Black River United Way | Extending a helping hand to neighbors
AT A GLANCE
MISSION | Improve our community’s capacity to care for one another.
FOUNDED | April 1970 as Georgetown County United Way
SERVES | Georgetown and Williamsburg counties
LOCATION|515 Front St., Georgetown
Sometimes the needs are where you’d least expect them.
Drive the main roads of Pawleys Island and you might never think there are folks in the town who struggle to meet their basic needs – including having a roof over their head.
“But if you turn left – you might quickly say, ‘Hey, this is real,’” said Yolanda McCray, president and CEO of Black River United Way.
McCray and her team know. Working closely with residents throughout Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, they have helped residents cooking with a hot plate because their home has deteriorated so drastically with buckled floors and other issues that the stove no longer functions. Or complicated issues with heirs’ property that have forced families to continue to stay in mold-infested or dilapidated homes.
United Way not only works to get these families back into safe homes, but also spreads word these issues exist and need to be addressed.
“We are bringing that awareness to people and the community at large,” McCray said.
Drawing attention to housing issues is just one of the contributions the Black River United Way makes to bettering Georgetown and Williamsburg counties. The agency works tirelessly to tackle a range of topics including helping kids learn to read, preparing and responding to natural disasters and offering a helping hand to families so they can become self-sufficient.
United Way seeks partners to have a greater impact. It is one of about 25 partners in the Tidelands Community Care Network, which was created by Tidelands Health in partnership with Access Health SC and The Duke Endowment. The network is comprised of health educators, state agencies, transportation providers, primary and specialty care providers and others who can help uninsured residents gain access to medical care.
“United Way recognizes that we can’t do it alone,” McCray said. “We are all collaborating and working together.”
Through its reading programs, United Way helps prepare students for success now and later in life. Having literacy skills can help people get the appropriate education for their field, then a good job, which likely would provide health insurance to help ensure they stay healthy and can be self-sufficient, McCray said.
“It’s not just about education, financial stability or health,” she said. “It takes all of these services to give those in our community the hands up they need.”
That’s where the Tidelands Community Care Network comes in by bringing representatives of diverse agencies together.
“United Way has such a tremendous impact in our community,” said Kelly Kaminski, director of community health resources for Tidelands Health. “The agency helps set a good foundation of success through its reading program for kids and extends a helping hand to families to help them become self-sufficient. Just those two examples have a profound effect in our community.”
A Georgetown County native, McCray graduated from Clemson University with an electrical engineering degree and worked in that field before returning to her hometown and taking the helm at the United Way in March 2018.
She strives to educate residents that the United Way’s efforts are helping the entire community and encourages everyone to extend a helping hand to their neighbors.
“When everybody gets that mentality, we together can affect positive change,” she said.