United Way Conversation Series: United Way Starts With U
In the final installment of our conversation series on United Way’s Economic Mobility Model, United Way President and CEO Meghan Barp sits down with Calvin Calhoun III, chair of our Board of Directors, and Cal Hurst, chair of our 2021 Community Campaign, to discuss their hopes for Greenville County and why they choose to serve the community as volunteers with United Way.
Coincidentally, both are bankers — Calhoun with Truist Bank and Hurst with Southern First Bank — but in their roles as United Way volunteers, they have a unique vantage point into the work of economic mobility and the growing needs of our community.
Read an excerpt from our conversation below, or watch the full discussion and entire series at unitedwaygc.org/u.
Meghan Barp: You both are incredible volunteers, what’s your “why?” What draws you to United Way’s work?
Calvin Calhoun: The “why United Way” for me really begins with the intentionality of this particular United Way with how it looks to attack problems and issues in the community. I just love the fact that this United Way is so intentional about connecting people from all walks of life, all demographics, and truly trying to get a firm sense of every single perspective that exists, and looking to solve big, complex problems to really try to help everyone achieve that economic mobility, achieve that financial stability. So for me, it’s a no-brainer.
Cal Hurst: I saw early in my career and in my time here in Greenville, I had some mentors who certainly felt that United Way held a special place in the community as it relates to solving problems. I knew I wanted people to have better outcomes. I always have. United Way was a great fit for what I think stirred me a bit personally. I thought this is a place where I needed to be involved and get a sense for the work that they’re doing. Sure enough, 14 or 15 years later, I’ve gotten a really good sense of that. It’s evolved over time, but it’s stayed relevant and it stayed critically important to the community. And so it has stayed top of mind for me, for those reasons.
Meghan Barp: Cal, you’ve talked a lot about this on the campaign trail: We are often on the top 10 list for everything in Greenville County. It’s an incredible place to live. I know that we all enjoy so many aspects of this community, but we’re increasingly seeing cracks in the way that our society is showing up. We know that more and more people need support. We don’t want to just talk about it. We want to do something about it.
Cal Hurst: I think that’s exactly right. The idea that Greenville is lauded as such a great place to live and I can attest it’s my favorite place I’ve ever tried to even put down roots… But the idea that what zip codes someone is born in helps determine their final circumstances, I’m really uncomfortable with that idea — that we’re not doing enough as a community to create a pathway for people who wind up in those situations, or are born into them, to achieve what they want to achieve. That gap really is probably what motivates me more than anything. I have a really strong sense of the idea that I want everybody to experience Greenville the way that I do or that Calvin does, or my family does. But I also want to experience the way that some of our neighbors who are less fortunate experience it, I don’t want to be too far removed from that because I want to be helping them in whatever ways I can, especially through education and financial stability and vibrant and equitable communities.
Meghan Barp: Calvin, when you think about our economic mobility model and education, financial stability, and vibrant and equitable communities, what stands out to you as something that has the greatest potential?
Calvin Calhoun: The education piece is where I see the biggest potential. Just thinking about how many different levers education hits. When I think about the economic mobility model, whether we start with early childhood, the middle grades, the high school grades, having success in those areas of life, and then ultimately progressing to adulthood where all of us are looking to have some financial stability. Having financial freedom is a big part of mental health. It’s a big part of physical health. Having those things for our broader community ultimately leads to a more vibrant, a more equitable community and that cycle just keeps going.
Meghan Barp: When you think about this work holistically flash forward for me, five years, 10 years, what do you hope to see for our community?
Calvin Calhoun: When I look out five years from now and knowing how intentional we are at United Way, in terms of going after very specific things within education, within financial status within our broader community, when we think about economic mobility I think we see more people that are financially confident.
I think we see more people in our community that feel like they have as good a chance as any to achieve the dreams that have been outlined for them that they’ve thought about. And I think with that, we’re going to continue to see additional people move to our community.
When I think about five or 10 years from now, will there still be some people who are struggling? Yes, but will we continue to be intentional around finding ways to help our neighbors in those situations, whether it’s a situation they were born in as Cal alluded to, or whether it’s a situation that they find themselves in because of one or two life circumstances that happen and can happen to anybody. Are we prepared? And the answer that I have today as I project out is yes, we’re prepared.
Meghan Barp: One of the things that I think is so special about Greenville County is that if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and be part of this community, there truly is a belief that if this community can’t do it, who can?
We need your help to overcome poverty in Greenville County. When you support United Way, your gift creates economic opportunity for those who need it most.
Watch the whole conversation with Calvin Calhoun III and Cal Hurst below.
The challenges we face are complex. To solve them, we’ll need our community’s support more than ever before. Click here to learn more and get involved.