Everybody's a philanthropist on Tuesday, May 6

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comApril 29, 2014 

John C. Dortch


Religious leader John C. Dortch of Beaufort has seen a lot in his life, including stints in Vietnam and prison.

But it was the sight of a homeless man who died on a cold night this January that sparked the newest effort of his Circle of Hope Ministries.

"He was found on the ground near an abandoned car in Beaufort," Dortch said. "I had reached out to him just a couple nights before that. He was sitting in a backyard near an open fire. I gave him a jacket and hat.

"When I learned of his death, it broke my heart, and his death propelled me to move with a sense of urgency to address the issue of homelessness in our midst."

The goal of the nonprofit is to open a "hospitality house for the homeless" in Beaufort County.

Dortch envisions "a place where our homeless brothers and sisters can come and have a hot meal daily, take a shower, store their backpacks in lockers and do their laundry once a week."

Also on the wish list is transitional housing for up to four homeless veterans.

This dream is one of many that stand to benefit from a national day of giving set for next Tuesday.

A "Give Local America" day has been organized to mark the 100th anniversary of community foundations in America. It is to drive home the point that everyone can be a philanthropist, and every community has lots of ways for people to help one another.

In our area, the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, based in Charleston, is participating through "Lowcountry Giving Day" with the slogan "Lift the Lowcountry."

Edna Crews, a former county school superintendent and head of the foundation's Beaufort office, said an anonymous donor selected 10 nonprofits in Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties to receive up to $10,000 each in a dollar-for-dollar match for every gift they receive May 6.

In addition to Dortch's ministry, Beaufort County nonprofits selected by the anonymous donor are Family Promise of Beaufort County, Good Neighbor Free Medical Clinic of Beaufort, Neighborhood Outreach Connection of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, and Thumbs Up Children's Education Center in Beaufort.

The agencies were chosen because they are smaller. For each of them, a potential $20,000 in revenue in a single day packs a big punch.

Also, Crews said, their selection is to help show smaller nonprofits how to better use online resources -- websites with "donate now" buttons, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts -- to reach more donors. Checks dated May 6 and cash donated that day also will count toward the local match, Crews said.

Since serving his time in prison, Dortch has gotten a law degree, written an inspirational memoir and become an ordained preacher. He calls his ministry a "church without walls." It joins a growing effort in Beaufort County to see the unseen homeless.

"We need to do something," Dortch said. "We need to do something."

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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