Get to Know our 2013 Best of Philanthropy Award Winners

October 9, 2013

Central Carolina Community Foundation and Columbia Metropolitan Magazine will recognize the recipients of the 2013 Best of Philanthropy Awards at an awards gala on Thursday, November 14 at 701 Whaley at 6:00 p.m. The community is invited to join in the recognition of these people, businesses and groups who have made significant contributions to our community, demonstrating the true meaning and value in helping others.

Each year, nominations are accepted from the community, and winners are chosen in five categories: individual, family, group, student/student group and local business. The Community Foundation presents the winners at its Annual Celebration and awards a $500 grant to each winner’s charity of choice.

This year’s winners are:

Individual: Ann Driggers, Clarendon County

For the past five years, Ann has been running Jordan Crossroads Ministry Center – Haven of Rest (JCMC-Haven of Rest), a four-bedroom, two-bath home in Clarendon County that serves as a safe haven where women in crisis can escape their abusers and start to reclaim their lives. In a state that has once again been ranked first in the nation for the number of women killed by men, the need is great. Women are referred to JMC-Haven of Rest by pastors, Department of Social Services, Victims’ Advocates in Clarendon or Sumter counties, hospitals and the Department of Mental Health. It’s the only place of its kind in Clarendon County, and it serves anyone from anywhere. The house can hold up to six women and children, although it’s been filled beyond capacity before, and the typical stay is 90 days or less. JMC-Haven of Rest is a project of Jordan Crossroads Ministry, which Ann founded in 2002. She purchased 20 acres of land with her own money, and set about building the house, which opened its doors in June 2008.

Local Business: Columbia Eye Clinic

Columbia Eye Clinic, founded in 1923 by Dr. Walter J. Bristow, Sr., has grown to a 13-physician practice with three locations that sees more than 130,000 patients every year and performs nearly 500 surgeries a month. Despite the hectic pace, the employees of the clinic always make time to give back to the community in which they live and work. Doctors see patients at the Free Medical Clinic, and the clinic was the first partner in Operation Cataract, a project of SC Lions Charitable Services that provides 15 to 20 reduced rate cataract surgeries each year. They also provide a variety of other laser surgeries at reduced rates, which has been especially helpful to those without health insurance. In addition, the clinic also raises money for Harvest Hope and Pawmetto Lifeline, and it holds regular blood drives for the Red Cross. Each year, it sponsors a team in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes. They have also partnered with Southeastern Guide Dogs to adopt a seeing-eye dog as a puppy.

Group: Junior Woman’s Club of Columbia

Sixty years ago, the Junior Woman’s Club of Columbia was founded to bring together and equip young women to promote educational, social and civic progress in the city, state, nation and world. In the mid 1970s, members decided to focus their philanthropic efforts on helping abused and neglected children by founding Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter. In addition to hosting an annual fundraiser, Baubles and Bubbles, club members take an active hands-on role at the shelter. Four club members hold positions on the board and others serve as weekend house parents, helping with Christmas gifts and other needs for the children, and watching the house when staff members hold meetings and attend conferences. Although Palmetto Place is the biggest charity to club members’ hearts, they are also involved in a number of other projects. Last year they raised money for a local girl with cancer, they collect and distribute care packages for military members, and they hold an annual Christmas party for the oncology department at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.

Student Group: Swansea High School JAG Students

Jobs for America’s Graduates is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students focus on academic success and career readiness. In more than 30 years, JAG has helped nearly three-quarters of a million young people graduate high school, pursue postsecondary education and secure quality entry-level jobs leading to career advancement opportunities. The JAG program at Swansea High School in rural Lexington County helps students learn the soft skills they will need in the workforce while giving back to their community. Even though many of the kids themselves are struggling, they started a food pantry at the school, which helps feed 60 to 65 families biweekly, and the entire school participates in canned food drives to help stock it. The JAG students help out at Families Helping Families during the Christmas season, and they started a school pledge drive to encourage their classmates not to text and drive. They pass out ribbons at school for breast cancer awareness and they participate in the Palmetto Health Foundation Walk for Life. They host a school Red Ribbon week with guest speakers speaking about drugs and their dangers, and they attend the annual “End the R Word” rally for Special Olympics at the State House. They also have just started a program mentoring middle school students, encouraging them to stay in school as well.

Family Champions: Ervin and Linda Yarrell

When Ervin Yarrell was a teenager, he left home and spent some time living on the streets. Fortunately, he was able to turn his life around and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served for 21 years. His experiences being both homeless and a military veteran, combined with his awareness of the number of homeless vets living on the streets in Columbia, led him to want to do something to help them out. On Veterans Day in 2009, Ervina and his wife Linda took five bag lunches to Finlay Park and gave them to the homeless they found there. Over the past four years, those five bags have grown to 250, and sometimes as many as 300. Through the group they formed – Columbia, SC Friends of the Homeless – the Yarrells’ long-term goals are to feed 3,000 homeless at least one meal per day, seven days per week and to provide temporary housing and referral services. Short-term, they provide bag lunches in Finlay Park, and they serve 300 hot meals three evenings a week at Columbia’s downtown winter shelter. The Yarrells do all this without any publicity, fundraising or government funds. Instead, support comes from about 400 people who see what they’re doing and want to help.

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