Spirit of the Lowcountry

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Hilton Head Island Hilton Head Island attracts visitors with astonishing golf, a warm and beachy Southern vibe, and an intriguing hotel product that celebrates the quietude of the Carolina lowcountry. Don’t get us started on the Frogmore Stew, a lip-smacking seafood gumbo.

Many visitors have returned to retire around the 45 square-mile island such as Dr. Jack McConnell, who helped develop Tylenol. In the early 90s, the good doctor knew he didn’t want to play golf everyday, so he founded Volunteers In Medicine to offer free healthcare to needy area residents. The clinic eventually went on to become a national prototype. But to make it work, Dr. McConnell relies heavily on the support of volunteers for the day-to-day processing of more than 30,000 patient visits annually.

This month, the Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau launched a new Corporate Social Responsibility program called The Hilton Head Island Difference. The DMO has partnered with the United Way of the Lowcountry and its 39 affiliated agencies to create a series of 2-hour, 4-hour and full-day volunteer events for visiting corporate and association groups.

These are designed as completely packaged programs so all a group has to do is show up with a willingness to lend a hand. Just a few of the participating organizations include Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Club, Literacy Volunteers and the Council on Aging, along with the many varied local non-profits.

“There’s a culture of caring in Hilton Head because people have moved here from all over the country and they’re very much interested in community-based support,” says Susan Thomas, vp of the Hilton Head Island VCB. “We decided it would be a great thing to develop a turnkey voluntourism program because it’s a natural fit with more and more companies having CSR on their business agenda.”

Thomas says the variety of CSR opportunities means there is something suitable for every group. And, there’s a substantial personal reward too, beyond the business ROI that attendees might not expect, which develops when you put yourself in an unfamiliar place to help someone else. This might be reading books to new mothers or painting a recreational center with underprivileged teens.

“There are educational opportunities on both sides of the equation,” says David Zunker, spokesperson for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. “For meeting attendees, it gives them a better idea of the challenges these types of agencies face in their own cities.”

Hilton Head’s hotel suppliers are some of the biggest proponents of the new initiative, such as Ken Nason, director of sales/marketing for The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, which includes three verdant golf courses on-property.

“What we’re trying to show is not only can you do something good for someone in Hilton Head, you can do something good for your own company too,” he says. “Effective business happens when you motivate your teams. When you host your meeting in a resort setting like Hilton Head, it motivates your employees to work harder. When you show you care about other people, it motivates your employees to work together better. It motivates them to care about their work, which in the end, all of that helps to generate more sales for the company.”

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