Greenville volunteer and philanthropist Minor Mickel Shaw learned the importance of giving back to the community at an early age. She learned it from her parents; father Buck Mickel, who owned Daniel Construction Co., and mother Minor Mickel, the first female chairwoman of the board at Furman University.
Shaw began her service to Greenville in 1979 with significant involvement in organizations that included the South Carolina Children’s Theatre, Junior League of Greenville, the United Way of Greenville, Ronald McDonald House and Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. She went on to help launch the Roper Mountain Science Center and has chaired the United Way of Greenville, United Way of South Carolina, Community Foundation of Greenville and the Urban League of the Upstate. Shaw also has been inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame.
GSA Business Report wanted insight on Shaw’s commitment to philanthropy, as well as what she believes still needs to be done to create a strong and vibrant community.
GSA: How did you get started in philanthropy?
Shaw: Philanthropy has always been very important to my family. My parents felt strongly that it was everyone’s responsibility to give back to the community, both in time and in resources. They were wonderful examples for me, for my brothers and for our entire family. I started volunteering as a teenager through service organizations, particularly through the Girl Scouts and realized how important it was to give back to our community. I have been fortunate to have been involved in philanthropic organizations like the United Way, the Community Foundation, the Junior League, the Daniel - Mickel Foundation and the Hollingsworth Funds which have all given me the opportunity to try to make a difference in our community.
GSA: How can a CEO or business owner get themselves or their company/employees involved in philanthropic work, if they’re not already?
Shaw: There are so many vehicles in our community to facilitate involvement in philanthropic work and activities. Certainly, the United Way and the Community Foundation are two of the most helpful organizations to help people get involved. The Greenville Chamber is also tremendously helpful to business owners or CEOs. I believe it is helpful for the CEO or the business owner to get employees involved also. A company will be much more successful in its philanthropy if the business owner and the employees are passionate about the organizations they support. Some companies have a company foundation which their employees manage and support financially. The United Way offers many opportunities for companies and their employees to be involved in helping our community.
GSA: How would you say philanthropic activity benefits communities?
Shaw: Philanthropy is critical to building a strong community. Our nonprofit agencies need community support, both from volunteers and financial resources. Without the infrastructure provided by our nonprofit agencies, we would not have the critical structure that makes a city a “community.” It is critical to try to help everyone in our community have the chance to succeed and to have a better life. That can only happen with the support of philanthropy - whether through our nonprofit agencies and organizations, our churches or through our individual gifts of time and resources. Greenville is very fortunate to have a caring and extremely philanthropic community. That is one of the characteristics that distinguishes Greenville from other communities. We come together to try to help each other and to try to address community needs. We have always had strong public-private partnerships and that can only happen through strong philanthropy.
GSA: What philanthropic projects or activities make you most proud?
Shaw: I have had the great opportunity to have been involved with many organizations in our community. It has been exciting to see organizations like the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities become a year-round school and help young people achieve their dreams and their potential. It was an honor to be involved in a project that has made such a difference in so many lives. Of course, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities would not exist without the vision and passion of Virginia Uldrick. She instilled her passion in those of us who helped create the year-round school. I have also enjoyed seeing the Roper Mountain Science Center develop from one small telescope to a tremendous educational institution teaching science to all our young people. RMSC reaches thousands of young people every year and helps instill a curiosity about science in young minds. I think it is critical for us to provide a quality education to all our young people and to give them the tools they need to succeed for their future.
I am also so pleased with the great work done by Community Works Carolina. Deborah McKetty and her team are outstanding and are making a difference in helping people in our community have better lives for themselves and their families. Community Works Carolina started out as a new agency called the Greenville Housing Fund and has developed into one of the most successful and important agencies in our community.
I think it is important to try to connect people and organizations and to leverage our resources as much as possible. It is exciting to see those connections make a difference in peoples’ lives. Nurse-Family Partnership and the Benefit Bank are great examples of leveraging our resources to help those who are most in need in our community.
GSA: What do you still want to accomplish?
Shaw: I am very concerned about the lack of economic mobility for many people in our community. We are a wonderful community, but our poverty rate is too high. We have too many people with inadequate housing, and we do not have the housing stock we need to address this problem. Fortunately, we do have an excellent task force working on this issue and a commitment from our city and county councils. I think we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in this area. I am also concerned about the workforce development issues for our community. We have many job openings and not enough skilled workers to fill the jobs. We are working on this issue through Greenville Tech, our school district and other groups, but this is a serious issue for our future. It also relates to the higher unemployment rates in our poorest neighborhoods as well as the disparity of income in our community. It is critical to the future of Greenville to have an educated workforce that can attract the businesses we need in our community to make sure we continue to prosper.
It has been about 12 years since we developed a community vision. During those 12 years, we have had tremendous changes in Greenville; we have grown rapidly and we have attracted wonderful citizens to our community. It might be time for us to think about coming together to update our community vision or, at the very least, talk about the future of our community. We have a great community, and we have always benefited from great vision, ingenuity and entrepreneurship. I hope that will always continue, but we can never take our great community for granted. We have to all work together to make sure we will be a great community in the future.