January 6, 2022

Forging Brighter Futures in the Lowcountry

Since our founding in 2007, South Atlantic Bank has worked constantly to advance our communities and the individuals and businesses who call the coast home.

Our entire team keeps busy donating their time, energy, and resources to various initiatives throughout our footprint, but one individual stands out for her work with multiple organizations. 

Mollie Sandman, who serves as vice president and retail business development officer for our Bluffton office, has served on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Bluffton for three years and recently became President. The Board performs in several capacities—primarily fundraising, event planning, working with donor bases, and expanding the Boys and Girls program to enrich more children’s lives in the area.

Mollie described how in Bluffton’s Club, “Forty percent of our kids are at the poverty line or below, which is absolutely astounding when you think about the area where we live. We generally think of ourselves as a relatively wealthy area; we’ve got loads of gated communities, we’ve got loads of million-dollar houses. And to think of kids at the poverty level, it’s shocking.”

On the ground level, the Boys and Girls Club has both full and part-time staff, as well as retired teachers and other volunteers that work to provide necessary resources for kids that need a little extra help. They expand on skills taught in and out of school to prepare them for the real world and introduce them to an array of potential career paths for their future. “They get this worldview that they wouldn’t have had any other way,” Sandman explained. 

In the same spirit, Mollie was asked to participate with a local group, BlacQuity, that seeks to elevate, empower, and promote local black-owned businesses through a program focused on education and mentorship. She participated as the banking and finance speaker in BlacQuity’s pilot program, and continues to find ways to partner and provide resources to an underserved market. 

At a Jasper County Chamber event, Mollie connected with Sheree Darien, executive director and founder of a group with a similar mission, Second Chance CDFI Bank. Second Chance is a Community Development Financial Institution, which means they are fully dedicated to funding local businesses that are traditionally left out of banking and investing options. CDFIs spark job growth and retention in underserved, low-income markets that need them most. Second Chance CDFI offers a robust 6-week program that helps minority entrepreneurs start or excel in their businesses, so they can eventually obtain funding through a traditional financial institution.

Mollie knew the founders of BlacQuity needed to connect with Second Chance CDFI to help with lending and grant-writing. Excited for this new opportunity, she enlisted the help of the bank’s compliance vice president and director, who handles Community Reinvestment Act affairs. 

“I’m blown away at the scope of the program,” Mollie explained, “we’re talking about literally hundreds of business owners that are looking for mentoring, education, resources, funding, all of it. And so South Atlantic Bank is actually in the process of becoming more involved with the program directly.”

Mollie recognizes the hurdles that are often in place for minorities who are looking for commercial lending. Most financial institutions are generally looking for two years of concrete finances, which is why Second Chance CDFI and BlacQuity work to strategize, plan and eventually get people down a pipeline to a financial institution for funding. 

Mollie explained that “South Atlantic Bank plans to be a part of the initial push to get these entrepreneurs started, walk beside them throughout their process, and establish a relationship and become their financial partner.” 

“What we’ve experienced,” she continued, “I can’t even describe it. It’s like some have just never been treated as respected business owners. We’ve been so fortunate to come in and get speaking opportunities, sponsorship opportunities, and to become visible in part of our community that we were not present at all. It’s a really, really big deal.”

BlacQuity and Second Chance both coach participants on maintaining continuous progress rather than offering short-term solutions. 

Mollie said, “They’re not just going to throw money at everybody that asks for it. They’re going to put you through some training, equip you with some resources, and point you in the right direction. We’re all working to help these people become successful and to have access to things that they wouldn’t normally have had access to, or even have known what to ask for.”

For now, the bank’s commitment to Blacquity is providing sound financial advice and education through seminars. 

“We are hoping for South Atlantic to become more involved in the process of moving forward with these businesses. We want to be a resource for these business owners, to be a welcoming face. We want to treat people in a better way than they’ve been treated in the past,” Mollie explained. 

“We want to be a presence in the community. We want to try to make good things happen. And we’re trying to figure out our level of involvement. So we’re not just trying to stick our toes in the water, we’re really trying to make some headway, make connections, make people become involved,” she continued, “and it’s really fun to watch somebody really get excited because their experience is not what they were expecting—it’s better.”

This year, South Atlantic Bank was a title sponsor for the Bluffton MLK Observance Committee‘s annual Juneteenth celebration. We stood with our community to amplify the voices of our neighbors and reflect on all that they have overcome. As the only bank in attendance, our team made inroads into this community by making ourselves open and available to new relationships.

“It’s an exciting thing to look for out-of-the-box ways to engage with your community. If that happens, I think that really, truly amazing things happen. I do think we’re at a crossroads as a bank of really looking for more ways to make a meaningful difference in all of our communities, and I think that’s a pretty cool thing.”

Click the respective link if you want to learn more about or get involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Bluffton, BlacQuity, or Second Chance CDFI

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