October 2012

OCT 2012 CHARITY CORNER: CARING COINS FOUNDATION

Author: Robert Gilbert

“Pennies matter; spare change matters.”

That simple message, delivered by Caring Coins Foundation chairperson Paula Harper-Bethea, reverberated around the crowded room at the Hargray corporate headquarters on August 20. Those in attendance understood her reference and had gathered to celebrate that very fact. Spare change does matter. In fact, it can matter in a big way.

The spare change Bethea was referring to actually comes from Hargray customers who generously opt to round up their monthly bills and then donate that amount to Caring Coins. The money collected is then disbursed quarterly to local nonprofit organizations in Beaufort, Bluffton, Hardeeville and Hilton Head, by an independent board of directors and The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, which manages the fund.

With the most recent distribution of grants in August, which totaled $68,000, Caring Coins reached $2 million in total donations to local charities since its inception in 2003. While this total amount is certainly impressive, the source of the money is the real story.

“Caring Coins is a testament to what is possible when you harness the goodwill of an entire community,” said Eddie Andrews, director of marketing for Hargray. “Through good economic times and bad, the giving has remained remarkably steady, proving once again that the Lowcountry is a region that embraces the opportunity to help others in the community.”

While the program officially began in 2003, work behind the scenes began much earlier. Former Hargray marketing director, Donna Martin, who first developed the idea for Caring Coins, worked for over a year to get the charity off the ground. Due to government regulations on utilities such as Hargray, bringing the vision of Caring Coins to fruition took close coordination with state regulators before the program could be introduced.

Caring Coins may have been born out of Hargray, but it has always steadfastly maintained its own identity. In fact, Hargray passes on 100 percent of the donations directly to the program, and the company maintains a strict policy prohibiting employees or company representatives from sitting on the board in order to ensure impartial disbursement of grants.

“While we are thrilled to have reached the $2 million mark in donations, we are already looking to $3 million and beyond,” Andrews said. “My hope is that more and more of our customers will recognize the positive impact of these donations and choose to participate in Caring Coins.”

Hargray customers can do just that by calling (843) 341-COIN (2646). After all, as everyone in the room was reminded on August 20, spare change can have a very big impact.

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