December 2010

December 2010: CHARITY CORNER: Caring Coins

Author: Courtney Hampson

There are no bad ideas. We hear that a lot. Likely, the first person who ever muttered that phrase was responding to a ludicrous idea, and couldn’t think of anything else to say at the time. But, that phrase is what gives us the gumption to throw out an idea and see if it will stick.

Sometimes an idea is so remarkable that it will move an entire community to step up and make a decision that will leave an indelible mark on the people who live, work, and go to school in that community. One such idea is Caring Coins.

The brainchild of former Hargray marketing director, Donna Martin, Caring Coins was established in 2003 with the express purpose of providing support to local 501c3 non-profit organizations in Bluffton, Hardeeville and Hilton Head (and now Beaufort as well).

Martin’s concept was simple: Get Hargray subscribers to round up their bills. Take that “spare” change and funnel it back into the community. A simple concept, in theory.

In reality, because Hargray is a government regulated utility, there were some significant hoops for Martin to jump though. The hoops didn’t stop her. She worked with the state regulators for over a year to make Caring Coins happen.

Even more remarkable is that by the end of this year, Caring Coins will have provided more than $1.7 million of support to our community. Approximately $75,000 per quarter is directed to local non-profits by the organization’s independent board of directors and The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, which manages the fund.

Hargray’s current marketing director, Eddie Andrews, is quick to point out that this isn’t about Hargray. It’s about you, the subscribers who make up Hargray’s customer base. In fact, Hargray has no representation on the board of directors; they act simply as a pass through for your spare change, funneling 100 percent of the change collected directly to Caring Coins.

Speaking of you, what can you do? Opt in. Right now, 75 percent of Hargray’s 70,000 subscribers participate in the program. The average “spare” change per customer is a mere $4.60. However, multiply that $4.60 by the 53,000 subscribers who have opted in, and nearly $250,000 a year is being redistributed by Caring Coins to the organizations that help our neighbors who are most in need.
Let’s keep going with this. If the remaining 17,000 subscribers opted in and contributed $4.60 of their change, the total annual distribution would jump to $322,000 a year. That additional $70,000 could go a long way. It could:

- Provide a year of fuel and maintenance to one of Second Helpings’ trucks.

- Allow the American Red Cross to provide disaster assistance to Jasper County victims.

- Cover membership and program costs for two programs at the Boys and Girls Club.

- Help fund the Friends of Carolina Hospice Prescription Drug Program.

- Support CODA’s shelter needs.

- Assist Mobile Meals of Beaufort in providing emergency assistance for individuals.

- Offer sex abuse prevention education to through Hope Haven of the Lowcountry.

- Provide training and education materials for Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry.

- Fund NAMI Beaufort County’s Breaking the Silence School Education Program.

Donna Martin had an idea. She did all of the heavy lifting when others might have given up, and her idea became a reality. When asked about what she has created, and the lasting impact that she has made here in the Lowcountry, her answer is this: “Some may see this as my crowning achievement. But, I see this as the community’s greatest achievement.”

Caring Coins is the perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

You do the math.

Opt-in by calling 1-877-HARGRAY and telling your service representative that you would like to participate in the program, or pop into any local retail center to sign up. For more information, visit

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