United Way Honors USC Aiken Professor, Students

Staff Report From Aiken CEO

Friday, March 29th, 2019

During its annual meeting and campaign awards celebration, the United Way of Aiken County recognized a professor and students from the University of South Carolina Aiken.

United Way presented the Philanthropist of the Year award to Dr. Sanela Porca who currently teaches in the USC Aiken School of Business Administration.

"[She] is a woman with a very big heart and a great desire to make our community a better place," said Sharon Rodgers, president of the United Way.

"She has a heart for education and as you will see this is not only true in her career, but it also carries over into her personal and volunteer time too."

Porca teaches economics and international business at USC Aiken. She also serves as the Endowed Global Business chair. Additionally, she is the study abroad program director for the university's School of Business Administration.

While she spends her life sharing knowledge, Porca says she's had many mentors in the community who taught her so much. Many of them inspired her to serve the special community that she's embraced as her own.

"It is easy to fall in love with Aiken. It happened to me 17 years ago when I came to interview for a job with USC Aiken. You can easily sense our community's heartbeat by opening a daily newspaper and looking at all the amazing events, efforts, and contributions made by ordinary people on a daily basis," Porca said.

She believes Aiken is an "amazing community," and she feels "truly blessed to be a part of it."

While the United Way accolade came as a complete surprise, Porca says the Philanthropist of the Year Award is the manifestation of her longstanding and ongoing commitment to serve throughout "this remarkable community."

"There is so much work that needs to be done in our community. By living united and by working together, we all continue this work of improving lives in Aiken daily," Porca said.

"This award gives me enthusiasm and desire to work harder and to inspire others to do the same.

"Thank you to the United Way of Aiken County, and thank you to the Aiken Community for everything you do. I am humbled and honored to be a member of this wonderful place, to be an Aikenite."

Despite a busy academic schedule, Porca is an active member in the Aiken Rotary Club and serves on the United Way's board of directors. In the community, she has participated in fundraising efforts for several of United Way's partner agencies, including the Salvation Army and Children's Place. She also volunteers at St. Mary's Help of Christians of Church.

"One of her favorite activities through Rotary is participating in the Rotary Club Dictionary Project and the opportunity to interact with the elementary students and teach them how to use the dictionary and getting them excited about learning," Rodgers said.

"We are very thankful to have such a kind hearted and community minded individual as a United Way volunteer and supporter."

In addition to Porca, the United Way honored three Pacers who interned with the organization. Seniors Kyah Owusu, Elizabeth Abshire, and Kiera Johnson worked closely with Rodgers and her team.

"We would like to recognize three exceptional students who truly go above and beyond for our organization," the United Way leader said.

Each year, the university participates in the United Way's annual campaign.

"In addition to raising and allocating funds, the United Way continues to strengthen its role as Aiken County's community problem solver. Through a comprehensive Community Impact Initiative, we have positioned our United Way to be the collaborative hub for Aiken County," according to the organization's website.

"Although the United Way has grown and expanded its services throughout the last 63 years, the mission remains to meet the human service needs of the people of Aiken County."