Drawn to Helping Others
Travis and Jennifer Olmert continue a family legacy of service through their vocations and through strategic giving.
Travis and Jennifer Olmert are drawn to helping others, both in the work they do and through financial gifts. As the executive director of the Upstate Mediation Center, Jennifer helps recruit and train volunteer mediators to help families resolve custody and support issues quickly and peacefully. As a family law attorney with Carter, Smith, Merriam, Rogers & Traxler, Travis often guides clients through some of the most challenging times of their lives. “My calling was to try to carry some of those burdens,” he says.
Service is a family legacy. Travis’s grandfather, J. Verne Smith, served in the State Senate for more than 30 years. As the longest-serving state senator from Greenville County, J. Verne Smith is remembered for helping lure BMW to Greer, building Lake Robinson, funding the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, locating the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in downtown Greenville, and supporting facilities for the disabled. The beloved “Senator from Greer” always fought for issues close to his heart, particularly public education, health care, the aging, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Travis, who has served twice on the CFG board, currently serves on the board of the Greater Greer Education Foundation as well as the board of John I. Smith Charities, founded by his grandfather’s cousin.
"We rely on the Community Foundation as a credible source of information and vetting, a trusted source whose values align with ours.”
“Long before I got involved, they followed the Biblical mandate to care for ‘the least of these,’ the idea that it’s our civic responsibility to help folks who need a boost,” Travis says. “My uncle, Tom Smith, who was one of the original trustees, once described it like this: ‘We cannot repay those who paved our own paths, but we can help pave the paths of others, who will hopefully, one day, pass a similar opportunity back to others,’”
One way the charity does that is by promoting education, through scholarships and support for colleges like Davidson, Furman, and Presbyterian. In 1989, John I. Smith Charities set up a scholarship through the Community Foundation to provide financial assistance for students living in government housing.
Travis is always aware of the need to be good stewards of the funds distributed by the organizations he serves. Often the best way to do that is through collective impact philanthropy. John I. Smith Charities has often worked side by side with the Community Foundation and other large donors like United Way and the Jolley Foundation, he says.
“Sometimes giving more intelligently is exponentially more valuable. The Community Foundation has done an excellent job of finding participants and pooling resources to meet needs in the community, rather than offering piecemeal bandaids,” Travis says. “It’s a much more meaningful approach—systematically finding a multi-faceted way of addressing the issues. We rely on the Community Foundation as a credible source of information and vetting, a trusted source whose values align with ours.”