Tutoring at-risk elementary school children to improve their reading skills, and helping Georgetown and Williamsburg County adults find jobs, are two major initiatives of the Black River United Way. Both efforts are showing success.
“It’s working,” BRUW executive director Lucy Woodhouse says of the AmeriCorps tutoring program in five elementary schools, three in Georgetown County and two in Williamsburg County. Twenty-six AmeriCorps members are working with 170 children in the five elementary schools and the results are “just amazing.”
Reading levels are moving – so much that now some children are reading at levels hoped for at the end of the school year.
Black River United Way has a three-year federal grant for the tutoring program. “This is the school year part, then in the summer we have the SAIL program.” The latter is Science And Inquiry Learning, a pilot program in the five schools which was a springboard for the tutoring program, according to Yolanda McCray, director of community impact for BRUW.
In the jobs initiative, three nonprofits – A Father’s Place, Helping Hands of Georgetown, Palmetto Goodwill – are in a coalition, Georgetown Jobs Connection, that provides information about seeking employment for “anyone looking for a job,” Woodhouse says. The three nonprofits formerly had separate programs and now “they’re doing it together.”
Black River United Way funded the coalition with a $50,000 grant.
“Job Week” is held once a month. People attend four days, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., learning how to interview, how to dress for an interview, testing, “a little bit of everything,” as Woodhouse put it. They hear from corporate human resource people and representatives of S.C. Works, the state employment service. Approximately 160 people have been through “Job Week,” and about half have jobs.
BRUW also partnered with Palmetto Goodwill to expand VITA, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Daphne Smith was hired to coordinate the program, which has seven sites open and an eighth planned. In 2016, the volunteers helped prepare 300 tax returns; this year, they helped about 200 the first two weeks of the program.
Black River United Way also has increased its VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) program, with six VISTA workers employed at nonprofits, including one at the United Way. The VISTA and AmeriCorps grants total about $300,000.
The United Way campaign, with a goal of $500,000 for calendar year 2017, is ongoing.
“We’re campaigning year around now, we’re about half way toward the goal,” Woodhouse says.
With Catholic Charities, the United Way is leading the ongoing recovery effort from the historic flooding of October 2015. The Winyah Bay Long Term Recovery Group has 741 cases still open. Of those, upwards of 250 “will be taken care of with federal funds. What’s left are houses that were problematic before the flooding.”
This week, Mennonite Disaster Services is working on 30-plus houses in the two counties.
Black River United Way serves Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.
P.O. Box 1065
(515 Front St.)
Georgetown, SC 29442
Phone | 843-546-6317
Online | www.blackriveruw.org
VITA sites | Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is available at three locations in Georgetown and in Murrells Inlet, Kingstree, Greeleyville and Hemingway. Hours of operation vary.