Celebrating 50 Years of Community Impact: The History of Coastal Community Foundation

In 1974, a group of civic leaders and members of the Rotary Club of Charleston pooled their resources to set up a long-term fund for the good of the community. Founders included then-College of Charleston President Ted Stern, Civil Rights leader Bill Saunders, and community leaders Howard D. Edwards, Wade Logan, and Malcolm D. Haven. Led by a deep passion for community service, these leaders started the Foundation with an initial gift of $9,000 from the Rotary Club of Charleston. On June 12 of that same year, that fund was incorporated as a fully functional nonprofit known then as the Trident Community Foundation. By 1982 the Foundation began its first scholarship funds and competitive grantmaking, and by 1984 the Foundation’s combined assets topped $1 million.  

At its core, the Foundation was born as a place-based grantmaker led by individuals committed to the betterment and empowerment of their community. The founders of the Foundation embody what it means to Be the Reason Why our community and its people can thrive. 

Howard D. Edwards was president of the Rotary Club of Charleston at the time of the Foundation’s founding. Edwards was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduated from Princeton University in 1943, and came to Charleston in 1957 as it was his wife, Tina’s hometown. When he arrived in Charleston, he immediately began making an impact in the community. Not only was he president of the Rotary Club, but he served as Deacon of First Scots Presbyterian Church, was president of the Church Street Foundation, Chairman of the Board of the Gibbes Museum of Art, and President of the Fathers’ Association of Porter-Gaud School. Edwards served as the first President of the Foundation from 1974 to 1982. Under Edwards’ leadership the first competitive grants were made, the first scholarship fund was created, Ruth Heffron was hired as the Foundation’s first Executive Director, and CCF’s first major donor, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Detyens, gave $100,000 for the Trident Academy Endowment. Edwards helped lay the foundation of CCF.  

Malcolm D. Haven was known throughout Charleston as “one of the finest, most civic-spirited people.” He dedicated continual energy, time, work, and love to making the community better. He graduated from Princeton University in 1924 and served in World War II. With his mind constantly in motion, Haven was an innovator, storyteller, and debater who helped found and guide CCF. He served as Board Chair from 1982 to 1983, and it was under his leadership that Richard Hendry was hired as the first program officer of the Foundation. During his tenure as Board Chair, the Foundation invested in The Food Trust, which would later become the Lowcountry Food Bank. In his honor, the Malcolm D. Haven Award for Selfless Community Giving was created. With a bequest in his will, Haven established the Malcolm D. Haven Endowment, an unrestricted fund that will forever add to the general good of the community.  

Ted Stern was a beloved leader in the community who was instrumental in the development and shaping of Coastal Community Foundation (CCF). Stern grew up in New York City and graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1934. He was a World War II Navy veteran and arrived in Charleston in 1965 as a 53-year-old Navy captain to head the Navy Supply Center. Stern also served as President of the College of Charleston from 1968 to 1978. Under Stern’s leadership as Board Chair of CCF, the Foundation saw extensive growth and impact. Local donors met a match offered by Michigan’s Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to build an unrestricted endowment, the Foundation’s assets topped $1 million, and donors and leadership helped create Crisis Ministries, Charleston’s nationally acclaimed shelter and resource center for unhoused persons, which is today known as One80 Place.  

Wade H. Logan, III served as Board Chair of the Foundation from 1985 to 1987. A well-known attorney in Charleston, Logan was President of the South Carolina Bar and Chairman of the Judicial Council of the State of South Carolina. A South Carolina native, Logan earned his Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Under Logan’s leadership, the Public Education Endowment was created which provided small grants to public school educators for innovative classroom projects. The endowment has awarded more than $200K to educators since its creation in 1987. Logan currently resides on Sullivan’s Island with his wife Eunice.  

Bill Saunders is a key Civil Rights leader in the Charleston community. Born in New York City and raised on Johns Island, Saunders was a staunch advocate for racial justice and the overall improvement of our coastal communities. He was involved in the Progressive Club, one of the first in a network of Citizenship Schools throughout the U.S. South to train local African Americans in literacy and citizenship skills to promote voter registration. He was an advocate of Black Power and was a critical leader in the Charleston Hospital Strike in 1969, which protested the unfair and unequal treatment of African American hospital workers. After his work in this strike, Saunders founded the Committee on Better Racial Assurance (COBRA) to address race-related community problems and aid community members in need. In 1988, Saunders earned the prestigious honor of the Malcolm D. Haven Award for Selfless Community Giving.  

Since 1974, the Foundation has made a tremendous impact within the community, marked by a series of significant achievements.  

In 1988, the first $1 million fund was created by Linda Ketner and her family, the largest single philanthropic gift ever made in the Lowcountry at that time, to provide grants to build more affordable housing in Charleston, promoting the Economic Mobility of the region.  

In response to Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Mayor Joe Riley asked the Foundation to manage all donations for relief. CCF managed and distributed $3.7 million in grants for Hurricane Hugo relief efforts between 1989 and 1990, cementing the Foundation as leaders in promoting Coastal Resilience.  

In 1991, the N.E.W. Fund was created with the help of a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to provide grants, technical assistance, and leadership training to grassroots neighborhood groups. Since its founding, the N.E.W. Fund has awarded more than $800K in grants.  

In 1996, under the Board leadership of Anita Zucker, the Jewish Endowment Foundation of South Carolina was created as a supporting organization of the Foundation in partnership with the Charleston Jewish Federation and several endowments by local families.  

CCF’s involvement in the Southern Lowcountry began in 1998 with the creation of the Beaufort Fund through a multi-million-dollar gift from a Beaufort family later revealed to be Joanne and Alan Moses. Demonstrating the immense power of Philanthropic Leadership, the Beaufort Fund was created to support charitable work in Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties and has awarded more than $15 million since its creation. Also in 1998, the Saul Alexander Foundation, one of the region’s oldest and most generous private foundations, became an affiliate of the Foundation.  

In 2002, the Foundation established the Lowcountry Conservation Loan Fund to facilitate land conservation in the South Carolina Lowcountry by providing critical low-cost, interim financing to local, regional and national conservation organizations for land acquisition. Since its inception, the fund has provided over $3 million in grants and preserved over 20,000 acres of Lowcountry lands, making a strong impact in Coastal Resilience. 

In 2003, the Heirs Property Preservation Project was funded with $150,000 from the Ford Foundation to provide legal and educational workshops in 11 counties on the issues surrounding heirs’ property. In 2005, this project became the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, an organization that still exists and works in the community.  

 The Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation was established as a supporting organization of the Foundation in 2004 with $34 million from the Bunnelle estate to support nonprofit organizations in Georgetown County.   

In 2011, the Foundation crossed a major milestone as over $100 million had been awarded to the community since the Foundation’s founding.   

In 2015, in the wake of the June 17th Emanuel AME Church massacre, CCF established the Lowcountry Unity Fund, which is intended to promote long-term solutions that address systemic issues contributing to racism and economic inequality in African American communities, deepening its work in Culture and Inclusion. The Pinckney Scholars program was also created in memory of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of the massacre. This scholarship program demonstrates the Foundation’s commitment to promoting Education access and quality to all in our service area. The program provides financial support and mentorship throughout college to high-need students who embody the legacy of Rev. Pinckney. Since its inception, 45 students have graduated college as Pinckney Scholars.   

In 2020, in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CCF launched the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund to provide immediate relief funding to support communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic consequences of the outbreak. Furthering CCF’s work in Physical and Mental Well-Being, the fund provides flexible resources to organizations in our region working with priority groups, including senior citizens, children, health-compromised, and workers in the hospitality and tourism industries.  

Most recently, in 2023 the Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year Award celebrated its 20th anniversary and announced Katy Mixon as its recipient. To date, this artist-friendly grant has granted more than $100,000 to 20 emerging artists in Charleston. In 2023, CCF also received a $2.174 million grant from Truist to support small business development and affordable housing work.  

In 2024, the Foundation is proud to celebrate 50 years of making an impact in the community. With humble beginnings of only $9,000, the Foundation has grown into the largest grantmaking entity in South Carolina serving donors and nonprofits in the nine counties of the Lowcountry region (Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Beaufort, Hampton, Jasper, Colleton, Horry, and Georgetown). Today, the Foundation manages more than $480 million in combined assets and is committed to working with our entire community to fulfill our mission for the next 50 years and beyond.   

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