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Murrells Inlet 2020: Revitalization group may cut back as director moves on

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Jennifer Averette, executive director of Murrells Inlet 2020 for the last two years, will resign her post at the end of January.

She notified the community revitalization group’s executive committee of her plans last month and they will re-evaluate the specifics of the position before seeking a replacement, chairwoman Whitney Hills said.

The position might shift to part-time to cut back on the group’s expenses, which primarily include office space and the director’s salary.

Averette will leave not only a job she loves, but a community she loves, she said. She is resigning because her husband, Sam, recently took a job with a plastics company outside of Charlotte. She and their three sons will remain in Murrells Inlet at least through January while they try to sell their house, then will join Sam in North Carolina.

The Averettes have lived in Murrells Inlet since 2001. Sam was a quality control manager at Precision Southeast, a plastics company in Myrtle Beach, but that company is changing hands.

“We do love it here,” Averette said. “It’s a wonderful place to live. Who would want to leave? But we have to go where he has a job.

“The good thing about Charlotte is we do have family there that we’ll be close to.”

And the Averettes will still have strong ties to Murrells Inlet. Sam’s parents live here, so Averette said she and her family will come back often to visit.

Averette joined Murrells Inlet 2020 in October 2008. She was hired from a pool of more than 160 applicants, based largely on her enthusiasm and experience in marketing and public relations. She has worked in those fields for the Palace Theatre, Fantasy Harbour Live Theatres and Ideas Unlimited Marketing and Events.

“There are no words to describe how fabulous she has been and how sad we are to see her go,” Hills said. “One of the biggest things she has brought to that position is a distinct creativity. Everything she does, she does with such creative flair.”

Since Averette started with Murrells Inlet 2020, it has adopted a new name and logo and improved its website.

It was Murrells Inlet 2007 when she was hired.

Averette said she helped take the group “into the future,” using technology to deliver the group’s message to more people with more efficiency and effectiveness. She introduced the group to social media and started using e-blasts to communicate information about fundraisers and events.

She’s also proud of her work with the Inlet Outreach program, which used coloring books and models to teach children about the importance of protecting and preserving the inlet. And she started an initiative that put recycling bins in key public places, including the MarshWalk and Morse Landing Park.

“Those kinds of things are the reason why Murrells Inlet 2020 exists,” Averette said. “It’s not the fundraisers or the parties. It’s the conservation and the preservation of the inlet.”

But organizing fundraisers and community events, including last weekend’s Christmas parade, are a major component of Averette’s job. She joined Murrells Inlet 2020 right before two of its biggest annual events, the autumn gala and the oyster roast, and Hills said she worried about how Averette would handle the challenge.

The concern proved unnecessary.

“She flew through those with ease and just hung in there and has done an incredible job,” Hills said. “She’s always one step up and everything she touches turns to gold.

“It’s going to be really hard to replace her, that’s for sure.”

The board and its advisors will discuss whether the group will continue to have a full-time executive director on Jan. 11, during an annual planning session.

“We’re going to have to take a very hard look at all our expenses and projects,” Hills said.

“We’re facing the same dilemma as a lot of nonprofits right now, and that’s the economy.”

The group and its activities are wholly funded by donations, grants and fundraisers.

Donations are down and, while the group’s fundraisers have been very successful, some hard decisions are going to have to be made in the coming year.

Cutting the executive director’s position back to part-time or hiring two part-time employees to handle the duties are among options the board discussed at its last meeting.

“We really just don’t know what’s going to happen at this point,” Hills said.

The group will have just under two months between Averette’s departure and its next event, the annual Murrells Inlet 5K Run/Walk and Family Bike Ride at the end of March.

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