2014 WEDU Be More Entrepreneurial Award Voting
The 2014 WEDU Be More Awards Voting pages are sponsored by Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors
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C1 Bank Engaged Philanthropist Award | This award will recognize an individual who has distinguished himself or herself in the nonprofit community by engaging entrepreneurial skills to build a successful nonprofit endeavor. Examples may include: Utilizing a keen business sense to build a new nonprofit serving our community; providing the driving force for a unique and successful fundraising campaign to support an existing nonprofit organization’s initiative. Online voting will identify the top five finalists, which will be further researched by an impartial judging panel to decide the ultimate winner. Sponsored by C1 Bank
Read the essays
Natalie Baird, Are You Safe, Inc.
Natalie Baird has been a catalyst for awareness of Domestic Violence (DV) by helping start Are You Safe, Inc., a Tampa-based non-profit that helps victims of DV by providing free legal services. This necessary service in our community has helped to enrich the lives of others by removing abusers from the household so that victims and their children can start the healing process and regain control of their lives. Natalie has exhibited dedication and selflessness by not only starting Are You Safe, but steering it’s development towards awareness, advocacy, and service in the Tampa Bay area. Additionally, Natalie is a survivor of domestic violence and her story is the cornerstone of Are You Safe, Inc.’s impact in Tampa!
Over 15 years ago, Natalie found herself at the hands of an abusive boyfriend who strangled, beat and stalked her repeatedly. It took 12 months, 10 moves and 1 broken arm later for her to build enough courage to take legal action against him. She was terrified. While most women hide their stories of abuse, Natalie, a
well-educated and affluent woman openly shares her story in an effort to emphasize the need for legal protection and encourage others to get away from abusive relationships.
Linda Eaton, Adoption Related Services of Pinellas
Linda Eaton’s professional experience has been almost exclusively in working with children and families in the child welfare system, with her primary focus on adoptive families. She noticed an increasing need for adoption-competent counselors as too many children were adopted out of foster care and then later returned to the system when the adoption failed. Adoptive families need continued counseling to help assimilate these troubled children into their families successfully. To meet this need, she founded Adoption Related Services of Pinellas (ARSP).
In the beginning, there was only Linda; she was the executive director, the secretary, the accountant, and the service provider. Working from a closet-sized 100 square foot office, she methodically built the agency from the ground up: gathered a board, applied for a Medicaid contract (awarded in 2007), and over time expanded service programs, adding counselors and additional management and support staff. Through it all, Linda insisted on only hiring the best people to provide quality service. With a growing reputation, ARSP now serves clients in seven counties.
A collaboration with Eckerd Community Alternatives created a system in which post-adoptive families in crisis have immediate access to an adoption-competent professional. ARSP has a 97% success rate in keeping adoptive families together through this program.
Linda’s dedication, determination and insane work hours have resulted in a phenomenal organization that has successfully beat the odds for a start-up agency. From an initial budget of just over $29,000 in 2007, in six short years the annual budget has increased to almost a million dollars, and the agency has just purchased its first property. Linda’s achievements were a result of hard work and a commitment to a vision that few people would have had the stamina and determination to pursue. She is a woman to be admired for many reasons.
Barbara Inman, Habitat for Humanity of Florida
Even though we are inculcated with the powerful images of the poor, the troubled, the challenged, and the resilient, it is difficult to not be numbed by relentless pounding of need surrounding us. There are the few, however, who refuse to turn away, rebuff uncertainty, and reinvent passion. A member of this exclusive club of selflessness is Barbara Inman, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Florida.
Habitat for Humanity International was started in Georgia in 1976, watching its Pinellas County affiliate become organized in 1984. This nonprofit promotes family stability by providing affordable housing to qualified individuals and families, with an ultimate goal of eliminating substandard housing in Pinellas County. Barbara has been with the agency since 1992, starting in Orange County, California, then Lee County, Florida, becoming CEO of the Pinellas Habitat for Humanity in 2003, and finally her recent promotion to Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of Florida.
Charity Navigator has awarded Habitat Pinellas its sixth consecutive 4-star rating. Only 3% of charities nationwide rated by Charity Navigator have received 6 consecutive 4-stars. Barbara is tireless, works long hours, and somehow manages to collect a diverse group of volunteers and staff who are devoted to her and dedicated to the mission. Yet she remains cool in the face of disaster, stalwart in a whirlwind of construction, donors, funders, vetting of qualified families, volunteers, press, sponsors, community involvement and city planners, -and organized and prepared despite state and city challenges. She slips easily between the barriers of state, county and city regulations, with a firm grip upon the integrity of the mission. When she started, Pinellas County was building about 2 homes a year. By 2012, the agency built roughly 250 homes a year, and has completed two subdivisions, and in this same year, Barbara was recognized as Nonprofit CEO Woman of the Year. When she accepted the award, she thanked the families who worked so hard to earn their homes, and her staff and volunteers. Her vision is to eliminate environments that harbor poverty. Give her another year, and she’ll be a formidable powerhouse in the national community.
Nisha Mandani, Our AIM Foundation, Inc.
My nomination for this award is Nisha Mandani, a resident of Dunedin who has a passion for improving the lives of youth and the elderly. Ms. Mandani has turned that passion into a non-profit organization called the Our AIM Foundation, whose motto is “This is how we bridge life.”
Ms. Mandani formed the Our AIM Foundation to bring teens and the elderly together for mutual discovery and empathy. Our AIM oversees two programs-Grandkids and Close 2 Heart- that train high school students and facilitate structured visits to seniors in assisted living facilities and Hospice. The visits are designed to facilitate understanding and friendship between the generations. Ms. Mandani has been the driving force behind the success of the program, which has seen the involvement of over 1,000 youth and several hundred senior citizens. She has personally contacted ALFs, schools, elected officials and anyone else who might assist, and can usually be found providing training, running meetings and working with participants to keep interest up and promote the growth of the program. Today, Grandkids has a presence in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Orange Counties. It is growing and has the potential to be a national, if not international, phenomenon.
Ms. Mandani has used her educational background (9 years teaching), her extensive business skills (she and her husband own several businesses throughout the Southeast US) and motivational abilities to recruit schools, students and assisted living facilities. She maintains personal contact with volunteers and always recognizes efforts, never failing to see the value of the work done by volunteers. She is positioning the organization for growth by developing systems to store and track data and to ensure consistent and documented training of program participants. Nisha Mandani has truly taken an entrepreneurial approach to the development and growth of the Our AIM Foundation.
Karen Mertes, Fulfill Your Destiny, Inc.
Karen Mertes is the Founder of Fulfill Your Destiny, her 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation serving Tampa Bay. Karen, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor herself is entrepreneurial in fundraising for Fulfill Your Destiny. She raises money in 11 ways, 5 of which involve her offering a professional service or product for donation. Karen is a professional motivational speaker who has inspired thousands with her remarkable story of survival with a TBI following a collision in 2007 with a drunk driver on I-75 traveling over 100 mph.
Fulfill Your Destiny is unique in that our mission is to assist both individuals and other non-profit corporations. We’ve helped people directly and provided financial support and service to 24 non-profits in Tampa Bay.
Fulfill Your Destiny has provided direct assistance to a stroke survivor for occupational speech therapy, traumatic brain injury survivors in the form of partial scholarships for college, a kidney transplant recipient providing her with the remaining dollars to have the transplant procedure and wounded veterans with TBIs among others. Their inspiring stories can be found at www.fulfillyourdestiny.org under the Who We’ve Helped tab.
Karen also raises funds for Fulfill Your Destiny serving as a leadership and motivational consultant. Karen is a Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) from our United States Air Force and shares leadership tips in her presentation, ‘The Art of Leadership – Views from the Military Commander’s Corner Office’.
Karen’s passion is evident as she donates all her energies full-time to Fulfill Your Destiny. She pays 100% of the administrative costs to operate it out of her personal funds. Karen also donates an additional 10% in honor of each donor making the donor’s effective contribution 110%. Contributing an additional 10% out of her personal funds to others’ generous donations, Karen makes giving 110% mathematically possible and assists others even further.
Katy Meyer, Tampa Bay Veterinary Emergency Service
Dr. Katy Meyer is an emergency veterinarian who has been helping people and their pets in the Tampa Bay area for about 25 years. She is an unspoken hero because she doesn’t turn people away.She will treat sick pets at any hour of the night even if the owners can’t afford care.Every holiday weekend she ends up with many stray or abandoned animals. She treats them all and places them in a foster network she has developed. Often there are more strays at her clinic than paying customers.
Please, if you choose her, don’t anounce to the public that she offers "free care"– as her business has seriously suffered from her generosity. Instead let people see that she is a resource to adopt a pet and save a life or a charity that needs community support.
Dr. Meyer also has a network of rehab people for wildlife. You can drop off almost any specie– baby possums, injured turtles, or injured alligators for that matter and she will do all she can to help them. Police officers have brought her injured alligators in the middle of the night. She has helped injured baby deer.
Dr Meyer has helped so many injured animals that would have otherwise been euthanized, often at her own personal expense. Please give her the tribute she has earned as Tampa Bay’s greatest unspoken hero.
Hailey and Olivia Scheinman, Livy’s Hope
Eight year old twins, Hailey and Livy, have a special bond that enables them to inspire hope and to promote change. Livy has lived with epilepsy and cerebral palsy since birth. Hailey has assisted and encouraged her sister every step of the way. Together, they are motivating people throughout the country to take a stand against epilepsy.
The girls are the spirit behind the Livy’s Hope For A Cure campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to spread epilepsy awareness and to raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation to fund research for a cure.
In order to create awareness, the girls wear their purple Livy’s Hope For A Cure shirts on what they call “Purple Fridays”. Purple is the color for epilepsy awareness. Many of their friends also participate and can be heard telling classmates about Livy’s Hope and epilepsy. Hailey and Livy have created various videos detailing what epilepsy is and what it would mean to find a cure. They have also started the “Mosaic of Hope” which was created by more than 50 children from various states and continues to grow. Each has decorated a section with the words “I Am Hope” to show that they stand with Livy and others with epilepsy.
To raise money for epilepsy research, Hailey and Livy and their supporters hold Lemonade For Livy stands. Hailey also makes bracelets that have been sold to people across the country and as far away as Australia. Livy is the inspiration behind Philadelphia singer/song writer Carmen Magro’s “I Am Hope”. Carmen was so moved by the girls’ efforts that he committed to donating all proceeds from the song downloads to epilepsy research.
The girls are proof that regardless of age, anyone can make a difference in the lives of others.
Beverly Steele, Young Performing Artists (YPAs), Inc.
We, Young Performing Artists (YPAs), Inc., nominate Beverly Steele. CEO of The Steele Organization, LLC, is a former NYC corporate manager, lover of ‘the arts’, children, history, heritage and culture. Founder of Young Performing Artists (YPAs), Inc. YPAs, Inc., a 501 (c) (3), not-for-profit, statewide focused, state recognized corporation whose mission is to identify and address the specialized needs of young performing and visual artists and provide creative solutions to youth development. Nomination is based on the local efforts in Sumter County, FL, a small rural county. Under Steele’s leadership, YPAs, Inc. is the lead agency to provide art, culture & history via the Royal Historical Enrichment & Art Program (RHEAP) after school, school breaks and summer program. Royal is one of Florida’s oldest African American Communities. Founded in 1865, it was settled by former slaves from the Old Green Plantation loc ated on the Withlacoochee River. RHEAP is a 2007 Governor’s Point of Light project and the community received a state issued historical marker. As a collaboration with the Sumter County Historical Society, has registered many items with the Florida Department of Historic Preservation. YPAs, Inc. spearheaded the efforts to develop a WFSU TV CrossRoads’ feature program about Royal and is one of the driving forces regarding ‘the arts’, culture, history and heritage in such a small rural county. Since 1998, YPAs, Inc. has provided $300,000+ services and $25,000+ in scholarships/ awards statewide. FAMU graduate and a former NYC corporate manager overseeing up to $10 million budget; named the 2011 Florida Alliance for Arts Education Business Leader and the 2011 Sumter County Community Hero. Steele markets the needs of children via The Steele Organization (TSO), LLC, her marketing & management Consulting firm. TSO, LLC has provided services to corpora tions from NYC to DC to CA and now in FL.
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