This article appears in the March 2023 CH2 Magazine and is written by Linda Hopkins.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what you really care about? Outside of yourself, your family, and your loved ones, what matters to you?
Chances are you care about many world issues and social challenges, but there’s only so much you can do. What if you could make a significant difference right here in our community by joining forces with people who care about some of the same things that matter to you? Supporters of Palmetto Dunes Cares are on a mission to ensure a better future for Hilton Head Island by focusing on two important causes that are near to our hearts: the natural environment and our youth.
Pathway to a purpose
In 2020, when retired Bank of America Merrill Lynch executive Bill Caywood accepted the position as chairman of Palmetto Dunes Cares, he began to do what he does naturally: look for ways to “build a better mousetrap.” While the organization, founded in 2018, was already firmly established and growing, one question loomed.
“We went back and looked at our name, Palmetto Dunes Cares, and one of our council members said, ‘Palmetto Dunes Cares about what?’ You can care about everything, but you’re not going to have a lot of impact,” Caywood said. So, he and his associates set to work defining more clearly what they wanted to be.
“In a nutshell, we decided it would be good to increase our impact by sharpening our focus. We were making an impact, but we were giving a little bit here and a little bit there to a lot of different causes,” Caywood said.
Since its inception, Palmetto Dunes Cares has distributed $155,000 in grants. In 2022, $63,000 was awarded to 16 different organizations. While the funds were certainly helpful and the recipients grateful, the money was spread thin among many. And that’s what’s changing this year, thanks to some diligent honing.
“We looked at the giving we had done up to that point, and as we spoke to people in the community, two big themes came out. Number one was, pretty much everybody who lives on Hilton Head Island has some affinity for the natural environment. They love the beach, they love the woods, they love how the island has been developed over the years with the integration of commerce and nature. But also, children and youth came up. Most everybody has kids and grandkids, and if you look at our visitors, it’s families who come here. So, we chose those two areas, the environment and youth, as our focus.”
As Palmetto Dunes Cares approaches its 2023 grant making cycle, it will be a substantially shorter list and substantially larger numbers, according to Caywood. “If you work in our focus areas and have a great project, we want to give you more money and make a bigger impact,” he said.
Palmetto Dunes Cares is managed by an advisory council made up of volunteers, Caywood explained. “We use the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry as our 501(c)(3). It’s like a donor-advised fund: we raise the money, it goes to CFL, and the advisory council tells CFL how we would like to distribute that money.
“That works very well for our grants, but we also wanted to make our impact more personal and more direct. So, we came up with the idea of establishing a scholarship fund.”
The scholarship will be awarded to a high school senior from Hilton Head Island—public, private, or home school—who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident of Beaufort County, S.C. Applicants must show financial need, a reasonable level of academic achievement, and be planning to attend a South Carolina public college or technical school. “What we really want to do is help someone get to college who might not otherwise have the opportunity,” Caywood said.
This year’s scholarship will be $5,000 with the intention of growing the endowment and increasing the amount and/or number of scholarships available in the future. Students can learn more and apply for the scholarship at cf-lowcountry.org. (The deadline for applications this year is March 13.)
“We’ve really defined what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make a personal impact on some young people who can get to college because we’re helping, and we’re trying to make a direct impact on our environment because we care about it, we live in it, and want to preserve it for future generations. I think that level of thoughtfulness behind our organization will help engage people more,” Caywood said. “If I go out and ask someone to give us money, I’ve got a story to tell. And in a few months, I’ll have a picture of a person who is going to college because somebody gave us money.”
Palmetto Dunes Cares wants YOU!
Palmetto Dunes Cares is always looking for volunteers to help achieve their philanthropic goals, and the good news is, you don’t have to be a resident of PD to participate. Residents of Leamington, Shelter Cove, Palmetto Dunes, Port Royal and other communities are already involved. You may want to help work an event or serve on a committee or the advisory council. This is a good opportunity to meet your neighbors, give back to the greater Hilton Head community, and share your talents. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
If you would like to contribute directly, send a donation through the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry earmarked for Palmetto Dunes Cares or the Palmetto Dunes Cares Scholarship Fund. You can contribute online at cf-lowcountry.org, or mail your check to Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, P.O. Box 23019, Hilton Head Island, SC 29925.
Learn more about Palmetto Dunes Cares at https://pdpoa.org/community/pd-cares.
Join the Fun, Support the Cause
Palmetto Dunes Cares is funded by donations, local events, and eco-tourism events. Whether you are a resident or visitor, here are some fun ways you can participate and support their work:
Turtle Trot: The Palmetto Dunes Turtle Trot 5K is a 5 kilometer run/walk taking place June through August and on Thanksgiving Day, on the beach in Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. Proceeds benefit Palmetto Dunes Cares. Visit PDPOA.run for more information and to register.
Turtle Talks: During the season (June through August), Palmetto Dunes POA hosts a weekly Turtle Talk led by a member of the Sea Turtle Patrol of Hilton Head. The program, designed for both visitors and residents, is fun, educational, and appropriate for all ages. The Turtle Talks are held on the beach at the Dunes House from 8-9 p.m. Online registration is required, and this event sells out every week! Event proceeds benefit the Palmetto Dunes Cares Fund. Find out more at palmettodunes.com/calendar/palmetto-dunes-turtle-talks.
Lagoon Tours: Coming soon! Be on the lookout for additional program offerings, including a two-hour lagoon tour via electric boat, for the 2023 season.