The Sprit of Connection and the Practice of Giving


The causeway that links Callawassie Island to the mainland is for many residents the spot where they first knew. “Right there, we began to feel that this is our home,” is a story told by many, and passed down now through generations. Not only a place of beauty and inspiration, the causeway may be the firmest symbol of the connections that enrich our lives here. For an island to trace its value to connection might seem ironic. Yet for Callawassie Island the spirit of connection plays a big part in the pleasure of life here, and in the satisfaction we get from it.

We see more poetry than irony in this unlikely pairing of island and connection. And cultivating connections is a way of life for many.

This month marks the 19th annual charity golf tournament hosted here by the Friends of Callawassie Island. The FOCI Tournament has raised as much as $40,000 to benefit as many as 24 different local charities. With more than 125 golfers and corporate sponsors, the tournament is the largest FOCI fundraiser, generating more than half the funds that FOCI awards through grants each year to selected charities.

Looking back at the beginning, we see the longtime realization that our beautiful home is even better when it is connected in certain ways with the communities that surround it. Embracing the human environment of our island home enriches us in turn, by calling up the feeling of gratitude we share for the exceptional good fortune we enjoy in living here. The neighboring towns in Beaufort and Jasper Counties include people from all walks of life, and worthy organizations that work to serve their needs. Adding support to those organizations is one example of the connection that makes life on Callawassie Island so worthwhile.

When Giving is More than a Season

“This is the most giving island,” said FOCI president Bitt Dennis. “Our residents give so much, and not just money, but their time and effort, too.” Anyone who ever had a hand in organizing a golf outing – much less a tournament – can tell you it is no easy endeavor, with thousands of details to corral and hundreds of hands to coordinate. The FOCI golf tournament is just one of the two major events organized each year to raise funds for local charities.

On alternate, even-numbered years, FOCI presents a theatre event, that is 100% produced, directed and performed by Callawassie Islanders. Director Elaine Diaz brought with her to Callawassie Island a wealth of theatre experience. She demonstrates a proven conviction that theatre can bring people together, create fun on both sides of the curtain, and raise money for a good cause, all at the same time. Elaine is often the author of the FOCI plays, as well as the director. The community enthusiasm and the wide reach of involvement that the plays create is a sign of her ability to make that involvement worthwhile.

Odd-numbered years belong to a FOCI yard sale, and this timing provides plenty of opportunity for Callawassie Island households to generate a backlog of “merchandise” – gently loved items that are welcome in a new home.

Fund-raising events are not always a two-step for FOCI. This year they were glad to add to their calendar a dinner/dance featuring Callawassie Island’s own resident classic rock band, “Artificially Hip.” Additional fundraising events have included a homes tour and a golf event called Birdies for Charity.

Nourishing our Neighboring Communities

FOCI evaluates grant applications four times a year, and the disciplined process they observe, including a standard application, makes the funds they raise go a long way. Candidates must have the tax-exempt 501c3 classification, specify the size and purpose of the grant, and indicate whether an increment would be helpful if the full amount is not allocated. FOCI members visit the proposed charities after reviewing the grant, and ask that they demonstrate evidence of results.

A small selection of examples includes the Boys & Girls Clubs of Beaufort and Jasper Counties, the Special Olympics, Second Helpings and local food banks, and Deep Well. Causes that stem from a particular interest of many Callawassie Island families include Memory Matters, for brain health education and memory care services, and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, dedicated to building better lives for millions of Americans.

The quarterly evaluations favor charities where Callawassie Islanders have hands-on experience as volunteers, and smaller charities that have limited resources or lack corporate sponsorships. Organizations in Beaufort, Jasper, and sometimes Colleton Counties that emphasize education, human services, health, and youth activities get careful consideration. FOCI seeks charities that need hands as well as funds, because forming connections with each other and giving of our time to one another in many cases, is more valuable than money.

Our blessed coastal locale offers much the same beauty to everybody, so it’s the spirit of Callawassie Island that sets us apart. The facilities and assets we enjoy can be found in some manner in other island communities, although our particular point of view is unmatched. The warmth that Callawassie Islanders show in their regard for each other – and for the communities that surround our special island – is an essential ingredient in the life of Callawassie Island.