|By Claire Byun, The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"It's going great so far," Williamson said last week, about halfway through her first month as director.
Research for the Watershed Based Plan, which shows problem areas and most significant causes of pollution in the inlet, finished up last month and Williamson recently reported the findings to
"That was basically my 'baptism by fire,' " Williamson said. She said the council -- and community -- were receptive to her presentation and new official role.
The executive director oversees the organization and aids in the planning of events, projects and fundraisers. The director has a
Williamson said she applied for the position at the last possible second, after deciding she wanted to return to nonprofit work.
"I have been involved with nonprofits for over 20 years, and between nonprofit and for-profit work, nonprofits have always been my favorite," Williamson said.
Much of her nonprofit experience centers around the
"That's really where I learned a lot about funding -- writing grants and raising money," Williamson said. "In those organizations you don't have a budget, you have to raise the budget."
From 1999-2001, she served as a marketing director for 32 McDonald's stores, which gave her insight into "local, regional and national marketing techniques." After leaving that job, Williamson took the next several years to raise her four daughters.
Her 23-year-old daughter Ashleigh-Anne recently graduated from
Sixteen-year-old Lees and Emma, 14, both attend
Born and raised in
Though she resides outside of
Williamson is looking forward to the personal relationships she'll build through 2020, but said she's realizing all the hard work involved in pulling people into a team and dealing with controversial issues, such as Monday night fireworks on the MarshWalk -- some say the fireworks are damaging the inlet, while businesses say they are a boost -- and the uproar over CMT's reality show 'Party Down South."
Challenges and learning opportunities remain for the new executive director, but Williamson said the support from locals and board members makes all the difference.
"I have had nothing but positive encouragement. Everybody's in it for the good, not for the money," she said.
Nuts and bolts of a nonprofit
"We've been right at about
One of 2020's key features is its completion of major projects benefiting the inlet, such as the purchase of
On the preservation side,
The Watershed Based plan, approved by
So why does a small group in a small town have such a large impact?
"We're doing what the community wants us to do, and the community supports us," Sledz said. "
Local partnerships between
"We've worked with all those groups to make bigger things than what we could ever desire happen," Sledz said.
The key to raising community support? Results.
"We're very lean-staffed, but through our partnerships, our volunteers and our community support, we're able to produce results," Sledz said.
Working from the ground up
"At the time, there were a lot of empty buildings in
"We wanted to help the antiquity of the area."
The initial board consisted of business and property owners, and Chandler said the group reeled in aid from Wachesaw and other outlying areas. Initially the organization was named
One of Chandler's proudest achievements, and one of the current landmarks in
"That boardwalk really opened up the visibility of the salt marsh and the birds and the tides to the inlet," Chandler said.
The MarshWalk was completed in 2005 with funding from
So what was the most difficult step in creating such an influential group?
"Getting opposing positions and attitudes to pull together as one team," Chandler said. "Everybody wants their bread buttered."
After five years serving as chairman, Chandler stepped down but still continued to work alongside the organization. He attributes the group's decades-long success to determined and energetic directors.
"With careful selection, we've had some very good executive directors -- they've done a lot for us," he said.
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