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Stronger United: Stories of the United Way’s Impact

Our People

As part of our mission of Impacting Lives in the Communities We Serve, Southern First is proud to partner with the United Way. This year, we served as a Pacesetter, part of a select group of companies and organizations that complete United Way campaigns before the official launch of campaign season. These companies help “set the pace” for the upcoming campaign, and we are excited to announce that we raised $117,056 for the United Way across our eight markets.

As the official campaign gets underway, we wanted to share why our team feels it is so important to give where you live. Watch the video below and read on to hear first-hand stories of how the United Way is directly impacting our communities.


The United Way strives to mobilize people and resources to improve lives, strengthen the community, and advance equity for the benefit of all. Southern First CEO Art Seaver explains, “The United Way of Greenville County does a fabulous job of supporting over 50 different agencies, supporting people who have needs today and supporting structural issues, so the future is bright for everybody. I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with them or of the results that they accomplish.”

Our own Cal Hurst, Chief Banking Officer, is serving as this year’s United Way of Greenville County Campaign Chair. He has been involved with the United Way for several years and is certain there’s no organization creating as large of an impact in our community as the United Way, because of their widespread reach and involvement in so many areas of need. He said, “I have seen everything from people who need a light bill paid all the way to people who needed help when they were a young parent at 17 to figure out how to be able to care for a child and finish an education. From immediate assistance to creating a long-term path to financial stability, the United Way is a connector for organizations that touch a piece of the pie related to how to help someone be successful. Their ability to organize and support those efforts is an outstanding model, and I’ve found a lot of power in it and a lot of resonance in it for the people in our community.”

One example of how United Way serves as that connector Hurst describes is that Director of Retail Operations and Senior Vice President, Kim Macklanburg, learned about and became involved with Serenity Place and the Family Effect through the United Way. These organizations work to treat addiction in women and young mothers and to reduce family collapse and harm to children, and Macklanburg currently serves as Secretary of the Board for the Family Effect. “To see the women there and the impact of the money the United Way gives to them is incredible. It enables them to create a better environment for themselves and their children, helping them get back on their feet. We see a lot of the moms that come through get their GED or their college degree. They go from being in a bad situation in a lot of cases to owning their own homes or apartments. I have been involved in the alumni groups, and when we go to the get-togethers, it’s really amazing to see people who were struggling have this whole new outlook on life,” said Macklanburg. She’s also seen the impact of the United Way through her own friends and family. Macklanburg said, “It’s important to give where you live because these children go to school with my son. I want them to be able to have an opportunity that they would not be able to have. One of my best friends is a teacher, and I can see the benefits and the direct impact in her students. The friends of my son who I know have struggled… to see the smile on their face and know what it means to them and their families, I see the direct impact every day.”

Seaver also described the effect of his experience visiting a recipient organization of United Way funds. He shared, “I was about a 23-year-old banker when United Way was first introduced to me. I was instructed to go on a site visit to Pendleton Place, and it was an event that changed my life. I had the privilege of meeting young kids who had life struggles and who did not necessarily grow up with privileges that I had. It changed my perspective, and it changed my outcome. The perspective was that Greenville is my home and therefore, Greenville is my responsibility.”

Cindy Carson, Loan Administrative Executive Assistant, was surprised by all of the services the United Way provides when she first became involved as well. She said, “Twenty-something years ago when I came to Greenville, I went on tours of many recipients of United Way funds like the Meyer Center. I had a daughter who was born with a lot of birth defects, and the Meyer Center would have been a perfect place for her. She didn’t walk until later. She had five surgeries by the age of two, and she was missing an arm that was her dominant hand, so she had to learn to use her non-dominant hand to go to school. I had no idea that something like this existed somewhere, because it didn’t exist when she was young.” Carson also visited Senior Action and the Greenville Free Medical Clinic and mentioned she personally knows women who have received support from the Phoenix Center and the Julie Valentine Center. “All of our lives are impacted by so many things, and the help is out there,” said Carson.

Through these first-hand experiences, it becomes clear that one day it could be any one of us reaching out for assistance. Hurst explained, “I am convinced that my family and I are fortunate and blessed that we haven’t had to rely on the United Way but also that we’re no different from people who have. We just haven’t had an unfortunate event or circumstance or frankly something that’s happened to us that’s not our fault - maybe even something we were born into - that created the need for us to rely on the United Way in that regard. That recognition that it applies to me just as it does to anybody else motivates me. One day, what if it’s me? I certainly want to know that I’ve done what I can prior to that and that there are other people in our community who are doing everything they can at that time to make sure that I and my family and those like us have the help they need.” Carson shared a similar sentiment saying, “I plan for my future, but I know if one day years and years from now, I really need the United Way, they will be there for me.”

There are many ways you can give, whether you pledge a one-time donation, a planned gift, or donate your time. Macklanburg concluded, “For myself and my family, we have been very blessed, and we like to be able to give back to those who have not had the same start we have had. I think it’s really important if you have extra, to give extra. If I have to cut out a coffee every day or a couple of times a month, it doesn’t make that much of a dent in my life, but it can help somebody else.”

Best wishes to all of the organizations starting their 2021 campaigns! We are excited to have “set the pace” and cannot wait to see the results of what our community can do when it comes together for this incredible cause. To learn more about the United Way and how to get involved, click here.


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