HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The United Way of Horry County has been awarded $50,000 through the 2023 Bank of America Neighborhood Champion award program to help with its efforts to advance economic mobility and build up underserved communities.

The grant money will help provide training for the organization’s leadership and help it address four priority areas, with a particular focus on education and a new initiative to train local early childhood educators to prepare preschool children for phonics and reading comprehension, the bank said in a news release.

The money will allow the United Way to participate in virtual leadership training delivered by experts in the nonprofit sector on topics like human capital management, increasing financial sustainability and storytelling. 

According to the news release, the United Way of Horry County “provides programs, collective impact work, and investments on four pillars – health, education, self-sufficiency, and basic needs.” As of the 22/23 school year, only 28.2% of children who entered kindergarten in Horry County were prepared.

“Being named this year’s Bank of America Neighborhood Champion will allow United Way of Horry County to address an identified early education gap by launching the Heggerty program in Horry County,” said Blakely Roof, president and CEO of the United Way of Horry County. “Ultimately, this curriculum will upskill our teachers and better prepare our pre-school children for kindergarten. Bringing this program to our community will benefit our students and their families, local schools, and our broader community in new and unforeseen ways.”

Bank of America has named five Champions in Horry County since 2019 and invested $250,000 into the nonprofit organizations as part of its Neighborhood Champions program. Previous recipients of the award include the Family Justice Center of Georgetown and Horry counties in 2022, Sea Heaven for Youth in 2021, Habitat for Humanity of Horry County in 2020 and New Directions in 2019.

Including other grants and initiatives, the bank has invested $600,000 and additional volunteer hours across these organizations since 2019.

“Nonprofits are vital to solving social challenges, improving communities and promoting economic advancement,” said Kelly Tyler, president of Bank of America Myrtle Beach. “Providing nonprofits like United Way of Horry County with flexible funding and leadership training not only positions these nonprofits for sustainable, long-term success but demonstrates our commitment to creating real change in the places where we live and work.”

Since 2004, Bank of America has invested more than $300 million in nearly 100 communities across the U.S., partnered with more than 1,600 nonprofits, and helped more than 3,000 nonprofit leaders strengthen their leadership skills through the Neighborhood Builders and Champions program.

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Taylor Ford is a digital journalist for News13. She joined the News13 team in January 2023. Taylor is a Florence native and covers the Pee Dee out of News13’s Florence Bureau. Read more of Taylor’s work here.