Businesses recognized as United Way pace setters

Kevin Boozer Staff Writer

October 3, 2013

WINNSBORO — The United Way continues fund-raising efforts in Fairfield County this fall thanks to several corporate sponsors recently honored by the nonprofit organization.

During United Way’s Sept. 17 “Literacy Live,” a community event held in Columbia to promote education and literacy the community, donors and partners gathered to recognize Fairfield Memorial Hospital, Provident Community Bank, Palmetto Imaging Technology and G4S as Pacesetter and Advanced campaigns.

Such campaigns are run early in the fund-raising year and many achieve advances in either giving or participation. The advances, according to Winnsboro’s Mike Quinn with the United Way of the Midlands, make it possible for the United Way to invest in education and other areas to benefit the community.

The four companies and their employees contributed more than $13,000, enabling the Fairfield United Way task team to reach nearly 40 percent of its $35,000 goal for this year.

“United Way has a renewed focus on education, specifically second and third grade reading levels. That is a crucial point in a child’s development, and we wanted to host a community kickoff event that reflected that,” said Mac Bennett, president and CEO of United Way of the Midlands. “It’s encouraging to see that the companies and individuals in Fairfield County are committed to this area as well. Their involvement is what makes our work possible.”

Several hundred guests, including company presidents and CEOs, company campaign directors, leadership givers and other invested community members attended the kickoff celebration.

“Our goal is to thank our volunteers and these companies for their efforts while inspiring the Midlands community at the same time,” said Holt Chetwood, co-chairman for the United Way of the Midlands 2013 Campaign. “We want to send the message that by working together we can make an impact.”

To qualify as a Pacesetter, he said, each company must commit to at least a 10 percent increase in participation or employee giving and conduct a volunteer activity in the community.

The Pacesetter and Advanced campaigns are completed prior to Sept. 7 each year and those efforts, by a select group can help “set the pace” and the standard for other groups who give to United Way, such as the School District of Fairfield County.

The staff and administrators at the district office held a special Halloween-themed kick off to their United Way Campaign this fall. Dr. Jennifer Etheridge said she served on the board with the United Way and learned more about who received benefits from the organization which made her more passionate about raising funds for United Way.

Some areas United Way supports locally include Fairfield Behavioral Health, First Steps, the Boys and Girls Club, and Girl Scouts. Dr. Claudia Edwards, assistant superintendent of Education, shared how United Way grant money enables 20 young girls to serve as daisies at the schools. The funds are distributed on a basis of need and cover registration fees, uniforms and backpacks of books that each girl receives as part of a program with a literacy organization at the University of South Carolina.

Educators were excited by the amount of money that comes back to the county through United Way, funds that helps support kindergarten and first grade educational opportunities.

United Way jean days are another way the educators can raise funds. Perhaps the greatest incentive is if the district office exceeds last year’s goal either by a certain dollar amount or percentage: Superintendent J.R. Green will dress in a full Griffins football uniform for an entire school day.

Quinn reminded the educators how every dollar counts and said that they were off to a good start toward reaching the district office goal of $8,500. The United Way contributes volunteers for the Midlands Reading Consortium, provides prescription drug assistance for needy individuals and provides financial stability to help people get out of poverty or to assist those with little or no health insurance.

United Way of the Midlands is an organized, efficient and accountable system for investing in the community, Bennett said. With more than 85 certified partner agencies, United Way works to identify and respond to the critical human service needs of Calhoun, Fairfield, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg and Richland counties. Funds are raised through workplace campaigns, grant writing and individual donations.

So far more than $4.6 million has been raised toward the $10.4 million goal for 2013.