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United Way board talks new ideas
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The United Way of the Coastal Empire board members gather in the Liberty County Board of Education building as they give an award and say their good-byes to Anthony Burns, who had his final meeting Thursday. - photo by Katelyn Umholtz

The United Way of the Coastal Empire discussed several big ideas during its Thursday meeting.
Jennifer Darsey, director of United Way in Liberty County, spoke to the 17 other board members present about nominations, funding and new events and programs.
One of the group’s recent projects was working with Project Homeless Connect, an event planned by the Community Development Department that provided services to the homeless. United Way gave out personal-hygiene products and information on direct services for those who need shelter.
“We had 119 people that checked in at our table who said that they were either homeless or at risk of homelessness. This was just in a three-hour event. They hosted it at Bradwell Institute in the gymnasium, which was better only because people could get to it easier,” Darsey said. “I think our participation overall increased this year. It was a good event, and I think we’re just going to keep building on that.”
The group also is trying to advocate an emergency night shelter to house homeless people who have nowhere else to go at night.
Some city and county officials think differently about homelessness being an issue in Liberty County, but Darsey said data proves there is a severe homeless problem in the area.
The United Way also recently purchased gas cards for those who have jobs or doctors appointments but cannot afford gas for their cars.
“We just purchased new gas cards for the office. That is a huge need in the community. If someone just got a new job, but they don’t have the resources to put gas in their car so they can get to the job, then we use those gas cards for situations like that,” Darsey said. “We have a lot of cancer patients who are driving back in forth to Savannah for treatments, and they’re able to use that gas card as a resource.”
Because of its success within the community, Savannah Technical College plans to hold a summer welding program, with 10 open slots in July.
The United Way has used this welding program with their accelerated-opportunities program, which can be beneficial to people of any age with or without degrees.
Garret Shelton, 20, completed the welding program and now has a job with a steel-fabricating company that focuses on building vans and trailers.
“He is the poster child for the accelerated-opportunities program. He has a 4.0 (grade-point average) and gets 100s on all of his welding projects. He just got a job at Great Dane,” Darsey said. “He’s not your traditional four-year college student, but he’s doing great things with this opportunity that’s been given to him.”
The board members talked of nominating three new members to United Way: Holly Stevens, Hinesville’s director of human resources; Rhonda Hawkins, Liberty Regional Medical Center’s logistics director; and Kim McGlothlin, Liberty County’s chief financial officer.
According to the board, these three people would provide much-needed connections between the United Way and the city and county governments and local hospital.
They also nominated and elected Alan Darsey as the new campaign chairman.
“I will take on the full responsibility of campaign chair. However, I would desire to have a co-chair,” Alan Darsey said. “That’s my contingency.”
The meeting ended with an emotional goodbye when board member Anthony Burns, an engineering supervisor with Georgia Power, announced he was moving to Manchester, Georgia, and that this would be his last meeting.
He given a plaque and a round of applause from the board members.
“It’s been seven years since I came to Hinesville, and I came here not knowing anybody. In those seven years, this community has become a part of my family and me. I just couldn’t ask for anything better,” Burns said. “I’ve said plenty of times that there isn’t a better organization to be a part of than this United Way group right here. There’s no decision they’ve made that I would ever question. Just to be a part of this is tremendous. To see where we’ve come from and where we are now, it’s just awesome.”

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