The South Carolina Philanthropists of the Year for 2020 are Rev. Mary and Mr. Wade Finklea of Effingham.
Rev. Mary Finklea was the chair of the Love One Another campaign in South Carolina and a LSA/LFS Board of Trustees member. Her call is with the South Carolina Lutheran Retreat Centers as the community and congregation engagement coordinator.
“We were super excited,” Finklea said about the recognition. “I was just blown away. I respect this organization so much. It’s always been a no-brainer to support it with my time and with my money. It feels like a good fit.”
Mary Mappus Finklea was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and attended a Baptist school. After high school, she headed to Winthrop University, where she studied elementary education and was active in campus ministry. She spent her summers as a counselor at Lutheridge in the mountains of North Carolina.
While living in England as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Young Adults in Global Mission program, Mary Finklea felt the call to pursue more theological education. That led her to earn a master of divinity degree at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in 2005. She was then called to Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Florence, South Carolina, where she served for 12 years.
Wade Finklea, who has roots in the Baptist church as well as the Roman Catholic Church, grew up in Pamplico, South Carolina. Because of those roots, Mary Finklea said, he felt right at home in the Lutheran church.
The two of them met at the wedding of their college roommates. Wade Finklea attended Clemson University and graduated with degrees in textile chemistry and civil engineering.
The couple was drawn to LSC after Bedrija Jazic, who works in the Refugee and Immigrant Services Program, gave a presentation at the ELCA South Carolina Synod Assembly. She had already served on the LFS board at this time.
“Knowing that my forefathers and foremothers were German immigrants to this land helped me to feel empathy for those who are trying to start a new way of life. Knowing that we (LSC) extend the hospitality of Christ to those coming from other lands is important to me,” Mary Finklea said.
“I like that we go to where the needs of the world are. That makes me proud because that’s a big part of what I understand it means to be a follower of Jesus, to go where the needs are. I’m proud of the work we do. I like knowing that the wider community sees LSC as a reminder of the Lutheran faith in action.”
She added that her grandparents are the ones she looks up to when it comes to tithing.
“I’m sure other people have been more generous with financial giving, but I’m glad to try to give through my time and talents, and that’s important for all of us to remember as well,” Mary Finklea said. “My granddaddy always told me that you can’t out-give the Lord. That was his fun way of saying how good it is go give back, but that God is always going to give you more in return.”