Deep Well celebrates 40 years of helping those in need

astice@islandpacket.comApril 8, 2013 

From a teenage Eagle Scout to the motorcycle group The Rolling Thunder, a wide variety of donors have helped The Deep Well Project serve people in need for 40 years.

On Sunday, the nonprofit organization celebrated many of those supporters at an anniversary shindig at Honey Horn on Hilton Head Island with food, music and games.

For volunteer Peggy Nowak, who was collecting signatures on poster-sized anniversary cards to display at the group's office on Beach City Road, Deep Well's longevity is all the more amazing because it does not host its own fundraisers.

Instead, people step up to help the organization raise the money and goods that it needs, Nowak said.

Those supporters have included Hilton Head's P.J. Peter, who at age 16 last Christmas created a snow village in Pineland Station where he collected canned goods and toys as part of an Eagle Scout project.

Pictures of Peter and other donors, including Rolling Thunder bikers on their annual Deep Well toy run, were placed on a story board depicting the nonprofit group's history from its founding in 1973 by Charlotte Heinrichs.

"It is really through the generosity of businesses and people in the community that we have survived," Nowak said. "It's so nice to see so many of them here."

All of Deep Well's funding is from private sources. Just last year, the charity collected $943,000 in cash and in-kind donations of food or furniture. In November, it also received an Angel Award from the S.C. Secretary of State for contributing 91.7 percent of its annual budget to the needy.

Deep Well helped nearly 2,000 individuals and families get the services they needed in 2012, from assistance with utility payments, home repairs, holiday dinners or just weekly groceries.

The organization is founded on the principle of giving a hand up instead of a handout. While placing limits on how often it provides aid, the group also encourages clients to contribute what they can. For example, Nowak said recipients of home repairs through Deep Well's Livable Housing Program often pay back some of the cost in the years that follow.

"Deep Well is a blessing to the island," said Cora Miller, who brought a group of kids from the Hilton Head Island Boys & Girls Club to perform songs at Sunday's event. "They give and they give and they give.

"Food, rent, keeping the lights on -- there's nothing they won't do." Miller said.

Along with the Boys & Girls Club, 35 other groups -- including businesses, singing groups and rotary clubs -- attended or contributed to Sunday's celebration.

As Deep Well makes plans for its 41st year, it also collected small donations and signed up volunteers during the event. Among its needs are volunteer translators to serve a growing Hispanic population, on-call volunteers who can drive clients to doctor's appointments or the grocery store and able-bodied volunteers who can lift heavy furniture during deliveries.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.

Related content:

Humble beginnings for Deep Well teach lessons 40 years later, April 2, 2013

Eagle Scout creats snow village to benefit charity, Dec. 14, 2012 PHOTO: Rolling Thunder makes toy run to Deep Well, Dec. 17, 2012

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