A donation from Bluffton resident Samantha “Sam” Boyd to the Bluffton Police Department set in motion the creation of a nonprofit benevolence fund, managed by the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, and the formalization of other funds that the Town supports. Pictured from left are Capt. Scott Chandler, Town Manager Stephen Steese, Mayor Lisa Sulka, Boyd, Officer Kyle Herrick, Capt. Helen Burke and KD Koda. COURTESY TOWN OF BLUFFTON

The generosity of a Bluffton resident provided the impetus for the Bluffton Police Department and the Town of Bluffton to establish a benevolence fund to support a number of programs.

Samantha “Sam” Boyd, the donor, has lived in the Bluffton area for 17 years, and through a family foundation recently gave $20,000 to the Bluffton Police Department.

“I noticed they acquired a new canine and a few new hires. They certainly did not ask for it, but I knew they needed things like dog food and new equipment, so I was inspired to reach out to them and see if I could give them a grant,” said Boyd.

The unexpected and generous offer generated a mix of reactions from the police department as well as the town.

“It was very surprising, very humbling, amazing,” said Bluffton Police Chief Stephenie Price. “Police departments don’t really get treated like this in other areas of the country. Support here is overwhelming sometimes. It makes me wish other officers could experience it.”

Because of the rules of her foundation, Boyd can grant funds only to 501(c)(3) nonprofits, something the department did not have in place.

“I met with Mayor Lisa Sulka, who was very responsive and a great leader in making this happen, so they got with the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry,” she said. “Now, anybody who would like to contribute to the police or different projects in the Town of Bluffton, this is a way to make an impact very locally.”

According to a town press release, the “Bluffton Police Department Benevolence Fund will support the department’s mission, program, services, and outreach program, including its annual Toy Drive. The Bluffton Police Department accepts toy donations each November and December and, through Bluffton Self Help, delivers Christmas toys to children each year. This fund can be used to direct funds to other specific police programs, projects, and services.”

Establishing the fund came at the right time for the town. According to Assistant Town Manager Chris Forster, the topic of a benevolence fund had already been under discussion since the arrival of Chief Stephenie Price in October 2020 and continued with the arrival of Town Manager Stephen Steese in June 2021.

“Throughout that process there were a few other initiatives that we were hoping to leverage with other charitable organizations. We had four focused areas,” said Forster.

Also being discussed were management of the Town’s Lutzie 43 Scholarship, the creation of a parks and art fund, and the on-going partnership with the Historic Bluffton Foundation, Forster said.

While town staff was discussing those initiatives and how to proceed, Boyd made her offer to the K-9 program, noting that funds must go to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“She informed us that she would like to contribute $20,000 – $10,000 designated for the K-9 program and the other $10,000 at the recommendation of the chief and town manager,” Forster said.

He contacted Scott Wierman, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and began the conversation to get the funds established.

“Now people can write a check to the Community Foundation and can designate the donation to one of the funds or just for general use,” Forster said.

The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry was founded in 1994 and has since distributed more than $73 million in Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties, thanks to the philanthropic generosity of private citizens and other foundations.

The Lutzie 43 Foundation was established by his family in memory of Auburn football star Philip Lutzenkirchen shortly after his 2014 death in a car accident.

The Town of Bluffton has been a proponent of the safe driving program since 2019, and the annual Lutzie 43 5K also supports the fund, now named the Bluffton Lutzie 43 Scholarship Fund. Donations to the fund will provide scholarships to students who are ambassadors of safe driving habits.

For the parks and art fund, “The concept was to have a mechanism that people could donate for public art or donate public art,” Forster said, “so there would be an advisory committee that would identify and recommend to the town manager where to spend the funds for a particular piece of art.”

The fund that was created is called the Town of Bluffton Parks and Public Art Fund.

Boyd’s donation and the creation of the BPD Benevolence Fund will help the department continue to integrate with the community, Price said. Now when people want to give money to police programs such as the annual toy drive, they can also receive a letter noting their tax-deductible donation.

“It helps community relations, it’s a way to support the police department,” Price said. “We are so grateful that anyone would even consider donating like that. We are incredibly thankful every day for our community.”

The fourth town focus is a partnership with the Historic Bluffton Foundation.

“We partnered with them to set up a historic preservation fund, and individuals who want to support a particular town project can make a tax-deductible contribution to the fund,” said Forster.

There are currently two projects designated by the town for preservation: the Squire Pope carriage house in the Wright Family Park at the end of Calhoun Street, and the Sarah Riley Hooks cottage on Bridge Street. The carriage house has been stabilized and is in the budget for improvements this year.

For more information about any of these funds and how a resident or organization can donate, please contact Debbie Szpanka, public information officer, at dszpanka@townofbluffton.com.

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.