May 2002

Maranda Phillips Holmes

Advocate for the poor

Born in Sumter, SC, to the late Rev. James and Inez Thompson Phillips, Maranda Phillips Holmes has resided in Charleston since an early age. A graduate of Burke High School with further study in Religion at the College of Charleston, Mrs. Holmes has been and continues to be a steadfast advocate for the poor. A living legend and role model for aspiring humanitarians, she is known as Charleston’s ‘Mother Teresa.’ A former cigar factory worker and domestic, Mrs. Holmes retired as a playground supervisor and was the first supervisor of an integrated park in Charleston. She was married to the late James Holmes. The couple has five children, all of whom are professionals with degrees. It was as chairperson for the Rhett Elementary School Welfare Committee that Mrs. Holmes began to focus on the disadvantaged community. Once becoming supervisor of a large playground, she seized the opportunity to reach a larger base of the community. The Holmes’ reputation for being in touch with grassroots community issues won her seats on many prominent professional boards including the Charleston County Legal Assistance Board and the Governor’s Low-Income Home Energy Advisory Board. She has served from their inception the City of Charleston’s Commission for Women and the Charleston County Human Services Commission. Mrs. Holmes uses her stature for many positive purposes. Volunteering at the Hollings Oncology Center, she provides a powerful testimony, twice a cancer survivor herself. Sensitive to geriatric concerns, it was partly through her efforts that the Charleston Police Department began the Elder Support Line, a program that provides immediate assistance to the elderly. One of the phenomenal aspects of Mrs. Holmes’ achievements is the fact that she does not drive; she walks or uses public transportation. ‘Walking the block’ affords her the opportunity to ‘hear the cries’ of the community. She is seen throughout the peninsula helping the homeless, assisting abused women, distributing groceries, and talking to young men on street corners. Going door to door, Mrs. Holmes publicized the Neighborhood Housing Service’s (NHS) program, which repairs homes for low-income persons. It was partly through her efforts that many homes of Charleston’s Westside were repaired. Among her 155 awards are the American Institute for Public Service’s National Jefferson Award for outstanding community service and an accompanying television documentary, the Order of the Palmetto, SC’s highest civilian award, the SC Commission for Women’s Women of Achievement Award, and the SC Gerontological Society’s Wil Lou Grey Award. True to her spiritual roots, Mrs. Holmes is a member of Shiloh A.M.E. Church and is known as the ‘Dean of Ushering.’ She shares co-ownership for the idea of the South Carolina A.M.E. ‘Usher’s Strut’ and is the first female Marshal of the SC Conference. Mrs. Holmes is the first woman vice-president of the Interdenominational Ushers’ Council (forty-five churches), the second woman president, and is currently Chairperson of the Board. She is a founding member of the State Usher’s Convention.