Great Gatsby Gala benefits Florence nonprofit agencies

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Florence Class of 2018 held a gala Thursday evening to benefit several organizations around the Pee Dee area.

More than 200 people attended “The Great Gatsby”-themed ball in The Waters Building, beginning at 7 p.m. in downtown Florence.

Attendees listened to live music, participated in a silent auction and partook of hors d’oeuvres, while dressed in Roaring ’20s attire.

Shametra Swaringer, president of the Leadership Florence class, said the event was a fun opportunity to serve the community.

“It’s been amazing,” Swaringer said. “Everyone got all dolled up in their flapper dresses with beads at the bottom. Florence is growing and I think they love the opportunity to have different events like this. Not only do they have fun tonight, but they get to spend their money and support a worthy cause.”

Proceeds from the night went to benefit House of Hope, Lighthouse Ministries and All 4 Autism.

“We’ve had the opportunity to spend time with each of our organizations,” Swaringer said. “They offer tremendous resources in Florence. All that they contribute is amazing.”

Cecilia Meggs, executive director of Lighthouse Ministries, said the event helped the organization continue to build ramps and help with needs in the community.

“It’s going to be used to serve the community,” Meggs said. “It’s not just the money that is raised, it’s the awareness. This is a group of leaders and it’s great to see them find out about the nonprofits in the community and, in turn, be good stewards and give back.”

Jessica Brown, executive director of All 4 Autism, said the proceeds will help the nonprofit continue to help families who have loved ones who are struggling with autism.

“The only reason we opened up a resource center was because there was nothing else in the region,” Brown said. “We were trying to set up a way for families to not have to travel all the way to Columbia, Charleston or Greenville.”

Les Echols, director of community and minority enterprise for the chamber, said investing in the community is an important part of the Leadership Florence class.

“Giving back to the community is vital to its continuing growth and development,” Echols told The Morning News before the event. “It not only helps to enhance someone’s quality of life, it also helps to encourage an inclusive and close-knit community in which community members work together and help one another.”

Leadership Florence is a comprehensive nine-month program designed to motivate and cultivate leadership for the Florence area. Participants will attend various events during the program to enhance their involvement in the local community while developing valuable leadership skills along the way.

The Leadership Florence Class of 2018 will graduate at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29, at the Floyd Conference Center on the Carolinas Hospital System campus in Florence.