FLORENCE, S.C. – Shirley Nichols was surprised by friends and colleagues at Lighthouse Ministries with a drive-by retirement parade on Friday next to Rehoboth Baptist Church.

After 15 years of serving the Florence community, Nichols decided it was time to retire.

Cards and other forms of love and appreciation were dropped off during the appointed hour.

“Shirley was loved by all as part of our family, and we wanted to make sure that we sent her off with a great surprise parade for her retirement,” said Cecilia Meggs, the executive director of Lighthouse Ministries. “Lighthouse Ministries will not be the same without her. She is such a wonderful, compassionate person.”

Nichols said she hasn’t been at work since the coronavirus hit in March.

“I have some health issues,” Nichols said. “I thought I might be more of liability than an asset at this time.”

Nichols said she will miss her job as receptionist. She ran the front office and worked with volunteers to make sure families’ rent and utilities were paid.

“I liked the people I worked with and seeing those who came in for help,” she said.

Nichols said the organization helps people with utility bills, rent, prescription medications and other needs. It does a lot of good, she said.

Nichols said if people come to town and are stranded, Lighthouse Ministries will help them get home.

“Anytime I can do anything for them, I will,” Nichols said. “It is a heart-warming place. You can’t help but love them. Most everybody leaves feeling better than when they came in.

“I enjoyed working at Lighthouse Ministries, and when you donate to Lighthouse Ministries, you know that it’s going to help a family for the greater good.”

Nichols said she plans to do as little as she can in retirement.

“I’ll do what I feel like doing,” she said.

This is Nichols' second retirement. She worked for approximately 40 years with Delta Mills, she said.

“I’m a Tar Hill native,” Nichols said.

She has four children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Lighthouse Ministries is located at 1416 W. Evans St. in Florence. Lighthouse Ministries opened in 1966. It is a faith-based ministry that provides assistance to residents in Florence County in financial need.

The nonprofit ministry averages serving an estimate 2,000 households per year.

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