WEXFORD FOUNDATION CONTINUES TO HELP NEIGHBORS
Pay a well-earned good life forward.
That is the simple yet powerful philosophy behind the philanthropy of the Wexford Foundation.
In 2012, board chairman Jim Hicks organized a collective effort to represent so many of the selfless, caring and compassionate acts he had witnessed through the years from Wexford residents.
“I was one of those who supported Jim when we got a Founders Society formed. We started with a $50,000 donation and it’s just amazing to see how the efforts have grown,” said current Foundation trustee John Cunningham. “So many of us had been involved in charities where we lived before coming here or were involved in efforts here. It just made so much sense to pool our efforts and make meaningful impacts for charities here by us all joining forces.”
The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit volunteer organization run by a group of nine trustees and more than 40 volunteers that help gather donations and organize fundraising events. The group provides financial and volunteer resources to fellow nonprofits focused on health, housing, hunger and education efforts to serve the underprivileged families of the Lowcountry.
The collective giving history of the trustees alone makes for a powerhouse philanthropic effort.
Chairman Stephen Carter has been on the International Board of the Special Olympics -— representing well over 200 years of charitable involvement among the trustees, both nationally with organizations like the American Lung Association and in local efforts such as The Bargain Box, the Heritage Foundation and the Van Landingham Rotary Club.
“I’m so proud to be part of this special group of generous contributors. To see how we’ve increased our efforts each year, it is exciting to live in a community so focused on giving back to our neighbors,” Cunningham said.
Those efforts were challenged with the onset of the pandemic, and Cunningham said he and his fellow trustees wondered how much it would impact the Foundation’s community outreach. His neighbors’ reaction was stunning: the group raised $258,000 in 2020 and another $100,000 in a specific emergency donation drive in April 2020 to help charities struggling to maintain services during the COVID lockdown.
The Foundation was unable to hold its annual gala during the pandemic, a signature fundraising event that typically brings in close to a third of the group’s annual donation goal. However, a generous Wexford member put up challenges to double and triple match any donations from new members which enabled the Foundation to reach its 2020 goal.
“As devastating as COVID has been for us all, it forced us to rethink how we interact with each other and our charities to make this effort work,” Cunningham said.
Rather than the annual awards luncheon to hand checks to charity representatives, trustees organized efforts to visit each awardee at the charity’s home base.
“This gave us a lot more in-person, on-the-ground time to see directly how we can make an impact,” Cunningham said. “When you see with your own eyes the amazing work these groups are doing to stretch every dollar to help others, it’s powerful. When these leaders say, ‘If we only we had this, we could achieve that,’ it’s music to our ears. And now, we understand the tangible benefits of our contributions even more.”
The Foundation’s efforts impact more tham 40 charities, including larger and more known charities like Bluffton Self Help, Deep Well Project, Memory Matters and NAMI Lowcountry, to some lesser-known but vital services such as the Heather Trew Foundation for Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation and the Sandalwood Community Food Pantry.
Cunningham said Wexford gives both program grants to charities and larger donations known as major impact grants to established charities tackling projects with a wide-reaching effect. Recent examples include a major security upgrade at The Children’s Center, a new Bluffton facility for Hopeful Horizons and a new mammography program for Volunteers in Medicine.
“None of this gets done without the giving of our members,” said Cunningham, adding that the group is on track to reach its goal of $2 million in total funds donated by its 10-year anniversary in 2022. The Foundation has a quintet of business partners that also contribute in the fundraising efforts in Island Environments, Southern State Bank, Year-Round Pool, Arbor Nature and Howell-Chase Heating and Air.
“We can’t thank our members enough for their generosity,” Cunningham said. “This Foundation means so much to Wexford and to make the area a better place while we’re enjoying life here, just makes it all worthwhile.”