Volunteer Spotlight: James Cross


Jim-Cross_1008_100kbWhat would our community be like without the people who are willing to go out of their way to help others in need? Thankfully, there are many caring individuals like Jim Cross, whose compassion and leadership are making a difference locally.

Jim has had a long distinguished accounting career and currently serves as treasurer on Heart of Florida United Way’s Executive Committee. He also volunteers as a board member with Junior Achievement of Central Florida, the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts of America – Central Florida Council and the City of Life Foundation.

“I first got involved with United Way many years ago [as a volunteer] in the fund allocation committee,” says Jim. “United Way’s health and human services programs really fill a void that we have in our community. I have a soft spot in my heart for the work they do.”

In 2005, Jim joined Cross, Fernandez and Riley, LLP, one of Central Florida’s premier accounting and business advisory firms. Immediately upon his arrival, he fulfilled the roles of co-owner and managing partner of the firm.

Before settling in Orlando, Jim lived in Indiana, Texas, Tennessee and Michigan where he attended Western Michigan University. His family plays a significant role in his life, and he devotes much of his free time to his wife, children and grandchildren.

Jim is most inspired by looking back at all the people who have benefitted from United Way over the years rather than by one single success story.

“I can tell you from many of the office campaigns that we’ve had here that every year there’s someone who comes in and touches our hearts with their story,” he says. “When you hear a person talk about losing their home and their job and then being helped by 2-1-1 (United Way’s free, 24-hour information, referral and crisis hotline) — it’s miraculous.”

Jim is a strong advocate for United Way’s Investing in Results (IIR) strategic model, which addresses the root causes of problems that affect people’s lives and our community. IIR uses competitive funding grants to determine which partner agency programs are selected to help support four  core investment areas: Building Safe Communities, Improving Financial Stability, Developing Healthy Children and Families, and Alleviating Hunger and Homelessness.

“United Way has changed the way we allocate money out,” he says. “People still think we just gather money and pass it out to agencies. In fact, we’re targeting community problems.”

Jim firmly believes that focusing on prevention is the most effective way to target broad concerns such as homelessness, school dropouts, and poverty.

“My hope is that the investments that we’re making in these areas will have huge dividends in the future,” he says. “Our goal is not just to be a temporary Band-Aid but to actually provide long-term solutions to these problems.”

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

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