Dr. Alberto Vázquez, HCPS
What an inspiring visit to see Goodwill be able to promote literacy in early childhood through their Bookworks program. It was impressive to see that this program is now impacting eight counties in Florida and nearly 20,000 children annually. Additionally, this program depends on volunteers who will visit Head Start centers and read to children. Ideally, this creates a partnership and an investment from the community to support the efforts of Bookworks.
The opportunity to visit a Head Start center where the majority of its student population is at or below poverty level and interacting with the children by reading to them was both inspiring and rewarding. The appreciation the students demonstrated was humbling as they enjoyed all four books read aloud to them. Most importantly, the children went home with a book donated by individuals who believe in this program and believe that early childhood literacy starts the road to student success.
Junior Achievement BizTown
Ginny Veit, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP
Members of LT’18 visited Junior Achievement’s BizTown on Community Outreach day. BizTown is a simulated city that gives Hillsborough county’s 5th grade students an opportunity to experience the business world. BizTown is sponsored by local businesses that each have storefronts in the city. The students spend time prior to their visit preparing for the visit, interviewing for their jobs which include salespeople, CEOs, CFOs, medical professionals, DJs, reporters, government workers and even a chance to work at McDonalds’s.
On the day of the visit, each student learns about his or her job responsibilities from a guide for that role. CFO’s cut paychecks, pay bills and receive payments for goods and services. The students experience receiving and depositing a paycheck and making decisions about how to spend and save their money. They also get insight into how businesses operate and make money. Each business begins by taking a loan and the goal of the business is to be able to make enough money to repay it at the end.
Five LT’18 members served as volunteers in various businesses as well as in the town hall helping guide the students through their roles. Most questions were easily answered by referring back to the guides for each student’s role. The volunteers were impressed with the level of depth and detail and by how organized the JA team is. The kids have fun doing their jobs while they learn so much about how the business world works. This organization is a great teaching tool and asset to our community.
Dress for Success Tampa Bay
Jessica Burns Fugate, the Crisis Center
Dress for Success has been serving the Tampa Bay community since 1998 and was the first affiliate in the state. More than 1 million women have received assistance since its inception across the entire organization. We learned that “the suit is actually just the beginning” in the life-changing services provided as Dress for Success works with a variety of agencies throughout the county that make referrals to connect unemployed women for assistance with the interview process. Services are not income eligible and clients include women who are homeless to PhDs.
Upon arriving, women meet with a volunteer to select a professional outfit and accessories for the interview in a boutique-like setting. Once they are hired, clients select six pieces to jumpstart their work wardrobe. Other services include First Impressions (an assessment of resume writing and job search strategies), Moving Forward (a six-week course preparing for interview essentials) and Professional Women’s Group (a networking group once hired).
Dress for Success is able to do what they do through generous community support including a computer lab equipped with computers, printers and ink supplied by Macy’s and Tech Data, a part-time employee sponsored by AARP, 107 volunteers that do everything from meeting with clients to organizing donations and stocking the floor, and so many others. When asked how we could help the most, Katie McGill, Executive Director, said to let others know that they do more than just give out suits. They are truly changing women’s lives!
Meals on Wheels
Kiana Wilson, A Sharper U
Meals on Wheels (M.O.W.) currently has over 600 volunteers in the Tampa Bay area. These volunteers deliver to approximately 750 homes per day (5 days a week) primarily to individuals who are home-bound due to some type of mobility issue. Fresh and nutritionally balanced meals are prepared daily at the Tampa facility between 5:30 – 6:30am by Chef Antonio. With an average recipient age of late 70s, Meals on Wheels may be the only meal and/or interaction these individuals receive. For many, this gives them a reason to get up and get going each day in anticipation of the volunteer’s arrival.
The primary goals of the Meals on Wheels program are to (1) Nourish the body; (2) Enrich the spirit and; (3) Strengthen the community. Keeping in mind that recipients comprise of former bankers, teachers, musicians and others whom have helped to build our community and now need some assistance with maintaining their independence, volunteers are proud to be of service and give back. Monroe E., a paid driver for M.O.W., says the most rewarding part of his job is to see the smiles on recipient faces!
Lastly, Meals on Wheels has approximately 66 partner corporations, small businesses, groups and clubs through their Adopt-a-Route program. Partners provide delivery of meals along a designated route, depending on their availability. This program serves as a great team-building experience while also increasing public awareness and emphasizing social responsibility.
- Every year on the recipient’s birthday, they receive a homemade birthday cake.
- Every year during the holidays, recipients receive a holiday bag packed with goodies.
- Youngest recipient is 20 years old.
Adrienne Morgan, Sparxoo
The YMCA is integrated two-fold with Sulphur Springs Elementary School for youth development—first through the YMCA Community Learning Center and the YMCA Reads! program. Both are focused on working with the students of Sulphur Springs Elementary School to close the gap between low-income students and middle/high-income students.
The Sulphur Springs YMCA Community Learning Center has both an after-school program and a summer camp. This after-school program is focused on providing year-round support to students enrolled in grades K-5th grade. The program includes self-guided academic curriculum, and group and individual tutoring. The YMCA employees work with teachers to identify areas for development and opportunities for improvement for the students. They also work together to relay that information to the parents. The summer camp is focused on avoiding the summer learning loss.
The second YMCA integration is YMCA Reads!, a program focused on enhancing literacy with 1st through 3rd graders. Through this program, the Y strives to ensure the children are ready to read by kindergarten, and ready to learn by 3rd grade.
Ms. Megan runs the Community Learning Center and Mr. Brown runs the YMCA Reads! program. Through interaction with the energetic students, it is apparent there are various levels of ability and understanding. The students work on their letters and words through a variety of books, card exercises, word games and so forth. By visiting Sulphur Springs YMCA, one thing is apparent—it isn’t individuals running the program, its students’ success.
Quantum Leap Farms
Stacey Pittman, BT Wealth Advisors
On the morning of Community Outreach Day, one of the LT ‘18 groups traveled to Quantum Leap Farms, located on the outskirts of Tampa in Odessa, Florida. Founded by Edie Dopking, PhD, Quantum Leap Farm provides equine-assisted therapy for children and adults with special needs, military service members and veterans. Using horses as therapy partners, Quantum’s staff provides a variety of equine activities to promote physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Upon rounding the gravel road that leads to Quantum Leap Farm, it’s clear why this special place serves as a place of healing and calm for those who visit. The facility is located on a serene 20-acre pasture surrounded by a 1,700-acre environmentally sensitive land preserve owned by Hillsborough County. The farm is home to not only 14 horses, but also donkeys, goats, and chickens.
After spending time with Edie Dopkin and Sarah Page, Donor Relations and Community Manager, learning about the history and mission of Quantum Leap Farms, the group was given the opportunity to “side walk” with some of the participants and their therapists. Some of the therapists focused on daily activities such as dressing while others focused on speech therapy – all while sitting atop the horses! The therapists explained that equine therapy helps to relax participants, which makes therapy even more effective. Additionally, the horse’s natural gait is very similar to the natural sway of the pelvis during walking. Horse riding serves as a training activity for the body of the individual to move in the right way. The horse gait and rocking motion also help in developing muscle tone and coordination to effectively help the patient in standing and walking.
One of Quantum Leap’s newest programs is called Warrior Mission: At Ease, a five-day retreat for veterans and family members. It is designed to help those suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, mild traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma. Participants come from across the country, with the farm covering the cost of air travel, hotel and other expenses. Edie’s dream is to secure enough funding to build a dormitory on site so that participants can enjoy the serenity of the farm during the entire stay, rather than traveling to local hotels.
Our group was so grateful for the opportunity to travel to the magical place that is Quantum Leap Farm to participate in the amazing work that is done and the many lives that are changed every day.
Frameworks Tampa Bay
Sarah Ham, AACSB International
Can emotional intelligence be taught with an ice cream cone? If you visit Broward Elementary School, you will find an educator who is teaching kids how to give (and receive) complements through the creative methodologies of the Frameworks program. Each scoop of ice cream represented a complement the class paid to the student of the day, while the cone represented a trait the student admired about himself- a visual example that demonstrated a foundation of self-worth (the cone) with the appreciation of their traits by others (the ice cream.)
While seated in a circle on a brightly colored rug, students complemented the young boy in a way many adults find difficult to do. How would you react if someone recognized you as “a great scholar?” Would you be able to see that trait in someone else? The young boy’s smile stretched ear-to-ear as his teacher drew an ice cream cone on construction paper, and wrote ‘great scholar’ in the scoop at the top – a powerful moment that might not have happened without Frameworks, which provides social and emotional learning (SEL) programs for youth in grades preK-12. SEL encompasses everything from self-awareness to relationship skills and responsible decision-making – skills you won’t find spelled out in textbooks, but are critical to navigating every stage of life. Don’t be afraid to give yourself some ice cream – and share a scoop with a colleague as well.
Rolfe Thompson, GTE Financial
The Resources In Community Hope (RICH) house works to enhance neighborhood safety through collaboration between police and residents in high-crime areas. The program offers impoverished children a safe atmosphere in which to grow, learn, and play as an alternative to being idle on the streets after school and during the summer. The recent donation of two passenger vans allows the RICH house kids to go on field trips in the area including recent visits to the Lowry Park Zoo, Busch Gardens, and the FWC fish hatchery. The RICH house, which is funded by the Tampa Police Department and private donations, is truly enRICHing the lives of its kids.
Refugee Experience & Metro Wellness
Katie Malloy, Greenberg Traurig, P.A.
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
– Mother Teresa.
The Leadership Tampa Community Outreach Day was an unforgettable experience, surrounded by the beautiful smiles of both those that give daily to our community and those that receive the benefit of their service. The morning started with a visit to the Lutheran Services Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists refugees entering the United States – from ensuring there are smiling faces welcoming the refugees at the airport, to locating housing and stocking their fridges with culturally appropriate items to make them feel more at home. The Foundation’s refugee services are available to individuals who are forced to flee their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. They are funded by the Department of Children and Family Services, but are in need of local connections to assist with housing.
The Foundation also partners with CARIBE, an adult education project that helps refugees and immigrants study and learn English. One of the most moving parts of the experience was meeting the students at CARIBE and seeing their smiling faces. Despite the horrific circumstances that caused the refugees to leave their countries, their smiles were bright.
The second half of the day was spent with another set of smiling faces at Metro Wellness, a non-profit organization in Ybor City that provides health and wellness services in an inclusive atmosphere for all individuals. Metro Wellness specializes in providing services to LGBTQ+ youth and adults, including primary care, medical testing, and counseling services. By sharing their stories – and their beautiful smiling faces – Metro Wellness helps educate and serve the community and bring awareness to the LGBTQ+ community. It was a gift to spend the day with each of these amazing groups.
Meals on Wheels
David Loos, Beaux Arts Group
For our Community Day, my team was blessed to experience Meals on Wheels Tampa. We arrived to a warm reception and the smell of something delicious in air. We had an opportunity to speak to Executive Director Steve King whose personality radiates love for life and giving back to those less fortunate. His passion for the organization gleamed as he told us the history of Meals on Wheels.
Established in 1975, the program feeds 750 homebound individuals daily Monday through Friday. That is homebound not homeless. The majority of the individuals in the program pay $4.25 per meal where few are subsidized. The meals are made fresh everyday by Chef Tony and his crew who have the practice down to a science. There are never leftovers and you know what? You can have it your way. Chef Tony does cater to special dietary needs for those that it’s necessary. On holidays or special circumstances, Chef will prepare and freeze a meal that can be heated over the weekend. For some this daily meal is the only thing they will have to eat all day.
The mission is to NOURISH – ENRICH – STRENGTHEN the lives of the homebound community, and that was a mission we were ready to accept. As we received our marching orders, Lauren Vance, Director of Community Relations, and Steve wanted to give us the dos and don’ts plus some insight on what to expect. They stressed how some of their patrons get little to no interaction with other human beings all day so when that doorbell rings, it’s a special and exciting moment for them.
With Kay whipping around corners, David Ferreira doing navigation, me on logistics and Marshall telling us more about the program (he’s a board member), we started making our drops. The majority of the houses were surprised to see 4 people dropping off one meal, but hey, that’s how we roll (pun intended)! As we approached one of our last stops we were asked to come in. Not wanting to overwhelm the owner we decided to have just two of us go in. We sat with Lilly for about 10 minutes talking about nothing in particular and then it was time to go. It was noticeable Lilly’s longing for conversation no matter the topic, as long as you don’t bring up her Italian accent!
MacDonald Training Center
Heather Brock, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney
Over 50 years ago, the MacDonald Training Center was one of the first preschools for children with disabilities. Its mission has grown and its goal is now full inclusion and endless possibility for individuals with disabilities. The Center helps with employment services, residential support, and vocational skills training. The Center is working to empower with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live their very highest and best lives.
As a group, we were impressed by how the Center has focused on equipping its constituency with marketable job skills. We all enjoyed working with folks to assess affinities to identify good matches for employment, and then conducting mock job interviews. How can LT ’18 help? Spread the word that the Center has an amazing business within it called e-Quality Recycling. The Center provides secure data destruction, equipment collection and pick up for qualified businesses, and responsible recycling of old electronics. In addition to providing Center constituents with work to do, the donor gets tax credits for the donation. Please donate old computers, servers, hard drives, circuit boards, cable boxes, satellite receivers, routers, cell phones, cable and wire, and gaming systems to the Center to help it fulfill its mission!