School district gives partners, volunteers tropical thanks

Teachers and administrators in Rock Hill took a break from the back-to-school planning frenzy Wednesday to don Hawaiian leis and attend a tropical-themed luncheon honoring the district's business and civic partners and volunteers.

One by one, more than 50 people and groups were called to the front of the room to be recognized for their contributions to different schools.

Each school nominated who they would like to see win the awards, said collaboration coordinator Serena Williams, who organized the event.

Williams said that although the district can't afford fancy prizes, it means a lot to award winners to be recognized.

"'Thank you' is one of the most meaningful things you can say to someone," she said.

A new award was given out this year for service that benefited the district as a whole.

Family Trust Federal Credit Union and Gary Williams, CEO of Williams & Fudge, won the superintendent's diamond awards.

Williams said he first realized the diverse needs of different schools when he was elected to the school board in 1996.

He was shocked to find that Sunset Park Elementary had no playground.

So, Williams helped the school get two playgrounds and since has been committed to making sure children have equal opportunities, regardless of their backgrounds.

Williams & Fudge donated about $50,000 to the district this year. The company sponsors students who want to join Boy Scouts or can't afford to go on field trips, among other things. Many employees also serve as mentors to students in the schools.

"To see all kids have an opportunity to grow and succeed, I think that's important," Williams said.

The team of employees representing Family Trust expressed similar sentiments.

Family Trust offers marketing staff free of charge to support district events, provides complimentary breakfasts throughout the year and donates school planners to all employees in the district.

David Casey, vice president of business development, said investing time and money in the schools is important because the children are the future and the foundation of the community.

"It cuts to the core values of what Family Trust is all about," he said. "We do it because it's the right thing to do."