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Helping Others Thrive

"The bottom line for me is looking for organizations that provide opportunities that can enable people to be the best they can be." - Dr. Elaine Nocks

When Dr. Elaine Nocks was a child, her mother kept an envelope in her dresser drawer containing her tithe, the tenth of her income set aside to give to charity and the church. Elaine, a Greenville native raised in the United Methodist Church, doesn’t recall giving it much thought at the time, but the envelope has remained a tangible reminder of her mother’s steadfast commitment to giving, an early influence on her own belief that one should help others when possible.

Her husband, Dr. Barry Nocks, who is Jewish, grew up in a home with a mother who had escaped Nazi Germany. The Hebrew concept of Tikkun Olam, “repair of the world,” was woven into the family ethos.

“There was always a sense of the importance of maintaining a civil, sane and caring community where people support each other,” Barry says. “Also, Elaine and I both attended college in the ‘60s and out of that era came the belief that seeking to make the world a better place was something each of us should do. Even though we came from different faiths, we have very similar values.”

It’s no surprise that both chose careers where they had opportunities to help others thrive.  Elaine was a professor of psychology for 35 years at Furman University, and after obtaining a master of divinity from Emory’s Candler School of Theology, founded and directed a center for vocational discernment, now well-established on campus as the Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection.

“In the center, we did a lot of thinking about how people’s gifts and opportunities can be directed towards meeting the world’s needs,” she says.

These interests played a role in her choice of causes to support. She has served on the board and is a regular volunteer at Triune Mercy Center. She has served on the board of United Ministries and currently volunteers with Jasmine Road, a residential and social enterprise organization that works with adult women survivors of human trafficking, prostitution and addiction.

She also volunteers with Furman’s Bridges to a Brighter Future program that helps young people whose potential exceeds their circumstances develop the necessary skills to enroll in college and succeed.

“I’m so glad to be involved with this wonderful program that has changed so many young lives,” she says. “The bottom line for me is looking for organizations that provide opportunities that can enable people to be the best they can be.”

Barry has been a professor of city and regional planning at Clemson University for over 40 years, focusing on improving cities and enhancing quality of life for people and encouraging students to make a difference in their communities. He has served on local planning commissions and boards and contributed to a number of local plans and projects. Most recently he worked on the Greenville 2040 plan, which addressed affordable housing, environmental sustainability, and transportation access. In 2001, he directed Greenville’s Reedy River Master Plan project, which has led to significant development and activity along the river.

“That project was a journey to planning heaven as it was developed through community input, completed by a team of diverse professionals and fully implemented. That rarely happens,” he says. “My professional life is spent asking how people can work together to make communities a place where everyone can succeed. Greenville’s success is a result of many people and organizations working together in a way that’s not commonly found.”

In addition to supporting local nonprofits, the Nocks also contribute to Oxfam, Unicef, CARE, and others that focus on global needs. They learned of CFG through their financial advisor, and have given to the Annual Fund for the last decade.

“This allows us to combine our support with others’ for a variety of groups that contribute to the overall betterment of the community,” Barry says. “We rely on the Community Foundation as a knowledgeable steward.”

“The Community Foundation was a logical way to coordinate our local efforts,” Elaine says. “Both of us grew up working class families, so it’s wonderful now to be able to share more generously.”

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