Since 1928, The Belk Foundation and its predecessor, the John M. Belk Memorial Fund, have enriched the fabric of communities throughout the South through their generous financial support of various charitable, religious, educational, and other nonprofit organizations that touched the lives of countless citizens of those communities. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, The Belk Foundation and its rich philanthropic heritage are deeply rooted in the Christian values and legacy of community stewardship begun by brothers William Henry Belk and Dr. John Montgomery Belk, founders of the Belk department store organization.
The John M. Belk Memorial Fund was created by the Belk stores in 1928 following the death of Dr. Belk. The John M. Belk Memorial Fund was operated primarily for the building and remodeling of Presbyterian churches across the South, although it supported many other causes as well, especially noteworthy social endeavors such as health and education.
Soon after William Henry Belk's death in 1952, his heirs combined the charitable portion of his estate with the John M. Belk Memorial Fund to form The Belk Foundation. Today, The Belk Foundation continues to operate as a family foundation that seeks inspiration in the vision of its founders. Accordingly, the foundation endeavors to express the Belk family's values through its charitable investments.
A Legacy of Giving
The Belk brothers were born on a farm in the Waxhaws community of Lancaster County, South Carolina, near its border with North Carolina. In 1865, marauding Federal soldiers under General Sherman killed the brothers’ father, Abel Nelson Washington Belk, leaving their mother, Sarah Walkup Belk, to care for herself and her three small children. Throughout her life, Sarah Belk – later Sarah Belk Simpson - instilled in her sons firm moral and religious values, a strong Christian faith and a belief in the importance of a good education.
Inspired by their mother’s devout Christian beliefs, the now successful Belk brothers supported the establishment of hundreds of rural Protestant churches, most of them Presbyterian, throughout the Piedmont Carolinas, where many Belk stores were opening. The April 1952 edition of The Presbyterian News, published for the Synod of North Carolina in Raleigh, reported that the John M. Belk Memorial Fund and The Belk Foundation had helped establish 335 Presbyterian churches and manses in the South.
The Belk brothers’ early philanthropic efforts extended beyond the church to schools, hospitals, and other charitable causes. While their contributions included generous financial support, they also provided leadership and service on various nonprofit boards of directors.
Philanthropy Through the Generations
The descendants of William Henry Belk and Dr. John M. Belk have contributed significantly to maintaining the family’s rich legacy of philanthropic support...