By David Rogers. October 9, 2015. BLOWING ROCK, NC — It started out as a $15 investment by three Blowing Rock area businessmen for some postage. Fast forward 30 years and the Blowing Rock Community Foundation (BRCF) has evolved as far more than a stamp. It is a million dollar gold mine investing in the youth of Blowing Rock and non-profit agencies that serve the local community.
COVER IMAGE: With the autumn colors around Broyhill Lake serving as a backdrop, attorney Tony di Santi and accountant Bob Hess, two of the three founders of the Blowing Rock Community Foundation, pause for a moment to have their picture taken at the organization’s event to celebrate its first thirty years in existence. Photographic image by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
BRCF President Sandy Miller and foundation board member Susie Greene reported to a large group of residents, business owners and town officials gathered at the American Legion Building on Thursday that approximately $1 million has now been awarded by the foundation in college scholarships and non-profit grants — and it all started with a $15 investment by attorney Tony di Santi, accountant Bob Hess, and the late Bill Burke.
While introducing di Santi and Hess and acknowledging their initiative 30 years ago, Greene noted, “I think these wonderful men can tell you that not only their vision and love of Blowing Rock has been so wonderful, but also that the contributed $15 to Bill Burke to do a mailing. That is what started the Foundation. $15! Isn’t that amazing? Today we are very, very fortunate to have given approximately a million dollars away: $500,000 in college scholarships and $500,000 in grants.”
Greene added, “Some people ask. ‘Why do you have an endowment?’ Well, we have an endowment so that this will be viable in 30 years — when some of you will be here to celebrate the 60th anniversary!”
After the ceremony, Blowing Rock News cornered both Mr. Hess and Mr. di Santi for their observations regarding the growth of their $15 investment.
“We had hopes that this would grow,” Mr. di Santi offered, “but it has grown much faster than we thought it would. They have done an amazing job since that time. It was Bill Burke’s idea. Bob (Hess) was the accountant and I was the lawyer. We formed the corporation and Bob got the tax exemption status. We each gave $15 so that Bill could mail out letters. This was in 1985.”
Asked how BRCF might have grown differently than the original group initially imagined, di Santi said, “Well, our primary goal was for scholarships and it has done well with that. Now they have raised more money to give grants to non-profit causes in the community.”
Reflecting back, di Santi recalled, “The first scholarship that we awarded was to a young lady named Amber Teague. She went on to college. She went on graduate school and she got her doctorate I believe from the University of California at Berkeley. She has done very, very well.
“I was talking with Susie (Greene),” Mr. di Santi added, “and I think she said that the number of scholarships now given has been 98 from the Blowing Rock community. Of those, 94 have graduated from college. That’s a pretty good batting average!”
Mr. Hess observed that the Foundation has grown as Blowing Rock has grown, especially with different people coming to town. “As far as I am concerned, it can grow even faster than it has because it is such a great cause, to be able to give these scholarships to the children of town residents, as well as for the endowment to give money to the different non-profit causes. This is probably one of the best continuing entities that this area and town could have established. This is proven by most communities that I know of that have a foundation for the sole purpose of achieving the same things we are doing.”
Given the worthiness of the cause was asked whether he might appear onstage for “Groovy Nights” (one of the Foundation’s biggest annual fundraisers) as, maybe, Garth Brooks. He chuckled and recounted, “There is only one time that I have gone onstage and that was when my kids were about eight years old. I made a fool of myself so much, but I did enjoy it. And yet, I will never do that again. This was in Banner Elk for a theatre presentation of the history of Banner Elk and Avery County. I was the undertaker. I liked my role and I actually did have a few lines, but it taught me that I am not really the sort of guy that likes to be in the limelight. ” Laughing, he added, “That is the extent of my public affairs.”
The Blowing Rock Community Foundation was founded in 1985 to raise funds to be used exclusively for the benefit of the Blowing Rock community, primarily through awarding college scholarships to deserving students and offering grants to non-profit organizations serving the Blowing Rock community. More information can be obtained by visiting www.blowingrockcf.org.