One day, Leolalinda Petinglay-Plameras, 48, visited a second house that she owned, a 15-minute drive from her home. She found the glass back door broken.

The house intended for rent was in the middle of a gang-infested area in Aiken, South Carolina.

Aside from the broken glass door, everything was in place, even a few dollars left on the table were untouched. But when she opened the refrigerator all the chocolates were gone.

“Instead of getting scared, I felt pity for those intruders. They were hungry. The broken glass was their shattered lives. I knew then that I had a mission,” Plameras recalls.

Plameras converted the bullet-ridden house into a home for the homeless and disadvantaged youth in the neighborhood. Little did she know that her effort would be honored not only by her peers, but also by one of America’s prestigious humanitarian award-giving entities.

A nurse from Antique

Plameras, originally from Antique, graduated at the University of Iloilo in the 1990s. After graduation she worked as a private nurse and eventually as an emergency room and ward nurse at Antique Salazar Memorial General Hospital.

Plameras laments that nurses in the Philippines work hard and spend more time with patients than with their families yet remain underpaid.

“Licensed nurses are unable to find jobs. Others end up volunteering for months and years. Or in work unrelated to nursing, like as domestic helpers abroad,” Plameras says.

Like thousands of nurses, Plameras eventually immigrated to the United States in August 1995. She is a registered nurse at Doctors Hospital of Augusta in Georgia and Nursing Supervisor at Anchor Health Rehabilitation in Aiken, South Carolina.

Plameras has had her share of challenges in being a foreign worker.

In 1996 her immigrant status was being processed through the sponsorship of her employer. But due to an unforeseen incident it took ten years to get approval, in 2006.

She is also small in stature. “My patients’ family members, some colleagues and even superiors would have the impression that I lacked experience or was just a student. On some occasions, they would request other nurses,” Plameras explains.

Being a devout Christian helps her a lot in overcoming these challenges. “I pray, seek opportunities to learn and as much as possible help and assist others whenever they need me. My availability wherever possible turns everything into positivity,” Plameras explains.

Agape House

When Plameras bought the house in Aiken, she knew the danger, but her love of ministering to homeless youths prevailed. The Agape House formally opened in October 2016. True to its name, which means love in the highest form or the love of God for humanity, Plameras started her mission.

In winter, Plameras saw how the kids shivered with cold. Many had worn-out shoes without socks. Hence, she started campaigning for donations of shoes, socks and food among her colleagues at the hospital, nursing homes, friends, neighbors and in her church.

The campaign caught the attention of well-meaning colleagues. Several staffers from her hospital nominated her for the Frist Humanitarian Award.

“I was surprised when I received a call from human resources to report. They requested me to send letters, pictures of shoes and socks, etc., that were distributed,” Plameras recalls.

Aside from the Children & Christian Ministries Inc., Plameras is also involved in opening the “Sound of Truth” Radio Station 104.1 FM in Antique and Iloilo. She also helped in purchasing a rice field. During harvest, a portion is set aside to help the staff of the station as well as the needy.

To date Agape has 50 participants, ages 4-18 years old. It also has 15 to 20 volunteers. It has an after-school program with some mothers and grandparents in the Housing and International Missionary programs.

Frist Humanitarian Awards

“One early morning, our CEO, announced that out of the four football fields full of nominees for the Frist Humanitarian Awards, one was chosen from our hospital,” Plameras says.

Named after Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., the founder of HCA, the Frist Humanitarian Awards recognize individuals working at HCA accredited institutions. The nominees must demonstrate outstanding humanitarian and volunteer activities beyond their regular work. Although it was founded in 1968, it started giving awards in 1971.

The names of awardees since 1972 are engraved in a bronze wall to serve as inspiration to medical workers and volunteers. Aside from trophy, the awardees receivea $5,000 donation to the charity of the recipient’s choice, $5,000 in cash and $1,000 in HCA stock.

Last June 26 in Nashville, Tennessee, Plameras together with other awardees received the 45th Frist Humanitarian Awards given by the HCA (Hospital Corporation of America), which recognizes the highest achievement in serving others.

“I stand in awe because this is the highest distinction for HCA employees every year. I thought that there are more deserving than me. I was humbled but giving God the highest Glory,” Plameras exclaims.

“Filipino nurses have compassion, the right spirit and attitude. We are hardworking, courteous, and can pull more hours to do volunteer work on holidays. We seldom complain. Being a good listener and always smiling make a difference,” Plameras concludes.

This post was originally published at ( The author gave TFG the permission to use the photos and to publish the article.

From left, husband Erwin Plameras, daughter. Rapha, and Leolalinda. CONTRIBUTED