Sometimes it takes new eyes, a fresh spirit, to find ways to help someone. That’s the way it seemed last week as the Exchange Club of Charleston read out the list of organizations and the grants they were awarded at the annual community service luncheon.

In case you don’t know, the Exchange Club members run the Coastal Carolina Fair every fall and then give the considerable proceeds to local charities. For those working the fair, it means loads of volunteer hours. In fact, volunteers racked up 14,000 hours last year making sure the Ladson fair entertained folks for 10 days.

They are now the largest volunteer-run fair in the country, says Jerry Pitts, director of midway operations for the fair, and some of these men have been part of this effort for the 56 years they have been in operation. Even those whose days of manning the ticket booths are over were in attendance last Thursday to see the happy faces of those receiving grant money. And after you see all the needs met, you realize why.

At first, it seemed time-consuming to read out the names of each of the 77 organizations, introduce their representatives and then hear how the grant will be used.

But one of the interesting things about listening to each recipient was hearing the cumulative effect that the $802,921 would have on our community. If you divide the amount, it comes out to about $10,500 per organization, but it would not have been nearly as impressive to just hear they were getting a check.

The long list of needs, and the nonprofits that will provide them, is what is impressive.

For instance, Christ Episcopal Church will use its grant to provide weekend meals to recipients of East Cooper Meals on Wheels weekday meals. It’s a real need to provide meals on Saturday and Sunday.

East Cooper Meals on Wheels also received a grant for its weekday service.

The Disabilities Foundation of Charleston County needs a new commercial-grade lawn mower. James Island Outreach needs to purchase a new refrigerator, food pantry shelving and a computer printer.

Lowcountry Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy wants a grant to provide 65 sessions on horseback for mentally and emotionally challenged children and adults.

The Lowcountry Pregnancy Center wants to purchase books to continue and expand the “Beginning With Mother Goose” literacy component of the “Ready to Parent” program. Carolina Canines for Service will provide working dogs for injured veterans, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation wants to fund a trip of an ill 6-year-old girl to Disney World.

The Trident Area Agency on Aging needs money to install grab bars and railings to enable seniors and adults with limited mobility to continue living safely in their homes. And the Walk for Autism needs money to purchase T-shirts for its fundraising walk.

All of these needs seem small in comparison with big, new buildings, additional staffing and operating income, something that almost all nonprofits need. But because the Exchange Club is faithful in its service to the community, every year these small grants are distributed and money that originally was raised by selling popcorn, cotton candy and thrill rides gets turned back to the community to improve lives in small and large ways.

This fall, when you think about heading out for a night of fun on the roller coaster, it’s nice to think that you also may be easing the life of someone in our community who has lost the ability to get out of the house.

To see all the grants, go to post

Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or