Greater Pee Dee Business Journal November/December 2011 : Page 23

T he economic downturn hasn’t affected the generos-ity of Florence County residents. In each of the last 10 years, contributors have given at least $1 million to the United Way of Florence County. In turn, the United Way has been able to help local agen-cies by allocating resources to serve residents in a fuller capacity. There are the annual fund raisers which the business community and residents associate with the United Way, such as the “Stuff the Bus” campaign providing school supplies to needy students in Florence School Districts 1, 3, and 4. And United Way is well known for the September kick-off each year of its annual campaign, a.k.a. the Annual Day of Caring. This year’s “Stronger Together” campaign aims to raise $1.2 million to help 19 partner agencies. But it is recent developments that have United Way supporters and local residents excited. Johnson Controls, Inc. has given $150,000 in grant money to United Way this year to start Project H.O.P.E. [Helping Our People Gain Employment], a program that addresses the employability and self-sufficiency of Florence County residents. The seed money is being used by newly hired Project H.O.P.E. Director Les Echols to help those who are unemployed and underemployed gain: • Career education • Job search and placement assistance • Basic and daily living skills training • Résumé and interview preparation • Job readiness workshops • Pre-vocational education Echols is working closely with a steering committee comprised of community volunteers, United Way of Florence County board members, and Johnson Controls executives to shape the program and establish an effective and efficient process for both enroll-ment and day-to-day activities. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011 In the last three years, Florence County unemployment has almost doubled from 6.5 percent to 12 percent and still stands at 10.4 percent, well above the national average of 9.2 percent and the state average of 9.6 percent. EJ Newby, President of the United Way of Florence County “We will improve the quality of the local workforce and increase Florence County employees’ and potential employees’ abilities and self-sufficiency through Project H.O.P.E.,” says EJ Newby, president of the United Way of Florence County. “We are addressing both the causes and effects of our county’s unemployment and matching companies’ needs with the appropriate skills training for the unemployed. “We’ve only begun but have more than 20 people signed up so far,” Newby continues. “Our goal is to offer one-on-one, personalized career preparation services to our clients and hopefully see them employed.” Florence-Darlington Technical College forecasts up to 2,000 manufacturing jobs will become available in the next three to five years. Newby wants to get Florence’s workforce ready to fill those positions. GREATER PEE DEE BUSINESS JOURNAL | 23

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