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Strength in Numbers

MEN WHO CARE OF HILTON HEAD STRIVE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

BY BARRY KAUFMAN | PHOTO BY MADISON ELROD

There are problems that seem overwhelming, that fixing them is a task far more weighty than any one person can endure. Poverty. Hunger. Disease.

We all see them and witness the devastation they can wreak on a community. And we all say the same thing. “I’m just one person. What can I do?”

One person can’t do much, if anything. But get 100 or so people together, bound to one another by a desire to make the world a better place, and you can work miracles.

Mike Bruce found that out firsthand when his wife asked him to put his video-editing skills to use one day. The video at question was being produced for 100 Women Who Care, and at the time Bruce didn’t realize how much it would change his life. 

“After it was done, I asked my wife what became of that group, and she told me they had given a donation of $17,000,” he said. “I wondered, how could a group make a decision that quickly? Within an hour they had that money to give. I thought, the men can do that as well.”

He began looking into the organization, the 100 Who Care Alliance. A loosely affiliated group of 735 chapters worldwide, the concept behind the 100 Who Care Alliance is simple. 

You gather your group, leveraging your sheer numbers to multiply the impact you can have, and you meet periodically to determine the beneficiary of your largesse, then everyone gives $100 per quarter. The combined donating power of the entire group turns one person’s efforts into a massive effort. 

“What inspired me was the simplicity of it: the ability we have to move quickly and push funds out directly without overhead,” he said. The local chapter began, as nearly every great idea does, with a few guys sitting around the firepit. “I thought if we could get 20 people together, that would be a great thing.”

He underestimated by just a hair. Before long the word was spreading about this group of 100 (give or take) men looking to make a difference, and Bruce was surprised with the number of membership requests. 

Communities like Spanish Wells got the word out, driving up membership. A recreational tennis league on the island recruited from their ranks. Even an icon like Stan Smith with his support for the Boys & Girls Club has joined in proselytizing the virtues of the 100 Men Who Care. 

So much so, in fact, that the group’s name should really be closer to 120 Men Who Care. “I’m surprised it got to this number of folks. I don’t know where it goes or where it stops, but the women got up to around 180 members.”

And what these 120 men have been able to do is extraordinary. Since starting up a year and a half ago, they have had a collective impact of nearly $70,000 locally, spread out among organizations like Volunteers in Medicine, Programs for Exceptional People, Backpack Buddies, the Hilton Head Island Boys & Girls Club and more, with secondary awards helping fill coffers of worthy nonprofits around the Lowcountry. 

“Sometimes I call it blue-collar giving,” said Bruce. “It’s just a lot of guys who get together from different backgrounds. Some are very well off, and some just come with a passion for giving… It’s a way to give back. It’s humbling for me; I didn’t realize what a blessing it would be for me to participate.”

They’ve been able to give so much so quickly partially because of their strength in numbers, and partially because of the speed with which they make decisions. It starts the first week of every quarter, when they draw three golf balls out of a bag representing three of the multiple charities nominated by their members. The three individuals who nominated those groups give a 10-minute presentation and Q-&-A session, and then it goes up for a vote. The votes are all counted by the following Monday to allow for remote members, and the money is presented to the nonprofit selected by the group. 

“The presentation isn’t often about the financial needs of an organization, it’s a personal testimony of where these men have seen a need and how we can address that specific need,” said Bruce. “We can go anywhere and find a charity. What’s more important is addressing what we have seen on the island.”

It’s a process that puts funds directly into the hands of the people who can do the most good, delivered by a group of men who come together in the spirit of giving. It’s also a great opportunity for those of us who have been asking, “What can I do?”

Find out when the group meets again, July 14. If you’d like to be a part of the giving, email
mike@100menwhocarehhi.com.