Saturday is Richard Hendry’s last day at Coastal Community Foundation after 30+ years. All of us here will miss him very much, but we look forward to seeing what the next journey brings him.
In honor of his last day, we are sharing Richard’s essay “Bin Yahs, Come Yahs and Connectedness”, which is all about how he sees Charleston through the eyes of his work at the Foundation. The essay is part of a larger collection of work by Wendy Pollitzer due out later this spring.
Charleston makes sense to me. She’s the matriarch of the Lowcountry family who gave birth both to people and to the towns that are all related to her and that define her character and her personality, her past, present, and future.
Charleston is the hub from which all of our nearby towns grew. These communities are connected to her by roads and often water. It’s hard for me to think of Charleston without thinking of McClellanville’s fishing fleet, Summerville as a retreat from the big city, and the flow of Mount Pleasant’s Shem Creek and Wando River.
Created by trade and travel, those original roadway and waterway connections may now be secondary to why we are family, but we still maintain a psychic bond that ties our communities together. This organic connectedness helps every town and neighborhood, every marsh and river, fit into a whole, each part of which has it’s own “Wow” factor.
And the people of greater Charleston are as unique as the places. We’re all related – some as eccentric aunts and uncles, some as grandparents passing down tradition, and some as offspring bucking for change. Some are successful, some not so much. Some revel in the city, some escape to the country. For some it’s debutante balls; for others, it’s the Pour House.
When I came to Charleston in 1979, people told me, “Lots of luck because that town doesn’t like outsiders.” Maybe my experience would have been different 75 years ago, but from the start the people and places here have been consistently welcoming and friendly.
I’ve experienced this with every person who calls, emails, or walks in the door at Coastal Community Foundation, my daytime home on the Charleston peninsula. Some of these people are “Bin Yah,” having lived in Charleston for generations, and others are “Come Yah,” drawn by a magnetic attraction to everything this place has to offer. The Bin Yahs appreciate the generosity of money and fresh perspectives that new folks bring to Charleston. Come Yahs are drawn to Charleston by her character, traditions and beauty, created by the old guard. They help to foster change while honoring Charleston’s spirit and soul, and the Bin Yah respect them for it.
At the Foundation, our mission is to foster philanthropy for the lasting good of the community. We bring people together from all walks of life, all hometowns and beliefs, and help to assure continuity and change – continuity of what is precious and change to move forward.
I’ve met with thousands of donors and nonprofits in my time at the Foundation and they are all united in their positivity. When you get the right combination of laser-focused commitment, timing and people in a room, meaningful change happens. It’s how we got One80 Place and the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation. It’s how we got Lowcountry Food Bank and bus shelters at CARTA stops. It’s how we’ll see a lot more change in generations to come, but will always remain vigilant to maintain what defines this community.
Some people say they don’t give to charity because they don’t support handouts. Those same people enjoy a beautiful drive to work every day on a road shaded by oak trees that their local land trust preserved. They come home to a Golden Retriever rescued by the non-profit animal shelter. On Saturdays, these same people buy local produce from a farmers market, which was subsidized by a nonprofit food hub. They dress for an evening performance of theatre or music thinking that buying their ticket provides their fair share, when in actuality, the performance wouldn’t have happened without charitable donations to supplement the cost of those tickets.
All of our lives have been enriched by the nonprofit sector in ways we don’t think about or even realize. We can’t right the wrongs in our community overnight, but I’ve seen nonprofits change tens of thousands of lives for the better. And whether they’re a Come Yah or a Bin Yah, the donors I’ve worked with for decades strengthen those same nonprofits every day, joining them to make an impact. That’s really how philanthropy works best – when we come together for a focused common cause and remember that everyone is at the table because they want to make something positive happen.
So why have I stayed here after all these years? Because whether or not it’s a realistic reflection of the rest of the world, Charleston is postivity, generosity, continuity, and change. And that’s the kind of place I want to call home.