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SAVANNAH, GA (May 14, 2024) – United Way of the Coastal Empire announced today an impressive total of more than $9.4 million (projected) raised and earned to support the community in Fiscal Year 2023-2024. This figure was at the heart of today’s celebratory United in Gratitude event and reflects an 8% increase in workplace and individual giving over last year!

For the second time in the organization’s 86-year history, three corporate donors teamed up with their employees to donate more than half a million dollars each. These record-breaking donors include the people and companies of Gulfstream, Colonial Group, and Georgia Ports Authority.

Jay Wilson of International Paper served as campaign chair for the successful 2023-2024 campaign. Wilson, who championed the “We’re on a roll” theme throughout the year-long campaign said, “This region and our United Way are on a roll. I’m sincerely grateful to every person and every company who generously supported the campaign to improve lives throughout our four-county region.”

Wilson thanked everyone involved in the campaign and added “This has been an incredibly rewarding experience I will forever treasure. From the very beginning our team rolled up their sleeves and has been working hard to make this year’s campaign a success.”

This year’s event combined the best features of the organization’s traditional Annual Meeting and United in Gratitude into a single, reception-style event to recognize the region’s most generous United Way supporters, celebrate the 2023-2024 Campaign achievements and impact, and honor the Craig Harney Spirit of Philanthropy Award recipients.

“The achievements of this year’s Community Giving Campaign have truly been inspiring. Through the caring power of our community, we are also advancing our strategic plan goals to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable and pathways for upward mobility to help everyone in our region thrive,” said 2023-2024 Board Chair Ken Rabitsch.


2023-2024 Highlights

  • For the second year in a row, three corporate donors, including Gulfstream, Colonial Group, and Georgia Ports Authority, teamed up with their employees to donate more than half a million dollars each.
  • Women Who Rule event, chaired by Diana Morrison, set new records, including holding the largest event to date and raising a record-breaking net total of more than $90,000.
  • This past year, UWCE saw a 55% increase in the number of volunteers serving our community, resulting in over 5,300 volunteers and more than 22,000 hours of time spent improving our community. These volunteers contributed nearly $740,000 worth of estimated value in community service hours and in-kind donations.
  • UWCE’s 211 team answered more than 12,000 calls, where they referred clients to partner agencies or provided support through 211 funds, matching clients with the resources that best fit their needs.
  • UWCE expanded Read United by launching the Reading Buddies pilot program. The program pairs students one-on-one with volunteers for 30-minute sessions twice per week. Every participating student improved their reading skills and 70% of students advanced one or more reading levels.
  • United Way partnered with United Ways of Georgia to become the 29th state to join United for ALICE to increase community and state-wide understanding of those they serve and the financial hardship they experience. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed.
  • United Way partnered with the City of Savannah to launch the Housing Heroes Pilot Program designed to help vulnerable homeowners maintain their homes. The program, which grew out of the Housing Savannah Action Plan, harnesses United Way’s skill with organizing volunteers to bring new energy and focus to an existing City of Savannah program that benefits lower-income senior citizens, veterans, and those with differing abilities.


Craig Harney Spirit of Philanthropy Awards

United in Gratitude also featured the presentation of the Craig Harney Spirit of Philanthropy Awards, a series of three awards that salute individuals in the areas of giving, advocating, and volunteering. The awards presented were named in honor and memory of long-time United Way volunteer and supporter, Craig Harney.

The Give Award went to Bob Mock, who gave a historic gift that is making a significant impact. Bob’s donation of $1 million to support Bryan County residents facing housing-related challenges marks a historic milestone for the organization, representing the single largest individual gift in United Way of the Coastal Empire’s 86-year history. This gift will provide critical assistance with rental and mortgage payments, partial down payments, and more.

Stepping forward to receive the Advocate Award was Sam McCachern. As a dedicated volunteer, donor, board member, and the 2013 Campaign Chair, Sam’s commitment to United Way and our community is undeniable. Sam, President and CEO of Thomas & Hutton, has not only led his company to success but has also instilled the values of philanthropy and community engagement. Under his leadership, Thomas & Hutton has become one of the most dedicated supporters of United Way, consistently leading impactful campaigns year after year. 

The Volunteer Award went to Taylor Gaskin. Her involvement in United Way of the Coastal Empire spans across multiple initiatives, from her active participation in programs like Read United to her integral role as a Community Investment Volunteer for three years. She has a long-standing dedication to our Liberty County office, where she serves on the Advisory Board and as Lead Volunteer Coordinator. She readily jumps into Ambassador roles, tirelessly supports fundraising events, and is heavily involved in the Backpack Buddies program. She also volunteered her time after the tornado in Bryan County, helping the United Way team sort through donations and provide aid to those in need.


Changing Leadership

To close out the event, Jay Wilson introduced the incoming volunteer leaders who will be leading the charge for next year’s “Class of 2025” including the 2024-2025 Board Chair Michael Kaigler with Chatham County and the 2024-2025 Campaign Chair Dr. Yancy Ford with Effingham County Schools. He also officially introduced the organization’s incoming President & CEO Kimberly Waller, who will be taking the reins on June 3, 2024.

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