Reaching for the Stars

The T & C Star Foundation aims to shine light on potential.

By Kathy Borsuk

When you live in a small community with limited financial resources, it can be disheartening to witness, first-hand, the constellation of untapped potential. The talented artist who can’t purchase supplies; the disease awareness group that must focus on fundraising rather than public outreach; an innovative recycling program rich in enthusiasm, but cash-poor; the motivated student who wants to be a doctor, but can’t afford college tuition. For these “stars” to shoot to the heavens and shine, they need a “booster rocket” and help removing impediments from their path. The Turks & Caicos Star Foundation was created to do just that.

TCI Star Foundation shines light on potential

Charlotte D’Arcy Donaldson first came to the Turks & Caicos Islands in 1986. I recall the photos of South Caicos she sent me to use in a long-ago issue of Times of the Islands. These early visits triggered her concern for the country’s people and an eagerness to share her gifts and talents, including her long-time love of arts and crafts. From 2002–2004, she taught a series of art classes in TCI elementary schools and an art workshop for teachers, for which she found a USA foundation to distribute $50,000 in art supplies to local schoolchildren. Since 2000, Charlotte has been a part-time TCI resident, and realized there was a need for a deeper level of commitment. “I saw that many people and the smaller, locally based charitable groups had to spend much of their time and energy raising funds, not fulfilling their goals or dreams. I reasoned that if there was an umbrella fund-raising organization—that focused solicitation efforts outside of the country and distributed resources within the TCI—it would allow more people and groups to reach their potential.”
With this in mind, Charlotte created the non-profit Turks & Caicos Star Foundation (TCSF), with the broad mandate to “provide financial support to persons, schools, libraries and other charitable and cultural organizations aimed at improving awareness of and access to Arts, Health & Sports, Wildlife (creatures of all kinds: domestic, wild, oceanlife), Education and Environment in the Turks & Caicos Islands.” To be considered for funding, applicants must propose projects or activities that will increase learning opportunities or enhance access to or knowledge of and skills in areas in the five “star points.”
Charlotte coordinated the initial set-up in 2008 of the office, staff, website and marketing materials, including logo t-shirts and caps. The idea is that grant applicants describe their projects and needs via a comprehensive application form and, once approved, these needs become known to potential donors via the foundation’s website, www.TurksandCaicosStarFoundation.org. In this way, donors can support projects that appeal to their specific interests OR donate to a general fund by becoming a member based on their contribution, in categories ranging from $20 to $50,000. The TCSF Board of Trustees reviews and approves requests and allocates funding.
David Fenimore is TCSF’s director and bluntly describes the unusual situation the fledgling foundation finds itself in. “We are genuinely lacking in grant requests! People think it is too good to be true, and don’t bother taking the first step forward. Our goal is to solicit a variety of projects and needs, so that potential donors have a wide selection of opportunities from which to choose. We spend much of our time searching for budding applicants, who possess the drive and determination to follow through. We’re here to give.”
Fenimore adds that TCSF is not designed to provide for basic needs such as housing, food, clothing or medical expenses, but instead seeks to encourage people, organizations and programs that will improve the country’s long-term cultural, environmental and educational atmosphere. Ideas described in their brochure range from creating public murals, encouraging health education in the schools, preserving local marine life, providing computers to schoolchildren and creating more public parks. The nearly $50,000 in grants and donations already provided include funding for books and library materials at the Enid Capron Primary School in Providenciales, college tuition for a local student, tuitions at Provo Primary, support for the Provo AIDS Subcommittee, Provo Hockey League and Wesleyan Methodist Church, a loan for an industrial sewing machine to an artist and gifts to the Provo Children’s Home. Following its money-saving move to Chalk Sound, TCSF also donated all its furniture, a TV and office supplies to the Turks & Caicos National Museum’s campaign headquarters in Provo. Requests currently listed on the website include scholarships, monies to create an after-school children’s art club and funding for an outreach home nutrition program for the elderly.
Another issue, not unsurprising in the wake of the allegations of political corruption that still haunt the country, is the Star Foundation’s credibility. Fenimore explains, “Folks are wary of contributing funds without a clear idea of what they are being used for and how they are accounted for.” A quick Google search of the Star Foundation’s founder or reading of her resume makes it clear that she is well-meaning philanthropist, with no reason to raise money except to give back. As well, each grant application is carefully vetted, with applicants required to submit financial reports detailing how the funds were spent. TCSF also has access to a supporting 501 (c) 3 foundation, Turks and Caicos Foundation, allowing donors to this and other TCI charities to receive a tax deduction in the USA.
Future plans include raising public awareness of not only the organization, but the need. Fenimore, whose Grand Turk-based family has deep roots in the hospitality industry says, “Many tourists just see the glitz and glamor of Grace Bay or the cruise ship port and think everyone who lives here is wealthy. We want to change that impression with information and fund-raisers targeted to visitors and philantropists who have only heard of the Islands.” This will involve corporate partnerships with local businesses. “We envision bringing in well-known artists, authors and actors to do programs and workshops that would appeal to tourists . . . if local resorts, restaurants, tour operators and the like could donate rooms, meals, transportation and tours, that would go a long way.”
The most recent event took place in late May 2012, when professional squash players Naji and Niamat Khan came to town to teach some of their best moves to local players. All fees collected for workshops were contributed to the Star Foundation, thanks to the generosity of Graceway Sports Centre, and the week culminated in a demonstration match and social fund-raiser.
I believe that God puts dreams in our heads that utilize the gifts and talents He so freely grants to us, in order to make our world a better place. He also can be counted on to make a way for dreams to come true. It could just be that the Turks & Caicos Star Foundation can light the way for you.

Visit www.TurksAndCaicosStarFoundation.org or call 649 347 9254 or 781 315 7600 (USA) for more information, to apply for a grant or to become a sponsor or donate funds. The TCSF’s new office location is 411 Chalk Sound Drive, Providenciales.

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