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!