“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
― John Wesley
My parents have the above quote from Wesley hanging in the kitchen in the house where I grew up here in Highlands. I saw it every day – thought about it every day. And wondered just how I could rise to the challenge of his stirring words.
When I left Highlands right after turning 17 and headed to UNC-Chapel Hill, I stopped reading those words on a daily basis. I was off on an adventure of learning, self discovery, and world travel that eventually took me to Boston and to London (and later, around the globe) for a career in publishing. I eagerly sought out new experiences and different cultures; I met amazing people everywhere I went and enjoyed the fast-paced life of urban living abroad.
About ten years later, Wesley’s words rose up in me – tapped me on the shoulder. I can remember the moment clearly. I was walking a London street and was almost stopped dead in my tracks by what I would later refer to as my “marching orders” from Wesley: “Susie, are you doing all the good you can?”
I could make an intelligent argument that by publishing the works of the finest academics and scholars in the world, I was doing good work. But I knew that was a hollow assertion. I knew precisely what Wesley was urging: dedicate your life to giving, in every possible way.
I returned to Highlands thinking my way of giving back would be in the classroom. I began volunteering at Highlands School in high school English classes, with a plan of teaching creative writing. I discovered immediately that many of the students were not reading or writing on grade level. I ditched my creative writing plans and sought remedial teaching materials from the director of the Macon County Literacy Council. “Highlands needs a literacy council, Susie. You ought to start one,” she told me. I brushed her comment off immediately, and told her that I was not qualified to undertake such an endeavor. “Think about it,” she said as she handed me books for my students.
Her words, like Wesley’s, stayed with me.
Soon thereafter, with the incredible support of the Highlands Rotary Club, the Literacy Council of Highlands was born. Our first board meeting (Derek Taylor, Jeffrey Owens, Tammy Lowe, Anne deVille, and I) was held on the living room floor of the cabin I rented in Mirror Lake! That was April of 1993.
Over the last 20 years, hundreds of dedicated volunteers have transformed the lives of thousands of students in our community. People from all ages and all walks of life have stepped forward, offering their time, talent, and treasure to help teach reading, writing, English as a Second Language, GED preparation, as well as tutor in all school subjects.
After the Literacy Council launched, I was fortunate to be a part of the creation of the Peggy Crosby Center. With the gifts from Phil and Peggy Crosby, the Duke Endowment, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, and others, we renovated the former Highlands-Cashiers Hospital building and turned it into a community service center housing nonprofit, county, and for-profit organizations. During my years as the center’s director, I witnessed another tsunami of community support, love, and compassion.
I stayed as the center’s director until 2 days before my son, Adam, was born. In 2001, I began my career in real estate and vowed to make a donation to a local nonprofit in honor of my clients at Closing. Over the last 12 years, I have happily given to the incredible organizations in Highlands and Cashiers that do so much to serve so many.
Now it is time to do more.
I am issuing a challenge to this truly one-of-a-kind community: for every gift you make (before December 20th) to a Highlands-Cashiers nonprofit (churches included), I will match your individual gift up to $100. I will give a total of matching gifts up to $25,000, so make your donations now!
When you make your gift, please photocopy your check and send the copy (with account numbers redacted, please), along with the mailing address of the organization to me at POB 1078, Highlands, NC 28741 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Send your check to your desired recipient. I will then send a matching gift (again, up to $100) to the same organization (or church).
If you need guidance as to the specific nonprofit organizations and/or the work they do in our community, just give me a call or email me. I can step you through your giving options.
I will need your copies of checks no later than December 21st so that I may make my matching gifts before year end. Please also note that qualifying organizations or churches must be Highlands or Cashiers based.
We are all blessed to live in this phenomenal community. Join me in taking Wesley’s words to heart. Thank you for all you do to serve, to bring light, and to lift spirits. Each of us needs all of us.