Sue Priester, chair, Community Foundation of Greenville. Photo provided.

At the end of this month my term as chair of the Community Foundation of Greenville will conclude, and I have thoroughly enjoyed serving. I was asked by foundation president Bob Morris to share some personal thoughts about philanthropy in our town and at this time.

Sue Priester, chair, Community Foundation of Greenville. Photo provided.

Let’s consider the word “foundation.” In the context of the Community Foundation of Greenville, it means a collection of professionally managed funds used for charitable purposes. For those who have financial resources and charitable intent, the Community Foundation has been Greenville’s trusted institution to help maximize both for more than 60 years. But just as relevant and descriptive are other meanings of “foundation” — as in a substructure or an underpinning, or by extension, a fundamental principle or cornerstone. Looked at from that perspective, the Community Foundation is a living demonstration of what underlies a successful community: connectedness, sharing of resources, and a concern for the future. Its fundamental principle is a belief that those of us who are blessed with good fortune have a responsibility to pay it forward and give others the same opportunity.

I don’t know that there has ever been a greater need for acting on this belief than now. In spite of the material abundance enjoyed by many in our country, every day we see signs of worrisome trends — growing income inequality, racial and ethnic divisions, and hopelessness expressed in rising suicide rates, drug abuse, and reduced life expectancy.  Even in Greenville County, despite the positive national attention that our successes have attracted, did you know that over half of the students in Greenville County’s public elementary schools qualify for free/reduced price lunch? We should all find that statistic shocking and unacceptable.

Right about now I can hear Bob Morris saying, “Sue, you’re supposed to be writing an uplifting article about charitable giving in the holiday season. Enough with the downers!”  OK, got it. So here is a short explanation of how personal generosity is healthy both for you and for the community. We humans are social creatures; a lack of social interaction is downright unhealthy. Charity is by nature a social activity that involves us with other human beings. And it’s important to stress here that charity is not just about money. Generosity is also expressed through time spent with others, skills shared and compassion extended. True charity starts with awareness of a problem or a need, leading to exploration of the likely causes and remedies. Next is finding out who else might be addressing the issue, what has been done, and what is still required. And then it’s stepping forward to join with others in charitable efforts. These actions will take you beyond your own usual life and expose you to what life is like in someone else’s shoes. Not only will you have contributed to the betterment of your community, but you will also have benefitted from establishing relationships with your fellow human beings in the process. The fabric of society is woven and strengthened by such acts, and you will have just knitted yourself securely within it.

This holiday season and throughout the New Year, please join me in building upon our community’s foundation by sharing your resources — financial, time, and talents — with others not as blessed. Will this solve the problems of the world? No. Will you feel more hopeful just by being involved? Quite possibly. Is it the right thing to do? Definitely.

For more information about how to get involved with the Community Foundation, please contact Bob Morris at (864) 233-5925 or at rmorris@cfgreenville.org.

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