Friday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Giving Back Awards—a joint effort between Charleston magazine and the Coastal Community Foundation—at the Memminger Auditorium. This event and the process that leads up the selection of the winners is a democratic one—people and organizations are nominated by the community; from there, a panel chooses a winner in four categories, and for one—the nonprofit of the year—the winner's decided on by community vote. This past Friday was also National Philanthropy Day, so Giving Back was planned to coincide.
The word philanthropy means “love of humanity” and very often entails a private initiative focusing on human quality of life; whereas charity basically means loving kindness for those you are not related to. Charity and philanthropy are intertwined, but not synonymous—charity seeks to relieve the immediate symptom, while philanthropy seeks to eliminate the symptom at its root. Both are necessary in this world we live in, unfortunately, and in the best case scenario, they work in tandem to create solutions for societal problems.
I think one of the reasons I enjoyed Friday's awards show so much was because I got to see both sides of the giving coin live and up close. There were five divisions (volunteer, community catalyst, creative talent, business, and non-profit) and the variety of people involved was amazing. There were people from the trenches, and the people who meet with other people and convince them to crack open their wallet, and also thrown into the mix were all the people who make the whole thing go.
Jamie Westendorff (Camp Happy Days, Muscular Dystrophy Assoc., & American Lung Assoc.), winner of the Creative Talent award
There were many good points made that evening, but here are few that really resonated with me. Firstly, I was completely inspired by the dedication and generosity of all of the nominees. What I took away from the speeches the winners gave was that giving back just isn’t optional. They believe, as do I, that every member of society has a moral obligation to give back to their community in some way, no matter what. All of the nominees encouraged the audience to find something to donate somewhere—whether that is time, money, strength, or other resources—to care about others and to reach out somehow, someway.
However, I have to say that my high point of the awards show was when Charleston Grill General Manager Mickey Bakst announced a new partnership that I am super excited about. Apparently in what I now understand to be typical Mickey fashion, he “called Darcy [editor-in-chief of Charleston mag] and the mayor and said that we needed to do this.” To myself: “And why am I not friends with this guy? He gets stuff DONE.” Anyways, the Mayor’s Office of the City of Charleston and Charleston magazine are joining together to support Water Missions International, a local faith-based nonprofit wholly dedicated to providing safe drinking water to those who desperately need it.
I have to be honest—I am a huge fan of Water Missions. When you think about what you need to live at the most fundamental level, water is at the top of the list. So Water Missions sends water purification systems and teams of experts all over the world, so that people who don’t have access to clean drinking water don’t have to die of preventable water-borne illnesses. Currently, they are responding to the crisis in the Philippines and the goal of this partnership is to raise enough money ($50,000) to send two of these systems to the people of the Philippines as a gift from the City of Charleston.
If you're interested in being a part of this amazing and LOCAL gift, visit www.watermissions.org or at www.charlestonmag.com/watermissions to donate. You can also volunteer with Water Missions—information about how to do that can also be found on their website. (By the way, they're rated as a four-star charity on Charity Navigator, so you can be sure that your dollars are being very well utilized.)
On a more superficial level, more highlights included Darcy Shankland’s AMAZING dress. Perfection. Yes, I might be kissing up with that, but whatever, I don’t care—that thing was fab. Also, when Quiana Parler and the Shiny Disco Ball Band started blasting "Living on a Prayer," I finally got my butt up off the chair I was people watching from, hit the dance floor, and stayed there for a while. The great food from Cru Catering and fun atmosphere of the after party was contagious—so many people grinning, laughing, dancing, beaming, hugging, and generally just celebrating generosity left me smiling from ear to ear.
Also, the folks of Charleston magazine and Coastal Community Foundation should give themselves a pat on the back—they did a great job. The entire event was well organized, relaxed but still snazzy, and all-in-all, a really nice time—I truly can’t wait for next year. And in the meantime, those of you who follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, prepare yourselves—I don’t plan to slow down my pushing for support of giving any time soon.
But before you do, take a minute and check into where your time and dollars go. Read this post by Ellen McGauley—it's full of good advice about philanthropy, charity, and donations. Every little bit counts, so get out there and do something—you will be glad you did!
For the full list of winners from the night, click here.
Photographs by Mac Kilduff