore, either.
"I enjoy my work and the good feelings that come with it," she said. "It was a void in my life when I couldn't do it."
Since returning in June, the Grace veteran has worked part time. Friends at the church said she hasn't missed a beat and still displays her youthful mischief and energy.
Joyce Baumgarner, who shares some of Mrs. Moore's duties, said jokingly that church members call her "Ida Joyce." She said Mrs. Moore would be sorely missed if she ever left.
"I honestly don't know what we'll do when she leaves," Mrs. Baumgarner said. "To a lot of people, she is Grace church. She can make you feel like you're the only person in the whole world."
Reach Josh Gelinas at (706) 823-3218.