Fox Carolina: United Way of Pickens County celebrates annual accomplishments

United Way of Pickens County celebrates annual accomplishments

The organization celebrates the accomplishments by its volunteers at this annual meeting. FOX Carolina's Dana Winter has the details.

By Dana Winter
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 11:31 AM EDT

GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The United Way of Pickens County is hosting its annual meeting on Aug. 31. While the event is called a meeting, it’s also a celebration that recognizes the work volunteers for the organization have done over the past year.

This year, the event is taking place at Tri-County Technical College’s Easley campus. During the meeting, an IRS representative will pin one of the organization’s long-time members with a service pin for their work helping people file taxes. Along with the special guest, one of the graduates of the United Way of Pickens County’s financial stability program will speak about her experience.

While the meeting focuses on the accomplishments already made, it also pushes ahead toward what’s next for the organization. Jennifer Shurley with the United Way of Pickens County said, “The theme is United for the Future. And we truly believe that our community is united for a better future. And we have such generous people who support the work that we do and who make it possible for people to have better futures in our community.”

The United Way of Pickens County does a lot of work, but two of the big things they focus on include improving reading skills for third-grade students and teaching financial stability.

According to the United Way of Pickens County, 60% of Pickens County third graders are not reading at grade level and are in danger of not graduating high school.

The organization does several different things to try and help improve reading skills. One of the things being celebrated at the annual meeting is the expansion of the United Way of Pickens County’s summer program called Camp iRock. This past summer, the program expanded to include 4-k through third grade students. It saw nearly 500 students this past summer all working on their reading skills.

Shurley says the pandemic left a big impact with young students and their reading abilities. She said, “And of course, that set back some children and it set back children at a younger age so that by the time they were getting third grade, they had really missed some crucial learning moments. It’s very important that they’re able to read in third grade because by that time no one’s teaching reading anymore. They need to read in order to continue learning the content in fourth grade, fifth grade and beyond.”

The United Way of Pickens County also focuses efforts on improving financial stability for people. According to the organization, 1,979 children and their families are homeless in Pickens County. Additionally, the organization reports that 17% of Pickens County residents currently live with a low income and struggle just to meet their basic needs. One of the main ways the organization is able to do that is through its financial stability coaching.

Shurley says these lessons can break a generational problem. She said, “So many people that we work with in our financial coaching program have never had positive financial management modeled for them. And so they are not making good choices because they’re making the choices that their families made before them. They’re taking out really high interest loans in order to fulfill some of the needs in their family, because they don’t know that there might be another option.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about the United Way of Pickens County.

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