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United Way kicks off campaign
UnitedWayKickOff 025
Members of the Bradwell Institute Marching Bands color guard dance in the lobby of the Liberty County Board of Education headquarters while the band plays on the second-floor balcony during United Way of the Coastal Empire Liberty Branchs fundraising campaign kickoff Thursday evening. - photo by Patty Leon

Make a Difference Award winners

Civic Organization of the Year: East Liberty American Legion Post 321
Individual Volunteer of the Year: Karen Bell
Military – Retired Volunteer of the Year: Pastor Hermon Scott
Social Club of the Year: Unique Social Club
Youth Organization of the Year: First Presbyterian Christian Academy Interact Club

Civic Organization: Hinesville Rotary Club
Individual Volunteer: Alfreida Golden, Nancy Russel, Mea Wilson and Cleo Hatfield
Military – Retired: Beverly Gilmore
Social Club: Classy Ladies Social Club
Youth Organization: Red Club

The Bradwell Institute Marching Band ignited the Liberty County Board of Education Office lobby, blaring out “Uptown Funk” as people gathered for the 2015 United Way of the Coastal Empire – Liberty Branch Kickoff campaign rally and awards ceremony Thursday evening.

The large crowd gathered around the center of the first-floor lobby while the Tiger color guard danced and the band members, playing on the second floor, perched their trumpets and tubas over the balconies and swung them back and forth.

It was a time to celebrate the possibilities and the mission of United Way. The local branch also revealed its fundraising goal for the campaign — $175,000.

“United Way changes lives,” said Pastor Alan Darsey, the husband of United Way of the Coastal Empire – Liberty Branch Director Jennifer Darsey, who was out of town. “And how we change lives is by partnering with folks like you that will give us the resources so we will be able to make a brighter future for the folks who come to United Way for assistance.”

Darsey and this year’s fundraising campaign chairman, Toby Moreau, explained how United Way of the Coastal Empire is unique. Unlike other branches, the local United Way was the recipient of a lifetime legacy of funds from the Herschel V. Jenkins Trust Fund.

Jenkins was one of the branch’s founders 78 years ago.

Those funds cover all administrative costs. That means 100 percent of funds collected for United Way of the Coastal Empire goes right back into local agencies that serve the public’s needs.

Moreau said the overall goal for the local United Way — which serves Liberty, Bryan, Chatham, and Effingham counties — is $9 million.

“It is a big number, but I want you to know that we have 220 volunteers that are going to work hard and diligently over the next 2½ months to make that number a reality,” he said. “We are making a difference and affecting lives and, every year, we address these challenges. We do that by looking at every community and, ladies and gentlemen who are in this room, you know what the issues are in your county. You see them firsthand. And you also have the programs in this county to make a difference.”

In addition to kicking off the fundraising drive, the evening ceremony recognized individuals and organizations who volunteered their time and efforts in supporting the local United Way’s mission.

“We started these awards four years ago as a way to recognize the volunteers in our community,” Liberty Branch Board Chairwoman Kathryn Fox said about the “Make A Difference” Awards. “The people we nominate don’t volunteer for the recognition. They didn’t even know we were going to be doing this. We decided to get their name and their face out to the community so people will realize there are people who will give everything they have for the betterment of the people who live and work here.”

Fox, who also is general manager of the Coastal Courier, said the award recipients went above and beyond just raising funds.

“They assisted in collecting food donations and supplies, assisted families of veterans … these groups and individuals provide not just the physical items people may need, but they also listened, they counseled, they healed the spirit and offer hope to those who have none,” Fox said.

After the awards, Darsey rallied the crowd, and everyone looked up as the banner displaying this year’s goal was unfurled.

“When we raise $175,000, we get back $2 million worth of resources for this community,” he said. “That is phenomenal. Those dollars equals lives changed.”

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