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Mickey Mouse wasn't at the United Way of the Lowcountry's annual meeting and award luncheon Thursday, but other Disney personnel were on hand.
Paul Hart, general manager of Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, said he was humbled to pick up the Community Spirit Award on behalf of his "cast members."
The resort's employees have volunteered for United Way in various capacities, such as offering free tax assistance for the needy and improving the organization's information technology and website.
They also sent over the trademark mouse mascot in September as a surprise visitor to the Children's Center on Hilton Head Island, one of the locations of United Way's Day of Caring projects.
"It's really the diligence and commitment of our cast members here that got (the award) for us," Hart said.
Six local Publix stores took home the Corporate Leadership Award for workplace contributions to United Way's annual fundraising campaign, contributing $250,000 in employee donations and matching corporate gifts.
Outgoing board chairman Tom Henz presented the Exceptional Campaign Leadership Award to Dataw Island for the second year in a row, honoring the community for rallying residents to participate in the annual campaign.
The ceremony capped a fundraising year that garnered more than $2.4 million in pledges to support 39 local agencies.
Keynote speaker David Lauderdale, columnist for The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette, told more than 250 people gathered at the luncheon the story of Charlotte Heinrichs, a retired New York nurse who founded the Deep Well Project on Hilton Head in 1973. It is now a United Way-supported organization.
Her mission was to dig deep wells to curb the widespread infestation of parasites in local children who were drinking contaminated water.
Heinrichs was born prematurely -- so small that she slept in a shoe box with a bottle of hot water to warm her through the night, Lauderdale said. She later converted that same bottle into a reading lamp she used during her rare free moments.
"Together we can shine our little light," Lauderdale said.
At the end of the meeting, Henz handed the gavel to incoming chairman Scott Stowe, a Wachovia marketing president who has been involved with United Way's local chapter through various committees and positions for more than a decade.
Stowe said he was looking forward to a successful 2011 fundraising campaign.
"As you can see from the attendance, we've got a lot of committed folks," he said. "We're going to hit our goal."