MOUNT PLEASANT — While the pandemic kept children at home and local nonprofits worried about financing their projects through an economic disaster, a pair of sisters kept themselves busy raising over $1,800 for charity.
Abigail and AnnaGrace Hilton hadn’t done much fundraising before, but summer days spent exploring around their grandparents’ Snee Farm home gave them an unorthodox idea: cleaning and reselling stray golf balls, then donating the proceeds.
“All summer, we came here every day,” 8-year-old AnnaGrace said. “At first we were feeding the geese, and then we started finding balls all over the place. We got a big collection and then we had the idea to sell them when school started.”
Now, they’ve got it down to a routine.
On Mondays, Diana Barnett picks up her granddaughters from school and brings them to her house. Once they’ve finished their homework, it’s time to hunt for golf balls until sunset, walking and riding the golf cart through the expansive course.
AnnaGrace has the best luck, her sister said, with a good eye and a collection of lucky spots where she almost always finds nests of lost balls camouflaged in mud and grass. Some of them are hard to reach, so her grandpa built a couple poles with hoops and baskets at the end to snag far-flung balls from ponds and underbrush.
Once they’ve picked through their favorite spots, the girls cart their harvest back to their grandmother’s kitchen sink, where they scrub them clean and dry them on a dish towel. Dish soap usually does the trick, Abigail, 12, said. But since they’re not allowed to use bleach, their grandfather has to blanch the grimiest golf balls.
When the golf balls are dry, the family sorts them into a hodgepodge of containers at the mouth of their garage, with cardboard signs showing which brand of ball each casserole dish or plastic tub contains.
Some regulars come for a favorite brand, Barnett said, clearing out their inventory and only coming back once the girls have restocked. Others will take any, and leave extra cash for the charities.
Even the sisters have a few favorites, which they’ve kept: an iridescent blue for Abigail and a pink-and-white floral pattern that AnnaGrace treasures.
One man called from Savannah, ordering 600 of the 50-cent balls and asking them to ship them overnight.
“He said, ‘Money is no object, I don’t care what brand, just send me what you got,’ ” Barnett recalled. “I don’t know what that was about, but I don’t think the charity will mind.”
The sisters’ first collection went to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an easy choice for the two animal-lovers. Since then, the girls have tried to find a new nonprofit each time they donate, from East Cooper Community Outreach to the Ronald McDonald House.
“My favorite moment was giving the check to Monsignor (James Carter of the community outreach program), and visiting the animals after we sent money to the shelter,” Abigail said. “It’s good to see we’re making a difference.”
Reach Sara Coello at 843-937-5705 and follow her on Twitter @smlcoello.