It couldn’t have been much past 7:00 in the morning. Only the faintest, early morning sun made its way through the tall trees to illuminate the small woman crossing the grounds towards me. I was staying in her family’s South Carolina home, a home that – in the morning quiet – particularly seemed to reflect the grace of its long history. Bill Clinton had been a guest in the home and when he asked her if he were the first president to do so, she famously told him that no; Jefferson Davis had also stayed there.

My smile deepened as I watched her come nearer, partly out of the memory and affection built on past acquaintance and partly from the black tee shirt she wore with the neon green “Obama” logo with the iconic peace sign embedded in the “O.” She moved briskly away from the stables toward the house for breakfast. I knew she’d be headed back toward those same stables after breakfast as most mornings she taught horseback riding to children with disabilities. At the time, she was 83 years old.

Anne Springs Close continues the philanthropic legacy of her father, World War I flying ace Colonel Elliot White Springs, as chair of the Springs Close Foundation. Her commitment to the region that was once home to the family’s textile mills is as passionate and untiring as she is herself. Together with her eight children, two grandchildren, and a close circle of other board and staff members, she works to ensure that no basic human needs go unmet during such desperate economic times. Her stewardship of the three area counties also has included preserving the land and the environment. A greenway of some 2600 acres, given and named in her honor by her children, makes public park space available for generations to come.

Recently, also in her honor – and in celebration of her 85th birthday – her foundation family made a gift to the National Center for Family Philanthropy. For the woman who believes she has her share of blessings, what better way to mark the milestone than by honoring her commitment to family philanthropy? To those of us at the National Center, the honor was all ours. What a privilege to be part of recognizing a lifetime of family giving and of one very special friend!

Mrs. Close is the first to be recognized in this new fund, recently established by our Friends of the Family Advisory Committee. Those wishing to honor a donor, family member, trustee, or a philanthropic family are invited to make a gift to the National Center for Family Philanthropy. We will be archiving the stories of the honorees, featuring them in our Knowledge Center, Family Giving News and our other resources, and commemorating their participation with a tribute in our offices.

These special friends join the members of our Friends of the Family network. Our Friends, who make annual gifts of between $500 and $10,000, are critical to our work and our effectiveness. They support our ongoing programming and operations financially and, truth be told, with the encouragement they offer with every communication. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and gratitude, we are adding a number of new benefits exclusively for the members of the Friends network. We’ll be introducing interactive discussion groups, open Q&A phone calls with me and other members of our National Center family, and preferred access to all our events and services.

If you haven’t already become a member of Friends of the Family, I hope you’ll consider doing so soon. And if there is a person or family you’d like to honor this holiday season or in the future, I think you’ll find Mrs. Close’s company sublime. Check out the Springs Close Foundation website for a photo of Anne; she’s the one with Bruce Springsteen! Happy Birthday, Mrs. Close!