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Nonprofits: Unpaid executive will help St. Christopher's expand

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Lisa Hinkson moved to Pawleys Island for the weather. She found a new calling.

Hinkson has accepted the job of executive director of St. Christopher’s Children as a volunteer with hopes of expanding the base of support throughout the community. Founded by Bob Pelletier, St. Christopher’s provides new clothing for Georgetown County’s poorest children. It has expanded its role to include eye care and dentistry.

Pelletier said the organization started one January after he saw an elementary school student walking to school in flip-flops and barely enough clothing to keep her warm. More than 2,600 children have received school clothes since St. Christopher’s Children began. It received the Secretary of State’s award as one of the best charities in South Carolina in 2014.

Hinkson retired as CEO of a three-county mental health organization in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Originally from Southern California, she found the Michigan winters with temperatures reaching 20 below zero “unlivable.” She said the three counties bordering Great Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron were called the state’s “Banana Belt” because they got only about 150 inches of snow a year, compared to other places with 300.

With a 15-year-old daughter ready to switch from a Catholic school to public high school, Hinkson decided to retire now rather than wait four years. They decided Mount Pleasant and Wando High were too crowded, and friends told Hinkson that Pawleys Island was “so you” when they visited. Her daughter is enrolled at Waccamaw High, and they are living in Pawleys Retreat until their house in Michigan sells.

As a mental health professional, Hinkson brings a wealth of knowledge about regulation and grants to an organization that is ready to move forward.

“She has a very impressive resume,” said Jerry Oakley, president of the St. Christopher’s board. “She believes in St. Christopher’s mission and was willing to sign on as an unpaid executive director.” Oakley said he agreed to take the presidency long enough to restructure the organization.

“If something happened to Bob Pelletier, we would be in trouble,” Oakley said. “He knows more about it than anybody. He wants to get it to the point where it can function without him. That’s bittersweet, kind of like launching a child into the world.”

Oakley said Hinkson has been a quick study. She’s organizing a luncheon for potential supporters this month. She hopes to work on fundraising that will supplement proceeds from the St. Christopher’s Resale Store in Litchfield.

St. Christopher’s recipients and donors remain secret, Pelletier said in a recent letter to the editor last month. “It is a major marketing disadvantage to raising funds,” he said, “but St. Christopher was a private person who respected the dignity of people and allowed them to go on with their lives.”

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