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Jan. 14, 2021

woman helps load gallons of milk at Harvest Hope Food Bank Hover image

Last year was full of “unprecedented times” and an “abundance of caution.” While most aspects of our daily lives changed when the pandemic began, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has continued to support the communities it serves. 

Although the pandemic affected the ability of many employees to give time to local organizations, that didn’t stop them from continuing to give back. 

Here’s a snapshot of how BlueCross and its employees invested in South Carolina in 2020.

 

1. Supporting the American Diabetes Association 

Employees donated $11,563 to the American Diabetes Association to continue research and advocacy to improve the health of South Carolinians with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 

2. Helping with the Governor’s Cup 

The popular road race the Governor’s Cup chose February to conduct its 2020 event. The timing allowed 52 employees to volunteer at water and aid stations. 

3. Delivering meals to the front line 

In the early days of the pandemic, BlueCross recognized the stress and strain on essential workers at local hospitals. The company coordinated meal deliveries through locally owned restaurants to Prisma Health, Providence Hospital and the Lexington Medical Center. Nearly 1,000 healthy meals were provided to medical and operations staff at the hospitals. 

4. Feeding those in need 

Employees donated almost $9,500 or 47,463 meals to Harvest Hope Food Bank. Since 2005, BlueCross employees have provided more than 547,000 meals to the local nonprofit that addresses feeding the community. 

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to challenge our efforts to support nonprofits that are also being forced to find ways to remain viable. I am humbled by the generosity of BlueCross employees who gave despite a strain on food supply chains and not being able to give as easily at our building locations. We exceeded our goal by 157 percent in just 30 days. Many of those being served have never used a food bank and find themselves without other options these days. I’m proud that our employees continue to step up to lift up their community,” says Elizabeth Nkuo Johnson, director of community relations with BlueCross. 

5. Providing PPE

As a result of COVID-19, items such as medical masks and gloves were in short supply. BlueCross and the Charleston County Medical Society collaborated and provided 300,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to independent physicians and medical practices in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville. BlueCross employees volunteered to distribute the PPE at the different sites.

“Physicians’ patients are our members and physicians are our colleagues. Helping improve access to PPE supplies for front-line staff was one way we could tangibly demonstrate our support to independent physicians in our state and show them that we care,” says Scott Graves, president of the private business division at BlueCross. 

6. Lifting each other up 

During the early days of the pandemic, employees continued volunteering from their home offices. They described checking on and caring for their neighbors, sewing masks, fostering shelter animals, grocery shopping for the elderly and medically fragile, writing notes of encouragement and donating money where needed most. 

7. Giving lifesaving blood 

Employees donated more than 300 units of blood, plasma and platelets to the American Red Cross in 2020. These donations were made despite the blood drives not being held at BlueCross buildings. Instead, employees sought out blood drive locations near their homes. The company also gave $100,000 to the American Red Cross of South Carolina to support COVID-19 relief efforts. Funds helped offset challenges to the organization’s mission of collecting blood due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Blood shortages affect us all,” says David Pankau, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. “At BlueCross, we have a long and proud association with the American Red Cross of South Carolina. Through this donation, we hope to support its efforts to keep blood available for all South Carolinians who need it and encourage other businesses and individuals in supporting the Red Cross of South Carolina by hosting a blood drive, donating blood or making a financial donation.”

One blood donation can potentially save three lives. 

8. Supporting senior citizens 

The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation and Corporate Charitable Giving joined forces and contributed to Senior Resources’ statewide emergency senior nutrition program. Through its support, 346,300 meals were provided to meet the needs of vulnerable citizens. BlueCross’ food service department donated and delivered 5,700 lunches to Christopher Towers in Columbia, too.

According to Pankau, the health insurer and foundation were compelled to contribute because of the immediacy of the need and the growing scale of the problem.

"BlueCross and the BlueCross Foundation have long histories of supporting organizations that serve our state's most vulnerable citizens. This was a meaningful action we could take that would meet an unmet need and help people's lives in basic and necessary ways," he says.

9. Cheering by mail 

Employees did their part in supporting Senior Resources’ clients with 375 hand-written letters of encouragement. 

10. Feeding the community

BlueCross contributed to the One SC Fund for food assistance statewide managed by Central Carolina Community Foundation. In March 2020 the fund was activated to provide COVID-19 Response grants to support nonprofits that are providing direct services in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Thanks to many generous donors throughout the state and nation, the fund has distributed over $5.2 million in grants to nonprofits to support disaster recovery projects in every SC county. Funding from BlueCross provided seven grants to organizations that address food insecurity in South Carolina, including Feeding the Carolinas, Eat Smart Move More SC, Food Share SC and several food banks. 

11. Addressing disaster

In April, 25 tornados touched down across South Carolina from the coast to the foothills. BlueCross supported disaster relief with an additional donation to pay for temporary shelter and meals.

12. Investing in HBCUs

While COVID-19 has affected all schools, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are among the hardest hit. BlueCross made a significant financial investment in the state’s five private, four-year HBCUs: Allen University and Benedict College in Columbia; Claflin University in Orangeburg; Morris College in Sumter; and Voorhees College in Denmark. Funding benefited more than 6,300 students and the faculty that serve them. 

“It has been well reported that the coronavirus revealed our minority communities encounter profound disparities in many ways,” says Pankau. “At BlueCross, we believe healthy communities are defined not only by access to health care services, but also by the fostering of opportunity that comes from education, employment and the potential for an improved quality of life for everyone.”

man and woman with backpacks hike on Palmetto Trail Hover image

13. Slowing the spread 

The public service campaign “Slow the Spread” was a collaboration among BlueCross, the South Carolina Hospital Association and the South Carolina Medical Association. The message that aired on TV and social media provided information to the public about how to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the July 4 holiday. 

14. Building trails

This year, more people turned to hiking for a safe way to explore the great outdoors while social distancing. In South Carolina, there are more than 400 hiking trails. And the number of family-friendly trails is growing, thanks in part to a new grant from the BlueCross Foundation. Ten new kids’ trails are being created across the state. The first trail opened in June and is located on the Palmetto Trail along the Peak to Prosperity Passage that begins in Fairfield County. The program is part of a new nationwide network of TRACK Trails aimed at increasing youth hiking. 

“We are proud to support the initial TRACK Trails in South Carolina,” says Erika Kirby, executive director of the Foundation. “Kids benefit from being physically active. Only half of South Carolina’s youth get regular exercise. We see the benefit of this partnership to promote physical activity, which can establish lifelong habits that can help decrease the risk for chronic diseases, including diabetes.”

15. Giving locally 

During Midlands Gives, an 18-hour online giving event organized by Central Carolina Community Foundation to raise awareness and money for local nonprofits, BlueCross employees gave to 208 organizations for a total of $32,708. BlueCross has donated to the efforts of Midlands Gives since 2016. This year’s event yielded the largest total giving since its inception. 

16. Continuing a tradition of giving 

As if they didn’t do enough this year, employees stepped up during the company’s annual United Way campaign, raising $2,709,625. The company had 58 percent of employees give to the campaign. Funds support the nonprofit's continued fight for improved health, education and financial stability for everyone in the Midlands. 

BlueCross employee smiles with gifts and wrapping paper Hover image

17. Supporting Research

BlueCross supported an initiative by a research organization, XPRIZE, to create a COVID test that would result in faster results. BlueCross corporate charitable giving also contributed to the AZRC’s COVID-19 antibody testing. 

18. Responding to Need

BlueCross corporate charitable giving contributed to the United Way of the Midlands’ COVID-19 response fund. Funding supported local partner organizations on the ground providing immediate essential needs including food, financial assistance and housing, as well as services for people experiencing mental illness.

19. Confronting Diabetes  

The pandemic has put a spotlight on health disparities faced by underserved populations. But long before this coronavirus, South Carolinians were plagued by another epidemic: diabetes. More than 500,000 adults in the state have diagnosed diabetes and an additional 120,000 are unaware that they have the disease. This year, BlueCross announced the launch of Diabetes Free SC (DFSC), a long-term, multi-million-dollar initiative dedicated to improving health outcomes involving diabetes across the Palmetto State. As part of the initiative, the foundation awarded $11.6 million in new grants to Prisma Health, the Medical University of South Carolina, The Alliance for a Healthier Generation and FoodShare South Carolina.

20. Spreading Holiday Cheer

Employees closed out 2020 by joining the Families Helping Families initiative during the holiday season. Over the last six years, more than 1,200 employees have adopted more than 1,100 families. In 2020, employees adopted 111 families. 

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