It doesn't take long for pennies to add up. Just ask Paula Harper Bethea, chair of the Hargray Caring Coins Foundation.
Caring Coins is a voluntary program whereby customers of Hargray's phone, television and internet services can choose to round up the amount of their monthly bill to the next dollar and donate the change to the Foundation.
In turn, the Foundation distributes the collective funds to local nonprofit organizations through a granting process.
Addressing those gathered at the Sonesta Resort on Hilton Head Island for the annual Caring Coins grant presentation Dec. 12, Bethea said, "Those pennies do make a difference, and today, they have made a $3 million difference."
Grants that day ranged from $500 to $9,000 and were handed out to 39 community organizations, for a total of $170,000. Total donations since 2003, when the program began, has now reached a milestone $3 million that has been awarded to nearly 100 local charities.
Bethea said Caring Coins was the brain child of Donna Martin, former public relations director for Hargray. Not only did she recognize growing needs for services in the community, "She recognized the important difference that pennies could make," Bethea said.
Martin came up with the name, began to plan the program, and saw it through to its creation and implementation. Bethea was named chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation and has remained there ever since.
Michael Gottdenker, chairman and CEO of Hargray, credits the customers of the nearly 70-year-old company for the success of the Caring Coins program. "Through their generosity, we have made an impact on our neighbors," he said.
He listed a few organizations that have benefited from the grants over the years, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Beaufort and Jasper counties, Second Helpings, the Children's Center, Bluffton Self Help and the Deep Well Project. "Not only do our customers make a difference," he said, "but so do the organizations that receive the funds."
Customers must opt in to participate in the program, said Karen Cline, public relations manager for Hargray, after the presentation. But many newer customers might not be aware of the impact their contributions can have in the community.
The most a customer will round up is 99 cents per month, and the least is one cent per month. A year's worth of rounding up will never total more than $11.88 per customer.
While it sounds like a minor donation, when combined with the power of numbers of Hargray's customers, the result grows exponentially.
That is precisely the power of collective giving that the Caring Coins Foundation set out to capture. "We were never limited by our expectations," Bethea said. "We always expected to do well, and to do good."
Customers who wish to participate by rounding up their bill can do so by visiting www.hargray.com/caringcoins or by calling 877-427-4729.