There were bumps along the way, but Midlands Gives finished as a success, with 12,531 gifts to local nonprofits bringing in a preliminary total of $1,592,181.
“I think this is a community of people who really care about each other,” said Central Carolina Community Foundation CEP JoAnn Turnquist. “We have so many nonprofits showing support not only for their organizations but for all the organizations that are here.”
Spirit Communications Park, home of the Columbia Fireflies, served as headquarters for Midlands Gives for the first time this year. Starting early Tuesday morning, the concourse was lined with booths as representatives of some of the more than 380 nonprofits taking part came out to meet the public, spread the word of what they do, and support each other.
“I don’t think it’s competitive,” said Happy Wheels Executive Director Tracey Rankin. “We all want each other to have a great day.”
The Central Carolina Community Foundation, with support from Flock and Rally, organized the day at the ballpark to have the feel of a community party. Abraham the camel visited and posed for pictures, as did Fireflies’ mascot Mason. Mayors from all over the Midlands came to take part in a pitching contest, earning cash prizes for the nonprofits as a large crowd cheered their efforts.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said the day was a great reflection of the strength of the Midlands. “We really got a chance to see what a really well-organized community of nonprofits we have,” he said. “This is a chance for us all to chip in and make a difference… You take a twig and put it with a hundred others and it’s impossible to break.”
Turnquist also emphasized the message that even the smallest donations make a difference. She said the day’s primary goal was to surpass the 11,000 gifts given in 2015. The community succeeded, breaking that record by more than 1,500 gifts.
“You do not have to be rich to be a philanthropist,” Turnquist said. “A small gift of $20 given with others can lift up an entire community.”
Gov. Nikki Haley also visited the stadium to meet the nonprofit representatives. “As we celebrate Midlands Gives, there are so many great charities out here today that really allow people in South Carolina to give to those who are in need.”
The nonprofits ranged from the large (American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, the Girl Scouts) to the small (Power in Changing, Lee County First Steps, God’s Storehouse). Many donors gave to more than one charity. Midlands businesses including SCE&G, Aflac, and Colonial Life also contributed to multiple organizations and supplied prizes such as matching donations.
Midlands Gives, one of more than 50 days of giving happening Tuesday in cities across the country, was scheduled to end Tuesday at midnight, but technical problems interfered. Heavy traffic on the donation site used nationwide forced the Central Carolina Community Foundation Team to improvise. They extended the deadline until Wednesday at noon, and created a new site for local donors.
The nonprofits rushed to let their supporters know of the changes, and the hiccup did not prevent year three of Midlands Gives from surpassing the first two years in total money raised and number of gifts, and demonstrating again that, as Benjamin said, local “People never stop giving.”
Columbia finished seventh nationally in number of gifts in 2015, ahead of many larger cities. Final numbers for 2016 were not yet available Wednesday, but the outlook was good, and Turnquist was impressed.
“Last year our community came in no. 7 out of 90 communities across the country in number of gifts. When you think about our size versus Tampa, our our size versus West Palm, when you think about all these people coming together to lift up our organizations, it makes me so proud to be a part of this community,” she said. “I think this is a community of people who really care about each other.”
Photos by Allen Wallace. Click Arrows to Slide.