Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach’s executive director steps down with the new year

vgrooms@thesunnews.comDecember 31, 2013 

Adrian Weatherwax spent Tuesday, her last official day with Myrtle Beach’s Helping Hand, on the golf course, looking forward to a new year and to more free time.

“I’m 65 and ready to spend some time traveling and with my family,” said the now former executive director. “It’s time for a change.”

Weatherwax steps down after about 23 years with Helping Hand, a crisis intervention and referral agency that provides food, rent and other assistance to those in need. Associate Director Tina Shuppy is taking over for Weatherwax in what is expected to be a seamless transition.

Weatherwax’s departure coincides with that of another longtime agency leader Olivia Garren, executive director of United Way of Horry County, who will retire in the spring after 38 years.

Weatherwax joined Helping Hand in 1990 when it was an outreach mission of First United Methodist Church. She said it mainly served college kids who came to the beach for the summer, spent all their money and needed food and fare to get back home, but services eventually spread throughout the community.

“It’s changed a lot,” said Weatherwax, who became director in 1998. “When I started, there were just two of us. We worked four hours a day and saw probably 5,000 clients a year. Now it’s close to 30,000 a year.”

Helping Hand has two full-time staff members and three who work part-time, serving a broad range of people who have fallen on hard times and need help, including many who are well-educated and employable, she said.

“Going to work every day was an adventure,” Weatherwax said. “There were so many people. You laugh with them and cry with them.”

Weatherwax said she has been cutting back on her hours over the last few years, working about three days a week. Shuppy, who joined Helping Hand 10 years ago as an intern from Coastal Carolina University, functioned as executive director whenever Weatherwax was away and can easily take up the reigns, said Lane Smith, president of Helping Hand’s board of directors.

“We’re very fortunate that Tina is familiar with every nook and cranny and corner, knows the people and is excited about taking the job,” said Smith, who said Shuppy got the best on-the-job training possible from Weatherwax. “I’m going to sorely miss Adrian - she’s fun to be with and dedicated - but fortunately, she’s leaving the place in good shape.”

Weatherwax has been a tireless fundraiser, always helping where needed, he said, and in the past 10 years, the agency has probably doubled its budget, as well as doubled the number of people it serves. He said fortunately for Helping Hand, Weatherwax also has agreed to still help out when needed.

“She’s irreplaceable, but we’re still getting the benefit of her expertise,” Smith said. “It’s kind of like having Babe Ruth sitting on the bench.”

Weatherwax said she’s not ready to totally let go yet, but she probably won’t be back at the agency right away, as she has trips planned and children and grandchildren to visit.

“I’ll miss everything – the staff, the volunteers and the clients – it was truly energizing,” she said. “I’ve always been eager to go away but just as eager to go to work. I’ve been able to have the best of both worlds.”

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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