By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on March 15, 2023
After a two-year COVID hiatus, the Outer Banks Community Foundation annual luncheon and meeting returned to celebrate a recap of the organization’s 40th year at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head on March 14.
The day included the surprise announcement from Community Foundation CEO Chris Sawin that the organization would be moving from its longtime home in Southern Shores to the old Southern Bank building in Manteo located at 704 US-64 & 264.
Sawin’s announcement came as he described a number of new initiatives and funds the organization has developed since its founding in 1982.
“Our biggest new initiative, we’re going to move our headquarters…this year,” he said. Moving to a new location, according to Sawin, had been under discussion for some time “through a series of conversations which started before I got to the Community Foundation [in 2021], where we realized that our wonderful flat top was probably not the perfect place for a growing staff with a new kind of capability.”
Sawin added that the new location is “going to give us new visibility. It’s going to put us in the right location to be among a host of community leadership organizations from Coastal Studies Institute to Dare County government, social services, COA [College of the Albemarle].”
New Community Foundation Board Chair Jean-Louise Dixon explained that the new facility “will serve as a center for nonprofits across the Outer Banks, a facility to meet to engage to collaborate in a way that they have never been able to do so before.”
The Southern Bank building, Sawin explained, was something the organization felt it needed to pursue. “An opportunity came our way to purchase, at a deep discount, the Southern Bank building in Manteo which is across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts…A big thanks goes out to Southern Bank,” he said.
Dixon brought additional perspective to why the move was necessary. “It is a huge leap. This decision has not been made lightly. But in 1982, the population of Dare County was 13,377 people. Today we have over 40,000 year-round residents,” she said.
Plans call for the current headquarters to be sold to help finance the move to the new facility.
Although the move to Manteo was the most significant announcement for the day, one other new initiative in particular was announced.
Drawing attention to the Community Foundation’s 40 years of giving back to the community, Board Member Noel Preston described the new 40th Anniversary Impact Grant as a way to commemorate our 40 years and also to honor those visionary folks who founded this organization. The $40,000 grant is the largest one-time grant in the Community Foundation’s history. It is designed as seed money to create a self-sustaining program.
The decision to focus on drug and substance abuse Preston noted, came after discussions with a number of local community leaders in Ocracoke, Dare County and Corolla.
“Throughout these interviews or visits, where we listened and let the experts talk, mental health and substance abuse repeatedly came out as significant issues on the Outer Banks. For that reason, this $40,000 grant…will focus on mental health and substance abuse and ideally focus on youth programs,” he said.
Community Foundation annual meetings have also always been a time to call attention to individuals whose volunteer work over the years has been exemplary. The award is called the Champion Award and this year, it was presented to Jane Webster
Last year’s Community Foundation Chair Clark Twiddy described how Webster has gone about her volunteer work.
“Albert Schweitzer said once, ‘Example is not the main thing in influencing people. It is the only thing influencing people. ’And Jane has gone on to serve on just about every organization on the Outer Banks,” Twiddy said.
Webster, whose late husband Sterling built and managed the Ramada Inn and Hilton Garden Inn, serves on multiple nonprofit boards and has done so for a number of years. Joining Webster as she spoke was a previous Champion Award recipient, Helen Ford.
Webster, who was a member of the Community Foundation Board for a number of years, will be stepping down, described her experience as a board member.
“I’m very sad to be rolling off the board. My whole impetus has been with the grants committee, and I can tell you my biggest reward from beginning to end was learning about all of the nonprofits that we have here on the Outer Banks, the large ones, the small ones, the stalwarts, the new ones, and how everybody rolls their sleeves up to work very, very hard to make this place a loving, giving place to live. I want you to know that when you see your reflection in the mirror, or as you’re passing by a store window, I want you to know that you are champions. It’s not just me, you all are champions,” she said.