The Most Giving Island
“This is the most giving island. Our residents give so much, and not just money, but time and effort, too.” – former FOCI president Bitt Dennis.
“The essence of life is to do good and help others.” – Aristotle
Life is good on Callawassie Island. Ask how and you’ll get a catalogue of page-turning answers: Soul-restoring scenery, kind and charismatic community, abundant amenities and countless clubs that keep gardens growing, families connecting, and kayaks slipping silently into the sound.
Ask any member about their favorite club, and it won’t take more than a few sentences before they’ve shifted from what the group does for fun, to what the group does for good.
Whether through events that serve as fundraisers, donations and drives for food or other needed items, giving “time and talent” for the betterment of the island itself, or the most literal, directed giving through FOCI’s grant program, Callawassie’s residents and recreational organizations are some of the most active contributors to the greater good in the surrounding area.
How do islanders pay it forward? Let us count the top five* ways:
- The Women’s Club is one of several Callawassie Island’s groups known for their accidental fundraising, holding several events a year that aren’t designed to raise money, but successfully garner overflow to channel to charities. In addition to craft shows and the “Style Show” fashion show, the Callawassie Women’s Club creates a surplus by keeping costs for activities low, which leaves leftovers from annual dues that “do more” as donations. Intentional about creating this “greater giving potential,” Callawassie Women’s Club has made a lasting difference funding scholarships for kids’ camps, and supporting local non-profits, Heroes on Horseback, Bluffton Self Help’s Wellness Food Pantry, and the Callawassie Employees’ Fund for staff emergencies. Too, the women have created give-back side groups like Wee Chicks & Lame Ducks providing equipment for infants and young children (Wee Chicks) and residents recuperating from an operation or rehabilitating from an injury (the Lame Ducks). [Cribs and high-chairs, strollers, car seats, toys, bikes, youth sports equipment like golf clubs, life vests, bike helmets, inflatable beds, crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs, and more.]
- One unique way to give back and be the best stewards of the island gift you’ve been given is the Garden Club, which lends a hand to keeping “all things beautiful” both in the island’s own backyard, and far beyond. President Wendy Hilty celebrates, “one of the [club’s] main goals is island beautification. We hold a fundraiser every other year with an auction that is extremely well attended. We make thousands in proceeds that are then put back into the island; the latest benefitting the River Club landscaping.” This effort winds its way off-island like vines of wild jasmine, with the club’s support of the Port Royal Sound Foundation’s Maritime Center and the education it provides, advancing the knowledge and ability to “preserve the particular kind of beauty that connects us to nature from our homes here on Callawassie Island.”
- In the same spirit of being trustworthy stewards of the balance of nature, the Ecology Committee garnered public attention, playing a pivotal role in Callawassie Island becoming the first community in South Carolina to be recognized as a National Wildlife Federations Community Habitat. Resident and Beaufort County Reference Manager Francesca Denton explained the club’s ongoing educational programs are focused on, “involving people in the environmental impact we’re having on our island and the sea islands around us. We do that through educational programs where we bring in speakers to enlighten us about our habitat and increase the awe that we have for this area. We’re trying to educate and inform, but in an entertaining way so that they engage with the community and environment while being educated about the importance of preserving this habitat. By educating others on the intricacies of our island’s ecosystem the Ecology Club is ensuring our natural surroundings will continue to thrive for years to come.” The impact is one we all benefit from daily, but don’t notice the work and impact until or unless the Callawassie Island’s Ecology Club ceased efforts. Thankfully they’re only growing – much like the sweet grass that whispers its applause and gratitude with a soft hush you can hear every time you cross the causeway.
- From a whisper to a shout is the Callawassie Island club most overtly and actively known for constant impact and was created with the sole purpose of giving: the Friends of Callawassie Island (FOCI). Pull up a chair, this is one of those showstopping numbers that puts the island center stage as a Pillar of our coastal community, supporting charities in Beaufort and Jasper counties of South Carolina since 2001.A non-profit 501(c)(3) created as the philanthropic arm of Callawassie Island, FOCI is managed by an all-resident, all-volunteer Board of Directors and releases annual reports of fundraising activities, proceeds, and recipients. In recent years, the FOCI Golf Tournament has generated more than half the funds that FOCI awards through grants each year to selected charities, raising as much as $40,000 to benefit 24 different local charities.Every year FOCI evaluates quarterly grant applications adhering to a disciplined review and reward process. At the end of 2022, FOCI voted to contribute $5000 to each of 5 local food banks to rebuild the dwindling resources affecting families in our area during a challenging season.
Recent quarters have seen FOCI deliver much needed helps to:
- ABLE Foundation
- Bluffton Self Help
- Family Promise
- Foundation for Education Excellence
- Good Neighbor Medical Clinic
- Low Country Legal Volunteers
- Deep Well
- Hopeful Horizons
- Meals on Wheels
- Pregnancy Center
- From serious support to fun and games (like the Theater Production March 2023, Yard Sales, and even the Blind Squirrels who don’t squirrel away their treasures but give to the Hopeful Horizons home for battered women and children), residents speak of community impact even when not charting out charity giving and non-profit proceeds. Neighbors reach out to neighbors through things like Who Needs Help, an initiative that matches residents who need help completing essential shopping or errands, with other residents who can accomplish them – an ongoing channel for the willingness and generosity that comes naturally to Callawassie Islanders.
Whether through funds or fun, giving or living and simply loving your neighbor, Callawassie Islanders are famous for leaving the lowcountry better than they found it.
*Selections, not “greater than” any other efforts financially or otherwise.