Nestled behind a small grove of pine trees sits a humble building that does a lot of business in town —and around the world.
The Association of the Miraculous Medal, which was named the Republic-Monitor’s Business of the Year during the Perryville Chamber of Commerce’s annual membership banquet last week, has been a part of Perryville for 102 years, and their reach is not only local, but also national and international.
Perryville has been fortunate to have AMM so active in its community for all these years, and has seen it grow, adjust to changes and despite remaining quiet and humble, be so vital to the local economy.
AMM’s first non-priest CEO and president, Don Fulford, who has overseen the Association of the Miraculous Medal for the past seven years, shared some of his insight into the longevity and success of AMM.
“Perry County is a great place to live, work and play,” Fulford said. “We have 60 employees, with an average length of stay of 31 years. We have 17 people with 40 years or more, and 24 people with 30 years or more.”
AMM’s staff doesn’t seek accolades for what they do.
“Every year, as a staff, we take money out of our paychecks and then once a year we give that money to a place in need,” Fulford said. “Over the past five years we have given away over $60,000. It’s not something we advertise or promote, it’s just something that we do because we are all surrounded by so many great people and there are so many great causes and we want to help, we want to do our part.”
There are those within the community that understand the importance of quiet, and they find ways to be just that on the grounds of AMM.
The rosary walk is open to anyone of any faith.
“It is for anyone of any faith that just needs some reflective time, space to themselves where they can think, and get out of their chaotic world,” Fulford said. “A lot of people from local industry just walk around the rosary walk during their lunch hour or before they are heading to or from work. I also see mothers pushing their children in strollers and those who are walking to stay fit.”
AMM is also recognized for its business contributiona to the community. Last year, the shrine had 35,000 visitors from 35 different states who made a recognizable impact on the community. They visit restaurants, gas stations, hotels, visit other points of interest, helping Perryville by generating tax income.
AMM does promote its gift shop, which serves the entire community and beyond. It has seen growth every year over the past five years. There are gifts for special days like first communion and weddings as well as Mothers and Fathers Day.
In 2019, AMM reopened the St. Mary of the Barrens church for weddings, and four have been held.
“The one thing they all had in common,” Fulford said, “is that they all had grandparents who were married there. Having the wedding photos taken in the exact same place as their grandparents is a real proud heritage, it is important to continue those traditions.”
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Grotto of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on the AMM campus.
Much of the original construction on the Grotto was done by the students at the former seminary where AMM is now located.
The stone was from the old rock quarry and the students helped to get that all cleaned up. The Grotto was officially dedicated on Nov. 11, 1920, by Archbishop John Glennon of St. Louis.
AMM has a very strong reach outside of Perryville, which in turn benefits the city.
In 2019, 692,000 pieces of incoming mail were delivered by the Perryville post office, while 11 million pieces of outgoing mail left the local post office.
AMM has a strong digital presence too. AMM’s website received one million visitors and they have 144,000 Facebook followers.
And there are those who still use a telephone to reach them; they receive around 50 thousand incoming phone calls per year.
“AMM will get a call from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, whereever, and they are down on their luck or the world is rushing past them, they give us a call, just to connect with somebody,” Fulford said. “It’s a call to connect It may not be about faith, but it is about whom they talk to. The call is always answered. It may be about faith, about health – why did I get cancer, it could be about a job, it could be about concern for a grandchild or about a dog. We love that we are reached out to, we are hear as a support.”
AMM’s reach extends to all 50 states and 35 countries. All correspondence is available in English and Spanish.
Fulford holds his staff in the highest regard.
“They know how to listen, which is one of the most important things they can do,” he said. “If I had to explain AMM to someone, I would say we are humbly doing our part for the community as well as being part of the community, and the reason so many people call us every year and count on us every year is because we are part of Perryville and good hard working people of high character and caring.”
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