Brothers Stewart and Steven Mungo will be honored Thursday night as the United Way of the Midlands’ Humanitarians of the Year. The brothers lead Mungo Homes, the Irmo-based homebuilding company started in 1954 by their father, Michael J. Mungo, who passed away in 2010.
The United Way honor is given each year for “extraordinary leadership in philanthropic and human services,” according to the organization. The Mungos were cited in part because of initiatives by the Michael J. Mungo Foundation to help Harvest Hope Food Bank during the recession and to help local homeowners after the October 2015 floods.
We asked the Mungos about their charitable giving and about living in the Midlands.
Why are volunteerism and charitable giving important to you?
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Our father grew up extremely poor. He used to say, “You can’t imagine what it’s like not to know where your next meal is coming from.” He was determined to never be poor again, and as he became successful, he was determined to help others. From an early age both of our parents modeled the importance of giving back to the community that had been so good to us and instilled in us a responsibility to help those in need. It’s not something we really think about. It’s just the right thing to do.
Why is the United Way of the Midlands important to the community?
The United Way of the Midlands is the one organization in our community with the ability to bring local non-profits, businesses, governments and social service agencies together in one place to address pressing needs such as flood recovery, early childhood education, financial stability and access to affordable healthcare. They are a catalyst for positive, lasting community change as they do not redistribute the dollars they raise but rather leverage those dollars with existing resources to help the maximum number of people and families possible. Last year they reinvested almost $17 million back into our local community.
How would you rate the quality of life in the Midlands?
We believe Columbia’s quality of life is good and it’s really a great place to raise a family. We have award-winning schools and exceptional recreational opportunities such as Lake Murray, the Saluda, Broad and Congaree rivers, along with national parks and forests. The redevelopment of downtown has brought new Southern cuisine dining and the historic University of South Carolina campus brings a college town feel with lots of sports-related entertainment. The new fields at Saluda Shoals are bringing national tournaments such as the U.S. Quidditch Cup to the area. Additionally, the beach and the mountains are just two hours away. Our cost of living is attractive and the buying power is strong.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the Midlands?
We believe we are a long way from reaching our potential in Columbia. A lack of a cohesive vision and too many individual governments impair our ability to work together for the greater good. We have a shortage of Columbia-based privately owned businesses. Far too many decision-making jobs have left Columbia over the past 30 years and haven’t been replaced. Many problems could be dramatically improved by government cooperation in many ways. Projects such as landscaping our gateways and burying power lines go a long way in first impressions for individuals thinking of moving or locating a business here. We have no lack of higher education or technical training and we are not taking advantage of the opportunity to work together to bring more economic opportunities to Columbia.
What will the market for new homes be like in the next two years?
No one has a crystal ball, but we generally feel positive about the Columbia market and think that housing here will grow at a very modest rate of supply and price over the next two years, barring any unexpected major job losses.
About the Mungos
▪ Stewart Mungo, 65, CEO of Mungo Homes
▪ Steven Mungo, 57, president of Mungo Homes
▪ Mungo Homes started in 1954
▪ Company named America’s Best Builder 2012 by Builder magazine
▪ The Humanitarian of the Year Dinner and Award Ceremony is Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the USC Alumni Center, 900 Senate St., Columbia. For more information, call G.B. Olsen at 803-758-6992.