Photo above: Connie Hipp was recently named the United Way of the Lowcountry’s Women United Woman of the Year. She is shown here, at left, with Katie Phifer, chair of the Women United Steering Committee.
By Aileen Goldstein
A quote from Mahatma Gandhi hangs on the door of Connie Hipp’s refrigerator.
It reads: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Hipp lives and breathes these words every single day.
Hipp was recently named 2017 Woman of the Year by the United Way of the Lowcountry’s Women United. The award was announced at the annual Power of the Purse, a fundraiser to provide services for children and families of Beaufort and Jasper counties to eliminate financial restraints in education. The event was held at the Dataw Island clubhouse.
Hipp’s volunteer history is long and rich, encompassing a large majority of the 59 years she has lived in Beaufort.
“My husband used to call me a serial volunteer,” Hipp said with a laugh.
Although she does not volunteer now nearly as much as she used to, she still is very active in the community.
“I do it because I grew up here and there is no reason not to give back,” she said when asked why she volunteers.
After graduating high school, Hipp started working for the federal government. She watched successful women around her and took note of what they did. Eventually, she joined professional women’s club and learned from her elders, a so-called Wisdom Row.
These women encouraged Hipp to try different things and to grow.
In the beginning, Hipp was involved in so many volunteer opportunities because she wanted to find what she was best at. It did not take long for her to discover that her passion was leadership. Early on, Hipp was among the first classes of the Beaufort Leadership, a mentoring program through the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Once Hipp graduated from the program, the directors that were supposed to lead were suddenly unable to perform their duties. Hipp said she was happy to help and the rest is history. This month, she will finish her 30th year directing Beaufort Leadership.
The foundation of Hipp’s service with Leadership Beaufort is to help the students realize how easy is to get involved and therefore make a difference. She tells the classes, “Quit saying they need to take care of this or they need to do that, it is time that you figure out when you can be a they.”
Hipp’s resume of volunteerism includes many organizations throughout the county including the Child Abuse Prevention Association (CAPA), Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA) and the Girls and Boys Club, among others.
She currently runs an organization called Transitional Workforce Education Assistance Collaborative, better known as TWEAC. The organization assists military member and their families in finding work during and after their service to our country.
The Woman of the Year award came as a surprise to Hipp as she did not even know she had been nominated, and she is honored to be recognized by the United Way. Recognition does not come easily for Hipp, as her comfort place is behind the scenes.
The biggest rewards for Hipp’s years of service come when she learns what alumni of the Leadership Beaufort do after graduating from the program. Oftentimes, past students will reach out to Hipp and tell her that she inspired them to run for public office or join a board of directors for a local charity.
She encourages young people to find a role model and watch what makes other people successful, as she did when she was first starting out. She also stresses the importance for everyone to realize how easy it is to get involved.
“I think sometimes people wait until someone asked them to do something,” she said, “and they don’t realize how easy it is to say, ‘How can I help?’ instead.”