Philanthropy in Columbia, SC: Who are the givers?

11/11/2012 12:00 AM

11/11/2012 1:42 PM

Communities nationwide this week are celebrating acts of philanthropy and service by individuals, corporations and other organizations.

Here in the Midlands, a strong spirit of giving has persisted despite the strain of difficult economic times. That generosity has ranged from school food drives to church holiday meals to corporate donations of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

These donations, often possible only by the community’s generosity, have sustained individuals and programs alike during the turbulent economy.

Today, in recognition of National Philanthropy Week, The State takes a look at a handful of Midlands foundations and individuals who have made some of the biggest contributions in recent years to support local basic human needs and that represent the passion that drives community giving.

United Way of the Midlands

Founded: 1976

Mission: Supports various human service programs, operated by partner agencies that provide for basic needs, from health care access to student literacy and reducing homelessness. United Way, which serves Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry counties, is supported primarily through community contributions.

2011 giving: $4,207,275 in grants to community partner agencies, plus $2,143,884 given for specific uses requested by the donors

Volunteer hours: More than 22,000 hours put in by more than 2,500 community volunteers

Focus areas: Education, financial stability and health

How giving is targeted: Volunteers from three councils review a defined set of basic human needs in the United Way’s focus areas and determine where the agency can target funds to help make the biggest difference.

What’s ahead: The United Way will expand its focus on early learning and literacy programs as well as health care initiatives, particularly those that provide eye and dental care to the uninsured.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation

Founded: 2001

Mission: To improve health care and access to it by funding projects that benefit the state’s most vulnerable populations. Grants assist medically and economically disadvantaged people through programs supporting the uninsured and underinsured.

2011 giving: $7.7 million

Focus areas: Childhood health, community health, free clinics, mental health, nursing, fight against obesity

How giving is targeted: Any 501(C)(3) organization that provides services supported by the foundation can submit letters of intent. The foundation uses the letters to invite organizations to submit full applications and oral presentations regarding their services. Funding decisions are based on a project’s potential benefit to the state’s most needy.

Current items under consideration to enhance the group’s mission:

•  Development of safety nets for those who have no dental care, especially children, newborn to age 5
•  Expansion of successful anti-obesity programs

Evaluation of the impact of the federal Affordable Care Act on future giving

What’s ahead: The foundation board annually reviews its focus areas, sometimes making adjustments or establishing new areas.

Charlotte Berry

About: Charlotte Berry began collecting dimes from classmates for her school’s Junior Red Cross chapter at age 12. Today, at age 81, she has remained one of the Midlands’s biggest public advocates for human services.

Through the years, she has generated millions of dollars for various community service causes through personal donations as well as through the solicitation of public and private funds from others.

Berry’s early involvement with the Red Cross created an unwavering commitment to that agency as well as to the United Way of the Midlands. She has served on bank boards, led cultural arts projects and given her expertise as a trustee of her alma mater, Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, and of the College of Charleston. Berry also founded various groups, including Women in Philanthropy.

Berry credits her parents – a commercial real estate developer and a homemaker mother – with modeling the importance of giving.

How giving is targeted: Programs serving children and children’s education

What’s ahead: Berry remains passionate about the Red Cross and the United Way. She is excited about a new Cooperative Ministry program, Solid Ground, that helps struggling women and their children succeed.

The Nord Family Foundation

Founded: 1988

About: Evan Nord co-founded a successful family business in Amherst, Ohio, and used some of his wealth to support a range of philanthropic causes. When he retired, he moved with wife, Cindy, and their children in the mid-1970s to Columbia, where the couple continued their philanthropic activities through personal giving and the family foundation. Their children, too, have continued this legacy through personal giving and by serving on the foundation board.

Focus areas: Arts and culture, education, health and social services, civic affairs

2011 giving: $5,087,629 total 2011 distributions; $695,376 given in the Columbia region

Long-term: Since it was formed, the Nord Family Foundation has contributed $9.2 million to the Columbia area.

How giving is targeted: The foundation reviews grant requests from community organizations. Programs most in keeping with the foundation’s mission are reviewed by the board for funding approval. Charities funded last year include Home Works of America, Souper Bowl of Caring, University of South Carolina Education Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Salvation Army of the Midlands, the Cooperative Ministry and Columbia’s Free Medical Clinic.

What’s ahead? Foundation leaders say while its grants help the community, they are a small percentage of the revenue needed to keep local organizations running efficiently. As such, the foundation continues seeking partnerships with like-minded individuals and organizations that share its mission while also working to secure the most government and private dollars.

Central Carolina Community Foundation

Founded: 1984

Mission: To help charitable individuals and businesses meet the community’s most critical needs, among them health and education. The foundation serves 11 counties in the Midlands.

Giving: $10.3 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year

How giving is targeted: The foundation supports education, health and human services, the arts, animal welfare, faith-based organizations, conservation and preservation. A focus is on early childhood education, with a special emphasis in school readiness, school attendance and summer learning.

Three key initiatives include:

• Literacy 2030: To break the intergenerational cycle of low literacy in the state.
• Graduation Imperative: To increase access to education and connect talent in the Columbia market for a more vibrant community.
• Talk About Giving: To encourage multi-generational conversations about philanthropy.

What’s ahead: The foundation hopes to further unite funders, service providers, community leaders and others who have a vested stake in the community’s future.

Stewart and Steven Mungo

About: Brothers Stewart and Steven Mungo operate a family residential development and construction company in the South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia markets. The company, founded in 1954, is today the 34th largest builder in the United States.

The brothers’ father, the late Michael Mungo, grew up in poverty in a single-parent household. After working his way through USC by hanging drywall, Michael Mungo started his own company, and his gratitude motivated him to help take care of the less fortunate. That sensibility was passed to his sons, who continue the family’s support of various community causes.

2011 giving: $540,700

How giving is targeted: The brothers generally support services and organizations that provide for basic needs, including housing, health care and food. Those include Harvest Hope Food Bank, the Free Medical Clinic, Transitions, Home Works and the Cooperative Ministry. Both brothers also support Wofford College, the University of South Carolina, Lexington-Richland 5, ETV, Cities in Schools and area museums.

What’s ahead: The brothers continue to support Harvest Hope Food Bank in honor of their father, who was a founding board member of Harvest Hope. The two remain focused in their giving, wavering little from year to year in the causes they support.

About Bertram Rantin

Bertram Rantin


Bertram Rantin is The State's metro columnist with a current focus on the inspirational people and community helpers in Columbia, SC, and the Midlands. Rantin has covered a variety of areas during his tenure at the newspaper including local government, schools, sports, features, transportation, volunteerism and non profits. Email Bertram at or call him at (803) 771-8306.

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