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Nonprofits: Caring hands pass family memorial to Pawleys church

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A $10,000 donation made more than five years ago in the Upstate has found its way to Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Parkersville.

The funds were awarded this month from the Shiney and Lally Keenan Memorial Donor Advised Fund of the Central Carolina Community Foundation. The church will apply the funds to its mortgage, the Rev. A.B. Nelson said.

The unrestricted grant was given in honor of Josephine Richardson, who attends the church, but it started out as a memorial for someone else.

The funds originated with Fred Oates of Spartanburg, who designated them as a gift several years ago in honor of the Keenans, who were his longtime friends. The funds were to be distributed to a charitable cause several years ago through the foundation, a nonprofit in the Midlands that distributes grants and scholarships by linking the resources of donors to areas of need.

“The money sat with the community foundation for years,” said Lucia Keenan of Tampa, Fla., one of the Keenans’ four daughters, who were responsible for determining how the memorial fund would be used.

“We kept getting statements and each time we would see that none of the money had been spent and it was just dwindling as tiny increments were spent on administrative fees,” she said.

The sisters decided just before Thanksgiving that it was time to put the money to good use. The fund totaled $9,481 at that point.

There were any number of causes the money could have gone to aid, from Planned Parenthood to National Public Radio, but after talking it through, Keenan and her siblings decided they wanted to see the money at work in a community. Their parents had loved Pawleys Island and owned a beach house there for many years, so they decided to give the money to a group or cause there.

Then, they decided to award the funds in honor of Richardson to a cause that was important to her. She worked for the Keenans for many years, was a dear friend to them and became “like a member of the family,” Keenan said.

“The beauty of this particular gift is that the family could not only be honored in name, but it also allowed the daughters to have joy after the passing of their parents by making a difference in the lives of the congregation,” said JoAnn Turnquist, president and CEO of the foundation.

It’s fascinating and exciting how the money trickled down from one person’s generosity to touch so many people, according to Keenan.

“The bottom line is that this all happened through Fred’s generosity,” she said. “We are just thrilled with how it worked out.”

She would love to see more people designating funds in such a way as part of their estate planning.

“There are so many local things that could benefit from something like this,” she said.

The Central Carolina Community Foundation is one of nine such regional groups in the state and more than 700 in the nation.

“Our role is basically to foster philanthropy,” Turnquist said. “We offer a creative, cost-effective and tax-efficient way for people to invest in the charitable causes they care about most.”

Community foundations receive gifts and bequests from individuals, families, businesses and organizations, which are directed to a number of nonprofits throughout the region they serve.

Donors can direct funds to go to a specific group or purpose, or create a fund or endowment for a general interest, such as the arts, education or wildlife.

Foundations also have endowments set up for donors who don’t have specific ideas about how funds should be spent. Funds are pooled and invested for maximum growth and impact, and the foundation decides how those funds should be distributed through grants to qualified agencies and institutions serving the residents of the foundation’s region, Turnquist said.

At the Waccamaw Community Foundation in Murrells Inlet, that fund contains about $1 million. The foundation distributed about $1.3 million in grants in Georgetown and Horry counties in 2009 and $1.6 million in 2008, said its president, Jonathan Kresken.

By pooling resources through a community foundation, individuals can make a bigger impact with their donations.

Foundations also work with individuals and companies to establish funds and endowments that honor or memorialize someone, like the one Oates created for the Keenans.

Donations usually start at $250, Kresken said.

Setting up a fund is “extremely simple,” according to Turnquist. The foundation and the donor create an agreement in which the donor’s intent is clearly defined and the foundation takes over from there to help the donor meet their charitable goals.

Community foundations are very thorough in checking out the groups they distribute funds to.

“Before we make a grant to any nonprofit, we do our due diligence,” Kresken said. “We make sure they’re in good standing, review their bylaws and their board of directors, and we ask for a follow-up” to make sure the funds are being used for the purposes they were approved for.

That gives the donor confidence their money is being put to good use and is another reason to contribute through a community foundation, he said.

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