One From the Heart
Pink: My first question to my "One From The Heart" ladies is how, when and why did you settle in the Lowcountry. In this case the answer both surprised and delighted me.
Rita: We used to come and visit my folks here through all of my childhood. I have seen all of the transition from dirt roads to development. Oh, by the way, my great grandparents were married here at the Queen Ann Chapel AME on Beach City Road in 1868! Every day I drive past where my great grandparents were married. (That is a real Native Islander)
P: Talk a bit about your personal history.
Rita: I joined the ROTC in college and when I graduated I was commissioned in the U.S. Navy. I rose to the rank of Commander before I retired. I retired here to Hilton Head Island in 1999. I started with Deep Well as a volunteer and loved it. Today I serve as Assistant Director, but my real love is the Livable Housing arm of Deep Well. I am the Livable Housing Coordinator.
P: Share with our readers a typical day as the Livable Housing Coordinator at Deep Well.
Rita: I get a call from someone needing home repairs and I get the history and as many details as I can. We have a very important list of criteria here. We help those who help themselves, so I look from that point of view. I go to the house to make an assessment. We are also concerned that we leave the house in livable condition each day after we have done work. We can't just take out the only toilet in the home or trailer and say see ya in two weeks.
P: What are some of the criteria you use when looking at projects?
Rita: We look at severity of repairs. For example plumbing is frequently a very immediate need. Holes in floors are not uncommon in trailers either. We once had a child nearly fall through the floor while standing at the sink doing dishes. That is a pretty "right now" project.
P: How many people do you think are affected by what you do?
Rita: I guess over the years probably hundreds. What we do is spread through the community by word of mouth. We are a small island. Sometimes we think one person we have helped is recruiting work for us and finds us someone else in need. This work is ongoing.
P: Who actually does this work?
Rita: As is typical with Deep Well, volunteers do it. I have a team of men who have the skill set required to do most of the jobs that come our way. Most of them are retired and all of them are very dedicated. Joe South, David Rice, Paul Keers, Bob Szczerbicki, Vince Schulte, and Roger Kelly are my core guys and they are terrific. We really can change lives.
P: Talk a bit about your core values.
Rita: I treasure ongoing education. Classes, training courses, books, basic instruction in something you know nothing about; you never know what you might see and it is good to always be prepared. When I see young people with no direction I always tell them to get any education they can. You don't even know how to determine how much carpet you need for a floor if you don't have math. I am also a very active volunteer. I volunteer at the Art Center and the Symphony and at my church.
P: You lead an incredibly dedicated and busy life. Do you have time for hobbies?
Rita: Being retired military, I value fitness. I play golf in the Ladies League at Parris Island and I also run. I also love to read and travel. I recently returned from a trip to Israel and I am currently reading a book about Jerusalem.
P: Rita, do you have any words to live by? By that, I mean sort of a life motto that you share.
Rita: Yes. "There is an opportunity in anything that we do."
Rita Jones lives her own life by that motto as well. She seems to know everyone on the Island and has earned respect from all with whom she interacts. She is not only an asset to Deep Well, but also a key component in the life of our beautiful coastal region.