Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bank Of America Donates $100,000

BEAUFORT, S.C. — The Bank of America Charitable Foundation has donated $100,000 to The Penn Center of St. Helena Island The funds will increase the Center's capacity to provide educational and cultural programming, preserve the Gullah culture, and meet the needs of Beaufort and surrounding communities.

The Penn Center 1862 Circle was created to recognize national leaders who embody the spirit of Penn Center and who serve as advocates for its preservation and sustainability. Congressman James E. Clyburn, the sponsor of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Act and Courtney Siceloff, former Director of Penn Center operations from 1948-1969, were both honored as 2007 inductees.

"Bank of America is pleased to work with Penn Center to promote and preserve the history of the Sea Islands," said Wilkerson. "Along with inductees Congressman Clyburn and Mr. Siceloff, we are proud to help Penn Center capture these important aspects of our culture and in turn, have the opportunity to share it with our associates, customers and community.

Founded in 1862 by northern abolitionists and missionaries, the Penn School was one of the first schools to offer an academic education to newly freed slaves. After the school closed its doors in 1948, Penn Center reorganized to focus on issues ranging in scope from daycare and healthcare, to social justice and economic development for African-Americans. In the early 1960s, it was also used as a training and meeting site for major Civil Rights leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young.

"Like most African-American institutions in underserved communities, Penn Center has faced an ongoing challenge of raising funds to maintain our operation," said Bernie Wright, Executive Director, Penn Center. "This generous support from Bank of America is a tremendous boon for not just our organization but for our community."

Penn Center has remained a major educational resource for African-Americans and a national resource for historical preservation. In 1974, the Department of the Interior designated the Penn Center 50-acre campus as a National Historic Landmark District, one of only three in South Carolina. Today, the Center continues to implement four major programs: Land Use and Environmental Education, the Program for Academic and Cultural Enrichment, the Early Childhood Program, and the History and Culture Program.

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