2015 WEDU Be More Involved Award Voting

The 2015 WEDU Be More Awards Voting pages are sponsored by Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors

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Mason Dixon Award for Volunteerism | One person can make an extraordinary difference. These award nominees are culled from an online poll driven by votes from the general public in the WEDU PBS viewing area. A local media personality will ultimately choose and present the award to the most deserving recipient from top nominees that receive the most online support during the voting period.

Read the essays

Alan Thompson, USO Central Florida

Alan has been with USO Central Florida since its opening in 2012. Starting as a volunteer serving our troops and their families at the USO Welcome Center at Tampa International Airport, Alan quickly discovered a passion for honoring our military through his time and unwavering dedication to the USO. He now commits himself to the USO five days a week without fail and has served over 2,000 volunteer hours. Due to Alan’s leadership, reliability and commitment to the troops and their families, the staff of USO Central Florida asked Alan to take on the volunteer role of Assistant Center Manager for the USO Welcome Center. He took up the heavy responsibility without hesitation. He ensures that all policies and procedures are up to date, tackles maintenance issues, schedules volunteers, assists with volunteer communications and provides center reporting and research. He often times stays late to assist Families of the Fallen, greet troops who a re coming back from deployment or comfort those who have flight delays with no place to go. He also guarantees that we have the most well-rounded, knowledgeable volunteer team by being the lead trainer to new faces and a mentor to the seasoned volunteers. He is kind, patient and most of all respected as a volunteer leader and trainer. Alan is also the first to volunteer to represent USO Central Florida at community events. His knowledge and willingness to do anything asked of him makes him the perfect USO ambassador. Alan is a Vietnam Veteran and Bronze Star recipient himself and understands the importance of the USO for the Tampa Bay military community. In his “spare time”, he also commits himself to the Suncoast Chapter of Honor Flight, Veterans Affairs and VFW. Alan Thompson is truly a remarkable volunteer and irreplaceable to USO Central Florida.

Alyss Katz, Humane Society of Tampa Bay

Imagine waking up in your kennel, it’s a beautiful day and you just want to stretch your legs! You look up and there she is; the lady who takes you out to play!

Alyssa Katz has been a volunteer at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay for the past two years. During that short time, she has made an enormous difference in the lives of our dogs while they are with us until they find their forever homes. Alyssa has clocked more than 2,446 volunteer hours and is frequently here several days a week. From the very beginning, it was clear that she had a passion for dogs; in particular, the large breed adult dogs who are difficult to adopt and usually stay with us longest. She immediately teamed up with our dog trainer to assist him during daily “doggy play groups.” Each morning, Alyssa supervises different groups of dogs as they run and play together. The dogs burn off energy, play in the water, and learn “doggie” manners from one another. When a new dog is introduced to the group, they learn from the other dogs that this is a safe and happy place to be until they get adopted.

Alyssa also works with our problem dogs. Frequently in the afternoon during the weekend, you will see her working one-on-one with different dogs. In addition, she volunteers for our special events, teaches dog handling at new volunteer orientation and mentors volunteers who want to know more about dog walking and training.

Alyssa has been an enormous help to our staff and, more importantly, to the thousands of dogs who have come through our shelter doors in need of a little extra time and attention. Through her guidance they have become happy, well-adjusted dogs who more easily find forever homes.

Annie Godbee, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg

Mrs. Annie Godbee has dedicated her entire professional life to the education of children and their families in the community of south St. Petersburg.

After a 35-year career in elementary education, Mrs. Godbee retired and now offers the same dedication as a volunteer tutoring at-risk, low income children in the Childs Park YMCA’s Y-Achievers after-school program. Gifted with an ability to inspire through example, countless children and parents’ lives have been profoundly affected resulting in parents’ more active roles in the lives of both their children and themselves. Her mantra that “there is no cannot” serves as a catalyst for change.

As a former teacher, Mrs. Godbee understands curriculum and the classroom are just the starting points. As such, Mrs. Godbee spends many hours outside the time she spends volunteering as a tutor working with the parents of the children she serves. She accompanies the parents of a struggling child to parent/teacher conferences and establishes the child’s academic focus. She assigns homework to the parents, too. Her mantra comes into play here as well.

Beyond the commitment of countless hours, Mrs. Godbee often purchases books and academic tools for the Y-Achievers program at Childs Park. She has never forgotten her own childhood which provided a wealth of support and sacrifice, of both family and community, enabling her to return to college once her father passed and financial assistance was not longer available. She credits the love and support she received as the reason for her success as well as the reason for giving back today. Her history offers a key to understanding not all children face challenges because of lack of ability, rather the lack of individual attention with most families working long hours or lacking the education themselves.

B. Taylor Urruela, VETSports

Two days before he was to leave Iraq in 2006, Army Sgt. Brian Taylor Urruela’s Humvee hit a pair of roadside bombs, killing his comm&ing officer & severely injuring him & his comrades. After 35 unsuccessful surgeries, the life-long baseball player made the agonizing decision to have his mangled right leg amputated. He thought the worst was behind him, but a new kind of suffering soon began. The bomb didn’t just take his leg, it took the only future he had imagined. If he couldn’t be a soldier, if he couldn’t be a cop, if he couldn’t be an athlete, what could he do?

That experience led SGT Urruela to co-found VETSports, a rapidly growing national organization dedicated to helping veterans transition & heal through the power of athletics. Their mission is to help veterans achieve better physical, mental & emotional health after service through sports, physical activity, & community involvement. Now, veterans all over the US are finding a place where they can feel normal again & enjoy the activities they used to enjoy. & do it all side by side with someone who knows what they are going through.
The story of SGT Taylor Urruela serves as an example of the hardships soldiers face when returning from war, including amputeeism, PTSD, depression, & a loss of support that the military once provided. SGT Urruela’s determination brought him success in battling PTSD, & an ability to help other vets through the founding of the VETSports sports league.

SGT Urruela remains a volunteer for the organiztaion he helped form. He receives no pay for his services.

Delwyn Collins, Hillsborough County Foster Angels Program

There’s a humble Tampa man who has made it his mission to honor foster kids at Christmastime year after year.  For the last quarter century, Delwyn Collins has bought thousands of toys on his meager hourly wage as a TGH dishwasher, coupled with  yard work earnings. He shops the discount store sales all year long to find the best gifts for the Hillsborough County Foster Angel Program.  Raised by a struggling, single working mom, he was often teased as a youth for his learning disabilities and being legally blind. He remembers the name calling and empathizes with kids going through tough times. His work has inspired an army of hospital staff and the community to do their part, making Tampa General the largest supporter of the Hillsborough County Foster Angel program throughout its history. One of Delwyn’s biggest fans was the program’s founder, Mac MacNeel, who passed away last year. Each year Mac was so moved by the work of this gentle giant that he would choke up at the site of the wall to wall gifts lined up for the foster kids – foster kids who Delwyn never meets, but for whom he has the ultimate faith and love.  Mac consistently called Delwyn the best Santa Claus he had ever known and said the many kids in foster care would never have gifts under the tree without Delwyn championing their cause.  Thousands of people have been touched by the volunteer work of the man with the coke bottle glasses, sweet smile and strong faith in God.  Even in bad weather he can be seen riding on his bike around South Tampa buying gifts as our community’s best loved Santa Claus. His message is clear: if I can do it, you can do.

Dotti Groover-Skipper, FREE Slavery Survival Network

Dotti Groover–Skipper believes in dynamic living through servant leadership! Since graduating from the University of South Florida, Dot has facilitated expert programming to impact positive policy change in tobacco, alcohol, gambling, substance abuse, addiction, and sex trade and has helped develop numerous sustainable community coalitions. Dot is a certified candidate for ordained ministry. Although based in Tampa, she has operated at the national level in Washington, DC to mobilize and train clergy and faith communities to engage in issues of human rights and social justice and founded HeartDance Foundation, a ministry dedicated to restoration of men, women, and children recovering from addiction and sex trade.

Dot is credited as a catalyst in Hillsborough County to peak action against human trafficking in Tampa Bay and recognized by Florida Governor Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as the “Human Trafficking Advocate of the Year” for the State of Florida 2013. In March 2014, she was recognized for her tireless work as a “Woman of Distinction” by the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. In addition, Dot received the 2014 Florida Achievement Award from the Florida Commission On the Status of Women held at the National Commission Conference.

Dot serves as Chair for the FREE Slavery Survivor Network of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking-West Florida, Vice Chair of the Hillsborough County Commission On the Status of Women, serves on the State of Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Strategic and Planning Committees for the State-Wide Human Trafficking Initiative, and recently appointed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to the newly formed Statewide Council On Human Trafficking. Dot also serves on the board of the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance and is currently employed as the Florida Anti-Trafficking Coordinator for the Salvation Army. Dot powerfully leads others toward community action involvement.

Etta Johnson Huff, Young Performing Artists (YPAs), Inc.

We, Young Performing Artists (YPAs), Inc., nominate Etta Johnson Huff, our extraordinary volunteer who makes a difference in the lives of all that she meets. At first, Ms. Huff was reluctant to get involved because her son, Ellis Johnson, is an NFL Superstar. Her hesitance was because she felt people would think that she wanted to take over because of who her son was and/ or people would try to take advantage because of her son’s status. She became involved after the death of her mother, Mrs. Audrey Johnson, who was a strong community supporter. After her mom’s death, Ms. Huff decided to answer our call for someone from her mom’s family to carry on her mother’s legacy. With that strong desire and commitment, she answered the call with grace, style and a smile; she has not looked back. She hit our starting gate and hasn’t stopped running yet. Ms. Huff is our go to person when we need to feed student particip ants to getting the funds, without bothering her famous son, to feed the student participants. She works well with the parents, the other volunteers, the community, the church, the county i.e. she just graduated from the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class 2013 as our representative. We echo the sentiment of Andrew Cripps, Executive Director of Sumter County Chamber, when he stated at the award ceremony: “I applaud Ms. Etta for she was accepted in the 2012 class and due to illness couldn’t participate. Through her persistence, she was entered with the 2013 class which she has successfully completed. Persistence is a strong leadership quality and Ms. Etta has a big portion.” We are so thankful for volunteers of Ms. Etta’s stature; not a bad record for someone who didn’t want to get involved.

Frank Scruggs, St. Petersburg College

Dr. Scruggs has volunteered as a tutor in the Learning Support Center at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus of St. Petersburg College for 18 years. Since 2003 he has logged 4,021 hours tutoring our students in math, chemistry, and physics. Dr. Scruggs is dedicated to our students and dedicated to his position as a tutor. He uses public transportation to make the trip to our campus four mornings a week. He rarely misses and always gives us advance notice. Dr. Scruggs is one of those rare individuals who loves helping struggling students. He faces the challenge daily with a smile on his face knowing that some students may be frustrated and not demonstrate gratefulness or graciousness. He treats all students with respect and he in turn is treated with respect. He is here to make a difference in students’ lives, and he does his very best to help our students succeed and to reach their goals. Our students and our staff are very grateful to Dr. Scruggs for his contribution to student success at St. Petersburg College.

Gloria West-Lawson, Fostering Hope Florida

Gloria has had a vision for years of how to work within a social system to bring about positive changes. Fostering Hope Florida is a non profit organization to help foster children and aging out kids to have a safe and nurturing home atmosphere, especially for sibling groups. She has never lost her vision and grows if further each year. The group has purchased three "Hope Houses", filling them with foster parents, and sibling groups. She’s been truly inspirational, not only for the children, but for the communities
Fostering Hope serves.

Harvey Middleton, Computer Mentors Group, Inc.

As a retired military veteran, Harvey Middleton enjoys giving back to the community, by simply getting involved. Harvey has been very instrumental to our organization, by assisting and diligently working with our fund development department, by specifically searching for STEM-related funding opportunities.

Most recently, and through Harvey’s persistence, an application was submitted to The American Honda Foundation. AHF supports efforts that reflect the basic tenets, beliefs and philosophies of Honda companies: imaginative, creative, youthful, forward-thinking, scientific, humanistic and innovative. The support youth education with a specific focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and the environment. Computer Mentors Group, was identified as one of the top contenders to receive funding from the American Honda Foundation. As of Monday, October 13, 2014, Computer Mentors Group received the phone call, stating that we had won the $75,000 grant!

Funds from this grant will permit the organization to hire three additional part-time technology mentors, for our after school S.T.E.M. Corps Program. Additionally, it will allow us to purchase and upgrade our equipment, and further our expansion in to other regions of Hillsborough County.

Harvey’s dedication helps us to further our mission, which is to provide opportunities for educational and employment success through bridging the technology divide for populations without sufficient economic resources, especially as it relates to youth.

Our motto: “We Create Creators!”

James Washington, Zephyrhills High School ZAP club

My husband, James Washington, is a teacher at Zephyrhills High School, but he is so much more than that. When teaching a lesson on the Holocaust, his students said that they wished they could see the places they were learning about. Realizing that many of the students in this rural community would never have the opportunity to travel abroad, he formed the ZAP (Zephyrhills Ambassador Program) club. He has led trips to Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy. Beyond that, however, he has sought to make his students more aware of the world around them and proactive in their own community. With the help of his students and fellow club sponsor, he has organized three back-to-school fairs. Through sponsorships and donations, James and the ZAP club have provided backpacks full of school supplies, school physicals, eye exams, community resource information and bike helmets to over 1700 needy students in East Pasco. He is already planning for the fourth annual event!

Jane Hussar, Pinellas County Schools

Jane Hussar noticed that, for some teenagers, it was hard to navigate the ins and outs of dating. Nearly one in five teenage girls said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if the girl tried to break off the relationship, and one in four reported repeated verbal abuse. Jane began a program called Teen Dating 101 to help students recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Teen Dating 101 is now in its eighth year, reaching over 5,000 students and parents. She has received calls from around the United States from groups wanting to start Teen Dating 101 programs.

Jane partnered with The Haven of RCS, GFWC North Pinellas Woman’s Club and Pinellas County Schools. During the school day classes come to the school media center, Jane welcomes students, provides material and introduces the students to the school resource officer and school psychologists. They answer questions about healthy and unhealthy relationships, and the students ask candid questions about what they are going through in dating scenarios. Families and the community are invited to evening presentations.

Jane enlisted the help of local domestic violence survivors to share their stories. Amazing women like Aubrey Mabrey and Melissa Dohme became involved, and these survivors leave an impression on everyone!

Parents, grandparents, students and educators are grateful for the impact of Teen Dating 101. It has saved lives. In 2013 Lissette Campos of Tampa’s ABC Action News hosted a one hour special featuring this program. Teen Dating 101 was recognized by Pinellas County Schools, Florida PTA and State Farm Insurance as its Family Involvement Award winner for 2013 and placed second nationwide amongst all Community Improvement Programs recognized by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Jane Hussar got involved and has made a difference in the lives of students and the community.

Keli Mondello, LiFT Academy

Keli Mondello is a Founding member and Chairman of The Board for Lift Academy; a private award winning school in Pinellas County. Its mission is to provide challenging academics in a safe inclusive setting for traditional learners and those with neurodiversities. The school’s student body includes children with Autism, Down Syndrome, intellectual disabilities and developmental differences. Keli saw the need in our community to provide an academic environment that celebrated learning differences and was open and accepting of all abilities. The school has grown from 12 students when it began two years ago to 75 today. This year Keli has worked to develop LiFT U, a post secondary transition program for students who have graduated from High School yet continue to need academic accommodations, life skills training, supported social skills and career development.

Keli recently led a group of volunteers to raise over $65,000 in LiFT Academy’s inaugural fundraiser, "LiFT Your Spirits”. As Chairman of the Board for LiFT, she has led volunteer efforts at the school, helping to form their first Parent Teacher Organization that works in conjunction with the LiFT governance Board. She has developed and coordinated LiFT Academy’s Community Partner Program and Luncheon and was the liaison for the St Pete Catholic’s Best Buddy program which sponsored Proms for the high school students at LiFT the past two years. Through multiple events and service at the school, Keli spent 2,000 hours in her volunteer efforts last year alone.

In addition to LiFT, Keli continues to volunteer throughout the community. She’s an active guardian ad litem, a member of angels against Abuse and an advocate for Best Buddies. Professionally, she is a member of the USF Women in leadership and philanthropy, NAPW, and was recently appointed to the Community Advisory Council for Florida Center of Inclusive Communities.

Kerri Kibbey, High Risk Hope

Kerri Kibbey is a High Risk Hope™ board member and Director of Operations. HRH is a dynamic and innovative nonprofit organization formed in 2011 to provide support, encouragement, information and resources to women and families who are experiencing a high risk pregnancy resulting in hospital bed rest, potential premature birth and neonatal intensive care after delivery.

HRH reaches 1,200 families annually at Tampa General Hospital and St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, delivering Bed Rest Baskets™ to pregnant women on hospital bed rest and NICU Napsacks™ to premature infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. As the only local or national non-profit serving women on long-term hospital bed rest helping to prolong their pregnancies and improve the outcomes for their babies, HRH has become the go-to resource for families in crisis across the country. HRH is a catalyst in the global fight to end premature birth, winning a life-long victory with every baby helped.

Kerri is an integral part of everything accomplished at HRH and has consistently volunteered an average of 20 hours per week for HRH since 2011. As Director of Operations, Kerri oversees operations at St. Joseph Women’s Hospital and Tampa General Hospital, assists in grant writing, secures sponsorships, coordinates volunteers, assists with website development and day-to-day administrative decisions. Kerri successfully launched the inaugural Tot Trot in 2013, an event that grossed $35,000, netting enough profit to fully fund one hospital for a year, and continues to participate in the planning of the second annual event, which has already surpassed the 2013 numbers. In 2014 Kerri was involved in the successful development of a new sustainable revenue stream for HRH, the online store. In addition to winning a $25,000 business plan competition for the online store, the online store was profitable in the first month and every month since.

Margaret Goodson, The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts

Margaret Goodson is a dedicated volunteer who has served the Tampa Bay community for more than half a century. At the grand old age of “nobody’s business”, Margaret Goodson (who will turn 94 in January) says that volunteering is her purpose in life. Although she is very humble about it, her dedication to volunteerism inspired President Bush in 2005 to recognize her in person as part of his Volunteers Across America program.

Margaret has also received accolades from Meals on Wheels, the Retired Senior Citizens Volunteer Program, and the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. She has a volunteer service award named for her at the Straz Center, where she has logged more than 25,000 service hours (and has her own desk). An avid computer user, she will not hesitate to tackle challenging tasks and applies herself 100% to the work she does for the Tampa Bay nonprofit organizations lucky enough to have her.

She will stay late to finish a time-sensitive task, and is always there with a listening ear and a warm hug when you’ve had a lousy day. Margaret is known for her boundless energy, her lovely way of handling people, her quick wit and her vivacious spirit.

Along the way, Margaret puts some great fun into her hard work; she even posed as a mature “Annie” in a billboard advertisement for the satire Forbidden Broadway. Her red curls and broad smile enhance her youthful demeanor while the twinkle in her blue eyes hints at her colorful life.

“Someone told me that some Capricorns are late bloomers,” Margaret says. “But people who volunteer and are happy about it live longer. I think without the Straz Center to come to every day, I wouldn’t be alive. I’m not the housekeeper type; I love clerical work. It’s what I do!”

Michelle DeJong, High Hopes in High Heels

I’m nominating Michelle DeJong for so many reasons, but first and foremost for being the most inspirational person I know. Michelle has been involved with a local women’s charity High Hopes in High Heels for years and serves on the Board of Directors, but she has always gone out of her way personally & professionally to provide help for others through the mantra #BeTheGood. Earlier this year, Michelle was diagnosed with a brain tumor and is not fighting this cancer by being so brave and still thinking about others above herself. She has developed a following of almost 6,000 followers through her Facebook Author page blogging about her journey through this brain cancer and she’s inspired not just all of us in High Hopes but many people across the country through her Facebook page. She’s so brave and so compassionate and still thinks about others above herself, plain and simple she’s AMAZING!

Niki Cross, Staar Ministry Corporation

Niki Cross was abducted at the age of fifteen, locked in an attic, and repeatedly victimized. After her rescue, it took years for her to break her silence and get much needed help for the mental trauma of her abuse. Realizing how self destructive her anger was, it became apparent that healing was necessary. Niki soon felt that it was the responsibility of survivors to encourage and minister to others that have been trafficked.

Niki’s first victim assistance was in 1994. Niki then formed S.T.A.A.R. Ministry (Stop the Abuse and Rescue). S.T.A.A.R. volunteers work closely with local law enforcement after a victim is rescued and provides mentoring, counseling, medical and legal assistance. Niki is also instrumental in opening the first adult safe house for trafficking victims in Pinellas County. This safe house provides a structured and safe environment. She is currently working on a second safe house to transition these abused victims back into society by providing work opportunities and life skills.

Niki recently told her story in Tallahassee as a guest of Governor Scott. This isn’t always easy but she feels there is no limit to what a person can do as long as they don’t care who gets the credit. The event was for the governor to sign new 2014 legislation on Human Trafficking in the State of Florida.

I volunteer full time as Niki’s assistant after retiring from law enforcement. I see the effort, determination, and heart that this woman has to heal the brokenhearted that have suffered from this horrific crime. Although there are other deserving candidates in the Bay area, I believe that Niki goes above and beyond in a sincere effort to rescue these victims and get them on the road to recovery. Niki doesn’t just represent S.T.A.A.R. ministry, helping survivors, she lives it!

Rachel Luis, High Hopes and High Heels

I came to know Rachel 6 years ago. We both worked together at an Insurance company. At that time I did not realize Rachel was starting her own non profit organization. However, her actions at work in volunteering her time for efforts to help those in need were abundantly clear. Suffice to say that drive motivated her to excelling in her non profit organization. The reason she has excelled is attributed to her genuine compassion and caring self for others. Rachel truly cares for this community and is self inspired to help those in need. In the years Rachel has grown High Hopes she has made a tremendous impact in this community, especially with children such as the Children’s Cancer Center. Nearly on a daily basis, Rachel is greated by someone around Tampa thanking her and High Hopes for what she does. I can see the admiration in these individuals eyes when the talk to Rachel. Nominating Rachel and know so much about her is easy. I know be cause I am one of those individuals who has admired her and her caring self for years. To the point I fell in love with her and married her. As you can see, she is not only my inspiration but those of many around Tampa Bay. This selection commitee will not be disapointed in the least if they select Rachel for this award.

Commissioner Sandra Murman, Hillsborough County, District 1

Sandy’s personal mission is to make children safer, smarter, healthier, and better prepared for the future. She demonstrates this through countless hours of dedication to community organizations and determination to give every child the gift of possibility. Specifically for the Glazer Children’s Museum, Sandy has played a critical part in the success of the Museum. She Co-Chaired the capital campaign from 2004-2009 to raise a monumental $15 million for the new building in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and volunteered as Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2006, 2009, and 2010. The Museum proudly runs programs such as the Title 1 School Partnership Program, Sunshine Sundays, and Free Admission Tuesdays, ensuring all families get a chance to visit the Museum despite inability to pay; many of these sponsored groups were connections made by Sandy through her work in the community, and identifying needs and potential. For the Tampa Ba y community, Sandy has been involved with 46 different organizations since she moved here almost 40 years ago for; she continually reinvests her dedication to youth in our community. Sandy left a Fortune 500 company to become a public servant. Sandy has sponsored 60+ bills into legislation; many are specifically designed to allow better services and policies for our government to serve at-risk and underserved youth. Sandy undertakes everything from juvenile inmates, to classroom standards, to the foster care system. Over 20 years of effort and uncompromising dedication have made Sandy an important part of the engine that powered the creation and strength of the Glazer Children’s Museum, resulting in programs and experiences that touch the lives of hundreds of thousands children and families in Tampa Bay.

Tina Narron, GTE Financial

As Vice President of Member Consumer loans at GTE Financial, Tina Narron was instrumental in spearheading a new program for Wheels of Success that could potentially help thousands, and has already helped 24 families get into affordable, reliable vehicles while building their credit in less than 10 months in its pilot stage. Serving as Vice Chair of our Board and co-chair of our annual fundraiser, Tina saw the need to be able to offer more vehicles to a larger segment of the population (as WOS has a long waiting list) while also helping to rebuild credit. Tina presented the idea to her CEO, who agreed to allocate federal grant funds to this social enterprise expansion, enabling WOS to offer newer vehicles, with 0% interest and with longer payment plans, making for affordable payments. The loan is based on income only, enabling people to regain their financial stability by reporting their payments to the three credit bureaus . This program makes it possible for hard-working citizens to establish or rebuild their credit, eliminating the catch-22 dilemma exemplified by the question: How will I ever be able to establish good credit if no one wants to give me credit because I don’t have a good credit history?

Tina’s active role as a board officer didn’t stop there. She convinced GTE Financial to donate 4 vehicles per year to WOS for clients “Waiting for Wheels” or to be sold for much-needed operating funds. Tina helped WOS expand the vehicle inventory further after her introduction to other dealers led to vehicle donations. In less than 1 year, Tina has done more than just write a check, she has taken action that has already helped so many hard-working people in our community access reliable transportation to get to work while also building their credit.

Wade Sabourin, Heart Strings for Heroes

Wade Sabourin is the president of the non-profit foundation HEART STRINGS FOR HEROES. After getting a 2nd chance at life after a near death experience related to alcohol withdrawals in 2006, Wade stopped breathing on that day and was revived by then girlfriend at their home. After 3 days detoxing in the hospital, Wade walked out of the hospital a changed man. His sobriety began in Feb 2. of 2006. Wade credits music writing & recording to providing him the necessary tools for a positive rehabilitation into a sober lifestyle…. and thus the Ideal was born to heal others with the power of music therapy. After a meeting with local Florida guitar builder DEAN GUITARS, the company recognized the importance of what Wade & HEART STRINGS FOR HEROES was about to embark on, and agreed to back the foundation. As the application for tax exemption 501c3 status was filed, Wade got busy seeking out the very people he believed needed the support more than anyone, the wounded military. After talking with licensed music therapists, Wade realized he could not only prevent suicides from PTSD, with the power of music, but could also provide guitars to assist in improving motor functions, from injuries sustained in the line of duty. As Wade developed an immensely strong respect for such individuals that risk their lives for our FREEDOM & SAFETY, he decided to honor these HEROES with not just a guitar, but in a unique way, bringing these HEROES, and their families, along with the entire community together, to take part in an unforgettable event. With the support of other locals musicians, HSFH honors these injured HEROES, letting them know they are loved & appreciated for their sacrifice. Every HERO that is honored by HEART STRINGS FOR HEROES, pays it forward to the next honoree, and the HSFH family continues to grow to this day! LOVE – HONOR – MUSIC – healing is Instrumental!

Wendy Millaway, Children’s Home Society of Florida

Wendy Millaway is considered a family member at the Joshua House, a program of Children’s Home Society of Florida. Joshua House is a residential facility for 40 foster care children. Many times, a child comes with no belongings. Wendy works tirelessly to makes sure each child has everything they need, from a toothbrush, to new clothes, to a warm loving hug. During the holidays, Wendy ensure that each child has a very special delivery from Santa on Christmas morning. During the summer, she coordinates the back to school efforts to provide all of the kids with new clothes and school supplies so each child can feel confident and special on their first day of school.

Halloween is a special time for the kids at Joshua House. For the kids, it is a needed distraction from the tough situations they have suffered through. Wendy is the master mind behind putting together all the costumes to make each child feel scary, beautiful, silly, or whatever it is the child is looking to portray that day. Wendy even handmakes costumes for the children.

She began working with us because she saw that the children in the foster care system needed support from “someone not getting paid to care”. After she learns of a need, Wendy finds a way to help find a solution. When she learned that many of the children didn’t have photos of themselves, she borrowed a camera. When she learned that many of the children were “aging out” of foster care, she collect supplies for their first apartment and helped stock their fridge.

Every week Wendy works with Children’s Home Society of Florida as an invaluable volunteer to the children at Joshua House. Some weeks her efforts go over 40 hours in the same week! Thank you Wendy!


Spelling and grammar have not been corrected. Essays have been included as submitted.

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