The City Magazine Since 1975

The Power of One

November 2018
The Power of One
WRITER: 

With a single luncheon per year, Good Friends of the Lowcountry eases hundreds of women’s struggles

(Left to right) Nefateri Smalls, CEO of Healing Hurts—one of the nonprofits that refers clients to Good Friends of the Lowcountry—spoke at the 2017 luncheon. Guests could buy coffee from King Bean, which sold a special blend through the holidays (as they will this year) to raise funds for Good Friends.

I got a phone call saying, ‘Hey, your baby is ready from MUSC,’” recalls Jane Smith (whose name has been changed to retain her privacy). She wasn’t expecting that call.

For the hundreds of local women who’ve been helped by the nonprofit Good Friends of the Lowcountry—including Smith, who was unknowingly named the guardian of someone else’s child while out of work and caring for her sick father—there isn’t an easy way forward. When they’ve exhausted all other resources, Good Friends is ready to lend a financial hand.

The idea is simple: gather women for a single lunch hour once every 12 months to help struggling neighbors in the year to come.

Four pals developed the concept back in 1987, creating Good Friends Charlotte. When Meg Phillips, a member of the North Carolina organization, moved to Charleston, she teamed up with local Evelyn Avery to form a sister nonprofit in the Holy City. On the Thursday after Thanksgiving in 2015, they welcomed 100 ladies to the first local luncheon. (They expect to quadruple those numbers this year.)

“I was looking for some way to give back to the people in my community,” explains Phillips. “There are lots of organizations in Charleston, but there wasn’t an easy way to be involved with a variety of them at once.”

Simplicity is key here. Good Friends holds a single event per year because “if there’s only one, people make an effort to show up,” says Phillips. The fundraiser runs entirely on volunteer hours and sponsor donations, with all proceeds going directly to women in crisis situations who are referred to Good Friends via nonprofits such as HALOS, My Sister’s House, MUSC, and Healing Hurts.

This year, 118 women received aid—often in the form of a month’s rent to help them avoid homelessness or assistance with a utility bill. “Families in situations like these are extremely common in our community, and there are few tangible supports for them,” notes Liz McGuan, program manager at HALOS.

On November 29, women will gather to sip wine, enjoy lunch from The Cedar Room at Mercantile and Mash, bid on holly tree centerpieces, and hear speeches from women Good Friends has helped. “You can see in the flesh how the dollars you’re giving are life-changing,” notes Phillips.

Good Friends ran out of money in September of this year. Phillips hopes this month’s event will mean that, once they start distributing funds on January 1, they won’t ever have to stop again. There’s always a stack of client applications. And a stack of letters too—a year-long reminder of what an afternoon of giving can do.

“There really are no words,” reads one note. “I know it will be a long hard road, but I will not give up and this little family will succeed!”

Friends Giving: The luncheon is November 29 at 11 a.m. at The Cedar Room in the Cigar Factory, 701 East Bay St. To register ($65), visit goodfriendsofthelowcountry.org.

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Photographs (3) by Lauren Jonas