United Way employee contributions surpass GPA goal


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Members of the United Way team gather for a rally at the Container Operations building.


Valerie Attaway, assistant employee relations manager, says Georgia Ports Authority employees are loyal and passionate supporters of the company’s United Way campaigns year after year. 

This was clear during GPA’s most recent campaign (which ran from September to December) during which employees contributed $280,684.56 — 148 percent of the company’s goal.  Every dollar raised goes directly to those in need thanks to the Herschel V. Jenkins Trust Fund that covers all administrative and fundraising costs for the United Way of the Coastal Empire. Donations benefit the four-county area of Chatham, Effingham, Bryan and Liberty. Employees also have the option of earmarking their contributions for a particular community or program.

 “When someone gives a dollar, it goes right back into the community,” Attaway said. “The money stays here unless donors tell United Way to send it elsewhere.”

Attaway noted that while the campaign is composed solely of employee contributions, GPA shows support in other ways. One example is the retention of John Malone as a United Way Sponsored Associate. Malone, a GPA retiree, first became involved with the United Way in 2002 while he was an assistant manager with the maintenance department. GPA and many other local companies provide a representative to oversee the campaign, helping wherever needed. 

Malone said working with the United Way has become a passion, and he often shares his personal ties to the organization while making presentations. His family has benefited from two United Way programs — Hospice and Children’s Advocacy Group. Donors often tell Malone that this experience adds a level of personal connection to his presentation — something they greatly appreciate. 

GPA's Sponsored Associate John Malone and Eddie Cook, container field foreman, pose during a United Way event.

Malone added that the United Way vets each program it supports, ensuring it benefits not only recipients, but also the surrounding community. 

Malone said the most rewarding part of his position is seeing something click for prospective donors. 

 “It’s kind of amazing,” Malone said. “Even though you give the same presentation each year, people don’t always hear certain things. Then, all of a sudden, that light will go off.” 

Area residents from a wide range of economic backgrounds benefit from United Way funded programs such as the American Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, Bethesda School for Boys, Savannah-Chatham Court Appointed Special Advocates, Matthew Reardon Center for Autism and Coastal Center for Developmental Services.

Donors are given the option to choose the programs they wish to support. For Malone, who is also a former city police officer, having programs that benefit children is particularly important. 

“When I was an officer, we only had two choices — Greenbriar [Children’s Home] or juvenile detention,” he said. “With the United Way, children aren’t forgotten anymore.” 

GPA employees have also been beneficiaries of United Way programs. During Hurricane Matthew, a GPA family was provided housing at no cost when their home caught fire. Attaway said United Way was there for the family until they could get back on their feet. 

“If you haven’t directly benefited, I pretty much guarantee you know someone who has or someone who will,” Attaway said.   

GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said employee contributions allow miracles to happen every day throughout the Coastal Empire. 

 “Your gift to the United Way is an investment in our community and its people,” he said. “It takes every one of us to build a better society.”