Linda Mack Jenkins

Where Love Abounds

Linda Mack Jenkins can't help but grow a little wistful when
she remembers her upbringing on St. Helena. Though
some might view the sea island as a throwback, a refreshing
change of pace from the hectic progress of the mainland,
Linda has lived on St. Helena nearly all her life and has seen the
place change.

"Growing up here was lovely," she said. "We always had a love
of our community and all the kids played together. We did not have
inside games, everything was outside and we got a lot of fresh air.
We had the hopscotch, the jump rope, the football, the basketball;
we played in the tomato fields and the watermelon fields; we got to
eat the fresh vegetables and the wild grapes off the vine."

Linda recalls how the legendary root man Dr. Buzzard, a good
friend of her father's, lived just up the street and people in fancy
cars were constantly pulling in the drive to look for him. "If we
had five dollars for every time someone asked us directions to Dr.
Buzzard's house!" she laughs. It's hard not to be nostalgic for the
good old days.

"My vision would be for St. Helena to be like it was in the '70's,"
she admits, "when everybody knew everybody else, any adult could
chastise any child, and you could leave your house door open and
not worry about it. We can't go back in time, but we can limit
growth, limit gated communities and limit violence."

These objectives are part of the reason Linda has worked for
Penn Center for the past 24 years. After graduating from Benedict
College in Columbia with a degree in accounting, Linda moved
back to the Lowcountry and worked several jobs before finally
settling into a career at the historic Penn Center when she was 26.
As the finance director, she takes care of the business end of things
while working hand in hand with local residents. The Penn Center
is of great cultural importance on a national scale; it was one of the
first schools for freed slaves and now comprises a number of historic
buildings, as well as a museum and a variety of programs that aim
to preserve Gullah/Geechee heritage.

But its importance extends far beyond just being a window to the
past; the Penn Center plays an active role in bettering the present
by working with islanders to ensure the health of the community.
Specific examples of this include land use and environmental
programs that help residents make the most of inherited property,
and teen programs that build self-esteem, leadership skills and
knowledge of how to prepare for the future.

If in the past Penn Center taught St. Helena islanders carpentry,
basketry and cast net making, now the skills needed to be selfsufficient
might include small-scale farming or business ownership.
In a way, Linda's just trying to encourage others to strive for the
same things she did.

"We grew up not having much financially, but we had lots and
lots of love," said Linda, who had her first child at 18 but was
determined to go to college nevertheless. "When you don't have
money, people tend to think you are going to grow up to be nothing.
But I don't care what anybody says, I consider myself to be very
successful. I got an education so that I could provide a better life for
my child, and I am very proud to be in this position."


Up Close:

Hobbies: shopping, reading, sewing,
travel and hanging out with friends and

Dream destination: West Africa
Three words to describe herself: loving, caring
and phenomenal

Inspirational figure: her mom, Rebecca Mack;
"She's the sweetest person I know."

Words to live by: "I can do all things through
Christ Jesus which strengthens me."