Margaret Forbes: An example of making a community better through selfless giving

How often do you consider giving to others without expecting personal gain? Did you know that giving of your time, talents, money, or materials to others, without expecting something in return, can often have a far-reaching, positive impact on individuals and communities?

“We, as individuals, have only to look at the stellar example of generosity set by Margaret Forbes to learn an important life lesson about selfless giving,” said Jim Boyle, current president/vice chairman of the Stuart and Margaret L Forbes Foundation. “Margaret did not seek recognition for her gifting, she simply wanted to do her part in making the lives of others better – to make a difference – and in this she excelled.”

Polk County Schools continues to experience the far-reaching, positive impact of Margaret L. Forbes’ selfless giving through the Stuart and Margaret L. Forbes Foundation. To catch just a glimpse of the impact one person’s selfless giving has made on this school district, let’s take a look at three areas: scholarships for seniors; expansion of educational/instructional opportunities for students; and the importance of preschool programs.

In 1985, after her husband’s death, Margaret Forbes founded the Stuart and Margaret L. Forbes Scholarship Program at the Polk County Community Foundation. In an interview, Mrs. Forbes said, “The basis of the Foundation is that we saw the need that so many of the students had financially. They were good in their marks and good in activities at school, but in lots of cases there was no financial help. That gave birth to the thought that maybe we could arrange something where they could get financial help and go on to a college of their choice.”

Prior to Mrs. Forbes’ death in 2011, the Stuart and Margaret L. Forbes Scholarship Program had provided $287,580 in scholarship funding to Polk County students. Each year, the Foundation continues to interview and select students to receive the Margaret L. Forbes Distinguished Scholar and the Stuart Forbes Polk High Scholar awards. Through the Forbes Foundation’s continued focus on higher education, and in partnership with the Polk County Community Foundation, student scholarships worth $618,000 have been awarded between 2013-2021. In 2022, the Forbes Foundation will award $88,000 in four-year scholarship funds for two seniors at Polk County High School and two seniors at Polk County Early College.

In addition to scholarships, the Forbes Foundation has also provided funding to expand educational opportunities for students in Polk County Schools.

“The Forbes Foundation proudly funds experiences meant to enhance the traditional academic programs for Polk County students,” said F.K. McFarland III, current Director/Secretary/Treasurer of the Forbes Foundation Board. “These experiences allow students to interact with the curriculum and one another in engaging, meaningful ways.”

Since 2013, funding has been provided to support opportunities such as, Discovery Education Science Techbooks (K-8); Summer Enrichment Camps; Lego Robotics; Polk Cares 4 Kids; Bio-diesel; PCHS FFA; Muddy Sneakers; “Get It Together,” Outdoor Learning Spaces and, perhaps most importantly, Preschool.

In 1997, Margaret L. Forbes purchased and donated the Duke Power building in Tryon to Polk County Schools to create the Forbes Preschool Center. This center housed a full-day preschool program for four-year-olds at little or no cost to parents. Forbes Preschool Center experienced such success that today, every elementary school in the district houses at least one preschool classroom. What started as a center with thirty-eight students has grown to a district-wide program that serves approximately 75% of the county’s four-year olds.

North Carolina early childhood advocates continue to visit Polk County preschool classrooms to learn about the importance of developmentally-appropriate curriculum and the impacts a robust preschool program can have on the K-12 educational system. Due to the progressive thinking and generosity of Mrs. Forbes, numerous young children in Polk County and across North Carolina have benefitted from early childhood/preschool programs.

In a December 2021 letter to the Polk County Board of Education, Susan McHugh, former Polk County Schools Superintendent and current Chairman/Vice President of the Forbes Foundation Board, stated, “Our students are receiving a quality education that is second to none in North Carolina. Polk Schools did not just ‘happen’ to be in the top five school systems in the state for the past five years. It is the result of a common vision, focused goals, enormous teamwork, and great care. So, as we at the Forbes Foundation reflect during the challenging time we are in , we consider it a privilege to support the incredible work of each individual in our school system, and most importantly, we support our very special students who make us all proud everyday.”

Supporting students and educators, just as Margaret L. Forbes chose to begin doing more than a quarter century ago, is a continued focus of the Forbes Foundation.

Margaret L. Forbes’ legacy of philanthropy has made far-reaching, positive impacts on many students in Polk County Schools. The Forbes Foundation Board continues Mrs. Forbes’ work of “making the lives of others better” through their gracious and thoughtful consideration of scholarship funding and grant requests from Polk County Schools.

Superintendent Aaron Greene states that “through their support and contributions, the Stuart and Margaret L. Forbes Foundation has been committed to improving the quality of educational experiences for our students. Perhaps more importantly, this philanthropy has helped change life trajectories of young people in Polk County. Polk County Schools and our community owes a great deal of gratitude to Margaret Forbes and the Forbes Foundation, and we will continue to work with them to carry on Margaret Forbes’ vision of what can be. What an example for us all to follow.”

Margaret L. Forbes’ legacy of philanthropy: A model for all of us—give without expecting anything in return and watch the good that comes from your gift.

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