Volunteer Profile: Eddie Soler


Volunteer Spotlight - Eddie SolerHow long have you been involved with Heart of Florida United Way?

I’ve been a contributor for close to two decades, but as far as being a board member, it’s been the last two years.

What inspired you to get involved?

I’ve always been a fan of United Way since I was a little kid but not necessarily being aware of all it does. I loved to watch NFL games and there were always commercials with the football players and Untied Way. I was about nine or 10 years old and I remember thinking “this is pretty cool;” it made an impression, it’s always been an organization that I thought fondly of.

But two or three years ago, 60 Minutes did a story on homeless children in Central Florida. That was my backyard and I was embarrassed on a number of fronts. I was embarrassed that it was in my community and embarrassed that I didn’t know about it. That one issue gets to me more than it used to. In my mind, I had stereotyped who the homeless were. But we’re talking about kids, not the alcoholic or the drug addict. I just felt like there was more that could be done.

Florida Hospital has run successful workplace giving campaigns for several years. What’s the key to that?

In the past, our campaigns lacked any kind of passion. The 60 Minutes story changed my whole mindset. I went to all the (seven) campuses and showed the news report. Sometimes it’s a matter of telling people. These are our neighbors, this is happening in our backyard. We should be able to do more. I started with the executive group because I didn’t want to hit the employees too hard. Right now, I’m aiming for 100 percent leadership giving, there’s no reason 100 percent of us can’t be giving at the leadership level. My next target is middle management. My goal is to raise $600,000 a year. But when you have 18,000 full and part-time employees, if everyone gave just $2 a pay period, it just doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

What are your thoughts on collective impact?

It’s more powerful to have a group working on a problem than an individual. We need United Way to champion the cause and gather hundreds of thousands of individuals, organizations and businesses together. When people build homes, the more studs you put in that wall, the sturdier it’ll be. Individuals and organizations, if we all line up next to each other, it’s amazing how much we strengthen each other.

Where do you see a need right now?

Throughout Florida, there is very little funding for behavioral health programs. I have personal experience with that through my niece who needed several safety net services. She’s ok because she has a family with the resources she needed, but without that support, she’d be out on the street right now. There’s a link to chronic homelessness and lack of behavioral services.

How does United Way serve people needing behavioral services?

From my perspective, United Way creates options for that population. Through 211, you’ve got people who can provide counseling and put clients in touch with a variety of agencies that might be able to help. United Way is also raising awareness as to the many issues that need our attention here in Central Florida. I believe United Way has been a leader as far as bringing the community together to solve some of these issues instead of waiting on or relying on government to handle it.

What do people not know about United Way?

Unfortunately, too many people at Florida Hospital don’t know real stories of colleagues helped by United Way. Not enough of our managers know about specific individuals that they pass in the hallways every day and what United Way did for them.

Also, United Way isn’t an agency itself, it’s a collaborator, a coordinator and a distributor of funds. But there’s an accountability process. Agencies have to report and show that the money went to good use. Not enough people understand the rigor with which the money is distributed.

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