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‘It’s amazing to me:’ Bright Futures helps fill needs during pandemic

The Beaufort County Board of Education on Tuesday learned about what the local chapter of Bright Futures has done to help students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funded by the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce as well as grants and donations from entities of all sizes, Bright Futures helps make sure local students and families have their basic needs met. Chamber of Commerce Assistant Director Robin McKeithan is the program coordinator, and Beaufort County Schools Student Services Director Ashley Padgett is the liaison between the Chamber and the school system.  When Padgett receives a needs request from a family, she sends it to McKeithan who publishes it on social media. Members of the community then have a chance to step in and fill the need.

The number of requests grew significantly in 2020, as families dealt with the economic repercussions of the pandemic.

“For a while we were very slow, and then it picked up heavily,” McKeithan said. “We’ve had more than 300 donors in 2020, we provided clothes to more than 200 families, we provided 37 beds with bedding to families, we’ve supplied more than 20 appliances, and more than 80 pairs of shoes for students.”

The community is quick to respond when requests are posted.

“It’s amazing to me — I follow Bright Futures on Facebook, and I’ll see something pop up saying there’s a need, and I start thinking about who can I call or what can I do,” school board member Butch Oliver said. “And before I can even get it out of my mind, it pops up that the need has been met.”

During the pandemic, Bright Futures and its partners have donated 1,500 flash drives, raised $10,000 to cover the school system’s food costs and provided 6,500 face masks, McKeithan said, along with many other initiatives.

Donations to Bright Futures come from a variety of individuals, businesses and organizations.

If interested in donating to Bright Futures, checks should be written to Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce Foundation with Bright Futures in the memo line. Contact McKeithan at 252-946-9168 for partnering with a school or working with Bright Futures. by Aurora O