Alert the Marines! There are a few good men on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton. In fact, there are at least 100 of them.
100 Men Who Care Hilton Head Island is a philanthropic organization that began in April 2021. It’s part of the 100 Who Care Alliance, a global organization that has over 650 giving circles, as they call them, worldwide.
Also under the 100 Who Care Alliance umbrella is 100 Women Who Care and 100 Teens Who Care.
The goal of 100 Men Who Care HHI is to raise money for local charities, but in a manner that is efficient, impactful and timely. Members pledge to donate $100 four times a year. They can donate more if they wish. According to the group’s website, they’ve already raised more than $68,000.
Like the other 100 Who Care giving circles, the concept is simple. The members meet quarterly for one hour. Members come prepared to pitch their favorite charity in an effort to gain votes, and to write a $100 check for the winner. In a blind draw, the group chooses three proposals to listen to. Then they vote by secret ballot on the organization they wish to give their money to. The nonprofit with the highest votes wins that quarter’s donation. Each member writes a check to the recipient.
In an hour, the group raises about $10,000 without ever washing a car or baking a cookie.
It was the ease and simplicity of the group that appealed to Mike Bruce, 100 Men Who Care HHI organizer. “I really appreciated that there was such a quick turnaround,” Bruce said. “It’s immediate gratification, which men tend to favor. Women tend to be more patient.”
This isn’t to say that the women aren’t involved in the Alliance. In fact, Bruce credits his wife, Brenda, for his involvement in the group. She is a member of The Hunger Coalition of the Lowcountry. One night she came home from a meeting and told Bruce about a donation they had received from 100 Women Who Care. Bruce was impressed by what his wife told him.
Later he was sitting around the firepit with some friends and pitched the idea to them of starting a men’s chapter. More than the wood caught fire that night. The idea sparked his friends’ interest and they said, “Count us in!”
“It was the easiest sale I ever made,” said Bruce. “I found that everyone has some passion or interest to give. They just weren’t sure how or where.” Encouraged by his friend’s response, Bruce then served the idea to his tennis buddies. They, too, returned with an enthusiastic “Yes!”
Word spread and more men wanted to be involved. “There are many of us who are blessed,” said Bruce, “and we really want to do good on Hilton Head.” And good they have done! There are now about 140 active members of the Hilton Head chapter.
The very first recipient of the group’s donation was Volunteers in Medicine of Hilton Head. VIM is a local organization and clinic made up of mostly retired medical professionals who offer their services, free of charge, to low income and uninsured residents of Hilton Head and Daufuskie Islands.
The most recent beneficiary of the men’s award is Programs for Exceptional People, a licensed 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Bluffton. According to Nancy Sulek, senior director of development, PEP’s mission is to promote independence, social interaction and employment opportunities for adults with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities.
PEP was founded in 1995 by six families, frustrated and discouraged by the lack of services for adults in the area with intellectual disabilities. PEP has grown from a small group of families to successfully serving hundreds of members over the past 25 years. The nonprofit organization has become a port in the storm for families of the members, providing a variety of programs from job-skill building to art to exercise.
One of the biggest obstacles the PEP members and family faced was transportation. “Many of the families don’t have cars, or they have jobs that prevent them from being able to bring the members to the facility,” Sulek said.
PEP provides 100% of the transportation, racking up about 360 miles a day. Drivers pick up members at their homes and drop them back off at the end of the day. Also, the transportation makes it possible for the members to attend job interviews as well as fun and educational outings to museums, parks, and festivals. PEP needed another vehicle to keep up with the growing demand.
Enter 100 Men Who Care. Members Wayne Hilley and Scott Saulsbury, along with their wives, attended PEP’s annual gala last November. The men were so moved by the amazing work that PEP was doing, they immediately asked how they could help. The answer was a no-brainer: A new van!
Sulek had already applied for a grant from the South Carolina Department of Transportation. Grant requirements dictate that PEP finds a way to pay for 15% of cost, and SCDOT will then pick up 85%. So, they were still looking for funding sources for the 15%.
Hilley and Salsbury went to the men with this request at their April meeting and it was chosen by the other members. PEP will receive $13,165 at the July meeting of the 100 Men.
Sulek and the rest of the PEP team were beyond ecstatic to get the news. “We can’t do the work we want to do without (this donation),” Sulek said.
Bruce said that when he and the guys were discussing 100 Men around the fire, he thought they maybe could help in some small way. “I didn’t think we were going to move mountains,” he said.
But whether it’s three men around a campfire, one doctor on a mission to heal, or six families advocating for their loved ones, when people come together mountains, can indeed, be moved.
The next meeting of 100 MWC will be at 4:30 p.m. July 14 at the Spanish Wells Club on Brams Point Road on Hilton Head Island. For more information about joining, email Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angie Henderson is a freelance writer who lives and works in the Lowcountry.