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SAVANNAH, GA (May 17, 2022) – United Way of the Coastal Empire announced today a record-breaking $13.1 million of total funds in and through the organization supporting the community in Fiscal Year 2021-2022 — a figure at the heart of today’s celebratory Annual Meeting. This final number, reported differently than in previous years, fully reflects the work of the organization including the impact of COVID-19 response efforts and legacy giving.

The breakdown reveals strong support from the public and private sectors. Coordinated Government Programs include $3.1 million of Emergency Rental Assistance funds processed through United Way in partnership with Chatham County. These dollars, paid directly to property owners and utility companies, helped keep those most severely impacted by the pandemic safely housed.

The Herschel V. Jenkins Trust, which contributes a percentage annually to the operations of the organization, along with revenue from rental income, in-kind gifts, and administration fees earned through the management of designated funds, totals $1.8 million in sustaining support.

The Community Campaign, a direct result of workplace and individual giving, events, and grants, totaled $8,182,173!

Cecilia Russo Turner of Cecilia Russo Marketing chaired the year-long fundraising effort. “Donations of nearly $8.2 million are simply amazing, especially as we faced another challenging year due to COVID-19,” Russo Turner said. “I’m so proud of our volunteers, donors, and everyone who helped make this amazing result happen. The resiliency of this community gave life to our theme of ‘No Grit, No Pearl,’ and the generosity of the community has been inspiring.”

In a festive and jam-packed program at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort, the organization saluted the generosity of the community, the scope of assistance United Way provides, the value of volunteers and donors who make it all possible, and the dedication of the board members and campaign leaders who keep moving the organization forward.

“The breadth of work accomplished by the United Way staff and community volunteers over this past year is staggering.  In addition to the historic core of United Way’s work, including partnering with the most effective and efficient nonprofits in our four counties and direct services like 211, our team processed millions in federal aid, which our local governments entrusted to our oversight,” said Jeff O’Connor, the outgoing UWCE chairman. “And yet, for size and complexity of the organization, our United Way is nimble, too. Six weeks ago, a deadly tornado hit Bryan County, and we were able to immediately mobilize resources to financially support our friends and neighbors.”



The meeting also featured the presentation of the Craig Harney Spirit of Philanthropy Awards, a series of three awards that salute Giving, Advocating, and Volunteering.

The Giving Award went to Michael Solomon, who has a long track record with United Way and most recently created the Business Champions program, in which volunteers, hand-picked by their company’s leadership, significantly increased total giving from assigned accounts.

Stepping forward to receive the Advocacy Award for Chatham County and the City of Savannah were County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis and City of Savannah Mayor Van Johnson. The two organizations have long been great supporters of the organization, running two of the top campaigns every year. But during the pandemic, both have stepped up in heroic ways. In particular, they strengthened their partnerships with United Way to help our community and our neighbors.

The Volunteer Award went to Austin Sullivan, who retired after a long career with General Mills, and has since volunteered his considerable talents to UWCE.

Austin Sullivan


Michael Solomon


Chatham County






Taking the gavel as United Way Board Chair in 2022-23 will be Mark Bennett, a long-time volunteer for the organization and Senior Manager of Governmental Relations and Community Investments for Gulfstream Aerospace. He and other nominated Board officers were elected unanimously at the meeting.  He introduced Cindy Robinett, Partner and Client Advisor at Sterling Seacrest Pritchard as the campaign chair for the next year-long campaign.

Mark Bennett

2022-2023 Board Chair
Gulfstream Aerospace

Cindy Robinett

2022-2023 Campaign Chair
Sterling Seacrest Pritchard

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