The concept of our literacy is probably not something we consciously think about on a daily basis. Many of us were fortunate enough to learn to read and write at a young age with our skill level progressing throughout the years. We utilize our literacy so much so that it becomes ingrained in us, forgetting there was ever a time when we could not read and write, especially in adulthood. We may tend to take our ability to read and write for granted, not recognizing how this seemingly basic skill allows us to carry out our everyday tasks.
But imagine driving down the road and not knowing what street you’re on, or going to a restaurant and not understanding the menu. Imagine the inability to even sign your name on a paper. Sadly, this is a reality for numerous Lowcountry residents, including an estimated 30,000 adults in Beaufort County who have basic or below basic literacy skills.
The Literacy Center (formerly Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry) recognizes the needs of adults in Beaufort County who lack these essential skills, providing services to residents who are 18 years or older, functioning at the eighth grade and lower literacy levels, including adults whose primary language is not English.
Stemming from a small tutorial program on St. Helena Island in 1973, The Literacy Center has grown to include full-fledged educational facilities throughout Beaufort County. With ten locations, including a learning center on Hilton Head Island, in Bluffton, and in Beaufort, The Literacy Center serves over 850 adults annually with enrollment continuing to grow.
The most recent addition to this organization is the new learning center in Bluffton. Equipped with a computer lab and resource library, The Literacy Center has surpassed its goal of assisting 60 students in the new facility, actually providing assistance to 91 in its first year.
The use of technology has proven to be of great help. Through the use of an updated website, as well as social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, The Literacy Center is able to communicate with donors and volunteers, as well as bring awareness to the organization, in a way that is cost-effective.
With over 130 volunteer tutors and over 60 Friends of Literacy fundraising volunteers, The Literacy Center continues to grow in its efforts to fulfill its mission to “increase adult literacy in the greater Beaufort County area by providing leadership, creating awareness, and offering quality instructional services.”
Giving circles have emerged the last decade as a growing and significant philanthropic trend among donors of all wealth levels and backgrounds. Past studies have shown that the number of giving circles has exploded across the country and that they are an established philanthropic force. A new report finds that donors say they give more, give more strategically, and are more knowledgeable about nonprofit organizations and problems in their communities when they participate in giving circles.
Recognizing the emerging trend, the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry created two women’s giving circles to highlight the vital role women play in our community.
The first, Women in Philanthropy, was established in 2003 and serves Beaufort County.
“For me, it’s been a journey of really valuing what I have to give,” says Margaret Sanders, who is the immediate past chair of the advisory board of Women in Philanthropy. “The popular notion is ‘if I have $1 million, then I can give’ but if you have $2 you can give, and it makes a difference to someone.”
Now in its 11th year, Women in Philanthropy has grown to nearly 200 members and has awarded more than $100,000 in grants in that time.
The second giving circle established at the Community Foundation, is PEARLS, a Hampton County-based fund.
For less than a dollar a day, women in Hampton County have become involved in PEARLS which stands for Philanthropic Empowerment Among Rural Lowcountry Sisters.
“Throughout our community, women have demonstrated their philanthropic spirit. This is evident everywhere you look….in education, the arts, health, human services, and even community development programs,” said Peggy Parker, PEARLS of Hampton County incoming chair. “PEARLS brings these women together to join forces and create a lasting, meaningful impact for the residents of Hampton County.
Since 2006 PEARLS has granted back more than $24,000 into the local Hampton County community.
The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry is made up of many generous donors, each with a personal passion to make a difference in our community. Jim and Marge Krum loved their Island home. It was a love that was expressed during their lives and one that has continued since their passing.
Initially, Marge Krum established the James L. Krum Memorial Scholarship with the Community Foundation in 2003 with the fund providing annual scholarships since that time totaling more than $600,000. Krum Scholars are selected based on their outstanding academic, leadership and community service accomplishments.
After Marge’s death, the newly-named Jim and Margaret Krum Foundation was established under the umbrella of the Community Foundation with proceeds from the Krum family’s private foundation as a means of sustaining scholarships for area students and fulfilling the legacy of giving that was so important to Marge and Jim Krum.
“The Jim and Margaret Krum Foundation represents the largest legacy ever entrusted to the Community Foundation,” said Ernst Bruderer, past Chairman of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. “The foresight and generosity of the Krums’ will provide scholarships for local students for years to come.”
One of the largest local scholarships available, the Krum Scholarship is typically in the $8,500 range per year, per student and is renewable for the student’s entire undergraduate and graduate school experience if certain criteria are met.
“Krum Scholars are an extraordinary group of young people, who have proven early on in their lives that they are committed to achieving the highest of standards academically, as leaders, and through service to their communities,” said Martin Cohn, Chairman of the Krum Foundation. “It is our hope, and the vision of Jim and Marge Krum, that this prestigious scholarship will help these young people achieve their educational and life goals and we are proud to support them in their endeavors.”
In 1987, Bluffton resident Ida Martin recognized a great need that was not being met for working families and senior citizens in the area, and so began Bluffton Self Help (BSH), which was chartered a year later in October of 1988.
Fast forward to today, and Bluffton Self Help is working harder than ever to fulfill its mission to "Help Bluffton neighbors in critical need of short-term financial assistance, food and clothing, while supporting them to become more self-reliant."
In 2012 and 2013 the organization received grants from the Community Foundation’s competitive grantmaking program and its Women in Philanthropy fund to support its Education Assistance Program.
We had the pleasure to meet with Lili Coleman, BSH Executive Director and Dedra White, an Education Assistance scholarship recipient.
Community Foundation: Tell us a little about the Education Assistance Program. What is the goal of the program? What are some requirements?
Lili: The major goal of the program includes getting residents out of low-paying jobs and into skilled professions. A secondary benefit is that it showcases positive role modeling for other family members and neighbors. Individuals must be Bluffton residents and stay in the community after they graduate. We also place heavy emphasis on those that are first generation college students.
Community Foundation: Dedra, tell us about your journey.
Dedra: I started college right out of high school, but personal reasons brought me back home to assist in raising my younger siblings and I didn’t go back. Then, after being in the workforce for 26 years, I was let go from my job and had to reinvent myself.
Community Foundation: What was it like to go to college as an older adult?
Dedra: I had always wanted to work in the medical field, but going back in my 50s was a struggle at times. They don’t teach math the same way, so my son tutored me over the phone. I am also a visual learner so I enlisted the help of a local pharmacist in reviewing formulas and showing me rather than just telling me how to do things.
Community Foundation: And you are now a graduate!
Dedra: I graduated in July with a degree in surgical technology. My son graduated just a few months prior to me from veterinary school. We had a lot to celebrate.
The Strauch Family Charitable Fund was established in 2012 at the Community Foundation by Charles and Nan Strauch. With a primary focus on higher education and public education reform, the charitable fund is an extension of the passion shared by this couple and their family. We recently had a chance to talk with them about their charitable giving.
Community Foundation: Over 90% of your giving is focused on supporting higher education and public school education reform. What led you to that?
Charles: Our giving is focused on higher education and public education because the underpinning of the United States as the greatest country in the world is our K through college education system. Government-run education has been embroiled with significant challenges and failures in the last 20 years. Our opinion is that it is extremely critical that private individuals give generously of their time and money to privately-funded education options – particularly charter schools.
Community Foundation: One organization in particular has your heart – Landmark College in Vermont. You are the largest single benefactor of that institution. Tell us a little about your involvement.
Charles: I was a founding trustee and then Board Chair for 13 years. Nan is currently on the board. Our involvement spans more than 25 years as the primary benefactors of this truly unique institution.
Nan: Founded by us and others in 1984, Landmark College was the first and only college for students who learn differently. We have witnessed over the years the change the college makes in their students' learning process - and consequently their first experience with success. They have been called "stupid" or "lazy" and many have failed at other institutions. Landmark's faculty has a keen understanding of how to individualize their teaching to the students’ unique way of learning and teaches them the tools for their future success.
Community Foundation: Family involvement is a big part of your giving goals. With five kids and 16 grandkids, what do you hope to achieve?
Charles: Both our family foundation and this Community Foundation of the Lowcountry fund have been set up for the specific purpose of involving our children in meeting their obligation to leave the world a better place than they found it. We are family people with a strong sense of values. It is very important for us to serve as role models for our children and grandchildren.
Nan: We started our marriage 56 years ago with nothing but a car loan from my husband’s Aunt and Uncle. We are beneficiaries of exceptional parents who taught us the value of taking personal responsibility for leaving the world a better place. We have worked hard for what we have and plan to leave a significant portion of our estate to charity, not to our children. They were brought up to appreciate what they have earned on their own. We live modestly given our good fortune – for example – we buy used cars and keep them for years. We don’t spend our money on extravagance. We are passing down those values to our kids.
Lowcountry Volunteer Connections, an initiative of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, connects people with opportunities to volunteer, learn and lead in their communities.
On this section of our website, individuals can register and search for volunteer opportunities, nonprofits can register projects in need of volunteers, and businesses can find out about ways to partner with us to make a difference in the Lowcountry.
We recently invited Lynne Miller, Jennifer Bigus and Lisa Schaefer to the Community Foundation to talk about Lowcountry Volunteer Connections and how Friends of the Library embraced this new tool.
Community Foundation: Tell me a little bit about what you were hoping to gain through posting volunteer opportunities on Lowcountry Volunteer Connections.
Lynne: Our Board has wonderful dedicated volunteers. However, we often are looking for volunteers with certain skills and often there are few with those skills who want to volunteer. We thought that Lowcountry Volunteer Connections might extend our reach into the community to help us find those who could fulfill certain criteria. Volunteers with skills such as accounting, marketing, and computer knowledge are hard to find so we were extremely happy to find two wonderful volunteers who have helped our organization tremendously.
Community Foundation: How did you find Lowcountry Volunteer Connections?
Jennifer: I saw the advertisement in the local paper and had been looking for a way to get involved in the community. It was good timing.
Lisa: I saw an ad as well. The Friends of the Library posting seemed like a good fit for me.
Community Foundation: If you were to pitch the site to a friend, what would you say?
Lynne: Volunteer Connections has been beneficial to our organization because we are all volunteers and there are 100+ nonprofit organizations on Hilton Head Island alone. It helps us reach beyond who knows whom and into the community to let them know what kind of volunteers we are seeking. It helps those in the community who want to volunteer by having a multitude of options in one place. They can review what organizations are looking for and decide where they might be the most help.
The Community Foundation has several grant programs that can be applied to by eligible nonprofits over the course of any year. Our Organization Development grants program has proven that sometimes it isn’t the large grants that make the most difference, but the ones of modest size that help to strengthen an organization and take it to the next level.
We met with directors from three local nonprofits – Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry (now The Literacy Center), Lowcountry Legal Volunteers and the Good Neighbor Medical Clinic. Here is what they had to say about the grants program.
Community Foundation: What has this grant allowed your organization to do that it may not have done without it?
Carol/Good Neighbor: A team of volunteers including a registered dietitian, two physicians, a minister and three nurses are now designing and will implement a diabetes education program for 25 of our 140 diabetic uninsured patients. The program includes medical treatment and management, diabetes self-management and healthy weight-management components, which are delivered over a six month period.
Jean/Literacy: During a strategic planning session we identified the need to develop a marketing plan for our agency. The first task of this plan was to evaluate, then strengthen our brand in an effort to build awareness of our mission and our organization. As an organization that’s been in existence for 40 years, our mission has stayed true (i.e. improving the literacy skills of Beaufort County adults), but sometimes it’s necessary to evolve to keep up with the changing environment. This grant allowed us to hire a firm to examine what our brand was communicating to critical audiences – students, tutors, donors and the community. We were able to undertake branding research that formed the foundation for how we communicate with important stakeholders about our programs and services and mission. As a small nonprofit without much money in our marketing budget, it would have been years before we could have afforded this critical research.
Melissa/ Lowcountry Legal Volunteers: Like Literacy, Lowcountry Legal Volunteers was able to work with a local marketing firm to update and clarify our marketing message and develop a new brand identity. Our past marketing efforts were designed and executed in-house, and despite our best efforts, were not very effective. Because we had to articulate our mission and our identity to the firm’s creative team, this grant also gave us the opportunity to clarify our vision for ourselves.
Community Foundation: How has the grant improved, refreshed or enhanced your organization?
Carol/Good Neighbor: Everyone is aware of the project and has contributed to telling potential participants about the project. The education team is sharing current research and strategies for helping patients change behaviors. The project has brought new enthusiasm in our efforts to try something new and new hope that our patients can lose weight, exercise more and avoid future complications of diabetes.
Melissa/ Lowcountry Legal Volunteers: We love our new look! From the new logo, to the tagline, to the brochure the firm designed for us, we couldn’t be more pleased.
Community Foundation: How has the grant positioned your organization for the future?
Jean/Literacy: There is no question that people found our name confusing. We heard from students that they had no idea who we were or what we did. Tutors and staff felt the name did not convey the meaningful work we do. Donors questioned it as well: If you’re Literacy VOLUNTEERS, why do you need financial support? And as we all know, a nonprofit cannot survive without financial support! We believe that a new brand that better communicates our mission will help us build awareness of the issue of adult low-literacy in Beaufort County, will position us as the leader in addressing this problem, and will provide a foundation for us to build stronger relationships with various stakeholders, including donors and potential donors.
Community Foundation: Why would you recommend applying for Organization Development grants to other organizations?
Jean/Literacy: As a small nonprofit, we are limited (by our budget) in what we can do. Our mission is to provide literacy services to adults, so that is always our primary goal. That means the vast majority of our budget goes to serving our students. The beauty of the OD grant is that it provides an opportunity to do those things that you know you should do to better accomplish your ultimate goals, but simply don’t have the money in your budget. We are so grateful that Community Foundation of the Lowcountry provides this type of funding. It certainly strengthens our organization and, in the long run, strengthens the community.
Melissa/Lowcountry Legal Volunteers: Absolutely! The chance to develop your message and branding and to do so with marketing professionals with whom you would not otherwise be able to work is invaluable. We are so grateful for the opportunity to grow our organization into the future!