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Prestigious Charlotte family pledges $2.5 million to help more kids succeed

Trinity Episcopal School leader says $2.5 million donation will make a big difference for kids in Charlotte

The charitable foundation of a prestigious Charlotte family has pledged $2.5 million to the independent Trinity Episcopal School in uptown to increase scholarships for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
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The charitable foundation of a prestigious Charlotte family has pledged $2.5 million to the independent Trinity Episcopal School in uptown to increase scholarships for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

The charitable foundation of a prestigious Charlotte family has pledged $2.5 million to the independent Trinity Episcopal School in uptown to increase scholarships for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Sally Belk Gambrell Bridgford said the pledge from her family’s Gambrell Foundation is an investment in children who will turn around and give back to the community as contributors themselves.

“This is an investment in our community,” Bridgford said she explained to her mother, Sarah Belk Gambrell. “It’s an investment in people.”

“It’s investing in people so they can realize their own contributions,” Bridgford told the Observer. “I think that should be the standard for success. You complete the cycle.”

Bridgford said her idea behind the pledge sprouted from a study several years ago of the 50 largest U.S. cities that showed poor children in Charlotte are least likely to escape poverty. Many children in Charlotte were found to have “food security” issues, she said. “It was one out of five,” she said, and she remembers thinking, “How can we let that happen?”

Bridgford said some of the pledge could go to teacher enrichment and better pay at Trinity Episcopal School, although that would be for the school’s board and other leaders to decide.

She said she’s seen the difference the K-8 Episcopal school makes in children. Four of her children attended all or part of their early schooling there, the last in the class of 2013. The school’s mission “is in line with this idea I have for the community,” she said. Ultimately, she hopes the pledge will “help people live out the possibility of their highest purpose.”

Perched in center city, Trinity Episcopal is “a private school with a public purpose, and we try to provide resources so that children from across Charlotte can be a part of this school,” Head of School Tom Franz said. “We are so grateful for this transformational gift that the Gambrell family provided so that we can provide access to children from all kinds of backgrounds to be part of this wonderful school community.”

Michael Marsicano, CEO of Foundation for the Carolinas, welcomed news of the pledge. With the recent release of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Economic Opportunity Task Force’s recommendations, “Charlotte knows that now is the time to act if we want to move our city forward,” he said. “And a critical way to accomplish that is by improving access to quality education from a very young age.”

The Gambrell Foundation’s “deep understanding of our city’s issues, and their support of Trinity’s mission to create scholars while embracing diversity, is timely and should serve as motivation to everyone in this city considering game changing gifts,” Marsicano said.

Coupled with its previous gifts to Time-Out Youth and Planned Parenthood, the Gambrell Foundation “is putting money into causes that will move the needle for all residents of Charlotte in truly extraordinary and transformative ways,” he said.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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