March 25, 2020

Gamecocks serving the community in the time of a pandemic

Impact

By: Ore Oluwole

As the coronavirus threatens health and upends daily life throughout the world, the UofSC Alumni Association is spotlighting alumni making a difference to showcase the strength and resilience of the Gamecock community.

“Social distancing forces us apart. But compassion defies distance.” You can find this statement on the website and social media accounts of the United Way of the Midlands. This statement provides a clear example of how the nonprofit is striving to serve the community during this challenging time.

Two Gamecocks within the organization are stepping up to support the community. Joey Wallace ’04 and Melissa Laine Dunn ’07 are both working around the clock to help others affected by the impact COVID-19 has brought on the Midlands.

Joey is the VP of Marketing and Communications and he as well as the rest of the staff have had to quickly adapt to the ever-evolving situation. “I’ve been through crisis communications situations in the past, but the scale of this situation is beyond anything anyone’s ever seen,” he says. “I keep going back to what we experienced during the flood in 2015, which had a huge impact on this state and on many of our residents.”

This virus now affects every individual in their personal and professional lives and Joey and the team are responding to this challenge by using the tools at their disposal like social media to reach the right audiences and push up-to-the minute information.

Through the United Way of the Midland’s social media accounts, the organization has spread the word of its response fund to help residents in the Midlands for support with basic needs like food, shelter, rent and utility assistance related to COVID-19. The nonprofit is allocating these funds to its partners serving individuals in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield, Newberry, Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

With schools closed during this time, education is important as ever, especially for young children. Melissa Laine Dunn serves as the Director of Education for the United Way of the Midlands and is working to promote literacy with the organization’s Be a Book Bunny program.

“Be a Book Bunny allows us to provide new, age-appropriate books for underserved children in the Midlands,” Melissa says. “Our goal is to continue to encourage healthy reading habits inside and outside of the classroom especially with what is happening today. We wanted to give students and families something that could be of benefit while working and learning from home because our families and students have had their lives turned upside down.”

United Way’s Young Leaders Society secured the books through fundraising and donation drives throughout the year. Originally, the plan was to distribute the books to children who were being tutored by volunteers with United Way’s Midlands Reading Consortium (MRC) program, but when the COVID-19 situation arose, staff had to come up with a new way to get the books to the children who needed them most. So staff and volunteers came together to fill the totes and deliver them directly to eight local school districts to give parents and students something that can help them while working and learning from home.

The United Way serves a vital role in the community and during this uncertain time, Joey, Melissa and the rest of the team are choosing to tackle this situation one day at time in an effort to support as many people in the Midlands.

To learn more about the organization’s COVID-19 response fund, visit uway.org

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