Originally created 02/24/03

Students, Sanford's in-laws donate to Governor's Mansion



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- When fourth-graders at a private Greenville school heard Gov. Mark Sanford didn't have enough money to keep the Governor's Mansion open, they headed straight for their piggy banks and gathered up other loose change.

It didn't take long for the 88 Southside Christian School students and parents to reach their goal of collecting 100 pounds of change - $416.66 - that was donated to a fund to help pay the operating expenses of the mansion until a new fiscal year begins in July.

The students had met Sanford earlier this year during a tour of the Statehouse, which "made a huge impression," said Lisa Stevens, a parent of one of the students.

"They have established a relationship now in the political world in the sense that they have received something and they have given something back," she said.

Other donors to The Mansion Fund, including Sanford's in-law and the law firm of former Gov. Robert E. McNair, have paid or promised more than $100,000 in the last week, The Greenville News reported Sunday.

"I think the list is representative of those people, many of whom I know, who understand the significance of keeping the mansion open," said John Rainey, chairman of the state Board of Economic Advisors and coordinator of the fund.

The mansion is an important industrial recruiting venue, "in addition to being a symbol of the stability and authority of the executive branch of government," he said. "I think the people who are contributing see that."

Many of the donors are from the Upstate, including the developers of the Cliffs at Glassy, Jim B. Anthony and Darrell Whitaker, and the CEO of Extended Stay America, George Dean and his wife, Susan Johnson, of Spartanburg.

Among those donating $5,000, what Sanford set as the limit for contributions, were Norman Arnold and his wife, Gerry Sue, of Columbia, who recently gave the University of South Carolina $10 million; Gayle Averyt, chairman emeritus of Colonial Life Insurance Co.; Laura Hewitt, whose husband chairs Charleston's Spoleto festival; Harry Butler, a Georgetown developer; the Liberty Corporation of Greenville; the McNair Law Firm; Blue Cross and Blue Shield; and the South Carolina Manufacturer's Alliance.

Also donating $5,000 each were John and Susan Sullivan, Jenny Sanford's parents, who live in Hobe Sound, Fla., and Rainey, chairman of the board of Easlan Capital of Greenville, a real estate development firm.

The fourth-graders' pennies, nickels and dimes weren't the smallest donations. Rainey said a widow sent $20 with a touching letter.

"I wish it could be more but I'm a widow on a fixed income," Rainey said she wrote. "I hope more residents of this state will respond with donations. Thank you for practicing what you preach."

Sanford raised the prospect two weeks ago of closing the mansion to the public because of a lack of operating funds.

He said the mansion was facing a $150,000 shortfall, but his wife, Jenny, a former investment banker, said $120,000 would keep the facility open until July.

Rainey said he expects the fund to collect at total of $120,000 this week.

A Columbia milling company also has donated grits and other breakfast products to last the first family until July.

The 147-year-old former officers quarters for a state military school has been home to the state's governors in addition to serving as a public museum. It is filled with antiques, governors' portraits and other items that preserve the state's history and culture.

Some 25,000 people have visited the mansion since it reopened in June following a $5.6 million renovation.