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Osceola McCarty, African-American Philanthropist


The late great African-American laundry woman, author, and philanthropist, Osceola McCarty (1908 - 1999), did one thing all of her life: laundry! For decades, Osceola, a frugal Christian woman who never bought a car - who never got married - who lived in a simple frame home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, earned 50 cents a load doing laundry for the well-to-do families of Hattiesburg!


Preferring to use a washboard instead of an electric washing machine, she toiled for three-quarters of a century as a domestic: washing, ironing, and folding other people’s clothing! Her life was an inspiration to many! Her formal education ended in the sixth grade when an aunt became ill and was paralyzed! Osceola had to quit school so that she could take care of her! She took in laundry to earn money; and, every week she put a little aside in a savings account!


Osceola had a dream - a dream that she never shared with anyone - a dream of getting a higher education - a dream that was never fulfilled for her; but, is being lived vicariously through the students that she has and continues, even after her death, to help! That dream was revealed when she shocked the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, Mississipi, in 1995, with a generous gift of $150,000 to "help somebody’s child go to college."


You see, my brothers and sisters, that money she had put aside in a savings account for all of those years had grown to $250,000 with compound interest, which,as she said, "was more than she could use!" She explained, "I can’t carry anything away from here with me, so I thought it was best to give it to some child to get an education!" The University of Southern Mississippi used the money to endow the "Osceola McCarty Scholarship USM Foundation" which provides money for African-American children of limited means with the opportunity to be able to go to college!


She once told reporters, "It’s more blessed to give than to receive - I’ve tried it!"


Osceola McCarty is a good example of an individual who understands what it means to love others with our giving - giving that is much more than anyone expects from us - giving that is much more than what is required of us - extravagant giving! Our Holy Scripture text, for today, describes an encounter that Jesus, the Christ, had with Mary of Bethany, a woman who understood the principle of extravagant giving and demonstrated that principle, like Osceola McCarty, in a marvelous way!


(Sources: "Angel Hero: Osceola McCarty," by Molly, www.myhero.com, accessed 02 November 2009. "Osceola McCarty," by Blair Walker, special to AOL Black Voices, Black History Month Work & Money Heroes, www.blackvoices.com, accessed 02 November 2009. From a sermon by George Dillahunty, A Heart To Give!, 11/3/2009)

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