Paying It Forward – Brenda Rosen

By Leslie Moore

Paying It Forward – Brenda Rosen

Typing “acts of generosity and kindness today” into your computer’s search engine will bring up more than six million results – the hungry are being fed, a helping hand is given to someone in need or a kind word changes a life. Good deeds, great and small, are found everywhere and are mostly done without fanfare and recognition. Grand Strand resident since the mid 1970s, Brenda Rosen is one of those six million who, day after day, works to make the world a better place for her family, friends and our community.

Petite and lovely, Brenda looks much younger than her 73 years, but the first thing you notice is her big smile. Born in Haverhill, Mass., Brenda was the youngest of three children, all first generation Americans. Her father immigrated to this country from Poland and her mother from Russia, both fleeing persecution due to their Jewish faith. Her parents worked hard and were successful, giving their children a happy, middle class upbringing. They instilled a strong work ethic in their brood, but also the importance of giving back. “My parents were always very generous, “Brenda remembers.

While a senior in high school, Brenda agreed to a blind date with a young M.I.T. student whose roommate was dating one of her friends. It was the beginning of her love affair with Dick Rosen, a native of Georgetown, S.C., that has lasted through 54 years of marriage, three children and six grandchildren. After graduation, Brenda went to Boston University and dated Dick all through college. The two were married in February of 1958; three weeks after Dick completed his graduate studies.

The couple settled in Massachusetts, where Dick began his successful career, and Brenda supervised her growing family while working part time. While his work demanded a lot of travelling, Dick always made sure the family vacationed in Georgetown each summer. In 1973, Dick became general manager of AVX Corp., and the family moved to Myrtle Beach. Brenda’s children were still in school, and she began to work at the then new Myrtle Square Mall in Belk department store as the fashion coordinator. “I have always loved clothes and shopping, so this was the perfect job for me,” Brenda said with a laugh.

Paying It Forward – Brenda Rosen Photo:2

Always generous with her friends and family, it was Hurricane Hugo in 1989 that started Brenda’s philanthropic journey. “After the storm, I got involved with the American Red Cross. A group of us helped set up a relief center at the old Tads in Myrtle Beach, distributing vouchers for hotels, clothing and food.”

That same year, Dick’s mother passed away after a battle with cancer and Brenda, touched deeply by her mother-in-law’s death, became involved with the American Cancer Society. A few years later, her husband’s father was cared for by Tidelands Hospice and, in typical Rosen fashion, they became supporters of the organization, eventually helping build the new Tidelands Hospice House. “I am too sensitive to volunteer for Hospice, but we do support their mission,” said Brenda.

Fond memories of taking her children to Brookgreen Gardens while they were growing up led Brenda to get involved with this non-profit. An avid gardener, Brenda loves her work with Brookgreen, telling me, “We were always members, but I became president of the Friends of Brookgreen Gardens and chaired the Brookgreen Gala. Today, I still serve on the executive board.”

Bob Jewell, President and CEO of Brookgreen Gardens, is enthusiastic and appreciative of the support both Brenda and Dick have given the non-profit, saying, “Brenda has been wonderful for Brookgreen. There’s actually a garden here named after her! She is always here and always involved. Brenda is a passionate person and brings her passion to the support of Brookgreen.”

Personal loss and tragedy affect us all, and Brenda is not exempt. Her ability to take a personal loss and turn it into a triumph is what makes her truly unique. “My brother was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease at 65 and lived 10 years before he died,” she began. “It affected me deeply; we were very close. He was a brilliant lawyer and a wonderful man.” Brenda has also faced her own mortality with a breast cancer scare and a diagnosis of melanoma, which has fortunately been cured. These events led this philanthropic woman to become involved with the neuroscience department of the Medical University of South Carolina where she now serves on the advisory board.

“I had a cocktail party recently at my beach house in Pawleys Island to spread the word about some of the new treatments available at MUSC. It is a wonderful place – they really have it all,” Brenda said thoughtfully.

These are only a few of the many, many charities that Brenda and her beloved Dick support. They funded a school at Temple Emanu-El in Myrtle Beach and support the synagogue in Georgetown as well. Higher education also benefits from the Rosen’s generosity with Brenda’s service to the Horry Georgetown Technical College Foundation Board; the Rosen’s also fund a scholarship for deserving students. CCU also benefits from Brenda’s altruistic spirit through the Women in Philanthropy and Leadership group which provides scholarships for local students who have financial need as well as academic excellence.

“We should all give back,” Brenda told me vehemently. “Dick and I have been very fortunate. If I see someone with a sign asking to work for food, I will always stop and help. No one would do that if they didn’t really need a hand. Pay it forward – it makes us feel good to help.”

In spite of her many commitments to the community, Brenda always puts family first, and her husband is first in the family. “Dick is my life, as I am to him. We have built a wonderful family.” Every year the couple takes their children, spouses and grandchildren on a special trip around the holidays. This past year, they visited Mexico. “Dick is the most wonderful, unselfish man I have ever known,” smiled Brenda. “I am truly spoiled. There is nothing too good for us. I spent a lot of time alone while he was working through the years. It’s nice to have him with me now.”

Brenda is also a devoted friend to those she chooses to love. One of her closest friends became ill and was unable to get a definitive diagnosis. With Brenda’s help, her friend was flown to Cleveland and soon discovered she has ALS. Of course, Brenda went with her, offering as much support as possible in the face of such a grim diagnosis.

Pawleys Island resident, Barbara Kee, met Brenda playing golf soon after moving to the area and the two have become close friends. Barbara told me, “Brenda is such a wonderful friend. I was new to the area, and Brenda immediately began to include me in all her activities. Having known her for several years, I’ve learned that she has so many friends, some of whom go back decades. She keeps everyone in her family close; she is constantly calling, visiting and in some way caring for each and every one of them. For me, she has been there to share joy and sadness. Rarely does she offer advice – although we know she can – but she shares your grief as if it was hers…nothing is said, she is just there to support. I admire her so much. She has a lot, as we all know, but she is always giving so much back, not only with financial support but with her time and energy.” Barbara laughed and continued, saying, “She also loves dogs. One time, I picked her up at Food Lion to sneak down to St. Frances Animal Center to check out the dogs without Dick knowing about it!”

Brenda does take time for herself. She works out three times a week with a personal trainer and plays golf – when the weather is nice. “I am definitely a fair-weather golfer,” she told me laughing. And, this woman does love to shop. “I take my granddaughters shopping whenever I can!” An avid reader, Brenda enjoys her Kindle and is currently reading, The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje.

While preparing for our photograph, Dick laughed and referred to himself and his wife as “beauty and the beast!” He then became more serious and said, “A lot of what we do is because of Brenda’s initiative. She does so much to help people – and is a truly good person.”

“I love people and being around them,” Brenda told me. “I’m not better than anyone; I’ve just been given the opportunity to do more. I think most people are generous and would do what we do. I am very fortunate.”

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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