Taking the Lead

June 2020
Written By: 
Ashley Daniels
Photographs by: 
courtesy of Mary Jo Rogers

Mary Jo Rogers shares how leadership isn’t a solo position

When Mary Jo Rogers’ team at the bank surprised her with the news of her nomination for this year’s Ann DeBock Leadership Award after her YMCA spin class, she asked herself why she would be someone who could stand in those shoes. 

“And what I realized is that I think a leader is somebody that is not afraid to ask others to help them,” says Rogers, executive vice president/chief lending officer of South Atlantic Bank. “Nobody stands on their own two feet and just says, ‘I’m going to lead,’ because you have to have somebody to lead and you have to have people that are willing to follow you.”

Rogers would go on to win the 2020 Leadership Grand Strand Ann DeBock Leadership Award, presented by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber’s Leadership Grand Strand program. It’s been a longstanding tradition, named after DeBock, former executive director of Leadership Grand Strand who passed away in 1998.

“Anyone that knows anything about this award knows it’s an incredible honor and I'm standing on the shoulders of giants from people who have been awarded this before me,” says Rogers.

Over the last few decades, Rogers has volunteered and served on boards focused on children, the arts and the homeless, including the Grand Strand Optimist Club, American Heart Association, the Cancer Society Relay for Life and many more.

The nonprofit that she’s best known for is New Directions, an organization she built from scratch that helps people in crisis. Under her leadership, four separate shelters were consolidated under the New Directions umbrella to increase efficiency and better help the homeless along the Grand Strand. They are currently housing 175 people in need.

“I’ve really built it to an organization that’s truly changing people’s lives every day,” says Rogers. “During all of this that’s going on around the world, we still have families that have been able to move into their own apartment and get out of the shelter. There’s a success story every single day and now more than ever we’re going to be more needed. People are losing their jobs and are one paycheck away from disaster at any given time.”

“I’ve been incredibly blessed to learn over the years how to ask people to do things for you and with you, and the with you is the important part,” says Rogers. “Because a lot of it is that you can’t ask people to do stuff that you’re not willing to do. In a leadership position, I’ve been blessed to have had great people that, if you ask, they come and do, and that’s a real shout-out to this community.”

For more information on New Directions, visit helpnewdirections.org.

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