COG Receives Award for "Virtual Service Delivery Project

PRESS RELEASE: January 19, 2021                                                                                                  

MEDIA CONTACT: Chris McKinney (803-774-1384)


COG Receives Award for “Virtual Service Delivery” Project

Santee-Lynches Regional COG received a 2020 Aliceann Wohlbruck Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) for a regional project named “Virtual Service Delivery”.

SUMTER, SC – The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) awarded Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments (SLRCOG) a national award for their “Virtual Service Delivery” Project at the 2020 Annual Training Conference. The pandemic impacted our communities in multiple ways, including impacting the health of thousands of residents and the economic viability of our counties and cities. Unemployment rates soared to very high numbers – which left many without options for returning to work.   The Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments/Workforce Development Area, Eckerd Connects (WIOA Services), and the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) (Wagner-Peyser, Veteran and UI Services) provided innovative and virtual services during a major pandemic – COVID-19, and in response was designated a high performing center by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.

Through contracted services with the COG, Eckerd Youth Alternatives dba Eckerd Connects implemented a virtual service delivery model that provided quality Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and SC Works (American Job Center) services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Services were provided innovatively by telephone, text messaging, and other virtual platforms such as Adobe Connect and WebEx. Eckerd Connects invested in Adobe Connect to obtain electronic signatures to continue to meet Department of Labor requirements and in addition it enabled them to continue virtual “face-to-face” meetings for staff and clients. It allowed for full case management services to be provided. Meetings and soft skills training took to the virtual platform via Adobe Connect and WebEx as well. The WIOA Youth Program successfully implemented monthly Career Smart classes (soft skills training) via WebEx with participants.  Working with public and private training providers, occupational and basic skills training was provided via virtual platforms during the pandemic.  Eckerd Connects provided Learning Express options free of charge in the Santee-Lynches Region to WIOA participants to assist with studying for the GED/HS diploma curriculum, occupational skills training/pre-requisites, and certification exams. Topics of study ranged from Allied Health, Military careers, Commercial Driver’s License, Nursing, and Emergency Medical Services.  Participants remained engaged and were invested in the training opportunities with use of such a relatable platform despite the pandemic.

Staff also pivoted and provided telephonic and electronic services to customers seeking Unemployment Insurance (UI) assistance.  The SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) Team of the Santee-Lynches SC Works System played a critical role in providing unemployment services during the pandemic. They received some basic training over the course of a few hours and immediately jumped into the fray.  The team quickly learned and quickly evolved into the word-of-mouth go to place to call by customers.  Their agility in adapting to the new role and superior soft skills led to referrals of more complicated UI issues on the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System in answering questions concerning Unemployment Insurance for Businesses and individuals.  Staff’s high level of skills and performance was brought to the attention of state-level leaders at SC DEW and as a result they were designated a high performing center.  Through telephone, virtual platforms and other methods, staff provided 5,558 services to clients/participants and 691 services to businesses during the pandemic.  For staff assisting UI clients and answering the telephones, they received and assisted 9,096 callers.  Because staff performed at such a high level, the designation of a high skilled/high performing center enabled staff to assist additional customers who resided in other states outside of South Carolina. Business Services Staff were able to serve 138 businesses in the region during the pandemic, to include providing On-the-Job Training (OJT) funding and initiating training opportunities.

Virtual service delivery supports the Santee-Lynches’ vision through enabling the residents in the region to have access to necessary services and employment opportunities needed to earn a livable wage. These efforts also intertwined with an economic development system that provides high-quality jobs and a positive environment for business creation and/or expansion. The quality of life of our residents were improved by the services provided during a pandemic when most businesses were closed, and/or minimal services were provided by other agencies.  This model provided virtual opportunities for clients to gain the necessary skills needed to gain or retain full-time employment, earning a self-sufficient wage.

About National Association of Development Organizations (NADO)

NADO is a national network of 540 multi-jurisdictional regional planning and development organizations.  The 2020 class of award-winning projects were recognized during NADO’s virtual 2020 Annual Training Conference, held online October 20-22.  The 2020 class of award recipients consists of 79 projects from 48 organizations spanning 19 states.

The Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Awards program is an opportunity each year for NADO to publicly recognize the great work regional development organizations deliver to their local communities. 

About Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments

Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments is a premier organization committed to optimizing our region’s unique strengths for a better tomorrow. Our mission is to deliberately enhance the quality of life and provide opportunities for the advancement of our region.  Santee-Lynches serves the counties and cities of Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee and Sumter. To learn more, visit

Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments contracts with Eckerd Connects to provide WIOA services and to operate our SC Works Centers.  We are directly responsible to the local and State Workforce Development Boards for oversight and management of the program to ensure that WIOA and Partner Services are provided through SC Works Centers and other partner sites in the region.  Santee-Lynches Regional COG also provided the necessary PPE (i.e. masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, sanitizing services for the building) to allow for staff to continue working safely in the centers throughout the pandemic.

Santee-Lynches Regional COG is a member of the South Carolina Councils of Government (SC COGs). The SC COGs are a network of the 10 regional councils of governments working to positively affect quality of life and economic development in South Carolina. SC COGs serve as an extension of local and county governments to provide technical assistance, secure state and federal dollars to address critical issues, and advocate at a state and national level for economic and quality of life improvements for South Carolina. To learn more, visit or visit