When you meet Tony Massey, there’s no mistaking the fact that he is passionate about a lot of things. He loves sports, specifically Alabama football. He is a trivia buff and can compete with the best of them when it comes to movies and music. He also believes strongly in giving back to the community and, luckily for us, he’s passionate about United Way. Click here to read what Tony has to say about Central Florida’s greatest need.
How long have you been involved with Heart of Florida United Way?
Our company has been involved with the campaign for about 16 years, with roughly half of our team members contributing every year. I personally became involved over ten years ago, but last year is when I got involved with the campaign.
What inspired you to get involved with United Way?
It started with a desire to simply get involved, not specifically thinking of United Way at first. I think everyone cares about something and most of us care about our community and our surroundings. No one likes to see someone go hungry; no one likes to see bad things occur around us. We all have something we care about, whether it’s hunger or abuse or pollution, there’s something we would like to see change. As an adult, you start to ask, what can I do about it? How do I make an impact? If I make a monetary donation, how is it used and who does it help? Looking back, I think that’s what prompted me to become involved in United Way. I saw that it provided support to so many different people in different situations.
At first I didn’t have a real understanding of the total impact United Way has but I found inspiration in knowing there’s an organization that is not only touching so many of our problems, but it’s also taking the time to make sure all of its partner agencies are having a true impact too.
How does United Way fit into Massey Services’ long-standing commitment to the community, especially with regard to the company’s stance on volunteerism?
Actually, being contributing members of our community is part of our mission statement; it’s one of the foundations of our company culture. That starts with Mr. Massey (company founder Harvey L. Massey), and works its way down. We feel as a company we take a lot from the community we live in and so we feel the need to give back, whether it’s through money and time, or just time.
We remind everyone that when you look around, a lot of times the people you’re helping are people you know. It’s someone next door to you or someone you work alongside or sit next to at church. I try to keep that in mind so that hopefully if I ever need help, someone will be there for me.
You’ve had a chance to visit some of our partner agencies and see first-hand what we mean by collective impact. What are your thoughts on that?
This is the way I describe my United Way experience: You look at people in line to receive food or a bed for the night and you tend to say to yourself, “I guess those people must have made a bad choice somewhere along the line,” and as we went through the day and started seeing children during the visits, you think, maybe those parents made a bad choice. But we ended the day at Orlando Day Nursery and it struck me that those parents are working hard. And knowing the true cost of daycare, I realized those parents couldn’t work without subsidies. And that’s when you start to think, maybe it’s not about people making bad choices, but rather it’s bad circumstances.
I watched a working dad picking up his kid that afternoon, and his child was so excited to see him. He was so happy to be going home. And I wondered, is he one car repair away from losing his job, or one medical bill away from losing his house? Things happen. These aren’t choices. They’re circumstances. And when you recognize that, United Way’s work is not about those people anymore. It’s our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and everyone else we know.
That’s why United Way is so important. It brings together all these impactful programs that can help someone avoid a whole series of negative circumstances. Something as simple as having a car break down means a person couldn’t get to work. Then maybe they lose their job, and now they can’t look for a new one because the car doesn’t run and so now they’re at risk of losing their home and it becomes this whole tumble down the steps. United Way touches all these things!
What do you think is the biggest community need right now?
I think the biggest community need is for more people to get involved with United Way because they touch so many organizations. I know, for instance, we have a homeless dilemma. But one person or one organization can’t solve it with a bed. United Way is looking at all the steps involved in getting a person stabilized – a home, food, an income – and that helps our community get healthier. Frankly, solving one problem wouldn’t make it better to live here because so many issues are interrelated, which is why United Way’s holistic approach is so important.
If you met someone who didn’t understand what United Way is about, what would you say to get them on board?
I would recommend they visit the 211 Call Center. That’s the main differentiating factor of United Way. When around 50 percent of calls coming in every month are first-time callers, it’s not this recurring downtrodden few chewing up resources. These are real world problems occurring right now. If people could see where 211 impacts them and get involved in that, we could help stop the downward tumble.
The other area of significant impact for 211 is suicide prevention. When someone is in the depths of despair, 211 is there to help. It’s instantly accessible. They don’t have to get in their car, they don’t have to make an appointment… they only have to pick up the phone. I think that’s extremely impactful.