In March 2004, Margaret Linder Southern addressed a letter to Bob Morris, president of the Community Foundation of Greenville, requesting that an endowment fund be established in her name at her death. She estimated the value of the proposed bequest to be about $4 million. Because of her love of animals, she asked that half of the fund’s annual distributions benefit the Greenville Humane Society. She asked that the other half be given to support “early childhood education and special education services that primarily benefit children and youth because of my interest in children that I developed as a teacher many years ago.”
When Southern died in 2012, Morris was surprised to learn that her gift had grown to $8.4 million —the largest in the Community Foundation’s history — significantly increasing its potential to touch the lives of children, animals, and the people who care for them. Following the distribution of the 2018 awards, the endowment has disbursed $2.1 million to 22 organizations, and the Margaret Linder Southern Endowment (MLSE) Fund continues to shape the charitable landscape in Greenville, now and for the future.
“This is what makes endowments so desirable for nonprofits and rewarding for donors — they make annual grants in perpetuity,” Morris said. “We at the Community Foundation are delighted to announce this milestone and reflect on the myriad ways Mrs. Southern’s gift has allowed others to continue caring for children and animals as she envisioned. The wide reach of her gift serves as a reminder that forward-thinking citizens from all sectors can make choices that determine the values their community will reflect.”
Margaret Linder was born August 8, 1918, in the Sans Souci area of Greenville. She earned an education degree from Greenville Woman’s College and married Charles Southern in 1943. The couple lived for many years in Des Moines, Iowa, where she taught students in elementary grades and special-needs children. Her husband said she could do whatever she wanted with her teaching salary, suggesting that she learn about stocks and investing. She did, with promising results.
When her husband died in 1983, Southern moved back to Greenville and spent a decade caring for her younger brother, Boyce, who had Parkinson’s disease. During this time, she got her first dog, a dachshund named Nancy, then another named Molly when Nancy died. These beloved pets inspired her support for animal welfare.
“Her gift was pivotal for the Greenville Humane Society and became the nest egg for a $3.3 million expansion of our facility,” said Kim Pitman, executive director. “This 14,500 square-foot space houses clinics providing low-cost, high-quality spay/neuter and vaccine services to the public; The Healing Place, where animals are treated for serious diseases; and one of the largest no-kill shelters in the Southeast. Without her generous endowment, we couldn’t have taken on such an ambitious project.”
Lesa Kastler, chair of the MLSE Committee and the Community Foundation board, commended grantmakers and those requesting grants alike for always keeping Southern’s wishes at the forefront of the allocation process.
“Margaret Linder Southern’s guiding directive for grantmaking was both specific and broad. As such, grants since 2013 have resulted in phenomenal impact for Greenville County,” Kastler said. “To illustrate, funding has supported operations, strategic planning, growth initiatives including scholarships, therapies, curriculum, specialized equipment, and advanced technology for classrooms.”
A glance at the full list of MLSE grants (available at www.cfgreenville.org) gives a snapshot of some of the dedicated groups working to make Greenville an especially nurturing environment for children and animals. Below are a few of the organizations that have received large or multiple awards over the years.
Project HOPE Foundation
Susan Sachs and Lisa Lane founded Project HOPE (Help Our Potential Emerge) Foundation in 1997 as a means of providing services needed by their young sons who had recently been diagnosed with autism. They launched Hope Academy, a small inclusion-based preschool with six teachers and 18 students, which gradually expanded to include elementary and middle school grades. As their sons grew, and the rate of diagnosed cases of autism increased — now estimated by the CDC to be one in 59 — they disseminated information for families and advocated for Medicaid and insurance funding for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. Today the organization provides “a lifespan of autism services,” including ABA therapy, a variety of classroom options from preschool through high school, adult employment and day programs, social groups, and community outreach, at campuses in Greenville, Greenwood, Pendleton, Spartanburg, and Woodruff.
To address a shortage of trained professionals to provide ABA therapy, Project HOPE Foundation created a joint master’s degree program with the Florida Institute of Technology. A 2013 MLSE grant of $50,000 helped fund the supervision required for 15 of these students to earn their degrees, becoming board-certified behavior analysts.
“They still work for us, and are changing lives every day,” Sachs said.
A second grant in 2015 of $37,390 covered a funding gap of 10,000 hours of therapy not covered by Medicaid.
“Intensive ABA therapy can change the trajectory of children’s lives, with 47 percent able to transition into a regular classroom,” Sachs said. “By giving children with autism the chance to learn to be independent and make a contribution, these grants have a tremendous impact on the community.”
A Child’s Haven
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as poverty, neglect, and trauma have been shown to have lifelong impacts — on health and opportunity, as well as future victimization or perpetration of violence, imposing enormous costs on communities. Children living in difficult circumstances often struggle with developmental disorders and delays that prevent them from succeeding academically and in their interactions with others.
One proven way to mitigate the damage of ACEs and give hope to struggling families is through early intervention and high-quality child care. A Child’s Haven is the only facility in Greenville County that offers therapeutic child care, group and individual therapy, home visits, and parental education, said Laurie Rovin, executive director. MLSE grants of $25,000 in 2013 and 2014 and $20,000 in 2017 helped fund the care these at-risk children desperately need.
“Some of these children have serious behavioral problems like hitting and biting, and 90 percent have been expelled from other day care settings,” Rovin said. “These funds helped ensure access to behavioral health care treatment for children and their families regardless of the availability of Medicaid or other funding.”
The Children’s Museum of the Upstate
This July, the Children’s Museum of the Upstate will celebrate 10 years of engaging children — and many adults — by sparking curiosity in the arts, humanities, sciences, health, nutrition, and the environment. In 2018, the museum served over 240,783 people through its sites in Greenville and Spartanburg and educational outreach efforts.
A 2014 grant from the MLSE was used in conjunction with a challenge gift by TD Bank to help eliminate the museum’s building debt obligation, strengthening its sustainability.
“We are grateful to the legacy of Mrs. Southern, whose focus aligned with our work in early childhood education and special education for children, the very core of our work,” said Michelle Shain, interim president and CEO. “Once that debt was reduced, contributions could be used for educational programming, especially early childhood and other areas such as our Smithsonian Spark! Lab, educational outreach to schools (including child development centers), Sensory Friendly Days, literacy initiatives such as Story Time and More, Finances for the Family, and many others.”
This year, the museum joins 300 partner museums across the country in implementing Museums for All, making its admissions rate more affordable for families who participate in food stamps, with the goal of addressing accessibility and inclusion.
Institute for Child Success
Launched in 2010, the Institute for Child Success (ICS) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and policy organization dedicated to promoting the success of all young children. Headquartered in Greenville and working across the state and nation, ICS pursues its mission in four primary ways: proposing smart public policies grounded in research; advising governments, nonprofits, foundations, and other stakeholders on strategies to improve outcomes; sharing knowledge, convening stakeholders, embracing solutions, and accelerating impact; and encouraging and cultivating catalytic, innovative leadership in early childhood.
MLSE grants in 2013 and 2014 provided operational support to ICS, enabling it to conduct policy research, including the first South Carolina Early Childhood Annual Data Report.
“This report and other policy research led to such accomplishments as the reauthorization and reform of South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness, expansion of the state’s publicly funded 4-year-old kindergarten program, a dramatic increase in the scale of the Nurse-Family Partnership, and the adoption of a statewide earned income tax credit for working families,” said Jamie Moon, ICS president.
In 2018, ICS was awarded $40,000 to implement a new “Hello Family” initiative to address the health and education needs of children from birth through age 5 born in a specific jurisdiction of Greenville County. By providing a continuum of evidence-based education and health services financed through an innovative “Pay for Success” mechanism, ICS aims to dramatically improve the life trajectory of these children.
2018 MLSE Recipients
Bradshaw Institute for Community Child Health & Advocacy / Greenville County Care Coordination Collaborative received $34,323 to support a part-time position for one year to build on the Greenville County Care Coordination Collaborative’s existing foundation and launch a project tackling child homelessness.
Chandler School received $16,010 for a new math curriculum and teacher training to implement problem-based learning for students in kindergarten through grade five.
Institute for Child Success was awarded $40,000 to explore the viability of a multiyear project to catalyze early childhood education and wellness outcomes through the “Hello Family” initiative. This request is to support the feasibility and transaction-structuring portion of this work to identify opportunities, challenges, and a path forward to launching a continuum of evidence-based services to Greenville families with young children.
Quest Leadership Academy received $29,000 for the following: 40 Chromebooks, charging carts, and setup; Leadership Club activities; and parent outreach.
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School received $30,667 to create a learning environment blending technology and teaching to meet the individualized capacities of children in early primary classrooms.