Heart of Florida United Way lights up with activity during campaign season, not just because it’s the biggest fundraising effort of the year, but because the ranks swell with Loaned Executives. LE’s, as they’re known around here, come from the companies that run United Way campaigns. They continue to be paid by their employer, but work a temporary assignment at United Way. And even though they’re referred to as Executives, they represent lots of different factions within the work force. They spend 13 weeks facilitating the campaigns within their parent company, as well as those of other companies. In short, they lend manpower to help United Way raise money, which might sound like a one-way relationship. But the Loaned Executives will tell you that they’re the ones getting the better end of the deal.
Helping People Who Never Get to Say Thanks
Michael McCafferty says that’s the greatest thing in the world, helping people who will never have the chance to say thanks. Clearly he means what he says, because the 2014 campaign was his 8th year as an LE at Heart of Florida United Way. Prior to that he was an LE at United Way in New Mexico. He’s a retired Lockheed Martin Senior Project Manager for Neutron Generator Re-configuration. He says he serves as an LE to earn a little Christmas cash for his grandchildren, but there’s more to it than that.
“I get a rush from being a beggar,” he says. He admits his tongue-in-cheek style gets him in trouble once in a while, but it definitely works for him. He is a consistently successful fundraiser, bringing in up to a million dollars each year.
“I have a good time, but this is a very serious subject we’re dealing with here, we have a lot of need in this community,” says McCafferty. He had a chance recently to experience that need first hand. He was at the pharmacy getting a prescription filled when he overheard a conversation between a woman and the pharmacist. She was filling the exact same prescription, but didn’t have insurance. Her meds were going to cost her $300. It was money she didn’t have. So McCafferty handed her one of the familyWize Discount Drug program cards he’d gotten in the habit of carrying after learning about them from United Way. That dropped the cost of her prescription down to $150, and that put it in reach for her.
“She came over to me, and gave me a kiss on the cheek right here, and said ‘thank you, now I’ll be able to eat this week,’” he says. He tells the story every chance he gets and has seen it move people to donate. It’s one thank you for all of the people he’s helped, but sometimes one thank you is enough.
If I Only Had a Brain
Downtown Disney Bus Manager Nancy Vidarte admits she had no idea what to expect when she was nominated for one of the two LE positions Walt Disney World staffs at United Way, but she could never have guessed she’d end up playing the Wizard of Oz Scarecrow for Kickoff. When one of the four actors slated to play the Wizard of Oz characters got sick at the last moment, Vidarte volunteered to stand in.
“I’m just a ‘whatever it takes’ kind of person. Oh? You need a Scarecrow? I can do that!” says Vidarte. She performed like a pro during Kickoff, and likewise has performed like a pro as an LE.
“It’s been a dream role because I get to use my strengths. I’m a people person, I love public speaking, but this was a chance to speak to people at a much higher level,” she says. Those higher level people include Leadership Donors throughout Disney, corporate executives that she would normally never encounter during the course of her job, let alone present to. She says her first day as an LE made it clear how important this campaign would be, because among the speakers brought in during training was Lee Cockerell, former Walt Disney World Executive Vice President of Operations.
“That blew me away and made me understand how important this was,” she says, “it’s been an awakening to the ‘why’ of what we’re doing.” Vidarte says she has loved every moment of the experience. Her list of highlights includes teaming up with fellow Disney cast member Brad Page, visiting partner agencies, working with other companies on their campaigns and hand-delivering Thank You plaques to Disney’s Leadership donors.
“I love this experience,” she says. “and I’m sad to go.”
My Star is Shining
You can call it a twist of fate. Kerry Bowles lost part of a finger in a nasty work accident, leaving him unable to perform his job as a FedEx Courier. But then it came time to assign someone to the United Way LE program, and with Bowles on the bench at work, he became the obvious candidate for the job. Suddenly, he found himself thrust into a role for which he wasn’t sure he had the skills or personality. After all, couriers aren’t called upon to do a lot of presentations. But at the same time, he was interested in the FedEx management training program, so he figured the LE experience was worth a try.
“This has helped me more with my company that any other LE here,” says Bowles. He says the nights before his first presentations, he couldn’t sleep. But he quickly discovered that not only was he capable of giving a presentation to a large group of people, he was good at it. He has a very natural, down to earth style. After watching more experienced LE’s, like Michael McCafferty, take the floor a few times, he figured out his approach.
“My presentation is about connecting. I try to reach people’s feelings by telling it from the heart. I tell stories about my visits to the soup kitchen and the conversations I’ve had with the homeless, and that really touches people,” he says.
He’s not only touched people, he’s impressed Fed Ex management. Other LE’s work strictly within Heart of Florida United Way’s area, but because of the way FedEx is structured, Bowles had to visit locations throughout the state. And he says now just about everyone at FedEx knows who he is.
“My star is shining in the company from all of the networking I’ve been able to do. This has been a fantastic experience and now I understand why I ended up here,” says Bowles.