Even though she is a lifelong resident of Union County, Angie Beaty says she realized by taking a class offered through the Chamber of Commerce that there is more here than meets the eye.
Mrs. Beaty, community relations director for Hospice Care of South Carolina in Union County, is a recent graduate of Leadership Union.
“I consider Union home and I have been here all my life but I was amazed at what I learned that Union had to offer that I didn’t even realize,” she said. “Union County truly has some hidden treasures that we don’t take advantage of.”
Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and USC-Union, Leadership Union’s next nine-month class will begin with orientation on Sept. 29. Applications for this Class of 2010 will be accepted through Sept. 4. The cost is $400, which covers all materials, food and some transportation.
“Through this program we try to give people an indoctrination of Union County as a whole,” said Heather Patterson, program coordinator. “We start with the history of Union County and look at health and human service organizations, state and local government, law enforcement, education, arts and tourism, recreation and economic development.”
Chamber Director Torance Inman said the program also covers a myriad of other organizations and services as issues come up over the course of the nine months.
Mrs. Patterson said she was surprised by the amount of interesting information she learned in the course.
“I have a better understanding of the community,” she said. “From my standpoint, from the first class I went to I was amazed. You find out things like how Wallace Thomson Hospital has such cutting edge equipment. You get on a one on one level with people in a way the general population wouldn’t be able to and you get a chance to pick their brain. You get to sit down with key leaders and officials across the county and get a better understanding of what is happening in the area.”
Inman said people who complete the program also learn that local leadership isn’t just sitting idly by and letting things happen.
“They are working every day to improve not only the quality of life but economic conditions and growth in Union County,” he said. “Things are being done that the average citizens sometimes don’t know about. We try to indoctrinate every citizen who would like to go through the program and anyone who is in a leadership role or who would like to be in a leadership role in the future. It equips them with the basic knowledge they need to be more effective.”
The program is fun, Inman said.
“There is a certain amount of lecture that takes place but there also is a lot of hands on activities — tours of facilities and key points of interest throughout Union County. We also visit the Statehouse, the Department of Commerce, the State Museum, USC and other points of interest.”
Mrs. Patterson said each class also completes a project to benefit the community. For the past two years it has been the Spotlight on Business. Another class located and documented old cemeteries with GPS coordinates to help those coming to Union to research genealogy.
Another class started the Youth Leadership Union program which covers some of the same material covered by the adult class, only more tailored to students.
At the end of the year, Leadership Union students — weather and water levels permitting — take a kayak trip on the Tyger River which concludes with a picnic at Rose Hill State Historic Site.
Inman said the program is a great opportunity for anyone working in county or state government or anyone new to the county to learn more about the area.
“We have had retirees go through the program who tell they us they have lived here all of their life and there was so much they didn’t know,” Inman said. “We have others who began the program after recently moving to Union County who said it made the transition so much easier and rewarding.”
(For more information on Leadership Union call Mrs. Patterson at the Chamber of Commerce, 427-9039. Applications and more information also may be found on the website, www.leadershipunion.com.)