Gregory Barron is legally blind, a double below-the knee amputee and a kidney dialysis patient. But the Plantersville resident doesn't let his disabilities get in his way as he works to help local nonprofit organizations in a unique way.
He started the Gregory A. Barron Foundation and launched a GoFundMe page, which both focus on raising money for these groups: Miss Ruby's Kids, an early-literacy program; the Salvation Army, Georgetown; Habitat for Humanity, Georgetown County, which helps people build homes; Assisted Rides, which provides rides for people with disabilities; Black River United Way, Georgetown; the Red Cross, Carolina Lowcountry Chapter; Tara Hall Home for Boys, a long-term residential school for neglected, troubled and abused boys; AMIkids, formerly the Marine Institute, which serves males aged 12-15; and the Georgetown County Boys Mentor Group.
Barron, a 53-year-old Choppee High School graduate and former information technology worker who has been on full disability since November 2005, said neither he nor his foundation will receive funds from the donations made on the GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/support-georgetown-charities.
"The goal of this fundraising effort is to support the health and welfare of the families in Georgetown County who need assistance," Barron said.
He said he has based his foundation on the model of social entrepreneurship, a way of using a business model to help social programs, and 100 percent of all donations made will support Georgetown charities.
“It’s like the concept for Adopt-a-Highway,“ Barron said. “Along with the Foundation’s board members, I work to discover, select and publicize charities doing good work for families in the Georgetown city and county area. The Foundation then uses the GoFundMe page to make the rest of the world aware of the charity working on behalf of people in (the area) through various social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.”
Barron, who is not affiliated with any of the nonprofit groups on the GoFundMe page, further explained that “the charities that have their own websites can be connected with the public directly. Charities without a web presence can make their information public through entries on the Gregory A. Barron Foundation’s webpage.”
Barron said the campaign will last at least six months and will be completed before the end of the calendar year. The process of selecting charities is scheduled to continue until the Easter holiday, he said. After that, emphasis will be on the dual process of public relations and fundraising.
Barron said he came up with the idea of starting a foundation and then a GoFundMe page, after he was seeking rides from the Plantersville area to Georgetown and couldn't find any.
"I started thinking what I can do to help raise money for that one effort," he said. "Then, I thought there might be quite a few charities I can help."
Joyce Averils, a life coach who started her own company, Her RICH Life, has served as a friend and mentor to Barron. She described him as "very self-motivated, determined, kind man who loves people."
"I think it’s a great idea because I know social entrepreneurship is a big deal right now and I think it would be something great to bring to Georgetown County," she said. "It is a way to make a difference in the community."
Annette Perreault, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, Georgetown County, said Barron's idea to raise money for local nonprofit groups is a wonderful one.
"Certainly, the groups he has listed are worthwhile organizations in the area," she said. "We are very thankful for any donations that help us build homes for people in need."
Jim Dumm, executive director for Tara Hall, agreed.
"We will be appreciative of any donations that come from this," he said.
Lynn Ford, a friend of Barron's who is helping him with writing and media contacts, said he is "a fascinating man who is dealing with numerous challenges and yet has an overwhelming desire to give back."
"He doesn’t let his disabilities affect his desire to give back," Ford said. "When I talk to him, I hear joy in his voice because he is so focused on helping others."