John Folsom said he learned many years ago that a targeted approach to addressing community needs is usually the most effective route. And the philosophy is one the Columbia real estate professional has embraced while seeking to improve the quality of life in the Midlands.
“I have attempted to become involved in those organizations and initiatives for which I have a passion,” Folsom said. “We all do a better job if we are totally committed to the causes we support.”
That passion is credited for fueling several charitable outreaches – including services to the homeless – and has distinguished Folsom as one of the community’s top philanthropists.
The president and CEO of Colliers International has been named the 2013 Humanitarian of the Year by the United Way of the Midlands. He will be formally recognized during the United Way’s annual Humanitarian of the Year Dinner and Award Ceremony on Thursday at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
The Humanitarian of the Year award is presented each year to someone who has exhibited extraordinary service and philanthropy in the Midlands.
Folsom has led local efforts in health and human services, education and the arts. He was instrumental in the building of the Transitions homeless shelter, helping secure the property and soliciting individual and corporate gifts for its construction while serving on the Midlands Housing Alliance board. Since it opened in June 2011, Transitions has moved nearly 500 people to permanent housing and more than 1,300 people to more desirable living situations.
“I truly believe that Transitions has been a real game changer in addressing the needs of the homeless in the Midlands,” Folsom said. “The statistics tell the story of significant successes in helping those who are committed to transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency.”
Folsom and his son Andy also organized the Salute from the Shore, a Fourth of July flyover along the South Carolina coast, in 2010 to honor members of the armed forces. The event has continued each year.
“John leads by example,” said Mike Gray, the United Way’s senior vice president for resource development who nominated Folsom for this year’s award. “He is a true philanthropist who derives satisfaction not from recognition, but from our community’s collective response to meeting the education and human service needs of our community."
Folsom said he was surprised by his selection, adding there are many others who have made huge impacts on the quality of life in the Midlands. But like many recipients before him, he rejects the idea that large financial contributions are the only way that people can make an impact.
“Some are able to provide financial support at significant levels, and while that’s certainly essential, a great community that is sensitive to the needs of its residents also requires thoughtful leadership and the efforts of those who are willing to devote their time and energy to improving the Midlands,” Folsom said. “For those who care about our community and the quality of life of our residents, I believe there is a role for each of us to play.”
Folsom began his professional career in 1974 at South Carolina Federal, where he ultimately served as president and CEO before joining the Keenan Company and Colliers. He was the United Way campaign chairman in 1989 and served as board chairman in 1991.
Folsom and his wife, English Johnson Folsom, have two children, Andy and Katie F. Eaddy, as well as four grandchildren.