United Way of the Lowcountry fell short of its $2.8 million fundraising goal last year, but the agency's new leaders said during Wednesday's annual luncheon at Sun City Hilton Head they will not be distracted from their service mission.
The nonprofit organization raised nearly $2,221,000 during its annual campaign, which ended March 31 -- about $500,000 less than the chapter raised in the 2011 campaign and about $579,000 less than 2012's goal.
Fundraising goals for next year's campaign have not yet been announced, but the chapter remains committed to its mission to halve school drop-out rates in Beaufort and Jasper county high schools by 2022, a goal set last year.
"I am honored -- honored to be leading the United Way during such a pivotal time," said Tina Gentry, who took over as the local organization's CEO after Clarece Walker retired in February after 18 years.
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During the 2010-2011 school year, 122 students, or 2.3 percent, of Beaufort County public high school students dropped out, according to a June 2012 report by the S.C. Department of Education. During the same year, 15 Jasper County public high school students, or about 1.8 percent of the student body, dropped out.
To improve retention, the United Way launched Early Grade Reading in the fall, during this school year. The program aims to have all students reading at grade level or better by the time they reach fourth grade. United Way hopes to place 600 reading tutors in eight schools in Beaufort and Jasper counties by 2018.
At Tuesday's luncheon, new members were appointed to the organization's board of directors, including Chris McCorkendale, who will be chairman. McCorkendale is vice president for operations, engineering and strategic sales for Hargray.
"For sure, this past year has been a challenging year for our United Way. I think we've done a wonderful job in the community, but it's been a year of transition," said McCorkendale, adding that he thought the organization has emerged stronger.
Outgoing board chairman Peter Post said the annual meeting was "a wonderful way to wrap up our 2012 work and to set the stage for great things to come. This is a very giving community, but the needs are great, too."
Guests at the luncheon watched a short video entitled "Aspire," which showed Lowcountry residents sharing what they thought Beaufort and Jasper counties need to become better places to live and work.
The video can be viewed at www.uwlowcountry.org.
Keynote speaker and Adventure Radio Group personality Monty Jett spoke after the video, borrowing a line from Thomas Edison: "Vision without action is hallucination. So let's move, and let's get busy and let's aspire to bring forth the action."
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.