By Amy Wenk

Four members of the Sisters of Mercy founded St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1880 with only their compassion for the poor and the 50 cents in their pockets.

Almost 130 years later, two Sandy Springs volunteers are helping extend that legacy of service for Atlanta’s oldest hospital, now at 5665 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Sandy Springs’ “Pill Hill” area.

Since the fall, Pat Orangio and Stacey Lewinstein have worked to organize the May 2 Wings of Mercy Ball at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead. Running from 7 p.m. to midnight, the annual event is expected to draw nearly 500 people and raise $300,000 to benefit St. Joseph’s Mercy Care Services.

“This year’s theme is Mercy Mission, which highlights the mission of the Sisters of Mercy and our cause,” said Orangio, a Sandy Springs resident of 23 years.

Special lighting will project words such as compassion and advocacy on the dance floor to carry the theme of service. The silent auction will be alight with bright neon colors, contortionists called “divas” will entertain guests, and the Rupert’s Orchestra will provide the evening’s soundtrack.

“The vision of the whole ballroom is just going to be incredible,” said Orangio, who four years ago started a wedding planning business called Weddings of Distinction.

She and Lewinstein got involved as co-chairs for the ball because of their participation with WINGS (Workers Involved in New Growth for St. Joseph’s).

Founded in 1989, WINGS is a group of volunteers who support the healing ministry of the Sisters of Mercy in Atlanta and the charitable activities of the hospital through fundraising events and other activities.

Orangio joined the organization in 1993 because her husband at the time was a physician at St. Joseph’s. Lewinstein became a member two years ago after working at the hospital as a cardiovascular nurse. Her husband, Charles, is a vascular surgeon at the institution.

“It just seemed like a wonderful group of women who really cared about the organization,” said Lewinstein, who now works part time as a nurse at The Lovett School. “There are a lot of longtime members, and they truly care about what they are doing. It’s been a very important part of most of their lives. It’s inspiring and makes you want to get involved and do more.”

WINGS has more than 100 members. In addition to the May 2 ball and a golf tournament in October, they conduct coat, toy and blanket drives, build hygiene kits, and put on a Hospital Appreciation Day each year.

“I can’t begin to tell you the bonds that are formed,” said Orangio, who also volunteers with the Georgia chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “We just have the best time.”

Members of WINGS have helped raise more than $4 million for Mercy Care Services, which supplies the homeless or uninsured with medical, dental, educational and social services. In 2008, nearly 10,000 people were helped at the four fixed-site Mercy Clinics and the six other clinics conducted at partner facilities or on a mobile health coach.

“What they do is just amazing, providing medical care for these people that really would have very little access to health care otherwise,” said Lewinstein, who also volunteers at The Trinity School, which her 8-year-old son attends. “The facilities are amazing, and the people are amazing. You just really feel like you are doing something good for people, and it’s right here in Atlanta. The funds are going right back to the people in Atlanta that need it. To me, that’s really important.”

Orangio added, “Even if you change one person’s life, at least you are doing something.”

To make a donation or volunteer with WINGS, call 678-843-5710.