A year-long charitable project culminated in five checks and countless smiles on Tuesday.
The Flip & Give initiative, which transformed a 1920s-era, two-bedroom bungalow into a four-bedroom, three-bath showplace, donated net proceeds from the house’s sale, which totaled $100,000, to five charities picked by online voters.
Achieve Columbia, which works with at-risk students to improve educational outcomes, received the largest share of the donations. Executive director Robert Lominack accepted a check for $50,000 from Graeme Moore, owner of The Moore Co., which purchased the house, oversaw renovations that began last July and facilitated its sale to Mike and Katie Fitzgerald.
“It’s hard to even put it into words,” Lominack said. “We’re relatively small, and we go to work every day and work very hard. Our social worker just does unbelievable stuff, but we don’t get out there that much. We’re certainly not on the news, and we don’t advertise. It’s really heartwarming that people would recognize what we do enough to nominate us.”
The Midlands Fatherhood Coalition received $25,000, while The Women’s Shelter received $12,500. The Therapy Place, which provides physical, occupational and speech therapy for children, took home $7,500, while Camp Cole, an inspirational retreat for Midlands families, pocketed $5,000.
“It’s unbelievable. It brings tears to your eyes, really, seeing what these folks do,” Moore said. “These are the people who do the hard work in our community. It’s incredible to see, and I hope they can use (the money) and I hope it goes to continued good.”
Voters initially nominated more than 100 charities, and The Moore. Co whittled the field to five before the public voted again on the donation distribution.
“We went through as a group and talked about each one and tried to touch one part of all the needs in the community,” Moore said. “We feel like we hit the spectrum — children, women, social issues. It was a little difficult. Everybody wanted to give everyone something, but at the end, we had to decide.”
The money was donated a day after the Fitzgeralds closed on the house at 3317 Duncan St. in the Shandon neighborhood. Local contractors, construction companies, roofers and mortgage brokers, among other service providers, worked on the project pro bono, and online voters determined design choices such as the color scheme for kitchen cabinets and tile patterns for the master bathroom.
“This exceeds anything I could have ever wished for,” Katie Fitzgerald said. “My cheeks hurt from smiling. We’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this, to have a home together and put down roots, and we’re just excited to be here, to get here and to start building our home.”
Lominack, who taught Latin at Dreher High School, previously worked as an attorney who represented men on death row. He co-founded Achieve Columbia six years ago with fellow lawyer Laura Young to address the negative effects of childhood trauma he saw in both of his careers.
“Achieve Columbia was set up to work with not just students but also their families to help mitigate the effects of trauma and chronic stress and poverty so that those students would be more successful in school,” he said. “We’ve also provided a lot of support to the teachers, because they don’t have the time or the bandwidth to address all those issues, nor should they. We’ve been able to work very collaboratively with the teachers to give them more space to do what they’re supposed to do, which is to be in the classroom and teach.”
The program begins intervening around the seventh grade and works with students and their families until they graduate, Lominack said.
“We’re very proud of our project. We’ve grown every year,” he said. “We’ve got kids who are in college now. … Achieve Columbia has only survived because of local support. That’s been our big focus. I am still shocked at how many people every year continue to give money to us, and to have something like The Moore Co. do this is just beyond words for us.”
Columbia Regional Business Report staff writer Renee Sexton contributed to this article.