In October of 1972, The Cumerford Corporation was invited by a representative committee from the Conway and Myrtle Beach area to conduct a county-wide survey to determine the advisability of organizing a United Way of Horry County. Individuals that represented citizens of leadership in business, industry, and professions were interviewed, as well as other prospects who had above-average knowledge about the social needs of Horry County. Based on the research, it was determined that there was a need to establish a United Way of Horry County. On February 7, 1973, United Way of Horry County was established by a board of 29 local leaders who wanted to find the most efficient and effective way to address problems they saw in their community. Those citizens saw the wastefulness of money and volunteer time in having many different human service agencies staff and operate fund drives each year.
The first United Way of Horry County campaign raised $163,300 and supported 13 nonprofit organizations. Mrs. Charlotte Roycroft was hired as the first employee, Executive Secretary.
In early 1975 UWHC hired Olivia Garren as the second employee, and in 1980 she was named Executive Director, changed to President & CEO in 2009, a position she held until she retired in 2013.
In 1978, Clyde Port, fondly known as “Mr. United Way,” came on part-time as Executive Vice President. Mr. Port’s vision was hugely instrumental in the growth and development of UWHC over the years. Mr. Port eventually served as a Board Member and President of the Board and was recognized as a Lifetime Board Member.
By 1985 UWHC campaign raised $590,000 and supported 28 nonprofit organizations.
In 1989, UWHC established a Disaster Relief Fund to help victims of Hurricane Hugo. The funds helped support over 1,500 individuals affected by the hurricane. The Disaster Relief Fund is still in existence and has been used throughout the decades to assist those impacted by disasters ranging from local flooding, North Myrtle Beach and Windsor Green Fires, Hurricane Florence, and the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In 1996, UWHC Moved from downtown Conway to its current building on Century Circle. The building was built using funds UWHC received as the local nonprofit of choice for the 1995 Senior PGA Golf Tournament, which was held at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club. Also, in 1996 UWHC raised over $1 million for the first time in its history.
In September 2000, the first Day of Caring was held. This annual event which brings together hundreds of volunteers for one day to make one big impact just held its 22nd Annual event in October 2022.
On February 15, 2003, UWHC Launched Caring for Kindergarteners with Coastal Carolina University and then CCU Head Football Coach David Bennett. The event was used as a community service project for the CCU football team, where 45 players and coaches descended on area schools to read “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and help students make cards for seniors placed into UWHC’s “Make Someone’s May Day” baskets. Caring for Kindergarten still takes place each winter, and now athletes from all 19 varsity sports at CCU participate.
In 2005, UWHC began serving the community by preparing and filing income taxes for residents for free through its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). Since its inception, the VITA program has prepared and filed over 16,500 tax returns for residents.
In 2013, UWHC began offering the 211 Referral Line in Horry County. In this same year, the Olivia F. Garren Children’s Endowment was established by a group of anonymous donors to honor the years of dedication of Mrs. Garren. This endowment is used to provide assistance and support for children in Horry County, and proceeds have been used to fund programs such as Summer Literacy Camps and Camp United.
In 2014, Genie Sherard was hired as President & CEO of UWHC. In 2015, under Genie’s leadership, a new position was added to the organization, Community Impact Coordinator. This position was created as UWHC started to shift to a collective impact model and move away from the community chest model they had been using since 1973.
November 17, 2016, UWHC partnered with Black River United Way to hold “United to Read.” This event placed volunteers in every 1st grade classroom in Horry, Georgetown, and Williamsburg Counties to read a book and do a project with students. United to Read continues to be one of UWHC’s most volunteered events and a favorite of many.
In July 2019, Blakely Roof was hired as President & CEO of UWHC. In 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic disrupted the Grand Strand, where the Myrtle Beach economy was one of the hardest hit in the country. UWHC raised over $250,000 to directly support individuals and nonprofit agencies during this time.
In 2022, UWHC officially transitioned to the “Collective Impact Model.” This model allows UWHC to focus more on the county’s most pressing needs and be better equipped to fulfill its mission of uniting people, ideas, and resources to advance the common good. A Community Game was produced to outline the next five years’ goals, strategies, and objectives.
Also, in 2022 UWHC added two more positions focused on increasing self-sufficiency and kindergarten readiness for Horry County residents and children, bringing the total staff of UWHC to eight full-time employees.
In 2023, UWHC will celebrate its 50th anniversary. In the last 50 years, UWHC has been dedicated to raising money and bringing solutions to address the critical needs of people within Horry County. Since 1973 the organization has raised and distributed over $45 million locally, engaged thousands of volunteers, and impacted the lives of countless numbers in our community.