College grad 'Mercy Volunteers' volunteer at St. Joseph's/Candler

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A little-known tradition is changing lives one day at a time at both St. Joseph's and Candler.

For the past 16 years, four recent college graduates apply and are selected to spend an entire year volunteering at the hospital. These volunteers could apply to medical schools, get jobs, or travel, but they're choosing to volunteer and immerse themselves in the Savannah community.

The four volunteers live in the same home, share everything, and get a small stipend to live on.

Volunteering is the full-time job for the Mercy Volunteer Corps, and Sara Ghyselinck loves it.

"It's a very warm feeling inside. A lot of times people don't think that they have the ability to make a difference, but I think volunteering shows that each person has something they can give," she said.

After graduating from college, four of the 10 applicants selected from a nationwide pool travel to Savannah to volunteer for a full year, helping with everything from clerical work, medical assistance in a clinic, to teaching preschool-aged children.

Darby McCall moved to Savannah from Pennsylvania a few months ago.

"I wanted to give back to the community a little bit before I go on for medical degrees. When I talked to Mercy, they had everything I was really looking for in a program," she said.

While the Mercy Volunteers say the experience changes them for the better, they are also working hard to change Savannah.

"For me, the biggest need I see in this neighborhood is that there is a cycle of poverty that is going on, and so the community center being here allows for that cycle to be broken by giving them a helping hand," Ghyselinck said.

Program organizers say another key component of the program is deepening the faith of the volunteers during their year of service.

Click here for more information about the program.

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