‘Spirit of Giving’ Award bestowed on couple

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Keyserling Cancer Center Director Connie Duke and her husband Chuck didn’t realize they were “guests of honor” at the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Annual Meeting on Tuesday. The organization surprised the Dukes with its Spirit of Giving Award at the event, where they were fittingly working as volunteers.

Chuck and Connie Duke were presented the Spirit of Giving Award by Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation trustee Audrey McBratney Bittner, at right, on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the nonprofit group’s annual meeting. Photo by Paul Nurnberg.

The Beaufort couple was helping out with the event, held this year in the hospital’s newly renovated Emergency Department, set to open in January. While Connie was leading tours of the facility, her husband was shuttling guests from the parking lot.
“It wasn’t hard getting them to the meeting because they are always happy to volunteer,” said Foundation Executive Director Alice Moss. “All we have to do is ask.”
The Spirit of Giving Award is bestowed annually by the Board of Trustees to an employee who has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to mission of the foundation, which is to build philanthropic support for Beaufort Memorial Hospital, the only not-for-profit hospital between Charleston and Savannah.
Connie Duke was hired by BMH in 2005 to help the hospital develop plans for the Duke-affiliated cancer center. Her experience opening up a similar center in West Virginia proved invaluable.
Connie has consistently offered to help when the foundation needs a speaker for a community group. Most often, her presentations focus on the Keyserling Cancer Center.  As the director of the center, from construction to today’s operation of the 25,000-square-foot medical and radiation oncology facility, Connie understands its impact better than anyone. Before the center opened its doors in 2006, area residents had to travel to Charleston or Savannah to receive radiation treatment.
The foundation provided more than half the funding for the $6.5 million facility. In recent years, it has granted tens of thousands of dollars more to purchase new equipment and make upgrades to technology that have helped keep the center on the leading edge of cancer care.
“People like to support cancer charities,” Moss said. “Connie connects so well with the community and helps everyone understand how much we do for cancer patients here in Beaufort.  Often, after hearing Connie, individuals and organizations choose to direct their support to our cancer center and keep the money local.”
On a personal level, the Dukes have consistently stepped up to help with countless BMH Foundation events and programs. They attend the foundation’s Valentine Ball fundraiser every year and contribute regularly to the nonprofit through the BMH employee giving program.
“She’s a champion for the hospital,” Moss said. “Connie can convey so clearly the benefit of having a cancer center right here in Beaufort.”
Trustee Audrey McBratney Bittner presented the Dukes with the honor, recognizing “their valuable role in advancing the foundation’s purpose to build a solid program of philanthropy and support of Beaufort Memorial Hospital.”
During the annual meeting, Bittner was presented with a surprise of her own. The longtime trustee, who is stepping down after serving nearly 20 years between the hospital and foundation boards, was named Trustee Emeritus of the BMH Foundation. Only one other person, Sumner Pingree, has ever received the honor.
The board went on to elect Richard Pingree as a new trustee of the foundation, replacing Bittner. This year’s slate of officers also was approved.