70 years and $100 million later, the Springs Close Foundation adds ‘Fabric of the Community’ award

joverman@fortmilltimes.comDecember 28, 2012 

— As a new year dawns, the Springs Close Foundation celebrates 70 years of grant-making and more than $100 million in grants awarded in Chester, Lancaster and York counties.

To mark the foundation’s achievements over the last 70 years, it will launch the “Fabric of Community” awards in 2013, honoring individuals and organizations that uphold Col. Springs’ legacy of service to others. Details are expected in early 2013, according to the foundation.

Since its creation, the foundation has awarded grants to hundreds of area nonprofit organizations. It traditionally focused on awarding grants in the areas of recreation and the environment, public education and early childhood and community service and health.

Early grants helped set the stage for recreation in Fort Mill Township, including a grant that built the Complex on the Greenway, formerly called the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex.

An early focus on education helped lay the foundation for excellence in the Fort Mill Schools, said foundation President Angie McCrae, by providing grants that paid for teachers to get their master’s degrees and grants that paid for computers in classrooms as that was just becoming a trend.

In 2009 the foundation shifted its focus to awarding grants to nonprofit groups that meet critical needs, including food, shelter and medical assistance to those in need.

“We need to work especially hard to help people better their lives, but right now especially to help those struggling just to get food on the table and a roof over their head,” McCrae said.

One grant, a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, has helped sponsor a program that puts food in the backpacks of needy students for them to take home on the weekends.

Other grants that have been awarded have helped sponsor “lunch and learn” programs during the summer through the school district, supported services at the Children’s Attention Home, and provided funding for The Community Café. The cafe serves free hot lunch every Friday at Lake Wylie Lutheran Church in Fort Mill.

The Foundation was created by Col. Elliott White Springs in May 1942. Springs was the head of the textile mills that eventually became Springs Industries.

“Giving back to these communities is a value that we hold dear,” said Board Chairwoman Anne Springs Close, his daughter. “He felt very strongly that the money made came from the efforts of the people who worked in the mills and that it should go back to them.”

The foundation has also issued more than $10 million in no-interest loans to help more than 8,600 area students attend college. It is one of only a handful of private foundations in the country that offer no-interest student loans.

“The legacy of giving is a great testament to the kind of man my father was, and I know he would be proud that our family continues this work,” Close said.

“Reaching the $100 million mark in grant-making is cause for celebration indeed, but it also reflects our duty to help address the needs that our communities face, especially in recent years. It has been an honor and a privilege for us to do a small part in addressing these needs, and we look forward to continuing this effort for many years to come.”

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