Black River United Way changed its focus to consolidate its funding and target the specific goals of improving reading levels of kindergarten through second grade children, strengthen the work force of Georgetown and Williamsburg counties and rebuild from the horrific flooding of October 2015.
“The United Way is not generally known as a disaster relief agency like the Red Cross and Salvation Army,” says Lucy S. Woodhouse, Black River’s executive officer. However, United Way organizations “are designed to respond to the needs of a community” and clearly flood recovery will be a multiple year effort in the two counties.
Black River has surpassed its $400,000 campaign goal for 2015-16 and also raised over $300,000 for flood recovery efforts. Black River has made grants to Catholic Charities, All Hands Volunteers, Mennonite Disaster Services and the Jerusalem Center in Andrews. A Mennonite recovery team, through this month, completed 45 homes. “A pretty awesome group,” Woodhouse says of the team.
In surpassing its campaign goal, Woodhouse credits “donors from workplace campaigns, individuals and [United Way] board of directors. Key workplace campaigns include Santee Cooper Winyah Generating Station, International Paper, Publix, Georgetown city, county and school district employees, along with South State, TD Bank and Georgetown Kraft Credit Union.
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The focus on K-2 reading resulted from nonprofit and school district data showing “that the majority of area kindergarteners through 2nd graders were not reading at expected grade levels, setting them up to be four times more likely to drop out of school.” Woodhouse says $100,000 of the raised money will be invested in the reading effort, along with “a leveraged additional $500,000 from nonprofit, government and district funding sources.”
Black River has applied for an Americorps grant “that will enable us to work with 180 children at risk.” Donna Anderson, Americorps grant coordinator, says Black River will be a sub-grantee through the United Way Association of South Carolina. The grant will place a total of 30 Americorps members in five elementary schools in both counties. Five would be full-time in the program, possibly retirees; five more would be part-time upper-graduate college students and 20 high school seniors.
The Science And Inquiry Learning (SAIL) program was a pilot project for two years. Yolanda McCray, director of community impact for Black River, says SAIL will be in five schools, three in Georgetown County, two in Williamsburg, and three nonprofits, Teach My People, The Village Group and MK Inc.
The work force training focus involves dozens of partners, including the two school districts and Horry Georgetown Technical College, Georgetown County Economic Development, Georgetown Jobs Connection, International Paper, Helping Hands of Georgetown and Mercom of Pawleys Island. The partners are working to target the entities that will receive grants, Woodhouse says.
The United Way also will repeat its Day of Caring mini-grants, for training and making better use of the volunteers, who are so important to all nonprofits. In 2015, Black River made 26 mini-grants of up to $350 and that will be repeated in September, along with a second annual volunteer fair scheduled for Sept. 7.
Mission and contact information
Black River United Way’s mission is to make a difference in our community by addressing root causes and providing support when our community needs it the most. We are focused on improving our community’s capacity to care for one another by working together. – Lucy Woodhouse, CEO
Black River United Way
515 Front St. | P.O. Box 1065
Georgetown SC 29442
Phone | 843-546-6317
Online | www.Blackriveruw.org