LowCountry Legal Aid honors longtime volunteer

February 5, 2011 

Hilton Head Island's Barbara Swift is shown here Monday morning inside her Hilton Head Plantation home. Swift was honored with the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award at LowCountry Legal Aid's fourth annual Celebration of Justice.

SARAH WELLIVER/THE ISLAND PACKET

  • Every year the Bluffton-based nonprofit LowCountry Legal Aid honors three South Carolina residents for their contributions to social justice. The organization, which provides free legal representation and assistance to low-income families in the Lowcountry, presented its fourth annual Celebration of Justice awards Jan. 22 at Belfair Plantation Country Club in Bluffton.

    Among this year's recipients were:

    • Sue Berkowitz, who won the Clifford R. Oviatt Legal Award for the Advancement of Social Justice. Berkowitz is an attorney and the director of South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center in Columbia. The center helps low-income residents of South Carolina overcome social, economic and legal injustice.

    • David Ames, who won the Marilyn Stein Bellet Award for the Advancement of Social Justice. A longtime Hilton Head Island resident, Ames is a planner and developer who has served on numerous boards and volunteered his time for a variety of community service projects over the years.


    Details: 843-815-1570, www.lowcountrylegalaid.org

"Volunteer" should be Barbara Swift's middle name. She has been giving her time to others in some form for as long as she can remember.

The Hilton Head Island resident said it started when she was in the Girl Scouts. And it hasn't stopped since.

Swift recently was honored by LowCountry Legal Aid with the William T. Althoff Award for Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. Swift served on the organization's board for nine years. Her term ended more than a year ago, but even then she couldn't stop working with the group. She said she filled in for another year, and that term was up in November.

LowCountry Legal Aid executive director Ryan Mikkelson said the Legal Aid staff rarely gives the volunteer award to a board member, but they thought it was appropriate since Swift had volunteered with the organization for so long.

"The longevity of her commitment here has gotten her this award," Mikkelson said. "She's been there since essentially the beginning and has been a big part of the board and a big part of helping our organization (raise money)."

Every year the nonprofit group honors three South Carolina residents for their contributions to social justice. The organization, which provides legal representation and assistance to low-income families in the Lowcountry, presented its fourth annual Celebration of Justice awards Jan. 22 at Belfair Plantation Country Club in Bluffton.

Swift was unable to attend the ceremony because she was ill, but her brother accepted the award on her behalf. She said she was touched by the honor.

"I've spent a lot of hours at Legal Aid, sort of mothering them," Swift said. "We've gone through a lot of ups and downs. ... I was sort of the person people would go to, and I knew that was a role that I was happy to fill."

In addition to her work with Legal Aid, Swift has volunteered for a long list of organizations. She has served as an usher with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra for about nine years. She is co-president of the League of Women Voters of Hilton Head Island, president of the South Carolina and Coastal Georgia Wellesley College alumnae group, and secretary/treasurer of the Japanese cultural group Nadeshiko Kai in New York. And the list goes on from there.

Swift has a simple philosophy behind her generosity.

"I like to help people," Swift said. "(I like to) interact with people who need help."

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