It’s not often employees see the faces of individuals who will benefit directly from their company’s charitable contributions. But when Donnie Watford, the manager of Myrtle Beach gas operations presented a check for $3,600 to Tara Hall, a home for abused and neglected boys, he and fellow gas operations employees had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with the young men whom the money will help.
Watford and Charlie Leone, the account manager for new business in Myrtle Beach, wanted to donate the money to an organization that reflected the company’s values and would use the funds for some type of education. “Since it was around Christmas, we knew immediately we wanted to do something for kids. Tara Hall works on several fronts to help these young men, from educating them to providing food, shelter and a secure place for them to live,” according to Watford. “It seemed like a good fit for what we wanted to do.”
After presenting the check to Tara Hall’s assistant director Patsy Morris, Leone and Watford enjoyed lunch at Roy and Sid’s American Kitchen along with the 13 young men who currently call Tara Hall home.
“It was overwhelming and inspiring,” recalled Leone. “The boys there have overcome so much, yet some of them have such a ways to go. I hope we can do more for them in the future because this really does change lives.”
The donation will be used to purchase school supplies, clothes and food for the boys. Morris said she was surprised when she learned of the gift in December, since she had never had any prior contact with the company. “The boys who come here all share one thing in common. They’re between 6 and 12 years of age and need help they just can’t get anywhere else,” said Morris. “Most of them come from dysfunctional families, and it’s our hope to offer them a home environment most of them have never experienced. This money will go directly to helping each one of these boys.”
Tara Hall has been meeting the needs of abused, neglected and troubled boys since 1969, when Father Owen O’Sullivan gave a young boy a home in the rectory of St. Cyprian’s Church in Georgetown. O’Sullivan soon ran out of room in the old rectory and rented a small house for his growing family. Since then, more than 500 boys have passed through the various incarnations of Tara Hall (named Tara after a hill that Irish kings used as a home in O’Sullivan’s native Ireland) on their way to a new life and adulthood.
Jim Dumm, who was O’Sullivan’s first volunteer staff member, now serves as Tara Hall’s director. According to Dumm, there are few programs in the state like Tara Hall, which offers a school with grades one through eight and a campus where the residents live. “Most of these boys are about one to three years behind where they should be or can be in school, so we have to focus on academics. In addition, many need to learn appropriate behavior, and we try and teach them that they can be anything they want to be, if they want to work hard at it,” explained Dumm. In most cases, Tara Hall requires residents to stay with the program two years, which Dumm said is the minimum time it usually takes to begin to make a serious difference in a boy’s life. “It’s very costly, but we feel like it’s worth it when you look at how you can change their lives,” explained Dumm. “If we can get them caught up in school and teach them respect and appropriate behavior, then we will have given them the basics to succeed in life.”
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