Before 2005, the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra (GIYO) existed simply as the shared dream of a handful of people.
Without instruments, musicians, or music, the group put forth a call to the community. Eileen Humphlett, representing the Eugenia Price/Joyce K. Blackburn Charitable Foundation, was among the first to support the new orchestra.
“It was like a leap of faith on the part of Eileen to validate us,” said JoAnn Davis, chair of GIYO’s Musician Development Committee.
With no strings attached, the grant just had “a directional sentence: ‘to support the important opportunities being provided to the student musicians of Glynn County,’” Davis said.
The foundation’s annual grants have allowed GIYO to bring in professional musicians for master classes; develop an instructional week for high school musicians at the College of Coastal Georgia; fund Haydn Ensemble; offer STRING-on!, an outreach program for fifth graders; and establish Symphonette, GIYO’s intermediate strings orchestra. During the 2018-2019 school year, GIYO reached more than 130 students with private and small group lessons and/or membership in the Haydn Ensemble, Symphonette, and formal full orchestra.
“Each of these programs, originally funded by the Price/Blackburn Foundation, have become permanent parts of our yearly calendar,” Davis said. “As I reflect on its impact, I realize that the Price/Blackburn Foundation’s gifts have allowed GIYO to be innovative and to expand our programs by providing both encouragement and money.”
Established in 1997, the foundation was conceived of prior to Price’s death in 1996 as a way to continue the authors’ legacy of philanthropy.
Price had an established writing career when she and Blackburn, a biographer and children’s author, came across came across St. Simons Island and Christ Church in a AAA guidebook on the way to a 1961 booksigning event in Florida. As they walked through the cemetery at Christ Church, Price became fascinated with the people buried there. She and Blackburn researched the Dodge and Gould families for years, and she based her St. Simons Trilogy on the lives of these real people. They fell in love with St. Simons, made the move from Chicago, and more books followed.
“It was important that we could establish something that could perpetuate their legacy and keep introducing people to their work,” said Humphlett, who was the former executive director of the Price/Blackburn Foundation and an assistant to Price and Blackburn.
In life, Price was a devoted supporter of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. The foundation continues her efforts by providing annual donations and was a major donor to the campaign to fund the construction of the A.W. Jones Heritage Center, which opened in 2008, according to Mimi Rogers, curator at the Coastal Georgia Historical Society.
“(The Heritage Center) has greatly enhanced our ability to serve the public and preserve our collections,” Rogers said. “I am sure that Ms. Price and Ms. Blackburn would have been delighted with this expansion of services. The center welcomes thousands of visitors to the lighthouse they loved and is a cultural asset for the island they called home.”
Over time, the foundation transitioned to supporting more local causes. Annual contributions from the foundation to the Brunswick and St. Simons public libraries “have allowed the libraries to supplement their book purchases with additional titles for the past decade or more,” said Benjamin Bryson, Marshes of Glynn Libraries assistant director. “Additionally, the St. Simons Library was able to use funds from the foundation to purchase furnishings in the library’s children’s area during the St. Simons Casino renovation in 2006.”
The foundation has provided support to The Island Players’ Scholarship Fund, which rewards young people for “significant participation in Island Players programs and presentations,” according to Al Ledingham, Island Players life member and past board member, president, and treasurer. “A number of recipients have gone into professional careers in show business.”
This year, the foundation became part of the Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation, a move to ensure its stability and continuity. The largest institutional grantmaker in this region, according to president and CEO Paul White, the Coastal Georgia Foundation is a tax-exempt public foundation that manages over $19.4 million in assets and awarded over $2.8 million in grants last year.
Renamed the “Eugenia Price/Joyce K. Blackburn Charitable Fund,” it’s still supported by royalties from book sales – the fund holds the copyrights for more than 50 titles – but it’s now managed by the Coastal Georgia Foundation. In 19 years, the private foundation made over $327,000 in charitable grants, according to Humphlett.
“From the outside, it will look almost identical because we’ve retained the relationships with people who knew the authors, their passion for this place, their philanthropic priorities. We just took over the administrative responsibilities,” White said. “Our obligation is to learn as much from them while we’re engaged with them so that we can carry on their philanthropic priorities. Their number one priority was that those assets continue to be managed by coastal Georgians for the benefit of coastal Georgians.”
“I’m excited about the partnership with the Coastal Georgia Foundation,” said Humphlett, now an advisor to the Price/Blackburn Fund. “I’m happy it’s still focused in the coastal Georgia area. That would be very important to Genie and Joyce. They would be excited to know their legacy will live on in perpetuity. They both loved becoming coastal Georgians.”