Philanthropy can, in the most paradoxical way, seem like a luxury of the privileged. One could be forgiven for assuming only the ‘elite’ among us, especially in today’s economy, can even afford to be generous.
However, one legendary woman, at the helm of a successful local business, shows us that philanthropy can be personal and profound. Carolyn Linder is the proprietor of Lindell Jewelers, a family-owned jewelry store located in Brentwood, TN. She has successfully run this business for over 29 years. And while she’s well-known for her stunning jewelry, she’s also known for her spirit of generosity.
In her case, charity is not a perfunctory part of success – it’s motivated by deeply personal reasons. Linder, not unlike other successful businesswomen (Coco Chanel comes to mind), was an orphan. At the tender age of nine, she arrived at Monroe Harding – a stately colonial in Nashville that housed children without homes. It was here that she experienced for the first time things that most children take for granted. Linder recounts, “I had never slept in my own bed. I did not understand what Christmas or birthdays were about. Having three square meals each day was wonderful.”
In addition to material necessities, Monroe Harding provided children like Linder with something utterly priceless. When recalling her formative childhood years at this storied institution, Linder says, “I felt safe there.” For a child who did not experience the stability and security of loving parents, this was monumental. Though Linder notes that in her adulthood, she still struggled with feelings of self-worth and navigating the world without parental guidance, she became stronger for it – and perhaps it was the love that she felt from her first home that gave her the confidence to launch her own business.
It makes sense then why, to this day, Linder donates jewelry to Monroe Harding events. “Philanthropy is important to me because when I had nothing, some wonderful people silently cared for us at Monroe Harding. They helped shape the people we are today, and they made our lives better. I will always give until I can’t give anymore. Kindness is special to me.”
And today, she is not just a successful business owner, philanthropist, and pillar of the community, but she is a mother to two, “amazing, strong, and independent ladies,” for whom she says she tried to be the mother she never had. For a woman who grew up with nothing, she has given everything back. “When God calls me home, I want people to remember that I was kind and would give the shirt off my back if another needed it.”
Philanthropy is important to me because when I had nothing, some wonderful people silently cared for us at Monroe Harding. They helped shape the people we are today, and they made our lives better.