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UWKC celebrates 65 years
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A group of Phantoms of the Opera wait to welcome guests to the United Way of Kershaw County (UWKC) annual campaign recognition ceremony at the Little Theater on Tuesday. They Phantoms are (from left) UWKC Vice President of Campaign Pam Spivey, Director of Marketing Margaret Lawhorn, President Donny Supplee, Client Advocacy Director Marie Sheorn and Director of Homelessness and Support Services Nicholas Julian. - photo by Martin L. Cahn/C-I

A group of somewhat scary people greeted special guests to downtown Camden’s Little Theater at noon Tuesday. The occasion: the United Way of Kershaw County’s (UWKC) annual campaign recognition ceremony, celebrating its 65th year of service to the community.

UWKC President Donny Supplee and his staff dressed up -- masks, capes and all -- like the Phantom of the Opera. Once inside, attendees picked up food from Chick-Fil-A plus popcorn, of course, and headed to the upstairs theater. As the daytime witching hour approached, United Way fans were treated to a montage of scenes from the classic 1931 horror film Frankenstein, followed by a video looking back at newspaper coverage and photographs from the organization’s 65-year history.

Finally, the main Phantom himself (Supplee) “played” the organ and welcomed everyone.

“Life can be scary for some,” he said. “Thank you -- because of you, we are there to eradicate fear and meet the needs of our community.”

After recognizing members of the UWKC Board of Director, partner agencies and staff, Supplee asked outgoing UWKC Campaign Chair Bob Gulledge to come up on stage.

“It’s our privilege to thank you for being our campaign chair for the last three years. Under your leadership, we have raised more than $680,000, which will make a tremendous difference in the lives of people,” Supplee told him as he handed Gulledge a plaque of appreciation.

Gulledge then appeared in a video as The Grinch, thanking everyone for donating to the fundraising campaign.

Supplee then recognized those Tocqueville Society members who gave $10,000 or more toward the latest campaign: Dr. Theresa and Todd Alderson, Hank and Iva Allen, William and Kate Cantey, Tina and Michael Lockhart, and Mark Mason of Lugoff Automotive Group. The Lockharts were not on hand, and Jennifer McElveen Boan accepted on Mason’s behalf.

This year, the UWKC created the Platinum Award for each fundraising division. Platinum status was awarded to businesses, groups and industries who achieved the following five milestones of campaign success:

• 10 percent campaign growth from year to year;

• 50 percent participation (among employees or members);

• $100 per capita giving;

• one or more leadership givers ($500 or more); and

• a corporate gift by the organization itself.

Gold awards were given out to achieving four of the five milestones, and silver for three milestones. Additionally, Premiere awards were handed out to first-time campaigns, and Loyal Donor awards to those who have given support over many years.

Cathey Cameron, who could not attend Wednesday’s festivities, was recognized -- along with 20 of her friends -- for raising more than $70,000 in the Individual division.

Beth Morgan, Michele Fountain and Tana Simmons were then recognized for leading the Commercial division. Morgan then handed out awards to a number of Commercial division participants. Premiere awards in this division went to TruVista, SAFE Federal Credit Union, and Nationwide. A Loyal Donor award went to KershawHealth. Receiving Gold awards were Pinedale Residential Center, Lugoff Automotive Group, Mid-Carolina Credit Union, First Citizens Bank, First Community Bank, Palmetto Government Benefits Administrators, Synovus, Walmart, and Cantey Foundation Specialists.

Supplee said the Commercial division raised more than $130,000.

The Not-So Evil Queen from Snow White, Tracie Rice, handed out awards in the Industrial division. They included Luckstone, Premiere; Canfor Southern Pines, DeRoyal Textiles, Midlands Tooling, Weylchem, Ahlstrom, DSV Solutions, Mundy, and INVISTA, all Loyal Donors; Target Distribution Center and Hengst, Silver; Dana Inc. and Oak Mitsui, Gold; and Rice’s own Cogsdill Tool Products, Platinum.

Next, the Not-Quite Wicked Witch appeared in the form of Theresa Alderson, who lead both the Leadership and Professional efforts. She handed out Gold awards to Upchurch & Jowers Insurance, Merrill Lynch, and Cantey Tiller Pierce and Greene; and Silver awards to Savage Law Firm, and Sheheen Hancock and Godwin.

The Professional division raised more than $50,000.

Debbie Godwin came up as the Good Witch for the Public division, presenting a Premiere award to the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles; Silver awards to the Boys & Girls Club of Kershaw County, The ALPHA Center, Kershaw County Council on Aging, and Family Resource Center; and Gold awards to Kershaw County, the city of Camden, Habitat for Humanity of Kershaw County, Kershaw County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs, and Mental Health America.

The Public division raised more than $80,000, which came to 105 percent of its goal -- the only division to exceed its goal this year, according to Supplee.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd and KCSD District Transportation Officer John Clinton recognized Camden High School, the Applied Technology Education Campus, Baron DeKalb Elementary School and Blaney Elementary Schools for their efforts. They also recognized Camden High School, along with Lugoff-Elgin and North Central high schools, for their student campaigns. The three high schools raised a total of nearly $15,000.

Combined with overall giving across the county, the school district was the largest donor this year, Supplee said.

UWKC Vice President of Campaigns Pam Spivey took over at that point, recognizing some special people. She specifically singled out volunteers from the Church of Latter-Day Saints, who she said made sure all the participating groups and companies received T-shirts.

“They folded and packed hundreds of T-shirts along with many other random jobs -- some fun, and some not so much fun,” Spivey said, as she handed them certificates of appreciation.

She also handed a special Loyal Donor award to 11-year-old Phoebe Gari.

“Phoebe began giving to us at the age of 7. It was then that she came to understand that no one should be hungry and that she needed to do her part to help,” Spivey said. “Each year, her birthday party attendees are asked to bring a donation for our Mobile Nutrition Center in celebration of her life. Phoebe, you are our youngest loyal donor. Thank you for your commitment to the United Way of Kershaw County and those we serve.”

After a video of a car giveaway conducted as part of the 2018 campaign (which Spivey said will be replicated in 2019), Kershaw County Sheriff Lee Boan appeared briefly in a Dragnet-style video introducing a another video of testimonials from United Way clients who said their lives have been changed by the services the campaign funds.

“Thank you for all you have done and for loving others,” Spivey said afterward. “It’s one of the most important purposes of life and we are humbled by your actions. We are proud and privileged to acknowledge you and specifically thank you for making life a little less scary.”