TRIO Reflections: 2019 Lowcountry Land Conservation Symposium

I recently moved from Chicago where the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (GDDF) is headquartered and had prior knowledge of their organization from my previous nonprofit work, so it was pretty perfect to have the opportunity to work with them, given their only other location just so happens to be in Charleston. This eerily ideal match gave me a little sense of back home while managing the 2019 Lowcountry Land Conservation Symposium.   

If you’re not familiar, the GDDF is a private family foundation that supports land conservation, artistic vitality and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The Lowcountry Land Conservation Symposium (LLCS) is an invitation-only event that brings together GDDF grantees, regional funders, governmental agencies and field experts to discuss methods, strategies and practices for further advancement of land conservation and provide tangible tools to help preservation in the Lowcountry.  

This was the second year GDDF has hosted the LLCS which was held at the stunning Founders Hall at Charles Towne Landing historic park; a beyond perfect location tucked in a heavily wooded forest area of West Ashley. There truly is no better place to talk about this year’s topic, Conservation in a Changing Climate. The conference brought all the heavy hitters together under one beautiful roof to focus on the topic at hand: sea levels rising.

Since many of our speakers came in from out of town, we dined the evening before the event at a beloved local Italian spot, Al Di La. GDDF staff, panelists and moderators finally got to meet in person, connect on all things land conservation (and not) and relax and enjoy each other’s company. I was overwhelmed when the invitation to dinner was extended to me because 1. #pasta and 2. I too wanted to meet everyone I had spent months in digital communication with; not to mention, pick their brains to really understand if my recently-purchased home on Johns Island will be underwater in a couple of years.

The day of the event started without a hitch and we were off to the races early in the morning with registration, networking and breakfast before plugging in and focusing on rich content, learning and discussions. One of my favorite parts was the attendee name tags that were made from plantable seed paper which was such a special and appropriate touch that everyone enjoyed! In fact, given the topic and focus of GDDF, most of the event was planned to be low-impact and eco-friendly. We took extra measures to encourage everyone to bring their own water bottles and digital devices for note taking, and our vendor partners used all glassware, dishes and silverware instead of disposable items. We also worked with CompostNow, an organization focused on closing the loop on food waste while helping companies and communities reduce their carbon footprint. I’m happy to say that after going through the trash (literally) post-event, very little was even thrown away or recycled, which was extremely impressive with 90 people in attendance.

Another highlight was the unplanned outdoor picnic that happened at lunch. It was such an incredibly perfect Lowcountry day that everyone felt compelled to eat outside and take advantage of the beauty everyone in attendance works so hard to protect. It was perfect.

I was also very excited to work with Marcus Amaker on the overview video that is currently in the works (coming soon!) and Alice Keeney Photography, both well-known local contributors who captured the event beautifully!

Overall, I can’t talk enough about how well the event went, how wonderful everyone was to work with and the incredible minds that all came together that day. As the LLCS is held bi-annually, I hope we get to work with the GDDF team again in 2021 to put on another amazing event that serves such an important cause!

Also, a huge thank you to our amazing partners who helped make this happen: Founders Hall management team and on-site contacts, CRU catering, TEC AV, Marcus Amaker, Alice Keeney Photography, CompostNow, Charleston Black Cab, Al Di La, Hilton Garden Inn Waterfront in Charleston and Botanical Paperworks.

To our clients, Ame Holcombe and Kerri Forrest, thank you, thank you, thank you for the amazing opportunity!

Here’s to 2021!

Taylor Marie Ion is the newest account manager to the TRIO team and also the owner and editor of The TMI Blog, a lifestyle site focusing on fashion, food, travel, home and all things TMI (yes, that is really her initials).