By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bruce Parker believes bounty should become charity.
Since selling Parker Medical Associates four years ago for $44.3 million, Parker has given away millions through his family foundation and a charitable trust, and from his own pocket.
Now, with his charitable dollars nearly tapped out, he’s working to build several new businesses — and generate new philanthropy.
“If you’ve got extra resources, more than you need,” he says, “it is morally and ethically imperative to go out and look for needs to be met.”
Parker, a 53-year-old analytical chemist, parlayed a $125,000 investment by family members 14 years ago into Parker Medical, which makes materials to manage emergency fractures.
Previously, his main charity generally was limited to tithing at Covenant Presbyterian, and giving rent-free space to Friendship Trays, a nonprofit that prepares and delivers meals.
But with $15 million he netted from the sale of Parker Medical to London-based Smith & Nephew, he became a philanthropist.
Parker put $2 million into the Parker Family Foundation and another $5 million into an income-producing charitable trust to which he’s required to contribute another $1.44 million in 2016.
While Parker quietly began to make gifts generally ranging from $5,000 to $100,000, he was solicited by few supplicants other than “insurance salesmen, financial planners, stockbrokers, yacht dealers and people selling condos in Vail,” he says.
But in a news story three years ago about a $50,000 gift to the Arts & Science Council, Parker was quoted as saying he wouldn’t mind looking at charitable requests – prompting 40 phone calls to his house the day the story was published. All told, he’s now received roughly 2,000 requests.
Parker has supported a broad range of social and human needs, giving $117,500 to Seigle Avenue Preschool, for example, and $1 million to United Way of Central Carolinas.
He also created the Great Aunt Stella Center by buying the Tabernacle ARP Church for $835,000, converting it into a community cultural center for $1.5 million, and contributing $1 million to Creative Community Services, a nonprofit that runs the uptown center.
Parker estimates he has given away $6 million to $7 million in the past four years, including $2.3 million through the foundation and nearly $3 million he withdrew from the trust.
Trust income supports several early-stage businesses he’s created, including Parker Athletic Products, which makes sports protective equipment, and UltraScope, which makes medical stethoscopes.
He plans to contribute any profits from those companies to charity, and will focus on helping human-services groups secure space, supporting early childhood education and development, and encouraging collaboration.
He also wants to help nonprofits make themselves more financially stable.
“When I give away money, I want to make sure they have people on their board and staff who know what they’re doing on the financial side,” he says, adding that he’s unlikely to support groups that aren’t supported by their own board members.
“It does bug me that people with more resources than I have will ask me to give more to an agency than they do,” he says.