Volunteer Profile: Sandy Hostetter, CNLBank President

July 15, 2014

Sandy HeadshotSandy Hostetter
President, CNLBank

Supporting the community through volunteer work is pretty much a core value for Sandy Hostetter. She says it’s something she’s believed in since she began her banking career.  But a story about a little boy and a simple cup of applesauce put a whole new light on the act of giving.

How long have you been involved with United Way?
I’ve spent 28 years with United Way. I started with Barnett Bank in 1982 and at that time I was not only contributing, but I also worked on the budget committee. We each had five or six not-for-profits that we were assigned to and we toured their facilities and then approved their business plan and budgets together.

How has United Way’s role in the community changed in those 28 years?
Certainly United Way has built tremendous capacity in that time and has increased its volunteers and its fundraising, but the biggest change has been their latest strategic move to change who they fund. Today, HFUW focuses on funding service providers who have a prevention component involved in their outreach. That is a huge systemic change. Moving people away from dependency is a change in the right direction in my mind, and a difficult one too. I’m really proud to be associated with United Way today.

What inspired you to get involved? Is there a particular story?
When I started my career with Barnett Bank, I was taught that all employees should give back to the communities in which we serve. I still stand by that. I feel so strongly about it that it’s one of our core values at CNLBank. I’ve held onto that throughout my entire career. I got involved with United Way because I believe that one person can make a difference.
When I was at Second Harvest Food Bank I heard this story of a little boy who was part of the Hi Five Kids’ Back Pack program, which sends children who are on the free lunch program home with some food over the weekend. Teachers were reporting that many of these children went all weekend without a meal. A teacher told me that when that little boy got his Kid’s Pack for the first time, he took out his applesauce and gave it to his teacher. The teacher told him, “No, this is for you,” but he insisted by saying, “This is the only time I’ve ever been able to give someone something and I want to give it to you.”
That taught me an important lesson. Innately, all of us want to be able to give back. At United Way, when we give to someone, we not only meet their need, but we teach them to give, too. It’s a gift to be able to give. Everyone wants that opportunity.

What does it mean to you to Live United?
Live with a servant’s heart. We all work together to help each other. I think fundamentally it means that all of us were put here to serve.

You’re very involved in the community. How do you see United Way’s role in the community?
United Way has always had accountability. On the budget committee, we took our jobs very seriously. You aren’t giving your money to something that will be out of business tomorrow. I really believe in both the nonprofits they support and the manner in which United Way provides that support. United Way has really strong leadership beginning with an engaged board that has high participation, and it’s supported by a strong staff. This gives us the ability to create positive change and we’re committed to doing the right thing.

What can the business community learn from philanthropy/nonprofit?
What’s so infectious about serving on a nonprofit board, is their passion, commitment and focus on who they serve. Sometimes it’s to a fault in terms of not always being bottom-line driven, but they’re so committed to serving the underserved. That kind of focus on service is something all for-profits could learn from. Sometimes we’re looking so hard at the bottom line that we take our eyes off the people we’re serving and that’s always a mistake.

At CNLBank, is there a particular area on which your corporate philanthropy focuses?
The big one now is education. When you talk about building capacity or individual independence, it all starts with education. Since 2011, CNLBank has focused on K-12 schools in low-income areas. Recently, I visited a purpose-built community in Atlanta, and was reminded that it all starts with education. I’m learning that the earlier we can deliver a high quality education, the better. Access to Pre-K and Kindergarten education, to just hearing words and expanding their vocabulary and reading skills, that speaks the loudest to me personally.

What do you say to your employees to inspire them to give, advocate or volunteer on behalf of United Way?
All of us at CNL Bank are fortunate to be employed and work in this community. At the end, our lives are all about serving others. It’s a gift to be able to give. All of us are able to give something, whether it is our time, talent or treasure. Give something. Give up a lunch once a month and start small. As human beings we all have the responsibility to give back to those who fall on hard times. We never know when we might fall on hard times and actually be on the receiving end. Part of being grateful, is to give it forward.

Have you seen an evolution in the way that Central Florida approaches social issues?
As a community, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken about the collaboration in our community. To me, it is Central Florida’s greatest attribute. We work very well together and I think part of the reason is that it’s a melting pot. People come from so many different places. We all remember what it’s like to be the new person. So there’s a natural inclination to reach out and help each other. United Way is a very big part of that. United Way is one of our strongest conveners.

We’re celebrating our 75th anniversary this year. What stands out as one of the biggest accomplishments?
I give United Way a lot of credit for staying pertinent and for leading the change they hope to see. A lot of nonprofits go in spurts, but to be this strong for so long, and to continue challenging all of us to give, but to give in a manner that restores self-worth and human dignity is powerful. Their decision to move away from a toxic charity model towards one of building self-sufficiency, took a lot of guts and strong leadership. All I can say, is here’s to another wonderful 75 years!

Day of Action Makes Largest Impact To Date in Central Florida

July 14, 2014

By Shelby Olson
Volunteer Resource Center Intern


Kids selecting books at the Boys & Girls Club Altamonte Springs

Nearly 1,700 Central Florida kids are proud book owners, thanks to record-setting donations and the efforts of Heart of Florida United Way Day of Action volunteers. More than 400 people took part in Day of Action by lending their time to excite students about reading and literacy through fun, interactive games. To top off a wonderful day, each child received four books to explore over their summer break. By providing four books to each child, United Way is preventing the estimated 25% drop in reading levels that can occur in children over the summer months.

Prominent organizations and business representatives from locations such as Florida Hospital, Lockheed Martin, SunTrust Bank, Chase Bank, HD Supply, Bank of America, Florida Blue, TD Bank, Publix and Walt Disney World participated to serve Osceola, Seminole and Orange counties.

Volunteers served seven Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, six Schools & Communities: Together for Tomorrow Title I schools, Beta Center, Harbor House, Orlando Day Nursery and Winter Park Day Nursery. Some of the activities at the locations included a word scavenger hunt at the Boys & Girls Club and Together for Tomorrow locations, reading to toddlers at Beta Center, and a puppet show at English Estates Elementary School.

This year, United Way more than tripled the amount of book donations from the previous year by collecting over 20,000 books. So the fun is not over yet! So many books were received from the book drive, there are enough books to distribute to an additional 2,300 students.

Thank you to all the volunteers and partners that helped make this event a success!

Top 5 Reasons Heart of Florida United Way Is The Best Place To Work

July 11, 2014


Do you love where you work? At Heart of Florida United Way we do! Officially ranked as one of Central Florida’s 2014 Best Places to Work by the Orlando Business Journal, we want to share the top 5 reasons why we LIVE UNITED every day.



1. Sense of humor

United Way searches for employees that not only value our passion for our core values – education, income and health – but are hardworking individuals that are not afraid to have a sense of humor. We, as a company, take after our CEO Robert H. (Bob) Brown when it comes to finding humor in the workplace. We believe in coming together as a team to solve problems in our community, having as much fun as possible along the way. We take our work very seriously, but don’t take ourselves too seriously.

2. Collaboration

At United Way we have a unique opportunity to partner with agencies in Central Florida to create change in our community. With each partner agency specializing in one of our core values we can collaborate and create solutions to help people live a stable life.

3. Wellness

We have developed a “Live Healthy” committee to educate and encourage employees on healthy lifestyles and fitness. Joining into teams helps our employees know that you don’t have to go healthy alone. Through team building activities, fun competitions and informational seminars we as company not only teach health, but truly live it.

4. Volunteer Hours

One of our best perks? Paid volunteer LIVE UNITED hours. We allow our employees to volunteer for any group or organization they wish during office hours. We encourage our employees to give back to the community and our partner agencies and this allows them to do just that, without the conflict of finding time.

5. We love what we do!

At United Way you get the fulfillment of knowing you are changing lives with the best collaborative, team-oriented workplace in Central Florida!

Reading Matters: Early Grade Reading

July 8, 2014

By: Thanh Nguyen
Vista Reading Initiatives Coordinator


Preschoolers at Winter Park Day Nursery listen to a story during Day of Action.

A friend stared at me blankly when I told her I am doing research on early grade reading programs for a job. Perhaps that’s because she, like me, had no idea that according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 33% of fourth graders were below a basic level of reading. This is why I am here as VISTA volunteer working for Heart of Florida United Way. I believe that investment in the education of our youth is one of the ways to alleviate poverty in our country.

I was ignorant to the facts and I don’t doubt that there are many others that are unaware of this alarming statistic. Furthermore, many people don’t know how important early grade reading is for future high school success. According to my research:

• Half of the students enrolled in half of Orange County Title I schools fail to reach reading proficiency by the third grade.
• Half of the students enrolled in a quarter of Osceola County Title I schools fail to reach third grade reading proficiency.
• In Seminole county, half of the students enrolled in a fifth of the county’s Title I schools also fail to reach third grade proficiency.

However, I am also finding that there are dozens of reading programs in Seminole, Osceola and Orange County to help combat this problem, although some counties have more programs than others.

• Orange County has 53 reading programs
• Osceola County has 14 reading programs
• Seminole County has 19 reading programs

United Way, with the help of Vista’s like me, is working to help students read on grade level. Just last month, I had the opportunity to participate in our Day of Action where we were able to help distribute over 20,000 books to serve 1,700 students in Central Florida. Through our efforts, we were able to engage 400 volunteers to get students excited about reading through interactive literacy games. This is the type of work that makes me grateful of having the opportunity to work at United Way. #75Days75Ways.


Arthur Reminds Us To Make A Plan

July 3, 2014

1404378767000-AP-Tropical-WeatherWith Arthur pushing north along the coast, it will be fireworks instead of waterworks for Central Florida 4th of July celebrations. If you were prepared for Arthur to be more than a story on the local news, then you’re probably an exception. Most of us wait until the storm threat is imminent before we run to the grocery and hardware stores, only to encounter long lines and empty shelves. Instead, why not think of Arthur as an opportunity to put together a hurricane plan?

Here are three easy steps for formulating a hurricane plan.

Step One: Visit these web links provided by Heart of Florida United Way Community Services Vice President Larry Olness. Floridadisaster.org has step by step guidelines on how to create an emergency plan. It even includes an emergency supply list. The Red Cross has a handy, printable online form for documenting your plan and Ready.gov

points out the need for a communication plan.

Step Two: Assemble your emergency supplies. Make sure you’ve accounted for pet and medical needs. Consider smart phone charging capabilities in the event of an extended power outage.

Step Three: Discuss the plan. Where are the supplies stored? How will your family members stay in touch with each other during an emergency? Talk about texting, especially with seniors. Give them a crash course if needed. The Federal Communications Commission says texting during emergencies may be a better option because cell networks get overloaded. Make sure everyone knows how to access emergency contacts.

And while your’re assembling your hurricane plan, don’t forget to include a check on elderly or disabled neighbors. Let’s make sure lessons learned during the hurricane season of 2004 aren’t forgotten. Plan for yourself ahead of time, pull for the community afterwards.

It’s a Big Year For 75th Anniversaries and We’re One Of Them!

July 1, 2014


It’s okay with us if you count Heart of Florida United Way’s 75th anniversary as one of the year’s more significant celebrations. We’re proud to share the stage with Batman, the Wizard of Oz and Little League Baseball. And if you think about it, we do all belong on the same stage because we all stand for the same thing- health, family and safe communities.

When Dorothy’s house was swept away by a tornado in 1939, Orlando Mayor Bob Carr was busy establishing the Community Chest, a non-profit organization that matched volunteers with community agencies in need of support. Sound familiar? That’s because the Community Chest eventually became United Way. That first effort gathered together 400 volunteers who launched a ten-day campaign that raised more than $40,000 dollars. It was so successful that they exceeded their goal by a whopping 18%. Community Chest adopted a name change in the mid-1950’s to become United Appeal. Its fundraising efforts showed continued growth, as did its membership.

By the 1960’s, Winter Park and Winter Garden had joined the effort and by 1969, United Appeal was working to better lives in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, just as United Way does today. The organization officially became United Way in 1974, and in 1988, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties merged into Heart of Florida United Way. There were multiple fundraising milestones along the way. The million dollar mark was reached for the first time in 1968. By 1974, campaigns were topping two million dollars. But it was in 1989, one year after the tri-county Heart of Florida United Way was formed, that supporters saw the single biggest percentage increase in funds for the organization. That year fundraising increased by 20.2% for a total of $9.8 million. The current annual Workplace Campaign is now $24.5 million dollars.

So when Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man teamed up to help each other with their needs, they earned a Live United t-shirt. When volunteer superhero Batman first emerged from the shadows in 1939, he had a Live United t-shirt hidden under his supersuit. Little League Baseball has been sporting a Live United jersey since the first volunteers brought the organization together 75 years ago so that kids could enjoy the health benefits of sports in a community supported environment. And Central Florida can proudly say that it’s been showing the world how to Live United since 1939. Make our 75th year the best ever. Share your story. Tell us how you Live United. #75Days75Ways.

Taking Care of Ourselves

June 27, 2014

massage1At Heart of Florida United Way, most of our time and effort is focused on taking care of our community. So we put together a Live Healthy Wellness Committee to help remind us all to take care of ourselves. For its second year anniversary, the committee hosted an employee health fair.

There were chair massages from Foundation for Wellness Professionals. Ahhh. There were blood pressure checks, health related giveaways from Walgreens and oh, did we mention free lunch? Not only was lunch healthy, it included speakers from the YMCA and Hebni Nutrition Consultants who offered up some healthy eating tips. Our Resource Development’s Leland Rubin says he’s pretty good when it comes to nutrition, but Hebni was still able to show him something new.

“It was interesting, I had never seen a food pyramid structured around soul food. That was nice because I like some of that food,” he says.



United Way accountant Laurie Rolle was among the 31 people who participated in the health fair events. “It was good. I had a good time, lot’s of good information and I was happy because I could give blood,” she says. She was one of 15 people who stepped aboard One Blood’s Big Red Bus to donate, and that helped to make the health fair a success for all.



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