Reading and young people, high priority for local bank

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Boosting high school graduation has been a concerted effort for the United Way since 2008. Today, some 88 percent of the 1,200 United Ways in the U.S. are investing dollars, energy, and leadership to improve high school graduation – whether that’s through school readiness, early grade reading, middle school success or cradle-to-career efforts.

In any community, education, income and health are the building blocks for opportunity. Education is essential to getting and keeping a job with a wage that can sustain a family and has health benefits. An income that can cover today and save for tomorrow builds a family’s solid foundation. Good health helps children stay on track at school, and it also keeps adults productive at work. Remove any of these building blocks and the other two topple. Build them all up and a community has a solid foundation for individual and community prosperity.

Bethany Marcinkowski and Tina Gentry of United Way of the Lowcountry and Eric Lowman of BB&T are in the Reading Garden at St. Helena Elementary School on St. Helena Island.
Bethany Marcinkowski and Tina Gentry of United Way of the Lowcountry and Eric Lowman of BB&T are in the Reading Garden at St. Helena Elementary School on St. Helena Island.

“When communities and organizations come together to advance the common good, we can make things happen. And it reminds us that everyone can play a meaningful role in creating opportunities,” says Tina Gentry, CEO/president of the United Way of the Lowcountry.

BB&T presented a $10,000 donation to the United Way of the Lowcountry’s early grade reading initiative in the library of St. Helena Elementary Wednesday, May 29, at 1:30 p.m. The contribution is one component of a multi-prong effort by the local bank to make a difference.

Volunteers from BB&T have teamed up with St. Helena Elementary School to build a Reading Garden. The Reading Garden is an area of the school’s library designated for reading and tutoring. The area hosts an inviting environment with bean bags, books, V-readers, E-readers, puzzles and games, all geared to aid with learning and comprehension. In addition, bank employees have volunteered to read one-on-one with students under the guidance of the United Way of the Lowcountry’s Literacy Volunteers. The reading garden project is part of the company’s fifth annual Lighthouse Project. The project enables BB&T volunteers to commit to a project to assist a nonprofit agency during May or June to make a positive impact on the lives of people in need. BB&T hopes their efforts encourage others in the community to volunteer their time and support organizations such as St. Helena Elementary School.

“We are pleased to make this donation to the United Way’s Early Reading program. These funds will help support the United Way’s efforts to improve the reading skills of our elementary students in the Lowcountry, so the majority are reading on grade level by the fourth grade,” says Eric Lowman, Lowlands Market president, BB&T South Carolina Region.

“The efforts of BB&T locally are representative of what corporate partners can do in building a better future for our citizens,” said Gentry.