Lifetime Visionary Circle

The Lifetime Visionary Circle honors donors who’ve made a substantial lifetime commitment to ABVI and who remain dedicated to the success and growth of the Association. Unlike our Annual Visionary Class, Lifetime Giving Society members are honored for their cumulative gifts. As such, once a donor is inducted into the Lifetime Visionary Circle, they will remain a member throughout their lifetime. Donors are inducted in 3 categories: Lifetime Giving Societies, Service Society and Heritage Society.

Lifetime Giving Societies

Donors are inducted into Lifetime Giving Societies with gifts totaling at least $10,000 in cash, pledges, and/or legacy gifts.  Donors can work towards higher societies with each new gift.

Mrs. Fred G. Sahlmann Society ($10,000 – $24,999)

The Association was founded in 1936 under the guidance of the Federation for the Blind. The Association was chartered and incorporated by a small group led by Mrs. Fred G. Sahlmann (Annetta). Mrs. Sahlmann not only founded the Association but became one of the first Vice Presidents of the organization, working closely with Mrs. Augustine T. Smythe (Harriott), the Association’s first Board President.

Mildred Kirkland Society ($25,000-$49,999)

As a youth, Mildred Yon Kirkland attended the School for the Deaf and the Blind in Spartanburg and later came to Charleston to learn “foot travel” (now called orientation and mobility training) from the Association for the Blind. Of her experiences training with the Association, Mildred remarked “now a whole new world has opened to me, a world which I have not fully conquered yet, for it is hard to get a clear mental picture and an understanding of city streets when I have never seen them. But I have made a start, and I intend to go much farther.” Mildred was eventually hired as a secretary at the Association, where she was employed for decades, and was beloved by both clients and staff.

Margie McCaffrey Cogswell Society ($50,000-$99,999)

Margie McCaffrey Cogswell (Marge) was a dedicated Board Member who served multiple terms for ABVI and served as a Board Member Emerita until the day of her passing. As such, she was an integral part of many decisions that have shaped the foundation of our Association. Notably, Marge was passionate about working opportunities for clients and spearheaded efforts to keep the caning program alive until the Association developed more relevant resources.

Harriott Ravenel Buist Smythe Society ($100,000-$249,999)

Harriott Ravenel Buist Smythe was our first Board President, serving through the period of our chartering. Harriott is also a matriarch of the Smythe family, and 3 generations of Smythe family members have honored her leadership and commitment to our Association by serving on our Board of Directors.

Katie Lee Beard Society ($250,000-$499,999)

In July of 2005, Katie Lee Beard bequeathed nearly $250,000 to endow the Association’s Guide Dog program. Through her generous donations, ABVI’s Guide Dog program is fully funded, and we can offer Guide Dog Scholarships covering the cost of veterinarian care, grooming and monthly dog food to qualifying clients. Katie Lee Beard saw a need for something she cared deeply about and solved a problem for our organization through her transformational gift.

Bernhard Karl Jantzen Society ($500,000-$749,999)

Karl is the only living person we have named a Lifetime Giving Society after, and that is because he truly embodies what it means to be a lifetime donor to ABVI. Karl has given generously in ways that have served our immediate needs and have helped secure our future. Karl has been involved with our organization for decades, and aside from his incredibly generous financial gifts, has served our organization as a member of our Board and an avid advocate for us. He continues to open doors for ABVI through his generosity. He truly ticks every box of what we hope an ABVI donor can be.

Caning Society ($750,000-$999,999)

When asked how they got involved with the Association, many Charleston natives will say, “I was referred to have a chair re-caned by the Association and have been giving to support the blind ever since.” Led for many years by our client Caesar James, the caning program offered working opportunities for our clients, while serving as excellent exposure to the community. The program has since been phased out as we have developed more relevant resources to serve our clients. To this day, ABVI refers donors to client Margaret Bullock to have chairs caned. We named this level after the caning program to honor a piece of our history.

Pitt Street Society ($1,000,000-$4,999,999)

In its earliest years, the Association operated in many locations, starting on Wentworth Street, moving to the west wing of the old Citadel building before it was condemned and eventually renting space on Mary Street. In 1957, through the support of the Community Chest and unsolicited donations, we were able to purchase our first building, a beautiful former church on Pitt Street. While we’ve moved several times since, the Pitt Street building continues to feel like home for ABVI.

1936 Founders Society ($5,000,000+)

Under the leadership of Mrs. Fred G. Sahlmann, the Association for the Blind was formed in 1936. We consider ourselves extremely privileged to be a local nonprofit of our size having actively served clients for over 80 years, and we have many donors and community members to thank for our longevity.


Service Society
The Service Society honors friends of ABVI who have gone above and beyond the call to help our organization through non-cash gifts. While we are not always able to fully monetize gifts in kind, these donors have made a substantial impact on the Association through gifts of time, talents, and service. Service Society inductees are nominated by our Board of Directors’ Development Committee and voted on by Board Members.
Heritage Society
Once a legacy gift of at least $10,000 is realized, the donor will be inducted into our Heritage Society.

Elizabeth and Fleetwood Hassell (center) were inducted in to the Mrs. Fred G. Sahlmann Lifetime Giving Society during the inaugural Lifetime Visionary Circle Induction Ceremony. They are pictured here with ABVI Board President Clay Hershey (far left) and ABVI CEO Courtney Plotner (far right).

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