By Derik Vanderford
UNION COUNTY — A local resident and Union native looks forward to improving her home county through her new position with United Way of the Piedmont.
United Way of the Piedmont recently hired Missy Kirby Wilkes as the Relationship Manager for Union County. She will devote up to 20 hours per week managing and expanding partnerships in Union County.
“We are thrilled to welcome Missy to our team in Union County,” stated Alex Evins, United Way of the Piedmont Board Chair. “The United Way’s commitment to our partners in Union is stronger than ever, and we know that Missy’s efforts will only help us better serve the needs of this growing and vibrant community.”
Wilkes is currently in her second week of work in her new position, and she said her favorite part so far has been learning what United Way of the Piedmont (UWP) had to offer in her home county.
“I never realized we had so many amazing programs available through United Way to help support and educate our citizens,” she said, adding that she was enthused to learn about the amount of diversity among businesses and local residents. “I don’t think I’ve ever been impacted in such a short amount of time, and my eyes have been opened. And my desire to help has never been more
Wilkes is a graduate of Union High School and achieved her undergraduate degree at Limestone College in psychology. She began her career at the Union County Chamber of Commerce and later served as a program director at the Union County YMCA and Fitness Director at the former Pine Street YMCA in Spartanburg.
Wilkes eventually began teaching fitness classes part-time while being a stay-at-home mother of three. Now that her youngest son, Quinton, has turned three and is in preschool, she said she decided she was ready to jump back into the workforce.
“I was ready to get back into the workforce and interact with adults again,” Wilkes laughed.
Wilkes still resides in Union with her husband, Paul, and her three sons — Sebastian, 8, Gresyson, 6, and Quinton, 3.
Wilkes said she had been teaching — and still teaches — yoga classes at Exzell Fitness in Spartanburg, but she was looking for more work when a friend, Tommy Manibusan, sent her the job description for Union County’s Community Relationship Manager for United Way of the Piedmont (UWP).
“When I read the job description, I knew this would be one of my purposes in life,” Wilkes said.
Wilkes quoted Dolly Parton, whose Imagination Library program is sponsored by the United Way.
“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one,” Wilkes said, quoting Parton.
She said this new road has been great from the beginning, and she sees enormous potential for Union County.
“I’m looking forward to educating all of the people of union on the services we have to offer because I’m sure a lot of people are like I was and are unaware of what the United Way actually does,” Wilkes said. “I look forward to working with the partners we currently fund and get their service information out to the citizens of Union County, as well as volunteer opportunities.”
Wilkes said the UWP staff has been incredible to work with, and they have encouraged her, as well as shown her the abundance of help the UWP makes available to the community. She gave the example of one program — called 2-1-1 — which is a number people can dial to find local information to help a family member, friend or themselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Wilkes said 2-1-1 is easy, confidential and free. The phone number provides information about basic needs, childcare, community programs, counseling services, prescription assistance, financial assistance, emergency services, transportation and more. Wilkes gave the example of someone going through hardship who had trouble paying an electric bill, and she said they could find resources for help through United Way’s partners by dialing 2-1-1.
“I love knowing the work I do helps people in Union and I appreciate that I can see the results in my own community,” she said. “I’m excited to help out while learning the operations of a large non-profit organization. United Way is highly resourced and very powerful. That comes with a great deal of responsibility, so I hope I can do my share with excellence.”
Wilkes said the UWP’s grant cycle begins in April, and she hopes to be able to encourage more non-profit agencies to apply for grants and continue to build services in Union County.
Wilkes encourages everyone to visit the United Way of the Piedmont’s website — www.uwpiedmont.org — and learn more about what UWP has to offer as well as ways to volunteer. She mentioned there is an option called “Get Connected” which allows users to set up a profile and have volunteer information mailed directly to them.
Wilkes’ office is located in the Union County Nonprofit Partnership Center, at 115 Thomas Street, Union, which is managed by United Way of the Piedmont. She may be reached at (864) 606-9004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.