There is a rich tradition in the Lowcountry of selflessness. Meet three people who embody that tradition.
Story by Barry Kaufman + Photography by Lisa Staff
Giving… It’s such a simple act, but one that is profoundly important. Each act of generosity ripples outward, creating more good deeds in its wake and slowly, we hope, turning back the tide of human suffering. There are no small acts of giving. Each sacrifice made in service of someone else, whether it’s a moment spent lending a helping hand or a few coins dropped into a bucket, is a small act of courage.
Here in the Lowcountry, there has long been a culture of giving. We attend galas, we write checks, we fill out pledge forms, we swing a hammer or we fill a pantry. It’s simply what we do, as much a part of Lowcountry life as oyster roasts and single-digit handicaps.
But some people go above and beyond. They give time, they give money and they open up their lives to something greater than themselves. Read their stories, then look for ways you can be a little more giving in your own life.
Giving back through philanthropy
Giving has a tendency to lead toward more giving. It’s somewhat akin to the principle of inertia – an object in motion tends to stay in motion. But it’s also similar to an addiction, with each act of kindness making you want more and more. Andi Purple knows all too well how giving can become a way of life. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It just kind of snowballed,” she said. “But it’s been really rewarding for me.”
Since her husband Bill died six years ago, Purple has immersed herself in a slew of charitable and service organizations, letting that snowball grow and grow until she was one of the island’s most quietly philanthropic souls. Her work runs the gamut from local charities to national organizations, making the world a better place at every turn.
Let’s just start locally, where she has been highly involved in Wexford Plantation’s Charitable Foundation, where she has served as trustee and secretary. Founded in 2012, the community’s philanthropic arm raises money for a slew of local causes. “We’re going to reach the million dollar mark this year,” added Purple. In Wexford alone, Purple is a member of the Wexford Tennis Committee and the Book Club (“In fact, I am the book club,” she joked).
She’s also involved locally with Women in Philanthropy as a member of the grants committee and nationally with the ARCS Foundation, which she currently serves as national president. Founded by a group of female scientists in the late ’50s, the ARCS Foundation distributes scholarships to promising students pursuing scientific fields in the hope of keeping the United States competitive in the new technological age.
It was through Purple’s work with the Wexford Plantation Charitable Foundation that she became aware of the mission of Family Promise of Beaufort County. Currently in her fifth year on the board, and her second as chairman of the annual gala, Purple holds this cause dear to her heart. “People don’t realize because we’re such a wealthy community that there are more than 550 homeless children. It’s really sad,” she said. She points out that she need only look at her 13 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild and think, “there but for the grace of God.”
And that’s part of what drives Andi Purple: Knowing that all of her hard work might just make a difference in this world. “My friends say, ‘You have to learn how to say no,’” she said with a laugh. But even her friends know Andi Purple in motion is going to stay in motion, saying yes to every chance to make a difference.
Anthony ‘Kobe’ Floyd
Giving back as a selfless volunteer
At 27 years old, Kobe Floyd is not your typical Lowcountry volunteer. While he shares in that selfless spirit so interwoven in our community’s fiber, he stands out from his fellow givers for the simple fact that he is not retired, does not have a significant financial nest egg from which to peel off donations, and isn’t involved as a way of giving back following a lifetime of success.
What he has is time and energy. Specifically, a little bit of the former and truckloads of the latter.
“Literally, I would wake up in the mornings and say, ‘You know what? I feel like going to the school and reading books for kids,” he said. “That’s what makes me happy. That’s what I get out of it: the joy.”
Floyd documents a few of his daily adventures of wandering out into the community in search of a way to make a difference on his Facebook page, “A Loving Heart in the Community.” Through photos and posts they document a young man with a deep passion for helping others. You’ll see his smiling face putting together Valentine’s Day cards with a group of senior citizens. Picking up trash on the side of the road during the May River Clean Up. Stocking shelves at Bluffton Self Help. Calling bingo at a senior living facility.
Taken together, they paint a portrait of a young man with an insatiable thirst for making his community better. What they don’t show you is that young man hanging up the Bluffton Self Help apron, putting away the bingo set, handing out those cards, tying off that bag of litter and then getting right back to work. “If I have an hour lunch, and it takes 45 minutes to call bingo at the nursing home, I’m there,” he said.
In fact, Floyd is working to bring together his day job and his hobby as our community’s most tireless volunteer by spearheading a new initiative at Freedom Heating and Air where he works. “We’re going to start volunteering through the company and I’m going to direct that.”
His Facebook page chronicles the work this remarkable young man does in our community, but it also serves another purpose: inspiring others to realize how much more they have to give.
“I try to get people out, but I hear a lot of excuses,” he said. “I just want them to know I work 10-plus hours a day and go to the gym after work. If I can go volunteer on my lunch break, I will.”
Senny Rose Powell
Giving Back as a Loving Guardian
It’s been said that seven is a magic number, that there is luck in it. For Senny Rose Powell, it means something slightly more profound than that. When you look back at her history of giving, the way she has opened her home, built a family and touched countless lives along the way, you see the number pop up time and time again.
Start with her adopted children, all seven of them. Despite (or perhaps because of) being an only child, Powell had always wanted a large family. Upon learning that she and her husband Steve could not have children of their own, they began the process of adopting. In many ways they never stopped.
First came Emily, now 36 and working as a kindergarten teacher. Then, after their move from Chicago to Hilton Head Island in 1983, came Olivia, now 34 and Eloise, now 30. For several years after that, the Powells opened their doors to foster children, welcoming, you guessed it, seven children into their lives. Three children and seven fosters might be enough for some people. Senny Rose Powell is not most people. Their first boy followed shortly after. Just after bringing home Hart, now 25, Senny realized something.
“He needed brothers,” she said. “We’d never made specifications as to what we’d accept, but we called the agency and said we’d really like twin boys.”
The family was led to a Latvian orphanage where a pair of 3.5-year-old twin boys, Hamilton and Hudson, had been living since shortly after birth. “It was wonderful to welcome them to the family with all of their siblings.”
But Senny was still not done. “We were at church one night and I know God told me I was going to have seven children,” she said. “My husband said, ‘He didn’t say a word to me about it.’”
Despite his grousing, Steve was all too happy to welcome another child to the family. Shortly after the couple was spending several weeks in eastern Russia meeting Lily, their youngest. The seventh child completed a family that shared a roof over – naturally – seven beds.
And with that family now grown and starting families of their own, Senny dedicates her time to her store, Island Child, with occasional drop-ins from those children who still live in the area. And even as she readies herself to spoil grandchildren, she looks back fondly on those days of a house brimming over with happiness and laughter.
“I like a full plate,” she said. “I look back on all of that with joy.”
(click on gallery thumbnail for larger photo)