As Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Florida Hospital, to say that Eddie Soler has a lot on his plate is an understatement. With 2,100 beds and seven hospitals within the system, Eddie is tasked the enormous responsibility of serving the community while managing an incredibly complex health system.
But Eddie is not a man who takes a break; when he sees there is a need, he acts.
He was especially motivated to take action in 2011. That year, CBS’ “60 Minutes” program did a report on homeless families—including those with children—living in their cars or cheap motels. It was a watershed moment for Eddie.
“It was a real eye-opener for me,” he said. “It was a real motivation to get involved with local champions to make a difference.”
This motivation led him to Heart of Florida United Way, where Eddie serves on the board and continually volunteers his time and expertise.
What made you get involved with United Way?
United Way always had such a strong relationship with Florida Hospital, so I was introduced to United Way’s work through my professional relationship. The more I learned about United Way’s work, the more I realized how much they do in the community. The scope of their work is incredible, from ending homelessness to improving graduation rates in Central Florida.
Then when I joined United Way’s Board and saw the accountability process—where partner agencies are evaluated and results are measured—I saw firsthand the kind of impact United Way makes.
What causes you to volunteer?
It’s part of Florida Hospital’s culture. We have a Bible verse printed on a lot of our materials that promotes caring for the community “because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Helping just one person benefits the whole community and that has shaped my own personal philosophy as well.
What do you think is the biggest community need in Central Florida?
Homelessness in Central Florida continues to be a major issue, but the ALICE report really startled me; the data is staggering. There are so many people in our area who are working hard but can barely make it. They’re just one unexpected expense—a medical bill, a car repair—away from financial disaster. These are huge issues that needs someone to lead the charge to make it better, and that someone is United Way.
What do you think United Way should tackle next?
Education is key. There is a direct link between the level of education and income and lifestyle. United Way has the potential to make great inroads in helping students graduate and get a post-secondary education or learn a trade so they can make a good income.
What is one word you would use to describe United Way?
I can’t pick just one, but how about a phrase? “Community Champion.” United Way provides comprehensive solutions for sustainable change.
What is one thing about United Way you think most people don’t know about?
So many people think that United Way just helps the poor, but it is so much more than that. It offers assistance for all people, from education to health. The 2-1-1 Information and Assistance helpline is amazing, providing crisis aid. The reach of United Way is much bigger than most people realize.