Years ago, I ran across a quote attributed to an Irish writer, Anna Carey, that has always resonated with me as it touches upon a topic near and dear to my heart. She wrote that “Love is bearing witness. It is the act of watching someone’s life, of simply being there to say; your life has been worth seeing.” We are a culture whose history has been built upon the power of stories passed down for hundreds of years in front of campfires, from podiums and pulpits, at dinner tables and in living rooms. I believe we have been created to serve as witnesses to lives well-lived, that we have a sacred obligation to pass on these stories to not only celebrate lives of significance, but to inspire and call others to action.

As Christmas approaches, a season of remembrance and gratitude, I find myself thankful for a very special group of men whose shoulders I have been privileged to stand upon here at the High Point Community Foundation. They were/are a remarkable collection of nine community leaders who inspired me, and our Trustees, to carry on their vision of creating and sustaining a permanent financial resource.  It would be a safety net that would always address unmet needs in High Point, needs these Founders could not even have imagined 24 years ago.

I have kept a framed photograph of these men on my desk since 1998 that tells their story.  Seated in the foreground are two men who played key roles in the initial establishment of the Foundation.  Jim Morgan, Founding Chair, who was/is an initiator, a doer who began working on the project as early as 1990 and whose passion and commitment drew others to the cause. Beside him is Jim Millis, Sr., Investment Chair, a textile mogul, who passionately loved his community and understood the importance of this resource. Together with his wife, Jesse, they gave the $5 million gift that first opened our doors for business and would serve as a catalyst to eventually grow the Foundation’s assets to over $110 million.  Behind them to the left, stands Bill Horney, Development Chair, a real-life Horatio Alger story, a born salesman who worked tirelessly with me to raise our endowment. Beside him is Charles Odom, Treasurer, our pragmatist who could say no when necessary and kept us all on the straight and narrow path. Next to him is Charlie Greene, Secretary, a true entrepreneur whose energy and drive helped keep us organized and focused.  To his left is Bill McGuinn, Vice Chair, a dedicated servant leader, a humble man who intimately understood the philanthropic landscape.  Alongside him is Phil Phillips, Board Development Chair, an astute financial mind, who early on saw the long-term benefits that the Foundation could provide and was our first significant donor. At his elbow is George Erath, Grants Chair, a man of impeccable principle and integrity who was the perfect choice to head-up Grants. And last, but not least, Dr. Nido Qubein, Marketing Chair, a force of nature, a marketing genius, who truly embraced the concept and generously poured his heart, talents and resources into our great endeavor.

If this sounds like a dream team, it was.  Certainly, the stars had to have been properly aligned to assemble such a cadre of leaders who so perfectly complimented and enhanced one another.  The ultimate treasure of a great community are the leaders it produces and High Point has been and always will be replete with men and women who understand her, love her and will be there to protect and guide her.  To this gang of nine, I say thank you for your vision, investment and steadfast belief in High Point and our Community Foundation… You will never be forgotten. For good… for High Point… Forever.