An impromptu split, singing, dancing and music from the Bradwell Institute’s Marching Tigers provided the fanfare Thursday at the kickoff for the United Way of the Coastal Empire-Liberty County Branch’s campaign to raise $155,000.
Area residents, and representatives of area agencies gathered in the lobby of the Board of Education for the rally. The BI band played on the second floor, peering down over the audience on the ground floor, where the color guard dancers performed.
To keep the excitement going, Pastor Alan Darsey, campaign co-chairman, invited all the United Way volunteers up for some line dancing. They danced to "Cupid Shuffle" with Darsey doing a split to the audience members’ surprise.
Before the rally, people visited agencies’ booths in the board meeting room. The agencies receive UW funding and included the American Red Cross, Diversity Health and Goodwill.
The campaign theme is "Be The One," meaning that you can be the one to give back, make a difference, volunteer and pay it forward.
"We need your support to continue to make a difference one life at a time," Lori McCampbell, campaign co-chairwoman, said. "Your support impacts a life, a family, an entire community, not just today — forever. Let’s be the one to set the example for our future generations on how to make a difference."
Kay Ford, campaign chairwoman for United Way, challenged everyon to "be the one" whether through donations, volunteerism or advocating for someone else.
"And keep in mind that any of ‘us could one day be the one who needs the services of our United Way agencies and programs," she said.
By working together, people can combine to achieve great things, Darsey said.
"Each and every one of you have the opportunity to make a difference. We always think that what we can contribute might not be enough," he said. "But here’s the crazy thing, that when we as a collaborative effort come together in a small part, in a small way, that you give, that you advocate, you volunteer, you can make a difference in someone’s life."
Garrett Shelton is one of many people who has benefited from United Way’s services. He told his story.
Shelton was born and raised in south Louisiana. Toward the end of high school, he started using and dealing drugs. Shelton jumped at the opportunity to come to Liberty County, where he has been for the past four years.
"I got involved with Restoration Church and through that and getting connected and being around a good body of people, I was able to get into the accelerated opportunity program that United Way funded, through people giving," Shelton said.
He was accepted into the welding program at Savannah Technical College while simultaneously earning his GED. He got a job as a welder’s assistant at Interstate Resources in Riceboro and after six months was promoted to full time welder. It did not stop there. Six to eight months later he was promoted to plant foreman and last week was named to the management team as a dayshift supervisor.
"I was given that opportunity through the people of United Way and what you all donated," he said. "For me it hits homes to be able to give back and share my story so we can help other people like me."
Volunteers were also recognized with the Make A Difference Awards.
Award recipient James Williams of the Hinesville Police Department was asked to sing. Williams often sings at community events and churches.
After singing a gospel tune he asked for prayers for law enforcement, first responders and hospital staff.
"Let’s unite one another and stop fighting each other," Williams said.
Other award recipients included Terri Liles, Dana Ingram, Ena Wilson, Kristin Bryant, Patricia Palmer and the Target Corporation.