Experience Counts



JACKIE ROSSWURMWhen times are tough, familiar faces are comforting. At Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, the organization’s new leader is an experienced executive who has led the way through many challenges and is known by Lowcountry residents from her work in education.

As the foundation’s new interim CEO and president, Jackie Rosswurm replaces Chris Kerrigan, who left Community Foundation of the Lowcountry after only a year, returning to Charleston to be with his family. Rosswurm, in contrast, has deep roots in Beaufort County — she has lived on Hilton Head Island since 1984 — and plans to be here for the long haul.

A member of the foundation’s board for the past three years, she was living an active life in retirement when the pandemic hit and Kerrigan resigned. She agreed to take over the daily management of the 11-person staff and operations at Community Foundation of the Lowcountry because “at a time when things are so strange right now, I decided to do it primarily because I believe so much in this organization and I believe in this community,” she said.

From programs in the arts and literacy to affordable housing, college scholarships and environmental protection, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has been connecting individual donors with groups and nonprofits that serve the Lowcountry since 1994. The foundation has awarded more than $82 million in grants and scholarships and currently manages 335 funds. 

These days, the coronavirus pandemic has taken center stage in the foundation’s work, with “many folks who are donors with us and who have funds with us looking to see how they can help,” Rosswurm said. In March, the board voted to set up the COVID-19 Response Fund.

Donations poured in from the community. By mid-May, the COVID-19 Response Fund had raised $268,000, the Community Foundation had matched with $200,000 and $331,000 in grants had been awarded to organizations in Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton and Hampton counties that work directly with people in need. 

“There’s still lots of work to be done. We have not looked at transitioning or sunsetting this,” Rosswurm said.

Under its umbrella, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry also has helped set up and manage charitable funds — including the Hampton Hall Charitable Fund, Hungry Hearts Restaurant Workers Relief Fund, USCB Student Emergency Fund, Help 4 Hope and others —to help locals affected by the pandemic.

Rosswurm’s goals at the foundation are to “safely and successfully to move the organization forward and have it ready to go to the next level. It’s not, ‘Let’s stand still and see if we can hold our breath for a long time,’” she said. This includes an organizational audit and a strategic plan.

Serving as an interim leader isn’t new for Rosswurm. She retired in 2013 as acting superintendent of the Beaufort County School District, after being the district’s chief administrative and human resource officer. 

She also helped found charter schools in Atlanta and Savannah and advised former state superintendent of education Barbara Nielson. On Hilton Head, Rosswurm served as chairman of the board at Foundation for Educational Excellence and helped set up the organizational framework for Turtle Trackers and establish the Sea Turtle Preservation Fund.

While there is no set timeframe for her tenure as interim president and CEO at Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Rosswurm expects her role to last several months.

“There will be a national search for a new permanent CEO and president. I have agreed to hold this position until that person is named and for whatever transition period is needed,” she said.