CONWAY, S.C. - Aiming to increase community engagement and involve more
Myrtle Beach area residents in meaningful ways, Coastal Carolina University
has formed StepUp!, an organization designed to recruit and mobilize
volunteers, and help them develop ongoing relationships with community
Funded by a four-year, $750,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight
Foundation, StepUp! will work with area nonprofit groups to create an
effective, efficient volunteer infrastructure that will widen, diversify and
promote volunteer opportunities.
StepUp! will coordinate with nonprofit organizations to help them improve
their readiness and ability to attract, train and use a strong volunteer
base. The initiative will focus on developing a wide range of volunteer
opportunities with clearly defined tasks, matching activities with
volunteers' skills and offering networking and socializing opportunities.
Project coordinators, trained by StepUp!, will be the key contacts,
providing volunteers with information about the projects that interest them.
"Coastal Carolina University is especially interested in new ways the
university community can contribute to strengthening the entire region,"
said Peter Barr, provost of Coastal Carolina University. "StepUp! will build
important bridges throughout the community that will ultimately make the
area a better place to live, work and visit."
According to Knight-funded surveys in the Myrtle Beach area, many residents
feel their needs are being overshadowed by their rapidly growing community.
Forty percent of respondents believe one of the best ways to help their
community is by volunteering their time. The surveys also show that the
majority of residents believe they can - and will - have an impact on the
future of their community.
On average, six out of 10 area respondents volunteer for at least one
organization, but the depth of their involvement is limited. StepUp! is
designed to help volunteers deepen relationships with nonprofits and become
more actively engaged in the community.
"Community residents are the best architects of community change in Myrtle
Beach. It is individual people who can make a difference," said Patricia
O'Connor, chair of Knight's community advisory board and executive editor of
The Sun News. "Volunteerism is not just an endpoint but a springboard that
has the potential to transform the landscape of this community."
Many studies show that volunteerism is one key behavior of the engaged
citizen. Other behaviors include voting, donations, activism and community
leadership through civic service, such as serving on local boards. Often one
of these activities leads to others.
"Increasing community engagement in Myrtle Beach is something Knight's
advisory committee felt was important for this city, and the StepUp!
initiative is a significant attempt to address that need," said Michael
Maidenberg, Knight Foundation vice president and chief program officer. "The
ripple effects of this program will go a long way to help improve Myrtle
Beach's overall civic health."
StepUp! will be administered by executive director Valerie Harrington. She
has served as the executive director for CARETEAM, Inc. in Myrtle Beach, and
as an independent counselor in the field of sexual assault, teen pregnancy
prevention and child abuse. She earned a master's degree in social work from
the University of South Carolina. The StepUp! office will be housed in the
Coastal Federal Center for Economic and Community Development at Coastal
Coastal Carolina University, founded in 1954, offers educational
opportunities to more than 7,200 students. As part of its role as a
community leader, the university has adopted several programs to encourage
community outreach and volunteerism, such as mentoring in the public schools
and placing faculty in the community for semester-long engagement programs.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence
worldwide and invests in the vitality of the Myrtle Beach area and 25 other
Anne Trainer Monk, assistant vice president, marketing communications
Coastal Carolina University, (843) 349-2017,
Sharon Moshavi, communications manager
Knight Foundation, (305) 908-2677,