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Sullivans honored with Leadership Legacy Bench

Posted: December 2, 2016 9:01 a.m.
Updated: December 2, 2016 9:00 a.m.
Jim Tatum/

Brenda and Joe Sullivan

The City of Camden honored Joe and Brenda Sullivan with a Leadership Legacy Bench Tuesday at City Hall.

While turbulent weather precluded the celebration from being held outdoors, it couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the group of friends, neighbors and family who turned out to honor the Sullivans.

“I am frankly elated to acknowledge and to celebrate two outstanding community leaders and role models, two friends we all know and love, Joe and Brenda Sullivan,” Mayor Tony Scully said. “If anyone asked me to describe Joe and Brenda, off the cuff I would characterize them as two smart cookies who know exactly what is going on at all times and play the game to win. Regardless of obstacles, regardless of community divisions, Joe and Brenda have without exception emphasized the positive aspects of everyone around them.”

Joe Sullivan spoke briefly about how he and Brenda came to Camden.  Originally from Newport, Rhode Island, Sullivan came to South Carolina through his job with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

“Back in about 1971, Henry Savage started trying to recruit me to move to Camden,” Sullivan said. “He would call up every so often to tell us about a house he thought would be perfect for us. We would come look at it, but since our children were in the middle of their school years, we felt like we just couldn’t do it.”

Eventually, after the children finished school, Savage finally showed them a house they – especially Joe –really liked; they moved into it in 1982 and have been there ever since.

“It’s been wonderful, the people here are wonderful,” Sullivan said. “I like a small town atmosphere, I like to know everyone and I like to think I am doing a little good.”

Joe and Brenda Sullivan moved to Camden in 1982. Almost immediately they began impacting the community. Joe Sullivan, as CEO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield SC, was instrumental in bringing more than 175 BCBS jobs to Camden. Over the years, he would become involved with a number of non-profits and civic groups, including the Kershaw County Fine Arts Center, Boys and Girls Club, Walter Crow Animal Shelter, Preserve Camden with Responsible Growth and Community Medical Clinic. As president of the Walter Crow Animal Shelter, he would lead and oversee the construction of the shelter’s first surgical center; he would also be instrumental in the launch and support of the Community Medical Clinic.

“My best memory of Joe, and one that illustrates why he is a man set apart; I remember his calling me four summers ago from Newport, where their summer home on a hill overlooks a pristine marina crowded with million dollar yachts, asking me “What are we going to do about the at-risk children in Camden?’ Who else would have made that call? No one ever did. Just Joe. Clearly at a point in his life where he could honorably put up his feet and watch the parade, Joe dove into the new Boys and Girls Teen Club and Alpha Center with serious intent, asking what he could do.”

Sullivan commented on the positive impact being made by the Boys and Girls Club.

“Nothing could be more important than that,” he noted.

Brenda Sullivan has also been deeply involved with a number of civic and non-profits, but may be best known for her extensive and dedicated work with the Camden Tree Foundation.  She chaired the Tree Foundation for a number of years and was responsible for replanting and restoration of trees ravaged by Hurricane Hugo. Under her leadership more than 1,100 trees have been planted throughout the city; her efforts have been instrumental in improving and beautifying the city’s parks and green spaces as well as major entrances and corridors to Camden. 

“This day and this legacy bench are about celebrating the lives and work of Joe and Brenda Sullivan in Camden,” long-time friend Ann Hagan said. “They have done so much to improve our city. They have made this a more beautiful town, a more compassionate town, helped to bring wonderful music to this town and have contributed to Camden’s economic opportunity…But even more than their individual and specific contributions, Joe and Brenda infuse this community with energy, with a positive attitude, and most importantly with a generosity of spirit. They not only give of their time and money, they off considerable encouragement to anyone’s efforts to do something positive for Camden.”

Brenda Sullivan thanked everyone for their support and friendship.

“My heart is very, very big this morning,” she said. “How could anyone not love this place?”

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