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Dixon honored for 25 years at United Ways helm
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United Way of the Coastal Empire president and CEO Gregg Schroeder, left, causes former United Way of Effingham County executive director Bonnie Dixon at a reception Friday honoring Dixon, who retired last month after 25 years of running the Effingham United Way. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

She’ll still be busy, Bonnie Dixon insisted. It’s just that her time from now on will be occupied by other pursuits — such as carting her grandchildren around.

The former United Way of Effingham County executive director retired Dec. 31, and a reception in her honor was held Friday at the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum in Pooler.

“I am retiring, not dying,” Dixon cracked. “I’ll still be around in the community.”

Dixon was the first executive director of the United Way of Effingham County, hired after it was founded 25 years ago.

“We wanted to say thank you to Bonnie,” said Dinah King, chairperson of the United Way advisory board. “Bonnie has been a great friend. She really has a heart for what she does. I think that is very evident.”

State Rep. Jon Burns borrowed a line from colleague state Sen. Jack Hill in describing Dixon’s success at the helm of the United Way.

“A turtle doesn’t get on the fencepost by himself,” he said. “We know the success the United Way has had in Effingham County and your contributions don’t go unnoticed and don’t go unnoticed by folks in our community who have seen the results.”

Dixon recalled when the United Way got its start, and when the Effingham chapter pitched affiliation with the United Way of the Coastal Empire.

“I was in the right place at the right time, in a community that needed so much,” she said. “All they were looking for was somebody who would help lead the way. I was that person 25 years ago.”

Dixon credited and praised the work of the advisory board members over the years.

“Those are the folks who lifted me up and encouraged me,” she said. “I could not have done it without everybody’s support and friendship.”

With the efforts of Rebecca Boston, Ruth Lee, Norma Morgan and Gussie Nease, the Effingham County United Way reached out to the larger United Way of the Coastal Empire for help.

“I didn’t know much about United Way back then,” Dixon said. “We got a Victim Witness program going, and we knew it needed funding. They made the plea to United Way to let them come in and it just happened.”

Julie Dickey has taken over as the United Way of Effingham County executive director and Dixon called her a “much younger version of me, except she has more energy and more smarts.”

Dixon asked for continued support of the United Way and for Effingham residents to support Dickey in her new role.

“The community of Effingham County is like no other,” she said. “They opened their doors, they opened their hearts and most important of all, they opened their pocket books. Amazing things happened. Volunteers are necessary, but the money has to come as well.”

Gregg Schroeder, the executive director of the United Way of the Coastal Empire, thanked Dixon for her quarter-century of service. He added his gratitude for having Dixon around when he began his role with the UWCE.

“For being someone new, it was great to have someone like Bonnie,” he said. “I was supposedly her supervisor but she really ran the show.”

Schroeder also paid tribute to Dixon’s impact on the lives of others, especially those around her and those with United Way.

“There are certain people that come into your life and they go,” he said, “and there are others who leave a footprint on your heart and you’re never the same. Bonnie is one of those people that we’ll all be a little bit better because of her.”

Now, Dixon will enjoy retirement with her husband of 43 years and tote her three grandchildren around to “dance practices and soccer games and whatever else,” she said. She also has one more celebration in mind.

“I’ll be back when Julie celebrates 25 years,” she said, “and we’ll celebrate 50 years of United Way.”