Bright Futures lends a hand in many aspects

Published 7:01 pm Friday, September 1, 2017

Bright Futures Beaufort County has changed many lives in its three years.

The organization, involving collaboration between Beaufort County Schools, Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and many other partners, seeks to meet the basic needs of students, and that’s exactly what it does.

If a child comes to school during the winter without a proper coat, Bright Futures ensures a coat makes it across the child’s back. If a student has no food at home, or lacks basic toiletries, such as a toothbrush, Bright Futures comes to the rescue.

“It’s a win-win for all, as these students are our future,” said Robin McKeithan, Bright Futures coordinator and business manager at the Chamber.

One of the most important aspects of this organization is its emphasis on community. Without partners in business, health care and faith-based work, it would not be able to reach the span of students it does. Much of the work is completed through individual site councils.

That has never been more apparent than with the slew of recent partnerships cropping up across the county thanks to Bright Futures.

On Thursday, representatives from Fitness Unlimited stopped by John Small Elementary School to deliver school supplies to the teachers. Gym members and employees collected supplies to donate to the school, as part of a Bright Futures-inspired, budding partnership.

“They spend so much money our of their own pocket. … You know, $100 doesn’t go very far, so even a box of Kleenex means the world to teachers at this point in the year,” Principal Kelly Makepeace said.

Makepeace said Fitness Unlimited owner Amy Gerard jumped right in to help. Gerard has two children attending the school.

“She is fully invested in this school, and she’s going to be great to partner with. I think she’s got a lot to offer,” Makepeace said. “Her staff is just full of energy, and the members of the gym are just willing to give.”

John Small and Fitness Unlimited are already planning a girls’ volleyball clinic and two sports-related family nights, Makepeace said.

The school also partners with Cornerstone Family Worship Center through Bright Futures, and Makepeace said having help to encourage community involvement is invaluable.

“One of the needs within our school right now is just more parent involvement because this is one of those ages where the kids are getting a little bit older, and so parents aren’t as involved, but they still want to be,” she said. “To continue that partnership with our families is so important, so that is where (Bright Futures has) stepped in and helped us a lot.”

A Bright Futures event took place at Beaufort County Ed Tech Center on Thursday, as well.

Ed Tech partnered with Dr. David Dirks, a local chiropractor, who brought a Kona Ice truck out for the students to enjoy. Something as simple as that can be a bright spot in a student’s day.

Senior Kel Coleman said he was proud to have the community members come out to the Ed Tech Center. He said his school tries to balance work with social time.

“They want you to also have fun. They don’t want to be like boot camp, but it’s also you’ve got to have your grades right to have fun,” Coleman said. “Nowadays, everybody knows that school is the best way to go.”

Bright Futures also previously facilitated a basketball team between Ed Tech students and The Eastern Association of Christian Homeschools. Partnerships like these help to make the school a better place.

“It’s a stable environment. Everybody likes each other. It’s close, so everybody can hang with each other,” Coleman said.

Other Bright Futures projects include painting at Eastern Elementary School, a coat drive at S.W. Snowden Elementary and a food/hygiene pantry at Washington High.

“When the basic needs aren’t met, they can’t perform in the school setting, and so we’re just so thankful for that,” Makepeace said.

For more information about Bright Futures and how to get involved, call Robin McKeithan at 252-946-9168 or email her at