Caritas Service Award
Dee Dee Chewning, Sr. Mary Jacob Yelcho, CSA, and Judge Richard Chewning
The Caritas Service award honors an outstanding individual who embodies and demonstrates the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine (CSA) charism to others through a life of generosity, untiring service, joyful witness of the love of God, and a commitment to CSA’s ministries in healthcare, social service, pastoral ministry or education.
First established during the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2001, the award is presented in August every four years.
Dee Dee Chewning – 2016
A lifelong resident of South Carolina, Dee Dee Chewning’s only relationship to the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine was that her husband was born in the Sisters hospital, Providence.
In 1992 that changed. An unmet need seen by an attorney who served the hospital, a group of concerned community leaders from the Richland School District and Sr. Mary Jacob, CSA, Administrator of Providence Hospital, Columbia, South Carolina developed the Seeing is Achieving program to provide glasses and examinations to school children. The Duke Endowment awarded a grant to Sisters of Charity Providence Hospital in 1992 enabling them to begin Seeing is Achieving, later named Healthy Learners. Dee Dee Chewning was asked to be the first director.
Why Dee Dee? Dee Dee Chewning graduated from Greenville General School of Nursing as a registered nurse. She then attended Clemson University and received a degree as a School Nurse Practitioner. Working as a Certified School Nurse in the Lexington School District for many years she saw firsthand children who were falling through the cracks of the health care system.
The program was created out of love and concern for children who did not qualify for health insurance and had no way to pay for eye exams and glasses. The ministry then blossomed in 1995 to provide medical care, dental care, psychological care and prescriptions. In 1995, Healthy Learners became a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine Health System. Dee Dee worked tirelessly for children in the Midlands and the program eventually grew to encompass more schools. By 2002 it was serving 57 schools throughout the State of South Carolina.
After retirement, Dee Dee joined the Board of Trustees of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. She served for nine years on the Board and its many committees.
When Dee Dee was nominated for the award the sentiment echoed by all was that she embodies the CSA charism. One said that she has a loving heart and another said she is humble and often sets aside her own needs to seek the greatest good for others. Tom Keith, President of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina said, “She is kind and compassionate but will fight for others.”
Dee Dee is a native of Lexington, SC, a school nurse for 15 years and a recipient of numerous community and professional honors. She is married to Judge Richard Chewning, the mother of Andrea and Chip and grandmother of three.
The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine are pleased to bestow the 2016 Caritas Service Award on Dee Dee Chewning.
The Caritas Award was presented to Dee Dee on Saturday, September 24th 2016 as part of CSA’s Founders’ Day celebration. Some photos from the celebration are available here.