The Advance Kiawah Initiative: Making a Change
How We Are Changing Kiawah Island For The Better
As the sun begins to set on another great year, we would like to take a moment to reflect on an important milestone in the history of Kiawah Island; the launch of our Advance Kiawah initiative. This past March, Kiawah Partners set out to create a lasting and meaningful initiative that would strive to eliminate systemic and institutional racism and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on Kiawah Island.
In the past months we have made some great progress that we’re excited to share below.
Emanuel Nine Memorial Auction
In 2015, nine individuals lost their lives in a shooting during Bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter was a 21-year-old white supremacist.
As part of our Community Engagement pillar, we partnered with The Emanuel Project foundation to help raise funds for the Emanuel Nine Memorial in Charleston, South Carolina. The Emanuel Nine Memorial honors the lives of Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Mrs. Cynthia Graham Hurd, Mrs. Susie J. Jackson, Mrs. Ethel Lee Lance, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, Reverend Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr., Mrs. Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson, and five survivors.
Advance Kiawah held an auction, where two generous individuals enjoyed an exclusive PGA Tournament experience. With that, as well as direct donations, we raised over $100,000 to help break ground on the memorial.
PGA WORKS Golf Experience
PGA WORKS is a strategic initiative, designed to diversify the golf industry’s workforce. Funded by PGA REACH, PGA WORKS leverages fellowships, scholarships, career exploration events, and the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship to inspire and engage talent from diverse backgrounds to pursue key employment positions across the golf industry.
During the 2021 PGA Championship, PGA WORKS, the Kiawah Island Club, and Advance Kiawah hosted a reception and golf clinic with Suzy Whaley, President of the PGA, and Dee Robinson, Member of the Board of Trustees of PGA REACH.
Harold Varner, III Partnership
In April, the Kiawah Island Club announced a new partnership with PGA Tour star and youth sport advocate for underserved communities, Harold Varner, III. The focus of his HV3 Foundation, which emphasizes providing affordable access to youth in sports, aligns with our Advance Kiawah initiative. This year, Kiawah Partners has made donations to support several HV3 Foundation events and we are currently planning a charity golf tournament with the foundation for next Fall on Kiawah Island.
Employee Recruitment Campaign
Meet our newest hire, Lee Gilliard, III. In 2021, Kiawah Island Real Estate hired the first African American Sales Agent in company history. In an effort to offer more employment opportunities to residents of Johns Island, we launched a recruitment campaign that included mailing over 10,000 postcards to Johns Island families which highlighted the benefits of working for Kiawah Island Club and Real Estate. The goal is to provide a diverse work environment that is fair and allows everyone to feel equally involved.
DEI Employee Survey
As part of our effort to better understand our employees’ thoughts and feelings on our company culture, a survey was conducted on diversity, equality, and inclusion. We also offered employee focus groups to gain a deeper understanding of how diversity, equity and inclusion plays a part in our employee culture. We will be using the results to steer future programs and policies.
Kiawah in The Community
Since our last update, our teams have completed several exciting projects in the local community:
- In July, our team worked to clean outdoor spaces and play areas at Frierson Elementary School to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for their students. Read more about the school and this project here.
- Over the span of three days in August, 37 employees volunteered with Our Lady of Mercy, helping to unbox, sort, and package food bags. On the day of the distribution event, they helped with setting up and breaking down, loading cars with food and traffic control. In all, food and dental supply kits were distributed to 287 individuals and household members from the local community. Read more about Our Lady of Mercy and this project here.
Savoy and Our New Neighbors
As a commitment to attracting a new, broader demographic of buyers to the Island, Kiawah Island Real Estate ran a full page brand ad in Savoy Magazine, a leading African American business, culture, and lifestyle publication. It was distributed to 600,000 subscribers, including leaders and influencers in the Black community. As a result of this and other marketing efforts, we have been proud to welcome several new homeowners to Kiawah Island this year. Bringing more diversity to our existing community, and to support creating a new community of Black Kiawah Island homeowners.
An important goal of the Advance Kiawah initiative is to strengthen partnerships with minority-owned businesses, including vendors and service providers. In August, we held an organization-wide meeting with department leaders to explore opportunities to diversify our business partners. Our largest success to date is our new partnership with Optus Bank, the only black-owned bank in South Carolina.
Food It Forward Program
As part of our efforts to combat food insecurity in the Lowcountry, we launched a new Island Food Rescue program called “Food it Forward”. Kiawah Island Club Members and their guests have the opportunity to donate any unopened and nonperishable food items and our team members will deliver them to our local food banks.
Swing It Forward Program
Our Kiawah Island Club golf teams have made a big impact to our local community through a few recent projects:
- One of our Club Members teamed up with Jack Boros (Golf Shop Assistant) to run a Swing it Forward Drive for the First Tee of Greater Charleston. This drive was held in July and required nearly half a dozen pickups for clubs, bags, and golf balls. Our Membership donated roughly $5,000 worth of equipment over this month-long drive.
- Both golf facilities participated as a team to play 100 Holes for the First Tee of Charleston in August. This annual hike raised $10,000 through family and membership donations for our local youth.
- This November, our female golfers donated $3,375 and 791 pounds of food to the Lowcountry Food Bank, almost doubling the donation amount from 2020.
Spreading Holiday Cheer
While our teams enjoy making an impact on our local communities year-round, we have extra fun doing so during the holiday season.
- This Thanksgiving, our Kiawah Island Real Estate Team participated in the 14th annual “Feeding of the Multitudes for Island Families” organized by St. John’s Parish Church. Our team prepared and delivered 182 meal kits to local families in need.
- The Angel Tree is an annual tradition at the Kiawah Island Club. This year, Members and employees were invited to take a name from the tree and shop for a gift for a child from St. John’s High School or Angel Oak Elementary School.
- Our Kiawah Island Real Estate Team once again held a Toys for Tots drive, making dozens of local children’s holiday wishes come true with a new and special toy.
- This month, our teams spent a fun-filled afternoon spreading joy in the River Course Ballroom with several organized activities to benefit the Charleston community. They created 80 fleece tie blankets for the MUSC children’s hospital, put together 100 goodie bags for children on John’s Island through the Backpack Buddies program, and created holiday thank you cards for local hospital employees.
While we are very proud of all these incredible initial results, we realize our work is far from over. Our vision is to enable racial, social and economic progress that will outlive this moment in time and transform Kiawah Island to a community that leads on, not just locally but across our state and nation.
Join Us in Making a Change
Join us in making a permanent change that goes beyond the holidays with Advance Kiawah. From changing how we speak, to sharing the actions we’ve taken on recently, the goal is to change the Island for the better. Reach out to us if you would like to join our team in our next projects and learn more about the future vision we have for our community. Keep an eye out for more updates on our projects and how you can get involved and show your support.