United Way of the Lowcountry has annual meeting

United Way of the Lowcountry celebrated a new start at its Annual Meeting — a new start with newly-elected board members, a new CEO and new challenges in Beaufort and Jasper counties.

Featured at the noon luncheon at Sun City Hilton Head’s Pinckney Hall was a short video called “Aspire” with dozens of Lowcountry residents sharing their thoughts about what is needed to make the Lowcountry a better place. To view the video, visit www.uwlowcountry.org.

“This is a wonderful way to wrap up our 2012 work and to set the stage for great things to come,” said outgoing Board Chairman Peter Post. “This is a very giving community, but the needs are great, too.”

Joining the Board of Directors for a two-year term is Bernie Kole. Chris McCorkendale and Craig Harney were re-appointed to the Board for three-year terms, along with newcomers Randy Lamkin, Col. Jack Snider (USMC-Retired) and Matthew Brady.

McCorkendale of Hargray is the new Chairman of the Board, with Ashley Twombley taking the role of Chairman-Elect. Meredith Keene continues as Treasurer for the Board.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to be a part of United Way of the Lowcountry, and we have big plans to make 2013 our best year ever,” said Tina Gentry, CEO.

In 2012, United Way of the Lowcountry kicked off the Early Grade Reading initiative, designed to eventually put 600 volunteer reading tutors in eight Beaufort County and Jasper County elementary schools.

Participating schools include Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center, Hilton Head Island Elementary School, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, Pritchardville Elementary School, Joseph Shanklin Elementary School, St. Helena Elementary School, Ridgeland Elementary School and Hardeeville Elementary School.

United Way of the Lowcountry’s immediate goal in education is to ensure that local students are reading on grade level when they enter fourth grade. This early grade reading achievement is the first indicator of later success in school. Until third grade, children are learning to read; at the fourth grade, students are reading to learn.

The organization’s longer term goal is to cut in half the high school dropout rate in both Beaufort and Jasper counties by 2022.

When United Way’s 18-year veteran CEO Clarece Walker announced her February retirement back in June, the Board of Directors immediately launched a six-month national search that resulted in January’s hiring of Gentry.  A Beaufort High graduate, Gentry began work in February.

From 2003 until her hiring in Beaufort County, Gentry worked as vice president of patient access and sustainable resources for Four Seasons in Flat Rock, NC, where she oversaw a $20 million annual budget and 277 staff members with duties including researching, creating, implementing and evaluating comprehensive business and strategic plans.

For more information about United Way of the Lowcountry or to invest in the community, call 843-982-3040 or visit www.uwlowcountry.org.

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