Holy Trinity Lutheran Church had dozens of visitors from a variety of congregations Sunday afternoon as the host site for a reception in honor of Nancy Joyce, known largely for her 11 years of service as Community Ministry of North Augusta's executive director.

Joyce, a North Augusta resident since 2007, retired Saturday from her leadership role. She confirmed she is looking forward to spending more time focusing on her role as a grandmother, which will involve trips to Charlotte.

Among the ministry's longtime boosters on hand for Sunday's event was Mildred Miller, with Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church. She later credited Joyce with excellence in running the thrift shop ("She can squeeze space where there is no space") and the ministry in general, in terms of being compassionate, resourceful and a fine steward. 

Miller added, "When she first started, she just seemed to take to it, to do everything that needed to be done and, of course we've grown a lot since she's been there, because when we first moved into that building, we wondered what we were going to do with all that space."

That, she explained, was 1999, and the situation is vastly different now at 646 East Buena Vista Avenue, where the ministry has its base of operations.

Becky Kiser, with First Baptist Church of North Augusta, has been with the ministry since 2010 and currently serves as the food pantry's director. She described Joyce as a fun and "very caring person" with a strong sense of humor – a fitting mixture for the CMONA working environment, she said. 

Joyce, a Pittsburgh native, spent several days this month working with her successor, local resident Elizabeth Merritt, whose most recent role was as an executive assistant for the Southern Association for College Admissions Counseling. Merritt served earlier as Newberry College's director of career services and is a member of First Baptist Church of Augusta.

Joyce, a member of Our Lady of Peace, described CMONA as an association of 22 churches ("all different denominations") that "do the work of Christ in North Augusta and help people with emergency situations – electricity and food and clothing and those sorts of things."

A food pantry and thrift shop are major parts of the organization, which is in the midst of a massive fundraising campaign to establish a new headquarters on Belvedere-Clearwater Road, near Belvedere Elementary School. Hopes are for "a new campus with facilities that are scaled to handle the increased volume and designed to offer the proper setting to work with low-income individuals and families," as described on the ministry's website.