Established by Tom Yawkey's will in 1976, Yawkey Foundation I was created to support the places and causes that Tom loved during his lifetime. A special area of focus for Yawkey Foundation I is the community of Georgetown County, South Carolina. Though raised and educated in New York and Connecticut, Tom Yawkey inherited a considerable amount of land along the shoreline of Georgetown County — land that his uncle, William Yawkey, had purchased in 1911. Tom Yawkey loved this land and the community surrounding it. An avid outdoorsman and self-taught ornithologist, Tom placed significant value on conservation and wildlife preservation, and through the years he continued to acquire tracts of land for conservation.

One of Tom Yawkey's greatest legacies was the donation of all 20,000 acres of his land to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Now encompassing more than 24,000 acres, the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center is considered to be one of the most outstanding grants to wildlife conservation efforts in North America. Its marshes, marine wetlands, forests, and sandy beaches play host to hundreds of species of coastal wildlife and serve as an undisturbed habitat for migratory birds, eagles, alligators, and many other endangered species.

The Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center remains one of the key areas of focus for Yawkey Foundation I and the Trustees work diligently to support it as a place of conservation and learning. Grant requests for Yawkey Foundation I are by invitation only.