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United Way reports to Long Co. Chamber
Chamber breakfast
Attendees fill their plates at the Long County Chamber of Commerces Progress Through People breakfast last week at Compass Worship Center in Ludowici. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle

The Long County Chamber of Commerce last week held its Progress Through People breakfast at Compass Worship Center in Ludowici. United Way representative Sarah McLaughlin spoke during the meal.
McLaughlin told the packed church that even though she works in Hinesville, she has a vested interest in Long County because she lives in Ludowici and all three of her children attended Long County schools.
She said that the United Way works to improve the lives of local people by mobilizing the caring power of communities. McLaughlin said that the United Way of the Coastal Empire chapter includes Bryan, Effingham, Liberty and Chatham counties, but in recent years, it has branched into Long County. The entity’s annual Toys for Tots campaign also helps Ludowici and Long County.
McLaughlin touched on the UW’s Backpack Buddies meal program, which sends underprivileged children home each weekend with food-filled backpacks. The program originated after several teachers discovered students only ate when they were at school. In Liberty County, 467 children qualify for the program, and more than 900 free meals are given away every weekend.
McLaughlin said the UW also has a program that occasionally helps people who are unable to pay their utility bills. In addition, the UW frequently coordinates mobile food drops, during which free groceries are given to area residents.
McLaughlin said the United Way would like to implement these programs in Long County and begin fundraisers to offer them. Any money donated in Long County stays in the county, said McLaughlin, who added that UW donors can earmark their funds for a specific charitable organization.
After McLaughlin’s presentation, chamber President Don Melton voiced concerns over the Townsend Bombing Range expansion. He thinks the project will hurt individuals and organizations, and he urged chamber members to take a stance against it. All the joining fees paid during the chamber’s current membership drive will be used to send a representative from the chamber to Atlanta, where he or she will voice opposition to the expansion. This representative will go with a delegation of local leaders in an attempt to stop the expansion or, if cessation is not an option, advocate for financial compensation on behalf of Long County.
After Melton, he relinquished the podium to Janet Watford, who represents Long County on the Coastal Regional Commission Area Agency on Aging board. She said that Coastal Manor Long Term Care Facility agreed to provide meals to senior citizens for a rate of $3 per meal. Recent cuts had jeopardized the program at the Long County Senior Citizen Center, but the Long County Sheriff’s Office and the Ludowici/Long County Fire Department raised $2,100 for the program, which will pay for meals through June 31. Any senior 55 or older is eligible for meals, which are available at Coastal Manor. Watford said that she and fellow board member Lillian Simmons are working to expand the meal program to homebound seniors, but additional volunteers would be needed.
Coastal Manor Chief Long-Term Care Officer Elise Stafford told the chamber that the center will have its annual Easter-egg hunt April 12. She said residents decorate the eggs and always look forward to spending the day with children. The event is open to everyone.

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