Dr. Craig Burnette Receives The Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change

March 27, 2013

SPARTANBURG, SC – March 27, 2013 – Dr. Craig Burnette is known throughout the community and thenation as a leading expert in the area of homelessness, devoting his life andenergy to assisting homeless veterans in need.  On Tuesday, March 26, 2013, Burnette received The Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change atThe Spartanburg County Foundation’s Annual Meeting. 

The Mary L. Thomas Award is named after Mary Thomas, thechief operating officer of The Spartanburg County Foundation.  This award is a legacy from Thomas’s 2006recognition as the recipient of the Council on Foundation’s Robert W. Scrivner Award for CreativeGrantmaking. Upon receiving the Scrivner award and $10,000 cash prize,Thomas used these funds as seed money to open The Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change Fundand started a similar recognition program in Spartanburg. Through the supportof numerous individuals and the Spartanburg community, Thomas’s initial gift of$10,000 grew to exceed $100,000, which has permanently endowed the award. Theaward annually honors individuals who, like Mary, are community leaders,innovators, and contributors to positive community change.

 This year’srecipient, Dr. Burnette, served in the U.S. Army as an infantry platoon leader,company commander, and military adviser. In addition to connecting with veterans through his military experience,Burnette has served veterans in many capacities, including spending 28 yearswith the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, overseeing the planning,development and implementation of Project CHALENG, a nationwide program thatannually assesses the needs of homeless veterans in 170 cities and towns acrossthe United States and then develops local action plans to meet thoseneeds. 

“Craig Burnette is the epitome of the advocate forveterans,” said Michal Chessner, executive director of the Upstate HomelessCoalition.  “He has lived with them incombat and has lived with them as they have suffered injury, psychologicaltrauma and re-entry issues.  He knowstheir plight because he is one of them.” 

Last year, Dr. Burnette led efforts to coordinate theUpstate Stand Down, an event that is focused specifically on the rehabilitationand recovery of homeless veterans by providing multiple services in onelocation. He organized a group of over 100 community members to ensure theproject was a success.  As a result, atotal of 215 individuals participated in this event. 

“Dr. Burnette is truly a servant leader,” said PhillipMakowski, board member with Operation Restoration CDC.  “His energy, drive, ‘we can do it’ attitude,coupled with his outstanding competencies continue to result in remarkableoutcomes to battle the issue of homelessness in Spartanburg and the upstate.”

Dr. Burnette also works with several local nonprofits,provides one-on-one assistance to homeless veterans, speaks to various groups aboutthis important issue, and serves as a member of the U.S. Department of VeteransAffairs Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans in Washington, D.C.

 “There is not a daythat goes by that he is not fervently working in our community, on multiplelevels, to impact change, whether through individual requests for help, hisservice on numerous committees, his continued public awareness efforts and hisinitiation of projects and services regarding homelessness,” said Makowski.

Burnette was presented the award and a $5,000 cash grant,which he has chosen to split between Operation Restoration for Welcome Home, atransitional home for homeless veterans, and Habitat for Humanity ofSpartanburg. 

In addition to the award presentation, attendees of theAnnual Meeting learned more about the many ways in which The Spartanburg CountyFoundation is impacting the community. In 2012, The Foundation welcomed 46 new funds, bringing the total fundsunder management to 892, and received 2,861 contributions, totaling almost $26million dollars – the largest dollar amount that the Foundation has received ina single year.  Additionally, theFoundation’s assets grew 24% last year, bringing total assets from $102 millionto $126 million.

The Foundation enabled donors to distribute 1,600 grants,exceeding $10 million, to support a variety of donor causes in the areas ofeducation, public health, economy, natural environment, social environment, andcivic health.  The Foundation’s trusteesalso awarded more than $320,000 in discretionary grants from the CommunityFund. 

The dinner concluded with a presentation honoring retiringtrustee Mrs. Jennifer C. Evins, who recently completed her seven-year term asTrustee of the Foundation. 

The Spartanburg County Foundationis dedicated to improving the lives of Spartanburg County residents bypromoting philanthropy, encouraging community engagement and responding tocommunity needs.  Established in 1943,The Spartanburg County Foundation is the oldest community foundation in SouthCarolina.  Additional information aboutthe Foundation is available at www.spcf.org.