Philanthropists donate priceless gifts to community

Published 6:50 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

Yesterday I was paying bills, putting away Christmas presents and going through the stack of papers on my desk.

While reading through a grant award letter from the Polk County Community Foundation (PCCF), granting Saluda Community Land Trust a significant amount of money to purchase land for a public nature park and trail system, I was overcome with thankfulness.

Thanks to PCCF and the Bradley Foundation, established by Marjorie M. & Lawrence R. Bradley, Saluda owns five public parks, with trails ranging in size from 1 to 54 acres.

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These parks have no swings or soccer fields. They are simply forested, natural spaces where adults and children can walk, play, sit, listen and simply be.

Those quiet places are here for us now, and they will be here for our grandchildren and their children. It is difficult for me to write these sentences without feeling huge gratitude for these gifts to our small community.

I began to think about not only the gifts, but also the giver.
Has someone ever given you a gift in which they tell you how to use it, where to put it and how valuable it is?

It’s almost like the giver is letting go of the object, but not letting go of control. Maintaining control sort of negates the value of the gift.

I also started thinking about the names that have been given to the new parks and trails made possible through the community foundation’s generosity.

Should the park be named after the previous owner, or a historical event that may have happened on that land, some physical feature of the land, or the creator(s) of the park?

The conclusion I came to is that maybe a park or place should be named in honor of the entity that gave the land to the community with no monetary benefit to themselves. Some donors have given land or money for the tax deduction; some have done it because they felt that it was the right thing to do.

Maybe the latter is the category of true givers. They want no credit or control of the gift after it leaves their hands. The individuals. who have given their money to PCCF, with the belief that the board of PCCF would use their gift wisely, gave a true gift.

The PCCF board has used those gifts wisely for benefit of all Polk County residents, rich and poor, young and old. Those gifts have built a stronger, healthier community, and for that we are all very grateful.

For hundreds of years land has been equated with its value in dollars. Its real value as an integral part of our ecosystem has been sublimated to its monetary value. Our property taxes are calculated as to a parcel’s highest and best use, which is calculated according to how much money someone would pay for it.

Most of us are old enough to know there is no way to put a dollar value on the memories given to us by the places in nature that we love, or the tree that shaded our back yard, or the hours spent with our children looking for cool plants or critters in the woods.

This past month I helped a man whose annual income is below the poverty level deed away all the development rights on his beautiful 200–plus acre farm with absolutely no monetary benefit to himself.

It was an honor to be able to help that man do what he felt was the right thing to do for the future of Polk County. He gave a true gift.

To all those of you who have donated to the Polk County Community Foundation and to the Bradleys who left oodles of dollars to create the Bradley Foundation Fund for conservation, we all give thanks.
In a world that seems to put a price tag on everything, some things are priceless.

Community and our beautiful natural surroundings are indeed priceless.

We are so lucky to be here!