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Ben Navarro Donates $1.25 Million to the College of Charleston

Ben Navarro turned a well-connected family and a bachelor’s degree in finance into a $3 billion nest egg in just over 30 years. Formerly a vice president of Citigroup, he left the investment bank to found his own, Sherman Financial Group, which currently owns Credit One Bank. Ben Navarro also owns two tennis clubs, and tried to purchase the Carolina Panthers, North Carolina’s NFL team, but lost it in auction. Today, he and his family live in Charleston, South Carolina.

As a philanthropist, Navarro’s priorities are plain – healthy, well-educated minds. In recent years, he has founded a small string of private schools, a scholarship fund for low-income Charleston County high school students, and a mental health wellness center targeting anxiety and depression.

On March 15, College of Charleston President Andrew Hsu announced that a large donation from Navarro was being given to the college’s teacher education program for the purpose of educating more teachers to work in underserved communities.

“The gift really recognizes our commitment to excellence in public education at all levels,” Hsu said. “It will help us create and support a national signature program.

“As a public institution, we have the responsibility of helping the state to narrow the educational gap,” he continued. “It is our duty to help the underserved communities, or help prepare teachers for the underserved communities.”

South Carolina is currently weathering a heavy teacher shortage, one exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. As of February, five months into the school year, the state was still short more than 500 teachers in all grades. The College of Charleston is working on a plan to attract more students passionate about education, and Ben Navarro’s generous donation will help them recruit those students.

“We already have a lot of strength in terms of faculty and programmatic offerings around teacher education for students coming from underrepresented populations,” said Suzanne Austin, provost and executive vice president of student affairs. “So we already do that work but we’re excited about doing more.”

Editorial credit: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

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Nonprofits Help Rebuild Flood-Damaged Homes in South Carolina

Following an unprecedented amount of rain last October, a number of homes in South Carolina, especially in Richland and Lexington counties, were damaged by flooding caused by the storms. While a number of the people living in those homes have managed to get the repairs taken care of, a lot of people slipped through the cracks. The elderly, single parents, veterans, the poor, and disabled people have all had a hard time getting damages repaired due to a lack of insurance, a lack of funds, or in the case of Stanley Beard, “preexisting conditions.”

Beard had a hole in his roof for years that he couldn’t fix himself or pay to get fixed. During the rains, that hole got worse and led to a lot of other problems, including his toilet dropping through the floor. He didn’t apply for federal aid, but likely wouldn’t have received it anyway because the hole wasn’t caused by the storms.

Luckily for Beard, there are several nonprofit groups in South Carolina who have stepped up and done the heavy lifting of getting people’s hoes back into livable conditions. Over a dozen nonprofits have received funding from the One S.C. Flood Relief Fund, endorsed by the governor and established by the Central Carolina Community Foundation. With that money, groups like Columbia’s Home Works of America have been able to help people like Stanley Beard get back on their feet.

The first round of grants, issued by the fund last year, got about 350 home fixed over 13 counties. This year should see at least 244 more homes getting fixed. That’s a pretty good step in the right direction, but according Home works executive director Jim Powell, there are likely “hundreds if not thousands” of people who still need help, and that’s just in Lexington and Richland counties.