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United Way aims to fill funding gap through creative measures
United Way logo
Even though it is harder to raise funds now, we just have to accept that challenge.
United Way Area Director Elizabeth Waters

RINCON — United Way of the Coastal Empire is experiencing the ill effects of COVID-19. The highly contagious respiratory ailment is hindering its ability to raise funds for its non-profit partners who need the money more than ever.

As a result of the lengthy economic shutdown at the start of the pandemic, many businesses and their workers aren’t in a position to be as generous to United Way as they have in recent years. In addition, social distancing guidelines have lessened opportunities for United Way’s face-to-face requests for assistance.

 The dilemma forced United Way to search for other revenue streams to fulfill its mission of ensuring that community members in need have their basic needs met and opportunities to grow..

“We know that the need is going to be greater now and even in the future than it has been,” said Elizabeth Waters, United Way’s area director in Effingham County. “Even though it is harder to raise funds now, we just have to accept that challenge.” 

One new funding source is proving to be productive for United Way and local businesses.

“Mr. Stratton Leopold  kind of started this with our ‘Always United Challenge,’ ” Waters said. “Leopold’s Ice Cream (of Savannah) created a blueberry-pecan flavor for the United Way campaign and a certain amount of proceeds from the sales of that flavor will go back to the United Way. We are challenging other local businesses to raise funds on behalf of United Way.”

United Way of the Coastal Empire is aiming to collect $8 million by Nov. 13.

“We see this an opportunity to bring on and partner with new businesses that maybe have not partnered with us in the past,” Waters said. “We don’t want to just go to a small business and say, ‘Hey, will you give to the United Way?,’ because we know small businesses were impacted significantly by COVID-19. Doing some sort of creative sale or promotion will not only benefit us but it will benefit them.

“In exchange for accepting this challenge, the United Way of the Coastal Empire will share and promote events through our social media — not only United Way of the Coastal Empire’s Facebook page, but United Way of the Coastal Empire-Effingham Service Center’s Facebook page,” Waters said. “We will also share it on our website (

 ). We have an area on our website that lists all the different businesses that are accepting and doing some sort of special promotion for United Way.

“Obviously, the more creative the better. It doesn’t have to be a restaurant. It could be a hair salon, a nail salon.”

Waters said Puzzle Piece Boutique, operated by the Effingham Navigator Team Inc. inside the United Way facility at 711 Zitterour Drive, is conducting a special promotion. Throughout October, it will donate 10 percent of its proceeds each Friday to United Way.

In addition, South Fork Provisions will give 15 percent of its profits from an Oct. 17 barbecue to United Way.

“Details about those events have already by shared through our social media,” Waters said.

Waters can be reached at (912) 826-5897 or