By Luana M. Graves Sellars

Photo Credit: Lloyd Wainscott

Everyone has a story. What’s fascinating about Hilton Head is, that it’s a melting pot of uncommon and sometimes incredible life stories. Most of the time, when you look at a person, it’s virtually impossible to know what’s their story, until, like an onion, you begin to pull away at the many layers of substance that makes them who they are.

Rose Jackson, like a southern grown sweet Vidalia onion, is made up of a variety of layers that once peeled away, not only reveal a huge heart for giving, but an incredible story of triumph over breast cancer and a life full of dedication to serving others.

Growing up a Gullah on the island gave Rose a solid foundation. “I loved growing up on Hilton Head because someone would always tell on you.” But, her ambition she says, started in her childhood church, Historic St. James Baptist. “I learned my discipline from St. James. People there were so distinguished. Seeing them motivated me to do well and to succeed.” And succeed she did.

After graduating from college, Rose came back to the island to work for the last 30 years in finance, which was the beginning of her discovering her love of helping people, especially children. “People motivate me and I have a passion for people. My grandmother used to say that I can’t save everyone. I always responded that, but I want to try.” The list of Rose’s community service is very long and continually growing. She decided early on that it was important to “give back to the community what I’ve been given.”

Photo Credit: Lloyd Wainscott

A need on the island and the native islanders needing a voice, coupled with the initiatives that the Rotary had for children, she knew that it was the right place for her to be. “Kids just grab your heart. They should know that they are loved and appreciated. They should never be cold or without.” With that as her motivation, she became an active member of the Rotary, and for the last four years, she has been involved in their Safety Town Program and the committee chair for the Annual Happy Feet. As the chair of Happy Feet, and with the support of Belk’s, she coordinates over 50 volunteers and the donation of shoes, socks and jackets to island children in need. This year, she was able to serve over 270 children.

Her love for children extends to their education as well. Rose believes in the importance of saving. “Growing up, nobody taught us how to save”, so she teaches financial literacy to elementary-aged children at Central Oak Grove Church. During the holiday season, she purchases Christmas gifts for 30 children and has adopted a family from Deep Well. 

As a committee member for the Ella C. White Scholarship Fund, the One Island One Community, a Central Oak Church volunteer and participant in the Relay for Life team for her church and bank, Rose is always doing for others. “Every year I add a lap on to the Relay for Life. This year I will be at 12 laps.” 

The extraordinary level of giving that comes from Rose’s heart was returned to her during her battle with breast cancer. “I had an incredible support system.” As a breast cancer survivor since 2006, Rose says that she learned a lot from her health experience; especially about the importance of early detection and knowing your medical roots. She says, while growing up, she believes that probably a lot of women might have had breast cancer in earlier years, and it’s possible that “we just didn’t know.”  

Rose is married to husband Jerry Knighton and the mother to two adult children, Corry and Brittany. Regardless of her full schedule of work and volunteering, she has no plans for slowing down. “I’ll continue giving back how I can, in every way.”  It’s large giving hearts and selfless individuals like Rose Jackson, who make our island a better place. 

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