Bank president surprised as a Community Builder while attending gala to honor his friend
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Hundreds of people packed out the USC Alumni Center to honor the United Way's Humanitarian of the Year Mac Bennett just last week. However, in a surprise twist, Bennett was one of many who made sure another Columbia man was also recognized that evening.
Before the award's dinner ever began, BB&T Regional president Mike Brenan was one of the first to arrive to honor his friend Mac. But what Brenan didn't know was that Bennett was in on a surprise for him that had been months in the works.
"I don't know that Mike has ever told anybody, 'No,' or that he can't do something," said Bennett. "So for him to be honored here tonight is really special, and for it to be kind of a "gotcha" moment will be very enjoyable for me, as well."
At this same gala last year, Brenan had actually helped to set Bennett up. Stewart and Steven Mungo of Mungo Homes were being honored with the Humanitarian of the Year Award, and because Bennett was retiring after 12 years of service to the United Way, the Michael J. Mungo Foundation wanted to honor him as a Community Builder.
In order to stage the surprise, Bennett was told the Mungos would be honoring his friend Mike Brenan, but Brenan was in on it all along.
"It was kind of fun to see the expression on his face," Brenan told our cameras last year.
So you can imagine when Matt Mungo got up this year to surprise Brenan, Bennett was ready to see his face, too.
"Tonight, we recognize someone who has faithfully served our community since moving here via bank merger more than 20 years ago," said Mungo.
It wasn't long before Brenan caught on and looked over at Bennett in disbelief. Mungo listed Brenan's numerous contributions: past chairman of the USC Moore School of Business Partnership Foundation and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Central South Carolina Alliance and TransformSC, twice Chair of the United Way of the Midlands campaign, and the list just goes on.
"This is a different state because he has been here," United Way of the Midlands' CEO Sara Fawcett told our cameras. "In my notes, I have a page long list of organizations that Mike has been involved within the state and in the Midlands and it covers the entire spectrum. It covers health and human services, it covers economic development, and it covers cultural arts and beside almost every organization, there's the word chairman."
As Mungo continued to list his many contributions he concluded, "I'm sure by now you figured out for whom I speak, please join me in welcoming our newest WIS and Mungo Homes Community Builder Mr. Mike Brenan."
Brenan kissed his wife Julie before finding his way to his friend Bennett for a big hug, and then eventually to the stage.
"Julie, I'm speechless!" Brenan first told his wife before the crowd. "Just to have the opportunity to be a part of all the great people in this community, and at the end of the day, we are at the ones that have been blessed by being here by being around all of you."
We spoke to Brenan after the surprise, as well.
"I have a wonderful family that supports me," he added. "Julie allows me to do these things because it requires me not to be home many nights, and she's just made it easy for me to serve and to be part of this community."
Based on his standing ovation, it's clear the community is beyond grateful the Brenans have made Columbia home for the last 20 years, too.
Four years ago, Brenan's wife Julie was actually honored as one of our first Community Builders when we launched the awards with the Michael J. Mungo Foundation in 2014. She was nominated for her work with underserved communities and the arts.
Like his wife Julie, Mike Brenan will now also receive a $1,000 donation from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation to the charity of his choice.
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