Volunteer Spotlight: Karen Dee

March 13, 2014

2014-Wordpress---Spotlight-Karen-DeeKaren Dee is a busy lady … in and out of the bank. An insightful banker with a passion for giving back to the community, Karen Dee is president of the Florida and Mid-South regions for Fifth Third Bank. In 2011, she was named “Businesswoman of the Year” by the Orlando Business Journal.  A longtime United Way supporter, she helped launch United Way of Tampa Bay’s Women’s Leadership initiative, has been a member of Heart of Florida United Way’s board since 2009, and has served as co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Council from 2010-2013.

Currently serving as chair of the Women’s Leadership Council, Karen is determined to improve education and literacy in Central Florida through the work of the Council. We asked Karen about the direction of the Council and her passion for giving back.

How long have you been involved with the United Way?

“I have been giving to United Way since my twenties and got involved with a workplace giving campaign at the beginning of my career. I’ve been a supporter ever since then, no matter where I lived or which institution I worked for.”

What’s the purpose of the Women’s Leadership Council?

“The Women’s Leadership Council does great things and you can see it in the local community. I think when you bring a group of women leaders together you bring inspiration. They are capable of really great things.

The work the Council is doing in education showcases this. We know that education is the single most important factor in making sure kids do as well or better than their parents. So, Women’s Leadership Council recently announced that it is aiming to bring the myON online reading program to 10 local Title-1 schools. This program will provide students with 24/7 access to nearly 4,000 e-books, as well as track metrics to show the students’ progress. My hope is that as the Women’s Leadership Council grows, we can reach even more students through our effort.”

What’s your vision for the Women’s Leadership Council?

“With the Council electing to pursue education as our primary focus for the next three years, my vision is to continue to invest in this area, primarily in literacy. The myOn program is great because it is something tangible and measurable, and it ties to United Way’s mission really well. We can use the results to generate awareness and even incorporate our focus on reading and education into volunteer events.

The bottom line is that education is critically important to making a better life for all people. It gives women leaders, and a community in general, a cause to rally around because it makes such a huge difference.”

Is there a specific story that motivated you to get involved with United Way?

“I got involved in United Way through workplace giving, but there’s a story that reinforces why I continue to be involved. One year as a part of Fifth Third Bank’s workplace giving campaign, one of our Financial Center leaders shared her inspiring story of her involvement with United Way.

As an organization, we were participating in United Way’s Day of Caring volunteer event, and she was volunteering at the BETA Center, which is one of the organizations that the Council supports. While she was painting a room at the BETA Center, she realized that she was painting the SAME room that she stayed in as a single teenage mother. Because of the help that she received from the BETA Center and United Way, she was able to go to college and now, successfully manage one of our financial centers. Without the help of United Way she would have never become what she is today. It gives me Goosebumps every time I tell that story. The year she shared her story with employees we had record giving. Stories like this continue to validate the work that United Way and the Women’s Leadership Council does.”

What is your primary motivation for giving, advocating, volunteering on behalf of United Way?

“Stories like that continue to motivate me to give, advocate and volunteer. But also because United Way’s work helps to improve lives and they continue to have a focused effort on issues in our community”

What does it mean to you to “Live United”

“When we come together as leaders and people in the community we can make a difference. That’s what it means to me.”

You’re a new grandmother. In what ways do you think the work United Way is doing now will impact your grandchild’s life later?

“I think it goes back to the fact that education is the single most important factor in making sure kids do as well or better than their parents. Who doesn’t want their child or grandchild to achieve their fullest potential? I want him to be the best that he can be. I also have two daughters and I want them to have all the opportunities that they can have and United Way knows that starts with a good education.”

HFUW Offers Two Ways to File Your Taxes For Free

March 10, 2014

2013-Wordpress---EITCFor many families, a tax refund provides an extra financial boost at the end of the year. Too many of us, though, end up with less than we deserve because of high filing fees and sometimes, fees for a quick refund. Heart of Florida United Way believes that you should hold on to your money – all of it.

Heart of Florida United Way has two ways to file your taxes quickly, conveniently, and best of all, for free.

First, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are located throughout Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties to provide free preparation to individuals or families earning under $52,000 a year. Many are open weekends and select evenings. Filing for free at a VITA site means that you can hold on to the extra money you would have spent on preparation and get 100 percent of your refund quickly. Last year, over 10,000 taxpayers utilized VITA, saving the community thousands of dollars in filing fees.

Second, if you prefer filing online, we’ve got that covered too. Visit www.MyFreeTaxes.com/hfuw to file for free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to the convenience of filing at a time that works for you, www.MyFreeTaxes.com/hfuw utilizes secured H&R Block software to provide peace of mind and can answer your filing questions through phone, chat or email.

If you haven’t filed your 2013 taxes yet, it’s not too late. To find a VITA location near you or to find out if you’re eligible for up to $6,000 through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), visit www.hfuw.org or simply dial 2-1-1.

Osceola School District Names United Way VISTA as “Adult Volunteer of the Year”

March 5, 2014

2014-Wordpress---Osceola-School-DistrictEach year, the Florida Department of Education sponsors the statewide “Outstanding School Volunteer Award” competition to recognize the many school volunteers who give of themselves unselfishly to help students and schools. A panel of judges selected Richard Birmingham as the Osceola School District’s “Adult Volunteer of the Year.”

Richard is a Heart of Florida United Way VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer who was placed at Central Avenue Elementary in December 2012 to help with building the capacity of parent involvement at the school.  VISTAs are part of United Way’s Together for Tomorrow education program, which supports 14 schools across Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. AmeriCorps VISTA members work in partnership with schools to recruit, train and support volunteers to help improve student attendance, behavior, course performance and access to college.

Richard is a strong advocate for parent involvement and partakes in all school-wide workshops and trainings. As a member of the School Advisory Council, he has helped recruit other members and has helped with the School Improvement Plan.

Richard has also helped to increase volunteers for the school district as a whole by recruiting faith-based members from local churches and organizations. He has helped with training these faith-based members on being a volunteer, and has developed a good relationship with students and staff. In addition, he has partnered with the OASIS Department and the Education Foundation to help in the recruitment efforts for volunteers.

Whether serving as a mentor, tutor, classroom assistant, or in a variety of other ways, Together for Tomorrow volunteers are part of a team effort striving to help our students succeed. For more information or to get involved, please contact Heath Wells at heath.wells@hfuw.org or 407-429-2170.

United Way Volunteers “Share the Love” on Valentine’s Day by Fighting Hunger

February 20, 2014

2013-Wordpress---Share-the-Love-blogHeart of Florida United Way volunteers recently joined together to “Share the Love” on Valentine’s Day by serving individuals and families affected by hunger and homelessness throughout Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties.

United Way’s Volunteer Resource Center organized the “Share the Love” project, which included activities such as sorting food donations, serving meals to homeless families and creating snack packs for at-risk youth.

Publix Super Markets associates and Target employees were among the 116 volunteers who donated nearly 300 hours of community service. Other volunteers included office staff for State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland.

“We are happy to have addressed a small portion of the 55,000 Central Floridians who are dealing with food and housing insecurity,” said Traci Blue, director of the Volunteer Resource Center. “Our volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to spend Valentine’s Day sharing their love with people who really need it. “

Click here to view photos on our Facebook page from the event.

United Way thanks the following partner agencies who participated in the event:

•           Second Harvest Food Bank

•           Catholic Charities

•           BETA Center

•           Salvation Army

•           Edgewood Children’s Ranch

•           Together for Tomorrow

•           Osceola Council on Aging

•           Family Promise

•           Fern Creek Elementary

•           Coalition for the Homeless

United Way Exemplifies the Olympic Spirit

February 18, 2014

2013-Wordpress---HFUW-logoThe Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing, and I for one, couldn’t be happier.  The Olympics represent something different to everyone. For some, it’s marveling at the amazing achievements of the best athletes in the world. For others, it’s an opportunity to engage in political and social dialogue on a world stage.

For me, it’s about the Olympic spirit.  I must admit, I get caught up in medal counts and nationalistic pride like many, but then, inevitably, something happens that reminds me of why I truly love the Olympics.

I recently read a Washington Post article about a Russian cross-country skier who fell shortly into the race and damaged his ski. He hobbled along the best he could until he fell again, further exacerbating the problem. When it seemed as if all hope was gone of finishing the race, a man leapt onto the course with a new ski and helped the Russian skier replace it.

One might think that the Good Samaritan was a Russian teammate or coach, but instead, he was the coach of the Canadian team – Justin Wadsworth. When asked why he helped his competitor, Wadsworth responded, “I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line.”

This spirit reminds me of what we do every day here at the Heart of Florida United Way. Sometimes, members of our community fall and they just need a little extra support to get up and keep moving.

Heart of Florida United Way serves  our community in a multitude of ways such as by connecting those in need to vital resources through 2-1-1, United Way’s free, 24-hour information and referral helpline, or helping promote student success through our Together for Tomorrow program. These efforts are always made by caring, dedicated professionals who understand the importance of preserving the dignity of those we serve.  I am proud to be part of this team!

Submitted by Heath Wells, Heart of Florida United Way — Manager, School VISTA Volunteer Programs



Heart of Florida United Way Wears Red to Celebrate American Heart Month 2014

February 12, 2014

2014-Wordpress----Wear-RedHeart of Florida United Way staff recently celebrated National Wear Red Day by wearing red to raise awareness for the fight against heart disease. Also, United Way hosted the OneBlood Bloodmobile for an employee blood drive. Twenty blood donors registered and 14 pints (or nearly 2 gallons) were collected!

One of United Way’s key focus areas is to improve health for children, youth and adults by providing programs that support healthy beginnings, access to healthy choices and encouraging family engagement.

In an effort to make not only our community healthier, but also our employees, Heart of Florida United Way’s “Live Healthy” committee has shared these heart health tips:

  • Quit smoking
  • Improve cholesterol
  • Control blood pressure
  • Get active and maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress and anger
  • Control diabetes and blood pressure
  • Eat right and exercise
  • Know your family heart disease history and the symptoms of heart disease

Source: WebMD and American Heart Association

Visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org for more wellness information.

For more information about our Developing Healthy Children and Families initiative, visit www.hfuw.org/IIR_HCF.php

United Way board member discusses organization’s importance in community

February 11, 2014

2013-Wordpress---Volunteer-Spotlight-Ed-TimberlakeWhen it comes to volunteering, there are few people who can match Ed Timberlake’s outstanding track record of community service. The long-time bank executive currently serves on Heart of Florida United Way’s Executive Committee and as chair for the Investing in Results Council. He has also served as campaign chair for the 2002 fundraising campaign, Search Committee chair for the President/CEO and chairman of the board from 2004 to 2006.

In January 2008, Ed joined Seaside National Bank & Trust as chair of the Central Florida Board and as a member of the bank’s board of directors. In 2007, he retired as president for Bank of America Central Florida, a position that he held for seven years. Ed has resided in Orlando since November 1994 and previously lived in Miami for 16 years.

He is also a member of various other charitable boards including: Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, Florida Community Loan Fund, Winter Park Memorial Hospital Family Foundation Board and the Central Florida Partnership.

We recently spoke to Ed about his relationship with United Way.

When did you first get involved with Heart of Florida United Way?
I have been with the board since January of 1995. I have been term limited once or twice during that time but it’s been a pretty consistent board service for 19 years. I was also involved with United Way in Miami prior to coming to Orlando.

Can you share one United Way experience that made a memorable impact on you? What has been very impactful for me and for the community was when United Way adopted the Investing in Results (IIR) business model in January 2007.  We’ve been implementing that model for seven years and we have seen the impact in what we’re trying to do by looking at the root causes of problems instead of acting as a temporary Band-Aid. That’s been very gratifying personally and gratifying for the team that we’ve been able to hold together for seven years.

In terms of individuals, it would be hard to single any one person out. One of the key moments that was very impactful for me was serving as the campaign chair in 2002. What stands out for me is when I look back at all the organizations we met with that year. I think we made over 250 company presentations. It was very hard work but it was very satisfying.

What one thing do you wish more people in our community knew about United Way? I wish they understood United Way better and what it does. This is a very complex organization. It’s evolved tremendously over the years. It’s not just a fundraising campaign. We contribute to the charitable work being done by other organizations and we augment what they are doing. United Way is not a single mission agency anymore. We have to do a better job of communicating that message.

What is the key ingredient to running a successful workplace campaign? It’s been proven over and over again that commitment from the company’s senior executives is one of the keys to running a successful campaign. The second key factor is adherence to the best practices promoted by United Way.

How do you feel about the future of United Way and our community? I think the future looks good. We’ve been able to do things at United Way that we only dreamed about several years ago. The impact we make is far bigger than the dollars raised. The management team at United Way is first class and our future looks bright as we build upon our successes.

Would you like to say any final words regarding the United Way? I would like to offer my sincere compliments to the entire United Way staff for what they’ve done and will continue to do. I also extend huge kudos to all the volunteers. It takes hundreds of people to sustain this organization so I give a big thank you to those who support United Way and other charitable organizations in our community.

United Way is creating opportunities for a better life with help from men and women such as Ed Timberlake. For more information on how to volunteer, please visit United Way’s Volunteer Center at http://www.hfuw.org/Volunteer.php or contact Matthew Blood, Manager of Community Participation, at Matthew.Blood@hfuw.org, or (407) 849-2372.


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